Winter Bikepacking

December 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jonathan Meyers

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my brother and I were invited to go bikepacking for the first time with fellow Team Athletic Mentors rider Joel Bretzlaff near Cadillac. Not surprisingly, the weather 180 miles north of where you live is bound to be colder and more wintery. But our expedition would not discover that until it was too late to turn back.

This is my bike setup.

All four of us (James Meyer, Joel and Jason Bretzlaff, and I) are experienced campers and backpackers, but this adventure would still have us venturing into uncharted territory literally and figuratively speaking. Due to our limited experience in bikepacking, we had none of the required specialty gear like frame bags (storage that goes within the front triangle of your bike), large saddlebags, or front racks for carrying the larger items, and almost everyone went about acquiring these items in different ways. James and I borrowed gear from some avid bikepacking friends. I also built my own front rack with machined aluminum mounts, and an old 2×4, which I strapped the 4-person tent that we all slept in for two cold, snowy nights. Jason also fabricated most of his gear, using handlebar extenders for a front rack, and taking advantage of this impressive sowing skills to make his own frame bag.  The tent is the large roll strapped to the front, the frame bag is the dark grey triangle filling up the front triangle of my bike, and the saddle bag is the large bag sticking way off the back of my bike. All this gear plus the bike ended up weighing about 54lbs 9oz.

Picture from the first singletrack we rode.

A successful bikepacking trip cannot be completed without teamwork, and on this trip, we split the load of everything up evenly among our four team members. James and I carried the tent and the rainfly, Jason carried the Jet Boil, for boiling water to heat our food, and Joel carried
extra food for the group, and navigated us through the snowy forest on a route of his own design.

The planned trip was a 90 mile ride over the span of three days and two nights, starting on Friday and finishing on Sunday. The first day we started at Red Bridge River Access and rode 23 of our 25 planned miles through beautiful singletrack of the North Country Trail, blanketed in 3” of sticky

Picture from the single track just before the road into Mesick.

snow. For the first five miles of the trip, we were making fresh tracks. After about 13 miles of singletrack we rode pavement into and through Mesick, where we learned the dangers of icy pavement. Then we continued onto dirt forest road, and then finally a few more miles of singletrack, to where  we

hiked a few hundred yards off the trail and farther into the snowy wilderness and set up camp. After clearing away the snow and setting up our tent and sleeping arrangements, we boiled water for our dinners and headed to bed, preparing for the hardest stage of our journey, the 45-mile day of singletrack and forest road that awaited us tomorrow.

The next day we were low on water from hydrating while riding, and from boiling it for dinner from the night before and breakfast from that morning, and eventually we would need to find more if we were going to make the full 45 miles planned for the day. With that thought, we began our day on singletrack, descending into the river valley, and soon we reached a bridge where we would have to cross the river. This spot would be our last opportunity to refill on water, so it would have to get us through the rest of today, and all 20 miles of tomorrow. After filtering, we began to climb back out of the valley on the singletrack. Throughout the day we rode many miles of singletrack, forest roads, and ORV trails, all covered in 4 inches of snow and counting. The two main challenges for that day were the huge distance we needed to cover, and the forecasted 3 inches of new snow we were going to receive along the way.  As the day wore on, we began to get tired, and run out of food. Our initial plan was to camp at the top of Briar Hill, the highest point in the lower peninsula, but we would not make it past that point until the next morning. As the group lost steam and proclaimed they could go no further, we set up camp, made dinner, and went to bed. Over night the snow kept falling.

In the morning, we used a large portion of our remining water, and almost all of our remaining food. The main challenge for our final day would be keeping a positive attitude riding through about six inches of snow, with dwindling energy and resources, through even more accumulating snow. This would prove to be a difficult challenge, as temperatures continued to drop.  However, despite adversity, we managed to push through the wind and snow all the way back to our start point at Red Bridge. Though this trek was very challenging and difficult and even painful at some points, I very much enjoyed the experience, and would definitely do it again. I would recommend bikepacking to any serious cyclist who also has a love of the outdoors, although maybe make your first-ever trip in the summer when there won’t be six inches of snow hindering your progress every pedal stroke.

