Who Is a “Professional” Athlete?

February 22nd, 2014 by tritter

You might be a professional athlete without realizing it. One definition offered by the Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word professional as “characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession”. Further, it defines a profession as “a principal calling, vocation, or employment”, another way of saying a profession is a job. Seriousness of conduct is at a higher level then what one would approach with a hobby. Though we don’t race for a living, everyone on a team benefits from professionalism. Here are a few ways to be “professional” and how it positively impacts yourself and the team.

Full Team

Athletic Mentors teams pride themselves on professional appearance and conduct.

Sharp Dressed (Wo)man

Nothing says “conforming to the technical” like a group that looks the same. More than matching jerseys and bibs, a truly professional look synchs socks, helmets, accessory equipment (glasses, gloves, shoe covers, bikes, etc.) and even cool weather wear. It’s imperative riders maintain a clean bike and kit. Team Athletic Mentors’ management puts a lot of attention and effort towards projecting a brand and we all have a role in that.

Take Pride in Your Team

A professionally run team establishes a vision and follows it. TAM has looked to develop riders. Some have gone on to higher ranks, even the ProTour. As a member of the team, you are part of that legacy. When other riders see you they see a team with high standards and a history of success. You have been chosen to continue an image, so take pride. This pride is not just racing or riding in your kit, but wearing the team casual wear during cycling and promotional events.

Team Mates and Sponsors First

Being professional means holding up your end of a bargain. Part of this is supporting the sponsors that provide resources to the team. Take every opportunity to promote sponsors’ products, keeping negative assessments within the team. Following through on your contractual agreements maintains the team’s ability to keep and hold sponsors. Think of your actions as reflecting those on your jersey and in your jersey.

Be an Ambassador

True professionals take responsibility to foster their livelihood. At our level, that means promoting the sport we love. Be approachable by strangers. Look to help more novice racers. Get in front of the camera. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks destine for greatness in cycling, but, rather, people passionate about a sport. Project that passion by supporting it any positive way so people see it means something to someone.

Make a Good First Impression IMG_0674

A professional conducts themselves at a high character level consistently. Sharp looking, organized teams get noticed, which makes the need to act your best even more important. Maintain an even keel during the heat of racing. Communicate with others through social media, in person, or other means, as if the spot light was always on. This includes when giving our opinion with race officials and promoters. Don’t forget having your attire leave no doubt who you race for while on the podium.

Add Value to Your Team

A well run team has a lot of moving pieces. Those pieces working in concert are what make an organization better than the sum of its parts. Try to look for ways to help, even if it’s just to offer your assistance. Most athletes have an expertise in some area(s), even if it’s just time, that can benefit everyone. Few good things happen by chance, but through effort by someone that cared.

Support Your Team Mates

One quality of a good team is people want to be a part of it. This usually isn’t the clothes they get, bikes they ride or deals offered. It comes down to feeling part of something where they are supported. Giving assistance, passing on knowledge, watching a fellow team mate and cheering them on are part of this support. It’s always best to feel we can share our triumphs and tragedies.

Power Play: A Power Meter Measurement Product Comparison

January 21st, 2014 by tritter

From a training standpoint, coaches and self-coached athletes want the most objective power meter measurement possible. For several years, heart rate monitors were used but remained limited, especially for a short-term effort. Exercise labs possess stationary ergometers, but these aren’t usable for a casual group ride. In recent years, manufactures have stepped up their efforts to fill the expanding market of bicycle specific power meters; the following are different approaches complimented with their pros and cons.

Powertap G3 productsPower Tap was once owned by Tune, but is now property of Cyclops. The device has been improved considerably from its introductory days and remains as the only hub based measuring unit on the market. Power Tap uses the same strain gauge mechanics as many other designs, resulting in the same +/- 1.5% accuracy. Bike to bike moves are easy, and are only a wheel change away. The Power Tap also uses the same popular wireless software (ANT+ Sport) as most other computer head manufactures (such as Garmin) resulting in compatible head units. If you are looking for a device to use on multiple machines, this would be a logical choice. However, if a high-quality racing wheel is needed and power is desired, the hub has to be specially built into it (so no off-the-shelf prebuilt wheels). Unless you wanted to train on this same wheel (which isn’t a usual way to treat an expensive wheel), another training wheel would need to be built, meaning additional cost. Power Tap has recently reduced their pricing significantly, yielding wheels for under $900.



