Is Anyone Obligated to Be A Role Model?

June 30th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson

My first year of medical school has come to a close and it has left me a lot of things to think about. Besides doing a lot of necessary thinking about anatomy, physiology and disease processes, medical school has made me think critically about priorities- my own as well as those of healthcare and the medical education system.

mtb wc

One reason that I’ve continued to race and train over this year is because it has become one of my default priorities. At this point, I’ve been training consistently for so long that it is a routine part of the day. However, I am well aware that this time is a luxury that will become much harder as my clinical responsibilities continue to increase. I see this reflected in many of the students, residents and physicians around me- personal health suffers as time spent in the hospital increases and sleep, exercise and sunlight decline to minimal to none. Honestly, it scares me and I frequently wonder why it has to be like this. Why are the people who are supposedly healing others, so blatantly defying the most basic aspects of health?

This paradox was illustrated in a small group session we had about physical activity and lifestyle counseling. A discussion prompt was, “Should physicians be physically active and practice good lifestyle choices to be a role model for patients?”  The reactions from others to this prompt ranged from an obvious yes to significant reservation. The time crunch argument was a big one- how can taking care of yourself be a priority when there are always more patients to see? The Hippocratic Oath does say that the patient comes before yourself but at what point should the line be drawn? Another interesting point was the liberty to separate personal life from professional life- that our own choices should be separate from what we do as a physician. However, this seems like a very grey area because they are difficult philosophies to separate.

Ultimately, nobody is obligated to be a role model but I think that it should be a considered a privilege and something to strive for.  Role models can be powerful influences on other people and communities, sometimes without even realizing it.  My Athletic Mentors teammates represent a range of occupations but have all earned a great deal of respect as professionals, people, and role models. I think a big contributing factor in this is prioritizing health and devotion to participating in and sharing their sport.

AM train

There are no absolute answers to any of these questions. However, to me it is obvious that the culture needs to change somehow. Because as much as physicians and other healthcare professionals are working and sacrificing, it is not currently reflected in better health outcomes- for patients or health professionals.  I’m not exactly sure where the changes in healthcare and medicine need to originate, but a workforce full of true role models working to shift the paradigm towards prevention would be a great start.

Training While Pregnant

June 14th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Lindsey Lilley

    My husband and I are expecting our first child in November and we couldn’t be more excited. This change has also brought a new aspect into training, training while pregnant. This is my first pregnancy so I had NO IDEA what to expect or how my body would react. I spent a lot of time reading blogs by women who have led an active lifestyle before/during/after pregnancy and learned A LOT and it was nice to get a lot of different perspectives. This is a brief summary of my first trimester training.

              Have you ever been hung-over, taken a sleeping pill and had to go potty 24/7 all at the same time? That is exactly what I felt like forweeks straight. I wasn’t going to let this be an excuse to not train because 1) Staying active is important for the health of our growing human and myself. 2) I want my body as strong as possible for labor and delivery (OUCH!) 3) There are still events I want to participate in this year. It wasn’t easy to get the workouts going. Not easy at all. It took a LOT of arguing and negotiations with myself to get started every day.  Once I finally started, my swimming, biking, running and lifting sessions were when I felt best. Even though my workout time is when I felt my “best” it didn’t mean it got easier to convince myself to get going, I just did it. As an athlete I think it’s fair to say we are all used to doing things we don’t always want to do but know we should do.

Lindsey nicole

              10 weeks came and it was like a switch was flipped. The nauseous and exhaustion phase had passed, I was finally starting to feel like myself again. I was able to put more energy and effort into my training sessions. I’ve completed two races so far (Kent City Ridge Run 15K and 5/3rd Riverbank Run 25K) and look forward to “racing” throughout the summer and early fall. My times will be slower, I’ll be rounder but having my little workout partner with me this racing season is beyond spectacular.

              Disclaimer: I did get the OK from my physician to continue training as long as my heart rate didn’t get too elevated for an extended amount of time, I wasn’t having any health issues/complications and I didn’t deprive my body of oxygen for too long.

