Women

Finding Balance from a Junior Athlete

May 9th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nya Caldwell

Hello, my name is Nya Caldwell and I am 14 years old. Currently, I’m a 9th grader at Milford High School. I have always been a multi-sport athlete and have been riding bikes for as long as I can remember. This past fall I was on my high school’s scholastic mountain bike team, which is a combined team made up of cyclists from surrounding high schools.

In the winter I transitioned to boarder cross, (or snowboard cross). Boarder cross is a snowboard competition, where 4-6 competitors race down a course simultaneously. This was an exciting new sport for me, which allowed me to expand my snowboarding skills along with providing a different racing experience.

Everyone in my family either races, or rides for enjoyment. When I was 9 I joined Huron Valley Mountain Bike Club. We met every Thursday night for rides and to work on skills. This experience introduced me to MiSCA and mountain bike racing. That fall I had my first race, and it was at Island Lake Recreation Area. I didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up being really fun. That was the start of my love for racing. In 7th grade I was the MiSCA Middle School State Champion, and in 2021 I achieved the MiSCA JV State Championship title.

For the upcoming school year, I will be competing on HVUR’s Varsity team, and my goal is to have a strong season with a few podium finishes. I am excited to be competing alongside a great group of friends and cyclists.

This is my first year with Team Athletic Mentors. I first became aware of the team a few years ago, through my cousin Kellen. His success has inspired me to reach a higher level in cycling. My goal for my high school cycling career is to keep progressing to the next level in the sport. I love riding trails, so I would love to become better at skills. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically, which will help me in many aspects of life outside of cycling. Coming into this cycling season, I am hopeful that the demands of my other sports activities will allow me to transition smoothly back into cycling. I wasn’t able to put many hours into off-season training on my bike, but have confidence that my other athletic endeavors will help me get up to speed.

Last month I participated in my first gravel race, Barry-Roubaix. This was also my first race as a part of Team Athletic Mentors. It was a freezing cold day, with temperatures dipping into the 30’s, strong winds, and snowy weather conditions. Before the race we gathered as a team for a warm-up ride. Right away, I knew that I didn’t have the proper gloves to keep my hands warm. My hands were getting stiff, and painfully stinging. This was after only being on the bikes for 4-miles! This wasn’t going to work for an 18-mile race in winter-like weather. Luckily, a very helpful gentleman in the team tent lent me his gloves, which worked much better for me. Lesson number one, come prepared for everything and try out your gear before race-day!

It was so cool to line up at the start as a team. There were a lot of juniors in black and yellow kits and we were all experiencing the race-line jitters together. Everyone was so supportive of one another, offering advice and positive words of encouragement. It was such a great experience and all of my teammates were so supportive. The race was a huge success for the team, winning the junior team division. I managed to pull off a first in the 18 and under female category, which was an unexpected result. I was happy with how the race went and look forward to coming back next year.

The thing that I enjoy most about racing is the rush that I get after the ride. Often butterflies and anxiety can be distractions leading up to a race. I like to listen to my favorite playlist beforehand to help calm my nerves and get me hyped up. Once I take off from the start line I try to focus on a good cadence and any riders ahead of me. When the race is over, I always have a feeling of relief knowing that no matter the outcome I tried my best.

This Spring, I am on my school’s JV lacrosse team and on the Athletic Mentors Junior Development Team. Balancing multiple sports throughout the year, and the academic demands of high school can be challenging. However, participating in many different athletic disciplines is a lot of fun and I enjoy them all. The key to success is finding the right balance.


What I Learned About Heart Rates & Training

April 21st, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

Before I started racing, I used a bicycle computer to tell me how fast I was cruising and how many miles I had ridden. I never wore a heart rate monitor. When I started racing, I began wearing a heart rate monitor, using a power meter and using Zwift for off season training. My data showed my heart rate would quickly pop up to the 180s and even into the 190s during hard efforts. According to exercising heart rate zones, 220-your age, my max heart rate should only be 175. 

I was amazed at the number of people who looked at my heart rate during rides (on STRAVA or Zwift) and commented on the numbers; “Look at your heart rate!” “Why is your heart rate so high?”  Several people had advice for me, I heard “you haven’t trained enough” (8000 miles a year apparently isn’t enough training), “you are overtrained”, “you are working too hard”, “your heart rate shouldn’t be that high”, “you should go to the doctor to get that checked”. I was assured that my heart rate is just naturally higher when I am riding. Still, I would question how I felt when I was riding with a heart rate of 183. I was definitely working but I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out. I was also embarrassed as others would say, “man, my heart rate is only 130”. 

