Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monkeys and Dentists

I enjoy flights and periods where I can rip an entire book in one go. Binge reading – along with all my other outlier habits – appeals to me.

Fooled by Randomness, Taleb – another of my (thankfully growing) collection of works that help me understand how I view the world.

Reading the early part of the book, I remembered a series of saying that the a few successful (for themselves and, generally, others) investors have mentioned to me over the years…

On Attribution of Success


[winking] “Gordy, we all KNOW that success is always down to good management.”


Allocation of Risk, Sharing of Gains


“The nice things about this business (Venture Capital) is the inevitability of the homeruns if you stick around long enough.”

If we don’t know then who does?

“Remember this, history tells us that we never really know which Fund will hit it big. If you invest then invest a little bit in everything.”



“Everyone that I know that has made it big in life has bet the
farm.”

…but didn’t the folks that went bust do the same?

++++

Monkeys – it’s the old adage about placing a zillion monkeys in front of a typewriter and one will come up with the bible. The result is a large variation in actual outcome across a wide population with outstanding performance due entirely to chance.

Dentists – a small variation in actual outcome across a wide population with a high expected outcome.

So which one am I?

When I view my life to date through the prism of a series of probable alternative outcomes (Monte Carlo self-simulation)– it is simultaneously terrifying and liberating.

Terrifying because there is no way that I can reasonably run a scenario that gets me back to my current situation, sitting here, quite happily, on this plane. I simply cannot comprehend a reasonable scenario that gets me back here. When I think about the key events in my life, the outcome that occurred wasn’t what anyone would have predicted.

Liberating because, either way, I am a big winner. If I am dentist then I am extremely good one. If I am a monkey then I am a seriously lucky one. Both ways, there is a large element of relief that I either figured something out (not quite sure what) or am pretty clueless and should relax a bit more (always a good idea for relentless planners).

In finance, I certainly feel more like a monkey than a dentist. As this was a key point of the very eloquent author, my self-evaluation is likely anchored by his book.

In athletics, I’ve been “insulted” by people calling me a dentist before – “anyone would get your results if they followed your path”. That never really sounded like an insult to me, still doesn’t.

As the author notes, because set-backs are experienced as disproportionately negative events, most people don’t have the staying power required to persist until a breakthrough (even if it is due to random success!).

As I’ve grown older, my attachment to past decisions has reduced and I’ve given myself increased freedom to change my mind – often to the concern of those around me. It turns out that the author thinks that this is a good thing for my personal safety as well as happiness. He states it much better than I could paraphrase.

Perhaps it depends on which aspect of my life I look at. There is a stack in the book so grabbing pieces that suit my self-view is probably how I went about reading it. I found myself highlighting passages in the text that held particular appeal to me.

Anyhow, time to spend a little time mulling over my one/five/ten year plan – net even a month old and time for a revision. Good thing that I wasn’t too attached to it.

A patient wife is a great asset and source of stability. She’s probably reading this as you are.

The only constant is change.

Epic NZ, Epilogue

So I am at the airport in Christchurch now. About to start a long journey to Scotland via Auckland, Sydney, Singapore and London. Not the most direct way to get there but the most comfortable & productive that I could schedule.

Had a great swim this morning. At the start of Epic Camp, I swam 2000m in 29:10 at max effort drafting like the dickens. This morning, I did a 2000m main set leaving on 1:30 base, holding 1:27.5 down to 1:22.5 per 100 (effort was steady to mod-hard).

Bumped into Scott and told him about it (I get excited by improvement). I said that it was great that Epic Camp helped me out so much. Scott pointed out that the several million meters that I swam from 2001-2004 might have helped me a bit more than 25K of swimming over the two weeks of Epic Camp.

He might have a point.

Because of my work commitments, I won't be able to train as consistently as I might like. However, a bit of forced rest is probably a good idea to keep me on track. When I get to Scotland, I am going to join a health club that has a 25m indoor pool. My game plan is to aim for five swims and five runs per week -- 20K swimming and 80K running. Cycling will probably be slim to nil. Still, I plan on getting an indoor trainer. Having it staring at me over the weekend could result in a few bonus hours of training.

My real European training mission is to make progress towards my 400 IM goal -- that makes short course more fun for me. Miss M says that I need to rip a 2:45 200IM (LCM) to have a shot at six minutes for the 400. She says that builds in a "buffer" for me. I figure that the number is closer to 2:52 or 2:53. I ended my workout today with a 3:02 so I have about 10 seconds to come out. I'm planning a TT for February 14th (three weeks time). Not sure if I'll go for the 400 or the 200. I'll let my coach decide.

The Achilles is perking up more and more. My massage guy was a little concerned that it might puff up due to all the flying. So... I am back on the anti-inflams for the journey to Scotland. I’m not the ideal traveler because I enjoy the freedom of being able to mix wine and coffee with my meals (a bad idea when I need to sleep).

So that's my news post Epic. To close out the Epic Reports, here are a few bonus ideas that I was mulling over the course of the camp.

What Price Leisure?
Friday morning, I woke up with plenty of time to get ready before heading off for the last day of the camp. It was a very pleasant morning, warm and clear. I made my coffee, chopped my fruit and sat down for a solo breakfast overlooking the estuary.

Realising that the view is just as relaxing from a rented house as one that I own myself.

Realising that breakfast is just as tasty when prepared by myself as opposed to live-in help.

I sat there trying to figure out the price of my relaxation, my moment of peace looking out at the Southern Alps and the water. What would I pay for this view? What would I give up for this view?

It is quite difficult for me to price the tranquility that comes from the combination of big training and nature. That's probably the best lesson for me from Epic. The fact that there are things that we can't price -- shared experiences with friends; time away from noise close to nature in beautiful surroundings. These experiences are very uplifting -- especially when combined with 70 hours of endurance training endorphins.

The Curse of Talent
Given the choice, would you choose to be a great talent or a great worker? We get both kinds of people at Epic Camp -- talented and hard working. Generally, most of us tend more towards one than the other.

For me, I'd want to learn how to be a great worker. Being able to achieve satisfaction from working towards a goal is a fundamental attribute of achieving both success and satisfaction.

Most the talented people that I've met (by this I mean genetics) -- by an large, they do the minimum required to get by and it's no surprise that they are often merely surviving. The workers on the other hand, they know that they have to constantly strive towards achievement. Gaining satisfaction from their daily effort, independent of the result at the end of the day.

Clas is one of the most dedicated worker-athletes that I've ever met. It's no accident that I have spent so much time shoulder-to-shoulder with him over the years.

A few hours later now, I’m on a flight from Sydney to Singapore and I’ve just finished the book Fooled By Randomness. Great read that had me looking at a number of things from a fresh angle. I might write about those ideas a bit later. Made me view myself in a new light.

Always More, Always More
I was driving the crew in one of the Epic Vans that Jonas claims to love so much (a classic story that he’ll tell you after a few Red Bull & Vodkas some time). So I was in the van and Clas and I were chatting about our ride across the USA – NINE (!) weeks of averaging 100K per day.

We get to the Lodge and Molina points out that he had three YEARS in the 80s where he averaged 100K per day. With riding like that I asked him why he didn’t win the Tour de France. He pointed out that he won a hundred races instead.

Point taken.

Later he would confide that with five to six hundred 200K plus days (literally) in his back, he might have overdone it a bit. I can’t win either way!

The next day Miss M points out that my two swim PBs were on par with the average nine year old girl. Love your ladies, challenge your men.

I’ll show you two!

Tap the Hate
When all else fails go to hate.

That’s what I kept advising the crew on Epic. I come across an ability to manufacture and access the power of anger/hate in many of the best athletes that I know – Baron gets pissed off a lot but you need to know him to see it. As for me, I can’t hide anything from Monica. We both do it and that’s why it’s tough to do real training together. You don’t want to “bring the hate” when your sweetie is nearby.

Plenty of good books cover that observation better than me. Just wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only one using that technique. Lots of people feel a bit “bad” for using it as training tool.

Epic NZ, Week Two

Phew, what a few days. What does a guy think about when he’s pulling for eight hours? Not a whole lot really but here are some ideas. I could probably make this a pretty decent piece but I’ve only got just over an hour until dinner.

Have you been reading KP’s blog? It’s being able to spend time with guys like him that makes these camps special for me. Always outnumbers, always outgunned, always moving forward.

Today at the base of Arthur’s Pass he asked me for my recommendation on whether he should continue. Earlier, he was completely screwed and Darryl (uber-support dude) asked me if KP was going to continue… my reply – that is up to Kevin, not me.

Anyhow, by the time we got to the base of the climb – we were all soaked, KP had his Northern Cali wet weather gear on (he thinks he bundles up, he has no clue – not his fault, he grew up there). KP’s back is history, he can’t even stand when off the bike.