 

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The Benefit of Athletic Mentor Teammates

December 6th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Bob Schultz

This year’s Iceman Cometh reminded me why I enjoy being a member of the Athletic Mentors family.  Shortly after Williamsburg Road, which is considered halfway, I had a rider behind me say “on your right” and was surprised to see an Athletic Mentors Kit go around me. I did not get a chance to see the face but got on their back tire to draft them. I was able to keep on his tire and finally pass but still did not recognize him. We started talking and introduced ourselves. It was John Harris, a new member from Petoskey. I recognized his name because he joined a Messenger group we have where he introduced himself. While we had just met, we were teammates and shared that bond. For the next hour we both rode as though we had trained together for years. John was faster on the flats and I was faster climbing so we traded leads and put each other in front where we felt the other could help and were calling out what was coming up next.

We talked after the race thanking each other for pushing us faster than we would have individually. We both needed the encouragement climbing Ice Breaker on tired legs then finishing strong. The phrase “Pain loves Company” proved very correct.

John and I had never met but being part of  Team Athletic Mentors means more than wearing a similar kit. I have talked to hundreds of riders during races and ridden together with some, but it’s not the same. We are teammates and worked as one. Not everyone is the same speed where riding together makes sense, but a simple word of encouragement when you go by helps. I am lucky I now have a new friend to ride with the next time I am in Petoskey.

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How Many Wetsuits Do You Need?

November 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

WAIT! Am I really saying that you should have MORE than one wetsuit? … Possibly.

I have to confess that I have 3 wetsuits. Yes. Really. One for very cold water. One for regular cold water. And one for warm water. In water below 60* I wear my cold full sleeve suit with a neoprene hood, booties and gloves. In water below 68* I wear my regular full sleeve suit. In water below 78* I wear my sleeveless suit.

Let’s think about this. A wetsuit’s main purpose is to keep you warm in “cold” water; temperature below 78*F according to USAT. As an added bonus it also makes you more buoyant, improving your body position and helps you slip through the water faster than without it. 

Cold water is a relative term. What’s cold to me might be comfortable to you. Michigan gives us a large range of water temperatures throughout the year. Down right frigid to balmy.

Does that mean you should go buy the thickest full sleeve wetsuit? … Again, maybe or maybe not. You’ll want to consider how cold the water you’ll be swimming in will be and how comfortable you are in “cold” water. Also, a thick wetsuit can decrease your range of motion or could cause you to overheat.

For example; I am very cold blooded. I’m always colder than the people around me. So I lean towards a warmer or full sleeve wetsuit. Whereas some people naturally feel warmer and would overheat in a full sleeve suit but they would be comfortable in a sleeveless suit. 

I try to extend my open water season as much as possible so I swim in cold water, water below 60*, by wearing my warmest wetsuit with a neoprene hood, gloves and booties. Still I would be too warm in that wetsuit during the summer months but I want to take advantage of a wetsuit’s buoyancy so I also have a sleeveless suit for those occasions. 

Do you want to swim in as much open water as possible? Will you possibly race in a range of water temperatures? Perhaps you should consider having more than one wetsuit in your arsenal. 

Use this simple guide to help you choose the best wetsuit or wetsuits for you. Remember this guide is anecdotal and based on my experience swimming in Lake Michigan and Inland lakes.

Now is the time to buy with Aquamantri.com giving 50% off. Use code 2021BlackFriday50 until Dec 5, 2021.

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Barry-Roubaix Psycho Killer – 100 Miler – 2021 Race Recap

November 24th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jared Dunham

Barry Roubaix is a uniquely Michigan festival of gravel that generally starts the season off. However, this year things were a little different. Due to rescheduling from COVID, we experienced the race in early October, just as the leaves began to change and Iceman prerides become a regular thing on weekends.

Barry has four distances to choose from, the 18-mile Chiller, 36-mile Thriller, 62-mile Killer, and 100-mile Psycho Killer. No matter the distance, Barry never shies away from a healthy serving of elevation on each route. However, the 100 miler has approx. 6,800ft of climbing and showcases the most remote two-track that Barry county has to offer. This was my first experience tackling the Psycho Killer, but after a year’s worth of long rides, I was confident in my abilities going into the event.

The morning of Barry had arrived, and I was indecisive on whether to wear a wind vest or only a jersey at the start line. On my warmup I opted for the jersey, additionally, I almost ran over a large raccoon. It was then 6:40AM, and the lights of about 243 riders could be seen on the streets of Hastings. If you know someone who is crazy enough to enjoy 100+ mile gravel rides, they were likely there on that October 10th morning.