I am now into my third year of training and racing. My heart rate still pops into the 180s with hard efforts. As I was researching “normal” heart rates, I had the opportunity to talk with Mark Olson, Athletic Mentors co-founder and expert in the field of strength and conditioning.  I was relieved to hear we have similar heart rates. He explained heart rates are very individual and that there shouldn’t be any comparison to anyone else’s heart rate.

Mark defined the lactic threshold heart rate for me. A simplified definition of Lactate threshold is the level at which the intensity of exercise causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, making it the border between low- and high-intensity work.  According to various research articles, lactate threshold for an untrained person usually coincides with 50-60 percent of VO2 max, ranging up to 85-95 percent of VO2 max for an elite athlete. Mark explained that the lactic threshold heart rate is how hard an athlete can ride for an hour.  The number is individual and should only be compared to that athlete. For example, if an untrained athlete does a test, trains then does the test again, it is expected the lactic heart rate will improve and increase. Once an athlete is trained, there will be little movement in the heart rate number.  He said that the lactic threshold heart rate is really an input number, the power created is the output number. The heart rate number alone is useless.

Together, we looked at my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) rides that I had done over the past 3 years to estimate my lactate threshold. The data from these tests showed that while my heart rate did not change at FTP, my power went up, reiterating that my heart rate number by itself is meaningless and that my training is improving my fitness.  This information has given me confidence and the ability to explain that my heart rate is okay to those who have shown concern. I also have insight to the reasoning behind, as well as the importance of training rides of lengths, power and cadence parameters. This information has piqued my interest in the “why” and “how” of training. There is still so much more for me to learn.


How Mountain Biking Has Enhanced My Life

February 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Elizabeth DeFauw

Hello! My name is Elizabeth DeFauw and I am 17 years old. I am a junior (11th grade) in high school taking online courses from Home School Legal Defense Academy (HSLDA) and Memoria Press Academy. Homework fills, 8-10 hours,  of my day with studying, quizzes, tests, and several various homework assignments. It is not fun to study but…  my free time is always amazing! I spend my precious free-time cycling, skiing, seeing my amazing friends, reading Scripture and praying, or hanging out, playing games with family. I absolutely love to be active in almost any sort or fashion. Before I got hooked on biking, I had tried multiple different activities and sports, such as Krav Maga Israeli war/self-defense, dance, swim team, and such. None of them can be compared with biking (and skiing).

I am currently a Varsity rider in MISCA. I started racing in 2020 for Huron Valley United Racing and achieved 2nd overall in Junior Varsity and advanced to Varsity in Orange Krush Cycling Club for 2021 season. I earned podium twice in Varsity, 4th in Heritage Park Race and 5th in the Milford Time Trial. I won the fall 34 miles Lowell Classic, which was my first gravel race. It was a super muddy but absolutely amazing race!

Lowell Gravel Race

I was prompted twice to join Team Athletic Mentors and did. I am excited to be a part of the group, especially after meeting everyone officially and personally. I hope to continue to develop as a rider, achieve goals, and inspire others to pursue their passion. Team Athletic Mentors has already encouraged me to train harder! I will do my best to contribute and encourage the team I am now a part of and represent.

4th Place Finish

How I Got Into Mountain Biking:

Note: During this time, in 2020, the covid-19 lockdown took place. This stopped several activities I enjoyed because of their restrictions.  This made life extremely isolating, difficult, “inactive,” and kind of depressing since everything I used to do and the people I used to be with was stripped away. However, as I have learned, the conclusion of my former life was for a new and good purpose. 

I was introduced to mountain biking in July of 2020 during one of the two usual family week-trips to the Upper Peninsula. We met up with a few longtime friends and they invited me to go riding with them on the Point Trail in Copper Harbor. At first, I was a bit nervous because I had only ridden a few trails in the Lower Peninsula, and I knew they had been riding for years. All anxiety altered into exhilaration and a feeling of freedom at the start of the flowy downhill. The trail was decently technical for a “first ride,” but I managed almost every section. I threw any potential fear behind me (I do not remember being afraid once) and dove right into anything thrown at me. We reached the end of the Point Trail (half-way point for the trip), ate, and looked for agates (I am a rock-hunter).  We continued our journey back to town. It was mostly uphill going back. Endurance and solid effort were required, but I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of endurance and proceeded onward.  After the ride, I felt on fire (both figuratively, and, for my muscles, literally)! I completed 20 miles that day. We also went riding the next day and, afterward, was encouraged to join MISCA, which I did with much enthusiasm. I was driven from then on, feeling like I had something to strive for; something I could put my passion and competitive nature into.

