My First Ore to Shore

November 18th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Todd Anthes

This race has been on my wish list for some time.  2019 was the year.

The trip to Marquette is an event in and of itself.  It is sufficient to say the we live in a great State.  I went a few days early so as not to feel rushed.

I traveled with a group of guys that I train with. They have been doing the race about a decade, so they knew all the ins and outs of the race.  I did not request a preferred start but was in the first row of general population. And right before the start the rope comes down and I was right at the back of the preferred starters.

The rollout on the road was somewhat mild, although within the first few minutes there was a crash on the right side of the field. The sound of screeching brakes and carbon hitting the road is never a good sound.

I raced on my hardtail as my shifter on my full suspension bike appeared to be failing the day before the race. I would have preferred to race on my soft tail given the rough trails and rocky two tracks. Regardless, the hardtail was nice on the limited roads and smooth trail.

I tend to like cross country and less techy courses, and this course delivers. 48 miles of two-tracks, gravel, rocks, and ending with a little bit of single-track.

About 5 minutes into the race I was passing a group that included a friend. I was chatting with him on the two-track when my front wheel was sucked into a wet little hole. It sent me over the bars and into the weeds. It was so quick I was really startled, but nonetheless ok. I was back on my bike, but my computer and race plate were dangling from my handlebars. It wasn’t until the top of Misery Hill until I stopped to adjust those items.

One of the funnier moments of the race, as I was going back and forth with a teammate, he asked me why I kept stopping. I just laughed it off given the crash; if he only knew.

My little spill at the start of the race caused me to work harder than I probably would have for about half the race. I ultimately caught the group I was riding with when I crashed, but I burned some matches in doing so.  The last ¼ of the race I was on the verge of cramping and couldn’t go as fast as I wanted.  Regardless the single-track at about 8 miles left was fun and familiar, especially given the pre ride on Friday.

The race didn’t go as I had hoped, but you just get up, keep going and enjoy the moment.  I’ve always had a conflict the weekend of this race. Moving forward it looks like I will be able to do this race, and that is a great thing as I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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First Time using Electronic Shifting on my MTB

November 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:   Todd Anthes

This review is for the uninitiated. It is not an in-depth review of the product.  It is a scant overview of someone using electronic shifting for the first time.

It was time to replace my SRAM Eagle cassette (ouch), and in doing so, I was one of the first to purchase SRAM’s XX1 Eagle AXS Upgrade Kit. This is not the entire gruppo, simply the rear derailleur, shifter, battery, and battery charger.  When SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS was released you could only purchase the entire gruppo.  

I was neither in the market, nor planning on switching to electronic, but nevertheless I decided to give it a go.

Electronic shifting has been touted as a game changer.  However, I was not convinced. The thought of having a battery and relying on electronic means to shift off-road on a mountain bike seemed risky.  I don’t know that I am past that issue (although no issues yet, including the 48 mile “Hard Rock” Ore to Shore” and a few other races).

But what I can tell you is that electronic shifting is everything the proponents have suggested it is.  A perfect shift, every damn time. Nothing better than that “clunk” of a shift that is perfectly timed, especially in a race setting

The shifter is somewhat finicky.  You can’t rest your thumb on trigger like a regular shifter. If you do you will initiate a shift.  And if you hold your thumb on the shifter it runs through the gears without stopping. You really need to learn to rest your thumb on the bar and only touch the shifter when you want to initiate a shift.   I often bump the shifter when I am off the bike, which is somewhat annoying when you move the bike or start to peddle, and the bike is not in the proper gear.

Within a few weeks I purchased a backup battery.  A battery is supposed to get you 620 miles, but I rarely look at the lights on the derailleur to see if it is “red,” meaning a charge is necessary. Plus, if for some reason the battery de-chargers (e.g., cold, water, etc.).  I want to have a back-up as you can’t shift manually.

I have heard stories, but it might be an urban myth, that if you transport your bike on a rack or in the back of your truck that it might initiate shifts and prematurely drain the battery.  I have not witnessed this, but I am concerned that in the colder seasons that the battery life may be affected.

All in all, I haven’t experienced any issues with the unit. I am somewhat mystified as to how the shifting stays true all the time, but I suppose without a cable to stretch that is one less variable to control.

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How “Destiny” Brought Me to Racing

November 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Joe Bianchini

My first experience on a longer bike ride of sorts was in 2014, after I had just graduated college. My girlfriend at the time and now wife, had just received a road bike for her birthday and was eager to try it out. We were staying at her parent’s cottage near Bellaire, MI and had spent a lot of time meticulously plotting out how far we were going to go, what speed we wanted to maintain, what clothes to wear and most importantly how long we could afford to stay at The Dockside, a local bar on Torch Lake. When I say afford, I mean both how many beers we could literally afford having just graduated college and how much time we could afford before it got too dark out for our 15-mile return trip. These were the important things at the time that I needed to know before embarking on a ride over 5 miles of flat roads yet alone the 30 miles of rolling hills that we were about to do.

We ended up making it back okay but with about 3 miles left, we had one last climb to the top of a hill before this venture would come to an end. It was a twisty turny climb that I always thought people were crazy for biking up as I rolled past them in my car countless times. Now here I was doing it with a greasy hamburger and several beers sloshing around in my stomach. The biggest challenge however was the fact that I was on a hand me down children’s sized mountain bike from the 1990’s that had “Destiny” emblazoned across the top tube. Prior to getting to the climb, Brooke had very generously offered to ride “Destiny” up the hill and let me ride her bike. Despite the bike being heavy, too small and this being one of the steepest hills around; I was not going to let this challenge defeat me. Eventually, and not in quick fashion I made it to the top, but more importantly I had made up my mind about getting a road bike. 