While hilly, the beginning 35 miles remained tame, and were a prologue for the rest of the ride. Occasionally a hard effort was put in by riders at the front, but for the most part, a peloton of 50 or so remained together until we reached the first seasonal road. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but I did walk through some of the portions of Two-Track and had an idea of what I was getting into.

Nearing the 35-mile mark, racers at the front of our group pushed the pace and I positioned myself in the top 10 leading into the first two-track. As predicted, we made a left onto Solomon Rd. and things went from Chiller to Psycho Killer. Everyone was riding/running up the sandy climbs and it went from a group ride to everyone for themselves at that point. A break of 5 riders occurred and I was 7th exiting this the first section of two-track. The next 10 miles or so were on and off seasonal road, and for a while I could still see the lead group off in the distance. Eventually, I caught up with Nicholas Stanko and we rode together in intervals. By intervals I mean he would get ahead on some sections, and I would catch up on others. The lead group eventually faded off into legend as we continued the ride.

Near Middleville, we were treated to 5 miles of ultra-smooth pavement, and only hit one red light while getting through town. At mile 47, Nick looked back and asked, “You think we can catch them?”. I, who was already having a hard time in his draft, replied, “I’m just going to see how long I can hang on,”. Not long after that, Tim Mitchell soloed up to us in aero position, setting a harder pace. I promptly fell off the duo, I had been pushing myself hard and knew that the last 18 miles were going to leave a mark. Looking back, there was no one as far as I could see. Consequently, I got back into a groove and rode solo. Mile 48, more seasonal road arrived, Tim and Nick were back in sight. Again, at certain portions of these roads, I would begin to catch up and in others, I would fall behind.

At mile 60, we hit the infamous Sager Rd. No, I’m not talking about the normal edition of Sager Rd. This is the Big Papa to the normal portion of Sager. More sand, more climbing, and more descending. At the end of the “road”, two huge, unavoidable mud puddles lay before me. I must thank Nick Dehaan for pointing out that you can run alongside the first puddle. I’m well-versed in drivetrain issues so I figured it was a better option to walk the first puddle and run through the second.

Returning to classic Barry gravel, I was now very much solo. At mile 65, I had to stop at the Otis Lake aid station. The plan was to bring enough water to not stop. However, one of my three water bottles shot off my bike frame on the first two-track, and the water bladder in backpack had questionable motives. By that I mean it was leaking onto my right leg the entire time. Keegan pointed out at the end of the race that it looked like I had either crashed or was having an allergic reaction (I had been drinking red Gatorade). Some of the kind volunteers topped me off with fluids and I also grabbed a few Clif Bloks shots. Exiting the aid station, Keegan Korienek and Scott Quiring caught me. We were then a trio, and with no seasonal road between us and the finish, it was full gas for the remaining 40 miles.

If I had to guess, I would say that it was about mile 70 when Benjamin Meer and Adam Hockley caught up to us. Unfortunately, not long after this, Adam had a flat rear tire and stopped for repairs, so we were then a group of four. With 30 miles to go, I was at the edge of my limits. On the turns, I had to push hard to stay with the group and when it came time to take a pull, my legs didn’t want to obey. The thought repeatedly crossed my mind that I should just let the group go and ride my own pace. However, while things seemed to be deteriorating, I affirmed that come hell or high water I would finish with the group.

With about 25 miles remaining, we found Nick Stanko, who informed us that there were 6 riders ahead. There were 5 cyclists in the group, someone would not be on the podium in a few hours. The following 20 miles were a lot more hills and as crazy as it might sound, I felt myself recovering a bit after 95 miles in the saddle.

Keegan, Scott, and I had a promise that no games would be played till the last 5 miles. We all kept to that promise.

3 miles to go: Ben made a small break on a flat section of gravel. Nick soon followed his wheel. Scott put in an effort to try and catch the pair. In the previous two miles, I felt cramps coming on and knew my legs were toast. I came around Scott to try and close the gap between us and the pair.

2 miles to go: Try as I might, I couldn’t bring them back and as we began descending the last gravel hill and onto the pavement, Scott came around me and I hopped on in his wheel. The order was then: Nick, Ben, Scott, Me, and Keegan. On pavement, we motored down a long descent to catch Nick and Ben. Scott was unable to close the gap, and the other two were just a few bike lengths ahead. I came around and Keegan was the one to finally seal the deal and close the gap. At that point we made our last right hand turn onto more pavement.