Biking is more than a sport to me. It significantly changed my lifestyle and mindset for the better. Through cycling, I have met amazing people (some of which I would consider to be good friends) and have had some of the best experiences of my life! It has inspired me to  push myself to go beyond my limits to achieve goals. This is not just confined to athletic goals, but also career and personal goals. I was determined then, but I feel all the more determined now.  I’m looking forward to an incredible 2022 year!

 


Running is more than “Athletics”, it’s a Lifestyle

November 4th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Raquel Torres

Running is an excellent physical activity not only to get fit, but also to feel good, and even to meet new friends and see new places. Starting a new habit does not have to be complicated, running is one of the most practical, affordable and effective disciplines, because we simply need a pair of running shoes (in good conditions) and the desire to move, wherever you are.

For those who want to start this new discipline it is highly recommended that the first thing to do is to set a goal, look for an event or race, register and put it on your agenda or calendar.

For those who are starting from scratch, those who have no running experience or people who may have experience, but they feel very out of shape, for any reason, it is advisable to first look for a local event close by your home and a short distance like a 5K or 10K. Every distance is possible for any level, we only need enough time to train and prepare for the distance.

The goal that you set will be the main pillar from which workouts, nutrition and rest will be combined.  The goal will help you to focus on the really important things, it will be the reason to strive every day and build discipline. 

Some of the benefits of running is feeling happy.  If you are already a runner you have experienced this, no matter how you feel good or bad, after running or doing a physical activity for more than 40 minutes you will feel better, this goes beyond the so-called “Runners high”, it is the production of “happy hormones” (endorphins). 

Recent scientific studies in sport medicine now confirm that exercises like running or cycling for 40 minutes or more at 70-80% of maximum heart rate is able to significantly improve some mental and emotional disorders such as depression.  When exercising you can experience the benefits of spending time in nature and how it positively impacts humans physically, mentally and psychologically.  It helps to decrease the number of stress hormones in your body that feed anxiety and depression like Cortisol and Adrenaline.

How to start training: The Run-Walk Method is an excellent option for those who have never run and for runners to improve their times. Contrary to what many people think, this technique doesn’t mean to walk when you are “tired”, it means to take recovery walks.

You must use this technique of running / walking that best suits you, here some examples:

Experience/Fitness level: Running time:   Walk time:
Beginner   10-30 Secs    1-5 minutes
Intermediate   1-5 minutes      1-3 minutes

This technique is simple: for example, start trying to do a total of 20-40 minutes of exercise, doing 1 to 5 minutes of running + 1 to 5 minutes of walking (alternating run/walk/run/walk), after a 3-4  weeks and some progress you can slowly increase your running time while decreasing the walk time.  There are a number of apps for your phone that can be setup depending on how long your run and walk  timed are.

It is important to identify where you are and what your personal goals are, if you have any questions look for a running coach’s advice.

Setting short term goals will help you to stay motivated and long term goals to stay consistent, always take 1 or 2 days off every week and try to run/walk at least 3 times a week. 

Have a plan, be patient, enjoy the process and always remember, do your best for yourself and avoid comparing your progress or goals with others. Adding the habit of running to your life will attract many other good habits and benefits to you, your family and friends.


Mackinac Island Swim

August 31st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

What do you consider a “long” swim? Anything over a mile? How about 2 or 3 miles? Or have you ever done a point to point swim? Is it crazy to swim 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island? Yes it is. Crazy, exciting and beautiful!

The event starts on the shoreline in front of the Grand Hotel and then goes clockwise around Mackinac Island to Mission Point Resort. (Optional to swim around marker buoys near the harbor to make up for not being allowed to swim through the harbor itself.) Water conditions could be wavy and rough or flat, cold or not as cold but crystal clear and rocky. You could stand or reach shore quickly if you wanted a standing break.