I grew up playing a variety of sports including football, lacrosse, wrestling and rugby but I never had participated in sports that were more endurance related such as biking, track, cross country, etc. However, the last time I ever participated in any competitive sport was high school. Having that brief period where my mind switched over into that competitive mindset on that hill was so exhilarating and I was hooked. It was such a fulfilling experience to not think about anything else that was going on in my life and only focus on getting to the top of that hill. Although I am sure that I could climb that same hill much faster today, the fact of the matter is that my attitude was the same then as it is now: Get to the top as fast as I possibly can. 

That following winter I bought my first road bike and started going to spinning classes in anticipation of the coming spring. Once spring hit, I started venturing out on various group rides during the week but eventually hooked up with a small group of people who had work and life schedules that provided more opportunity to ride at 5:30 AM rather than the afternoon. We dubbed ourselves the “Morning Cranks” and over time the group began to grow, and the rides began to become faster. This provided me with a group of friends to ride with consistently, compete on Strava segments with, give me confidence to sign up for my first race and overall really made me enjoy the sport. Every time I got on the bike, I was constantly trying to learn from the other people around me to make myself a better rider and having fun doing it. Eventually, I began to partake in cat 4/5 races with varying level of success but knew overall that this was something I wanted to keep getting better at. It wasn’t until earlier this summer when I began talking to Terry Ritter about taking my racing to the next level. At first, I was a little nervous for a magnitude of reasons but eventually became confident that joining Team Athletic Mentors was something I really wanted to do. 

Since joining the team, everyone that I have met has been extremely helpful in a variety of ways. The thing that I look forward to most is being able to race among teammates and doing whatever I need to do to help us win some races. I have had a couple opportunities to do that in 2019 when racing the Summer Waterford Series, Cherry Roubaix, Uncle Johns Dirty Ride and The Lowell 50 and I can honestly say it has been way more fun and fulfilling than getting on the podium myself. Not only is the actual racing fun but all the conversation that is had leading up to the race and after the race is always something that I look forward to. I am very excited to be a part of this team and can’t wait to see how we perform during the 2020 race season.

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11 Things That Have Gone Wrong for Every Triathlete in a Race

November 5th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Raquel Torres

It doesn’t matter how many Triathlons you have competed in everyone has experienced  these common things that go wrong.  The more important aspect is how are YOU going to handle it when it happens!

Especially for a beginner, you need to know that things do not always go right even for a pro athlete.  You can’t let  things that go wrong ruin your experience during an event.  Part of  the challenge of a Triathlon is overcoming situations that are out of our control  even including  Mother Nature.  Triathlons offer many benefits not available in other sports, such as avoiding injuries since you doing a variety of training and a great number of psychological benefits.  The  satisfaction of improving, resilience and determination are only a few of the many abilities and skills we develop as individuals as we overcome the challenges of a triathlon, thus strengthening our self-esteem. The following situations can happen in a triathlon to anyone regardless of their experience level:

  1. Getting water in the goggles during the swim. It can happen as another athlete strokes or kicks us and our goggles fall off. Also its common when the googles develop fog and we lose visibility. Solutions: Keep calm, take a deep breath, think positively, find the space to correct what is needed and take your time in this process. It’s better to get the water out or clean the googles than to continue swimming without good visibility, in the long run you will lose more time and energy unless you correct the issue.
  2. To get lost in the water, bike or run. It can happen in the water as you start to follow another swimmer by aiming at their feet or due to loss of visibility and becoming disoriented. Simple solutions: Stop, re-establish correct direction, swimming straight and breathing in front and using a quick glance in front. On the bike or run it is very common to lose the trail so it is very important to study the route.  Remember that it is your responsibility as an athlete to know how many laps you are suppose to do and keep track of how many you have done. We don’t want to leave the trail, do extra laps or less than required and risk disqualification.
  3. To feel that our breathing rate is accelerated more than the usual or to feel that we are outside our “ideal breathing” rate (It happens to all of us sometimes), due to multiple reasons such as not having a proper warmup, very cold water temperature, starting too fast, nerves or adrenaline. Solutions: deep breaths and positive thinking will help to adjust the breathing rate. In events over 200 meters in open water, experts recommend to breathe every 2 strokes so to give sufficient oxygen to our brain and body. Clarification, this is not recommended for training sessions it is to do during the event in open water and for the first meters.
  4. The feeling of heavy arms or legs during the swim. (Due to lactic acid accumulation) Solution: Focus on breathing well and with more frequency, give it some time, keep calm and positive as it will subside in a few minutes. If necessary, take a rest by swimming on your back (its legal to also hold on to a boat or kayak to rest).
  5. Dizziness and loss of visibility after the swim. Loss of balance , tripping or loss of breathing rhythm as you make your way to the bike transition are all very common things as we make the switch from swimming in a horizontal position to running in a vertical stance. Solutions: Remember there is #noshame. If we trip, simply get up, take a deep breath and keep going. It is always a good idea to take our time or pause, I believe that the transition is an opportunity to recover as needed.
  6. Needing to use the restroom right before the start. Solution: #Adaptation lol. It is good to always carry toilet paper or wipes and try to plan at which moment on race day are we going to stand in line to use the bathroom before the start.
  7. Not finding the bike or gear when you arrive to the transition. Solution: Keep calm, find an immediate solution or ask for help, always with a positive attitude. Ideally its best to study the bike location and your transition space. This is to be done after we set up all the gear in the transition area before the start. With hundreds of bikes it can be hard to find yours. A tip is to use a bright towel to set your gear on top.
  8. Mechanical problems with bike like flat tires. Most events provide some type of technical support, but remember that this help is not always prompt, keep in mind that it may take 10-30 minutes to resolve the problem and in events such as an Olympic Triathlon of over 2 hours it is worth to solve the problem and continue the race. Always remaining calm as we don’t want to spend energy in negative vibes.
  9. Being afraid on the bike. It could be the downhills, other racers passing close or riding too close, or being afraid to reach for our water bottles. It helps to practice before the race (ride with friends and practice the action of taking your water bottle and drinking from it). Another tip to consider to become more comfortable and sure of yourself is to be deliberatively obvious in your movements as to show other riders what your movement intentions are. Look in all directions before you adjust your position on your bike (in route). It’s important to make your movement and position changes slowly to avoid sudden and unpredictable changes. The rules and riding etiquette are very similar to those of driving a car. It is imperative to read the event rules before the race. This will better prepare you and make you feel more secure in yourself to minimize stress and nerves. Again, in a triathlon, the athletes are exerting themselves greatly and many are beginners. In these conditions, less blood is flowing to the brain and thoughts and reflexes may not be at 100% which necessitates our need to remain alert.
  10. Back pain, cramps, stomach problems or other digestive problems. (Vomiting or #1 & #2 bathroom needs). It could be a new or existing problem and depending on the race distance and the condition of the athlete many digestive related problems can occur. In races of over 2 hours it is required to consume some food along with hydration and for multiple reasons sometimes our body is not able to digest properly. During a strenuous event like triathlons our blood flow to the digestive system is reduced making the process slow and sometimes halting the process. It is critical to practice several sessions taking in the nutrition exactly as we plan to eat during the race. In many events heat may also affect the digestion. Something to also mention here is that many athletes will urinate on the bike or running be it by accident or simply because that is the only option. In many cases of stomach pain the body has the amazing ability to recover and deep breathing always helps. If you get cramps, its ok to stop, stretch, hydrate or take salt tablets or electrolytes. If you get back pain it will help to take short breaks by lifting up from the seat on the bike and also to shift the hand position on the handlebars. To prevent back pain it is important to work on core muscle exercises to strengthen the core such as sit ups, back extension at least 2 times per week. (Ex. Planks)
  11. Start the race too fast. You will later feel as if your body is shutting down. It’s a good idea to practice what is called “Bricks” = When you do two of the disciplines one after the other. (Ex. Bike + Run or Swim + Bike). In a triathlon at the start of the race, the legs will often feel heavy after the bike, so try to start the run with shorter strides than usual and adjust gradually as your body becomes used to the new discipline.

Remember that each and every one of these tips should always be taken with the understanding that they will be applied depending on the person and situation. It’s a priority to always be safe and healthy. The mental mantra will help us stay focused and positive, eliminating stress, increasing relaxation and  saving energy. The mind is like the steering wheel of a car, it will go in the direction we dictate and we have the control. To live in well-being, we must steer it in a positive direction.

The post 11 Things That Have Gone Wrong for Every Triathlete in a Race appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.


Wait… The Iceman is When?!

October 30th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

In my almost 20 years of coaching I’ve had a few athletes that signed on to just do a short training plan for the Iceman. Many of these athletes were experiencing their first edition of this race, or one of their first few, and so I made sure I covered all the bases. This meant bike prep, maintenance, nutrition, and other points that could help improve their chances of success. For the ’19 season I have two athletes tying on an Iceman number plate for the first time, and I’m pulling out all my old information to help them prepare in hopes they enjoy this unique event. Here’s some of the important stuff if you need to quickly get things together to optimize your chances.

Proper Bike Set-Up

A number of aspects related to modern bicycle set up rely on volumes of air. Most fork designs that are in the mid-level and above price range have an air chamber for the supporting spring. Rear shocks are likely similar. And, of course, all bicycle tires will be relying on ambient gases as their means of pneumonic support. The tuning of these components depends on the pressure of the air inside, which is usually changed by a rider adding or releasing air. However, major temperature changes will change pressure as described by Charlie’s Law (chemistry alert!). A given pressure will lose about 1 psi for every 10 degree loss of temperature. This doesn’t seem like much, but if you inflate your tires to that perfect 24 psi in your hotel room, they could well be at 20 psi or less at the start of the race. Your fork and shock will be less stiff as well. Solve this problem by letting the bike sit out in the elements and then doing your air adjustments just before starting your warm up. Bonus Point: Don’t forget your shock pump!

Get the Nutrition and Hydration Right

For many racers that have been racing Sport or Beginner all season, the Iceman will be the longest event of the year. Even for a number of Expert level MTBers, if conditions are poor, they could be looking at the same situation. This year’s 30 mile course will add time to everyone as well. For most, what is needed hydration and nutrition wise is uncharted territory. My suggestion is to do a good breakfast a little earlier than normal, that has fewer carbohydrates and more fat and protein. This will allow you a steady energy source for longer. From there, 2 bottles should get most racers through 3 hours with the temps we are likely to race in, especially if you sip a different bottle during warm up (grab a fresh one before heading to the start line). Bring the energy packets of choice (gels, bars), and start supplementing around the 90 min mark. If a 3 hour or more event is expected, you should repeat this every 45 mins or so. A few important points are to never try something new the day of the race, drink early, and be sure to bring just a little extra for bars or gels. And, if it is going to be below freezing for most of the race, an insulated bottle could be a wise choice. Bonus Point: If you plan to eat a gel or bar during the race, don’t mix the energy drink as concentrated to prevent GI distress.