1 mile to go: I felt myself slipping from the group, someone from the Thriller rode up next to me saying, “Come on let’s get ’em big guy!”. That was all the motivation I needed.

This was it. The culmination of 104 miles of Gravel, Two-Track, Pavement, Grit, and Some Luck. We were in the home stretch. The group was silent now and the only noises besides cheering spectators were bike chains running over gears and rubber on pavement. Off in the distance, the sound of music and the announcer slowly drew closer.

??? miles to go: I was riding in the drops behind Scott, at the tail end of the group, as the countdown to the final sprint ticked away. The order of the group was Nick, Ben, Keegan, Scott, and Myself. I Can’t remember who it was that started the sprint but when the dust had finally settled, the order was: Keegan, Nick, Ben, Scott, and Myself.

Not sure how it happened, but I had taken 10th place. Maybe because Scott had crossed the starting mat before me and I had then caught up to him, but was the last one over the finish line of our group. Either way, I was absolutely floored to be able to finish the ride the group.

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Catching up with Eli

November 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Elijah Garris

Hello, my name is Elijah Garris, but most everyone calls me Eli.  I’m in the 8th grade and currently attend Muir Middle School in Milford MI. In the 2020 cycling season I started to practice and race for my scholastic team Huron Valley United Racing. It was such a great time racing with my friends that I go to school with. I won the overall Middle School State Championship with 5 firsts and 1 second place. That following winter I snowboarded a lot with family and friends. My Dad set up a trainer in the basement so I could spin once in a while.

I was anxiously waiting for spring so I could get back on my bike. Early summer this year I started racing the Michigan Championship Point Series. The first race at Hanson Hills was incredibly hot, the next two were raining and miserable. I ended up racing 5 of the 7 races and won the 14 and under category overall. During this time Kellen Caldwell and his dad Dan suggested I apply for Athletic Mentors. Looking up to Kellen I was super excited to apply. Coach Terry Ritter surprised me at the Pontiac race that I would be part of the team. I ended the summer with the Ore to Shore race in Marquette MI. One of my favorite races for sure.

Once school started our MISCA race season was happening. Our team would practice 3 times a week and I would go out another time or two on my own. I started to jump in on a Tuesday night road ride with a cycling group near my house. I came out of the 5th race as Michigan Advanced Middle School Champion. But, there was one more race left at Cannonsburg. I was in a situation where if I didn’t race I would have held the title. If I raced and took 2nd to the 2nd place holder I would lose it. There was never a thought about not racing the final race. Unfortunately, I came in second that day. I was ok with the outcome because I gave everything I had that day and he wanted it just as bad as I did. I’ll be riding in the JV class next year as a Freshman.

As a team with Athletic Mentors we got a chance to race in the Barry Roubaix gravel race. We won the youth team competition with a prize of $1000. It was fast and fun. I enjoyed being part of such an amazing group of people. The team tent was busy and there was just a lot of positive energy. Can’t wait for Barry next year. I just recently raced Peak 2 Peak which was a lot of fun also. I have the Lowell gravel race coming up and have been training on the gravel. Lately I’ve been meeting up with fellow teammate Collin Snyder for a weekly group gravel ride. This is for getting ready for my first Iceman.

After Iceman I plan to spin on the trainer, ride outside if possible and snowboard with friends. I’m signed up for a bike mechanic class this fall, which I’m super excited about. I’m thankful and proud to be a part of Athletic Mentors. I’m looking forward to our team rides and coaching that is provided by our coaches. Most of all, can’t wait to roll up to the line in 2022!

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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.

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Lessons From the 2021 MiSCA Season

October 27th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Joel Bretzlaff

I’m a member of Athletic Mentors Junior Cycling Team.  I participated in the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association (MiSCA) is a youth-only race series that takes place in the fall, offering a variety of categories for racers in 1st-12th grade.  They focus heavily on getting more kids on bikes, but also offer extremely competitive high school racing.  This season I raced in the 9-10th grade category.  I have been racing in MiSCA since 2016, and I always look forward to this chapter of my race season.  For the MiSCA races, I race under Orange Krush Junior Race Team.