A storm blew through the night before the race bringing 4-6’ waves but luckily calmed down by race start. Lake Huron was an enjoyable 68*. 237 swimmers entered the water two by two. Miles 1-2 had a gentle head on current. That current increased over miles 3-4 and then disappeared for miles 5-8, except the last 350 yards from finish. There it pushed you to the final buoy and I had to dig deep to make the final surge back to the finish line. Garmin officially recorded 13,532 yards, about 1000 yards shy of 8.2 miles. Views of the Island were beautiful and you could use various points to sight. The crystal clear water allowed you to see all the rocks and boulders and old logs beneath the surface, along with numerous tiny fish. Oddly enough M-Dot had road construction in the middle of our swim course. They were unloading rocks from a barge at mile 3.5 to repair the road that goes around the Island.

Training for this distance meant swimming 10,000+ yards, broken over 3-4 swims weekly since February with a lot of emphasis on technique. It also meant getting into open water by late May to acclimate to cold water. Long continuous swims started in June at 2 miles and increased mile by mile up to 7 miles in August. If I could go back I would add a few 3 mile pool swims in before hitting the open water.

Are you up for the challenge of a distance swim? There’s actually a few in Michigan. Swim to the Moon offers distances from 0.5 miles to 10,000 yards through a few connected inland lakes. Mackinac Island Swim can be taken on by individuals or relay teams. The Mighty Mac Swim across the Straits of Mackinac will hopefully return in 2021. It’s a 4 mile swim but is more like swimming 5+ miles due to the currents and there is no bottom to touch for a break. 

If you do take on a long distance swim I recommend starting with technique improvement. Bad form over miles and miles could cause a major injury. Follow a solid training plan or work with an experienced coach who can improve your technique and give you an individualized plan. Also, swim in conditions that closely match your event and practice your nutrition.  Happy Swimming, Coach Dawn 


The Divide – Gravel Road Race

August 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The Divide began in 2015 by Jeff Harding and Don Passenger as a fundraiser for Manton Public School’s Cross Country and track teams. It is held the last Sunday of July and is part of the Michigan Gravel Road Series.  

The Divide offers something for all gravel enthusiasts with 3 route options:

  • 19 miles with 1330 feet of elevation change
  • 34 miles with 1987 feet of elevation change
  • 50 miles with 2292 feet of elevation change.

There is an outer loop that the 34 mile course completes one time and the 50 mile racers get to experience it twice. The outer lap is ridden in opposite directions every year to vary the terrain profile. All routes begin and end on paved roads in Manton, Michigan. Around the 3 mile mark, these roads turn to mostly hard packed gravel with “a little two-track” and “a little sand”  for a scenic ride on the outskirts of the Manistee National Forest.

The Divide is a great race for gravel, mountain and fat tire bikes. As with so many other races, The Divide will leave racers wondering if they are riding the right size tire for the course. 

Jeff, Don and their volunteers (including the cross country and track teams) were top notch with ice cold drinks and freeze pops at all aid stations. The course was well marked with signs and volunteers were stationed throughout the course to make sure racers stayed on course. Photographers volunteered their time and posted over 1000 photos that racers could share for free. 

This year’s race took place on Sunday, July 25th. Jeff and Don, as always, did a great job of posting on The Divide’s Facebook to keep racers up to date. A post on July 22nd, updated the course conditions.  It was reported that the roads were recently brined and the outer loop was rolling “faster than ever”. Then the news about the infamous Gilbert Corners, a section of sandy two-track that keeps racers guessing about their bike choice.  The 19 milers could expect some sand at the bottom of the downhills. The 34 milers would ride this 3-4 mile section mostly uphill on their way back into town. The 50 milers would get to ride this section both out and back. There will be some “sketchy downhills” on the way out and “on the way back the sand at the bottom of those downhills will zap your legs before the punchy uphills challenge your will power”. There was a July 24th update post reporting the rain had made the washouts on Gilbert Corners a little bigger. “Caution Ahead” signs were put out throughout the course with a Facebook posted warning “when you see a caution sign, we mean it!”

 

Athletic Mentors represented well in the race with athletes using a variety of tire sizes.

