Tough Training Lessons from Strava

January 12th, 2016 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Elaine Sheikh, Team OAM Now Multi-sport Athlete unnamedWhen I first started becoming serious about endurance sports a few years ago, several cyclists I rode with on Tuesday nights mentioned using Strava.  I really had no idea how it worked. For me, training consisted of swimming, cycling, and running basically whenever I felt like it, and mixing in body weight workouts and yoga to keep everything fresh. When other athletes suggested I make an account and upload my workouts, “Not for me,” I replied. “I have limited data and I use Apple Maps so I won’t get lost. I have it on my little wireless cateye computer and I pop it into my excel spreadsheet so I can make sure I’m biking enough.” That was the attitude I had until I began veterinary school at Michigan State University. There, I met some intense triathletes who really encouraged me to get Strava. “We have an MSU Tri Club Strava group! We can all keep tabs on each other! It’s really fun!”  I caved. I learned how to upload activities from my watch so that I didn’t have to use my phone. I manually entered swims. And, I started tracking other athletes. While I know Strava is great for some people, it was, undoubtedly, one of the worst decisions I made in my triathlon journey. Still, I learned a lot in the year and a half that I used Strava on a regular basis. I want to share those lessons so that others can learn how to avoid the pitfalls of any form of social networking focused on training. Again, I think Strava is a great tool for many people, and I don’t want to minimize that in any way. However, it’s like diet. Some athletes thrive on a vegan diet. Some swear by a high-fat, low-carb approach. Others perform well on just about anything they want to eat. Every athlete is different physically, mentally, and spiritually, so take anyone’s advice with a grain of salt. What works for me may or may not work for you.  Here’s what I learned: unnamed-11)  Training was no longer about my journey. There were a lot of reasons I started running, but when it boiled down to it,  I enjoyed my warm-up laps around the YMCA indoor track more than I enjoyed the rest of my workouts back in my “gym-rat” days. Then, I realized that the only thing stopping me from running longer was my mindset.  If I didn’t lift one day, I could spend my whole hour or hour and a half of gym time running! It wasn’t long before I moved the running game out of the gym. When I got my first running watch, I used it to track distance, but I didn’t care a bit about speed on those runs. It was wonderful. I was healthy and happy.  As I began to focus more on race results, I would run faster with friends or one day a week when I did a speed workout, but the bulk of my runs were 2-3 minutes per mile slower than the pace I was racing at. I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to be able to race as fast as I did running as slow as I was. Then, when I got Strava, I actually started paying attention to pace on training runs which I had never done. I would upload a run and then look at it.  “Did I actually run that slowly?  So-and-so’s run today was so much faster than mine, and I know I race faster than her!”  I became self-conscious and began pushing a faster pace on all of my runs. In less than two months, I damaged my gastroc so badly that I could barely walk. I pulled out of the GR marathon because I was so badly hurt. I didn’t learn my lesson. I took ten days off, did a few slow runs and was back at it.  I hurt the gastroc again. I recovered. I began working with coach Mark Olson who immediately dialed back my mileage and pace, but I resented uploading slow workouts and would push the pace every time I could.  My poor past lifestyle choices were adding up and a few months later, I fractured my inferior pubic ramus.  And you know what?  I kept uploading!  I biked and swam my heart out and I was darn proud of throwing down some 13 hour weeks with a fractured pelvis.  Throughout this experience, I didn’t think once about my own journey.  It was all about the perceptions of others. unnamed-22) Training became a competition. It’s ok to go to the track with a friend and challenge each other during a grueling workout.  It is NOT ok to stalk them online when they are following a completely different training regime than you are and compare yourself to them!  I was jealous of people doing speed work when I was recovering from my injury. I was angry when people I knew I was capable of beating in races uploaded “base” runs that were faster than mine. It wasn’t until I drew myself away from the social network that I remembered the Brad Paisley song I loved back in my days of cowboy boots and country music: “So Much Cooler Online.”  How do I know that the “base” run was actually base?  Who knows, that person could have had a heart rate of 180 the whole time. It doesn’t matter who has a “better” training run, it only matters who has a better race. Adding to that, the whole MSU Triathlon Strava group that I was so psyched to be a part of?  Well, it turns out, Strava tallies up placings every week. Placings are based off of training time alone. So, if I sit on my bicycle at a heartrate of 100 for 3 hours, I’m ranked higher than if I do intense intervals for 1 hour. That’s not the only problem though.  Only swims, bikes and runs are tallied.  This shouldn’t be an issue, but for competitive people with an extremely addictive nature (I’m describing myself, not accusing anyone), it’s really hard to suck up taking a second place when you know that if you would have spent those three very beneficial off-season weight lifting sessions biking, you would have “won.”  I’m laughing as I write this, it sounds so silly when now that I am removed from it. But, when I was wrapped up in the middle, even though I knew it was wrong, it still affected me. There’s a very real danger in seeing training as competition. It’s training for a reason. 3) Training became about accolades. For you non-Strava users, here’s how it works: you follow people, much like on Instagram or Twitter.  You upload your workouts and you get a newsfeed of the workouts of everyone who you follow.  Instead of favoriting something, as you would on Twitter, you give kudos. So, you spend the last mile of your run thinking up creative titles for your workouts or making excuses for why it wasn’t stellar. As an example, some of my workout titles include: “Killed my average by riding 4 miles of deep gravel on the tri bike,” “Sighting practice on 2 hrs of sleep,” “Don’t judge unless you rode in this wind!”  What’s the theme?  Excuses.  And I don’t need to justify my workouts to anyone, because frankly, it’s no one’s business besides mine, and my coach’s.  Then there were the snarky titles: “Thanks for the memories” – sounds like it’s just the song I was listening to, right?  Well, sorta. I was listening to Fallout Boy. It was also a pot-shot at a fellow Strava-er that I was annoyed with. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter how many kudos you got on Strava.  What matters is what your body, mind, and spirit got from your training. 4) I was as focused on other’s workouts as much as my own. This is a bad one. It goes back to embracing that every athlete is different. Everyone has a different life as well. Over the summer, I worked 24 hours straight sometimes at a demanding internship in an equine hospital. Truth be told, I love veterinary emergency work and I understand how important it is for my future career for me to get experience now. It is completely unfair to focus on how pristine other people’s training schedules are when they are living a completely different life. Breaking down their workouts does nothing to enhance my training. All it does is waste precious time and emotional energy. unnamed-35) Strava became king You know that there is a problem when you are stressed out because you don’t have internet access and you can’t upload a workout right away.  Trust me. It’s okay. Your body knows that you had a breakthrough long ride!  There is a saying in the world of Strava users: “Strava or it didn’t happen.”  I think it’s meant as a joke, but the mentality is completely wrong. Your body doesn’t need Strava to recognize that you trained. When you have a melt down because your watch “ate” your run and you now can’t upload it, that may be a sign that there is a problem.   I’ve now been Strava-free for weeks and I couldn’t feel better about the decision.  It was hard to pull the plug on it, but now I’m so glad I did.  The stress about how my average in the pool or on the bike is going to look if I take a bit more rest so I can go harder on the intervals is gone.  I’m not stressing about how much or little everyone else is training.  My training is, once again, about my own journey.  And that’s how I feel it should be for me.  If you use Strava and it works for you, I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. I know many people love using it to stay accountable and that’s great.  However, if you start to experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, I encourage you to search yourself to evaluate if your relationship with training-related social media is healthy for you. If it is, great!  It if isn’t, maybe it’s time for a little purge. Happy training if you’re in your offseason. Happy racing if you are a star Nordic skier like some of my teammates and this is your season! The post Tough Training Lessons from Strava appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Giving Back: Getting by with a little help from the elves

