MARQUETTE – Eight hundred and forty-one mountain bike enthusiasts hit the Marquette County trails this fall to take part in the Marji Gesick Race, part of the National Ultra Endurance Series. This extremely challenging, self-supported adventure takes riders through unrelenting trails reaching 1,750 feet above sea level. But riders often join friends to tackle the challenge, relying on teamwork and camaraderie to get through the tough spots. Katie Brang, MD, an assistant director of the Marquette Family Medicine Residency Program, was drawn to this event as a challenge to finish, not necessarily to win it.
“The most rewarding part of the race was seeing my friends and community members fearlessly take on a challenge like this,” she said. “Teambuilding on the trail translates over to team building at work.”
Dr. Brang embarked on this challenge alongside a group of friends, including colleagues and alumni from the residency program: Ryan Brang, MD, Adam Butcher, MD, Steven Dowdy, DO, Mike Kates, DO, Cara Crawford-Bartle, MD, Tyson Luoma, DO, Joel Dank, MD and spouses. The support received from the group encouraged her through 40 miles of the course.
“Although I didn’t finish, I couldn’t have even done 40 miles without the whole team,” she said. “My riding partners inspired me, and Betsy Dank and her support crew were what really powered me through the tough sections.”
There are parallels in riding the Marji Gesick with the goals of many healthcare providers. Teamwork in healthcare is essential to providing quality care to patients. This encompasses communication, collaboration and support of each other. Working together and utilizing the individual skill sets and expertise elevates the quality of care patients receive. These combined efforts are valuable on the trails as well, promoting a sense of companionship and enthusiasm. Teamwork in the office or on the trails can produce great results.
“Out on the trail, we don’t have medical students, residents, faculty and attendings. Instead, we have a group of like-minded people finding joy in climbing the next hill, admiring the next view and supporting each other to complete that last mile,” Dr. Brang reflected. “It strips away the hierarchy and I just love that.”
The lessons learned in a race like the Marji Gesick that are applicable to the work of a physician are many. Just like a physician’s role of continuously developing and increasing their knowledge and skills, Dr. Brang relayed the importance of taking time to train before embarking on a big race. Despite long hours at the office and with family activities, training is key.
Setting goals and working towards those goals is a great way to challenge yourself and add meaning and purpose to your life.
“Just do this race,” said Brang, “Even if you don’t think that you can and even if you don’t finish it the first year.”
As an avid racer including running, Nordic skiing, road biking, mountain biking, and triathlons, Dr. Brang has a good pulse on racing.
“I’ve been racing different sports for the past 25 years and the Marji Gesick has such a different vibe,” she said.
Dr. Brang has two goals for next year’s race. Her first goal is to tackle the challenging RAMBA section of the Marji Gesick which includes flights of stairs.
“This goal should help inspire more training rides and more work on technical climbing.”
Her second goal is to finish the event in 2019.
“Challenging yourself while at the same time developing goals for the future within a supportive environment is a rewarding experience,” said Dr. Brang.
The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Upper Peninsula Region works in conjunction with UP Health System – Marquette to coordinate the training of family medicine residents and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine medical students. Since its inception in 1978, 286 medical students and 198 resident physicians have graduated from the two programs.