A Key to the Marathon- Always have a Plan B

June 12th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Danielle Nye

After wrapping up the tri season last fall I decided I would try a marathon this year. Many of my experienced running friends and teammates recommended the Bayshore Marathon. I signed up as soon as the registration opened and set out to start building my running endurance for the long race ahead. This would be my longest run to date and I wouldn’t be able to control all the factors on race day. In order to help keep my mental game strong during the race I decided to try something different. Instead of just setting one goal, I would set three goals for my race. My A goal would be 3:30-3:35, my B goal would 3:35-3:40, and the C goal was to finish no matter what and be proud of my accomplishment.

nye bayshoreI lined up at Bayshore feeling prepared and ready to conquer the marathon. I took off following closely to my pacing plan. Everything was going really well and at the halfway mark I was convinced I was going to have a great race. At the 21.2 checkpoint my husband shouted that I had only five miles left and if I kept the pace I would have my Boston Qualifier! And then it hit. My quads buckled and I struggled to start running again. I walked through the next aid station and felt like five miles might as well have been a hundred. After a minute or two, I decided to keep going no matter what it took. If I could keep going I would still be able to make my B goal. As the sun beat down and other runners started to walk around me, I kept running. It was a slow run and my mind was screaming to stop. But I kept it going until I saw the track and made it to the finish line with my B goal still intact.

When things get hard during a race it seems your mind starts to think about quitting. I found that by setting three attainable goals during longer races it helps to keep your mental strength going even when the race starts to hurt you physically. It is important to set these goals with your current fitness in my mind and to be realistic about your ability. Having a range of goals kept me going during the hardest race I have tackled so far. Even though I did not get the BQ I was after I was able to finish my race and feel the satisfaction of completing my first marathon.

Tips for Early Morning Workouts

April 18th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Elaine Sheikh, Triathlete

Most of us endurance athletes are beyond time-crunched – balancing work, family, social obligations and often training 10+ hours a week. Most of us don’t look forward to the alarm clock going off at 4:00am for that morning workout. Here’s some of my tips for making those workouts as pleasant as possible:

1) Prep your breakfast in advance! I avoid doing more than a few fasted workouts every week. Usually a banana or toast with nut butter or a larabar are enough to get me going for the workout. I’m a dedicated user of one of our team sponsors, Infinit. Often I can go fasted into a workout and still have plenty of energy with a bottle or two of one of my customized blends during the workout. However, when the workout is done and you have to fly through the shower and get to work, it’s important to have breakfast pre-made so you have time to eat something wholesome and don’t find yourself craving a donut on the way to work.

– I will often scramble a couple of eggs with nutritional yeast (those of you who tolerate dairy could use cheese instead) and sautéed veggies. That plus a cup of cooked rice and some coconut oil will elaine runningstill be surprisingly palatable after being refrigerated overnight.

– Another go-to is overnight oats. Use quick cooking oats and a milk or milk substitute of your choice in a 1-1 ratio. I add a scoop of green powder, nuts, fruits, cinnamon, and honey in whatever proportions I’m feeling. Put in the refrigerator overnight and it’ll be perfect to eat cold the next morning.

– One of my morning-of breakfasts is a simple protein shake. Milk or milk substitute, frozen fruit, nut butter, greens, and protein powder will keep you full until lunch and takes 2 minutes to throw together in the morning.

– A leftover baked sweet potato with a generous serving of nut butter or coconut oil, is another great breakfast. Depending on your caloric needs you may want to supplement with a shake or an egg or two.

2) Prep your workout gear the night before
-If I’m going to bike, the trainer is already set up with my kit and heart rate monitor next to it and my laptop and speakers set up the night before. If I’m running or swimming my gear is gathered and sitting next to the door. Nothing is more frustrating than getting to the pool at 5 am and realizing you don’t have your goggles!

3) Prioritize your sleep
– Nothing sets you up for failure like staying up until midnight and still expecting to wake up at 4 am refreshed and ready to train. As simple as it sounds, make sure you are streamlining your evenings so that you are able to sleep and be fresh in the morning. The night before is just as important as the morning of in determining your training success.

I hope this was helpful. Happy training!

Pressing the Reset Button

March 3rd, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors Cyclist

An off-season has been a foreign concept for me for the past several years. The rollerskis (or real skis) would come out just after Iceman and ski race season would be in full force as soon after. And by the time the last xc ski race was over in March, it was already cycling season. I’m still not sure how I managed to avoid getting totally burnt out pulling this off several consecutive years, but I am very thankful for my string of healthy seasons. But with the move to Ann Arbor and school demands, I can manage being a cyclist but not a skier. And after a fall of balancing the first semester of medical school with mountain bike racing and then the Zwift Academy competition, I was pretty toasted and ready for a break.

