Pensacola Cycling Classic

October 16th, 2018 by tcoffey

Team Athletic Mentors Tim Coffey goes on a road trip from Brevard, NC to Pensacola, FL

 

With Hurricane Florence ripping through North Carolina I decided I wanted to skip town and go race my bike somewhere sunny and warm.  A week before the race I watched this massive storm gain strength in the ocean off the coast and decided it wasn’t a good idea to spend the weekend in Brevard while the storm rolled in.  I was looking on USA Cycling and I found a stage race in Pensacola Florida. There was a solid payout and with forty people pre-registered for the race I decided to sign up.

 

I was able to get one of my collegiate team mates to come and race with me.  Shortly after we both signed up we realized me needed to find a place to stay. We looked at staying at a campground on the ocean but after looking at the weather and the heat advisories I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea.  I emailed the race director and he was able to find a place for us to stay. Now with a place to stay and money on the table the race was a go.

 

We loaded up the car on thursday after class and headed south.  The drive ended up being about eight and a half hours counting time for stopping.  After a long drive we rolled into Pensacola. Our host family greeted us and we went to sleep right away.

 

Saturday morning came very early.  Our alarms went off at 5:30 am and it was time to get ready for stage one of the race.  Stage one was a three mile time trial. After a thirty minute warm-up I was ready to go.  I felt super strong during the time trial with my Giant TCR kicking a lot of TTl bikes butt and ended up in 4th place,  12.38 seconds back from first. I knew going into stage two that I would need to win to make up lost time.

 

Stage two was a 50 mile road race through the rolling hills of northern Florida.  There were a lot of attempts of a break away trying to go but nothing stuck. I burnt a lot of matches trying to break away from the field but nothing stuck.  After about two hours of racing the whole field was still together and we were flying down the 1k long finishing straight with a group of about 30 guys. In the massive group sprint finish I ended up finishing fourth, topping my sprint off at forty miles an hour with my TCR pulling off another top 5!  My result in the road race was enough to stay in fourth overall and I did not lose time. After the road race I was down 16 seconds from first place but I still was in the running for the overall.  

 

The final stage was a forty minute crit.  I did a little warm up before the race but it didn’t take too much riding to get warmed up because the heat index was over 100 degrees.  During the race before mine a guy crashed in the last corner and was hurt pretty bad so my race was delayed because of it. When my race finally started it was full gas from the gun.  

 

The race leader attacked about four laps in and another guy went with him.  Everyone in the peloton looked around at each other and no one chased. I moved to the front and pulled for two laps trying to bring back the breakaway.  After pulling for two laps I pulled off the front and everyone sat up and looked around at each other again. This kind of racing is called negative racing.  It’s not fun when this happens.

 

After being frustrated with the negative racing, halfway through the race I got a flat tire and almost fell in a corner.  I rolled to the start and grabbed my backup wheel and I was back into the race. After doing one lap with the new wheel the peloton came upon one of the guys that were in the break and he was on the ground all bloody.  Turns out while he was sitting on the other guy’s wheel he had his head down and went straight into a barrier. After seeing the guy on the ground the field lit up and the speed got ramped up since the second place was open.  

 

We ripped around the course for another ten minutes there was one lap to go.  The field slowed down in the first two turns and then the next three were super fast.  We went into the last corner and everyone was fighting for position. I ended up finishing around twenty-fifth in the field sprint which was good enough to keep in fourth overall and I went home with some cash.  Talk about an awesome weekend, I had a blast.

 


Be Nice to Your Nervous System

December 16th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

I’ve been intrigued by the endocrine system and nervous system for quite a while and after the grand tour of the major medical fields over my second and now third year of medical school, they continue to be my favorites. They are dynamic and responsive, influencing our eating patterns, sleep, body composition, happiness and performance. The endocrine system works through pulses of hormones – growth hormones, stress hormones, insulin – all with different patterns but always dynamic.  In fact, the hallmark of a dysfunctional endocrine system is a stagnant or non-responsive hormone. The nervous system is also constantly changing- toggling between different modes: the sympathetic, commonly referred to as “fight or flight” and parasympathetic or “rest and digest.” Similarly, there should be a cycle to this as well since either one isn’t meant to be always on. The nervous and endocrine system work together to make sure your physiology matches whatever situation you happen to be in. Quite impressive really.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

One of the themes I have been struck by during my clinical training is the number of medical problems associated with chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system. Most of these are common chronic diseases- sleep apnea, COPD, congestive heart failure, type II diabetes. It is an appropriate response by the nervous system as it is answering to a real threat- be it a lack of adequate oxygen entering the lungs, episodes where breathing stops, or a heart not pumping adequately. However, the constant activation of the sympathetic nervous system eventually creates its own problems- including reduced sensitivity to hormones like insulin and even depression. A sustained stress response is actually one of the possible mechanisms of the high rate of depression after heart attacks or strokes.

As athletes, we depend on our sympathetic nervous system every time we jump on the bike, in the pool or lace up the running shoes. It helps orchestrate the physiological response to exercise to allow us to do physical feats, feel good doing it and induce health benefits. As long as the stressor is episodic and followed by a shift to parasympathetic (recovery) mode for a time, all is good. However, it can be all too easy to abuse the sympathetic nervous system. Whether it be becoming greedy about training volume or intensity, additional life stress, lack of sleep, or under-fueling, sometimes the balance can be tipped into spending too much time in “fight or flight” mode.