SRMIn the area of crank based meters, there are two choices: SRM and Quarq. The first is also the original; German Uli Schoberer released the first SRM in 1987. In developing this power meter, the strain gauges were placed in the spider arm section of a SRM specified crank. SRM is now using off the shelf high-end cranks, like Shimano’s popular Dura Ace, and engineering them to function as power meters. This allows a bike to keep the consistency of a component group (Dura Ace, Ultegra, etc.) and still measure output power in watts. Unfortunately, SRM does not have a user replaceable battery, therefore the unit must be sent back ever 1900 hours of use for replacement. SRM is testing a rechargeable battery that uses a USB port and needs attention after approximately 300 hours or use, but isn’t in production yet. The SRM can be paired with a 3rd party compatible ANT+ head unit, which allows for technology expansion. However, while most head units create an average by measuring one of the four data points every second, the SRM specific Power Control unit measures all four, then averages them for that second. Thus, for shorter measured durations such as a sprint, the Power Control unit provides more accuracy in power measuring. One common feature not on the Power Control unit is GPS. Additionally, SRM uses only the higher end cranks on the market, resulting in the highest prices, with a range from $2,400 to $4,000.



QuarqThe second popular crank-based power meter is the SRAM owned Quarq. This company shipped their first units in mid 2008. Unlike SRM, who incorporates the strain gauges into the one-piece spider/arm of the crank, Quarq looked at the still popular market that had three-piece cranks (spider, left crank arm, right crank arm) and made a replaceable spider that had the necessary electronics. This brought the price down considerably and offered a user replaceable battery, making the product consumer friendly. Quarq offers models using Cannondale, Specialized, and SRAM cranks, and has two new models, the high end Elsa and more affordable Riken. Both have similar electronics, offer the same +/- 1.5% accuracy as other power meters, and no longer need to be recalibrated when chain rings are replaced. The Elsa has lighter crank construction and offers the ability to indirectly measure separate leg strengths. All units use the ANT+ sport licensing, and pricing runs roughly 30 to 40% less then SRMs.



Stage PMA new player on the market is Stages, who began selling their products in 2012. Like other makers, strain gauges are used. However, Stages’ gauges are located in a single, thin pod that is fastened to a brand specific left crank arm, requiring the replacement of the existing crank arm. The process is simple: replace the arm, pair the 20g meter with your head unit of choice, and that’s it. The system multiplies this single power reading by two to get your total power, making the assumption both legs are similar in strength. Stages states only about 5% of the riders have a significant difference. One drawback is that only metal crank arms are offered, which typically means Shimano. A full range of models exist (105, Ultegra, and Dura Ace), and are very reasonably priced at $600 to $900. These systems are ANT + compatible and have the new Bluetooth transmission. Accuracy is rated at +/- 2%, without factoring in any possible leg discrepancies.



garmin-vectorThe newest player on the market is Garmin’s Vector pedal power meter. This technology was acquired from MetriGear, who showed prototypes at a few yearly conventions but couldn’t get the product to the market. Garmin ran into the same problem, but finally delivered this last year. Obviously, the greatest advantage is portability, as a wrench is all you need to move power-measuring capability from bike to bike. In addition, there is a wealth of knowledge with left and right real time readouts, as well as a total power value. The price is below most crank based units at about $1700, and sneaks in at about 45g more than a normal pedal system. However, the heart of the unit is a Look Keo pedal, so the user should find that mechanism to their liking. As a downfall, the system uses battery life considerably faster then other meters, needing a change every 175 hours. Each pedal requires its own battery, and crashes will likely see your expensive power meter grind across the pavement. Being a Garmin product, the system uses the ANT+ sport software for wireless transmission.



It is obvious that power meter development is on the rise and will continue to become more compatible, more convenient, and more advanced. Any of these products will complete its task of measuring your power output for power-based training. The choice really comes down to how often you want to move it, how accurate you need the data and how much you’re willing to pay.


Unfinished Business: How to Become a Comeback Kid

November 15th, 2013 by tritter

comebackkidMany adult athletes can trace their sporting start to a younger, simpler time when life’s responsibilities had yet to compete and consume their schedule. Dominican-born triathlete Raquel Tavares-Torres was one such promising young athlete whose athletic achievements would be sidelined in her prime by study, marriage, and raising a family. Sixteen years later, with great coaching and a supportive family, Tavares-Torres has become the ultimate comeback kid.