So he asks me what to do – I told him the truth – with that back, there is no way you can make the climb, it is the hardest climb that I’ve ever done. I also knew that if he ceased up then there was a good chance that he might die of exposure before we could get him off the mountain. He let me ride away.

Riding up the mountain, there are massive waterfalls all over the place –Jurassic Park stuff. My Achilles tendon has been acting up a bit – due to loose pedal and my Week One pacing strategy (more about that later). I’m trying to get up on minimal wattage but as the guy with powermeters are sure to report, there was no easy way up that climb. Most of us learned that it really is possible to keep a bike vertical with a cadence <20 rpm.

I saw a second support vehicle heading down so that gave me some comfort that the lads weren’t going to expire on the climb. It really was that kind of day. If they post a photo of my riding kit you’ll see that I was quite well prepared.

Brandon rode up to me and was singing! I wasn’t sure if he’d truly lost it or was simply happy. It was the sort of day where we were all training well past ridiculous.

Still, we’re all safe now and that is a relief to me. Having Monica and many of my best pals on the road means that I get concerned when the conditions get dicey.

Oh yeah, we had an aquathon this morning. Monica took down the Terminator! It was the best that I’ve ever seen her run. She looked fantastic. Later she crashed due to a series of events and some wet train tracks – she’s OK now and resting beside me in bed.

Life can change very quickly. Up or down.

That was one of the things I was thinking about on the way up the climb – cold, wet and very happy.

You know, the ride is going to end soon – better savour it.

+++

The last two days (not today), I instituted a change of tactics. I wanted to see how fast I could get my mini-group from A to B without blowing anyone up. Some of the lads on the gTrain thought that I was doing them a favour. Like I told M, I wasn’t doing anyone a favour, I was showing off to my wife!

Molina tried to teach me something a couple or three years ago – we were on a four day bike tour and heading downhill. A couple of guys that had arrived that morning (Weekenders) went to the front and starting DRILLING it on the way down. I was like… what-the-heck? Scott smiled at me and said, “hey, don’t worry about it, let them be strong.”

Let them be strong.

Here at Epic Camp we have a stack of people that are used to always being strong. Probably always being the strongest in their training groups.

Well, part of what we do on these camps is take everyone to the point where they aren’t strong. We’ve all cracked on this camp – well, maybe not The Baron, but I’ve seen him crack other times!

Anyhow, the flip side is that we’ve all hard our strong moments. Part of what being a good training buddy, coach or friend is about is letting people be strong. Not giving in, rather giving people a chance to show that they are strong.

Once you look at athletes through that lens, well, a lot of their actions seem more reasonable. The guy just wants his shot of being strong – let’s give it to him. Probably took me a week to work that out – a week of getting drilled, an injury and two years since Scott made the point. I get there eventually!

Scott and Stephen are really impressive and I am glad that the lads had a chance to seem them in action. I’m also glad that Stephen had a chance to see how Clas approaches training. I suppose that part of what I might have offered the lads on my wheel was an insight that they wouldn’t seen with Clas (because they are out the back when he does that kind of training).

In a unit, if you build the trust of the weaker riders that you aren’t trying to kill them then they feel secure. When folks feel safe they focus on what they need to do – heads are clear – just ride as best you can – no man behind – the stronger will do a bit more work. It’s a different kind of strength and when you contrast it with a group that’s constantly attacking itself – it is amazingly efficient.

Besides showing off, I wanted to make that point to the people in my group. Set an even pace, keep everyone together and you can go a pretty decent speed. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to shatter a group – you merely need to choose your moment. However, to keep a group together and deliver that group with everyone (even me) knowing that they couldn’t have done the ride faster – that takes a mixture of strength and patience that you don’t see a lot. Clas has it – he’s an 8:21 guy – if you play nice then he’ll show it to you – if you play silly then you’ll likely ride alone. He won’t tell you though; you’ll simply find yourself with a bunch of crazies attacking each other.

Some days I can see it more clearly than others. Fatigue, injuries and long pulls – they clear my mind.

+++

I can’t remember what kind of shape I said I was in at the beginning of the camp. Suppose that I could check. I do know that I am in far better shape now and I haven’t (yet) received the physical benefit from the training. When we come back from a lay-off (or injury) there is always a bit of confidence in our bodies that needs to be restored – I told Mark the other day that he was my insurance policy when I was pulling the crew. I didn’t know if that was possible and felt better knowing that he was there in case I detonated.

I really love this stuff. It’s a relief to find out that my immune system is up to the challenge. I think the main thing that was holding me back was life stress and I’ve taken steps to sort that out.

Not sure when I’ll write next, perhaps on the plane heading to the UK after the camp.

The Dudes


Jonas, Clas and Bjorn set me up with TWO (!) Swedish bike jerseys, one Swedish Cross Country top, a Swedish Monster-Chocolate Bar and a selection of Alsolut.

Top guys.

National triathlon gear always gratefully accepted.

The photo above is the four of us in Hanmer Springs. The last time we were all together like that was World's Toughest Triathlon in Auburn, California.

Epic NZ, Week One

Sunday morning -- the bulk of the crew are just finishing up a local Half Marathon race that Johno and Scott lined up. Pretty impressive results from the lads -- have to say that I am impressed with everyone here. The guys are all training out of their skins -- hopefully, they are sharing their experiences.

Most of the lads hit their weekly PB for volume some time on Day Three -- and we kept it rolling thereafter.

I started the camp with new pedals and a complete lack of pace discretion -- gut feel is that the combination overloaded my calves and toasted one of my ATs. Currently hooked up to an eStim machine with Voltaren flowing through my veins (I don't like anti-inflams but I hate the idea of a van ride more). Tomorrow is 220K+ over at least 3 saddles/passes. Not really sure what's going to happen.

Still, it's all good. The lads aren't the only one's training out of their skins. This is far and away the easiest way to get into shape. I've been spat out of a few times but that's OK -- the guys doing the spitting (Skin & Bones Bayliss and The Baron) have what it takes to be low-8 IMers. Hopefully, Stephen's eyes have been opened as well -- he rolls a good gear on the flats for a 70kg lad. I was at the end of a five-man pace line -- dead flat, no wind and I went out the back at 45kph near the town of Hope -- that was Thursday. I was lost at Hope. I did get a bit of satisfaction of using my local knowledge to beat everyone on to the College through better route selection (I told the guys that I could be useful).

...and Mike C should remember that. He's right there shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Something about Canadians and big volume -- Robo Seth and now Mike. We need to think up a nickname for him. Something about these Canadians -- they are just so... cheerful! Great guy.

Jonas had a few tough days at the start -- I suppose two workouts in December (total) wasn't the best prep. However, he took the pain and is getting stronger every day. Mentally, it is quite a bit tougher for a <8:30 dude to get spat out the back then a <10 guy. The big guy had me doing fly in the pool yesterday and was back to his goofy self. I predict that he'll be back to his monster-self once we are churning down the Old West Coast Road on Thursday -- I hope to be there!

KP tells me that my board is spending a lot of time debating training protocols. Tip of the day... make a choice, stick with it for 2006 and search the dbase (while stretching) when you feel like kicking it around again.

Bella has been on fire the whole way. An example of how ride, don't think, can really work. She's riding blind (no HR, no speed, no cadence, no power, no problem!). Just hangs on. We dropped her last Thursday because she ran out of gears on a descent. Back on the flats, we keep the pressure on and, despite that, she towed Brandon back up to our group. Some folks train very well in a group situation, she's one of them.

So what about the title... well, Dave likes to train with Simon. Now Dave is the fittest guy I know in his 50s... however... Simon is the fittest guy that I know period!

Dave loves to run with Simon -- speed is addictive and training with the big dogs is a lot of fun. However, often our mind and muscles are stronger than our connective tissue. As a result, Dave spends a lot of time with running injuries and I've been known to comment that it's simply nuts to do run training with Simon.

If you've been reading Wim's blog then you'll know that my pacing strategy has been remarkably similar to Dave's. The results not far off either.

Oh yeah, Wim's taken the exact opposite approach to me. He's up at the front but conserving and being very moderate in his approach. That probably is not appearing in his numbers because he's in such good shape. One of the best things about these camps is getting to meet guys like Wim. I hope that we'll be able to train together in the future (fingers crossed he doesn't get too fast or I won't be able to hold his wheel!).

Scott's suggested easing off a few times, in private and in public, however, I can't help it. It's just a lot more fun to be the slowest guy in the fastest group.

Can't promise when I'll get a chance to write again. Things are about to get tough for the next few days.

Ten Hours

Well, ten hours has turned into 40 hours. I expect that I might get a chance to write a bit on Sunday -- depends as there are rumours of back-to-back eight hours days on the weekend. We'll see.

If you've sent me an email then I will get to it eventually. Current inbox is 200 and climbing.