At first, this is not obvious and we can get away with asking a lot of our sympathetic nervous system and even feel good doing it. However, it is ultimately unsustainable and can create the same type of maladaptive changes as seen in chronic diseases discussed earlier. Although performance might not decline initially, the first signs  can include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, feeling irritable, hungry, or losing motivation to train. If it continues it essentially can create a state of nervous system exhaustion when performance is significantly impaired. This spectrum is often referred to as “overtraining syndrome” although it is still a poorly understood phenomenon.

I personally believe this process is what many people refer to as “burnout.” Burnout is a bit of a buzzword especially in medicine right now, but it is often used as an ambiguous term. However, it appears there are parallels between athletic and professional burnout and both consistent with a maladaptive stress response with a big factor being the constant sympathetic nervous system stimulation.

I am guilty of phases of nervous system abuse, but feel I have gotten better at both identifying and respecting it. One hurdle for me is admitting I’m tired (even if I don’t think I “deserve” to be) and actually resting in response. For me and probably many endurance athletes, resting can take more discipline than training and it can initially be difficult to trust that resting more can lead to going faster and feeling better. Although race results are not everything, still being able to perform well while training less provides positive reinforcement. This process requires constant attention and I think it is one of the biggest challenges of being an athlete and a future physician.

Although a constant vigilance for this phenomenon is important for athletes and people in high pressure careers such as medicine, this is an important awareness for everyone. Unfortunately, the society we live in does not necessarily have built in cycles of rest and recovery. I think everyone should be aware of the need for natural ebbs and flows and the importance of respecting and protecting our nervous systems, not just to be good athletes or professionals, but to be healthy, fulfilled people.

 

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The unexpected Ironman: a race story

December 11th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

Written by Raquel Torres

I write this with the intent to share my story, passion, efforts, obstacles, high and lows. My hope is to inspire others to fight for their dreams; to be better at whatever they love and in all areas of life.

Though I do not have the space here to write my life’s story, you’ll have to trust me that I have a million and one excuses that anyone could use to renounce my dreams. Maybe someday, I will write an autobiography of my crazy life, but that is for another time. So, today, I start with the decision to do a Full Ironman.

My coach, Mark Olson, has been telling me for a few years now that I should consider racing a full Ironman. But, because my life is a bit complex a few moves, job changes, parental responsibilities, sponsor commitments, and other sports opportunities) my goals have mostly been based on opportunities that arise as I go along. After a few very challenging years, competing as Elite and professional, this 2018, I had decided to take some time and compete at the age group level and in local events. During the summer, I had the honor to be asked by the Dominican Triathlon Federation to compete in a World Cup in Huatulco, Mexico and a Pan American Cup in Quebec, Canada.

With a little less pressure and some other changes happening in my life, I felt that the timing was right to try a Full Ironman. Together with my coach, we decided to start training for an event, which I would do as part of the Athletic mentors’ team. Long story short, I received a few work related opportunities in coaching so my daughter Chantal and our dog Phoenix moved to Virginia, that decision was 8 weeks before the event, a full Ironman, so we looked for an event that was near our new home and found the Ironman Maryland event that was in 8 weeks. I signed up and made plans with some friends that had also registered for the event and I was happy with the challenge. Two days before the Race I was contacted by the Ironman race staff to let me know that due to my status as an Elite ITU competitor, the rules did not allow me to compete in the Maryland event as an Age Group competitor, and the event did not have a Pro category. After several e-mails and phone calls between my coach and the event referees, they signed me up for the event in two weeks, the Ironman in Louisville, where there was a Pro category.

Honestly, this situation made me loose concentration; it was a shock, as I had decided not to compete as Professional in a full Ironman competition. I felt that I did not have the condition or support to be competitive at that level; at least at this moment in my life. I realized, however, that I needed to concentrate on what I could control, which was to prepare all of the logistics (my parental responsibilities, work commitments, packing all necessities, shipping the bike, etc.) to get ready to be at that starting line in 2 weeks.

The strategy changed in all aspects, as I was planning to drive to the event in Maryland and I had almost everything packed. I had to now find a plane ticket, bike transportation and my home responsibilities. I focused on giving priority to each item, while keeping up with the training as best as possible for the next two weeks.

Race Week:

When I arrived in Louisville the climate took a big turn and it became windy, rainy and cold. Neither I nor anyone had come prepared for the weather that was going to be on event day. I concentrated in finding what I was going to need the next day to deal with the weather conditions. I went to the Ironman Village and was only able to find a small winter hat; they had sold out of everything. They suggested a store that was about 6 miles away and they said it had gloves and other gear. Since I had not been able to train, I rode my bike to the store as I figured 12 miles would do great for my metabolism. Luckily, my coach and others from Athletic Mentos let me borrow special gear for the cold temperatures and for the rain conditions.

That afternoon, I had a beer with them, had a salmon sandwich and later spent the rest of the afternoon preparing my nutrition for the Ironman. I dined on light pasta, a cup of tea and off to sleep.

Race Day:

5:00 AM – I placed my numbers on me, drank a coffee, went down to the hotel lobby to eat breakfast a bagel with peanut butter. It was raining HARD, so then I decided to wear my wetsuit and walk warmer to the transition area, it was cold, dark and rainy.

6:00 AM – It was a bit uncomfortable to prepare the transition and to walk from T1 to the start of the swim, approximately 2 KM away. There were so many people walking, saying “we are signed up for this so let’s have fun and do our best!”

7:30 AM – When the race was about to start, they announce that the swim start will be delayed while they adjust the buoys as the weather and the currents are not apt for the race as initially planned. They announced that the swim will be done in a different direction and that it will be, .09 Miles shorter and it will start 30 minutes later.