Tavares-Torres took up swimming at the age of 3, and competition by the age of 5. She started mountain bike riding and racing around the age of 12 and then combined these abilities with running when she started triathlons two years later. She continued to develop in multisport through a local club, and at 16 took 1st in the Junior Pan American games. Though she loved the sport, she had turned her focus towards getting her degrees, first an undergrad, then a masters, and finally an MBA. Along the way, she married and had a daughter.

Fast forward 15 years to 2012 when Tavares-Torres’ husband suggested she try competing again by doing a local Grand Rapids triathlon. With a bike purchase in hand, she signed up for an Olympic distance event. With three weeks of training, and just a few rides on her new steed, Tavares-Torres took a remarkable 2nd. A few weeks later she took 1st overall at the Michigan Championships. The fire had been lit.

Tavares-Torres joined a local tri club, and decided to get some VO2 testing done at Athletic Mentor partner, In The Zone, where she set the record for the highest results they’d ever recorded. Her home country, Dominican Republic, wanted her to turn elite. She’d confirmed she had the talent, but knew she lacked direction. In February of ’13, Tavares-Torres started working with Athletic Mentors’ coach Mark Olson.

At first Tavares-Torres wasn’t sure. “I didn’t think I was training enough, but kept seeing improvement from race to race,” she said. “I decided to just trust Mark.”

Tavares-Torres also appreciates the tools AM uses, like Training Peaks.

“I love to be organized, and then talk to Mark if I need to change things,” she said. Olson used these tools to address Tavares-Torres biggest weakness, the bike. After some dedicated base building on two wheels, things started to come together.

“I felt better on the bike and also the run,” she said. It became apparent she was on the right track. “I think Mark knows what he’s doing.”

Tavares-Torres is now focusing on her longer team goals. She wants to see how far she can take this sport, and for the top ranked Dominique Republic female pro triathlete, that means representing her home country by qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janerio. Along that path is the Chicago ITU World Cup in June of 2014.

With a goal in mind and the support of her family, home federation, and coach, Tavares-Torres is again prioritizing the sport she left as a youth. She wants to give it her best, leaving no unfinished business.



Training Structure Helps AM Triathlete Set Personal Best at IM Lake Placid

August 31st, 2013 by tritter

Most athletes will tell you the greatest gain from coaching is the guidance to do the right things, at the right time, in the right amounts. Even seasoned triathletes like Jay Lonsway can learn new tricks from a structured training plan. Lonsway called his quest to improve his 2012 Lake Placid Ironman time under the tutelage of coach Mark Olson “eye-opening.” But the proof was in his performance: this year, he shaved an hour off his 2012 performance.

The key is having a best-laid plan and an enforcer on hand. Before hiring a coach, Lonsway would struggle with consistency.

“I would have peaks and valleys in my training, where I was feeling great, then crash and burn for a month or two and have to recover,” Lonsway said.

Working with head coach Mark Olson changed that.

“Working with Mark has definitely taught me to temper my enthusiasm. By having a structured plan it has kept me from the feeling to crush every workout,” Lonsway said.

Another valuable lesson learned was understanding the benefits of proper rest and recovery. It’s human nature to feel that if some is good, more is better. This approach, however, can inhibit the improvements the athlete seeks. Sometimes less is more.

“By finding the ability to rest…you find your 100% versus the consistent 80%, which helps my overall performance,” Lonsway said.

Olson’s knowledge and structured plan also allowed more efficient training sessions for the busy professional. His training was often separated to allow workouts before and after work.

Lonsway also benefited from the full service nature of Athletic Mentors. Olson helped refine his bike position through two fitting sessions. Ideal event nutrition has been a year-to-year quest, but Lonsway took that quest further while working with his coach. Swim analysis and effective workouts from AM coach Tom Belco have set the stage for a strong Ironman event. Lonsway would often come out of the water feeling “toasted”.

“Working with coach Belco has been incredibly beneficial,” Lonsway said. Learning better swim technique, and being more efficient, has given him a better start to the event, which benefits his bike and run transitions.

“Getting a coach is a team effort, a great expert opinion on what you should do for exercise and training. It’s been really good for me,” he says.

Athletes benefit from someone looking over their shoulder, planning their workouts, coordinating their rest and efforts to achieve the athletic goals they have set out before them. Lonsway has found all that and more while working with Athletic Mentors, and when asked to sum up his experience, positively states, “Mark has been a fantastic coach.”