Iceman Maintenance

Nothing is more disappointing then to have your training, race strategy, and nutrition nailed for the big day, then have your bike let you down. Though this can happen no matter what, I have seen certain patterns after 20 plus events, many centered around drivetrain issues. The bike is running and shifting well during pleasant weather from a drivetrain that’s been on the bike all season. Then, race day comes and it’s muddy or sandy and wet. The chain and other parts get covered, and the bike starts skipping, shifting poorly, or chain sucking. Your chain could well be stretched and things aren’t mating well as the conditions turned. Or, you changed the chain after it had stretched a bit too far. Regardless, I have found a good way to avoid this is to either keep my chain changed earlier, or to swap out my big ring, chain, and cassette a few weeks before the Iceman (I usually get a year out of stuff), and so it’s fresh in case the conditions are bad, and that gives me a fresh drivetrain before the start of the next season. Another area of concern is getting an appropriate chain lube for conditions (so NOT using the drier, warmer weather wax based stuff you used all summer). People also will not lube their cables, or use a heavier lube/grease that’s fine in warmer weather, but gums up the cable, and so the shifting, when it gets at or below freezing. A thinner lube works well in both applications (I like wet lubes for chains and T-9 for cables this time of year). A few drops on the pedals won’t hurt, either. Don’t forget to put a little fresh sealant in your tires if that’s your set up. It might be a good idea to get your brake pad wear checked. You can burn through 3 months of dry riding in 30 miles of poor conditions. Bonus Point: Make sure you’re clutched derailleur is turned on if you run a 1x system.

Tool Bag

With the Iceman being a point-to-point race, self-support is a bit more important. Even if your result is going to be negatively impacted with a breakdown and you want to give up, it’s often difficult to get to a location that has people. Best to fix what you can and ride it home. Most common tool bag contents would fix most problems. These include a tube, CO2 inflators, tire levers if your tires need them, and a multi-tool. What will end a day poorly is if you can’t manage a broken chain. This is best done with a master link and chain tool in the bag. Bonus Point: Look through your bag to be sure it’s equipped with what you need… and make sure you know how to use everything.

Dress for Success

A common picture from the Iceman is seeing the new riders hopelessly overdressed. This is totally understandable as it might well be chilly before the start, and we all get stuck standing around for a while. But, one must resist the temptation to pile on the outerwear in these situations. You should be a little chilly standing there, as you’ll start heating up once the racing is underway. One trick is to have someone that can take a coat while you are in the staging area. Another good idea is to have the ability to open zippers or remove layered clothing (thinking windproof vest and arm warmers here). Best to have had a chance to test out some of the clothing before you race. This is not always possible, especially with the nice fall we’ve had in Michigan. Regardless, give yourself time to take a few things off after warming up. Don’t forget to look at the forecast. If it’s looking like rain and you’re going to be out there a while, it might be a good idea to pack a jacket. Bonus Point: If you are using chemical warmers, many need some access to air to work.

Scout the Course and Plan Appropriately

This year’s edition had a lot of racers pre-riding the course weeks before. Most of this was likely due to pleasant fall weather we enjoyed. Another fact might well be all the changes incorporated into this season’s route. Regardless, it’s good to know what you’re in for on your way to Traverse City. But the most critical areas are the start and finish. The later can be tackled on the Friday pre-ride, as they will have a small loop set up that riders can do a few times. This is good to get a grasp of where you’ll need to get ahead of riders that you might be racing to the line. For the start, knowing how the course will potentially bottle neck can help determine where a little more effort should be used. New this year is the start from the airport. This will meander around for a significant bit before crossing the paved two lane and heading down a dirt road. This road was in the early editions of the Iceman, and was always a cluster due to large deposits of sand. If you have a chance, be near the front of your class when this area comes up. The later waves will struggle to check it out before the race as there will be waves and waves of riders. But, any knowledge ahead of time could prevent a catastrophe. Bonus Point: You can’t win the race at the start, but you can certainly lose it.

Resting and Race Day Warm Up

There are two major things that can impact a race negatively, but are common mistakes. The first I have seen over the years is people riding too much leading up to the Iceman. They want to get as much riding in, either due to a late start to event training , or just not understanding the power of rest. They will post hard or long riding hours the week preceding, then rest a day or two with little to no training. Unfortunately, anything we physically do to improve conditioning won’t materialize for 7-10 days at the minimum. For this reason, your hard training should end earlier and you should taper into the race. This means reducing your efforts about 30% each of the two weeks leading up to the first weekend in November. However, if you haven’t done that to this point, understand you can’t carry fatigue into the race and perform your best. With less than one week left, get some shorter, intense rides in and rest a lot more. Don’t be completely off the bike, but make sure you have good legs the day we pin the numbers on. Also, I see people afraid to get out in the cold the morning of Iceman, and so they stick around in their vehicles and fall behind, rushing to get a warm up in and get to their wave early enough to position well. When the gun goes off you want to be the best you can be, rested, warmed up, and ready to go. Bonus Point: It’s a common practice to take two days before the race completely off, then do a short ride on Friday that has a few hard, short efforts.

With days before the big race, some of this advice might be too late. But, even if one little parcel of knowledge helps your event go better it will be well worth the read. And, you’ll be all the more prepared for your next Iceman Cometh!