  • Jared Dunham took 3rd overall in the 50 mile race. He rode 42cc but felt he would have been fine on 40cc tires. Jared said he feels like the sand made a few of the hills more challenging but you don’t need a big tire to ride the course. He further stated that “The Divide may be 50 miles but it’s probably the most memorable 50 mile race course I’ve done so far.” He thought it was a good race, very hilly with some sand thrown in.
  • Terry Ritter took top spot in the 50+ class for the 50 mile on 36cc tires. He felt the course conditions were excellent; right direction and plenty of heavy rain the day before.
  • Hunter Post took 1st in his age group and 4th overall in the 50 mile race, racing 40 cc tires. He also felt the rain helped firm up the sand, but the depth was still energy draining. Particularly on the 2nd lap, once the sand was chewed up by other riders. Hunter liked the direction of this year’s outer loop as well.
  • Melanie Post took 1st in her age group for the 34 mile race. Melanie  raced on 40 cc tires and stated she also liked the route this year. “The sandy climbs were definitely the most challenging part of the course, aside from just the elevation gain in general. The course was very well marked with great volunteers as always.”
  • I raced the 50 mile route on 36cc tires and finished 2nd overall for women. Choosing lines on the edge of the two-tracks was helpful but I still did my fair share of walking some of the deeper sand. The main gravel roads were in great condition.

The Divide really does have something for everyone with 3 options for miles, challenging climbs, fun and memorable sections of sand, and beautiful scenery on quiet gravel roads. It is a great fundraiser with all proceeds going to Manton’s cross country and track teams.  Hope to see YOU there next year!!


Don’t Give up – Keep “Tri-ing”

August 16th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

Do you have that challenge in your life that no matter how hard you try – you just can’t get better or fix it? Do you feel like giving up?

I experienced that feeling last Sunday! I qualified for the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship 2021 for the Sprint Distance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This race is once a year and you are racing against the top women in your age group from all over the US. The race entails about a ½ mile swim in open water, a 12.5 mile bike and a 5K (3.1 miles) run.

I really struggle with the swim portion. I didn’t learn to swim until about 4 years ago and it is so hard for me to figure it out and get better. It is so discouraging! I realize this is a minor issue to someone being plagued with health issues, family problems, abuse, addictions, etc. But….no matter how big or small we all get that “feeling” of discouragement in our heart and minds.

I don’t have the solutions to your personal challenges but I hope this blog will give you some encouragement on your journey through life as we each live it. I don’t even have the solution of how I’m going to learn to swim!

But what I can offer from my race today is “keep the faith”. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So on with my race – out of 80 women I crawled out of the water totally exhausted in 76th place! I still had the bike and run to do with 75 women ahead of me. Now I’m a competitive person so it wasn’t about completing this event – it was about getting a good place. At this point, I could have said to myself – “Why continue to push yourself, just go through the motions and get it done” but what I decided to say to is “Don’t Give Up – Keep Tri-ing” until the race is done!

I ran to my bike, put my helmet and biking shoes on and started pedaling. Biking is my favorite so I said to myself “I’m going to give it my all even if I have nothing left for the run”.

Now back to our daily personal struggles. Life is already hard but then you get “kicked in the teeth” when you are already discouraged – it’s just not fair. But how are you going to deal with it? We just have to acknowledge it and figure it out. Right?

Shows angle of handlebars that dropped and how I had to grab my drink bottle.

So what do you think happens as I’m pedaling just as hard as I can and hit a big bump? My aero-handle bars drop down to a 30 degree angle and my drink bottle started sliding out of the holder on the front of the bike as I’m going 25+ mph downhill. I grabbed the bottle, so now I’m hanging on with one hand and holding this bottle wondering what the heck am I going to do with this? I can’t throw it and I can’t insert it back in the holder that is now slanted at a 30 degree angle. This isn’t fair – wasn’t my race hard enough already!!!

I’m like think fast, figure it out. I remembered just watching an Olympic marathoner stuff her water bottle down her shirt so as I’m still flying downhill I unzip by tri-suit and stuff the bottle down my shirt and zip it back up with the straw flopping out the top of my suit. I had to be quite a sight, but I just couldn’t stop, I could tell those handle bars where not going to move back up and I still had 4 miles to go! So I just keep pedaling!

I made it off the bike and was off on my run. I’m real tired now and it’s really hot. Just like in the day to day grind – it’s easy for us to all say when the going gets tough – I’m tired and give into the negative self talk of “It doesn’t really matter”, “You aren’t really good enough to be here anyways”, “So & so is better”, “Others have it easier”.

Instead I decided to put one foot in front of the other and Run. As I was running my daughter yelled out to me – you’re in 32nd place! What – how did that happen?? I was 76th out of the water but during my pedaling I had passed 44 people. I kept going – I tried to encourage people around me, I walked some, I took ice from volunteers to try and keep my body cooled down. I did the best I could to encourage others and care for myself while trying to do my very best.