Swimming 3.86 KM

Dark, raining and cold, I was very calm, as I had prepared mentally to stay calm no matter what happens. My coach Mark and Coach Cricket stayed with me in the start area, I was able to stay warm and they even gave me hot handbags, which helped my more psychologically than physically. I had already decided to take the swim part of the race as a warm up as this was my first Ironman and I had no idea what I was doing. My goal was to be conservative and concentrate on nutrition and mental state.

It was a water start and the currents were strong, and you could not see absolutely nothing. This gave me even more reason to take it slow and try to tail someone to be able to reach the markers. Because of the rain, the water smelled terrible and I could not wait to get out of the water.

T1 (Transition #1 Swimming to Bike).

When I got to the transition I decided to use the people that help you strip off the wetsuit, it was something I was not planning to do, but they could not take it off … so I lost a minute or so. The volunteers were very friendly as they helped you find your gear and to prepare, as I was arriving I said out laod …”Raquel Take your Time.” I had improvised what I was going to wear for the 180 KM with such low temperatures  and the rain. I wore gloves, a winter cap, two cycling scarfs a winter jersey and a raincoat. I ran barefoot as my biking shoes were attached to the pedals and I  carried my socks in my hands, when I reached the mounting area (600 Meters) I put on my socks and mounted the bike.

Cycling 180.25 KM

The bike was the hardest part and challenging of the event. First, I noticed that my Powermeter was not calibrated. I tried (with gloves) to fix it and it was even worse as the screens kept moving as it is a touchscreen system and it was so cold that my fingers where frozen and having gloves made it impossible to adjust the screens. After about 10 KM trying, I gave up and said to myself “Raquel, just go for it”. The first 40 KM was super cold, I did warm up later and was able to take off the raincoat and was able to hand it to a volunteer (avoiding penalties).

I saw 4 deer that crossed right in front of me and it was beautiful, I was focusing on the views and as I could not see how fast I was going nor my power output, I placed attention to the time and distance so I decided that every ten minutes I would drink some nutrition and anytime I had a negative thought, another drink!

About 100 KM mark my bike chain came off and was able to replace in less than one minute, then the second time the chain came off, same result, then the 3rd time the chain got stuck real hard and luckily I had gloves on was able to pull as hard as I could and got it out. I remained positive and said to myself “Raquel, this is what it takes, keep going and focus!”

Without a doubt, the hardest part was the last 20 KM as I was so tired of being in the aero position and my neck and back really hurt. I was counting each second, but kept focusing on the moment, not what was coming ahead.

 

T2 Transition Bike – Marathon

This is when I said to the volunteer….”Now a Marathon?” She smiled. I sat down and removed my clothing slowly, I stretched my back and took my time as I wanted to be ready to feel the best possible way and take my nutrition to the marathon.

Marathon 42.20 KM

During the run, I was impressed how well I felt. It was as if my body had forgotten that I already had 7 hours in action. The first 10K my job was not to go too fast as I felt better than what I would have imagined. So, my mantra was “Raquel, keep in the zone” and I did; taking small sips of my nutrition often. After 20 KM, I was starting to feel the pain and noticed that my pace was starting to slow down, I then changed my mantra to “keep mental focus and the pace, breathing and form.”

Watching the people on the streets, the music, enjoying the people as they greeted me, I focused on the smells, homes that smelled of fresh laundry, and kept thinking “I wish I was there drinking coffee and doing Laundry.” It’s funny the things that go through your mind when you are pushing yourself so hard.

There was a hippie on a bike with music, another person playing a harmonica during both running laps, another guy that was yelling very loud, “If it was easy everyone could do it.” When I got to the first lap 21KM, my coach yells, “You need to be tough now!” I thought…..”Now Tough?”

The last 10 KM were hard. I could feel the challenge physically and mentally so I kept saying to myself motivational things “Raquel only 10 KM which is nothing for you” Later, Raquel, a simple 5K, you made it keep going!”

The finish was a culmination of emotions, I was happy, tired (mentally and physically), I believe more because of the event challenge then for the physical demands and resistance. I laughed, cried, laughed again and then I finished.

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Christmas “wish list” for your favorite triathlete (even if that is you)

December 6th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By JoAnne Cranson

All I want for Christmas is some Triathlon Equipment……

But the problem is, I’m new to this sport and don’t know what the “best – tried and true” equipment is.  So…. I went to my teammates at Athletic Mentors to utilize their experience and knowledge to figure this out. Together, we came up with a great “wish list” of suggestions for your favorite triathlete (or yourself)!

For Swimming:

Goggles:  I got a lot of different feedback so this tells me it depends on your face shape and this may be trial and error

  • Kayenne Goggles – Smoke Lens for bright sunlight in open water.
  • Speedo Vanquisher 2 is good.
  • Speedo Jr. Hydrospec for a smaller face shap3
  • Roka R1 – amber colored makes the buoys much easier to see in open water

Wetsuit:

  • Aquaman brand is the clear winner. There are many different makes, so it’s based on your budget, but ones like Bionik, ART, or whatever you can afford, you won’t regret it.  They have some good sales too.  This is a local Michigan business where you can try on the suit for an accurate fit which is very important!

Tri-Suit:

  • A one-piece suit seems to be the preference, it’s easier to keep in place. But if you are just starting and want to go with a shirt and shorts you would want to look for specific “tri” shorts, not normal biking shorts.
  • Biking shorts have too much padding and are not comfortable to do the run or swim in. It needs to be comfortable, have adequate movement, and dry quickly.