January 3rd, 2016 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Jim Allan, Team OAM Now Cyclist
line up at startA December holiday ritual for members and friends of the OAM NOW/ATHLETIC MENTORS Team is the annual Elves and More Bicycle Build. The Elves and More West Michigan organization raises funds to purchase bicycles that are assembled by volunteers and then distributed into an undisclosed neighborhood to boys and girls. Their involvement and record is impressive as described in the background information:
“In the last eleven years, Elves & More- West Michigan has provided 11,800 new bikes and helmets and 3,300 treasure bags of toys and needed items to all the children in the ten neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.  With the financial help of many generous people and companies and the continuous efforts of our volunteers, we expect another amazing year.”
pic from alanAfter dressing for the task in festive Christmas caps and capturing the obligatory pre-event photo, the team went right to work assembling the bicycles. A nice group attended the event including: Leonard Van Drunen, Pete Chadwick, Steve Schousen, Jim Allan, Dan Gauthier, Roxane Kippen, Danielle Nye, Mike Hoogerland, Greg Neagos, Paul and Steve Buccella, Jim Fottis, Dave Newton, Alan and Mari-Megan Moore.There is usually a re-training period for the returning alumni as well as tips for the newbies and, after a little startup balancing of assignments, the work table and surrounding work stands become a whirlwind of activity. It doesn’t matter what your skillset is coming into this event, everyone leaves with an appreciation for all aspects of bicycle construction.
building bikes 1 croppedThe whole process is dependent upon on-the-job training and, as such, a few bikes are returned until all the requirements are met.
It is always gratifying to see Steve Buccella’s father Paul, who is approaching 95 years old and is now in his second year of helping us, happily pitching in to help unpack the bicycles and prepare them for assembly.
Our method of counting the completed bicycles included a flaw, so we have to estimate that in a (90) minute period our team assembled in excess of (120) bicycles. The total output of all teams was in excess of (1100) bicycles.
DCIM123GOPROAnd this event is not all work and no play, since we always follow with a conversational ride to Rockford for lunch and then further up the White Pine Trail. Unfortunately, we were met again by rain, so this year we were more attentive and turned around before reaching the 25 mile point.
finished bikes 2All in all, it’s an outstanding way to spend a Saturday with great team mates to benefit an outstanding cause and have a lot of fun while connecting with community.
The post Giving Back: Getting by with a little help from the elves appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Team Turkey Trot- The Annual Tradition