The lads tell me that they are writing so hopefully they are offering sufficient coverage. As for me, I'm in survival mode.

g

Epic NZ, Jan 11th

Phew, I am surviving much better than expected. However, after another eight hour day of training, I need to go to bed. Hopefully more in about ten hours when I wake up.

The lads have found bootleg wireless so I'll let them speak for me.

g

Epic NZ, Jan 10th

OK, I am a little shelled right now so Dave's story will have to wait a bit.

Quote of the day to Wim and Mitch...

Wim: I wonder what it is going to be like when you guys decide to ride hard?

Mitch: If I wanted to ride easy then I would have stayed at home.

Tomorrow is dedicated to John Newsom. The first mega-ride that I ever did was with Johno. We rode from Christchurch to Nelson in two days -- 500+K.

One of my first bonks ever -- a really serious one where I nearly chundered happened about 30K into the ride tomorrow (that was about 180K into the ride that day). At that stage, Johno was feeling far to chipper and offered me some wine gums -- didn't go down so well. For the rest of the ride... "want some wine gums? each time we swapped out". Suppose you had to be there. Johno thought it was hilarious -- I was less sure.

Anyhow, it was rides like that that helped me really improve my cycling performance and learn to cope with the fatigue and emotional valleys that we fact in IM racing.

The guys did great today. Absolutely massive day on Monday then another solid outing with 3K swim; 140K ride; and 50 min run. Some of the lads tacked on to the ride and a few even swam 6K -- took them more than 2 hours!

Pretty tired -- I did better today and didn't hit the wall.

Tomorrow is a tough 180K on the bike -- a number of us are going to swim/run before. A good idea because we aren't going to feel like a run when we arrive.

OK -- more later.

Epic NZ, Jan 9th, round up

Oh my that was a tough day.

We opened up with 3200m in the pool (good to see Roly again). Main set was 2000 timed. I swam a 29:10 which was at least 10s per 100 faster than anything I had been doing in Montpellier -- can't beat the group environment.

Then we rode 190-205K depending on the group and the route home. I did much better than I expected for the first five hours. Some good times there. The highlights...

Wim and I dropped back for a pee and the lads picked it up -- swapping it out for 15 minutes we averaged 325w+ and bridged back. Just as we caught the group they slowed down -- naturally they claimed it was an accident we had to work so hard.

Did OK on the first KOM -- 9th over the top, no points but nothing too bad.

On the second KOM -- had a little more trouble, started to feel dizzy at the top but managed to be 7th over the top and get a single point. Probably the first climb (ever) that I legitimately beat Bjorn -- of course, he'd done back-to-back 180K days before today!

Later it was Swedish revenge though when Mister A freighttrained me out the back after 40 minutes with the A Team.

Had a great smile when we were sitting well over 40kmh and I am thinking about rolling out the back. I look over and it is KP!!! He was hanging with the Big Dogs.

The lads notched it up a level and that was it for KP, and me shortly thereafter.

Jonas smoked by a little later -- guess his van ride over the 2nd KOM let him freshen a bit... (check the photo gallery later, oh the SHAME...) he was penaltised. Anyhow I was going to say something but Bella was on his wheel. Big J pulled over and Bella put the HURT on me. Ouch! It's been five years since I was dropped by a girl and as soon as Jonas assumed control, I went right out!

Baron ended the day in Yellow by winning all the KOMs and getting to 200K. Pretty impressive given he's been injured for the last two weeks. He's very tough to beat when he has the attitude that I saw out there today.

My ride ending with an hour of personal time totally blown, nearly riding off the road once. I was pretty darn depressed. Then I got a flat, had a break and perked up a bit. After a 40 mintue break at HQ, managed to get my run done with a couple of the lads. That run was a big victory. No way I would have done that on my own.

Quite a few guys set distance and duration PBs to day, including Monica.

Tomorrow is a bit more reasonable -- 140K as 60K flat then 80K rolling up hill.

++++

Lots of emotional ups and downs for me today. That's a lot of what this is about. It's just like an ironman -- we need to learn to control the peaks and get ourselves through the valleys.

Have to say that I didn't really master my pacing. Wim summed it up nicely... "Nice ride today, g. However, given your preparation you might have managed it a little bit better." I think that Wim is going to have a great camp. He's got an excellent attitude and is in great shape.

Plenty of horsepower out there on this camp! We have some outstanding Civilian athletes. Mike from Canada was right up there all day. Dude has some massive quads and climbs like a goat.

OK that's enough. I gotta go to bed.

++++

Tomorrow is dedicated to David Plew -- your homework is to google the Queenstown AG Standard Distance World Champs.

I'll also write a little bit about what I am going to talk about tomorrow after dinner. "What are we trying to accomplish here?"

Epic NZ, Jan 9th


Woke up early. Slept real good last night. I think I might be close to 95% freshened up after my little illness.

Looking around the room last night at our briefing there are some FIT dudes on this camp. It will be interesting to see how things play out over the course of the camp.

OK, each day (if I remember), I am going to dedictate the day of training to someone -- a pal or someone else that I've either found entertaining or learned something from.

So today, today is KP Day.

Kevin Purcell is a guy that I meet about six years ago. He's come along to every Epic Camp that we've done over the years. The return leg of the ride that we are doing today is similar to the ride that we ended the first ever Epic Camp. With one exception, today, we don't return over Long Bay Road.

I'm sure my account of Long Bay Road is somewhere on the Epic Site. It is a climb that even had the Baron swerving back and forth across the road. KP was sitting on about 170+ bpm for most of the way up -- not because he wanted to, but because that was the only way to get up.

As he neared, what he thought was, the top. He saw all of us waiting and poured it on for a big finish. Admirable except that he had about another 10-15 mins worth of climbing along the spine of the crater. I remember smiling to myself and telling him, "great finish but we're only about two-thirds of the way up". His smile said it all.

Kevin loves choosing the hard way. In fact, as an advisor to him, I spend a lot of time trying to convince him that he needn't always choose the _hardest_ way. It's like that with a lot of my high achieving athletes -- I spend a lot of time dialing them down.

At Epic, we have a policy that everyone has the right to do as much, as hard, as often as they want. So we won't be dialling anyone down.

Of course, I hope the guys realise that Bjorn and Bevan are only along for the day. Last year, I spent a day on Mister A's wheel and never recovered.

Oh yeah, in that photo are Chris McDonald, KP, John Mergler and Clas. KP was training with a couple of <9 IM guys and a Top 5 Kona finisher. None of us knew that at the time, though. What we did know was that we all liked to train, hated to quit and chose to head up Long Bay Road rather than take the easy way back to town.

More later.

g

Epic NZ, Jan 8th

So after thirty-eight hours of air travel, we arrived in Christchurch. I had devised a detailed flight strategy for our trip. It involved carefully timed periods of sleep, work and movies. I managed to stick to my own plan and am feeling good. Still a bit of illness lingering in my sinuses so I'll try to keep my powder dry tomorrow.

On the flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, about twenty-six hours into the trip, I leaned over to Monica and confided, "I really do love flying. I can sit here, they feed me every so often, I can work and nobody can send me anything extra to do." I've always felt safe on planes, kind of like when you are hiding out in bed as an over-reached athlete. I even like airplane food.

Had dinner with Scott and Erin last night. Erin commented that it was the most social that she'd ever seen me. Fear and lack of fitness can make me quite fun to be around. I made a conscious effort not to talk too much and to avoid spending the whole night talking about triathlon.

Scott was out putting the finishing touches on his epic fitness (solo bonus ride) so I got to speak with Erin for about an hour. It was a nice insight into my buddy because a lot of the stuff that I heard sounded quite a bit about some of the things that M says about me. Refreshing to hear that I'm not the only crazy one.

Easy swim this morning in the QE2 pool -- that's really my favourite pool in the world. Lots of good memories there and it is the fastest pool that I've swam in. We'll be back 7am tomorrow to kick things off.

I picked up a new bike yesterday. The boys at BikeRight did a fantastic job for me -- all I had to do was put on my shoes, clip my chip strap and hop on. They'd saved my measurements from a previous bike fit so it was ready to roll. Pinarello Marvel, Campy Record 10sp, 175 Carbon Cranks, 53/39 & 12-25. The colour scheme matches my Oomph team kit so I'll be stylin'.

Johno pointed out that I'd forgotten to install aerobars. I pointed out that I wasn't going to be needing them!

Just in case... Scott suggested that I bring along a pair for old times sake. Fortunately, Johno had held onto my Syntace clip-ons ("You know... I won Ultraman on these bars...")

One of our bags was sent pre-Christmas from France to ChCh. Didn't quite make it here so I headed out shopping today. Found a full zip (long sleeve!) summer weight Castelli cycling jersey as well as a couple of new bib shots. I often wonder why more companies don't make full zip cycling kit -- especially the light weight long sleeve ones. Given that I am so pale -- I'll need the extra coverage to avoid being totally roasted here in New Zealand.