Other items that will help you in training:

  • Super Important in Open water swimming – Safety Buoy – Safer Swimmer Float attaches to your waist, has a dry bag you can put valuables in, bright orange so people see you and in emergency you use as a flotation device.
  • FINIS paddles for proper stroke practice and Sporti Training swim fins.
  • Body Glide to apply to avoid chafing (perfect stocking stuffer)

Biking:

 Helmet: If you want a helmet for road riding, a Smith MIPS helmet is great.  There are also specific TT helmets, but those are only used when riding a triathlon bike and offer less wind resistance than a typical road helmet.

  • Bike: It depends on what type(s) of biking you will be doing.  If you are just beginning and want a more versatile bike that you can go to group rides and ride on paved trails, you should purchase a road bike.  I good entry level road bike would be the Giant Contend.  Giant TCR is an all-around road bike or you can move up to a Giant Propel – aero road bike.  There are lots of used bikes on local website ads to get you started too.  Most Triathlon’s have the bikes on paved roads, so to help you go faster ideally you want smooth tires – 25 cm – 28 cm.  You can purchase clip-on aero bars once you are very comfortable riding.  For aero bars, you want to get them as “flat” as you can to lower wind resistance and the lighter the bars the better.  If just triathlon racing and not group riding, you could get a triathlon bike, like a Giant Trinity Advanced.  But, you can’t ride a triathlon bike in a group. It is just not safe.
  • Biking Shoes with Cleats: These are a little tricky to start using but they are super effective in utilizing your pedaling strength the whole way around the pedal, instead of, just pushing down.  For the shoes, there are specific shoes for tri events.  The main thing I’ve learned is you want shoes with just “velcro” closures.  The other types of shoes take too long to put on, secure the closures, and take back off again.  Remember, focus is to save time in transition.  The feedback I got on the cleats is “look” type pedals. They give your foot a big base for improved power transfer, and as a result, helps you go faster!
  • Bike Seat – this is difficult because everybody has different “sensitivity” pressure points. A good place to start would be the Adamo, the Infinity or other seats with “cut-outs.”
  • Bike Computer: This is optional – If you have a running watch that can also track bike speed and other details, you may not need a bike computer.  If a bike computer is wanted, Garmin 520 is our team’s top choice.  It will also upload course routes, so you have turn by turn directions!  If you are limited on a budget, there are other lower priced Garmin computers on the market that will give you mileage, speed, etc
  • Water bottle – If you are just getting started, use bottle cages for your water bottles. As you get into using aero-bars or a tri-bike, ideally you don’t want to get out of that aero position to get a drink.  One option is Xlab Torpedo Versa – easy to drink from, refill and easily attachable.  Another one is Speedfil Inviscid.

Another item that is really neat is the Bontrager Speed Concept Speed Box II.  It attaches to your top tube bar and allows you to store gels and nutrition that is easily accessible.

A few other miscellaneous, Biking Items include:

  • Underseat bag to carry tire levers, spare tube and CO2 canister;
  • Fluid Trainer or Smart Trainer for indoor training;
  • “Chamois Butt’r” cream to apply to pressure points areas or, for the ladies, Hoo Ha Ride Glide.

Running:

  • Shoes: Good Quality is most important.  Go to a specialty sports store like Striders, Playmakers, or Gazelle Sports where they fit you personally and even allow you to run on a treadmill in the shoes.  Shoes are not something to go cheap on.  They are key to getting your feet, knees, and hips “happy” when you are running.  Some brands to consider are Hoka, Asics, or Nike Structures.
  • Triathlon – Running Watch. Most popular is the Garmin 920XT.  A great accessory for the Garmin 920XT is the water-proof heart rate strap you can wear in the water and throughout the race.  The Garmin 920 tracks all aspects of your race, even transition times!  There are also many screen display options to choose from.  It is great for training as it can track your indoor swims or open water swims, indoor or outdoor runs, plus your biking stats too.  If you want to look into other watch option, some teammates use Garmin models like Vivoactive 3 or Fenix.
  • Sunglasses – Hats: Smith sports sunglasses are the best option.  Other suggestions are using a ball cap or sun visor during your run.

A few other miscellaneous Running Items include:

  • Race Number belt – to strap around your waist and pin your number on;
  • Foxelli USB Rechargeable Headlamp – create for early morning or late night runs;
  • Reflective Vest with Lights – creates good visibility for safety in training;
  • Stryd – run power meter

Stocking Stuffer:  Elastic Laces – for sliding on your running shoes, like Lock Laces

There are a number of local bike shops that have a lot of these items for you to see in person, try-on and get their opinions.  Check out Speed Merchants Bike Shop, KLM Bike & Fitness, or Custer Cyclery.  For swimming items, check out swimoutlet.com.

It has been fun compiling this list and I’ve learned I want even more items than I thought!  I hope this will be a good resource for you too.  I encourage you to make it your goal to do a triathlon.  You don’t need to have all these items, just get out and “tri” it.  You will learn what you really need and can gradually accumulate the additional tools.

 

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2018 USAT Age Group National Championship Race Report

December 2nd, 2018 by Marie Dershem

Written by Brian Reynolds

The 2018 USAT Age Group National Championship took place in Cleveland, Ohio this year.  The olympic distance event was an “A” race for me. After an off-season of working hard on improving my swim and a summer filled with great training sessions, some fast new equipment, and improvements in every discipline, I was ready and excited to peak for my “A” race.  I was excited to race because my summer training was going really well.