December 10th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Roxane Kippen, Team OAM Now Multi-Sport Athlete turkey trot groupThe Turkey Trot is a long-standing running tradition that began as far back as the early 1900s. I heard on the news over the Thanksgiving weekend that a turkey trot is now the most popular annual running event in the US with hundreds of thousands participating each year.  Turkey trots are also known for benefitting local charities.  Let me share with you a little turkey trot tradition I have. For the last four years, a few members of TEAM OAM NOW have gathered with friends and others in the triathlon, cycling, and running communities at a local trail for a slightly less traditional version of the turkey trot. Seidman Park is home to several miles of single track trail used for hiking, running, and cross country skiing.  We have fondly named our run the Bloody Knuckle Turkey Trot due to the rugged conditions of the trail and the multiple falls one unnamed team member managed in a single loop around the park. The month of November typically signifies a return to running for me. I usually take the month of October off from running and focus on mountain bike racing. I started my ease back into running with a 2-mile run one week, a 3-mile run the next week, a 4-mile trail run the week before Thanksgiving, then arrived at this year’s Bloody Knuckle ready for my 4th run since September. An invitation to the event is extended to the members in the Athletic Mentors Cycling Group on Facebook and to other friends and family by word of mouth.  We have had as few as 5 and as many as a dozen runners in prior years. This year we were faced with continual rains the day before and the day of Thanksgiving, yet 8 brave souls showed up and were willing to run through the woods, burn some calories, share post run donuts and coffee, and just enjoy each other’s company. There were quite a few other runners and cyclists passing by the park as well, and we served as an interesting aid station with our coffee, hot chocolate and boxes of donuts. While there is no entry fee for this run, we did collect donations to benefit Freedom in Motion, a local organization that collects old bicycles and bike parts, refurbishes them and provides them to those in need. Their cause seemed like a great match for us and we raised over $120 with our small group and also donated some bike parts as well. turkey trot girlsWe do have an official podium ceremony, complete with turkey crowns for the 1st and 2nd place finishers. This year, new OAM NOW team member, Danielle Nye took the top turkey. I rounded out the top 3. Thanks to some course navigation errors made by some of the male competitors, the ladies swept the podium. Team members Jim Allan and Bob Schultz were also attending their 4th Bloody Knuckle. I just read in teammate Kaitlyn Patterson’s blog, “If it is not fun, you’re not doing it right.”  This is so true and a great reminder never to take yourself too seriously that you don’t have fun along the way. I think running around in the woods on a rainy morning with friends and teammates chasing a turkey tiara is pretty fun. If you are interested in joining the fun next time, keep your eyes open for the Bloody Knuckle – New Year’s Eve Edition. The post Team Turkey Trot- The Annual Tradition appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

My First Year With Team OAM NOW- Peter Chadwick Reflects on the Transition from Runner to Cyclist

December 4th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Peter Chadwick- Team OAM Now Cyclist Pete - Lawton RaceMy cycling career started with a suggestion from Dr. Matellic from Orthopedic Associates of West Michigan, who told me my running career was over, in particular running marathons. He indicated that cycling might be a good solution for me since I liked to do long endurance events. Initially I was reluctant, but kept the thought of what he said in my mind. I purchase a road bike, but I had no idea what to do. I began to ride with the club side of Team OAM / Athletic Mentors on Tuesday’s and Saturday’s where they spent time helping me become a better group rider. As I progressed, I felt fortunate when I was allowed to join the team this year as a member of the Elite Club Team. I probably have driven most of my teammate’s crazy by asking a bunch of questions throughout the last year, but they have always been so gracious in their answers so that I can learn to become a better cyclist. I have spent a lot of time watching how various cyclists ride their bikes throughout my rides as well as races. I entered Barry Roubaix and the Lowell 50; it was a huge challenge for me to ride gravel, but my teammates were very supportive. As my confidence has grown, I decided to enter some races. Initially, I was quite concerned but with the help of the team, I found my apprehension lessening. I entered Tour de Frankenmuth, Le Tour De Mont Pleasant and Maple Hill Race for Wishes. Each of these road races were at Cat 5 level and with each one, I was able to improve my cycling skills. By the second race, I ended up in the top ten and the final race at Race for the Wishes, I ended up 6th. 11870769_10207848709835137_3224839420856874371_nI went to a team sponsored event to learn about riding in a criterium. This event helped me understand some of the things that go on during races which were extremely helpful. It’s another great example of our team giving their knowledge and time to others. I did take on another challenge to attempt to ride in the Gaslight Criterium. This most certainly was stepping outside of my “comfort zone”; however, I needed to have another challenge. Not knowing necessary what to expect or if I could handle this type of ride, I found out very quickly that it’s a different kind of ride than a road race in that there was no letup throughout the race from corner to corner. Finishing the race was a great accomplishment for me and I am thrilled that I did it. The last race I did was the Lowell 50 which as most know is a gravel race. Being a wet and cold day, it forced me to handle my bike better. I was very happy with my results as my overall time was better than the Spring Lowell 50 and I ended up 5th in my age group. I know that riding in the “club” and Cat 5 is at the beginner cycling levels on the team, but it was a big change for me. Going from what I loved in running marathons, to cycling was a big deal for me. This basically started all because of a suggestion from Dr. Matellic at OAM for which I am forever grateful. I also would like to say that I appreciate all my teammates for their help since I started cycling. The post My First Year With Team OAM NOW- Peter Chadwick Reflects on the Transition from Runner to Cyclist appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Lessons from a Cinderella Season: Patterson Reflects on Stellar 2015 Season