Johno and Scott have spent the winter planning all kinds of events for this trip. I may have inadvertently given them a few ideas back when we first started planning this camp (53 weeks ago). We are going to have some massive days. Scott was telling me about how he needed to trim a little distance off the Double Takaka day. I protested, "dude, these guys are expecting to be shelled, we can't make it too easy on them!"

Then he told me about the 72 hours that follow that day. Johno and Scott aren't disclosing the various "events" that they have cooked up. They'll probably throw me a bone as I get a bit fatigued over the next few days. Being cut into the planning always perks me up.

Well, time for me to pack up. We have our welcome dinner tonight and I'm looking forward to seeing the crew.

Oh yeah, my disclosure of the day. We are thinking about Epic South Africa at the end of this year. If anyone reading this is South African and wants to help organize that camp then drop me (or Johno) a line.

Conrad Stoltz is from Stellenbosch (sp?) and Simon said that he used to train there with the British Team. The time zone (and overnight flight from Cape Town) is very well suited to my business in the UK. Tim Don's name was also floated. If you know either of these guys then I'd like to get in touch with them to see if they can point us in the right direction.

My new roommate, here in ChCh, is from Cape Town as well. Lots of signs that this could be a good idea.

That's all for today.

g

PS -- tomorrow will be my longest training day (including IMNZ) since last January.

Epic NZ, Jan 6th

I’m going to ramble because I have four hours of battery power and not a lot of action happening here on British Airways.

Scott tells a story about how a mutual friend finds my story motivating “because he knows how slow you were, gordo”. I love that story because it contains some of what motivates me – overcoming gordo and changing the way I view myself. In 2003, I got the chance to motivate our pal. In 2006, I wonder who will get fired up from kicking my butt?

Sitting here above the former USSR at present. Not really sure where the plane is but I am well caffeinated and killing a few hours. The trip routing was my decision. I purchased a round-the-world ticket many months ago. When I do that I need to guess our likely routing. I had guessed that I might need a stop in Hong Kong – turns out that I didn’t. So we are about one-third of the way through a 36-hour (plus) journey from Montpellier to Paris to London to Hong Kong to Auckland to Christchurch.

I decided to bite the bullet and put myself onto New Zealand time as soon as possible. It is currently 3:30 in the afternoon Kiwi time so I’ve got a bit more work to do with staying awake. If I keep myself going then I’ll run out of batteries about dinner time.

In an earlier piece, I had mentioned that I was going to share my ideas on how I will attempt to get myself into decent shape again.

Being sick this past week after four weeks of training enabled me to get a bit of perspective on how time & experience adjusts our perspective.

Twelve years ago, my “illness comeback” sessions of this week would have been major outings in themselves. I can remember hikes in Hong Kong where 20 minutes of walking uphill had me sitting under a tree, slightly dazed and enjoying a break.

It’s amazing what we can train ourselves to get used to.

So Step One is completed – I managed a month of training where I averaged more than 90 minutes a day. I might sound forlorn at times but don’t be fooled by that. It is simply the natural ups and downs of coming back from a break.

A few months ago, on a day when I was being stressed – there were more than a few – M suggested that I get myself a massage to relax. Good advice – it was at my suggestion that she greatly increased her use of massage. I replied, quite seriously, that I didn’t have time to relax and wouldn’t be getting a massage until I was able to train 45 minutes twice a day. Ah the corporate life, so easy to get lured back into that mindset. I hadn’t written (or thought) about money very much from 2001 to 2004. Now you see it weekly, here on this page. We become what we surround ourselves with – choose wisely – a topic for another time.

Anyhow, I hope you found some of my writings useful on that subject. Remember to balance them with a warning that you don’t want to forget to enjoy your life. With people and jobs, we need to define how much we are willing to give.

Phase One was getting back to swim, bike and run training – and… seeing if I actually enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what would happen.

As it happens, it turns out that I still very much enjoy it. That’s good news as I have made a bunch of plans over the next few months and it would be a shame not to enjoy following through.

Phase One was also about seeing what my body could handle – specifically my lower legs, shoulder rotators and immune system. All of which were pushed to the limit in 2004. It turns out that I can still handle a fair amount – just not as much as I was hoping. I suppose that it was unreasonable to expect that I’d be able to tolerate 30-35 hours per week after taking March to November pretty much off. Still, that was my non-published goal in my head. In hindsight, that was a bit crazy but, then again, many of us in this sport are somewhat “fringe” in our outlook on life.

Right now, I seem to be OK with about 20 hours per week, 25 being the mark where I start to fall apart. As one would expect from a lack of base, I have a very poor tolerance for tempo (and above) work – always have when I am tired or rebuilding.

My unsupervised workouts pretty much all ended up counterproductive – if I had simply gone M’s pace then I likely would have avoided illness and logged triple digits for December (she did, both). My unsupervised training is a lot like how many of us train – wind up the iPod Shuffle, head out and hammer! There is a certain discipline that is instilled from 30+ hour weeks. You never go harder than you need to because there’s always that little bit of lingering fatigue.

On my “lower” volume protocol, I always have enough energy for a bit of spontaneous tempo – so far, all that’s netted me is unnecessary fatigue.

I realise the irony in 20 hours per week being “lower”. But, I believe that 1200 annual hours is minimum required for me to make progress. No point in editing that point of view because anything else feels like a maintenance program.

One nice thing about my lack of endurance training tolerance right now is that it means that I, paradoxically, have energy for other things. I don’t have enough endurance to make myself all that tired. I simply managed to make myself sick. Sound familiar? I see it a lot with highly motivated working athletes.

Accepting my personal volume limits, I have enough time for wife & work. That’s a good thing. I can think back to when I wouldn’t accept those limits and find myself strung out a lot. So maybe I am learning a few things.

The zeroes that I wrote about weren’t all write-offs. I only had one true zero and that was early in the month when I let a little work related hiccup create a distraction. The other zeroes all involved a bit of Japanese Training (that’s what Molina and I call walking). M particularly savoured the 80 minute powerwalk across Paris to the Gare de Lyon… “it is just five minutes past Notre Dame” We made it to the train with a whole seven minutes to spare. It was snowing but, as I pointed out, “at least we had a tail wind”.

There are a lot of good memories from the initial phase – I’ll miss my swim lane buddies from the Olympic Pool in Antigone (vertical breaststroke, stationary backstrong, snorkel man) – there was always something going on in that pool to entertain.

M's only body issue came following a two hour powerwalk during my illness last week. Her calf tighted (and is still tight) from being dragged out around Montpellier.

M asked me the other day to rate my fitness at the end of November and right now. Between 1 and 10. I defined 10 as rock-star, Transamerica, Ironman shape. I figured that I was about a 4 when I started Phase One. Right now, I feel like I am about a six.

What’s a six?

Well a six is about ten hour Ironman shape – please don’t make me prove it! That makes me smile because six years ago that was life best fitness.

M asked what kind of shape I was going to be in after Epic. I said that I had no idea but it would take a few weeks for me to bounce back. I just pray that I have the mental fortitude to keep my powder dry for the first week. I completely blew it with my pacing last year in Australia. Three hours on Bjorn’s wheel nearly derailed my entire camp.

What about Phase Two of my fitness program? Well, phase two starts on Monday – in about eighty hours, actually. I am using the airplane & illness taper (more than a few have led the way on this one) and certainly won’t be over-reached heading into the camp.

The opening day of the camp is going to be my longest training day since last January. I’ll be out there longer than my time from Ironman New Zealand last March. Fortunately, we have a big camp and I am sure that there will be some folks that I can work with on the way back from Akaroa.

If you hear reports that I am being unusually friendly then you’ll know that I’m hurting and looking for a wheel. True class is being a team player when you don't need to be -- Johno showed that last year in Australia. Put more into the group than his personal standing in the point competition.

Now what about my approach? I’ll share a conversation with you that I had on the Queen K last October. We weren’t racing in Kona, rather we were a couple of guys chatting while watching other people race.

Dude: So are you going to race again?
G: Sure, just not sure if I can handle the training.

D: That’s good to hear. What are you going to change about your approach this time?
G: Nothing, really.

D: Nothing?!
G: Nope, I think I got it right last time around. I’m going to have six months completely unstructured – no main sets, no pressure, no structure. Do as much volume as I can tolerate, have fun, just like in 2003. Then I’ll do a race and see where I am at. If I am having fun then I’ll crank the volume further, ride across the US in 2007, freshen and do a specific preparation block.

D: Geez Gordo! How can I compete with that?
G: You can’t.

…and only one of us was joking.

That said, it’s easy to talk the talk. On Monday, I’ve got to walk the walk. Phase Two is Epic, a bit reckless to do it with my lack of base but I have a two week business trip scheduled for when the camp completes.

