A book recommendation for you, Just One Thing, John Mauldin (Editor). I finished the chapter on Psychology Matters. That chapter, alone, is worth the cost of the book. It is an excellent essay on how thousands of years of neural programming make it quite tough for us to execute a strategy that runs counter to our collective biases/instincts.
The chapter authors are writing about investment strategy but the psych chapter is broadly applicable. For example, it's why I'm always encouraging athletes to establish a simple, basic week which they repeat.
Success starts from being able to keep a single promise to ourselves. We make that a habit and grow outwards from there.
I'm working on four "one things" that will sustain my preparations to win Canada in August. Don't Drink; Wake Up Early; Train Consistently; Travel Less. There isn't a single mention about main sets or any physiological matters in my strategy -- the training is a given. What matters is creating the ability to maximize my ability to absorb the training and my "one things" enable that to occur.
Given that I posted my tougher sessions last time, I expect that a number of you will be bound to try them. Be warned, most athletes get the intensity phases of their seasons wrong and blow themselves to bits. I've ended my year a few times with inappropriate intensity. You'll also be tempted to open the trottle on every single session and go crazy with stacking the intensity. Remember that you only need a little bit.
For every (very) tough main set that I add to my week, I tend to remove 2-3 hours of aerobic training. Most athletes cannot afford to lose that amount of aerobic volume from their weeks.
Put more plainly -- optimizing most adult athlete's VO2 Max performance is normally sub-optimal for their race performance.
As well, if you are preparing for a 4-17 hour event in April or May then seeking to optimize your fitness in March/April will be counterproductive for your overall athletic development. There will be a lot of athletes doing end-of-season training for the Boston Marathon, the Wildflower triathlon and/or Ironman Arizona that, while (possibly) scientifically optimal, will prove to be sub-optimal.
By training smart, we can do very well by avoiding the training (then pacing) mistakes that our competition will make. I always remind my crew that we should let the other athletes make the mistakes. It's tough enough to train properly -- no need to stack things against ourselves.
Be honest with yourself on your likely limiters as well as where you've made mistakes in the past. Most adult athletes are limited in terms of their steady-state endurance, not their central cardiovascular systems.
These tips fit hand-in-glove with the psych chapter. See if any of this makes sense in your athletics, family life, investment strategy or work place attitude:
1 -- Under emotional duress. people shift to high risk, high return choices -- even if they are objectively poor choices.
2 -- When self-esteem is threatened, people become upset and lose their capacity to regulate themselves.
3 -- Self-regulation is required for many forms of self-interest behaviour... ...self-regulation appears to rely on limited resources that operate like strength or energy, and so people can only regulate themselves to a limited extent.
4 -- Making choices and decisions depletes this same resource... once this resources is depleted... the self becomes tired and depleted, and its subsequent decisions may well be costly or foolish.
5 -- Irrational and self-defeating acts become more common in the wake of rejection.
I see (and exhibit) a lot of the above at an Epic Camp. Nothing like extreme stress to bring out the best (or the limiters) in a person.
Anyhow, there is a lot more in the chapter and I'd encourage you to get yourself a copy. The "Psychology Matters" chapter was written by James Montier -- great stuff.
Keeping it simple and trying to be true to my word,
If you don't understand the triathlon shorthand then don't worry, I'll probably come up with some philosophy for next time. Here's one idea that I remembered after my last piece -- the most important person for me to say "no" to is myself.
We're in Vegas for a couple of weeks of training and I love the place. We're staying in the southern part of town about half way between Lake Mead and Red Rocks. Yesterday I ran at Red Rocks in the morning and ended my day with a ride beside Lake Mead -- even squeezed in a masters session with Frank (the RD for Silverman).
Vegas has a lot of "characters" and the people watching is always interesting. We're on the fringes of the action and we'll probably keep it that way.
I did another aerobic run test this morning -- still the same speed! I ended up averaging 150bpm instead of 148bpm -- 6:28 per mile (6:15/6:30/6:33). So I'll keep it rolling for another three weeks. I'm in an intensity cycle right now to see if I can move through the plateau.
Here's a sample of the sorts of workouts that I've done and will be doing...
I haven't done this one myself but Simon's been leading it weekly at the Boulder Res and it is a great run workout for early season...
***Number off the runners
Pretty good session and you can include runners of a range of abilities.
Here are a few that I've done...
Fast Run -- designed to get the HR way, way up // 6x3 min fast on 90s RI // I've done flat as well as slight up/down (Marshall Road at the Res if you know it). I had thought that 180 bpm might be possible but at altitude all I hit was 175bpm and that had me seeing spots and sucking BIG air.
Hard Tempo Run -- aiming for an ending HR that is about 10 bpm under the Fast Run -- I managed to hit 173bpm on this (8bpm over my 1 hour max at Snowman Stampede). Terrain alternates dead flat with hills. Hills are FT+ effort up and FAST on the way down -- aim for decent form and solid "impact" on the descents. Main set is like 3x8 min on 4 min RI. RI for my running is always walking.
Long Run -- keep it aerobic -- mixed terrain, hills before flats. Still doing a 12 minute cycle of run:walk. Sprained my anke running in the snow but am back in action after a fast recovery -- used a machine called GameReady that really took the swelling out of my ankle.
Double Run -- insert on a few Tempo and Long run days. Have only done once so far -- the evening after the Snowman Stampede.
Long Ride -- main intensity is done at the end of a long ride -- aim for 20 minutes of work over functional threshold // when I tried to go 3x8 min fast (4 min RI) at the 2.5 hour mark of a four hour ride last week I had MAJOR fade but still hit 170 bpm, so a decent effort. Anyhow, new plan for this week...
ITU SBR Session -- This week I will do a solid swim (main set as... 5x400 lcm leaving on 6 min with effort as fast, mod-hard, steady, mod-hard, fast) then straight into a trainer session with 4x6 min fast on 3 min RI. After the trainer session, run immediately 5 miles steady. This is an ITU-type workout that the lads would do in NZ -- I'm going to recover by riding easy, they would alt between steady/mod-hard/fast -- I'm not quite at that part of my season, yet. The ITU lads would back that up with functional & core strength/run speed in the evening but I'll take the rest of the day off!
Swim -- I've been doing one quality overdistance workout each week; a solid IM swim day and a continuous swim. This past week was decent in terms of volume (22.5K meters equivalent). My continuous swim today was 4000 scm as 2000 relaxed then alt by 100 faster, 100 easier -- probably had a differential of 10s per 100 between the faster and the easier.
I've also been inserting long periods (60-120 mins) of higher cadence riding into the early parts of some long rides. Bobby wants me to get my run cadence up and this seems to be helping.
Boulder riding has been mainly in the flats and lower volume. Vegas riding will have more hills and remain lower volume as I am in an intensity cycle.
Heart rates remain very responsive -- the 175 bpm during my 6x3 min fast last Wednesday was the highest HR I've generated in Colorado.
Blogger is having a little trouble uploading my photo. So...
There's an alternative one posted on Planet-X with my race report. That photo is of the Snowman Stampede. As you can tell from that snapshot, the day lived up to its billing. The race was my first sustained effort of the season and it went well for me. I can attest that an hour of drilling it at altitude gives a pretty strong hypoxic training stimuli.
For those of you that enjoy data, my average heart rate for the hour was 165 bpm and my max was 170 bpm. That compares to my heart rate cap of 148 bpm -- I've been using that for all "endurance workouts" as well as during "endurance" phases of training.
I was sent a weblink the other day to a philosophical website. I enjoy reading these sites and surfed around for a while. Around the same time, I was contacted by an athlete looking for an exact determination of his endurance training heart rate threshold, what I call AeT (aerobic threshold).
The two events reminded me that our minds craved certainty as well as clarity. We're always looking for...
...the magic formula
A man more wise than me pointed out that this craving for something other than what we are tends to make a lot of people unhappy. Still, I think that spending time learning from experts can be time well spent.
It's interesting though... my experience is that you have to learn a tremendous amount to get yourself to the point where you see that nearly everything that you learned is a distraction from what matters.
The people that get the most practical use from their knowledge, tend not to be the ones with superior knowledge. Individuals with the greatest reach excel in clear communication, rather than technical detail. This drives many experts absolutely bananas! Personally, I find that entertaining for some reason.
So on the site that I linked up is a quote about success. You can read the entire essay here.
"The secret of success of every man who has ever been successful -- lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do."
That pretty much sums it up for me. There's nothing more that I can tell you about success.
..but I'll give it a shot anyhow!
I prefer to program myself in positive, proactive ways. Figure out what you want to achieve then seek out experts of character and pattern yourself on their actions, thoughts and beliefs.
That's all great but... you are going to need a HUGE amount of energy to keep up with an individual that has deeply engrained their success patterns into their mind, body and spirit. In fact, most people will get overwhelmed by the power of their mentors.
So while the author of that essay is pointing out the difference between success and failure -- he is not addressing why the failures struggle to keep up. When people breakdown, it is their process that falls apart.
So how do we give ourselves the energy to maintain our circle of success? How do we give ourselves every chance to form those successful habits?
Here are some ideas that I came up with. They are what work for me. Perhaps they will help you. I'd encourage you to find out what works for you. Much better than following what works for me!
All of the following are things that we can "do" in order to build the energy that we have available. The closer that I stick to these guidelines, the easier (and deeper) I find my ability to achieve my goals.
Simplicity -- most people try to do too much. At any given time, I can manage doing two things "right" in my life. Everything else is being done "ok" at best. If you come over to my house then you'll see the two things that I'm working on right now. I posted it on my fridge. I want every single person that is close to me to know what I'm working on.
Nutrition -- there is a clear link between nutritional quality and mood. Running deeper than mood, there is a direct link between energy and nutrition. I smile when people tell me that "a calorie is a calorie". It's not that way in my body and it's not that way in terms of our impact on the Earth.
Our bodies are the most direct expression of how we feel about ourselves and our nutritional choices are the most frequent actions that we take with respect to our (physical) selves. Food choice is easier than thought choice!
Recovery -- there is a certain pride in many cultures (and sub-cultures) around sleep deprivation and self-suffering. At a certain level, something inside us can "feed" of this stress but (eventually) you'll fade away. The "hard" path may feel satisfying for a few years but it is worth remembering that most of us are playing an 80 year game! I have big plans for my body twenty years from now -- some of the lads might get me this decade but if I just hang on long enough...
Love -- this is a big one and I'd encourage you to think about love in the absolute broadest sense of the word. What I mean is any thing, person or experience that enables us to feel more "open". In my world this includes: Monica, nature, church, friends, training, old tress, snow, sun, wind, animals, little kids, water... all of these are spiritual "openers" for me and lift my energy.
Attitude -- attitude is mission critical. My mentors/advisers/pals and I had an email thread the other day about "coaching elite athletes". What started as a discussion on coaching elite triathletes (rather infrequently elites in life), turned into a platform for some very successful people to define their personal definition of success. What was fascinating to me was that EVERY one of the successful people had achieved their person definition of success. They may not have achieved my definition (or your definition) but they achieved their own. A clear reminder that we must choose our goals wisely. What comes next is important...
Successful people cultivate an abundance mentality for their goals within themselves. They "are" what they are seeking to achieve. Through this self-expression, they achieve success prior to achieving their goals.
Unsuccessful people (unconsciously and consciously) cultivate a scarcity mentality within themselves. The focus on their "lack" of what they are seeking and long for the day when they will achieve it. This day rarely comes.
Change in our life situation most effectively stems from an improvement in our personal outlook, expressed by what we cultivate in ourselves. We are most able to attract the things, experiences, people that we cultivate within ourselves.
In, then out.
Our culture has it completely backwards with many of the messages that we are fed within the media. The searching for satisfaction (and change) without. The unsucecssful are constantly wondering why their impression of the world remains rooted as a reflection of what they hold within. The truly successful smile and give thanks that they have learned to be satisfied with what they have created within themselves.
So that's my Energy Creator list! What about my personal energy reducers?
Related to simplicity -- I train myself to say "no" to attractive opportunities. If you have trouble with this point then start by saying "no" to unattractive opportunities. No joke, I know plenty of people that repeatedly choose to do things that they hate rather than having to face saying "no" to somebody that's probably too caught up in their own life to notice.
Nobody likes saying "no" to people (comes back to the opening quote about successful habits) -- I was fortunate in that I was forced to learn how to say "no" in my first job. In venture capital, we had to say "no thanks" to a lot of people. Given that it is as tough for the partners as it is for us... the junior guy on the team gets plenty of practice saying "no" early in the investment process -- the partners get the really tough ones... saying "no" late in the process!
Sounds a bit extreme, and I suppose that it is, however I am looking for a very deep level of achievement, satisfaction and success.
The Magic Formula -- a self-sustaining circle of sustained action over time.
The shot above was taken in Atlanta before a Southern Wedding. We had a baptist minister at the ceremony and he described marriage as...
...bein' locked in a room...
At least that's what I heard... I was pretending that I was getting married again and renewing my vows. I left the church pretty fired up to be Monica's husband.
It was time well-spent.
Our trip to Atlanta was the last piece of my four week business/transition block. It was a lot of travel for me. What's a lot?