November 29th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team OAM Now Multi-sport Athlete This spring if anyone had told me that in six months I would be one of the fastest mountain bike riders in the Midwest and a dark horse contender at Iceman, I never would have believed them. This season still seems a bit surreal as I managed to defy anyone’s expectations, especially my own. It is often said that there is more to learn when you lose than when you win. Although I was able to enjoy a fair share of winning this season, the year was not without lessons, and I believe I learned something valuable every race. IM 2015Race smart This is a cardinal rule of road racing, but is sometimes underappreciated in cross-country events. However, with my favorite races being fast, open, point-to-point events, making good decisions and thinking fast are crucial. The biggest thing I learned about winning races is to either make decisive moves or conserve energy, nothing in between. As the miles ticked down at Ore to Shore and Mindy and I battled for the win, I couldn’t think of anywhere I could make a decisive enough move to get away, especially with net elevation loss and a group of guys fully capable of bridging me back. Although I was not confident in my sprinting ability, I waited on her wheel until the final stretch and squeaked out the win. I knew Iceman would be my greatest test of racing smart as the field was extremely talented and experienced. With the course conditions lightning fast, the race turned tactical after a lead group of five of us got away from the field ten miles in, including decorated riders Chloe Woodruff, Georgia Gould, Katerina Nash, and Erin Huck. Nobody was keen on pulling, so I led more than I should have, but this also allowed me to lead through the singletrack sections (my weakness) to avoid having to chase back on. Despite multiple attacks on the group, nobody was able to split it up, and it looked like the podium would be determined in the finish venue. I figured if we all entered Timber Ridge together, I would likely take fifth as I didn’t have as strong of skills or explosive power as the others. Instead, I decided to play my card on the final sustained climb leading to Madeline’s trail. Unfortunately, the move was not strong enough and too early and the group easily responded. We hit the base of woodchip hill together just before entering Timber Ridge and I saw what a truly definitive attack really was as Chloe and Georgia powered away. With no matches left, I couldn’t respond to anything and took 5th. I was thrilled to be able to be a contender in a world class field and learned from racing with the best. Be aware of race dynamics An important part of smart racing is to be aware of the external factors that will shape the race dynamics. The biggest part of this is knowing how the format of the race start will influence the dynamics of the women’s race. In large mass start events like Ore to Shore or Cheq 40, it is crucial to be strong and assertive at the start to get in a fast group of guys. This pays dividends to be able to draft instead of chasing throughout the race. Although huge mass starts make me nervous, I found that focus can bring calm and confidence. Keying on an experienced female racer’s wheel at Ore to Shore helped me to block out the surrounding chaos and set me up for a great race. However, at Cheq 40, fending off panic in the opening rollout cost me the opportunity to race in a faster group and contend for the win. Many races use wave start formats with relatively short intervals between waves. Here, it was important to know if there will be a faster guy’s race catching my field that would pull my race back together or allow me an opportunity to catch a faster wheel. Being aware of these dynamics were important to my wins at Arcadia Grit and Gravel, Peak2Peak and Michigan Mountain Mayhem. hines TTRace calendars and goals should not be set in stone Although I had intended to be a multi-sport athlete this summer with a mix of mountain events and tris on my calendar, this had to be reconsidered after an IT band injury. It turned out GR Tri would be my first and only tri of the season as my running was sidelined for weeks following that race. However, this gave me the opportunity to focus on my cycling and I added Maple Hills Race for Wishes as well as the State Championship TT to my schedule. These both proved to be valuable experiences and the focus on cycling through the summer paid off in my fall mountain bike results. Don’t let expectations limit performance It is undeniably valuable to think through race scenarios, make game plans, and set goals. However,  the reality of a race situation does not often match expectations and there are many factors more important than sticking to the game plan. My splits through the bike leg of the GR Tri were much faster than even my most ambitious projections and, with a lot of racing left, this made me nervous. However, the effort felt sustainable, my HR was reasonable, and I decided to disregard my speedometer and go for it. This paid off and I was able to hold the speed and take nine minutes off my bike split last year which set me up to win the race. This phenomenon happened again at the State Championship TT and I was less intimidated by the speed and took the opportunity to see what I was capable of. CTVBe confident Training and racing is undeniably a game of confidence. Its presence or absence can be the determining factor of a breakthrough performance or a subpar race. I learned to manage my own fickle confidence by trying to avoid being intimidated my competitors’ training or previous race results. Although experience is valuable, each race is a new challenge and past success does not determine a race outcome. The race will be determined by who is the strongest and fastest on that day. Also, a huge component of maintaining confidence through a season is having a strong support system. I could not ask for more in this area with my family, Alex Vanias, Team OAM NOW, Athletic Mentors, and my community behind me. …but not too confident As I just mentioned, past success and results are never a guarantee of future performances. I went into every race this year expecting a battle, no matter what the field looked like on paper. This allowed me to be mentally prepared for the challenges of every race. Remember why you are out there Although we train to race fast, the time spent out there is hardly a means to an end. My summer was not just highlighted by race results, but by group rides with friends and teammates, getting to know a new community, exploring new trails and routes (and making my Strava heat map reflect it), and chasing Strava segments. If it is not fun, you’re not doing it right. I had a ton of fun this season and I am excited for the coming year of racing for Team OAM! 2015 Highlights Mud, Sweat, and Beers-1st Arcadia Grit and Gravel- 1st Conquer the Village- 1st Grand Rapids Tri- 1st (new 70.3 PR of 4:30) Maple Hills Race for Wishes- 1st Cat 4 Hines Drive TT- 1st (25.4mph for 40k) Ore to Shore- 1st x50- 1st Glacial Hills State Championship- 1st Chequamegon 40- 2nd Boyne Highlander- 1st Michigan Mountain Mayhem- 1st Peak2Peak- 1st Iceman Pro Women- 5th The post Lessons from a Cinderella Season: Patterson Reflects on Stellar 2015 Season appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Iceman: Quest for the Podium