I think that was my lesson today that I learned. I needed to keep “Tri-ing” during the hard times and not let my circumstances stop me from completing what I set out to do.   I’m going to seek out more training with Athletic Mentors.   We all need to take action to improve our circumstances the best we can.

So….you want to know how my race ended??? I finished 23rd place. Between the bike and run I had passed 53 of my competitors! I had the 6th fastest time on the bike and the 16th fastest run time in the women’s 60-64 age group.

I encourage you to Never Give Up No Matter What Your Challenge Is because you never know how it will end if you do!!


Hart Hills Gravel Grinder

May 10th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

This was my first opportunity to race Hart Hills The Classic Gravel Road Race. I have never ridden this course in previous years and since it was a last minute addition, there wasn’t time for a pre-ride. That may have turned out to be a good thing.

I did look at the profile on Strava so I knew there was 3000 feet of climbing that included a long, steep climb about 40 miles into the 55 mile race. I did a quick look at the route but figured it would be marked well so no need to study or download it onto my computer. 

I did a pre race ride the day before from my home and noted how hard the wind was blowing. The weather report indicated there would continue to be 10 mph winds with gusts the next day. Hills and wind, no problem.

Jonathan Meyer, Terry Ritter, Jared Dunham, Christina Vipond

Race day! I arrived in Hart around 8 am to get my packet and to get a good warm up ride in. I rode the finish of the course, which was pavement with some small rollers and downhill to the finish line, much better than a climb at the end. 

The 55 mile racers lined up for a mass start at 10 am. The organizer, Raymond Passchier, was making announcements about how the rain did not help the road conditions as they had hoped for. He was also announcing sand at mile 23, a large pothole at mile 32 so stay to the left, and a couple of well marked areas of “rough road”. I was trying to keep mental notes. We started downtown, made a few quick turns, and we were climbing gravel in no time. The wind didn’t seem too bad and the temperature warmed up enough to be comfortable.  Then the fun really started.

It only took a couple more turns and we were riding into a strong head wind. No problem, just stay on a wheel, there can’t be a headwind the entire ride. Another turn onto a seasonal road and the thought of “hang on, there is some sand”. I managed that area of sand and was thinking back to the pre-race course announcements, I wasn’t even close to mile 23 yet. Another turn and more sand, and wind, and climbing. Finally, a stretch of true gravel road with a break from riding through the sand, except now there was a cross wind that was blowing the bike all over the place. 

I have difficulty grabbing food out of my vest pockets so I was told about the “lick em and stick em” trick for Clif cubes. I decided to try it for this race, two rows of cubes on the tube, ready to give a burst of energy. I quickly learned two rows is not a good idea, a couple fell off in the first few miles but overall the trick was working, at least for the first hour. 

By the second hour of the race, the remaining cubes were coated with dust. The wind continued with strong gusts. The sand continued to be constant as well. I was riding a section of gravel road which was pretty much loose sand when I saw a man getting his mail from his mailbox. He looked at me and smiled. I told him I didn’t know I was going to have so much fun riding today. He responded with, “You are a long way from Hart”.  This was followed by a short section of pavement which felt so nice to just ride without sand and gusting winds. Then I saw the sign for a sharp right turn. As I got closer, I saw it wasn’t just a sharp turn, but a downhill turn onto a washed out, sandy two-track. I started laughing and asked the volunteer “seriously?” He had a funny smile and shrugged his shoulders. 

Somewhere during the third hour of the race, I crested a hill and saw a big pothole, there was no choice but to stay to the left just as the race director had announced. The wind was still gusting when I hit some rollers and barely felt like I was moving going downhill. I was pretty sure I was going to get blown back up. There was another sandy two-track that I was not able to navigate cleanly and had to get off the bike. I grabbed the tube, completely forgetting about the cubes and knocked the remaining 4 into the sand. There was a brief thought of “I should grab those” before coming to my senses. I was near the 40 mile mark and expecting to turn onto a gravel road for the long, steep climb I had noted from the road profile. I rounded a corner on the seasonal road and, of course there it was, not on a gravel road.  

2nd Place Overall Women

I had only 10 miles left and I knew the last few were pavement and downhill. I was excited to hit pavement with about 8 miles remaining. But there was that gusty crosswind and an open farm field, which put me in a complete dust out for a few seconds. A little more gravel and then pavement I recognized from the warm-up ride! I was ready for the downhill finish but one more gust of wind made me stop riding completely because it was pushing me into the lane of an oncoming truck, Mother Nature exerting herself one last time. 