I don't track miles flown but that was a pretty solid push. With that much moving around, work was #1 and I hardly rode at all. Volume was 9/11/15/12 hours per week -- that was the four weeks after Epic Camp.
It was an interesting change for me because (normally) after an Epic Camp, I recover for 7-14 days then slam right into Ironman Specific training. This time, I paused the training volume and focused on two training items -- get strong and get my HR way up a few times. It takes a surprising amount of discipline to rest when we are in good shape. Just like bike fitness in Ironman, it's challenging to build something up and NOT use it (bit like weapons, I suppose).
I've done three fast sessions so far (one life cycle and two running) -- on each one I've been able to access the 180s in terms of heart rate. So my experience from the last entry appears to be confirmed. Mark's protocol is resulting my being able to drive my heart rate 12-15 bpm higher than the last six years.
On my last session, I was running around a little indoor track -- about 25 minutes of work, including 90s walk breaks -- six reps with the max HR in each (174, 178, 182, 184, 182, 185). I still believe that I can get to 190bpm at sea-level if I was racing. The high HRs concerned me a bit so I ran them past Bobby (McGee) as well as Mark. I'm going to be careful with going much past 185bpm outside of racing.
My three-mile aerobic test hasn't budged (yet), 6:27 @ 148 bpm was the result last week -- the day before that fast run. One thing that I am wondering is if my running heart rate performance in earlier years was depressed due to fatigue -- in reviewing my bike step tests, I see fatigue in the data (depressed HR response through most aerobic wattage levels, then rapid increase to functional threshold, no ability to elevate past 160bpm and suppressed lactate response in the aerobic zone).
Effectively, "taking a break" after 16 weeks of training was something very different than what I've done in the past. However, it wasn't all travel. While I need to be careful aerobically at altitude, I decided to address my lack of strength training progress and was in the gym 2x per week.
In the mid-90s, I tried to start running. Knee pain shut me down for a couple of YEARS and I had to come back very gradually with walking/hiking. I started running... too fast, too much, too quickly... all the normal mistakes. Wish I knew about run-walk back then! So, for a two year period in my late 20s, I lifted a lot. Powerlifting stuff -- squats, dead lift, cleans // four day cycle with alternating body parts (legs/core; back/bi; chest/tri; off). I had reasonable success -- my legs have always increased strength rapidly.
The neat thing about strength training is that you end up looking good in clothes... triathlon is more about looking good in a speedo... ha ha
One of the things that I noticed in the gym (back then) was that when I truly committed to "getting strong" I would be able to breakthrough plateaus. My body was ready before my mind -- there is a bit of fear/respect when you stack it up. This year was similar but my mind got a little ahead of my spinal erectors (!) so I had to cap my squat out at 185lbs and use the leg press for going really heavy.
What's really heavy for me?
I managed this yesterday...
That whole thing took me 30 minutes and I stacked another half hour of mod-hard traditional strength work. I just flamed out on the last rep of the single leg and had to give myself a little help.
In my book, Joe and I talk about taking the squat up to 1.3-1.7x body weight -- for me that would be 215lbs to 280lbs. Too heavy for most of us in my opinion. In my mid-30s I could comfortably get up to 225 lbs but my back can't tolerate that these days (with a slower build-up, perhaps). I recommend that you never place more than 225 lbs on your back even if you can tolerate it. Not worth the risk. I've squat up to 300lbs in early 2002 but that was a lot of spinal compression for minimal gain -- frankly, I was lucky that I didn't injure myself.
My advice (to the guys) would be to start with the squat, take it to mod-hard (not more than 15% over body weight) then finish yourself off with the leg press. In Going Long, we're recommending building up to 2.5-2.9x body weight -- implying for me... 410lbs to 480lbs and that seems a lot more reasonable if you have outstanding technique, multi-year strength training experience and have followed the preparation protocol.
Those multi-year experience and technique pointers are essential for the squat -- it is really worth taking the time to learn how to squat properly. Take your time. I've been lifting (off and on) for over 2o years.
I see a lot of "experienced" folks in the gym using shocking (and dangerous) technique -- get a certified trainer to teach you free-weight technique.
Be careful out there,
Post-Epic, I was fortunate to be able to spend a couple of days with Mark Allen. While we talked quite a bit about triathlon, I didn’t walk away with a bunch of notes about main sets and training sessions. A lack of notes is an unprecedented change! I do have to confess that I did make a few notes at our first meeting over breakfast. My brother commented that I must have been pretty fired up because I wasn't eating.
The single best thing about Mark’s method is its simplicity. Many people send me notes asking questions about the protocol. There is nothing more to tell you than what you read here.
Mark’s “coaching” me this season but a better description would be that he is guiding me. When I think about “coaching”, my mind seeks direction, instruction and certainty.
Tell me what to do to be great...
Real meaning and growth come from figuring out our own way, rather than following instructions.
As a guide, Mark’s provided me with the basics for Phase One. If you’ve read the articles on his website as well as my summary of the Fit Body, Fit Soul seminar then you’ll know as much as me about the protocol. Yes, it really is that simple. I may have more experience than you to apply the protocol but there isn’t anything more. He’s not holding anything back.
The simplicity would have been completely lost on me as a novice and (I suspect) that many athletes refuse to believe the powerful nature of harmonious simplicity.
I’ve often noticed a mutual tendency to create dependency between coaches & athletes. Naturally, it exists only in friends and associates!
The constant review of workouts, the fine-tuning, the periodization… as I learn more about myself, I see that most of this is wasted energy. I wonder how often we “discuss” to avoid facing the issues that are staring us in the face – issues that require us to change in order to progress. Even if we don't need to change (which I doubt)... I'd rather direct as much of "me" into the plan as possible.
Have you managed to string together those 12 weeks of consistent moderate training that I spoke about in October?
What happened since I reminded you in December?
If you haven't managed it then there is still plenty of time -- after all, it is only the start of February. Keep trying!
There’s no point in progressing your training until you can string together a dozen weeks of consistency. The more you struggle with consistency, the more you’ll be tempted to rush your preparation and cut corners.
Performance flows more easily by establishing your cycle of success.
January is the time for budgets and planning. During my 48-hour stint in Scotland, we talked a lot about our business' plans for the year. If you are interested in what I do other than triathlon, here's a link to an aspect of the company.
You may be surprised how many people don’t have a plan -- by simply writing down where you want to go, you will get a clear edge over nearly everyone. The power of simplicity!
Even those with a plan struggle to execute it. It’s the same for all of us and I’m no different than you. I read my plan to remind myself what I need to do. My moments of clarity can be pretty spread out -- so I need to write them down quickly and review them often.
Our ability to create, then observe, our patterns and habits greatly influences what we are able to achieve in our lives.
"To know others is intelligence, to know yourself is wisdom."
What I have benefited from is making a ton of mistakes and being exposed to experienced people that shared the lessons of their mistakes with me. These first few months with Mark have reminded me that our best advisors can be the ones that help us ask ourselves the right questions, rather than answering the endless noise created by our minds.
Take time to consider that point...
The best teacher is the one that helps us figure things out for ourselves.
I’ve written six page emails to which the best reply was a telephone call where we talked about the seasons and pacing across a year. Two weeks later, my head had dreamed up a whole range of new issues, which only had a vague connection to my previous ideas.
We can only see things in others that exist in ourselves. By not participating in the noise of my head, Mark helped me better see it.
Now I write my blog instead!
ha ha ha
A little bit about focusing on what we need in triathlon. While in Santa Cruz, we spent an evening running through the logic of the eGrip on-line engine. I entered some pretty extreme values to see if I could “tilt” the server. No such luck, it kicked out a week that was very close to what I would have created for myself. It took me only a couple of minutes to fine-tune.
If you are looking for a cost effective “coach” then I’d recommend his site as well as a copy of my book, Going Long. The book has sold over 25,000 copies and that blows me away.
Once you have your simple plan, you may consider pulling the plug on all the chat forums and repeat, repeat, repeat to the best of your ability. Remove the distractions from execution. Make a habit of "doing".
It's not easy for me to stay away but I've been off forums since my own board was shut down last summer. I was running with a good friend this morning (Richmond Park, London with the deer -- very nice) and we were discussing the internet. He observed that there is a forum where you can ask a trained nutritionist any question you want and she'll reply for free. Hardly anyone posts! Rather than post to an expert, people end up asking perfect strangers for guidance (most of whom struggle with their nutrition but they are extremely generous with their experience).
We often think that boards are a meeting place for experts. Quite often, they turn into places were people come to reinforce their existing biases or self-image (particularly "poor me"). Watch for that -- you don't want those things in your head.
Keeping my head clear is why I'm very wary of television and any form of violence these days. I haven't watched a movie in a long while.
If you are seeking change in your life then look out for habits that become a time sink.
Beware of the enemies of action!
So what about the title of this piece? Well, Phase Two of my season kicked off this week.
Summing up Phase One…
Of course, if you read his advice then you might be left in a position requiring change and we are often unable to change without the stimulus of a crisis.
In terms of the session structure, I have enough experience to create something that is reasonable but that didn't stop me from asking Molina then checking with Mark! What we came up with was a main set like 6x3 minutes fast on 90s rest – it’s what I did to kick off Day Eight at Epic.
I’ll use some variations but workout structure is not a constraint on performance.
What I target is:
I'll note power/pace when convenient but they are a result, not a target. I'm seeking a physiological response rather than a target performance. It's easy to get caught up in the data (personal limiter of mine). All of my breakthroughs have come when I removed my mind from what I was seeking to achieve. For my money, that is the crux of performance psychology.
I was a bit jet lagged on Thursday and did my first session in the dark around Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. It was 5am and I was running with the aid of moonlight. If you know the climb then I started at the base of the steep side. Two uphill reps (rest was downhill walking) then four repeats along the top (3 upwind, 1 downwind). I started uphill to ensure a good HR response.
I couldn't see my heart rate monitor so I set it to beep at 170bpm. The set ended up 6x2:45 (fast) on 90s walking rest, probably 15 minutes over 170bpm. When I checked my data after the session, I saw that my max for the workout was 185bpm. That's the highest heart rate that I've generated since I started triathlon. High octane stuff -- I've felt the training stimulation for the last three days -- the physiological responses leave me feeling like I'm on happy-juice.
It will be interesting to see if the ability to generate high heart rates continues because the main difference between me and my "fast" pals is their ability to access higher power/pace by driving their heart rates higher than me. I'm efficient within my steady zone but the top guys can load me up by accessing their superior top ends.
In the past, I've chosen to carry background fatigue that limited my ability to elevate my heart rate. Those long term periods of being overreached were a conscious decision to develop my stamina and endurance. Even with the associated periods where I was overtrained, they were successful from a knowledge and performance viewpoint.
I'm seeking a deeper level of success this year.
I've adjusted my race schedule (yet again).
Feb -- Snowman Stampede, 10-miler in Denver, hope I don't need crampons!
July and August will be specific preparation for Ironman Canada. In the summer, I get enough action with my key sessions. My "best" training performance will likely be seen July 16th to August 5th. Thereafter, I build inwards for game day.
As Mark reminded me in Santa Cruz, through all the training, it is important to remember that there is a race coming. When Ironman Canada arrives I plan on being ready.
All my best from Bermuda,
I wrote some of this a few days ago...
I’ve finished my third monster brew of the day. I’m trying to stay awake until 7pm so I can sleep through the night.
The nutritional cracks have become open fissures – I had a couple of bowls of ice cream last night; tortilla chips the night before and pancakes this morning. For me, the nutrition heading off the rails is a sign that it is time to back off on everything, rest up and absorb the training. I have four weeks worth of business, personal and family travel coming up. So I’m going to take things easy and try to run most days.
In early December, Monica asked me whether I would go to Epic if I hadn’t committed to it. At that time, I was very tired and scared about the camp. Scared? Yes, scared. You see, I know what these camps are like. I also have intimate knowledge about overtraining. It scares me.
[Very] Big Week Training is risky but the risk:reward ratio is worthwhile for me – I’ve spent over a decade learning about how I respond to endurance training. As I want to explore my ultimate potential as an athlete then there are certain risks that need to be undertaken. What I’m trying to do this time around is make sure that I’m following the most appropriate path.
I’m glad that I turned up – first to see the guys and second because this was the best two-week training camp that I’ve ever had. Stripping out the easier stuff, I managed 45 hours of steady and mod-hard training in 14 days. That is a massive amount of work to put into my body in January.
For the top performers in any sport, the physiological training is a given. We must do the work to generate the physiological changes that give rise to the potential for breakthrough performance.
Work is a given – that’s why I remind athletes that protocol isn’t the decisive factor. It has an impact but it doesn’t dominate the path from potential to performance. What really matters is the psychological and spiritual changes that happen during Big Week Training.
Fatigue – an acceptance of fatigue as a physical state of the body, rather than a mental problem of the mind.
Humility – an acceptance that we do have certain limits on certain days. However, learning that our limits are far, far further than we thought possible. By removing ourselves from our daily routines, we “trick” our minds into allowing us to exceed our previous athletic definitions of ourselves.
Work – teaching the mind that work is a relaxing form of pleasure. Getting to the point where five to six hours of steady cycling (in the wind and rain) is more of a meditation than a training session.