November 15th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Chris Abston, Team OAM Now Cyclist 2014icemanICEMAN!! Why is this race one of the best races of the year? What is the allure of this famous race? It’s a race with so much history and is recognized not only nationally, but also worldwide. This was the 26th year of this race that is deemed the largest point-to-point MTB race in the country. It started in 1990 by a few guys who wanted to see if a mountain bike could make the trip from Kalkaska to Traverse City. 35 eager participants made the trek. Now, this year over 5,000 participants took on the challenge to conquer the historic event. The first year there were no prizes just the satisfaction of accomplishing the goal. This year, the total purse was a whopping $61,430.00. So, as I look at this race, comprised mostly of fire roads, two track and some single track, just shy of 30 miles with about 1,700 ft. of climbing, I ponder why this race is so important to many. The race is not technical by any means. Thank god because its no secret that I am not a very good technical rider. I would call it a time trial thru the trees and forest. A pure hammer fest. No real pre-riding is necessary unless for the last 4 miles or so because that part changes from year to year. I started racing bicycles 4 years ago at the ripe old age of 44 and I feel like I am still a neophyte. My first Iceman was in 2011. It was only my 3rd race ever and my first MTB race, so I really had no training guidance other than just riding hard all the time.  A few days prior to the race I was a little off and not quite feeling 100%. After registration on Friday, I started to develop a fever, but I didn’t know how high. When we arrived at our friend’s house, I was surprised that my temp had spiked to 102. I was unable to get any sleep that night and also unable to get the temperature to budge. My wife and friends tried to talk me out of the race, but I was bound and determined. I was not about to let a fever stop me. As I warmed up, I started to develop a cough, but it seemed mild. As the race progressed, the cough started getting worse and by the time I finished I could not stop coughing. I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:27:57 on my old 1999 26” Cannondale hardtail. Unfortunately, I wasn’t up to sticking around and enjoying the festivities that were taking place after the race so we packed up and went home to Livonia to rest for the remainder of the weekend. My symptoms hung on so off to the doctor I went. It was determined that I had developed pneumonia. I wasn’t able to work for a week. It was just awful. For what? A race. A silly race that placed me 54th out of 92 in my age bracket. What was it about this race that I felt so compelled to compete in when my body had other plans? That winter I ended up joining my first cycling team “The Racing Greyhounds” out of Livonia. As I started to meet new people and develop relationships, I began to learn the importance of doing well at Iceman. What I started to learn was that even though a person did well at other races, it seemed that your Iceman results were indicative of how good you really are. My 2012 Iceman was much better. I went into it feeling pretty strong. Because I started in wave 13 or 14, there still was quite a bit of congestion in front of me. I remember picking up my bike and running thru some of the single-track to try and get around it. I trimmed my time to 2:06:56, good enough for 15th place in my category. Unfortunately, the 2013 Iceman was a bit of a motivation challenge for me. In 2012, I went from a road Cat 5 to a Cat 3 in 4 months. Seeing that I was 46, I felt that I needed to justify my Cat 3 status, after all most of my competition was only 20-25. I have children that are as old as the kids I was racing against. After the road season was over, my training slipped a little bit and I didn’t feel as confident going into Iceman. My time that year was 2:05:21 and good enough for 13th place in my age group. Still better than the year before, but not really where I would of liked to have been. 2014iceman1As the 2014 season began, I was bound and determined to leave my mark on the race. This was my first year with Team OAM Now/Athletic Mentors and I wanted to have a good showing not only for my new team. but I was also feeling a bit of pressure from my old team. I was riding well going into the fall, but my dreams were quickly washed away one month prior to Iceman when I crashed 5 hours into an 8 hour endurance MTB race at Addison Oaks. As I put my head down for a brief second to get aero and build up some speed on a long straight-away, I raised my head only to find out that I veered off the paved path and was heading for a tree. I thought “Oh God this isn’t going to end well!” I ended up missing that tree, but I was still going too fast to be able to control the bike. A second later, I found myself lying on my back in excruciating pain. My bike was about 10-15 feet away from me so I must have flipped over my handlebars and landed on my head because my helmet was cracked and my face was cut up. The Garmin data showed that I was going 25mph when I crashed. A trip to the emergency room resulted in stitches to close up my the gash above my eye, a separated shoulder, and a fractured back. My season was over, no Peak-to-Peak race and, more importantly, no Iceman. A huge disappointment for me because I was feeling very confident in my abilities at that time. I had to wait two months until I could get back on the bike and it was a long 9 months until I felt 100%. As the 2015 season began, I thought to myself, “I am 48 years old and I am not getting any younger.” I felt if I could produce a time of 1:50 or less at Iceman, I could be in the running for the top spot, if not at least the podium. I was racing quite a bit leading up to Iceman., but again I was involved in a crash at the Gravel Grinder in Boyne on October 3rd. Even though my ribcage was pretty sore, the doctor confirmed that there were no broken ribs, but some bruising of my ribs and internal organs. I lost a little fitness because I had to back off my training for a couple of weeks while I healed up. As race day approached, I was wondering if those few weeks that I had to back off would affect my overall performance. I attended a pre-ride of the last 4 miles that Terry Ritter organized the day before the big race and I felt pretty good. The morning of the race it was a crisp 37 degrees and sunny. I felt good, my legs felt good, and it was time to rock and roll. I was in Wave 2 this year and hoping I could get in with a fast group with the goal of not having to wait for anyone on the single track. The start of the race was seemed slow as we rolled thru Kalkaska. I found myself pinned in the middle of the pack. I couldn’t get out to try and speed things up a tad, but at the same time I tried to tell myself to stay patient because it’s a long way to the finish. At the 12 minute mark, I was attempting to pass someone on the two track and I ended up clipping his handlebars and we both went down. I was thinking “You have got to be kidding me…. I am going down again…do I know how to ride a bike?” As I picked myself back up, I noticed my handlebars were off by 90 degrees. My heart sank when I tried to move them back and they didn’t move. I tried again, but this time I put everything I had and got the stem to move back into a position that wasn’t perfect but it was good enough. As I hopped back on my bike, I also noticed my front wheel was out of true, but it wasn’t bad enough where it was rubbing on the fork. I tried to stay relaxed and tried to get back into a grove. At that point, I figured winning was not an option but I would try for a podium spot. My goal was to try and finish strong and make up some time at the end of the race when hopefully others are getting tired and slower. Towards the end of the race I felt pretty strong and I could tell I was making up some good time as I was passing quite a few people. As I crossed the line, my Garmin was showing that I finished in the 1:50:00 time frame. I knew this time was where I wanted to be, but wondered if the crash had cost me a spot on the podium I so desired. After I relaxed and chatted with my wife and other racers, I rode my bike back to my car to get a change of clothes. Upon checking my phone, I saw a text from Richard Landgraff saying “Great ride. Looks like you won your category.” I was shocked and couldn’t believe it! I thought it was pretty cool that he was checking it out online. 2014podiumPosted results confirmed that I won my category of 48 yearr olds with a time of 1:50:35. I finished strong as planned. At the first check point I was in 4th place in my age group. At the Williamsburg check point, I had moved up to 3rd. The 3rd check point I moved into 1st and I held that until the finish. Standing on the podium and looking out to see my wife, friends, old teammates, new teammates and hear the huge crowd cheer, not only did I realize how blessed I am to be able to experience a victory at Iceman, I finally realized what the allure of the Iceman Challenge is all about. The post Iceman: Quest for the Podium appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Tri-Season Wrap Up from Team OAM Now’s Brian Reynolds