I took some time totally off the bike and got in some skiing in December before the big January thaw. I didn’t do anything structured or hard, nor did I want to.  I did have a few things I wanted to accomplish off the bike. My first goal was to put myself back together so I could do real runs. I injured my IT band at the GR Tri in 2015 and haven’t been able to tolerate much running since. It didn’t bother me on the bike so I admittedly put it on the backburner and just didn’t run. It didn’t get worse but also didn’t get better. Some concentrated rehab on my hip flexor flexibility and abductor strength the past few months has been very successful and I’ve been able to build up to 6-8 miles every other day.

It feels great to be running again and pretty nostalgic since I’m back in Ann Arbor.  I’ve been running variations on the same well-traveled routes from my collegiate running career, albeit not quite as

Flashbacks of my previous life

Flashbacks of my previous life

fast or not quite as long. It has definitely helped to fill the void of not being able to ski or ride outside much.

I’ve also spent more committed time in the weight room since strength is definitely my weakness. I am slow twitch through and through. I’ve historically not been a fan of lifting because I haven’t seen it translate to improvements but I also haven’t previously committed enough to see results. This time is more enjoyable and it helps that I have a readily accessible gym and it has helped me get back running already. I think strength training can be a hard thing for a lot of cyclists and multisport athletes to commit to, but it really does translate to being more injury resistant and keeping control and form on the bike.

The remainder of my training time is spent on Zwift. I actually don’t mind the trainer and my cold tolerance for riding outside is pretty wimpy.  The trainer also has the added benefit of allowing me to listen to lectures and material while I ride.

I definitely miss cross country ski racing and the ski community but it has been nice to have some time to not have to be on top of my game all the time.  Sometimes a reset button is necessary and even enjoyable. And by the time spring rolls around, I’m going to be itching to race!

Dubai IRONMAN 70.3 2017

February 12th, 2017 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Raquel Torres, Triathlete

Making the decision to race

Since I did not participate in many events in 2016, I  was hungry to keep finding race to challenge me. After my last event in Africa in December, I spent some time thinking about my 2017 goals. There is the commitment to make decisions about what races to sign up for, to work for me and for my sponsors.  But this is difficult living in Michigan, where the winter is very cold and long and there are not many events. I did a few half marathons with very good results achieving my goals. This and the other reasons motivated me to look for a new objective early in 2017.

PRO or Age Group category?

I decided to try this whole year as a Pro in the Ironman races, to challenge and to try the Professional category. My coach Mark Olson always says to me “In the Age Group category you would be first.” Although I was scared, the opportunity to register as age group had passed so I signed up as a Pro for the 70.3 in Dubai as it was economically feasible. Even considering the obstacles of the distance, the long trip and going alone, but I felt that it would be worth it as I felt the need to compete.


Training Now for 70.3

raquel poolIn terms of the training, comparing the sprint distance (750 meters swim, 20k draft legal bike and 5k run to a 70.3 Half Ironman (1900 meters swim, 90k bike and 21k run) it’s a big step. I did not have a lot of time, but the desire was larger than that. The first step was to connect with my coach Mark, about the goal and to start to work. We started to work, designed the plan, with the objective to race on 27 January so we had 4 weeks. I was very motivated and focused to work harder than ever with lots of emphasis in the details. My attitude was more positive than ever every day. The hard winter in Michigan was spent with days like Christmas and New Year’s Day training like any other day…

I was running outside most of the time with very low temperatures and during a strong snowstorm I made the mistake to run a very long session on the treadmill. The change of surface brought on a minor injury. I was careful and stopped running until I was able to get an appointment with the doctor about 10 days later, after 10 therapy sessions and about 22 days without running, the doctors ordered x-rays and other tests and told me that with rehab and all things normal I could complete the event. I already had the plane ticket and the hotel was reserved, the event registration was done and the hard work and emotion for the long training was done.

One of the advantages of triathlon is that you have options; there are no excuses not to work. I decided to be more positive than ever even with many obstacles. I was psyched up, focused and at the same time a bit scared for the long flights and to try this new distance with these obstacles, I have to admit that some days I thought I was nuts.