The trip will be followed with two weeks of work followed by another training camp, this time ten days in Tasmania.

What I am planning is one high volume week per month to push my endurance bounds. The rest of the time… wife, work and sport will exist in harmony -- due to my fitness matching very well with the time that I want to commit to my marriage and business.

Being able to pursue high level performance in one area can be counterproductive to achievement in other areas – mentally, I’m a bit thankful for that right now and that could prove to be a limiter in itself in due course.

When I was working in Hong Kong (1999/2000), I found that my main limiter was ability to recover from training – this time around, so far at least, it is pretty similar.

Twenty five hours of air travel to go!

Freedom

The perception of personal freedom is a fundamental part of what makes me happy.

The perception of a lack of personal freedom – the feeling of being overly constrained due to a sense of duty. This is a source of a lot of aggression, violence and dissatisfaction.

Getting one’s self to the point where there is an element of freedom – that can be a source of calm. Because of this, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that life is a choice – there are implications of each choice and not all of these are pleasant but... it is still _always_ a choice.

Being sick is getting _real_ old and winter has worn out its welcome in gWorld. That’s most likely because the illness isn’t hitting the road. I’m reduced to long walks around Montpellier – I've got this hot walking buddy that accompanies me -- walking her gordo.

December has reminded me about the athletic edge that I gave myself from avoiding the need to bunker-down and do “yet another” session in the cold. I knew that there was a reason that I started living in the tropics and swapping hemispheres.

Financial Freedom

What do you think when you hear those words? I think that most people would think about being able to _spend_ whatever they want.

Dietary Freedom

Is that about being able to _eat_ whatever we want?

Sexual Freedom?

How about that one?

In a consumer society we often think that additional happiness comes from being able to consume more – spend more; eat more; fool around more; drink more… whatever grabs our fancy.

It comes back to what I wrote about intent.

If we take away the controls then (at least initially) we can get a bit slack. Drop by any university campus and you can see that in action.

Lately, my thoughts have been on financial freedom. I'm a planner and I've used December to plan through 2006 (first) then through to my 40th (last week) and most recently through to my 50th (last few days).

When we understand how certain things support key long term goals -- that can make little short term inconveniences appear in a different light.

The trade off between the quick & easy option and investing for later return -- making that decision frequently -- building that into our core habits. That is a key element of the process of achievement. Nutritional success, financial freedom, many things are built upon the consistent application of this habit.

So here is what we did...

In the fall, we tracked every single expenditure we made in a 30-day period, right down to our lattes.

Many people prefer not to have this info staring them in the face. I've worked with some highly successful people that have no idea what and where they spend their money. They are rarely financially free.

I knew the number was going to be large. When I returned to the workforce, I had ratcheted my overheads back up to Hong Kong levels, telling myself that "I could afford it" and I could, today.

Later, I asked myself:
...what happiness was my incremental expenditure buying today?
...what was the potential cost tomorrow in terms of my freedom?

Going back to fulltime corporate work involved an element of sacrifice, a fairly compensated sacrifice but... if I simply blew all that compensation (because "I could") then the actual return on time invested would be pretty low. Nil, acutally.

Not surprisingly, as I get older, I realise more and more than personal satisfaction received relative to time invested, is an important consideration. Perhaps the only consideration once we are on track in our lives.

With our cash outlay tracking, I asked Monica to guess the ending figure in advance -- let's call her guess X. By the end of Week One we were at 1.5 of X. Ten days in we were at 2X and we finished up the month at 3X.

Most people can only name 35% of their monthly expenditure. I did a little better with my initial prediction being 85% of the total. To be fair to M, she didn't have the benefit of seeing what I was spending on the road starting up my company. She did well given the lack of transparency, what she didn't realise was that our household expenditure was 3x what she saw, suppose that I wanted to make that point. She's the more fiscally prudent member of the team so it wasn't required.

Armed with the base line figure, I projected out a full year including: personal expenditure (mainly travel for me); business overheads (office, staff and more travel); health insurance; rentals; and holidays.

With all those outgoings starting me in the face, my potential sources of income started to look a heck of a lot more attractive. Situations that appears to impinge my freedom rapidly changed into attractive ways for me to cover my overheads.

I also clearly saw that the easiest way to avoid items that irritate, or impinge, is to remove the expenditure that they are required to finance.

How does all this relate to freedom?

I need to set the scene for that.

Peter Drucker did a series a few years ago for the Economist (worth reading and if you have an on-line subscription you can review). One of the, many, interesting concepts was that human resources are the means of production in a knowledge based economy. Put plainly, when the "factory floor" is a desk with DSL, then YOU are the capital that drives your business. The implication being that if you are a smart person with marketable skills then you aren't tied to your employer. At least, in the same way as if you were a manual employee in the 'old' manufacturing based firms of the past.

Dental hygenist;
Paralegal or lawyer;
PA;
Accountant;
Marketing ececutive;
and on and on...

All of these positions are highly mobile. You need an office from which to work and other members of a skilled team but... you are highly mobile with a good skill set.

What can constrain that flexibility?

Mortgage payments;
Car payments;
Any form of personal debt;
The perception that you _need_ to live at a certain level of _expenditure_;

All of the above created (and sustained) by a high personal expenditure relative to personal savings.

To be able to utilise the freedom inherent in our skills is a key requirement to leverage one's self in a knowledge based economy. More plainly, in many things, you'll only negotiate your best deal when you are willing to walk away from the table.

Indeed, I'd say that it is an essential part of being able to get a fair price for one's services. Employee turnover is costly and inconvenient -- increasingly so as we become more and more ingrained within a successful organization.

So there's a double whammy -- personal overspending increases our reliance on our sources of income; and reduces the personal freedom that comes from savings exceeding expenditure.

Personal financial freedom being the ability to live the way we want, rather than spend whatever we want. One doesn't need to be financially rich to be free in this sense.

There are only a few sectors (and people) where external sources of capital enable long term deficit spending. When I think about that I come up with charismatic entrepreneurs and the US Government.

Phew, that was a long aside.

That was the set-up for building my strategy from 40 to 50 years old. Those can be highly productive years for the well placed knowledge worker. By then, we will have 15-30 years of work experience and a pretty good contacts network (or at least had a fair shot at building our network).

Network is a good way to consider it. If it is all about human capital then access to people and education become more and more valuable. I was trying to get to that in my MBA piece. The value lying in attaining access to, education from, the very best people.

In our 40s, we are old enough to give backers comfort that we know what are are doing, but not so old that people are concerned about our being too old to follow through. There is a clear age bias that starts to creep in from 55 onwards. I have witnessed that, and been a part of it.

Setting one's self up so that at 50, you have a high degree of financial freedom, that is very valuable in my book. Financial freedom defined as being able to live the way we want and work for who we want (most likely ourselves).

Now 13 years is the furthest that I've ever looked out. Generally, for business and personal planning, the furthest I plan is five years. Those five year plans change radically every one to two years. Knowing that change is going to happen, and not being married to the plan, is essential for success in a constanly changing environment (be it your company or your body).

Why did I look out so far this time?

My 2005 review showed me two things: (a) that I was on track from an NAV (net asset value) point of view; and (b) my overheads had jumped up significatly.

I wanted to figure out what was required to stay on track. Could I truly afford to live the way I thought? Like all good financial analysis, I built up a little spreadsheet for that...

The next step (for me) was to take a closer look at my expenditure and figure out if we are getting value for money on each line item. Nothing radical in business but how often do we do that personally? The personal annual budget -- worth considering on January 1st.

If you got this far then well done!

That was quite a mind dump and so I'll finish up with a little story for you.

It's not about me, although I do live a bit like the central character.

"Bob" started his career at 20. He sold retail for minimum wage in a small town. Not many people know that about him but he'll happily tell you about his background if you ask.

Given that he's an expert in his field, most people that meet him want to get some free consulting from him. So that ask him about what he knows. I was lucky, the first time I met him, I was tired so I simply listened while he told me the story of what he did.

Bob was good at retail. He knew a lot about his product range and was an avid user of the brands that he sold. Over time, some of his customers asked him for consultancy advice. At first, Bob couldn't believe that people would value his advice. He was flattered and worked for free. Eventually, his customers became paying clients.

Roll forward twenty five years. Bob's been a student of his field and the "science" of business. He's moved from retail, to consultancy to the founder of his own consultancy company.

Step by step.
Piece by piece.
Day by day.
Year by year.

Recently, "Steve" was talking to me about Bob. Steve wasn't talking about this story. Steve mentioned (with a slight tinge of envy) that Bob was taking another month-long cycling vacation. He was saying that it would sure be nice to have the financial freedom to do stuff like that.

Get it?
If you do then you are lucky.

Most people only see the vacation.