November 4th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Brian Reynolds, Team OAM Now Multi-sport Athlete USAT Nationals-2Now that fall is upon us in Michigan, the triathlon season is officially over. So, let me update you on my 2015 race season since the Grand Rapids Half Ironman-distance which was the last time I posted. Decatur Triathlon, Decatur, Ill., July 12th – This was my first warm and humid triathlon of the season. In addition, it was first time I started in a elite wave which was humbling. The race distance was in-between a sprint and olympic. The one lesson I took away from this experience was swim in a group and not by yourself! The bike was hard after a tough solo swim and the hills at the beginning of the bike did not help. The run was miserable due to the heat and being fatigued from the bike. I finished 5th overall in the elite wave and had the fastest run split by a few seconds. Ready or Not 5k, Otsego, MI, August 1st – I’ve been doing this race since my freshman year in High School. The race is put on by the Otsego Running Club. This race was one of the highlights of the year for me because I finally won it. In years past, I’ve always finished 2nd or 3d to collegiate runners and finally there were no collegiate runners this year :) USAT Age-Group Olympic National Championships, Milwaukee, Wi, August 8th – This has been a staple race for me every year. I’ve been doing this race since 2013 and it’s always been at the same venue so I can compare my results to other years to measure my progress. I traveled to Milwaukee with my Athletic Mentor teammate Elaine Sheikh who had a great race weekend by finishing in her age group 4th in the olympic and sprint distances. Congrats Elaine! This year I set a course PR with a 1:57:02. I was happy with the swim since I was not swimming with a crowd like last year. My swim time this year was a PR. The bike section, however, did not go as well. My time was slower than previous years, but I was happy to not get a drafting penalty like I did last year. The run section went great. I was only a 2 seconds off per mile than last year when I was in really good run form. Overall, I was happy with my finish which was 9th in my age group and was on the medal podium. 3D State ChampsMichigan Titanium Half Ironman Relay, Grand Rapids, Mi, August 23rd – This was the first triathlon relay team I’ve participated in and it was a lot of fun. My relay team was Athletic Mentors which included Paul Raynes (bike) and Erin Young (run). I did the 1.2 mile swim so it was a good opportunity to see how fast I could go without having to bike and run afterwards (even though I still did to get a workout in. I started with the female participants in the half-ironman race. I ended up finishing 3rd overall in the swim section. I was just 9 seconds behind the leader. I felt strong in the water and had an opportunity to practice drafting behind faster swimmers that I would not normally swim with. It was unfortunate that they had to cancel the event due to lighting, but our team was on pace to finish at least 2nd overall. 3 Discipline’s Michigan Championships, Detroit, Mi, September 6th – I did not plan on doing this race at the beginning of the year, but thought I had to squeeze in one more race before my “A” race at ITU Worlds in Chicago. The course was very flat for the bike and run which would be very similar to the conditions at Chicago thus it would be a good prep race. My goal was to push the swim and bike and tempo the run. The competition in the swim section was a lot more competitive than I anticipated. In the first 5 minutes of the swim, the lead pack was nowhere to be seen. I had a good transition into the bike, but halfway through I began to fall off pace. At the end of the bike, I had no idea what place I was in due to the sprint and duathlon events going on at the same time. When I got to the run section, the temperatures were approaching the low 80’s thus my tempo pace was challenging to maintain. On the bright side, I finished 2nd overall. I knew going into this race that I would not be at my peak, but my confidence was tested going into ITU Worlds at Chicago. ITU Worlds - Run LegITU Age-Group World Championships, Chicago, Ill., September 19th – I qualified for this event last year at USAT Nationals in Milwaukee. This was my 2nd time participating in this event. This was a worldwide event which meant that it would be a very competitive since I’ll be racing against the top athletes from several different countries. Going into this race, I did not have a lot of confidence since I haven’t had a really strong race performance since Grand Rapids Triathlon. However, learning from last year, my coach Mark Olson had laid out a good taper plan. Leading up to this event, my runs had gone great, but I felt that my bike performance was lacking. Our wave started at 10:30am. The starter let us into the water (Lake Michigan) 1 minute before the start. When I jumped in the water, I immediately lost my breath due to the cold. I did deep breathing exercises to get my breath under control and slowly submerged my face in the water to let my body calibrate to the water’s temperature. Luckily, I got my breathing under control 5 seconds before the gun went off. The first 200 yards were very clustered and rough. I got hit in the mouth which cut and bruised my lip. Despite the clustered swim, I stayed calm and kept my stroke long and smooth to conserve energy. After 200 yards, I was passing several swimmers because they over fatigued themselves at the start. I gradually moved up and got behind the lead swimmer in our group where I held my position the last 1000m. I felt great during the entire swim. The bike pacing was erratic due to the fast, slow, moderate paces from navigating around riders and turns. The bike course was a 2 loops. The 2nd loop was very crowded due to more athletes from the other start waves now racing. There were a few points where I had to put in hard efforts to move up a few places to stay close for my age group competitors. If I was able to hold a steady effort this would have been my best bike split ever. Overall, I felt strong and under control the entire ride. I had a very good run and once again it was my strongest section of the triathlon. I had the fastest run split for my age group and the 2nd fastest run split overall. I was running a 5:24-5:28 pace the first 4 miles. I started to fatigue after 4 miles, but still held on strong. The run course measured long at 6.6 miles instead of 6.2 miles which I did not complain since it gave me an advantage. My overall time for the event was 1:58:41 which placed me 8th overall in my age group; I was super happy about that. I was surprised by this good performance which goes to show that you can still surprise yourself even after 14 years of competing. This race punctuated my season with an exclamation mark. I ended feeling really good about my work, my achievements, and of course, training for next season. The post Tri-Season Wrap Up from Team OAM Now’s Brian Reynolds appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Spring Training in the Rearview: Looking Back As We Look Forward