The event was getting closer and I was training harder on the bike, swimming and rehab, weight training and nutrition, the things I could control. Aside from the more than 1001 things as a mother and coach. The day was approaching, my foot still hurt, but with my faith first I concentrated on the details and put aside what was not in my control.

Pack, prepare the trip logistics, leave everything in order at home for my daughter, everything methodically and with great attitude enjoying the process and the adventure. Giving 100% with a good attitude.

Race Lead-Up

I have learned that its good during trips to take with me as much food as possible for at least two days. For this trip, I brought my protein, spinach, basic supplements for my shakes, my bread. Some snacks, dehydrated fruits etc. I found a very good deal on a apartment style hotel where I could cook, as it was more affordable, comfortable and I could maintain my nutrition as close to the same as at home.

Arrival day: Set up the bike; go to the supermarket, attention to nutrition. Some mechanical problems, I was able to find a bike shop, where could I ride, where to swim, where to run? Details…raquel dubai

I had to figure out where to ride legally (its not permitted to ride in certain roads), sometimes I felt bad as I was not resting enough and I started to have invasive thoughts but I kept positive and able to focus on what was under my control.

3 Days before race:  I was to run 15 at race pace and my foot was really hurting so I thought My God would I be able to complete the race? I felt horrible, tired, lethargic and with lots of pain. But I focused in God and to keep a positive attitude and my nutrition.

 Race day!

Swim: I started slow, a small group formed, I had an easy pace and it was a really easy swim, some waves. I was able to keep the same pace throughout the swim race.

Bike: On the bike was my plan to keep up with hydration and nutrition, which I was able to do well. I had worked on the watts with coach mark to keep them at ab average of 210 watts and I was able to hold that pace without problems. I was breaking the race in micro-moments, thinking about the now and here.

Run: The initial plan was to keep a pace of 4:20 min/km keeping up with hydration I was concerned to have pain in my foot and it bothered me for the first 5 km only, someone ran in front of me and I fell down but quickly got up and kept running. I cut myself a bit and the first aid people came right away to assist me and I told them I was ok. I had my pace and at 10 km I remembered that I had forgotten to wear my socks! Right then, I had some blisters but I just said “Raquel, excuses are thousands do the best you can!”

raquel dubai bike


I admit that I cried with happiness when I crossed that finish line. Just because I was able to complete it, as only God and I know how many obstacles we had to endure. The satisfaction to know that I did my best is priceless. I was able to complete in 4:32 finishing 16th overall in the Pro category. It is an honor for me to represent my flag at the highest level of international triathlons in the long distance. I believe that we all should challenge ourselves in any area we want to grow, and if we have the passion it’s a lot more fun to challenge ourselves, always having fun and with a positive mind.


How it All Went Down- An Iceman Cometh Race Recap

November 7th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM NOW Cyclist

There were 5,000 race stories that unfolded on Saturday, November 5th at Iceman Cometh Challenge. I wanted to share my story as it was an awesome opportunity to race with some of the best in the world and the outpouring of enthusiasm and support has been amazing. Last year I took fifth at Iceman, making it all the way to Timber Ridge with the leaders but had nothing left after pulling way too much throughout the race. This year I knew what to expect and I had every intention of racing for the win.

iceman16 patterson

Michigan native and pro road racer Allie Dragoo started right next to me!

It was a strong field as always including Catharine Pendrel– bronze medalist at Rio Olympics this year and former World Champion, Chloe Woodruff– 2016 Olympian and multiple-time National Champ, Erin Huck– 2016 National Champ, Amy Beisel– 2016 Fat Bike World Champ, and many talented roadies. I was also joined by some local superstars- Mackenzie Woodring and Susan Vigland.

Our race was the very last of the day to take off and it was fast from the gun with a super short roll out before the single track this year. I actually had a great start (this never happens) and was perfectly positioned around sixth wheel heading into the trail. It was a bit sketchy with riders changing lines unpredictably and sliding in the sand but my mission for the first half was to be patient and stay out of trouble. But less than ten minutes in, another rider merged right into me trying to jump into another line without looking behind her. I thought my race was over at that moment, but I somehow managed to stay upright. However, her and a couple riders behind us were not so lucky and this ended up to be one of the first decisive splits. Several riders including Catharine and Susan circumnavigated the crash and chased back on to create a group of nine.