Choose wisely.

December

If I get myself rock-star-fit again then I hope I come back to this post so I can appreciate the turnaround.

Had a look through my log for December and did a few calculations -- I'll end up with a decent kick-off month -- given the previous nine months...

Depends on what I get up to tomorrow -- which won't be much because the cold isn't really budging -- so I estimate... Swim 11 hours; Bike 52 hours; Run 17 hours; and Strength/Core/Balance 5 hours. Grand total 85 hours and 3 zeros (zeros are killers at lower volume).

FWIW -- 85 hours was my total from Epic Oz last January (12 days worth). I've also got a piece in my head about what my 'real' strategy is for getting back into shape. I might save that for an Epic NZ entry or perhaps crank it out this coming week -- I'm not good at waiting once something is in my head.

If you look at the SBR allocation then there will be no prizes for guessing what I think is important for getting my endurance back.

As for the Four Pillars... I managed to swim 4000m (LCM) three times this month -- average time was 68 minutes. On the bike, I managed one five hour, fairly continuous ride (the rest had plenty of breaks). On the run, I managed a few 1:40 runs -- probably 20K each.

I had three overuse injuries and one illness. Plantar Faciitis, Popliteus Tendinitis and a general knee tendinitis that I haven't quite diagnosed. All three of stem from moving my bike volume from 5 hours in November (last four days) to 50+ hours in December (probably more fair to report that I went from 0 to 55). I've dealt with them all before and (thanks to M's massage) managed to get them reasonably under control.

I was getting a bit on myself about my month, I was well short of target. I figured that might happen and that's why I didn't publish any targets.

To perk myself up, I pulled out my 2000 training log (God Bless it) and selected two months at random Feb/Mar when I was training for IMOz (10:0x was the outcome, I think). Neither was over 80 hours -- only two zeros for both months combined and one of those was during a USA/UK/India trip and might have been caused by the date line. Pretty consistent, a lot of frequency and a few races.

OK, no need to panic just yet.

Still, I can't help but think how far I need to travel from where I am today -- I suppose that's the real challange. Keeping my will and plugging away. It seems pretty daunting given how easily I get totally shagged these days. Epic will be a lesson in pain!

M suggested an indoor bike trainer for Scotland -- I'd already planned on a pool/gym membership. She's been pretty spot on with her 'suggestions' and is the newest member to my coaching team.

She didn't know that she'd been appointed.

Guess she does now.

Why

As I’ve mentioned before, English entertainment is a bit sparse here in Montpellier. So this afternoon I found myself snuggled on the couch reading the internet with Monica.

Sitting side by side reading various sites and talking about the articles – when I think about that it shows how much things have transformed over the last few years. I think that I only set-up my first email account ten years ago.

Miss M is just as entertaining to me as the various crazies that one finds posting around the internet. I think that she views parts of the internet like The Gerry Springer Show –you are a bit embarrassed for watching but… you keep coming back! My secret this afternoon was that I was able to remember when I was exactly like the lads that were causing her a bit of horror. I kept that part to myself but she’ll know now as she’s an avid reader of this sliver of cyberspace.

I was reading various posts about goals, resolutions, top ten lists – what hit me initially was the emotion, the passion behind some of the posts.

THIS IS THE YEAR WHERE I WILL FINALLY KILL MY BOSS

Well, the post wasn’t exactly like that but it wasn’t far off and often interpersonal relations are best left off a public forum. The holidays are an emotional time for folks, he probably had a tough day… that’s what I told myself at the time.

Later, when I was lying in bed. My mind wandered a bit and I started to think through what had sparked something inside me. So here goes…

I am regularly asked for my opinion by strangers on a wide range of topics. That can make me uncomfortable at times. Why? Because I know that the decisions that work for me probably won’t work for you. The secret isn't what we do -- the secret is doing what each of us must do.

When I hear about people following a path that is similar to my own, I feel a certain responsibility. Wondering if perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut. But I don’t, and I can’t… so I get up in the middle of the night and write.

As an aside, I have had a few folks ask me whether I would start doing podcasts of my blog. The answer, for now, is no. This writing is really for me. To clear my head of a few things and remind myself of things that I want to remember. That’s also why we won’t be turning on comments. I don’t really want to debate. I simply want to write and move along.

Also, if it was a podcast then the voice that you would be hearing is mine. Right now you are listening to yourself. One of the things that I like so much about writing is that I disappear once I’ve done my work.

Now I should be careful of reading too much into how a stranger’s “to do” list impacts me but I spent most of today on the couch with a sore throat and can’t seem to turn off my head.

A little over six years ago, I put together my first top ten list. I had come to the point that the previous ten years had been fun but that I hadn’t given much thought to what I wanted to do. I spent all my time moving ever upward and onward. I’ve written that out before – and my wife saved it – so perhaps I’ll publish that at some stage.

So I wrote out my list and proceeded to chip away at it. It worked really well for me and five years later… we’ll I found myself in Kauai with nothing left on that list. It took me nearly a month to come up with a replacement. Now how did that list go? I’m not really sure because one year in I’ve got exactly the same list.

Does that mean that I haven’t _done_ anything in the last year?

Actually, I’ve done quite a bit and I’ve thought a lot about what I’ve done. Previously, I’ve advised… figure out where you spend your time/money/energy; figure out what gives you satisfaction; and align the two as best you can.

Reasonable advice, I suppose. It’s worked very well for me.

In building our goals, our lists – I would also add that they are most useful in helping us gain an understanding of what motivates ourselves. What lies behind our lists, our plans, our daily lives?

That last point is a fundamental one. Part of the reason we should all take an annual break is to provide ourselves with some space to consider “why”.

While I haven’t crossed off anything in 2005, I have come to better understand the source of my desires as well as what motivates me. There’s also been a realization that our goals have no inherent value in themselves – the value comes from living our lives consistent with achieving them.

I’ve also come to realise that my most important goals are the most “grey” and that they’ll likely never be crossed off. On my first top ten list I only had one truly “grey” goal – and it was the last for me to solve.

My business partner tells me I think too much. He could be right – I’d certainly sleep better if I could turn my head off. There is a strong link between relaxation and exhaustion in my life.

One final thought – I was reading Cosmo the other day (wife’s copy, you know…) and they had a Top Ten list – something along the lines of “signs that it is time to dump your man before New Year’s”. Well, #6 or #7, was… he’s talking about training for an Ironman in June and it is only December…

You’ve been warned.

There will come a time...

If you’ve surfed my new coaching website then you’ll see a few pictures there. My web guy, Brian Johnson, chose them and I was surprised that he managed to capture some of the my favourite memories. Cool.

In one of the photos I am handing over a framed IMC finishers photo to John “Dr. J.” Hellemans. The Docta’ is a guy that I hold in very high regard and I consider him one of the finest people I’ve ever come across. So I was pretty stoked to be welcomed to the Wall-of-Honour that sits behind his desk.

Since I am kicking back and reminiscing, here are some key things that I learned from John…

I like my athletes to learn how to train by feel.

Heart rate monitors, powermeters, pace… all of these are meant to help the athlete dial in their subjective perception – learn how different efforts feel. Gizmos support our ability (and responsibility) to learn.

Know two things about Scott (Molina), he has spent more time overtrained than any other person that I know. [thinking…] …and, I suppose, he has won more races than anyone I know.

We were kicking around training protocols in 2003. My approach had concerned him a bit because I was pretty much always shelled (but happy). In my lactate tests, I had zero top end for over a year. Like all great coaches that I’ve known, even if he disagrees with a protocol, he has a respect for results.

I wouldn’t worry too much about that, in my view you were pretty close to full blown overtraining.

Offering me comfort when I DNF’d Ultraman in 2003. He had been worried that the race was going to finish me off after pushing very hard through IMC2003 fatigue to prepare.

Bear in mind that your constitution is better than most.

Remember that you have to do the training that is right
for you, not him.


Two reminders that we must match training protocol to the needs of the athlete, rather than the athlete fitting the needs of the protocol.

The first quote was explaining, in a way, why he still thinks that my approach to IM is risky.

The second quote was a form a reassurance, in a sense. I was a bit worried about the way a buddy was approaching his race. John’s advice was that ultimately we must do what we think is best for ourselves – I like that approach because sink/swim I have ownership for what I am choosing to do.

Are you sure that you don’t simply like working with him because he does what you say?

A doctor’s reminder that as a coach we must be wary of control factors in any advisory relationship. It caused me to think deeply about the plan I was offering a friend. I tried offering him “what I thought he needed” – turned out that didn’t work to well! So we took a break then went back to what my heart knows works. Hopefully, that will turn out to be what he needs!


But the #1 thing that Hellemans told me – I haven’t needed it yet but perhaps that is because I think about it so much. With regards to honour, drugs and cheating:

“Gordo, there will come a time when you have to choose”

Sitting here more than a year past my life best performance. I understand more fully what he may have meant.