Confidence – seeing that physiological superiority results from absorbing more work, over more time – rather than an innate, unachievable genetic edge.
These are the lessons that we seek to bring the athletes that join us at Epic Camp. They are also the lessons that I renew each time I arrive at Epic.
When you read about Epic Camp you may think that it is about pain tolerance. For some of the athletes that could be the case. For others, that might be the way a few of the days feel. For me, Epic is about training my mind that sensations that I may have felt as pain are better expressed as joy. I use nature, the Epic Lads and the “game” to reprogram my emotional framework. There was as much psychological as physical “practice” happening at this camp.
Once the fatigue starts to pile up, the psychological cracking shows first. An athlete’s psychological systems will break down well in advance of their physical systems.
Epic is a direct challenge to what an athlete previously thought as reasonable and challenging. Most the lads deal with their psychological challenges internally. Over the years a few break out in public (generally around Day 7 or 8).
Coming into the camp, I had a few goals that I wrote about…
***Keep HR under 148 for the first week – managed that for all but an hour of riding on Day Five. Keeping intensity down in a group situation is extremely tough – I was dropped a couple of times on Day One but bridged back when the pace eased. We need a tremendous amount of self-confidence to allow ourselves to go out the back in a group situation. Most people are unable to execute their plan in a group situation or under psychological pressure. They can not do it.
***Pull the longest ride of Day Three (225K) – got that done with Charlesy as my wingman.
***Hit it hard a few times in Week Two – similar to the amount of Week One endurance training, I managed much more than I thought possible – two hours at 300w+ on Day Eight and a tough main set/group ride on Day Ten. I also drove my HR up into the 170s for the entire run on the Day Eight Aquathon.
***Be cheerful, less controlling and listen more – better than previous camps and I’ll keep working on these points!
If you head over to the Planet-X bikes website then you can check out my data from those hard rides. The most interesting data (for you) might be Day Eight and Day Ten. They will give you an insight into my threshold and VO2 power.
My favourite day was probably Day Seven when I broke a spoke fifteen minutes into the ride (and in the rain). Once the crew had me rolling again, I rode alone, playing catch-up, and was able to build the ride, hour-by-hour for five hours. Confidence that I can ride well when fatigued is something that I was seeking at the camp and I found it at the end of Week One.
Many of the lads report a sensation of improving fitness during the camp. I think, what really happens is that the body & mind simply get used to working for long periods of time. Physiologically we fatigue, mentally we strengthen.
I know some guys where Epic has changed their lives – 50 to 80 hours of training changing the direction of someone’s life. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Scott and I are doing what we were born to do – it’s our path. Some folks get that, some don’t.
I ended up with my lowest total (and points “standing”) for any of the camps. However, in terms of training stimulation, this would have to be the most specific camp for my goal of winning Ironman Canada in August 2007.
Sitting here on my flight out of Queenstown, I’m the least fatigued from any of the previous camps. I’m going to absorb the training because I want to get faster, not because I am deeply overreached.
The game plan for February is to physically re-group, run frequently and organize the non-triathlon aspects of my life.
Monica is a very high priority for the next two months.
In Alexandra, we had a Q&A session with the lads. Here are a couple of highlights that you might want to consider within your own program.
Triathlon is a young sport. I’m fortunate to have been able to learn from a number of the pioneers and experts of our sport. In watching the lads at Epic, I see that what I think is possible (for myself and others) sells our potential short. Many, many times I would have advised athletes to skip sessions (or stop training altogether) if I was “coaching” them at Epic. If we had stopped at a “reasonable” level then (without exception) we would have failed to learn valuable lessons about ourselves and human physiology.
One of these days, we’ll get Dr. J to undertake a study of us at Epic, until then, you’ll have to take my word for it. Much of the triathlon advice that you receive is the equivalent of someone telling you that the Earth is flat.
Please don’t take _anything_ that you hear as the end-all. Take what sounds reasonable, what has worked for people like you and experiment.
Take action, make mistakes, learn and share your experiences.
Is Big Week Training the “optimal protocol”?
Along your endurance journey, don’t expect to find “one way”, “one approach”, “one protocol” or “one method”. Big Week Training is merely one tool that you can place in your athletic (or coaching) toolbox. For experienced athletes, Big Week Training is a safe way to bump up our performance.
Watching Crazy Mike was interesting because he went both long and hard (daily). I don’t recommend that but… he got through it and put in excellent output (swim, bike and run) session, after session, after session.
High Volume, High Intensity is high octane training and, last night, Scott talked about the risk of staleness and overtraining. In a group environment, it is possible to blow an entire season of fitness across a single fortnight – especially if we forget that we must pay a recovery price eventually. Like me, Mike is planning on recovering through February.
Each camp we continue to learn a tremendous amount from watching the guys. One of Scott’s key observations is that if you get a group of top athletes together and raise your expectations then nearly everyone will step up. We sure saw that on this camp. I couldn’t believe how much they got done. I purposely cut back the volume and piled on the steady-state for this camp.
Week One was 40 hours of training and Week Two was 20 hours of training. Because my relative reality was that I was doing less than the Epic Lads, this was the easiest (and highest quality) sixty hours of training that I’ve done since the summer of 2005.
The top agegroup guys did MORE than the above (Crazy Mike was close to double). Some of you are trying to beat these guys.
Compared to (some of) our competition we achieved one or two months worth of key sessions in a single training camp. It takes many years of patient, smart training to prepare the body for undertaking this sort of training camp.
I’ll share some of my non-linear recovery techniques that I used over the last fortnight. Nobody ever writes about this stuff as it pertains to triathlon. I can't be the only one with this experience!
So this is what really happened. Much of this is operating at different levels of my experience. I’ve always been willing to access anything that works.
Fit Body, Fit Soul – I used what I learned from Mark and Brant at their weekend clinic. They can teach you better than I can and their lessons have helped move me closer to my ultimate potential as an athlete.
The Sun – On the morning of Day Two, I spent an hour on the beach watching the sun rise. Some might call that a meditation but I was simply looking around, relaxing and asking for help.
The Weather – In heat, or in rain, I will run palms-up for a period of time to absorb energy from the sun or the sky. I use a similar technique within my yoga practice.
Yoga – I did frequent, short yoga sessions – up to three times per day.
Massage – I had five massages in the sixteen days that I was in New Zealand.
Monica – I spoke to Monica five times over the sixteen days that I was in New Zealand. This is the least direct contact that I’ve had with her since we’ve been together. However, I probably held her in my heart for five to twelve hours per day. At my end it felt like I was pulling energy from her. She’s pretty tired right now. I don’t know if that was my doing! Over the years, there have been a few people from which I have pulled energy when training at a high level.
Breathing – When I was surrounded by the power of nature; or saw a flower; or saw an animal; I would breathe the experience into my body. With my little injuries, I would direct the breath towards the part of my body that needed to recover (another technique from yoga).
Dreams – I had dreams about each of the key people in my life. They gave me various pieces of advice. Some of which I remembered, some of which merely made me feel nice when I woke up in the morning.
iPod – I like listening to good music on my iPod.
Some of this I can explain, some of this I am simply sharing with you.
More than understanding my experiences, I’d encourage you to explore your own.
Protocol is not the differentiating factor between athletes.
Passion, persistence and patience – combine those with any reasonable protocol and you’ll get results. The people that tend to take issue with alternative protocols are, typically, unable to do the protocol they don’t like; or, are trying to profit from an alternative view of the world. For example, most coaches passionately believe in the way _they_ like to train. From a sales & leadership point of view, that belief is essential.
Scott and I really enjoy the camps. We do them to spend time with the lads and enjoy ourselves. We have a deep enjoyment of training.
On the podcasts, there was a tone that Epic Camp is special, possibly elitist. It is special for the Epic Vets because it represents a shared experience, a very different experience and an outside of the box experience.
While it is a unique experience “for us” you could recreate it for yourself. I’ve done it a number of times over the years and it’s helped me.
Epic Camp is unique and special; but Big Week Training is open to anyone with a backpack and a map!
What is unique here is the nature of the athletes. We are sharing a massive undertaking alongside experienced, confident and (mostly) mellow high achievers. The older guys that come have achieved a very high level of success (in multiple fields). With this success comes humility and (if you listen) a willingness to share knowledge.
We also get athletes that are searching for a level of validation (of themselves and/or from others). It’s ironic that we often need to achieve something to learn that it doesn’t really matter. It never was about the goal – the goal merely provides us something around which we can wrap a lifestyle.
And that’s a wrap for another year.
I’m enjoying a home-made mochaccino right on our first of two “regroup” days. I had to negotiate for these days to be inserted!
22 hours of training in three days and I had to haggle for a chance to put myself together!
Because I didn’t run yesterday, Molina is threatening to revoke my “complete the camp” bonus. He’s top of my list for Week Two…
Scott will write about Motivation and I hope you read it. He’s been at this for a very long time. He’s had his ups and downs – perhaps he’ll share those some day. It takes a long time to get good and many people say they want to get good. However, most people don’t want that. Most people want the “good”. The people that get to the top, what they really want is the “work” to get good. To do a lot of work, over a long time… that takes Motivation. Motivation is a habit; success is a habit. Hopefully, Scott will offer up some tips for us.
Here’s how I see it work in myself and others…
We often create imagined injustices to keep us rolling. I’ve found that as I mature, my motivation comes more purely (Quiet Mind, Quiet Power). When I was younger I used a lot of coffee, anger, music or imagined injustice to get rolling. Perhaps that was a sign of carrying excessive fatigue. Clas jokes that when you need a full pot of coffee to get through your main set then perhaps your program is a bit tough! With a more moderate approach, I can motivate from within.
Look for that in your self – recovery is the final option for many highly motivated people (not just athletes).
To do the work required to achieve greatness – that takes a long time. Simply to get back to the fitness I had in 2004, I laid out a 21 month plan. 21 months of planning… leading towards the third athletic peak of my life… in the ninth year of my triathlon career. I hear about athletes seeking to “peak” three times in a season! Life doesn’t work like that.
Molina was planning on leading a contingent of lads up Arthur’s Pass for a bonus ride. However, the rain in coming down _very_ steady right now so we’ll have to see if that ride gets rolling. The clouds are sitting right over the hills and the lake is calm. Doesn’t look like it will blow over anytime soon…
I’m confident that most the Yellow jersey contenders will get out there today. Hopefully, the rain will ease a little for them but I wouldn’t count on it.
So what about the camp so far. Well, after what has supposed to have been a very cold Kiwi summer, we’ve had pretty good weather. Yesterday was quite damp but everyone brought enough gear so that we all made it through without incident. Johno called the weather “patchy” and it seemed like I had a patch that followed me for about six hours!
We’ve got a guy here from
I’ve done the route before – never in one go, though! To get through what I expected to be an 8-9 hour ride, I broke it up into pieces. I also left my iPod rolling the entire time. I rode with the groupetto yesterday. I haven’t done much riding with the groupetto at previous camps, so I can’t comment on what it is normally like. At this camp, you’ve still got a lot of very strong guys in the second bunch.
I like to set my own pace when riding. That’s a nice way of saying that I am a bit of a control freak and dislike having pace dictated to me. I’m working on that!
Clive, Albert, Mark and Lou – they also like rolling at their own speed and that can be quicker than mine – especially when we are going uphill. I’ve been “backing off” on the hills. By backing off, my power “only” increases by 25-50% from what I put out when pulling. Some of the lads must be lifting close to 100% from what they are putting out on the flats. Those surges add up across a 1,000K bike week!
So we broke up a bit. On the second KOM, I was doing my normal back-off thing and was probably going a little too easy as there were five guys up the road at one point. I figured that I was putting a damper on things with my moderate approach – especially for Mark who likes to give it a go. Albert was almost out of reach and somebody had to give him a push! So I picked things up a bit (five minutes at 375w; three minutes at 400w) to get Mark within striking distance – I went to 151 bpm and sent Mark after Albert. He played it very well and got past the Albernator, never easy!
Towards the end of the ride it was just Andrew Charles and me – KP, if you are reading this then it was a lot like the ride to Westport (except AC didn’t start frothing at the end). We alternated steady main-sets with easy periods to see how long it would take us to reel in the guys up the road.
Clive was particularly tough to bridge back to! With the lads that have been coming to Epic for a few years, it is enjoyable to see their development as triathletes. Clive’s riding great these days, especially for someone who came out of a Canadian winter to join us.
So those are my memories of Day Three. I can still get my heart rate up when I want, so don’t appear to be too shelled.
Some notes on Epic for those of you who might be considering big training to jump start your own training:
***150 bpm // 150bpm is a magic number in my experience. If any of us do sustained work over 150 then there is a material recovery cost. The young guys can burn a lot more matches than the vets. My cap of 148 bpm has served me well in Week One. I’ll get to open it up a bit in Week Two – for now, patience.
***Running // I have only done two runs so far. A solid steady effort on Day One and an easy run on Day Two. I didn’t run yesterday (D3) as I felt that 225K and 7:40 of pulling was enough. The running combined with bike intensity really beats the legs up. I’m a little sore this morning – but the legs don’t feel as “damaged” as previous camps.