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Pumping Iron: Strength Training for Endurance Runners

October 28th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Erin Young

“I’m a runner, why should I strength train?” I get this question often and honestly there is no single, easy answer. But I do believe there is a time for strength training in every athlete’s year. It will look different for every runner. It may be an off season activity while the snow flies, it could be three days a week up until the competition or just 20 minutes a day to work on core, balance or weaknesses.

In the last decade, new research is showing that strength training can benefit many kinds of endurance runners–if the right types of it are done in the right doses. This newer research suggests that strength training can enhance endurance-running performance by improving running economy, delaying the onset of fatigue, improving maximal speed, and increasing anaerobic capacity.

When broken down to its components, strength training temporarily overloads the neuromuscular system, which allows for an improved ability to recruit individual muscular units, an increase in muscle-firing frequency, increased muscle-tendon stiffness (allowing you to have more stored energy with each step), and improved muscular coordination over time. These are all minor physiological changes but together and over time equal running-economy improvement which allows you to run a given pace with a little less effort. 

“But Won’t I Bulk Up?”: Addressing Strength-Training Fears

The most common concern I hear from endurance runners is the fear of putting on bulk from strength training. Now there is something to be said for individual genetic predispositions, but science shows almost a complete lack of muscle growth with strength and endurance training–in correct dosing. Why is this? Muscle growth with concurrent strength and endurance training seems to be blocked on a molecular level.

As we’ve alluded to a couple times in this article so far, there appears to be a dosing ratio at play. When athletes maintain a 3:1 ratio in the number of endurance sessions to the number of strength sessions they perform, muscle growth doesn’t occur. So if an athlete wanted to gain mass while still getting some of the benefits of concurrent strength and endurance training, they would need to increase the number of strength sessions or decrease the number of endurance sessions.

Strength Training and Injury Prevention

A lot of athletes will tell you that strength training helps them feel more durable. There is research suggesting that traditional strength training can reduce sports injuries significantly. This is done by increasing your tissue’s ability to manage load while modifying endurance-training volume and frequency.

For example, one study that replaced 30% of an athlete’s weekly running volume with strength training found that athletes remained injury free while improving their five-kilometer performances. Additionally, hard strength training has positive effects on circulating levels of testosterone and human growth hormone which can help the body repair muscular damage at faster rates post-hard-endurance and post-hard-strength-training efforts.

Maybe that’s what durability feels like? That is, creating enough physical change to more than manage your niggles and instead create more significant physiological adaptations that keep fatigue at bay longer and hold your form together longer because you increased your running economy. That is, you became physically stronger. I’m not certain we will ever have a perfect metric to measure durability, but if being stronger keeps you on the trail more consistently, that might be as close as we get to an answer.

Strength Training for the Aging Endurance Runner

When it comes to aging and declining endurance-running performance, naturally decreasing muscle mass seems to be the main culprit. This is because there is a direct link between the age-related decrease in VO2max and muscle-mass loss. This age-related muscle-mass loss starts somewhere just north of age 40 and accelerates rapidly after 70. Between the ages of 40 and 80 and with no intervention, you should expect to naturally lose approximately 40% of your muscle tissue. Also note that muscle loss in the aging woman appears to happen at a slightly increased rate than men.

What this means for our aging athletes is that strength training to maintain and build muscle mass is incredibly important. The current, best treatment for muscle loss is strength training. The general recommendation is that if you are over the age of 40 and not currently strength training, we should probably change that.

Need help with a strength training regimine for your next endurance event? Fall and winter is a great time to reduce your running load and hit the gym! Visit www.athleticmentors.com to see how we can make you better, faster and stronger on the trail!

The post Pumping Iron: Strength Training for Endurance Runners appeared first on Team Athletic Mentors.


An Exercise in Learning

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Ross DiFalco

Bike racing is an incredibly rewarding sport. It can also be very frustrating. This is the synopsis of my first season of trying to figure out this whole bike-racing thing.

To start things off, mentorship is the greatest thing you can hope for. Find some great people that have been in the sport and take their advice!  There are plenty of times when I feel I know best and the result is rarely in my favor. Beyond finding a mentor , what you can do is to learn to manage time. Bike racing is a time intensive sport. If you can’t find time to ride, winning is not in the cards. I am going to tell you the tips I use to make training happen while life tries to get in the way.

Structure

Structure is the name of the game for anyone who has a life outside of cycling. The problem is that I have always been someone that hates the idea of structure. To me, structure is what sucks the fun out of the sport. The problem with this mentality is that when life gets busy, you cannot be sloppy with your time. It’s taken the entire season of struggling along to realize that structure may actually bring sanity. Unless you have zero responsibilities, riding 10 hours a week can be difficult to fit into a 50-hour work week. Many people, myself included, can either maintain their cycling or their personal life, not both. A tip given to me is that you should create a training plan that lists all the rides and races you will be doing in advance. The idea is that you can then plan around these events and set expectations with family and friends so they know when you are committed to something. Creating balance that allows an efficient use of time will be my biggest goal for the upcoming season.

Prepare For The Worst

Things WILL happen. Everyone thinks they’re invincible until something happens. For me, it was a pretty nasty crash. The crash resulted in lots of road rash and a torn tendon in my finger. Now most sane people would go to the doctor when their finger stops working. When you’re delusional about training, the strategy is to avoid the doctor out of fear they will tell you not to ride. THIS IS A MISTAKE. By the time I caved and went to the doctor, the tendon had shrunk and I had done more damage. The worst part is that now I have to limit gripping things for 8 more weeks. Now I don’t know about you, but when I ride bikes I prefer to hold on. If I was realistic about the injury from the start things might have been different.