Here is how my day unfolded at Nationals on August 12th, 2018.

Swim

The drama before the swim was waiting to find out if the swim was going to be wetsuit legal. The day before the water temp was 78.5 deg F and the wetsuit cutoff is 78 deg F so it was going to be a close call race morning.  On race morning the water temp was 75.8 so it was wetsuit legal! I was happy it was wetsuit legal because it would help neutralize the advantage to the strong swimmers. There were a fair amount of waves in Lake Erie, which made it a tough swim.

I started in the first wave, which was helpful because I knew who was ahead of me in my age group.  In past events, I’ve started later and never had a good sense of where I was compared to my competition.

My plan for the swim was to get out strong and try to catch the draft behind the strong swimmers.  However during the race it was very difficult to stay on anyone’s feet for more than a few seconds without getting pushed off course by the waves.  I was working harder during this swim than any other swim this year. It didn’t help that the swim was around 200 to 300 yards long. Although it felt like I was giving up a lot of time to the leader, I was only 1:10 minutes down from the leader. This was the closest I’ve been to the leader coming out of the swim at Nationals. I was in 17th pace after the swim.

T1: Swim to bike

The swim to bike transition was long.  It was roughly a 300 yard run from the lake-shore to transition. I had a smooth transition besides my helmet visor being super foggy.

Bike

When I got onto the bike my legs were feeling good and I was able to get up to power quickly.  I passed 8 riders within the first 2 miles of the race. After passing the riders, I could see the flashing lights of the motorcycle pacing the two leaders.  I used the motorcycle as my carrot to chase. I was quickly making up time on the leaders. By mile 5 I ca

ught up to the leaders. At this point I was excited because I’ve never been this close to the lead at a USAT nationals event.

I had to wait before passing the leaders because there was a sharp right hand turn.  As I made the turn I noticed that the road surface was very rough. There were several tare strips going across the road which prevented me from taking a more aggressive line into the turn.  Instead I took a wide sweeping turn to help keep my bike under control. Unfortunately I ran out of pavement and my front wheel hit the curb in the middle of the road. I landed on my right side and skidded across the pavement.  I had cuts on my elbow, hip, and hand. I would also find out later that I had bruised my rib and had a big dent in my helmet. A race volunteer ran up to me asking for my name and what event I was in to make sure I didn’t get a concussion.

My day went from an ultra high feeling of being with the race leaders to an ultra low feeling of being on the ground bruised and banged up.  At first the crash didn’t feel real because a month prior I had crashed my bike during the Tri Del Sol race.  I couldn’t believe that I crashed again!  As I laid on the ground I thought about dropping out and calling it quits. But after thinking about it for second I picked up my bike, re-positioned my dropped chain, fixed my helmet, and I got on my bike.

For the remainder of the ride I felt discomfort in my right shoulder area with every breath I took. I wasn’t able to ride at the same power prior to the crash, riding at 75% of my full capacity. Although frustrating, I knew that all I could do was give it my best effort. Even with the crash, I was still able to post my fastest bike split for a USAT Nationals event. My hard training had paid off.. I was in 8th place after the bike.

 

T2: Bike to run

My T2 transition was not as smooth as T1.  Coming off the bike my shoe fell off the pedal so I had to go back and pick it up.  As I ran through transition and picked up my run gear I was starting to notice more discomfort in my right shoulder.

Run

When I started running, my form was off due to lack of mobility in my right shoulder due to pain.  I was running 20-30 secs slower than my typical race pace and at  this point I was in 8th place. It took about 2 miles until I was able to settle into a descent run rhythm.  I wasn’t feeling too fatigued during the run since I wasn’t able to push myself to my full capacity. Thankfully I was able to run the 2nd half faster and picked up a few places to finish 6th in my age group.  I was proud of myself for finishing the race let alone finishing in the top 10. However, I was still bummed about not having the performance that I was capable.

If there was a silver-lining I can takeaway from this race it’s that unexpected things can happen to disrupt your race.  However, when the unexpected happens it’s your attitude that will dictate how much of an impact it will have on your race. A good attitude will go a long way especially, when you need to adjust your race plan and expectations.  During this race I was saying to myself “it’ll be pretty cool if I could still finished in the top 10” and I did! I still had something to chase and keep me mentally engaged during the race. At my next race my goal is to keep the rubber side down and that will be a win in my books.

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Running through pregnancy

November 27th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By Erin Young

 

The day before the big Rim to Rim to Rim run and totally oblivious that I was already a few weeks along.

I found myself relentlessly tired from weeks of epic running. I had flown out to Yosemite that spring break, to poke around and then over to Lake Sonoma only to be humbled by 50 miles of relentless “hills”. Two weeks later I ran (my face off!) at the Ice Age 50 miler in Wisconsin, gunning for top 10 in hopes of a ticket to the “big dance”. Just two weeks after that, my girlfriends and I took off for our dream adventure trip to the Grand Canyon for the 53 mile rim to rim to rim adventure to be covered in just one day. I played hard. I was living with no regrets, saying yes to everything. That all came to an abrupt end when I just couldn’t kick the fatigue. I was just SO tired. After weeks of rest and still whining, “I am SO tired”, my best work buddy slapped me with the ridiculous suggestion that I try a pregnancy test. I laughed in a way that now just seems so cocky. When she found me crying behind my desk, she knew she was right. And just for the record, those were tears of fear, not regret. Never regret. Fear because I knew that life as I knew it, was over. But life wasn’t over. This was great. I was going to have a little buddy to be part of all of these adventures! But running through a pregnancy isn’t easy. I found ways to make it tolerable, and even enjoyable. These are my suggestions for keeping it going and even making the actual birth far easier!