I calmed down near the end of the line and closed the gaps that would open between riders after each single track section due to both accordion effect and talent differential (the mountain bike pros are basically ninjas). However, one of the more jarring descents I let a bit too wide of a gap open and I saw a group of four- Catharine, Amy, Erin, and Chloe start to ride away with Susan and Mackenzie falling off. I gunned it up “Make it Stick,” a steep multi- tiered climb, tagging onto the top group just as Erin stopped for a dropped chain.  And just like that, it was down to four.

Flow states during races are pretty incredible, when you are totally in the moment and aware of everything going on and so focused that emotions don’t impede judgement. I knew I just needed to beat one of them to get on the podium but I still felt fresh and I felt I might just be able to pull off an upset.

I wasn’t perceived as a threat so wasn’t really included in the pace line which was odd but totally fine by me. Just before Williamsburg Road Erin caught us but she dropped her chain again up the next steep climb. I felt bad for her because she was riding really well but her chain dropped nearly every climb forcing her off her bike.

The four of us hit Williamsburg Road (about 10 miles to go) and I made a huge mistake by bobbling and dropping my bottle hand-off and with temperatures in the mid-60s, I really needed it.  I refused to let my race be ruined and was resolved to get a bottle from someone.  We flew by the Rock too fast for this to be an option but a guy was watching alone on the VASA during a slower climbing section and graciously gave me his bottle (thank you, mystery man!)


The games had begun as our pace slowed as everyone tried to recover for the final showdown. We quickly approached “The Boonenberg,” one of the longer climbs on the VASA about six miles from the finish that I had picked out as a potential spot to attack. The whole thing felt a bit surreal but I knew I had to at least give it my best shot.

I carried a bit more momentum over the previous descent to slingshot around and rode as hard as I could and didn’t look back. (According to Strava, I clocked the 5th fastest time of the day up that climb including all the men). I kept drilling it and eventually checked to see only Chloe behind me. She was there but appeared to be dangling so I kept hammering. We crested Anita’s Hill together and I attacked again, knowing just how fast I could rail the corners on the VASA sections from countless Thursday night “Speed of Light” races on the VASA 25k when we lived in Traverse City (thanks Cody Sovis!)

I knew I might be setting her up for another win but I also thought I was very close to riding away and if nothing else, second was pretty awesome. Turns out, she had one more match left and she dropped it on me leading up to Woodchip Hill about a mile to the finish. The crowd was absolutely insane and I felt like I was racing in Europe but the effort from my extended attack had caught up with me and Chloe’s gap was established.

Photo credit: Jody Hofstra

I switched to damage control mode to try and not make mistakes on the single track in Timber Ridge with everyone watching.  I caught a glimpse of her up the final climb before the spectators nearly engulfed me but I realized she wasn’t coming back.  As I wove through the final curves while trying not to tie up, I crashed on one of the loose gravel corners (falling in the stadium in front of everyone is everyone’s fear) but thankfully it was only flesh wounds and I had enough of a gap that I didn’t lose a spot. I willed my body back on my bike and claimed my first podium in my third Iceman race.

Soon after Amy and Catherine finished and Catherine gave me kudos for a “perfectly timed attack.” Hearing that compliment from a previous World Champion totally made my day.  Chloe was also extremely complimentary. The next hour was a bit of a blur of interviews and hugs and I basically felt like a rock star.

chloe iceman

Alex finished 11th in a ridiculously fast men’s race, cementing our dominance in the “fastest couple” competition (this should be a real thing).

Overall it was one of the coolest experiences and I’m still totally floored by all the support. Traverse City truly has an incredible cycling community, puts on a world class race, and has a lot of fun doing it.  Thanks to Team OAM NOW/ Athletic Mentors, Alex Vanias my moral and mechanical support, my family, and Steve Brown- Mr. Iceman himself!


Photo credit: Corky Abston

Photo credit: Corky Abston

Are You Ready to Powermeter Up?