The Trainer

I hate riding the trainer. Riding indoors is something that I’m just going to have to come to terms with. The trainer is so efficient with time! Using training software, such as Zwift, allows you to get on a scheduled plan that will continually push our limits. When you are riding on a trainer there is no coasting, this makes for a much more condensed session. The second reason you should incorporate a trainer is that, like I said above, things happen. When you can’t ride a bike you may be able to ride indoors. The third reason that a trainer is a great tool is that it’s safer than riding in the dark. Autumn in Michigan means shorter days and a decision to either get lights or ride inside. Riding at night, while fun, comes with some added risk. On a trainer, it’s very easy to get up in the morning, get a quick ride in and go along with your day. It’s a low risk and easy thing to incorporate. If you are new to indoor cycling, I recommend getting a direct drive unit, like the Wahoo Kickr. I went cheap and bought the Wahoo Snap and it works but isn’t very consistent for training. I would also recommend Zwift or TrainerRoad as the training software.

If you can do one thing for yourself, it’s to find a mentor and listen to them! Beyond that, get better at managing the time you have and remember to have fun once in awhile!

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Local vs International Races

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Andrew Fathman

Over the past few seasons, I have had the privilege to compete in multisport races on every scale possible. From a local race of 100 to an international championship with 4,000 other triathletes. With the perspective provided by these opportunities, I have asked myself the question of which format I prefer? But maybe that’s not the right question. Maybe I should be asking which one was more worth it to me at the price tags that come with them. However, there may be a dozen other questions that, when answered, will help a dozen different people plan their race season. Below, I will lay out the pros and cons of both levels of racing because the conclusion that I draw from the facts may not determine which level of racing is also right for you.

Local Races:

Pros:

1. Price. Let’s start with the obvious one. Price is probably a big factor for many athletes, and being able to race for $70-$150 is much easier to stomach than an entry fee 3x that amount. After all, for most of us, triathlon is a hobby and our hobbies shouldn’t force us to Google “how to file for bankruptcy?”

2. Competition. This one may not seem so obvious, but competition at local races can be great. First of all, you’re racing against people of a similar caliber as you on courses that you know, so you can be pushed to go harder and faster. Second, these are people that you probably know and race with often so your motivation goes beyond just beating them to being in a (hopefully) friendly competition with them. Lastly, when you surge to beat somebody, it’s very possible that that surge can put you into the top three in your age group or overall. For the vast majority of us, a surge in a championship race will put us from one arbitrary place to another arbitrary race.

3. “Feel”. We all know the “home-turf” cliché, but I believe that, even in multisport, there’s a kernel of truth to that. To go and compete near the place that you live and/or grew up in provides a “comfortable” feel that, for some of us, we thrive on. I’m sure there have been times that the familiarity of your trainer, treadmill, or normal route has provided you peace of mind and has eased the mental burden of the suffering that you’re about to put yourself through, well the same goes for racing. This feeling is perpetuated by the fact that small races tend to build a sense of community. It feels like the race is supporting you as much as you are supporting the race.

4. Support. You just got off the bike. Your legs are dead and your heart rate just won’t come down. But then you see your family or a friend, and they’re cheering you on. Whether it’s that extra boost of encouragement that gets you across the finish line or just someone to hold your transition bag, having a support crew with you can make the race and the experience significantly more fun.

Cons:

1. Overly Convenient. Sometimes, local races can become too convenient and routine. You’ve been doing them for years so there’s the risk that the experience can become stale and your love of the sport can start to wane. You’ve trained on this course, you’ve raced on this course, but now the race stops feeling special and starts to become just another day.

2. Experience. As you approach the finish line, you are met with the roaring cheers of… 12 people. The thing that makes local races great is also what can hurt them the most. Their overall “athlete experience” can be underwhelming at times.

3. Pride. If you win a race, but nobody is around to see it, did it really happen? Sure, it’s on Strava, but to your coworkers, the only thing that happened over the weekend is someone drew on your arms with a Sharpie. It’s fun to have your accomplishments be notable, but for the common bystander, every race is non distinct unless it has the word “championship” in its title.

International Championship Races

Pros:

1. Experience. I believe that the easiest way to get someone into triathlon is to take them to a race. The energy is electric and contagious. At a big race that’s worth traveling for, that energy is turned up to 11. Not only that, but for the competing athletes, the whole process is just bigger. The scale of the expos, the speed, the transition, everything works together to create an exciting environment.

2. That Blue-Carpet Feel. Simply said, nothing beats that finish line.

3. Travel. For some, travel is nothing but stress. Others see the race as an excuse to see the world. The trip is basically just a vacation with a race attached and, unless you are on the hunt for your pro card and need to win, I believe it should be treated that way. Being able to explore new places and cultures is one of the best parts about traveling for races and if you’re into that sort of thing, this is a perfect opportunity to do so.

4. Competition. Wait, wasn’t this in the “pro” column for the local races too? Yep, it was, but for a different reason. One of the joys of competing on the world stage is that there are people from all over the world doing the same. You rarely get the chance to compete with the best of the best and this is your opportunity to do just that. This is exhilarating, but it can also be a shock for those who got too used to winning those local races.

Cons:

1.Price. You never want to be the one to tell your kids that you can’t afford to have them come because shipping your bike is the same price as a plane ticket, but sometimes that is the painful reality. Price is, by far, the greatest downside to championship races.