 

  • Don’t stop running! As soon as you find out you are expecting, make your plan to keep it going. Once you are out of shape, getting back is far more difficult during pregnancy. Be reasonable and make your goal to maintain fitness rather than gain. There has never been a better time to focus on building your aerobic base.

 

  • Remember that heart Rate will be elevated and you will breath heavier, even if you haven’t gained a pound yet. Blood volume doubles before the end of the 1st trimester, causing your heart to work harder

 

  • Don’t worry about going above a certain heart rate. It is a myth. You can run hard and race as long as you feel up to it. You will cut off your own oxygen supply before you ever take away from the baby. Trust me, I had an OB researcher to back me up on that one and I raced all the way through pregnancy!

 

  • Running in the heat is going to feel way more difficult. You will get hotter faster. I suggest early morning or treadmill runs in the air conditioning. Always carry ice cold water, or ground up ice with water. It will help you feel cooler.
  • Invest in a “belly belt”. They will help you run longer into pregnancy and give your belly and lower back support. I also continued to use it for several months after I had my son. This is a must!! Belly Belt This is similar to the one I got, there are many choices on Amazon. Don’t bother with the cheap ones as there is little support.

 

  • The Hoka’s sure are ugly, but they are the greatest pregnancy run shoe ever! Just look at all that cushion!

 

  • Running dirt trails felt so good compared to the road. Plus it is usually shaded and not as many people around to witness your walk breaks!

 

  • Have a running buddy! It helps so much to have a friend to motivate you. Some days were so difficult to roll out of bed. Having my friends waiting for me (sometimes in my driveway!) got me moving every morning before work. I was lucky enough to have a few who could tolerate my dropping pace. And when I was too slow, we ran on treadmills next to each other!

 

  • Strength train! You don’t have to do box squats, but 2-3 times a week in the weight room will maintain your some of your strength and make recovery easier. Plus, you won’t feel so terrible with the added baby fat that you WILL have during pregnancy.

 

Run as much as you want as long as you are comfortable. You know you better than anyone. The day my back and pelvis started hurting I halted to a walk and my son came that evening. I have no regrets about running during pregnancy. It was difficult, but making it social made it enjoyable and helped me feel more like myself. I realized that I wasn’t giving up my identity, but it was enhanced.

 

Now, running after the baby comes is a whole other story! The good news is that pushing the baby jogger really IS easier than having one in your belly!

My little buddy building his 1st two wheel bike

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What is the deal with “Cross”?

November 13th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

What’s the deal with “Cross”?

If you haven’t experienced cyclocross firsthand, you may be wondering why anyone would want to participate in such an event. If you aren’t familiar with cyclocross, imagine riding your bike as fast as you can, but throwing in every type of element that would make it more difficult to do so – grass, sand, mud, stairs, even barriers (think short hurdles). OK, this may sound a little crazy, but it’s also one of the fastest growing crazes in cycling.

 

 

 

 

So what is cyclocross (a.k.a. CX)?

Cyclocross was created Belgium as a fun way to keep cyclists riding in the winter months. Today’s cyclocross events are timed events, typically between 30-60 minutes that take place on relatively short (1-2 mile) circuits, most often in parks. The circuits typically contain a mix of grass, gravel, mud, sand, and pavement with some features that require riders to dismount and run with their bikes for a short period of time. Those who are serious CXers are riding cyclocross specific bikes, spending time dialing in their tire pressure for the conditions and look smooth and efficient getting on and off their bikes. For most of us, however, CX offers one of the easiest and most laid-back environments to try a bike race. In most CX races, competitors can (and do) use either a cyclocross specific bike or a mountain bike. Races are categorized (USAC Cat 1-5 or Beginner/Sport/Expert). Beginner races last only 30-minutes and tend to be much more laid back than their road race cousins. Because of their history as a fun way to spend the winter, cyclocross races often include competitors wearing costumes and a fair share of heckling on the course.

In other bike racing events, riders have to fight hard to “stay with the group” to take advantage of the drafting advantages. In Cyclocross, racers are riding against the course almost as much as they are against their competitors. Most races are spread out within the first lap with riders going their own pace as they take on the challenge of riding the features on the course. Also, because of the nature of the courses, CX races involved multiple laps and are well-suited to spectators as racers can be viewed multiple times throughout the race (and since they are often in parks, often have playgrounds for really young spectators to enjoy).

If you’ve wondered what this cyclocross this is all about, find a local race and come check it out. They’re fun to watch, but even more fun to ride. Whether you want to heckle or pedal, it’s hard to beat cyclocross for some fun this fall. Here are some links to the local Cyclocross series in Michigan:

 

 

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Goals: Ore to Shore

November 5th, 2018 by Marie Dershem

By Sawyer Shafer

Every season it is important to set goals for yourself with your coach to help set expectations, and have certain races that you will peak for over the season. In addition to that, these goals and “A” races serve as a carrot in front of me during excruciatingly hard training rides, and long stretchers of no racing.