Race #1: Heritage Park – This year, the season opener took place at Heritage Park in Adrian, Michigan, on August 29th.  The course was quite tight, and cornering was the most important skill to have.  The first sprint start of the year is always the most hectic, and I rode into the fourth position as we entered the woods.  I noticed that the leader was starting to open up a gap on the next two riders in front of me, so when we broke out onto a two-track climb, I seized my opportunity and passed the second and third riders.  From here, I was able to get onto the wheel of the leader.  We held a ~10 second gap for the first two miles of the race.  Eventually, as we approached the longest climb of the course, I moved to the front and broke away from the pack.  Over the remainder of the first lap, I extended my lead, which was over thirty seconds as we crossed through the start/finish area.  Nothing changed over the second lap, where I pulled out another thirty seconds and took the win.  This race taught me how to ride during a breakaway.

Race #2: Addison Oaks – On September 12th, MiSCA traveled to Addison Oaks, a wide open, fast course with many straightaways.  I went into this race as the series leader, and I led into the woods after the final sprint.  On the first climb, I allowed someone to pass as I did not want to set the pace.  I drafted the rider in front for much of the first lap, but as we reached a pavement section, two riders behind me powered around the leader and I and pushed the pace until we re-entered the woods.  This placed me in fourth position, and I was doing everything I could to get around the two riders in front of me and get onto the leader, who was beginning to pull away.  I got around one rider, but couldn’t get around the other until the grassy start/finish area.  At this point, I was very worn out, and started to lose position as the race went on.  I ended up with a fifth place finish and learned the importance of positioning, due to the amount of energy I used just to move up a couple positions in the trail.

Race #3: Merrell Trail – One week later, we traveled to Grand Rapids to race at Merrell Trail, a race with long climbs and technical descents.  Off the start line, I noticed that my drivetrain was skipping gears, so I dialed back my pace on the long, grassy opening section.  I entered the woods in fourth position, and the leader was already pulling out a major gap on the first long climb.  We quickly caught up to the rider in front.  On a tricky corner, I slid out and nearly ran into a tree, but I got back to the leaders.  The four of us started to open up a gap, then the first rider crashed and the other two and I got around him.  Eventually, the leader started to pull away, and after some attempts, I moved into the second position and began to chase.  When we came to Sawtooth, a ridiculously technical downhill section, I completely closed the gap.  I rode the wheel of first place until we came to a long climb near the end of the lap, where I was dropped.  As I came through the start/finish area, I was informed that I was behind by ten seconds.  I worked to pull this back over the second lap, and completed this comeback on Sawtooth.  The race came down to a sprint finish, but I wasn’t able to overtake my competitor, and was second by 0.4 seconds.  I now know just how much of an advantage leading into a sprint can offer.

Race #4 Bloomer Park – With the Bloomer Park race quickly approaching, the rainfall was coming down hard.  On September 26th, it was clear that the race conditions were going to be a disaster.  The start/finish area was a complete mud pit.  Even though I struggled in the mud on the wholeshot, I led into the woods.  One rider held onto my wheel, and third place was about 10 seconds back.  When we came to Art’s Lungbuster, a four minute climbing segment early in the lap, I slid out in the mud after clipping a tree with my handlebar.  I couldn’t clip in for a few seconds due to mud on my cleats, and by that time, the third place rider had already caught up to me.  The two of us worked hard to close the gap to first, but it was clear that it was an impossible task.  As we came through for our third lap, the rider I was with overtook me.  I held his wheel for half a lap, but ended up slowing down and landing a third place finish.  After this race, I further understood the importance of riding a clean race.

Race #5: Milford Trail Time Trial – The October 10th stop of the MiSCA season was a time trial this year due to trail and field limitations.  Racers were sent in series standings order at fifteen second intervals.  I pushed hard off the start line, trying to catch up to the rider in front of me.  As the first lap went on, it was all I could do to keep them within my sights.  I pushed on the second half of the lap, and came through the start/finish area with a six second lead.  However, by this point, I was completely gassed and my pace slowed.  I knew that my race was now about holding off the third place rider.  As I broke out onto the final sprint, my teammates informed me that the race for second was close, and urged me to push it.  I sprinted with all I had, and ended up 0.3 seconds ahead of third place.  This race taught me that some days are not meant to be and that risking more positions to try and ride for a win is not always the best idea.