Three hours and 39 minutes of hills, wind and sand! Hart Hills The Classic Gravel Road Race 2021 was the most challenging course I have raced yet. It was also the course that made me laugh the most. Raymond and all the volunteers did a fantastic job.  I know what to expect from this race next year!

 


Rebuilding After Injury

March 14th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The risk of injury is common for athletes and many who mountain bike have their fair share of stories to tell. I learned so much about cycling and racing in my rookie year with a few minor injuries to talk about. The season ended with a fun ride of the Iceman No Cometh, the nicest weather ever for the non-event The next day, I was mountain biking with a friend when my back wheel slid out on dry leaves and down I went. It should have been a non-incident, unfortunately, my left arm was extended when I landed and I heard bones breaking. The doctor from ER reported the X-Rays showed a shattered head of the humerus in my shoulder. The doctor even suggested that given the extent of the injury I might need a total shoulder replacement.  Although the news was devastating, I tried to be optimistic, telling myself “at least it is the first day of the off season.”

A follow up appointment with a shoulder specialist and sports medicine doctor gave a more positive outlook.  The shoulder was not ‘shattered” as the ER doctor described, but the head and upper shaft of the humerus was broken in three places. Surgery took place five days after the break. During the surgery it was revealed that the rotator cuff had been torn and where it attached to the humerus, that piece of bone had been broken. A plate and 11 screws were used to put the bone back together and the rotator cuff was repaired. The doctor was optimistic and said I could be back on the trainer in three weeks. Even with the optimism,  shoulder injuries are known to take a long time to heal and I knew that race season started in just over 4 months.

Recovery has different stages and doesn’t always follow a linear path. Proper nutrition is important for athletes and even more so during recovery. I immediately received advice on the best nutritional approach for healing the bone. A diet high in protein,Vitamins C and D, magnesium, calcium and potassium was recommended.  As for the arm, the first three weeks focused on resting with as little movement as possible. A sling kept stabilized, great for healing, not so great for everyday tasks that had been taken for granted.  Sleeping was difficult due to the sling and fear of rolling onto the shoulder. 

At the three week mark, I was finally able to get on the trainer.  I had been wearing tank tops because they were easy to get on and off.  Sports bras were impossible to put on and even harder to take off so I bought front closure sports bras. That was still a challenge with one arm. I learned from watching YouTube videos that I could hold one side with a door jamb while using my right hand to fasten it.  I had to get used to wearing glasses while on the trainer because I couldn’t put contacts in. Even putting the heart rate monitor on required a couple of tricks (the door jamb trick worked well for the strap too). Training rides started very easy and with short durations but it was nice to return to a form of normalcy.

Four weeks after surgery I was able to start taking the sling off, begin range of motion exercises and gradually add weight training. This was exciting but also frustrating.  Atrophy happens so fast, and rebuilding strength happens so slow. It was nice to have daily encouragement from teammates during this stage. Some days felt like huge gains had been made, but others felt like three steps backwards had been taken. I continued to be diligent with nutrition, arm exercises and increased time and effort on the trainer. 

Two months after the surgery, I saw the surgeon again. He took X-Rays and checked the strength and range of motion of the arm. He then said,“I have one question for you, what is your secret to healing so quickly?”  I told him, “It’s easy.  Proper nutrition, treating rehabilitation like training, and support from friends.” Maybe said differently, I never stopped thinking or acting like an athlete in training. The arm isn’t 100 percent yet but it is strong enough to start the season. I have come to recognize the road back as a journey.  While I am not at the final destination yet, I am within striking distance.  I will use this season to get the rest of the way there. 


Is Lactic Acid an Athlete’s Friend or Foe?