October 24th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By JoAnn Cranson, Team OAM NOW cyclist

joann cropped

The first time another rider asked me, “What kind of watts were you pushing up that hill?” I had no idea what they were talking about. I knew speed, cadence, heart rate, distance… but watts? How would I know my watts? Then, I was introduced to an incredible tool for cycling – the power meter. If you haven’t used one yet, I will warn you… once you start, you become lost without it, like so many new technologies.

If you are like I was, you may have no idea what a powermeter is. I’ll try to explain in layman terms. Power meters measure torque and velocity to calculate power in watts. In other words, the force you use to push your foot against the pedal and how fast you can turn the crank equals the power (wattage) you create.

Power meters come in many different styles and options. You can spend between $500 to almost $4000, depending on what your goals are and what you are willing to invest. They can be installed in the crank set, rear hub, bottom bracket, chair ring and now pedals too. Because they are wireless, they instantly display the wattage on your cycling computer, providing instantaneous feedback throughout your ride. Naturally it takes some time to determine what works best for you and to make sure everything involved is compatible.

Now that you know what a powermeter is, you may ask “What good does a powermeter do”? Is it just another fancy gadget you have to figure out how to work?

In my opinion, it’s more valuable to me than my speedometer or heart-rate! I remember I use to not want to go ride when it was really windy or a hilly ride because I got discouraged with my average mph. Well, with the powermeter it doesn’t matter how windy it is, my power is going to show me how hard I’m working whether I’m going 16.7 mph or 24.4 mph.

I took a couple pictures of my cycling computer on a windy day to show the differences. Notice it shows my power vs mph (depending on if I had a head-wind or tail-wind).


powermeter 1

Power is 274 watts only going 16.7 mph with a head-wind


Power is only 221 watts– but flying at 24.4 mph with a tail-wind













The power meter is an incredibly valuable tool for so many reasons. It measures your workload accurately and instantaneously whereas heart rates respond more slowly and are more effected by outside influences such as temperature and hydration. Post-ride data analysis allows you to review power over time so you can see strengths and weaknesses. For example, you can see from the data that you are stronger when you ride at a lower cadence, or that you climb best when you stay seated at a high cadence.

Not only can you determine your strengths and weaknesses, but you are able to individually tailor your training using power. Whether you are doing road racing, time trials, or want to stay with the faster group rides, a power meter will help you get the most out of your training every day. For example, if you want to be consistent in long rides, you can practice intervals above/under your threshold values so you can teach your body to handle it. You can learn through training what wattage you can handle before “blowing up” over a specific time period. And my favorite part is that you can clearly see as you train how your wattage continues to climb as you get stronger!!

One final and very important benefit of training with power is the ability to see clearly when you are overtraining. If you have been riding a consistent wattage and all of a sudden your heartrate is elevated but you can’t hold the watts… it’s a clear indicator that you are over-training and you need rest. This was always the hardest thing for me to see in myself before I had a power meter.

As a rider who went from “what is a power meter” to “I can’t ride without a power meter.” – I can tell you that a power meter is a great tool to improve your individual cycling no matter what type of rider you are.


The Joy Ride

October 9th, 2016 by Marie Dershem

Every fall, coming off a long spring/summer season of racing, I find myself less interested in hard workouts and more interested in just riding. In season, my rides have focus and purpose. As the weather turns colder and the leaves begin to change, I find my mind and body longing to ride – simply for the pure joy or riding. It is a difficult shift for me as I love to train and race. But, I also have learned that pushing through the longing for rest results in burnout. If I want to be fully ready for racing next summer, I need to take time to joy ride.
image1Colorburst Tour, sponsored by the Rapid Wheelmen, offers the perfect opportunity for a pure joy ride. This event, which starts and ends at the beautiful Fallasburg Park, offers distances ranging from 17 to 100 miles, with gravel riding options as well. With a pancake breakfast before the ride, SAG support, refueling stops, and a warm meal after the ride, it creates an incredibly enjoyable day.
This year, with a full blue sky, crisp cool air, and a good dose of fall breezes, I rode 100 miles of beautiful Michigan countryside. Across rolling hills and flat farmland, I let go of all speed and power expectations and focused on the pure joy I feel as I roll along with no agenda except to take in the beauty surrounding me.image2
At the end of the day, I felt full of gratitude for a healthy body, a bike I love, beautiful, quiet roads, fall colors, and friends to chat with along the way. And, pure JOY.