Brandon “bdc” Del Campo and Mike “Crazy Mike” Montgomery both ran 2.5 hours on Day Two! Mike’s coming off a solid run camp so he seemed to tolerate it a bit better. Yeseterday, Mike got the location of the first KOM a bit wrong – thought that he was attacking with 20K to go… turn out that it was 50+ KM of rollers. At least he had a light tailwind to help him out – he’s riding without aerobars. Hence the name… Crazy Mike.
***Nutrition // I made the mistake of eating two cans of Thai Chili Tuna on Day One. Phew! Blew through that, quite literally. Nutrition is a real challenge on the camp – not because of the support, the good choices are there… the challenge is making the good choices! I did better at dinner yesterday with lots of veggies. The next two days are low volume days so I will do better. If you have a body that isn’t used to a lot of sugar/starch then a change in diet can be quite stressful.
***Mental // We are all tired. There comes a point – say after six hours of riding on Day Three where the fatigue is mental – that might sound counterintuitive but… it is not your body that decides to back off, it is your mind. This is where the group really helps.
Having Charlesy on my wheel yesterday was great. I’d announce that I was starting a main set in five minutes and he was my “witness” – Scott calls this getting pushed from behind. You don’t want to crack in front of your ride buddies. Athletes of different abilities can ride together all day. This assumes that the guy at the front rides friendly and backs off on the hills. Most male group training is about trying to kill your ride pals – lifting 100% on all hills. It is also how most people race.
Might make good group riders – doesn’t do squat for your IM times.
***Peaks // There’s been a little throwing up and bonking. Yesterday flushed a few people out. When you are doing big training day after day after day, you need to have your training and recovery nutrition wired. Eating little bits continuously as well as ensuring plenty of fluids.
Day Three shook a few people up – a couple of mushroom clouds went up out there. Slight depletion, power peaks and sustained periods over 150 bpm… generally result in some painful personal time to evaluate the error of your ways.
Some people learn, some don’t.
Back from my only session today (D4) – 3K open water swim event.
Lou gave us a great lead out and we made the front group! However, their pace was a bit punchy so I let them go. Lou hit a tree! So that slowed him down. We swam it in for 5th and 6th. The four upfront were Molina, Scott Davis, Mark P and Albert. Mark’s really able to lift himself for the events.
I’ll share a few memories from the other days.
My favourite memory from Day One was the swim TT. We started 10s apart and Johno split all the fast guys up so my drafting opportunities were limited. Or so I thought…
BDC was starting 10s back. It was a dive start and I opened with a 1:20 first 100. BDC must have swum a 1:13 because on my second flip turn was RIGHT there. Made me smile. My mood improved even more when he made his “move” at 250m and came by. If any of you wonder how my swimming improved in the last couple of years. It is due to the combination of Monica’s training program and guys like BDC. I enjoyed a very comfortable 550m in the froth behind
After 200m we passed Jarret, and the slightest gap opened up… so at the 1K mark I swam a hard 200. You need to be able to do that at ANY time in an IM swim. That is much more important than your first 400m or your sustained pace. At the sharp end, it is surviving the pace changes that determines your swim time. BDC has improved a lot but didn’t make the pace change… he lost at least 40s in the last 800 due to missing the change (and worked just as hard doing it).
I experienced some power fade at the end of Day One during the 70K TT. The TT was my idea because I wanted the campers to experience some legit riding when they were still fresh. Just like the 2K swim TT – athletes rarely do long main sets. A two hour TT after six hours of training gives us an honest insight of our fitness.
If you want to see your real fitness then schedule a 30-90 minute best aerobic TT (not threshold!) at the end of your long workouts. Keep your HR on target and look at your real aerobic pace – some people simply don’t want to know…
The best part of Day Two was making the group and the fact that nearly all of us finished the ride together. The muffins at 100K were also pretty tasty!
The depth of the riders on the camp means that there is always someone willing to pull the second group back to the front after each set of climbs. As well, the TT took a little bit of the starch out of the young guns. Finally, we didn’t have any points on the line so the Contenders were holding back (just a little) – saving up for their long runs later in the day!
The Gate of Pride
I just finished a book called Everyday Zen (Charlotte Joko Beck). The author is western and gives a modern (to me) interpretation of certain zen concepts. She uses a wide range of examples to illustrate her points. One chapter talks about how progress is often inhibited when we bump into the “gate of pride”. It’s something that merits consideration for all of us. I’ll give a few examples as they pertain to athletics.
Think about your training partners… it can be tough to see these in ourselves…
How much is enough?
Here at Epic we don’t set any limits on the athletes. We even provide incentives (with our points game) for people to over-do-it. It’s amazing what people will do to themselves in a group environment for a couple of points. We all love to play the game – that’s what life is when you consider it – a game.
It is up to every athlete to decide their personal limits. The group helps most of the guys go far past their previous limits. As well, as I have mentioned before, when we are all tired, the physical limits become mental ones. Pacing, hydration, nutrition, sleep, stretching – these are all limiters.
When we blow, we will cite a physical limiter… however… it was mental choices (pace, nutrition, hydration, volume, intensity) that lead to a (perceived) physical collapse.
The more pride we have, the harder we bang against that gate.
Some bang for weeks… some for years… some forever…
I mentioned this on the podcast.
The “weakest” guy at Epic Camp is one of the strongest guys back home. The athletes that join us are high achieving successful people. They aren’t used to compromising with themselves, or due to the force of another. Even the strongest guy at Epic will have a bad day eventually. And when you do… you’ll get smacked down.
I used to get pretty grumpy when that happened.
The “CTI” athletes (can’t take it) are, generally, the ones that race below their training performance. The guys that smile; nod; and say “you got me there”… they tend to bounce back and grow from the group experience.
Bevan and Molina are two guys that seem to enjoy getting smashed. Bevy because pride doesn’t have much of grip on him (he’s probably going to get very good and will need to watch that – nothing fails like success). Molina because he proved whatever it was that he needed to say with his professional career – 100+ wins can take the edge off, for some. Others just keep chasing whatever they seem to be seeking…
We’ve had some great athletes at Epic Camp that struggled with the lack of control forced on them by being in a group of strong athletes. It’s fun to be the Alpha Male but you learn a lot more about yourself when you’re getting dealt.
As I am finding, an evangelical zeal for training (or anything else) will get you to a point (a very successful point if you have the right combination of skills, passion and persistence). When you want to get past that point, you’ll need to consider the elements of your success that have been holding your back. Within my athletic career (and business career), pride always had to give way to humility to truly tap my personal potential.
This has been the second great lesson of triathlon for me.
The first lesson was that we can all achieve far, far more than we ever dreamed possible.
Not sure if I’ll write again but six pages is enough!
I'm glad that I waited a bit as I managed to come up with some additional ideas on this topic. A good place to start this conversation is my piece from Jan 1, 2006. Then review my Personal Planning piece from Sept 5, 2006. Those are the ones that explain what I actually do in order to move forward.
How did your year go? Did you increase your personal wealth? Within my own life, 2006 saw a big increase in personal wealth. However, it wasn't in the sorts of places that we normally look.
My definition of wealth includes: nutrition; fitness; finances; friends; personal productivity and Monica.
Traditionally, when we think about wealth we look to an outward appearances of assets. If we go a little deeper then perhaps we consider the size of a person's balance sheet.
I've written about how I like to look at net assets (assets minus liabilities). This is because many people that exhibit traditional wealth are actually caught in a trap due to the combination of personal debts and their lifestyle choices. Ramping up asset acquisition and personal expenditure, slightly quicker than they can "afford". With a tailwind of rapid asset inflation and easy credit, it takes a tremendous amount of discipline to be prudent.
Looking back in my own life, there are a number of financial lessons that I remember from my childhood. The one that stands out above all the rest is my dad's advice to save 10% of everything that I "make". It has been the bedrock of my financial planning and it's made all the difference to me. In university, as a graduate trainee in London, as a venture capital partner in Hong Kong... I've never, ever, ever, spent more than I earned. If I could offer you one tip for financial security then that's the golden rule. If pro triathletes that live on less than $2,000 per month then a professional manager can certainly get by on what she earns.
The buy-out investor's equivalent of this Golden Rule is "never finance operating losses". I'll save the lessons of venture capital for another time.
I subscribe to a free investment letter put out by a guy called John Maudlin -- he writes each Friday and, occassionally, sends along the writings of other people. One of these ones that he passed along (I think) was a definition of wealth that was "the ability to finance a lifestyle".
and, being in a conservative mood I added...
Now that appealed to something in me because it seemed really, really safe. There's something about that safety that calms. Of course, I might have become caught in that trap that affects many of my former collegues in finance and investment... ...ever increasing standards used to delay the time when they will start "living" their lives.
Once you want to have a house on three continents and consider flying commercial an inconvenience... well, if you want all that, indexed, over time and changing circumstances... you can see why some of these guys end up dying at their desks.
Of course, when a person's actions divert from their words over time... they don't really want what they say.
What's all this have to do with wealth? Good question. Well, if money is linked to wealth then did your spending over the last year increase your wealth? Do you spend on the things that make you wealthy?
The modifed definition appealed to me and I wrote an entire article on just that point. However, something was missing so I didn't post it. I'll share a parable, I think that it's from The Alchemist
There is a man sitting by the well in the desert. He's too scared to leave the well for fear that he might die of thirst. Eventually, he dies by the well.
How often do we fail to live for fear of failure?
So what was missing from that definition? Attitude!
Three book recommendations -- A New Earth; The Education of Little Tree; and On Death and Dying. I read these right after finishing those three wealth titles that I included last time.
Each one provides ideas that you can use in decided what matters for your personal plan. A New Earth has an interesting section on the concept of attitude -- the author talks about three forms of attitude: acceptance, enjoyment, enthusiasm. When I think about the people that achieve -- they have a tremendous amount of all three -- probably a sign that they are living in harmony.
So... after spending three months using my Personal Planning template, it struck me that one way to measure true wealth is to consider the probability of enjoying any given moment.
Not the probably of enjoying every given moment -- I'd say that is close to zero for me. Rather... the probably of enjoying the current moment at any given time.
I don't know if that seems like a revelation to you. It certainly did for me. Why? Because I started to look at people, spending, actions, potential commitments... everything... I considered it and asked myself... "what is the likelihood of this choice increasing my true wealth"?
I started to see how certain decisions, made to increase financial wealth, were actually draining true wealth. Of course, I noticed these decisions mainly in others. It's always more easy to see the self-help illustrations in those close to us, rather than ourselves!
So I went back to my Personal Plan and noticed that a few "important" items simply faded away. Some areas of conflict seemed to lose their uneasiness within me. When I define wealth as my current happiness -- I don't want to let people "steal" it from me.
Of course, you would be right to point out that anything that I feel inside is my creation. Still, choosing certain paths makes it more likely that I won't need to achieve satori to have a life with meaning.
Your next question might be who is the "me" that "I" am always referring to? He seems to get in the way a lot...
I got a zen book for my birthday...
I have room for up to three apprentice coaches in my squad this summer.
Coaching experience is not requried.
If you are interested then please send me an email with details on:
Please include a copy of your CV as well.
Joe Friel taught me that the only difference between a fantastic and a poor performance is that we learn more with a poor performance. I'd go further and say that what we learn with success can lead to some of our greatest mistakes [See Deep Survival by Gonzales].
One of Scott Molina's favorite sayings is that we can justify a lot when we are winning. He was talking about races but, we are ALL winning at many levels nearly all the time. Even if you think that you are unsatisfied, from a human survival viewpoint, we are huge winners. In fact, when we consider some of the things that we do worry about, well, that really drives home the point.
Mark Allen mentioned to me that the patterns and experiences that we lay down when we are successful are what we need to overcome to move past that level of success. Within life, our approach will take us to a point. To get past that point, or even to stay at that point, our approach, and our beliefs, will need to adjust as our environment, and as we change.
So that's the opener
Now a break for the photos!
What you have on the photos is TT-2004 (Trek) and TT-2006 (Cervelo) and TT-2007 (Planet-X).
The most recent shot is how I spend a chunk of my week here in Noosa... living the dream on my porch. Like the headband? It makes me smile. That position is "short stem, flipped up, seat back 2cm, spacers out". I've been trying a few different options.
If I can get my torso stretched out more then it appears to be a big improvement over the previous two years. My shoulders are lower than normal even with that hump in my back (which is mainly spine, not scapula). Saddle looks a bit low in the various photos (we took ten) but it is quite powerful (from Week One wattage, the only way was up).
I also think that I have some scope to put some spacers back in as my head (even with helmet & looking forward) would be lower than my spine. That 2004 position went 8:29 -- certainly some upside there. I was riding with my shoulders around my ears!
You see... I'm trying to stay open to new TT positions to move past my previous success!
I've got a post on "true wealth" in my drafts folder but it didn't quite get to where I wanted it. I did a post on wealth last January 1st so perhaps I'll run it then as a one-year review.
If you've noticed that the archive (right margin) is out of action then so have I -- we're on to that. May have happened in a migration that we did a few weeks back.
The thoughts on wealth started when I was doing my quarterly review of my personal plan. I've also been reading a series of books about wealth and the stock market (The Money Game; Reminicenses of a Stock Operator; and The Richest Man in Babylon). The Babylon book is the most practical. The other two have great stories and a reminder that performance is merely how elites keep score. The enjoyment lies in the path, the game.