October 22nd, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson
By:  Raquel Torres
Lactic acid or lactate, is the substance that our body generates during physical activity when our body cannot obtain energy through oxygen, this has always been a source of debate in sports science.
Physical trainers believed that this substance was the cause of cramps, sports injuries and, for a time,  it was the “bad guy” by experts in health, physical exercise, and sports.
However, sports science has made it clear that this was all wrong. That there is no relationship, for example, between cramps and lactate. And that lactic acid did not have to be an impediment to the high performance of athletes, but even, if it is known to control it, it can become another ally in the improvement of physical performance.
During exercise, the body’s cells demand more energy than they can actually provide, so the body reacts by acquiring energy from sugar (muscle glycogen), converting these large molecules into smaller molecules, in two possible ways: aerobically and anaerobically.
  • The energy produced aerobically (with oxygen) more energy is obtained, but slowly.
During aerobic metabolism, a series of enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions are involved in aerobic metabolism. These reactions cause energy to be produced.
Aerobic metabolism is the primary energy system in endurance sports that last several hours and in short-duration events with low or moderate-intensity exercise, it depends on the good blood supply to the muscles and releases oxygen and energy to eliminate waste products. When muscle glycogen stores are depleted, fatigue begins and affects performance, the body becomes dependent on fat as an energy source, speed, and intensity of work is reduced. Once the supply of glycogen is depleted, it takes approximately 24 to 48 hours for the body to recover and replenish glycogen in muscle fibers and the liver.
  • The energy produced anaerobically (without oxygen) the energy obtained is less but faster, and the muscle takes this energy-producing waste, which in theory is one of those responsible for cramps.
Anaerobic metabolism, also known as the ‘starter system’ because energy is immediately available at the start of exercise, uses creatine phosphate metabolism in the process, does not produce lactate as a waste product, and does not require oxygen in the development of energy.  The higher the intensity of the exercise, the higher the use of carbohydrates in contrast to fats.  The anaerobic lactic system (without lactic acid production) is the primary energy system in the early stages of exercise, as it allows rapid acceleration and speed with the support of creatine phosphate stored in the muscles, although it suffers a sharp drop after 10 to 20 seconds.
  • The third type of metabolism in energy generation is lactic anaerobic.
The anaerobic lactic system depletes glycogen stores rapidly. Lactate, a toxic waste product of anaerobic lactic metabolism, is produced faster and cannot be eliminated, leading to accumulation in muscle fibers. It reduces the pH of muscle fibers and slows down the chemical reactions responsible for generating energy.  Lactic anaerobic energy is the primary energy system in sports that require maximum effort (high intensity) for a period of 20 to 120 seconds.
In other words, lactic acid is a substance generated by the body that is beneficial in principle, but too much and without good training can lead to low performance, even muscle damage and injuries.
Lactic acid is produced primarily in muscle cells and red blood cells when it breaks down carbohydrates under conditions of low oxygen levels. That is, lactic acid is a source of energy for the human body.
The oxygen level in the body could drop for two reasons: during strenuous exercise (sprinting) or if the person has an infection or illness (because of the amount of energy required by the immune system). In these cases, lactic acid comes from the breakdown of glucose when oxygen is not present, that is, in an anaerobic exercise such as lifting weights or swimming at full speed 50-100 meters where there is a lot of intensity and little duration. Under normal conditions that lactic acid  when we are training is reused and there is no major problem. But when there is a lot of lactic acid in the body, we have neither energy nor the ability to contract muscles, this is nothing more than tiredness, fatigue and the best thing we can do is stop the exercise or activity.
In other words, from a natural perspective lactic acid is a “turbo button” feature of extra energy, a survival mechanism to keep humans and other creatures safe under a fight or flight threat.  
 
How can we avoid the accumulation of lactic acid?  With a smart training plan, based on training the organism displays adaptive mechanisms that prevent lactic acid from accumulating so quickly and if it begins to do so, the muscle supports it more effectively.
Beware of some bad combinations of specific exercises (like speed work and/or weights) in a bad combination can make the body accumulate lactic acids and cause injury.  That is why the importance of having a good training plan with a wise balance between intensity, volume, frequency, and rest is key.
Here are 10 practical tips on how to avoid accumulating lactic acid:
1.Train more frequently and consistently.
2. Warm up well in each activity.
3.Breathe deeper for better body oxygenation.
4.Stretch frequently.
5.Hot baths.
6. Massages.
7. Maintain good hydration.
8.Consume enough: antioxidants (fruits like berries), magnesium- helps the metabolic system (dark green vegetables like spinach also legumes, nut,s, and cereals), vitamin B, natural proteins (creatine), omega 3 Oil (cold-water fish/salmon, avocado, olive oil or some nuts).
9. Beware of lifting weights (frequency and intensity) and speed exercises and their combination with other physical activities.
10. When you feel a lactic acid burn in your workouts, reduce the intensity so that the body can channel its natural mechanisms, and avoid acid accumulation. It is the way the body warns us so that we do not over-do.


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