I think that folks tend to lose their moral compass when they start to define success relative to others than themselves. It’s also a key to enjoying the work required for success. Whenever I have shifted a training emphasis from “enjoying what it takes to improve” to “doing the training required for a target performance” – things have become a lot tougher.

A good safety mechanism is working on holding our intent to ethically overcoming ourselves. There is a clear risk if we lack purity of intent because short cuts work, in the short term. In the long term, you lose a lot more than simply knowing that you ethically quit.

There is an element of irrational obsession required to achieve a high level in any field, particularly ultraendurance athletics where performance goes far beyond any reasonable view of health or well-being benefits. Of course, there is a counter argument put forward by many-a-compulsive athlete, such as myself, that the alternatives to excessive exercise aren’t all that palatable to me, or those around me.

Anyhow back to John. As a physician I think that it is fair to assume that he’s armed with a wealth of knowledge on both sides of the sports ethics fence.

As my own knowledge of the physiological requirements of a blazing fast Ironman have grown…

As my evangelical dedication to the training required to improve has borne fruit…

…I’ve come to realise that a well trained athlete in a thinly competitive sport such as Ironman triathlon can easily move from international class to world class with a single cycle of PEDs. Nothing new there as we have all seen what PEDs do to a world class athlete.

I suppose the difference is that I never thought that the dilemma could reasonably apply to me. I always figured that I’d be 30-60 minutes behind the best. Now I see that in my best shape, I was likely 5-15 minutes behind. That gives me a fuller appreciation of how it can be tempting.

Not related to John but that reminds me of something – Scott was telling me about something that bothered him the other day. Perhaps he’ll write about during Epic – I hope so because he’s pretty darn entertaining when he goes off about something that he feels strongly about.

What drives him a bit crazy is reading comments from folks that have never come close to achieving their athletic potential debating ideal protocols for relative mediocrity.

Greatness is there, if we’d simply wake-up and commit ourselves to working our butts off.

As you can see, I am still working on John’s internal calm while letting athletes make their own mistakes.

Who knows? Maybe it will work and we’ll learn something.

That’s another of my favourites.

Choose wisely.

The Full Sit Down

Another of the great things about France is the quality of the food available here. You really have to be unlucky to find yourself eating a bad meal. Even "road food" is delicious. M & I have a little stop that we do on our ride where we stop at a gas station (!) buy a baguette and a couple of packs of meat. We sit in the winter sun and chow down on our DIY sandwiches. Outstanding.

M doesn't speak the language here so she's never quite sure what's going on when we're in a restaurant. It's pretty much just a succession of "grand cremes" with me getting more silly as my level of caffination increases.

A few days ago we rolled into a small town, sat down and I ordered the-full-sit-down. Two courses, bread and optional desert (I declined). M got a big kick out of watching me eat salad, starter and a grilled veal entree in the middle of a ride. Daylight is a bit short on our rides, as I've been having trouble getting going in the morning. To be honest, I can also get a wee bit overloaded when I get a fifty message email download to kick off my day. So with daylight short, the full-sit-down is a rare luxury.

...doesn't everyone like to end every ride with a 90 minute "TT 'cause it's getting dark"?

So yesterday we were riding along mid-afternoon. Man-o-man it was cold. My jaw was starting to freeze and both of our speach was slurred. A few grand cremes were in order and I navigated us into a cafe.

We fired up a few coffees and M looked totally miserable -- she was so cold that her skin colour was grey (that's a step past blue/purple). We perked up a little when these monster coffees arrived -- the closest thing to a latte that we've found so far.

I wandered down the restaurant and served myself up on their appetizer buffet (marinated mussels, smoked salmon, boiled potato salad, red peppers). A few minutes after I finished my plate of food, coffee, bread...

M: Gordo, there's a mistake, they are bringing you more food.
g: No way baby, I'm having the full sit down!

Thirty four euros for lunch with a third of it spent on coffee. As I am an athlete, naturally, I waived off the optional wine and dessert.

I love this place.

PS -- I'd probably skip the mussels next time.

Epic Prologue

Where the heck do all these ideas come from? I've no idea but they just keep rolling. My only escape is to write them down. Typically, I publish about 10% of what I write (and actually write down about 10-30% of what I dream up). With this blog, I've been writing a lot more. Perhaps I'll settle down in a bit.

I've been thinking about this piece during all my runs for the last week.

Johno wanted to know if I wanted to give a talk at the start of Epic. I passed on that as I figured that Scott would be well placed to cover it. Perhaps it was a bit of fear on my part given that I am not going to be the best prepared athlete at Epic. So I've been mulling over "what's epic" or "what's epic for me".

Typically, for my first piece of Epic I write something for the outside world. Well this time I think we are going to have 32 people on the trip including the support crew. We're also going to have four ladies along -- we've never had more than one. It will be interesting to see how that changes the dynamic, if at all. Three couples too, another experiment.

Often when I dream stuff up during training, it makes perfect sense on the road. Everything seems so clear on the bike! Then I get home, settle down, the endorphins wear off and I wonder what the heck was I thinking. So if this doesn't make sense -- no worries -- it might make sense one day when you are training...

So we've invited you along to Epic. You probably think that what's coming up is a big physical test. Actually, you'll find that the true test isn't physical. We wouldn't have invited you along if you didn't have what it takes to finish. The true test is one of character.

It's like John Collins says about Ironman -- you can quit at any time, if you don't then you win.

No excuses -- what do you think when you hear that?

I tend to take it two ways.

The most typical way is a "hard" interpretation. No excuses -- I'm going to make the toughest plan possible and stick with it come hell or high water. That works for some but, generally, we can only be truly hard for a portion of our lives. It varies for each of us but a consistently "hard" strategy normally ends with physical burnout (injury/illness) or mental staleness.

The second way is softer in one sense but the self-knowledge isn't always sugar coated. What if someone took away all our excuses. They sorted our meals, accommodation, support... and the responsibilities of our typical lives were removed for twelve days.

What could we achieve?

Well, when you remove all the excuses you can achieve quite a bit! What makes it a bit complicated is that at the same time, we get ourselves so shagged that quitting is the easy option. We'll even have a sag wagon filled with cold beverages (beers for Molina!) and friendly staff. You can quit at any time... but if you don't then you'll win.

Anyhow, it's not always a DNF that signifies quitting, we can fold mentaly and keep on moving forward. I know that I've been so tired that I'd long given up and simply accepted the situation. That's a great place to become familiar with if you are an Ultraendurance athlete because removing the emotional content of fatigue leaves us free to get on with finishing our event!

I didn't realise it fully but over the last few years I'd had a few experiments with excuse removal -- for myself and for others. With others I'm probably batting about .300 in terms of whether people really wanted their excuses removed (most don't). Either they are comfortable being "prevented" from achieving their stated goals; or their intent (what really matters to them) isn't what they tell you at all. Slackness is can be appealing at times -- appealing yes, rewarding, no.

When evaluating folks I try to focus on what I see them do, rather than what they say about themselves or other folks say about them. I'll be watching myself closely over the camp!

So we will be removing all the excuses; surrounding ourselves with a bunch of people that hate to quit and we will see what happens.

We will get so shelled that the raw reality of our characters starts to show. Hopefully, we'll all enjoy what we see!

If we don't quit -- then we'll win.

Don't let yourself down.

One Thing

Before you can do anything, you must learn to do One Thing.

This is a important topic to me because I see it as the key to avoiding breakdown in the Process of Achievement.

Our lives are a series of single decisions, single moments, with the only common element being that we are along for the ride in each of them. The only thing common with each scene is that "we" are there watching it unfold. Everything else comes and goes. While we may choose to obligate ourselves to others, ultimately, it's worth recognizing that there's only one person that's going to always be along for the full ride.

True selflessness most easily arises through compassionate selfishness. I have this little play that runs through my head quite often where I seek to explain to a friend that the most important skill for him to learn is "getting to no". In a world with an unlimited appetite for our time, our emotions, our input, our energy -- in order to be successful in a specific area, we must develop our skills to say no thanks to many attractive alternatives.

The Eighth Habit defines compromise as saying no to an attractive opportunity in order to do something more attractive. Most often, I find that we are saying "no thanks" today in order to free time to work towards deeper fulfillment tomorrow. I am sure that there is an element of training (or programming) required to be gratified in working towards gratification at a later date. Heck, I do that all the time and used to think that Western religions were a bit nuts for being based on that. Comes back to Mergler being most satisfied in doing what it takes to outcompete, rather than the performance on game day (which becomes inevitable).

I would arrive each year knowing that I was going to have a good race. The only question being "How Good?" -- Dave Scott


It can be a lot easier to take care of someone else than live our personal truths. Acting in an "honourable" way as we extinguish the passion in our souls through self-sacrifice. There is never a shortage of honourable causes that we can support.