If you read my stuff (that was actually about me) from 2005 then you will see a thread running through my most of my personal writing. It went something like... once I knew that I wasn't able to do what it takes to perform the joy went out of it for me.
That is interesting to me because it points to several assumptions that I had that must have been very deeply help. These assumptions were the result of the line of thinking that I opened with.
When we only have one way to succeed, eventually, the changing cycles of life will get to us. It also ignores the fact that are as many ways to succeed as there are successful people. Anybody that tells us that their way is the only way... they haven't really looked around.
In October, a buddy lent me a copy of the Triathlete interview with Peter Reid. The most interesting thing that I found in there was Peter's observation that once he couldn't do the training required (by him), he knew that it was over (for him). It's good to see that I'm not the only one that has felt that way about our sport.
When we "fail" we get clear (and memorable) feedback that our approach isn't working. However, when we succeed we receive different feedback -- that our approach worked (at a given point; for a given circumstance).
Many successful people end up chasing their memories of what that success entailed. Who knows if we are even chasing the right memories! Even if we are chasing the correct memories, is it the right time to be chasing them?
Dave Scott told me (through M) that every race is different, every season is different, every year is different. He was probably trying to tell me that I didn't need to ride across the US each year to do a decent Ironman. John Hellemans has been telling me that (indirectly) for about three years!
I just might be starting to listen.
To attain our very best, we need to challenge ourselves to remain open to new approaches. I like to think about it as being flexibly stubborn, or intelligently committed.
Results come from commitment to a process. The challenge for me has been to remain committed to the results, rather than a specific process. Am I deeply committed to my process or my performance?
In my life, I've used many different approaches. Successful outcomes resulted from my commitment to, and belief in, the approach that I was using -- more so than the specific approach. Our commitment and belief systems are very powerful in creating our results.
Relentless commitment to any reasonable process will take us quite far. It is when we want to get even further that we need to consider how we've been holding ourselves back.
Before we can build successful races;
Another thing that I learned with Mark & Brant in Austin. I now see that success is a good thing. I had a reservation on that front with regards to IMC — I didn't see the goodness in it. Achieving our dreams is a very good thing.
I went to the beach to spend some time alone asking for support on my journey -- physical power for recovery; tranquility within myself; empathy for M; and harmony in all the Queensland drivers that see me when I'm riding my bike.
Enough of what matters...
I've just finished eight weeks of my Early Season Training protocol as well as my third aerobic run test. I followed it to the letter (did you???). My weekly training volume moved between 7-18 hours (avg was 14), that includes my yoga (3x) per week.
***I had to back off the traditional strength work about half way through when the major muscle groups in my legs/hips blew out my minor ones. So I've been on cords, core, balancing & body weight exercises for the last three weeks. This week, I'll start to add back some traditional work (mainly lower body free weights done lightly).
***I did aerobic run tests at the end of Weeks 2/5/8 (three different countries, still working on my travel less goal) and saw considerable improvement (7:10/6:50/6:25). Far faster than any previous year in my athletic career -- probably because I didn't have such an overload stress from jumping the volume back up to "what I thought I needed".
***Even with the "taper in" on the volume. I was tired a lot, slept tons. The strength training seems to create a different type of fatigue than normal aerobic stress.
***By never crossing my personal heart rate cap I found that I was able to greatly increase the aerobic quality of my workouts. My average pace was higher and much more consistent. I also found my overall consistency greatly increased -- normally starting back up takes so much mental energy to push through everything. I only had three zeroes -- all travel related. One when I slept 20-hours in an Auckland hotel room at the end of my business tirp.
***Not crossing that cap was very, very, very tough! I was wearing my heart rate monitor riding my cruiser to a run and had to back off! A fair amount of walking (still doing it) as well as micro-strides to get up hills. I have a concern that I may be swimming a little too hard at times so will need to be more careful now that I am swimming in a group here in Noosa.
What's next. Well, if you didn't follow my Early Season Protocol to the letter then you should spend eight weeks redoing your homework! It's like total immersion, there's no point moving forward until you've mastered step one.
Here's what I have planned for the next nine weeks...
***Two weeks where I will get my body used to the Basic Week again. I'll keep the swim/run steady-focused. The bike will come in simply on a frequency basis. No main sets; insert a bit of steady; tweak my position on my new bike.
***Easy week, retest my max aerobic run pace (warm-up; three miles at target HR; cool down)
***Repeat my Basic Week (2x) -- swim/run as before and add some aerobic and big gear main sets -- steady effort.
***Easy week, retest my max aerobic run pace (warm-up; three miles at target HR; cool down)
***Transition week -- easy to moderate -- travel to NZ; get advice on my bike fit (hopefully); hit the lab for a lactate step test to failure (bike) the day before Epic.
***Epic Week One -- I'm writing it here so that you can hold me to it! NEVER cross my aerobic HR cap; maximise average pace for all workouts; never tack-on volume. Pull all the way from Hanmer to Moana on Day Three.
***Epic Week Two -- choose a moment every other day and have 15-25 minutes where I go as fast as I can go. I won't announce where & when just yet because that would spoil the fun!
That will end the first 17-weeks of my season. I then have four weeks of transition where my main goal will be to run six days a week; hit the gym twice a week; and keep the yoga rolling three times a week. Everything else will be a bonus.
During my transition period I have some personal and work related goals that need to be achieved. Athletics will need to take a back seat while I set myself up for the racing phase of my season.
I was going to plug my Spring Training camp with Mitch Gold but it sold out a week after we decided to do it. 80% of my coaching fees from this will go towards our Aquatic Project in Boulder. If you're interested then perhaps Mitch has a waiting list.
If we are successful with a proposal that we're making to the Boulder Elks then I'll be launching a training team based at the lodge from April to October. This will be my main squad as I prepare for Ironman Canada. I'll be solely an athlete until after IMC -- then I'll pitch in on the coaching. More on that after we get the green light.
I'm writing this from my hotel desk in Hong Kong. I signed a stack of financial accounts down in the business centre and packed them off to FedEx. So my business trip is officially over. All that remains is an afternoon flight to Auckland and an early morning connection to Brisbane.
Day One of the clinic started with Monica & Andy handling the swim session. I'd never seen my brother-in-law in action and he was an impressive guy. I think that I'll rope him into my tri team in Boulder -- more on the team in my next post (from the Southern Hemisphere).
For Day Two, we had Susan Williams (the most humble olympic medalist I've met); Bobby McGee and Tim Hola (fresh off a <9> "...the struggle is sometimes hard to see because it is not a struggle between good and evil as much as it is a struggle between the good and the best...
Those lines above sum up everything that I've learned in my adult life and explain why an ethical life devoted to excellence is, on reflection, the only option for personal satisfaction.
Back to the clinic...
Susan talked about Barb building up to sets of 3x100 on the stretch cords -- we need some of those for Noosa!
Tim's program at 24 hours per week in the big weeks shows why he's so dominant. For a working athlete to hit that schedule in his on-weeks shows a mastery of recovery and scheduling.
Tim's tips for what to do outside of training -- W.I.N. and mental attitude -- show where he gets a little extra out of himself and his training.
Tim shared this... "See Your Goals Every Day". Reminded me that I need to print out my goals and paste them up in Noosa. FYI -- I had an "8:29 Ironman Canada" on my wall for 15 months before I did it -- even dreamed about it in the summer of 2004. Cam Brown probably thought I was nuts when he visited my "shrine" (bedroom) in 2003.
If you get the chance to visit Siri's basement in Boulder then you'll see the same thing in action today. She even uses the same quotes as me!
W.I.N. -- what's important now
In listening to certain of the debates/questions over the weekend. I wrote this down, "Information is rarely a limiter". In other words, many coaches/athletes would do better devoting their energies searching for simplicity, rather than additional complexity.
Bobby shared his elite periodization pattern -- by week it goes Long; Long; Easy; Hard -- then you repeat. If you inserted another "easy" at the end of the cycle then you'd have a nice pattern for a five week "camp" in any sport.
Bobby shared his experience that fit athletes need to be worried about key workouts going too well. This has been shared with me by elite swim coaches. As we near true peaks in fitness -- we need to be extra careful as we have the ability to spend that fitness in training. Dave shared this with me in 2004 and I did a good job of limiting myself in training.
Bobby pointed out that Ironman running has more in common with a long hike than marathoning. He challenged the coaches with the question -- do you train your athletes to get the most out of their walking? Do you equip your athletes with the mental skills to get the most out of their walking? Do you enter your races with the strategy to get the most out of your walking?
I've shared his run:walk strategy many times. More can be found on www.BobbyMcGee.com
His best concept... was when he asked that we consider if we are training a central or a peripheral response with our training. Very insightful.
By the end (or even the middle) of an ironman race, most athletes have a peripheral system that is so shot that they have an inability to place a meaningful load on their central system. Ironman is an event that challenges the peripheral system. This is VERY different from nearly all other endurance events (marathons, TTs, road racing, swimming).
Bobby's run:walk is so effective because it preserves the peripheral system. I'm going to trial his protocol when I am down in Australia. It's a good time of year to experiment. He's got a <2:30 style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">
The local squirrels seem to have taken an interest in my pumpkin -- they have been eating my "G".
I probably won't be publishing much for the next two weeks. I've written a lot over the last little while and will be starting a very long business trip that ends (lucky me) in Noosa, Queensland.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with the links for my Long Course Clinic materials...
These next ones are PowerPoint presentations.
Take care and keep it simple this fall!
I was mulling a few things over yesterday while doing yard work. It was a toasty day (the snow's gone again) and I was enjoying rounding up leaves.
Over the last week, I've been reading a wide range of race reports and discussing season reviews with my athletes. There are a number of recurring themes that come out of these:
***the desire to train harder all year
The way our heads work, we have an in-built bias towards following our past decisions and beliefs. High achievers have a natural bias towards deepening this attachment. This influences the way that we perceive people, events and ideas.
This week Scott reminded me how it can be painful to accept a valid idea from a source that we find personally unappealing. The flipside also holds true, it is very difficult for us to reject a concept from a person (or coach, or mentor) that we find personally appealing.
Continual improvement requires a willingness to rethink our past actions and beliefs.
Our method of achievement will take only take us so far -- in many cases this is VERY far. However, eventually, we will need to consider if certain success traits (harder, harder, harder & more, more, more) could be holding us back.
Likewise you'll often see a level of anger or player-hate present in many top athletes -- that can work for a main set or even a long ride // however, it's a tough way to go about living and you can't maintain it indefinately. The next time that I see Mark & Brant -- top of my list is exploring ideas for moving through emotion to a place that I call "quiet power".
Back to the reviews and race summaries -- the observations that attract my attention run something like this...
...I choose X and it didn't really work out for me. I'm going to remember that and do Y next year.
A statement like the one above is very rare to see in public. If Faris only races two IMs next year then you'll know that he followed is his own advice from the Competitors Radio show.
My athletes, generally, share their most honest observations in private and (like me) need to be encouraged to consider if their choices could have been made a bit better.
How many times have you heard a coach say... "well, we didn't really get that right. Unfortunately, my program and strategy blew her up."
I don't hear it a lot -- however -- I do live it!
The best coach, and the best trainer, that I know... those two guys will readily admit that they make a lot of mistakes. It's the nature of life.
Many us suffer from consistency bias when we ignore the results of our actions (or our athletes, or our races). Everything in life is offering us feedback -- IF we are open to receiving it.
A common form of consistency bias is blaming external factors for sub-optimal results -- carbohydrate mixed with water seems to have a particularly toxic effect of many racers // it just might be worth considering pacing -- if you happened to be wearing a heart rate monitor.
Coaches should look to the results of their athletes -- athletes should remember that having a coach doesn't relieve them of the obligation to think for themselves.
Dave and I were talking about training this week. I told him that I'm putting together a team of top agegroup training partners for 2007.
He noted that I won't be racing agegroupers in Canada next year...
In a group training environment, everyone compromises a little bit -- generally -- the strongest athlete compromises the least. I get dropped a lot in training (even when fit). It takes a lot of humility to stick with your session -- many of the top guys end up alone to avoid having to deal with this aspect of the group.
Be wary of our tendency to avoid information sources (and people) that would provide us with evidence that we need to change our beliefs/actions. The best example of this in athletic training is the heart rate monitor -- many people simply don't want to have to deal with the fact that they are training sub-optimally. They say that it isn't "fun" and it isn't "fun" to be confronted by the dissonance created by consistency bias. For me, the fun has always been in knowing that I am doing everything possible to achieve my goals.
When our attachment to performance is greater than our attachment to the past -- we will find that we are open to new ways of doing things.
Most people would rather be right, than effective. We should think about that as we surf the internet searching for threads to reconfirm our biases.
Probably my most cherished belief is that the athlete that does the most training wins. In fact, I've often said in the past that I have never run into a problem that couldn't be overcome from excessive volume and focus. Well, that worked to a very speedy point (8:29) but I've decided that it is time to take a gamble to try to get past that point.
The gamble doesn't involve modifying any of my training protocols -- so if you think that there is a change there // I haven't been effective in communicating. My protocol is exactly the same with two exceptions...