October 30th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Richard Landgraff, Team OAM Now Cyclist IMG_2833When I look back at the season, a successful one with amazing team work, it’s easy to see that those early races, like the one I describe below, are vital to our performance later in season. Not only do early events give us good insight into where we stand in the field, but they also give us  strategy ideas and motivation. Earlier this spring, I wrote about the Men’s 1/2/3 A Race for the final Waterford Spring Training circuit race. The 60+ field was met with 15-20 mph wind early on, which strung out the field from the very start of the 90 minute event when TEAM OAM NOW’s Dan Yankus attacked from the gun. The rest of the race, in hindsight, captures a lot of how the season went for us, and so it’s great that we have this detail to look back on as it helps us determine how these early races foreshadow our season performance. Early on, Dan was able to get a significant gap on the field with another rider and put the team in a good position out of the wind for the first 20 minutes of racing. As the field slowly reeled in the pair, Dan’s 5 teammates were vigilant at the front of the field, covering the flurry of attacks trying to bridge to the group. The duo was ultimately caught which initiated various surges by other riders including several by TEAM OAM NOW’s Alex Vanias and Colin Snyder. At about the one hour mark, it looked like a promising move by about a dozen riders would have the ability to stay away, as the majority of the teams were represented including Cory Stange and Peter Ehman from TEAM OAM NOW as well as several riders from the two Canadian teams present in the field. Ultimately, however, as the group grew after several riders bridged up, it became too large and was quickly absorbed by the fast moving peloton. And then when it was least expected, sometime shortly after a prime lap, Alex Vanias rolled off the front and immediately created a gap from the field. Sensing that this may be a race winning move, Rudy Peterson (Northstar Mentors) bridged up to Alex and they started to put some significant time on the main pack despite the gusty headwinds encountered on the run in before the hill and on the back stretch before the finish. TEAM OAM NOW was vigilant on the front, following wheels and covering attacks in order to preserve the two man breakaway. With about 20:00 left to race, an attack by two Canadian riders was covered by TEAM OAM NOW’s Masters rider Richard Landgraff and the move quickly gained about 20 seconds on the field. The Canadian mates were riding strong, with no assistance from Landgraff who was basically along for the ride, and eventually began to put some time into the Vanias/Peterson breakaway. A third chase group was also lead by Dan Yankus and several other riders which was sure to make an interesting finish. In the end, however, only the two lead breaks stayed away independent from one another and Peterson won the dramatic sprint over Vanias, with Landgraff coming in 5th behind the two Canadian riders. In typical fashion, sprinter Cory Stange was leading the hard charging peloton toward the line and won the field sprint for 6th. All in all, it was a pretty good showing. The rest of the season turned out great. Dan continued to burst out of the gate, Corey continued to win field sprints, Alex continued to create and maintain gaps in the field, and we showed, as we normally do, amazing teamwork that allows us to win podiums. As we prepare for winter training, it’s great to look back so we can prepare for those early spring races. We know what to work on. We learn how to outperform ourselves. As we look at the close of racing season, it’s just as important to look back as it is to look forward.   The post Spring Training in the Rearview: Looking Back As We Look Forward appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Racing Not for the Podium, But for the Cure