Going into the race that I had chosen as my “A” event for the year, Ore To Shore Soft Rock, I was feeling good mentally and physically. In addition to that, I had recently gotten a bike fit from that had me feeling better than ever on the bike. Going into the race, I knew it was going to be very hard, but I was up for the challenge. As advised by Terry Ritter, I applied for preferred start and got it. This eliminated the stress of getting to the front of the race. I drove up to Marquette the day before the race with my dad, and had a chance to do openers on the last few miles of the course. My legs were feeling great. That night I had a quality dinner, and didn’t have any trouble falling asleep. The morning of the race I woke up three hours before I was due to start, and had breakfast and had no trouble eating it which, along with falling asleep easily, is rare on race day. We got to the start venue an hour and a half before the start time, and I began my ritual of putting my tires at the appropriate pressure and mixing my race bottles. I then started my warmup and, just like the day before, felt I had the legs to win the Tour! I got my spot on the front row with about ten minutes to start. The next thing I knew, I was racing in my most important race of the year.

I positioned myself well in the first few miles, never leaving the top five wheels, and as soon as we hit the two track, I put in a little dig and was able to roll off the front with a group of about six. This group would produce the top six placed finishers. Roughly six miles into the race is a section of road that really scared me. It was miles of rolling hills and I knew if I was going to get dropped, this was where it would happen. Thankfully, I made it through unscaved and still feeling super strong. About ten miles into the race, it hit me that I can really win this. Then a few minutes later we came around a tight corner and I stood to sprint out of it and felt the chain slip like it had just fallen off of the front chain ring! I stopped to put it on and realized I had broken my rear derailleur. At this point, I hadn’t yet realized that this meant my goal was no longer attainable, and that all my hard work and countless hours on the bike were all in vain. The realization that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race hit hard. Very hard.

Looking back on this a few days later, I realized what happened wasn’t too terribly bad considering I didn’t get hurt and the derailleur failure was a warranty problem and no fault of mine. And in the grand scheme of things, one dnf isn’t the worst thing that could happen. It also helped me realize that, aside from this failure, I had reached the bulk of my seasonal goals: I am now a Cat three road racer, won my first criterium, and have posted solid results all summer. This was due to awesome Team support and hard training. In addition, this failure itself can be used to add fuel to the fire, allowing me to chase down my remaining goals and push through the rest of the long season.

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Part 3: Coming Back

October 30th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

Continued from Part 1: A Dark Road and Part 2: Hope on the Horizon

A little after 3 weeks after surgery and 7 weeks since I first came in, things were finally heading in the right direction. I was putting on weight, eating real food, and ready to go home. Upon release, I set a goal for myself that I would finish Iceman this year. Some of my teammates looked at me skeptical but said they’d cheer me on.

First outdoor ride!

Five weeks post-op, I got on my bike for the first time. I rode for just over 20 minutes and I was exhausted. My power output was less than a third what it once was, yet my heart rate neared race efforts. It was great and demoralizing at the same time. The next day, I rode up to my local bike shop to say hello. I managed around a 15 mph pace (with a tailwind) at a hard effort and had to hang out for the next hour to prepare for the half hour return trip.

Each day, I was able to go a little harder, a little longer.  Three weeks after getting on the bike, I rejoined my Monday Night Crew. That night we rode for nearly 30 miles, and I even found myself pulling at the front. Each time I logged into Zwift, I would have to slide my FTP bar slightly higher to ensure I was working out in the proper zones. After each ride, I look at my power curve and see a new personal best. On one Monday night group ride, my buddy titled his ride on Strava as “Last ride ever where I’ll be faster than Collin.”

On top of a climb on the Harlow Lake trails in Marquette during my first MTB trip post-op with the guys

I feel great now. I am now back up to my old weight, I can eat just about anything I want without fear of it causing me pain and symptoms. My fears of never being able to race again have passed. My power levels are now to the point where I have to adjust my overall Iceman goal. No longer is the goal just to finish, but to place in my age group. I’ll be doing it with gears for the first time in 9 years, but I think I have a slight excuse.   

Once again, I want to thank all the wonderful people in my life who helped out while I was out of commission. My wife, for being there at my side through the darkest hours. My parents for daily visits and helping out my wife with child care each night. Friends pitched in to set up a meal service for my wife and toddler. People teamed up to mow my yard and weed my garden. Heck, one of my riding buddies did a full tuneup and detailing of my mountain bike. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. I feel blessed to have the friends and family I do.

Living with an ostomy is not the scarlet letter I had envisioned. Off the bike, I feel completely normal. No longer am I eyeing where the bathroom is at every new place I visit. I can sit at work and actually work straight without having to get up every 20 minutes. I can dress in the same clothes I’ve always worn.  On the bike, its not the death sentence I thought it was going to be. With support groups online such as the Facebook group “Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes,” I’ve learned ways to adapt to my new body. My fears of constant dehydration have not materialized. Most importantly, I’m back home with my wife and children enjoying life. Comparing the alternative, I am completely happy with my decision to go ahead with surgery.

I have gone back and forth whether or not I wanted to share my story, but if this can give just one person hope, then this amount of sharing is worth it. While I sat in that hospital bed, I scoured the internet looking for any high level athlete who managed to compete with an ostomy. I really didn’t find much which only added to my fears and anxiety. If you are reading this and in the same uncomfortable hospital bed as I was, let this give you hope. Life will get better, and you will once again do what you love.

Selfie, home with my Daughter

If you have persistent GI issues, see a doctor right away. Early treatment can spare you from what I had to go through. If are interested in learning more about Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis visit these sites for information:

U-M Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program 

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation

“Ostomy Lifestyle Athletes” Facebook page

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Part 2: Hope on the Horizon

October 29th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

Continued from Part 1: A Dark Road

That night, after running to the bathroom for the upteenth time, I looked in the mirror and could barely recognize the frail body in front of me. I could see every rib, my eyes were sunken in, and I felt as bad as I looked. At this point, I could barely lift my girls, hadn’t been on the bike in over a month, and could barely muster a few laps down the hall without feeling exhausted. I was so weak, and nearing a month since my first day in the hospital with no improvement, I knew what I had to do. I had to accept my fate. Although it was less than an ideal outcome, it would lead to a path of healthiness and out of this hospital.