#1 ***my focus is on absorbing (not doing) training
My first four weeks were 15/12/17/17 hours, including yoga. Typically I would slam right back into 30 hours weeks. This year I'm focusing on eight months of preparation, for eight weeks of training, for eight hours of racing.
The last time I "peaked" was August 2004 and I don't intend on peaking prior to August 2007. It takes a huge amount of patience and I am tested daily (by good friends with good intentions).
#2 ***I've placed a ceiling of 148 bpm on all my efforts
I am using my exact same training protocol, simply under that ceiling. I'm a lot more diligent with my strength and yoga than I have been since 2001.
When you start losing the ability to undertake the small things -- that could be a sign that you're hitting it a bit too hard. In October, the fact that I am enjoying my yard work is a good sign.
Aerobic Run Test #2 showed 20 sec per mile improvement. I don't expect that every three weeks. For those of you that haven't used a moderate protocol before -- results will probably be slower. Remember that I was in <3 off-the-bike marathon shape only two months ago.
I'll leave you with an observation that Mark shared with us in Texas. A high intensity early season protocol will rapidly move you to the SAME level of fitness that your achieved the previous year (it works). Mark's protocol is what, he believes, moves us to a HIGHER level of fitness later in the year (it works better).
If you've been peaking in April then choose wisely.
Remember that everyone around us has bought into our past actions/beliefs. Expect to be tempted by old patterns and partners.
To get different results from the masses, we need to train differently.
Before I get into this post, if any readers have ideas for securing 10 commercial treadmills at a discounted price then please drop me a line.
Step One of our pool project is establishing a year-round training centre on the site. The largest single cost item is our treadmills. We'll have world-class athletes (and kids) using them -- it's a worthwhile cause and I can tell you more if you drop me a line.
I’ve been thinking about useful traits for self-improvement.
If you’ve read my stuff over the years then you will have read about the importance of “one thing” – essentially the ability to focus on the repeated execution of one simple task. Success in any field is the result of linking up thousands of “one things” over time – in fact, that’s pretty much life – a series of present moment decisions. The decisions of the past creating our current situation.
The challenges within our life are often created when our decision making process breaks down.
Superior results, results that have satisfaction and meaning, most easily flow from an ethical and effective decision making process. There is an interesting conflict with all those present moment decisions – the trade-off between short term satisfaction and longer term development.
Successful people have an ability to take satisfaction in making decisions that most benefit their long term performance. This desire for long term performance (or the pleasure from working towards a challenging goal) dominating short term temptations.
Now we can take this too far, I have a very good friend that always seems to choose the option that is most personally challenging for him – this results in a lot of self-imposed discomfort. He seems to like it, though.
Another risk to success is dilution of effort from over-scheduling. Our society seems to have this concept that it is “good” to have a wide range of interests. Personally, I’m interested in winning Ironman Canada and growing closer to my wife. Those are my two true interests. I have other items that I spend time on BUT I don’t fool myself that outstanding progress can be achieved in them. I simply don’t devote enough time to them. You can’t win Le Tour and run General Electric – well, we know that… but how often do we block our greatness by seeking exactly that.
Success through simplicity. Why is simplicity important? Because success requires overcoming ourselves. I don’t know about you but when I deal with myself I really need to keep the message simple!
Training is a great example. Here’s my list for Ironman excellence (your list will be different, this one really only makes sense to me):
Those four items form the legs of my performance platform. Without them, I won’t get the full benefit from the tens of thousands of actions that I’ll do over the next year. With them, any reasonable training protocol will show good results. Without them, I won’t be able to support the protocol for great results. With them, my year will be successful regardless of outcome. A virtuous circle starts from the application of a few simple principles.
The creation (and nurturing) of simple success circles is a key role for leaders, mentors, coaches and parents. Within my own circle, the way it seems to work is that the opposite of each category (skipping training; sleeping late; getting loaded’ traveling lots) leads to other effects that derail increasing fitness. So while the circle is good, its greatest benefit lies in helping me avoid paths that don’t enhance fitness.
By making things as simple as possible, it gives me a structure to get comfortable saying “no” to myself and others. An inability to say “no” with empathy holds many of us back. I see some very kind and generous people that have their souls sucked right out of them by a failure to limit commitments. Within my own life, being grouchy is nearly always due to being overscheduled, or having made a decision inconsistent with my goals. Simplicity helps me avoid both.
Your circle will have different criteria – but mine is a pretty good one for adult athletes. All the athletes that I know that stick to it are pretty solid – and the folks that I know that deviate would likely improve if they figured a way to incorporate the criteria.
Okay, that’s just the opener! So there are all these positive actions, decisions, beliefs that need to be created, executed and reinforced for success. In addition, there are many items that I need to “give up”. There are a lot of different ways to give up…
…giving up items to create more free time
…giving up to stay within my success circle
As an aside, a need to be publicly correct is a killer for learning – learning to be “wrong” is a toughie . I’ve been fortunate in that being open to change is something that doesn’t seem to cause me much stress. In fact, I probably seek change more often than I need to achieve my goals. I haven’t quite figured that out.
My key challenges within my training:
***stay healthy and avoid overtraining // avoid creating situations that impair my ability to absorb training – as an agegroup athlete, I quickly realized that my #1 limiter was absorption, not execution, of training.
***stay within my circle by declining attractive opportunities
This piece is mainly for reminding myself because one of my challenges is continually adding stuff to my life.
To achieve more, I spend a lot of time focusing on doing less.
Many athletes use the early season (winter/spring) to focus on improving a single sport.
Generally, the greatest triathlon gains come from building overall endurance and cycling strength by increasing our focus on the bike. However, for many of us, this simply isn't practical once the weather turns chilly. As I write this in Boulder, there is snow on the ground. Good thing that I am off to Noosa in three weeks.
So what to do? Well, the first thing to remember with early season training is that it is EARLY! You have a long year ahead and you don't want to burn any material mental toughness with your program.
We also need to consider what aspects of our previous program held us back -- you'll be tempted to return to old patterns -- such as my personal challenge... overtraining!
Your overall goal should be to build the platform (endurance, strength, nutrition, flexibility) that will support your late spring and summer training.
Here is one protocol that is highly effective. I've used it several times in the past on both myself and my athletes. I hope it helps you.
Pace your season like your races.
KEY things for a running focused early season...
**HR <= the lower of (a) MAP; and (b) the top of steady run zone. Follow this at all times. Note that this cap will let you go a bit "harder" on the bike (up to mod-hard) and in the water (mod-hard to hard RPE). However, remember that this is the cap, not the target -- I'm not smashing myself just yet!
**You need to trust this protocol as you will be able to easily exceed. I'm constantly slowing myself down these days. Most people simply cannot follow this protocol -- they are too attached to their ego in training and racing. If we want different results than the masses then we need to train smarter than the masses. This is how we create continual improvement -- you can rush yourself back to last year's fitness, and that may be fine for some. Personally, my goal is to take myself into a whole new level of fitness. This is how I moved my IM run consistently under three hours.
**If you compare your normal base training heart rates with the "ceiling" then most will see that they have been doing a lot of tempo within their previous base periods -- pretty much all year, all days! This results in a narrow aerobic base, relative to our personal potential.
**The purpose of increased run frequency is time-efficient widening of the aerobic base as well as increased leg durability.
**With the HR cap, there will be walking on hills -- if I can walk then so can you. Your humility will serve you well on race day.
**Run duration isn't a key metric. Simply run 45-60 minutes each time, follow the cap, make sure that you have at least one day per week without any lower body work. For advanced athletes, after you've done 3-4 weeks of this protocol, you could add a second run on one day; or a long hike instead of your run -- keep the rest day! After 6-8 weeks you can add a longer run. However, the greatest gains come from volume built through frequency -- not longer or faster runs.
**Keep swimming -- focus on building bilateral relaxation -- get your continuous, relaxed, bilateral swimming to the point where you can swim 4,000 meters without stopping -- pace does not matter. A gradual build up over 12 weeks should be plenty of time for an experienced triathlete. Don't swim hard, don't bother with TTs, swim relaxed and as often as fits your life. This is how I moved my swim sub-60 minutes.
**Strength training 2x per week -- start embarrassingly light, perfect form, slow and relaxed. Be humble. Free Weight Squats are the single best exercise in the gym -- learn perfect form and how to rotate your pelvis forward/down to protect your back.
**Bike -- real low volume or placed on hold when stretching the run frequency.
**Yoga -- 3x per week for the first 12 weeks of the season. Huge upside here -- if you have a non-tri spouse/partner then do it together. Again, most people will not invest in this aspect of their portfolio -- as a result they tend to experience reduced economy and increased time lost through injury.
This gets you to...
Total = 12-18 hours per week. A stack for any working athlete and most people (living in the real world) will have to trim duration to get to 8-12 hours per week.
Remember that a moderate program applied with outstanding consistency over a long time is what builds fitness. You want to be a rock star at the end of the summer, not in March!
For reference, this sub-9 hour IMer is 12-15 hours per week right now including my walking and yoga. I'll stay here for a total of six weeks. That's AFTER a month of zeros and walking. I could easily tolerate more (volume, intensity, frequency) but, I think, that would risk my ability to hit it when it matters and I'd start to skip yoga!
Testing -- do a MAP test (run) at the start of the season and every three weeks thereafter. FYI -- my first result was 7:10 per mile (average) in early October -- personal best from 2004 was 6:00 per mile. I'll test again around Halloween. I use three miles -- you want to choose a distance that will give you about 20 minutes of running after a 15 minute warm-up. With
A few years back, Scott and I were in Taupo the day after Ironman New Zealand. If you scan the results over the years then you'll see that the year I was 7th (I think) there was a South African guy that was 2nd or 3rd. His name escapes me but he's an accomplished Ultrarunner -- does the Comrades Marathon.
That evening, Scott leaned over to me and said, "hey, let's go see what we can learn from that guy". We sauntered over and I had a practical demonstration of Molina's view that every successful person has something to teach us. Over the years, I've tried to carry this view with me -- some days I do better than others.
An openness to new ideas is a trait that characterizes many of the best Kiwi coaches. Staying open to new concepts is really tough due to our minds constantly trying to impose a Consistency Bias on us -- as well as -- our tendency to filter all input in a manner that supports pre-existing beliefs. Fire up any (and every) forum the internet and you'll see many experts demonstrating both consistency bias and pro-active filtering. It's something that we all need to watch if we want to make effective decisions with imperfect and uncertain information. As an aside, when I think I have certain and perfect information, I get a bit nervous. Life, as opposed to death, is more probabilities than certainties.
So that's the Molina bit of this story. Now Physics... first up, I have a grade eleven physics education so don't take _anything_ that I write as accurate on the science itself.
When I was reading The Quantum World I noticed that the author (Ford, I think) had a deeper desire that underlay his explanation of the technical detail. He had a desire for a unifying theory that could bridge between Newtonian and Quantum mechanics. A grand theory that would bring harmony to discussion in his field by fitting everything within a new framework.
Ford also ran through what physicists like in a theory -- simplicity, broad application, able to test, robust... these were a few things that I remember. His chapter does this subject a lot more justice and is a worthwhile read simply to understand (one view) of the components of an effective summary of knowledge.
Now what's this have to do with Molina. Well, whether it is: (a) endurance training; (b) property investing; (c) choosing life partners; (d) personal satisfaction & happiness; (e) a life with meaning; (f) raising kids; or (g) anything that is important to you...
In all these areas...there are a multitude of theories, protocols and methods for achieving an end goal. Some of these are stated explicityly and others are implied through our implicit actions, statements and beliefs.
Personally, I have the same end goal for everything in my life (My Prime Directive) but that's me. If you think about it then you'll likely have various end goals that are important to you and their importance will vary over time.
Time! Consider where you spend your time in your life. Depth of knowledge, over time -- perhaps that's a form of wisdom. Perhaps it is depth of self-knowledge independent of time? Perhaps wisdom is consistency of right action -- treat others as we wish to be treated.
I was on my run this morning and backing off from 147 bpm each time I got excited on this topic. On my run I came up with an exercise in the Unification of Knowledge. I'm writing it here so that I can come back next September when considering what to do for my retreat!
Choose any topic that's important to you.
How do you know that something is important to you?
Choose the topic upon which you spend the most time each week. If this isn't the most important thing in your life then you should probably re-prioritize before you unify your knowledge.
Another aside... don't be fooled by words or thoughts -- the items that we do consistently are the ones that are most important to us. Overlooking actions can be a fundamental mistake in business, especially unethical actions. The best lesson I learned in my early career was never back a "crook" and always be willing to make less money in order to retain your personal ethical standards.
I've known many people that spend the bulk of their week on actively feeding a sense of victimization; worrying; or being fearful. Know that you WILL get what you most focus on -- choose wisely!
Back to our topic -- let's choose Endurance Training because that was the context that I was thinking about.
1 -- Start a little book and in it write down statements and beliefs on your topic. Spent a month simply noting these items -- try to get as many different views as possible, don't classify them.