October 16th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Roxane Kippen, Team OAM Now Triathlete at start lineOn September 19th, a dozen Team OAM NOW athletes volunteered their morning to support the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure West Michigan. Instead of toeing the line to race, we were there to lead out the runners on the 5k course. Dressed in our blue, white and orange kits, we stood out in the otherwise sea of pink. I accessorized with some hot pink arm warmers and pink Cancer Sucks socks in celebration of my friends and family who are breast cancer survivors. The Susan G. Komen Michigan website cites the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® Series as the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world, raising significant funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer, celebrating breast cancer survivorship and honoring those who have lost their battle with the disease.  It also states, “Since its inception in 1983, the Komen Race for the Cure series has grown from one local Race with 800 participants to a global series of more than 140 Races with more than 1 million people expected to participate in 2015.”  Surprisingly, the lead car was not pink and actually matched us!   in the packStatistics given on the website estimate 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  It is difficult to find anyone who has not had a friend, family member, or co-worker impacted by this disease.  My friend Jennifer Jurgens is a survivor, as well as the Executive Director of Susan G. Komen West Michigan, and will stop at nothing to save lives from the potentially deadly cancer.  That is why I wanted to help support this event by leading out the hundreds of runners Racing for the Cure. After escorting the lead runner to the finish line, I found the best part of our involvement was cheering for the runners and walkers as they crossed the bridge over the Grand River to the finish. I kept thinking some of these men and women have thankfully crossed a bridge and are survivors and some might still be looking for a bridge to cross to get over to the other side. Giving high fives and seeing smiling faces crossing the bridge to the finish made me thankful there is hope for a cure so every 1 in 8 that are estimated to get breast cancer will survive.   with pace carTeam OAM NOW is always on the lookout for ways to partner with local events like Race for the Cure. It is a great way for us to give back when we are not racing.  Our team members are committed not only to training and racing, but also to supporting healthy lifestyles. We were happy to have the chance to help raise awareness for breast cancer and be a part of such a wonderful event.  It was a nice opportunity to gather members of our women’s cycling, masters men’s cycling, triathlon and club teams together. The post Racing Not for the Podium, But for the Cure appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.

Group Ride Etiquette and Expectations

October 4th, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors

By Steve Buccella, Team OAM Now

For new and experienced riders alike, group rides are a great way to train while providing amazing opportunities to learn from, and simply be social with, other riders. Not only do riders sometimes get to learn new routes (variety in training is wonderful), but it’s also a great way to bond with one’s team and either challenge yourself by riding with the lead pack, or recover by hanging with the B pack.

 Whether veteran or rookie, it’s important to remember some rules and etiquette for a group ride so that all riders stay safe. In order to ensure the safety of group rides and keep us happy as a team, Team OAM Now maintains a list of guidelines that your riding group or team may wish to incorporate into group expectations as well.

team oam paceline21)  Stay on the right side of the road as much as possible and in a single file line unless the group is large and the road is quiet enough to accommodate a safe double line.

2)  Communication is king. Call out traffic and other obstacles like holes, gravel, turns, road kill, etc.. Repeat the call down or up the line. When ”car back” is called, stay far to the right to give the vehicle room to pass. If a rider is dropping off the front, allow them to get into the line quickly until the car passes, then they can continue going to back of line.

3)  When taking your turn to pull, match the speed of the rider pulling off.  Accelerating or decelerating suddenly causes an unsafe disruption in the line. When on the front, end your pull before you get tired and slow down. It is OK to take a short pull.  If you don’t want to pull, take your turn in the rotation up to the front anyway and then quickly signal and roll off.

4)  Pull off of the lead by first signaling with an elbow flick or butt bump on the side you are preparing to pull off. Then check traffic in both directions and roll off to the left unless the group is in an echelon. If we are riding an echelon in a crosswind, pull off on the side into the wind NOT into the echelon.

5)  If you are one of the riders near the front and the group comes to a turn or intersection that causes the pace to slow down or stop, wait until all the riders can get safely through and then ramp back up to speed slowly. Do not hop across while simultaneously announcing “car left” (or right). This leaves the remaining riders without sufficient information whether they can also cross or must wait with the fear of being dropped.  The vehicle driver also does not know if more cyclists will be darting across.

6)  It’s not a race. Do not to “attack” off the front or unexpectedly sprint up from the back of the line. Stay in the line in the same position including turns and most hills. If the line gets disrupted on a steep hill, get back into your previous position once at top.

Team oam paceline7)  The “A” group is a faster ride that will sometimes wait after hills or intersections for riders that get dropped. If you ride with the A’s, be prepared to fall back to the B group (usually just a few minutes behind the A’s) or ride alone if you get dropped. If you decide to drop out of the A group, fade off the back safely.  Yo-yo actions in the line cause dangerous situations.

8)  The “B” group is a no-drop ride at a slower pace.  Pick a pace that will keep the group together and do not try to turn it into an “A” ride. If you want a more challenging ride in the B group, take longer pulls. If you don’t want to pull, take your turn in the rotation up to the front anyway and then quickly signal and roll off. If a rider gets dropped, slow pedal or stop until they catch up.

9)  Eat and drink at the back of the line or when stopped at intersections.

10)  Do not stand unexpectedly in the line to stretch your back. Standing has the same effect as touching your brakes and can cause a crash.

11)  Be a steady and predictable rider and avoid making any sudden moves.

12)  Obey traffic laws and use proper hand signals.

Remember, when you are on group ride respect the rules of the road and help the cycling community build good relationships with drivers! If you’re riding with your team, respect your team and its sponsors. None of us are perfect.  It is okaya to respectfully call out violations so that we all can enjoy a safe ride.

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