Surgery went well. My surgeon said that my colon was one of the worst he’d ever saw that didn’t rupture. He said that if I wouldn’t have had the surgery, it probably would have ruptured within a week and sepsis could have set in. The next day when I woke up, I felt as if a cancer had been removed from my body. Everyone who saw me that day said I looked a million times better. I started to have hope.  

A couple days later, the first complication arrived. I started to get extremely nauseous and then started vomiting everything that I had ate or drank since surgery. That is when they found out I had an ileus. At the basic level, its a side effect from surgery where the guts just go into this dormant state and there is nothing they can do about it except to wait it out. While you wait for your guts to wake up, they put a tube down your nose, into your stomach to suck out any stomach acid and bile that gets produced which would lead to further vomiting. This meant no fluids or food until it was removed. They placed me on IV nutrition to slow my starvation process down. I kept losing weight along with my spirit. I was down to 116 lbs, about 50 lbs less than my race weight. At one point, both my parents and wife were scared I may not make it.   

One thin face

This continued for weeks. There would be signs that my guts were ready to wake up, only to go back to a dormant state. Online, everything says an ileus should last for 2-14 days. Mine lasted for 3 weeks. Going that long without food makes you feel less and less human. Nurses who were on vacation would come into my room and be surprised to see me saying “you’re still here?”

During this time, there were so many dark and depressing days. You become bitter at those who eat and drink garbage, while I lived a clean life, yet I’m the one sitting in the hospital. It’s hard when you go from a top local cyclist to someone who can barely get out of bed. Luckily I have an amazing wife, parents and friends who would visit me daily to keep me going. My “Monday Night Crew” who I’ve ridden with nearly every Monday for the past decade decided to surprise me and ride to the hospital one night for a visit. So many people from the cycling world would text or call me asking if there was anything they could do to help. Any visit would momentarily take my mind off the reality I was living. My number one dose of hope was the visits from my two year old daughter who was always happy to see me. Without the amazing people in my life, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through this dark time.

A happy moment in the hospital

Check back tomorrow for the last chapter in my road to recovery.

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Part 1: A Dark Road

October 27th, 2018 by Kaitlyn Patterson

By Collin Snyder, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

On the first Saturday in November, I will line up for the most important race of my life. I’ve raced Iceman every year for about a decade but this year will be different. I know for a fact, I will not even be close to my results of last year, however this will be my biggest victory ever.

Alice and I on the top step for Single Speed at Iceman in 2017 after finishing 2nd in wave 1

One thing most people don’t know about me is back in 2012, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It’s an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive tract, and can ravage an otherwise healthy body. That year, I had a bad attack, known as a flare, lost a ton of weight and strength which forced me into the hospital for a few weeks. When I eventually got back on the bike, I had to step back from 100 miler MTB races and temporarily move down a category on the road. However, I got on the right medications, and eventually returned to a normal life. I was symptom free for six years, however good things sometimes must come to an end. This April, I started to have GI issues after taking an antibiotic for a chest infection. After I finished the prescription, I figured the issues would go away. They didn’t.

For the next three months, my symptoms kept getting worse. My GI doctor started giving me stronger and stronger meds, but nothing seemed to help. By late June, it was hard to be focused at work as I would have to stop what I was doing nearly every 20 minutes to run to the bathroom. On 6/22, my anniversary, I had had enough. I called my GI doc and he said to come into my local hospital to receive IV steroids. Steroids are used as a strong immunosuppressant to keep my body from attacking itself. During my last flare, these were the magic bullet and stopped my symptoms nearly instantly. This time around, I wasn’t so fortunate. For the next two weeks they kept loading me up with steroids with little success. I was eventually discharged on July 3rd with nearly the same symptoms that I came in. Five days later, I woke up with a fever of 103.8F and told my wife it was time to go to University of Michigan to see their GI specialist.

After some imaging and analysis of my past medical history, the team at U of M re-diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis or UC. In the grand scheme of things, this is a slightly better diagnosis because UC can essentially be cured by surgery while with Crohn’s, a diseased organ can be removed only to have the disease pop up somewhere else in the digestive tract.  

For the next two weeks, they did everything they could. At first, things were looking promising.  I was given a super powerful drug (at nearly $20,000 a dose) and some of my blood tests started to improve. There was talk of discharging me the following week and they decided to give me one more dose of this drug for good measure. However, the day before my second dose, my blood markers started to go south again. The second dose did nothing. The team repeated some imaging and came to me with some devastating news. The medical and surgical team sat down with somber faces and said I had exhausted all medicine options. They had given me two doses of their biggest guns and imaging showed zero improvement. There was nothing left except for surgery. They would remove my entire large intestines and give me a temporary end ileostomy which means an external bag. I held it together for 2/3rds of the consultation, then I broke down in tears.

I knew that this would result in a cure, however, I was terrified of all the limitations this would lead to.

The day before surgery

For the past 12 years, my life has revolved around cycling and I couldn’t comprehend how those could coexist. The number one reason why people with this surgery end up back in the hospital is due to dehydration. With a healthy body, dehydration is already a constant concern when racing. On the family front, I have two toddlers and I worried how this would affect play time, and even how they saw me. Would I still be their superhero?

 

Check back tomorrow for the next chapter of my story.

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