2. Stress. The planning. The packing. The preparations. The hundreds of moving parts to a multisport trip can be a bit overwhelming. I’m sure if you just got done with such a trip, you’re not all too eager to look at your bike case again for a little while.

3. Scheduling. Between getting to the race with a few days of lead time, racing, and not rushing back home right away, it’s very easy for a race to become a vacation. Unfortunately not everyone can take a vacation whenever USAT or ITU decides to schedule an event, so people are forced to decide between racing and work or school. This is a major barrier to entry for a lot of people and it takes careful planning to make sure that you can swing this much travel.

4. Support. Coinciding with price, it’s likely that you will not have as much or any support system while traveling across the country or the ocean for a race. Frankly, it’s more fun to compete and travel with people, although some people may find going solo can be put in the “pro” category.

5. Competition. Hold on, how is this one a pro and a con? Well if you are susceptible to feeling the pressure and anxiety of racing, increasing the size and scale of the race and the racers is not going to help matters. Figuring out how to relax and enjoy the journey, regardless of the results, is something everyone should work on and practice when planning their A-race. You have to judge for yourself how you respond to competition to determine which category this factor should go in.

You most likely noticed that many of the “pros” and “cons” were just reversed when going from local racing to traveling for an event, but that’s where your personal priorities come in. For some of us, the cost of a plane ticket alone is enough to disqualify us from traveling for a race. For others, that’s part of the fun. The question that I think that I believe is at the crux of this dichotomy is this: Why are you racing? If it is to do your best and be your best, then perhaps sticking to the local circuit and investing in better gear should be your priority. If it’s because you’re there to have the most amount of fun possible and racing the best of the best appeals to you, then you should probably start packing your bags. Whatever your reason is to be a triathlete, duathlete, Swim-Runner, or whatever other multisport race you compete in (Aquabike-athlete), have fun doing it and take good race photos.

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Iceman Reflux

October 23rd, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

Somewhere along the way I became an elder statesmen in the racing scene. Though I can’t pinpoint when this exactly was, I know it’s happened every season when the Iceman rolls around. There’s a chat with a new or novice racer and I reminisce regarding all the changes I remember over the years in the great November race. Though I’m sure others (though not many) can tell me some interesting changes, my quarter century of Iceman participation leaves me with a few things many people who identify with this event probably don’t know.

There Used to Be a More Traditional Race Format

For a number of years Iceman was organized like most traditional races. There were ubiquitous categories like Beginner, Sport, and Expert, with age groups aligning with the age groupings based off the long defunct NORBA standard. This meant each of these categories had five year age divisions up to and over 50 years old. It made for smaller fields, but you also knew who you were racing against when the gun went off, which was the norm. It was certainly a different way to race head-to-head versus today’s individual time trial method, where your time is then compared to others regardless of your starting wave. Obviously, you could almost pick what class you wanted, and that did group riders of dissimilar abilities, Today’s waving placement method, though frustrating for some, works more effectively to eliminate this disparity.

The Pro’s Started the Race First

It’s probably been well over a dozen years, but the race was more traditional in other ways as well. Primarily, the Pro fields, both men’s and women’s, started in their own waves, but were the first to go off. This created a lot more buzz at the start, and also insured they had the “clean” lines. But it was recognized that many of the Iceman racers were also fans, and they never got a chance to see the pros race, and specifically to finish. The solution was to have the pros go off in the afternoon, after most of the fields had finished and had time to clean up and get a little into their celebratory mode. I was racing the Pro class when we first did the later start. Having done only morning send offs to that point, it was really strange to stand there trying to amp up to compete and there was hardly anyone in the parking lot, and next to no buzz at the start. I distinctly remember being able to hear others around me breathing it was so quiet just seconds before the start. And though I went through a lot of that race competing with just a handful of riders, it was really cool to get closer to the finish and see all the people, then to get to Timber Ridge and have so many cheering. That made it worth it!

The Start and Finish Have Changed Over the Years

Back when the Iceman was a fledgling event the finish was at Holiday Hills ski resort, home of the start and finish of the now popular Mud Sweat and Beers MTB race. Since I started race this event in 1996, the start has been at the Kalkaska High School, downtown Kalkaska, and soon to be the Kalkaska Airport (this year). I can remember my first finish in 1996 being out in a field off the VASA Bunker Hill trailhead. No festivities, banners, or food trucks (or bathrooms, even). Before long the race established Timber Ridge Camp Ground as the finish line and it has grown to be a cool hang out as the years have passed.

Awards Banquette

For a number of years the race had an awards banquette in the evening, usually at the Grand Traverse Resort. With most of the racers finished by noon-2 PM, there was a good 4-5 hours before the awards were to be given out. This allowed a nap, something to eat, and hooking up with friends before heading over to the festivities. I had fond memories of one of my friends who worked for the promoter and lived locally doing an early afternoon spread where a number of the invited pros would come to hang out, eat, and maybe start the beer drinking early. It was a small setting, and people got to talk to each other. For a span of a few years the Iceman was sponsored by Gary Fisher and they used to send a large amount of their national MTB team to the race. I have a neat photo of myself and a young Ryder Hesjedal, many years before he switched to road and won the Giro d’italia.