Race #6: Cannonsburg Ski Area State Championships – For the state championship race of the 2021 season, MiSCA selected Cannonsburg Ski Area.  This course is jam-packed with brutal climbing throughout the course.  My category was only completing one lap, so my strategy was much different going in.  Due to time restraints from camping the weekend of the race, I did not have an opportunity to warm up, but still fought my way into second position during the wholeshot.  After five to ten minutes, I was finally feeling warmed up, and the pack was thinning out behind the leader and I.  Two riders were still holding on, but one of them dropped off at one of the large climbs about twenty minutes into the race.  I was in the middle of a pack of three as we continued to ascend our way around the ski hill.  Nearing the final sprint, I almost went off the trail on the last corner, and lost about 1 second before we broke out of the woods.  The end of the race included a 200 foot grassy climb straight up the hill, and wet, tight switchbacks all the way down.  When the climb opened up, I made my move and overtook the race leader.  I pulled with everything I had, but one racer was still on my wheel at the top of the climb.  At one point during the descent as I was trying to recover for the very end of the race, I was almost overtaken, but I held onto my lead and took the final sprint.  This race taught me the value of allowing another rider to control the race and sticking to a plan.

I finished the season with a second place in the series, and I can’t wait to race Varsity next year!

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Training in Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Program

October 13th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Sean Siems

Hello, my name is Sean Siems. I am 13 years old. I go to St. Augustine and I’m in the 8th grade. I started doing triathlons because my dad introduced them to me when I was around 9 or 10.

In the past, training wasn’t something I gave much thought to. We always just raced. All of that changed this year!

This year I had the opportunity to join the Youth Triathlon Team at Athletic Mentors. Our goal was to train for and race the Grand Rapids Triathlon super sprint distance and Athletic Mentors private race at Gull Lake. The coaches at Athletic Mentors set up a Youth Triathlon Program for us to follow and also held group training sessions at various locations depending on which discipline we were focusing on that day. We had coaches swim, bike and run with us in order to keep us safe in the water and on the road. They also encouraged us to do our best and helped push us along.

As it turns out, training for triathlons is just as fun as racing them. I have done five triathlons. The first three were the Shermanator. The fourth one was the Grand Rapids Triathlon. The last one was the AM triathlon at Gull Lake where we raced with adults. So far I am enjoying triathlons and I hope to keep doing more in the future and eventually do an Ironman.

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Training for Life from a Young Triathlete

October 11th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By Kellen Siems

Hello, my name is Kellen and I am in the 7th grade. I have done 5 triathlons and I’m on the Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Team. I play soccer, tennis, and I swim and ski.

I do triathlons because my parents want me to be active. They also help me to be more athletic, which makes me better in the other sports that I play. Not to mention, it’s also a lot of fun!

My favorite triathlon was the Grand Rapids Triathlon. There were many members of Team Athletic Mentors there both racing and cheering us on. It was a pretty big race so I was nervous. My brother and twin sister are on the team too, so that helped. If you have ever raced anything before then you know that as soon as it starts, all the nervous feelings go away. All that’s left is to focus and enjoy the race.

My goal one day is to do an Ironman and be fast. I also want to be able to do triathlons more easily. That will come with more practice. Most important though, the training involved in racing triathlons will help me lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.

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Joining a Triathlon Team at 12 years old

October 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Brie Siems

Hello, my name is Brie Siems. I am 12 years old. This year I completed my first season on the Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Team. After a long delay due to the pandemic, it was nice to finally be part of the team. Although I have raced many triathlons already, this year was my first experience with a structured program geared toward racing.  As a group we trained together as well as followed a plan individually throughout the weeks leading up to our race. Our training included the usual swimming, biking and running but also some exercises to strengthen our core.  This year the Youth team raced the Grand Rapids Triathlon. We focused on the super sprint distance because we are all pretty young still. The distances were 200 yard swim, 6 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.

My 2 brothers are also on the team. The nice thing about racing with a team is that although triathlon is an individual sport, being part of a team helps us all to be our best. It is also nice to see teammates before and after the race and to cheer each other on.

I love to do sports and activities too. Some of the sports I did this year are soccer, tennis, swimming, skiing/snowboarding and cross country. I have been playing piano for 6 years and love it!

I started doing triathlons because my parents wanted me to become an athlete. My dad also does triathlons so I guess it was only natural. My dad actually said that when my brothers and I are 18, he would be watching us do an Ironman triathlon. I joined the triathlon group here at Athletic Mentors to help myself become a better athlete. Currently, I go to school at St. Augustine Cathedral School. I am doing this strength and conditioning program to help myself become strong and better at running. I am looking forward to becoming a better athlete

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