The internet is a great for sourcing a wide range of views -- someone once asked me if I was worried that reducing the amount of media input I receive would reduce the availability of good information for decision making. Here I would answer that one needs to separate "noise" from "signal". Most of the input from modern media is merely noise designed to attract our attention (through fear, envy or entertainment). In order to give myself a chance to process information on subjects that are important to me I try to actively reduce the noise in my head. I spend very little effort remembering things that aren't important to me.
2 -- So... after a few weeks of building the Statement List -- review it and beside each "fact" note: (a) I agree; (b) I'm unsure; (c) I disagree.
3 -- Once you've got all your beliefs down on paper -- sort them into their categories (yes, unsure, no).
4 -- Spend some time on each belief figuring out under what conditions it would be appropriate in the "other" camp. In other words, under what conditions would your true beliefs become false & false beliefs become true. A great reality check for an investor that doesn't want to sell is to ask him under what conditions he would be willing to sell.
5 -- On your unsure beliefs consider the sources (written, verbal, practical, theoretical, other...) that can help you learn more about them.
I often remind myself that most of my best lessons came from learning what was _not_ appropriate for me. When I blow it -- that's when I really learn. It's also something that I bear in mind with my coaching. We need to have a willingness to let ourselves, and our clients, make their own mistakes -- the lessons learned are far more powerful and longer lasting.
6 -- Then consider the various philosophies that are present in your field.
For example, a great swim coach once presented his philosophy to me as "build power; recover; repeat". That was his over-riding objective in working with all his elite athletes. Its simplicity had an immediate appeal to me. If you were an athlete in his squad, you would always know the overall objective. There can be a lot of power in simplicity.
List out all the various philosophies that you've studied in your area. For example, if your topic is "success in the workplace" then think about the most successful people that you've worked with. How did they approach the task? Which of your beliefs are consistent/contray to their own.
By the way we generalize all the time...
What I want to do here is look at the assumptions that underpin the generalization. Spend more time on seeing the similarities than the differences -- our brians prefer it the other way.
So after all this... we come to what I've been thinking about over the last little while...
The most powerful philosphies are the ones that are: simple; inclusive and effective.
If we are seeking to build a successful personal protocol then we want to spend the most of our time studying under teachers that excel in these areas. We also want to study under (ethical & effective) teachers that have approaches different than our closest mentors. We probably want to study a few heretics as well but not so closely that our ethics are diluted. Within my own life, there are a few very successful teachers that I don't want to study under because I find their ethics lacking.
Phew, that sounds like a lot of work. Well, it's a good summary of what happened to me in my 20s (through luck more than choice) in Finance. In my 30s, it is an reasonable summary of my conscious and unconscious approach to learning about sport.
Most people are not willing to invest the work (effort over time) required to become masters in their fields. Ultimately, success (at one level) derives from undertaking (and absorbing) the most work in a given field.
Anyhow, I know that many of us spend a ton of mental mindpower on the areas in which we have a passion. Within my own life, I think that this exercise would help me redirect a portion of my effort from strengthening my biases towards identifying, and broadening, my decision making framework.
One final thought that has been shown to me in September is that to receive we must learn how to successfully give.
If you are finding that your sponsors/clients/customers are not as forthcoming as you'd like then consider what you have been offering them over the last little while.
Effective people spend as much time figuring out our needs as they do in satisfying their own.
Hi All --
Had a few questions for more info on Mark's HR guides and the meaning of MAP. In the man's own words...
I'll be following this myself in my Base Preps -- the wrinkles that I'll add is a Three Mile run test (Pace to HR) and a 20 min flat bike test (Watts to HR). The number I am using is 148 bpm.
I spent the weekend with Mark Allen and Brant Secunda -- summary is HERE
My full notes are HERE
A good buddy asked...
Tomorrow marks the end of my most recent cyber retreat and I managed to take the longest breaks yet from email and (even) opening my computer. I'm tapping on M's machine right now. I thought that I'd share some observations from this period. It's been my longest chosen break from training _and_ work that I can remember.
It's pretty tough to truly do nothing -- I had a fortnight of pretty low output and found myself getting a bit tense with not taking any action. That surprised me but, I suppose, that it shouldn't have been that surprising to discover that I am hooked on action. The three people that know me the best have (in their own ways) told me over the years that I have an action bias and, often, the best action is no action.
I was very interested in that stuff that I wrote about last time so I reviewed the full length director's cut of What The Bleep as well as watching the supplemental interviews. I also got myself a copy of The Quantum World (2nd Edition, By Ford) to read. The last time I read a physics text book was when I was 17. It was a good mental exercise to try to follow along with taus, quarks and neutrinos.
While the film's suggestions (implied to me) about the wisest way to live one's life make complete sense -- we create our own experience in any situation. I didn't feel the same scientific basis for bridging quantum physics into our experience of reality. My experience is the same as the main players in the movie -- my views are very similar -- but -- I didn't see the scientific underpinning (yet) for the step to quantum reality. Still, I was remined of a very good lesson in the form of a question...
How often do we reject a good idea because of our view of the messenger?
Far too often, I think.
Following my foray into physics textbooks, I needed a bit of a break and pretty much stopped reading for a few days. The next book that I picked up is called The Anatomy of Peace. I suppose that peace is interesting to me right now because I sense that more and more people are thinking that escalating war is inevitable. It certainly is if nearly everyone starts to think it is (creating our reality).
Quite a few famous Asian authors talk about breaking the cycles within our lives and the book shares some ideas about how we can stop feeding the conflicts within ourselves and our own lives. It was a great reminder of a few things within my own life as I've been thinking a lot about the patterns and habits that I've been following with regard to my work & athletics. Many of these patterns have been highly successful but which ones have been holding me back. I'm off on a retreat this coming weekend to gain some ideas on where I hold myself back.
I've also trimmed my Top Ten list -- actually I've made a sub-set. I chose the two things that are most important to me from October 2006 to August 2007. The internet and my site didn't make the cut -- so you'll see me taking a much lower profile. I'm going ahead with... Early November, Colorado Springs, CO -- USAT Long Course Clinic, see the USAT website or email me for details. I have a few more things planned -- Epic Camps and Talks but I will be creating more space for my Top Two as one of my patterns has been extremely high productivity from high scheduling. I'm going to schedule less so that I can achieve a deeper success in my two areas of focus.
What is success? More than 8:20, I've come to realise that the true nature of the game is to see how close I can come to my ultimate potential. I sat down and mapped it out and came up with 8:17 in Penticton.
Why do it again? It is a search for the deep satisfaction that came in 2003 & 2004 from knowing that on-the-day, I had a race that came very close to my personal potential on-the-day.
So that's a point on the Top Two. The other one is M and I've been thinking a lot about her Top Two list -- atleast how it appears to me. In my heart, I know that we have alignment between ourselves. If you read any David Deida then (my view) of our relationship falls into some (but not all) of his concepts. M tends to experience "us" more than meditating on "us" like I do.
I'll be around a bit less over the next few months. I won't be ending anything. Rather, I'll be focusing on a couple of other areas that will enable me to make a deeper contribution when I return.
I had a buddy ask me about my annual planning process. This might be useful.
For a few days (I need 7-14), I get myself somewhere with no internet hook-up, no telephone.
In the process of doing this review, without distractions, you'll learn a lot about whether your effort is aligned with your goals. As well, you'll learn if your goals are consistent with your main satisfaction drivers.
I build that out annually and review it quarterly. It's been an immensely valuable tool for me.
Lots of folks resist the idea that we create our own reality through thinking about it. I always ask myself “how can I achieve anything without constantly thinking it about it”?
If any readers have contacts that would be able to assist with initial capital costings for a 50m swimming facility then please drop me a line. gordo at byrn dot org
We have a draft scheme and need more accurate capital costings to build into an overall feasibility/business plan.
I'll be offline from September 10-27 so replies could be delayed
I had an interesting DVD sent to me last week – it’s called “What the bleep do we know?” I was chilling in my hotel room and quite pleased with myself for being able to get my inbox into single digits and decided to treat myself to a movie.
The film (for me) is about “quantum living”, applying the thoughts of quantum physicists to our own world. It must be seven years now but I was fortunate to spend a week with a quantum physicist on a business trip to CalTech. Some of the things that he said to me on that trip made a lot more sense when interpreted with the aid of the film.
Whenever I listen to physicists explain the quantum world (in terms that I can understand), I’m always intrigued about how close their description mirrors the views of Krishnamurti; Zen; Buddhism and other people/philosophies that are, generally, associated with the spiritual, rather than material world.
I included an HTML link in the first paragraph if you happen to be interested in checking it out. Paul sent me the full boxed set of DVDs so I could review when I am flying around the globe (I logged over 250,000 air miles on BA in the last 20 months – I will be trimming that in 2007).
There are a lot of concepts discussed in the opening DVD. The one that most rang true to me was this:
***Emotions are chemical and electrical responses to stimuli;
***The chemistry is felt in our bodies and the electricity experienced in neurological pathways;
***The pathways most often stimulated in a neural net become hard wired over time;
***Repeated emotional chemical stimulation in our bodies dulls our cellular experience of these emotions. In order to generate the same physiological effects, we need more extreme and more frequent cellular dosing;
Now consider how certain emotions “feel” // also consider how certain people, places, experiences “feel”. Think about your boss, a specific friend, the house you grew up in, anything at all…
In our lives, many of us find similar patterns, responses and emotions repeated time and time again. Probably the two that cause the most damage within us are anger and victimization (the sensation that we are helpless victims).
If we accept that emotions are electrical and chemical stimuli created by our bodies…
If we accept that emotions are only experienced by our bodies…
…then who is responsible for our emotional patterns?
Even emotions triggered by our autonomous nervous system, we can certainly magnify or moderate them through conscious effort.
Further, one of the speakers on the DVD queried, “what is addiction”? If you click through then you can read what Wikipedia has to say on addiction.
Overlaying the Wiki thoughts with current thinking on the source of emotions… I’m left with the DVD’s inference that many of us are chemically addicted to our repeated emotional responses. I don’t know about you but that sure explains a lot of what I see in myself!
This gave me a wry smile because I can clearly see my success in channeling my emotional addiction in the direction I want to experience life – there is no more socially acceptable addiction that personal excellence.
Thinking more closely, I have two areas where I constantly try to redirect my emotional experience and one area where I have a more automatic and subliminal redirection.
Conscious redirections – harmony and optimism
Unconscious redirection – success
How do each of these three words “feel” to you? Within me, I know exactly how they feel to me. I also know that I have a deep and profound attraction to the way those words are experienced in me.
Harmony – feels a bit like exhaustion but more peaceful
Optimism – a pure form of love; a clean happiness
Success – feels like work; working being experienced as an efficient application of my talents towards a series of goals
These feelings are fascinating to me. Why? They explain so much about what I find in my life. They also explain my reaction (and effect) and many folks that I come across.
The first example that I didn’t consciously realize. When I think about M, there are two characteristics that I experience through her that I find lacking in many people around me. Kindness and a lack of anger. These two are essentially – harmony and optimism – the two items that I have spent the last seven years cultivating in myself.
As I run through the people closest to me, about two-thirds of them share a similar association in my head. They may not think of themselves in that light but I experience them through the prism of harmony and kindness.
Many people resist the idea that we create our own reality, that our thoughts have a direct link to our experience. There are advantages that accrue to chronic victimhood in our society, generally, personal satisfaction isn’t one of them.
Reflecting on the people around me, the situations that occur in my life, my flaws, my successes… it is tough for me to avoid the conclusion that I am creating every single experience around me. There are daily example of my experience being more satisfying than folks that are right there beside me.
This conclusion is very empowering for me. The implications:
***People and situations that are actively working against my desired reality need to be quickly and permanently removed from my life.
***Repeated undesirable patterns have their root within me.
***The high quality of my personal life experience is due to a relentless on three emotive elements (harmony; optimism; success) and dulling my emotive response to undesirable emotive elements (lust; lechery; anger; fear).
***Practicing emotional channeling (steering, rather than totally controlling myself) is the most effective way to gain control over my life situation.
***Every moment of every day provides me with a chance to enhance these skills.
Folks that are held captive by their emotional addictions – I feel empathy towards them. While I may seek to educate the world to how I experience it, my ability to change the experience of others is highly limited.
One last favor for me would be to read slowly and think about this phrase…
Gordo Byrn 2007 Ironman
Thanks for that,
If you are reading this entry then you are part of my extended circle. We might never meet or… we might swap an email or two… or we might meet at a race. Last week in
Some of you probably sensed that I wasn't really missing my Tri Forum -- to be honest, I wasn't missing it at all! I appreciated having the extra ten hours per week of time. Still, chatting with a few folks made me come to realize that it is a great vehicle for us to get to know each other a bit. As well, the value received by everyone (including me) is hundreds of times the effort that I put it. The internet provides massive communications leverage when used appropriately.
So the Tri Forum will return, eventually. We're going to rebrand to something like the gForum and get the rotating yin-yang sign in there somehow. I'm leaving that to my web-guy. How long to get it all running? I'm not really sure but it will be coming back -- I need to wean myself off some alternative boards that run the risk of infecting my mind with chaos and noise! Just like big cities, popular sites often reflect the disfunction apparent in many societies (reflecting the fear and lack of self-love of many participants).