National Pros Competing

One of the cool things about the Iceman, and cycling in general, is how approachable the top competitors are around the event. The expo the day before wasn’t always what it is today, but often you’d be able to talk to a few of the racers you just see in magazines. But the fact is, though we enjoy a pretty solid pro field in recent years, the Iceman was usually a locals or regional event. One or two good riders would show up that made a living racing a bike, but it wasn’t unheard of for someone you know to break the top 10 in the men’s class or top 5 in the women. Some years the winner would not have been recognized outside of the state. For one of the years Ryder came (and the pros started first in the morning) I remember passing him and another pro about 7 miles from the finish. They were just out enjoying the ride after a long season. To the benefit of the spectators, this hasn’t been the case for a while. Now you are sure to recognize most of the top riders as national competitors, some who have come to compete a few times. And, they know they have to take it seriously because there’s quality riders behind them. Good payouts, great accommodations, the lure of competing in a race they have heard about for years is likely strong drivers to toe the line.

Champions in Our Backyard

A bonus tidbit, but the Iceman has had a number of world champions compete over the years. Cecila Potts won the 1997 Junior World Championships in MTB and holds four winner’s trophies from Iceman. Art Flemming won multiple national championships for his age group and is the 1996 world champion for the 50-59 year old class. A few years back the great Ned Overend, 6 time national champion and 1990 world champion did his first Iceman. TC local Larry Warbasse, long before he was a national road champion and Pro Tour rider, competed in numerous events. Local John Mesco was a junior national champion in downhill. The present men’s 2x Iceman Cometh champion Jeff Kabush holds 15 Canadian national championships and a World Cup win. Alison Dunlop, the 2009 Iceman winner, was also multi-national champion and world champion in 2001. The late Steve Tilford raced for years as a national pro and won a number of age group world championships. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and his wife Heather Irmiger have both won national championships and competed and won our great race. I’m missing a few, and haven’t even mentioned the interesting racers many would recognize (Gary Fisher, anyone?), but the point is the race has had its share of accomplished participants in all fields cycling.

The Iceman Cometh has really evolved over the years, from a small group of friends to a spectacle that people put on their cycling bucket list. Along the way it has found a way to become better while still holding that same spirit of fun that is mountain biking and racing. I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed so much of it and am still around to share. Happy Birthday, Iceman! Here’s to 30 more years.

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Handling Injury Before Your “A” Race

October 19th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Brian Reynolds

Age Group Nationals was an “A” race for me so I was doing specific swim, bike, and run workouts to prepare.  Three weeks before, I did a morning speed session run which went well but later that day my right calf became very sore and tight.  When I woke up the next morning and took my first few steps I had a throbbing pain in my calf. It was the worst muscle pain I’ve ever experienced, but I continued with my swim and bike workouts that week.  Three days after my injury was the Tri Del Sol race which I was signed up to do the Olympic triathlon. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do the run leg so instead I did the aquabike (Swim-Bike).  I was disappointed that I could not race the triathlon but it was the right call.

In order to get my calf healthy I had to cut my running back to just a really easy mile so I could keep my running streak going.  For the bike I only did easy rides to not aggravate my injury. The only high intensity workouts were my swims. It was frustrating I couldn’t do my normal training because I wanted to get in the best possible shape for nationals.  After I got through that low period I began focusing on the process of getting healthy again. My goal each day was to get my calf feeling a little bit better each day. Slowly but surely after  one week my calf made good progress and by the second week it was significantly better to the point where I could increase a few of my runs to 20 minutes.

Well three week later, I met my #1 goal which was to get the start line healthy! However, I did wonder how much run and bike fitness I lost from having to back off on training. I tried to not worry about my fitness and just focus on executing the best swim-bike-run and have fun while doing it.  I was at least very well rested for the race.

On race day for the Olympic distance they had to shorten the swim to 750 meters instead of the 1500 meters due to the rough waters.  In hindsight the shorter swim helped me since the swim is my weakest of the three disciplines. I ended up having a decent swim which put me 40 seconds behind the leaders.  When I got onto the bike my legs felt really good and I was able to produce a really good bike split. I ended up leading my age group coming into T2 (2nd transition). There was one guy that got ahead of me coming out of T2 but I was able to catch him by the 0.5 mile marker.  Once I made the pass I was leading the race in my age group. I thought to myself that 3 weeks ago I didn’t know if I would be able to do this race and now I’m in the lead contending for a national title. I held onto the lead until the 4.5 mile marker when the eventual winner passed me and beat me by 16 seconds.  I really wanted to win but I was still proud that I was able to put myself in a position to win.

The next day I did the sprint distance race just for fun.  I haven’t done a sprint distance in 3 years so I did not have any high expectations.  I ended up having a really good swim leaving me only down by 12 seconds to the leaders.  I had a solid bike and I was in the lead coming into T2. Through T2 Todd Buckingham flew by me and took the lead.  Todd would eventually win the race by a very wide margin. I ended up finishing in 2nd place. Unfortunately Todd got a 2 minute drafting penalty on the bike which bumped me up to winner of my age group.

These were the best results I ever had at the Age Group Nationals and I was very pleased considering my calf injury.  It was good to get a little redemption from last year when I crashed on the bike.

I had a few lessons to take away from this race:

Lesson #1 – You can still maintain good run fitness with very little running for 3.5 weeks assuming you’ve been consistent throughout the year.  My run split was not too far off from my usual run times when I’m in good form.

Lesson #2 – ATTITUDE!  My expectations had to change coming into this race. Instead of focusing on winning my age group, I just focused on giving my best effort and to be thankful just to be on the start line.  This led to a much better racing experience and reduced anxiety! This is a lesson I’m going to be applying to all of my races going forward.

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