My Zwift Academy Ride

October 6th, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM NOW cyclist

I’ve been working on a pretty cool project that has escalated over the past month that I would like to explain.  It can be a bit hard to explain to people both within and outside of cycling so I’ll do my best to cover what I’m doing and why.

Zwift is an interactive online cycling program that you can pair to a smart trainer or a power meter ride on a virtual course with other riders logged in from around the world.  You can chat with riders around you, join group rides, do pre-written or custom workouts, or even race. If you have a smart trainer, the resistance will change based on the elevation changes of the Zwift course. Overall, it makes riding the trainer 100% more engaging and can be a great training tool.epic qom

At the beginning of the summer, Zwift rolled out a program called “Zwift Academy,” open to any female cyclist. It included a series of workouts, a pre and post Functional threshold power (FTP) test and a designated number of group rides to complete over a three month time span. After this “qualifying period” a panel of professionals would analyze power data and other information and select 10 semi-finalists they thought had the potential to be professional riders. The semi finalists continue the program and compete for the grand prize of a one year contract with the Canyon/SRAM team.

When I read about this at first, I was intrigued but I thought it was a bit sacrilegious to ride the trainer in the summer and I only had a couple months of freedom before medical school started. However, I thought it was a pretty cool idea and I joined the Facebook group to keep tabs on it. Through the summer, an impressive community of women from around the world converged on this platform- sharing stories, equipment tips, training advice, and such. Most of them were not in it for the “grand prize” or any prize at all but the pursuit of improvement and inclusion in a community.

At the end of July when I was preparing to move to Ann Arbor to start school, I began to plan how I would continue to train most efficiently with the demands of school. I knew my days of riding my mountain bike endlessly from our front door were over and I knew the trainer was going to turn into an important training tool for me. So just for fun, I looked at the Zwift Academy requirements again. It would be a lot of work to finish the program by the August 31st deadline but it had already elicited the spark of a new challenge and there was no turning back.

Despite occasionally feeling guilty for riding inside in August,  Zwift Academy turned into a great outlet for me for several reasons. It definitely helped me fit in a lot of high quality efficient workouts as my volume declined. It also reduced the amount of time I was on the road during the time that I was most anxious about cars due to recent accidents. However, I didn’t post any of my Zwift rides on Strava, because I wasn’t quite confident enough to explain what I was doing or why.

Ore to Shore was a success amid school and Zwift

Ore to Shore was a success amid school and Zwift

Fitting in the workouts around races and outdoor rides turned out to be more of a challenge than expected because the workouts were legitimately hard. However, I managed to finish Zwift Academy by the deadline.  I figured I would likely have a chance at moving on but due to the time constraints, I didn’t do all the workouts at the highest quality and my power numbers didn’t improve much in such a short time. However, one week after the conclusion of the program, my name was among the ten from around the world to move on. (Check out the bios from the semi-finalists here.) I was excited and pleased but also surprised with their selection.  I was very honest with Zwift Academy about my school and racing plans but they advanced me nevertheless.  I thought this was pretty cool for several reasons:

First, one of my goals of medical school is to avoid sacrificing myself mentally and physically in the process of medical training.  Yes, this is historically how it has been done and I may be judged for wanting it to be different. However, I think that the University of Michigan is on board with this and it is cool that Zwift Academy acknowledged this too.kpat canyon

Secondly, my involvement with this project is not driven solely by the pursuit of a pro contract.  But I don’t think it is all about the pro contract for Zwift Academy either.  The enthusiasm of the Zwift Academy community exceeded expectations and I think there is a lot of power in using both community and “gamification” for some impressively rewarding fitness and satisfaction gains – and not just for the highest caliber athletes.  I think building and strengthening an underrepresented community in the cycling world will benefit the sport at all levels. So I was pleased that Zwift acknowledged that I might have something to bring to this community, even if it does not necessarily mean being the optimal candidate to fulfill a professional contract.

The next round of workouts started up last week and I have the months workouts in my Training Peaks. The semi-finals include one outdoor workout, one specific Zwift workout and one Zwift group ride or race of our choice. It is actually a pretty relaxed schedule that allows me to continue to spend time on my mountain bike. The semifinals run through the end of November.So it will definitely be an interesting ride no matter what and I’m excited to see what the next few months hold.


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