Race week was a hoot and I nearly lost my voice from talking so much on Wednesday. M started laying ground rules on me for my own protection. You see, once I get rolling, I am liable to stand around in the sun for hours offering ideas on topics such as run durability and training with power!
Now that more people know what I "do for a living"… I find myself engaged in conversations about investments, property and finance. When my business and triathlon lives were black boxed from each other, I never really had a whole lot of conversational overlap.
Not surprising but very interesting (to me at least) how conversation is guided by association. I need to keep working at listening better because people tell you quite a bit about themselves as soon as they start talking. Five more years and I hope to be much more accomplished.
M has this gift for making people feel comfortable so she does quite a bit of my listening for me. In our relationship, we delegate roles to the person that does them the best -- in that sense we are quite "traditional" in our marriage. Our skills fall clearly into male/female generalizations and we like it that way.
However, with listening, I see the ability to get a real edge on life. Not so much an edge over the competition, but an edge over myself in being able to "see" what's really happening around me (seeing is the first step towards controlling). For me, listening is linked to observation. When I am hearing others quite well -- I am also able to observe myself clearly. This observational skill leads to good emotive control which greatly increases my influence over the world around me. In a sense, we can control people by listening to them.
After a two year break from the Okanagan, I was amazed at all the development that had taken place. I hope that I get a chance to live through another economic cycle where the Fed cuts rates way low following a stock market crash. It all seems so easy in hindsight. Of course, I need to watch my personal “fear of missing out” that we all share. Envy and Sellers’ Remorse are big drivers.
They have a saying in
Let’s say that I own an apartment that rents out at $1,000 per month. We’ll say that there is no mortgage against the property and my maintenance costs are $2,000 per annum. So I net $10,000 per annum from the property. Further let’s say that I paid $100,000 for the place, so my yield is 10% per annum. In an environment of 4-5% deposit rates that is a nice return. You are getting a great income return on your capital and have the upside for future appreciation.
However, in many markets residential and vacation yields are closer to 5%. So let’s adjust the assumptions a bit and say that I have a mortgage of $80,000; the yield is 5% and the cost of debt is 7%.
Where does that leave us?
This leaves a net cash outflow of $2,600 or a net yield of -2.6% against value.
I was 80% debt financed so my down payment was $20,000. My return on equity in this case is equal to -13% on equity (ouch).
However, in a property market that is rising by 10% per annum we would have “received” a valuation increase of $10,000. So our net position would be a cash outflow of $2,600 but an asset appreciation of $10,000 – a net move of $7,400 on our equity investment of $20,000 (+37% on equity, yippee).
Further if we manage to convince the bank to stump up some further debt finance against the increased valuation then we won’t even be out of pocket. When inflating valuations combine with high liquidity, it seems like easy money and it is, sort of.
The trouble starts to come when valuations stagnate and/or you get caught with the bank asking you to cover the cash shortfall out of your pocket. In those situations, things can start to look pretty crappy…
Three years rent is $15,000
The accumulated cash deficit would be $7,800 (a 39% reduction in our initial investment value – or – a 39% additional increase in exposure).
At a 5% deposit rate, we would have forgone a 16% (compound) interest – the money we could have earned by having the cash in the bank instead of in property. The swing is equal to 55% of our initial investment – on an asset that didn’t move at all over three years. So while we may get our money back in three years – we had to pay 39% holding costs and missed out on 16% interest.
These calculations are interesting to me because often we fail to factor in additional cash calls when we think about an investment. In the second example above, you’d be shelling out each month to cover the deficit – but – the value of the property would not be increasing.
Many people purchase vacation and/or larger primary residences under the assumption that they worst they will do is “hold their value”. In those situations, there is no rental yield on the property so the income gap is even higher. As well, vacation properties are (by definition) non-essential purchases. So our ability to sell is much more volatile.
When we are holding a non-yielding asset that requires maintenance, there is the cash outlay that we have to pay as well as the opportunity cost of the capital being tied up in the asset.
I wanted to lay out a simple example because I was sensing that many people now believe that property investing is a one-way bet, the worst you do is a nil return. In fact, like any depreciating asset – in a downturn you can find yourself locked in and paying money out.
Another common point of view is that it is worth owning any property that we will use ourselves. Well, that depends. I spend quite a bit of money renting properties around the world. The calculation that I do is to compare the total number of nights that I use a property with the capital cost (plus the running costs; plus the hassle) of owning that property year round. If you own then it is tempting to tell yourself that you can always rent it out. But do you really? Most potential renters will want to use it at the same time as you (holiday and peak times). Even if you are renting to friends, tenants are a pain.
Finally, beware that we all have a deep fear of missing out. Hearing about other people making money... Seeing other people own assets… …these things triggers automatic “envy” responses in many of us. So we’re hardwired to want to own “our” assets.
It takes a massive amount of discipline to sit on cash and wait.
Property can be a great investment. I simply get nervous when a see a lot of new people entering a field late in the cycle with an attitude that they can’t lose.
In a flat market, much of the “cost” is hidden from view. Property stagnates more often than it tanks and if you aren’t in a prime-prime location then you can be faced with crystallizing a short term loss or shelling out for a few years through a dip in local conditions.
In my business we have two mantras that we live by. We want to be able to: (a) sell in any market condition; and (b) find tenants in any market condition. This greatly limits the locations where we can invest and means that we pass on seemingly attractive deals in secondary locations. We invest a bit slower but the risk profile of our portfolio is reduced.
Here is some of what I wrote Scott before and after the race...
The big question (as always) is how hard can I ride and still run well. I've been able to check out the entire bike course in pieces and in whole. I have a very good feel for the key bits of it as well as the parts that require mental focus. Here is what I am thinking. I would value your input.
That will be a 90 minute main set and will get me along the flat, through the out-and back, and up to Yellow Lake. It is this point of the course where (nearly) everyone backs off and fades. It is a very good point to work harder. From Epic, we know that I tolerate this main set very well — it ends with a climb. I then have the long descent from Twin Lakes back to town.
Back to town, stay aero, stay relaxed, steady cycling
I'm going to run relaxed until the lake (the first 5 miles)
I'm not going to wear a watch on the run. No distractions, smooth execution, focus forward.
The overall strategy is to use my efforts where they will most benefit me. Treat the race like a personal TT and aim for my best overall time -- the fastest way for me to get from A to B. Speed up where others slow.
There are two hours of solid work on the bike and 80 minutes of solid work on the run. The rest is smooth steady -- moving along at a comfortable, efficient pace. Eating, drinking, good technique.
Matt Lieto decided to swim on top of Monica's left shoulder and was riding her for 1200m. She missed the first group and ended up pulling mine. Great swim, felt easy to steady. Some pick-ups with pace changes. The new wetsuit is pretty sweet -- came out with Jasper and Courtney.
Five guys passed me on the way to Richter. I was well behaved and let them go. 2:31 thought 90K, negative split. Drank a lot on the bike -- more than normal. I was expecting a hot day and that worked for me.
SRM #1: WHOLE RIDE
The maxes about look too high in some cases. The averages look about right. Note high cadence average, which includes a lot of gliding downhill. Once my pace was over 45km.h I'd back off. Quite an efficient ride for the split.
To be competitive, I need to get my AeT wattage back up to 265-275w. With my new position that should do the trick.
SRM #2: BACK HALF
Heart rate never hit threshold on the bike. Pretty controlled.
Peak 1min (362w):
Peak 2min (343w):
Peak 5min (327w):
Peak 10min (319w):
Peak 20min (300w):
Peak 30min (287w):
Peak 60min (262w):
Run — did the plan. It was pretty toasty out there! The issue with the slow run was more bike fitness than run fitness related. Once I get my bike rolling, the run should move back into normal territory. Nearly even splits, however, we had a buildign tailwind and that helped the return pace. When old school with a mesh singlet — kept it cool and that made a big difference. Think that I'll stick with that in future races.
SWIM: 51:57 | BIKE: 4:58:23 | RUN: 2:56:36 | OVERALL: 8:51:23 | POSITION: 3
TOTAL SWIM: 2.4 mi. (51:57) | 1:22/100m | 15th
TOTAL BIKE: 112 mi. (4:58:23) | 22.52 mph | 9th
FIRST RUN SEGMENT: 13.1 mi. (1:27:29) | 6:40/mile
The strongest man (and woman) won. The ten meter rule is great! Really makes the winner earn it. It's also easy for the officials to enforce.
Ten months to an 8:20 Ironman starts in November. Considering that I couldn't even run a half marathon last August, my body did great this year. I'm going to give it a big break.
This is the start of my Good, Better, Best thoughts. They are flowing from a desire to expand my seminar thoughts -- an outline can be reached HERE.
What I am working towards is a "master" PowerPoint presentation that I can tailor to various audiences. It would take me all day to run through the current draft and I haven't typed up the PDF attachments for Key Workouts; Training/Racing with Power and Benchmarking.
If I come to your tri club then we'll run through the key topics that apply to working athletes. Due to time constraints the only places (over the next year) where you'll hear the Full Monty is my November 2006 Seminar as well as Epic Camp (assuming I'm chatty!).
There is nothing "new" here. I'm pulling thoughts together from what I've experienced over the last eight years.
If you happen to see a gap then shoot me a note.
I'll be talking to the Seattle Tri Club on September 13th -- details on their website
My race schedule filling for 2007. If I happen to get close to your club and you'd like me to drop by for a chat then drop me a line and we'll see if we can make it happen.
Nov/Dec 2006 -- Noosa, QLD
I'll get to my Good, Better, Best post in a while. I've completed the outline and want to spend more time that usual putting my logic together to "make my case".
I've been mulling over a few things this year and watching the major economies -- from a distance, on a weekly basis through the Economist, FT and Wall Street Journal. I've also been reading a selection of research that some pals send over from time-to-time.
Interest rates -- globally, I've watched every central bank tighten throughout the year. This time last year there were some outstanding long term swap rates around -- oil prices, inflation fears, a more rational outlook and easing global expectations have made those disappear.
Housing -- despite rates moving up just about everywhere, prime housing is surprisingly robust. Within our portfolio (Prime Scottish Residential), we continue to see 10% per annum growth. The high end, in most places I go, is performing very well.
Inflation -- everyone talks about how we live in a low inflation environment. I simply don't see that. Now my life is quite a bit different that most folks -- my largest single expenditure is airfares. and -- following that -- rental accommodation. Step back from me, though...
What is the largest single expenditure that most people will make in their lives? Think about it relative to personal NAV at the time.
Now if you "own" your house then you've likely seen fantastic growth in your equity over the last six years. You may have also moved up the housing ladder possibly by increasing your personal leverage. I know many folks that have done that.
Consider your debt service obligations as a percentage of total family expenditure -- how have these changed over the last six years?
If you don't own then consider rent as a percentage of total expenditure -- how has that changed?
One of the things that I learned when working in venture capital was sensitivity analysis. Basically, we would dream up scenarios to see how our investments would fare under various outcomes. We also wanted to see what would blow out the banking covenants and/or leave us bust.
Here's one that I've been mulling --
Are you still solvent?
If you are under 30 then this scenario may seem far too drastic.
This table is great -- outside of the US, you get even wilder historical interest rate data. It's worth looking at the prime rate across your business career -- then look at across your parents' careers.
If you have a similar spread to my peers then you'll see why so many of our parents' generation were hammered in the late 70s/early 80s. The only experience they had was similar to our own. Now they had their parents' memories of the Great Depression but that was ancient history and they were in a new era...
Most of my adult friends have very little direct personal experience with the combination of asset deflation/wealth destruction and high interest rates. There are vague memories but times have been so good, for so long and their investments are so blue chip... that they simply can't fathom anything other than continued asset inflation.
It will be interesting to see where we are a year from now.
War in the Middle East -- high energy costs -- terrorism -- a contraction in consumer demand driven by negative wealth effects -- tightening global monetary policy...
Now there is a lot of very good news out there. Most of my peers continue to do very well -- the people that purchase and rent our properties are continuing to do well.
It's just that I can't help but run my scenarios -- and I sense that much of this feel good factor is being driven by the massive run up in global real estate values. Nothing warms the heart quite like our own home increasing in value. It seems so "real".
What drove these values so high, I wonder?
Leave everything the same as it is right now -- assume no further inflation, no deflation -- merely a benign scenario where we all move sideways for a while. If you aren't too leveraged then not a big deal for a few years. However, if you are highly leveraged on low yielding assets then there could be a liquidity squeeze.
Who knows what's going to happen. I certainly don't.
I've simply beeing watching (from a distance) global liquidity as well as risk. I have the benefit of moving around the world quite a bit so I get a feel of what things are like in many different regions. While successful property investing is very "local", the concepts that I have outlined above are pretty much universal from my travels in Asia, America and Europe.
I read all the articles on the US Dollar being overvalued but in terms of purchasing power, the States leads all of the "first world" places that I've visited (France, UK, Canada).
New Zealand still has a value-for-money edge over the States but that's driven mainly by a lower housing cost than an equivalent US city. I'm spending all of December in Australia and will enjoy having a look around there.
So that's what I mull over when riding long and not thinking about triathlon training. A rather long winded way to say that you might want to check your room-for-error with your personal leverage situation.
Hi All --
Click the title or paste this link for full details...