Likewise, it is easy to fall into a trip of competition/effort towards a false god -- performance addiction; process addiction. My annual break works quite well for me to avoid becoming too engrossed. Of course, I am most happy when deep in process working towards achievement.

These days my "one thing" appears to be getting out of bed. If I'm up then it's going to be a solid productive day. At other times in my life, it's been things like... don't eat bread, skip the sugar, don't drink more than two beers -- the key being to break the pattern of self-sabbotage that is triggered from chosing to go down a path that doesn't support my goals.

High level achievement in any field requires strong project management skills. When we look at high achievers it's tempting to seek to emulate what they do. Similarly, when we look at fulfilled people, it's tempting to seek to emulate their actions -- or -- ask them what the secret is to their happiness.

This is a trap.

Everyone wants that magic answer. Just tell me what to do! Well, I could tell you what to do but it would simply be a recipie for making myself happy. In fact, any advice other than to look within will probably fail because my actions are merely a reflection of what I must do. They work for me because of what I must do.

Satisfaction comes from following our own truth, not the truth of our chosen guru, coach, mentor, peers.

Even armed with the answer -- most folks simply cannot do what it takes. They keep breaking down early in the process. Thinking too far ahead and being over-scheduled are the two most common sources of breakdown.

That is why my advice is so "simple". Because until we can master the simplicity of consistency, we'll never be able to handle the complexity of elite process management. Our minds are constantly being distracted from the task at hand.

The people, the publications, the thoughts within our heads... that distract us from constantly chipping away towards our goals -- they are often doing us a disservice.

Take a catalogue of where (and with whom) you spend your time. Cross reference that against your personal Top Ten list. The results will surprise most.

You can do a similar thing with money -- actual spending vs Top Ten things that provide personal satisfaction. If you can name more than 35% of your discretionary spending without the aid of a log then you are better than average.

So there's my first attempt on this topic.

  • Schedule less;
  • Take stock where you spend your resources (time being the most important); and
  • Remove habits/people that impede the simple actions required for incremental progress.

Simple, not easy.

It's not that mitochondrial density doesn't matter. It's that it doesn't matter to you. I'll keep researching though and let you know what I find...

Should I get an MBA?

I get this question a fair amount so I thought that I'd share some ideas. I never offer up a straight answer to this question because a couple years of your life is a pretty big decision.

First a little background... I was fortunate in that my first job out of university was an analyst position in a firm, which was then, called Schroder Ventures. The partners then were a mix of former CEOs and MBAs. I didn't really have the desire to spend 15-20 years in industry so I figured that I'd need an MBA to get ahead. After two years, I got my applications, filled them out, got my references... the full deal. The day before I was going to post them out the Managing Partner called me into his office and asked me what I wanted to stay. I was stoked because I loved working for him -- his team remains the best group of people that I've ever worked with.

The first lesson -- never underestimate your value -- I had my applications filled out, I was heading out the door -- guys like that don't ask what you want for kicks as you head out the door. It's a lesson that I've been reminded of time and time again over the years. Of course, if you are going to push the boat out then you'd better be willing for someone to say no.

Business school is, generally, about two things: transitions and networking.

Transitions -- it's a fun way to change career directions. Often it can be tough to change career paths as we become more and more proficient at our current jobs. In finance terms, I've been doing pretty much the same thing for fifteen years -- I have more experience but the nuts & bolts are just the same and what I was up to in the early 90s.

Networking -- you will be surrounded by excellent people. I think that networking is the most important aspect of b-school and for this reason, I always recommend... if you do decide to go then you must go the the absolutely best school that you hope to gain entry to. It's worth waiting years to get into that school. If I had gone then I would only have gone to Harvard or Stanford. Probably only Harvard. Why? Because the MBA graduates where the people that I most respected in terms of the folks I came across. Comes back to "being our goals".

More on networking -- as that is a key goal then it's worth remembering that once you make it to school. You need to meet the people, be liked and work well with them. The folks siting around you in your lectures are the most valuable asset that you are going to leave business school with.

A lot of people think that you go to b-school for skills. Perhaps but they aren't necessarily the skills that you'd expect. Take a McKinsey Consultant, give him a Harvard MBA and he'll still be unlikely to model his way out of a paper bag -- that's OK, he'll be smart enough to hire a guy like me to model 24/7 at less than one-third of his starting salary! Appropriate decision making and team management are the skills that generally are in shortest supply.

Teams and judgement -- the best schools help their students improve in this area.

Cost -- it's pretty expensive to go to b-school. However, it is a lot of fun at a good time in our lives. So I'd fact the leisure component into your calculation -- especially if you've been working 60+ hour weeks since your undergraduate. It's nice to decompress for a couple of years. So, the capital cost isn't one that I'd worry about -- so long as you are going to the absolutely best school.

Recruitment -- if you are looking for a transition then, in your second year, I'd be putting as much effort into your interviews as your classes. It's a relatively short window to make that transition. Again, the best employers tend to recruit at the best schools -- another reason to get yourself there.

Les Impressions -- Part Deux

Sitting here in the laundromat -- Laverie Automatic -- it is a Thursday night. Typically the homeboys will arrive shortly and blaze up under the no smoking sign. My brother does a bit about smoking in France...

"So you see... the no smoking signs, well, they only apply to the non-smokers..."

Got back in the pool this afternoon for another four grand -- 65 minutes this time -- with 150 to go I ran into the female equivalent of the pull-boy-racer. She pushed off when I was 2m off the wall, heading into my flip turn. I'd been swimming in the lane for an hour! She is absolutely nailing her breaststroke and moving quite well. I pull out to the middle to pass and, I swear, she started clawing me. I slowed down to stay side by side until she loaded up -- one final grab at my ankle then I was away. Pool Wars -- I tell ya!

France seems to be closed a lot. Store hours are a bit of a challenge but we're learning to work the system. We're fortunate in that the government "allows" the stores to open on a few Sunday's in December. They do have a great country but I wonder if that's the best way to go about protecting it.

We have figured out that most everyone is working from 2pm to 3:30pm on weekdays. That's when we swim!

Le TP -- the market where we shop sells pink TP. I bought it but M never really got used to it. So now we have his & her TP -- mine's pink.

Lattes -- Does the word "latte" sound French to you? Well, it sure does to me and I can't find one anywhere. There's no shortage of good coffee but there is a dire shortage of Venti Non-Fat Lattes. I'm sating my thirst with a few "grande cremes" each day. Coffee you feel, bay-bee.

France is a great place to live and train -- we're really enjoying ourselves. Every day is an adventure for us -- we spent a few hours searching for chain-lube. In the end we settled for WD-40 and a bike rag.

Had an interesting conversation with our host when we arrived. He was talking about training and living in Brazil -- he'd been there a few times.

What I really like about that country is that everything is possible. Each
time I come back, progress & development. They are moving ahead.
Much different than here.

When I asked him what it was like here. He said that everything was decided and that while most people live well, there's no point in trying to get ahead. That struck me as a bit sad -- a young, educated, guy telling me that there was no point in trying to succeed in business because what's the point?

M thinks it's like that a lot of places. She's right. There are a lot of governments that like to follow a policy of moving their country forward by legislating everyone's right to work less.

M and I are having our "date night" here at the Auto-Lave. It is not the most conventional life but it works for us. Sitting in front of our computers -- she's sorting rental cars for New Zealand -- I'm writing you then emails. A friend of mine had someone comment that she was jealous that he had so much time to train.

He replied...

Ahhhh, yes training volume. At first glance, it just looks like I have lots of time to train. Actually, my training hours are difficult for me to find. I have to make some clear decisions to find time to ride big volume.

To find training hours, I have started my work day at 3:00 or 4:00am, each day, seven days a week, for five years. Then I work into the night, seven days a week. I don't go out at night, I don't drink and I eat with recovery in mind each meal, all day long. That's what it took for me to go from a 13hr Ironman to a 10:20 Kona qualifier. That type of schedule is not easy and is not for everybody.

I know my competition is doing everything they can. So I made the decision to do what it takes over doing what I want. I simply made my lifestyle match my goals
without sacrificing my family or my work (50hr/wks). It's that, or re-evaluate my goals.

I find that most athletes have more time to train than they think. It takes some searching, but if we cut out things like TV, surfing the internet, etc, it is there. Most of us can eat with higher quality. Most of us can improve recovery through flexibility and stretching programs. Most of us can find the time to do more little things that add up to the difference between "very good" and "elite".

He is another guy that understands what matters.

The boys just arrived and fired up straight under the sign. Gotta love this place!

What Matters

I've been watching my board from afar this past week. Not really getting too stuck in as I've got plenty in my schedule with wife, work and training.

One thing has caught my eye -- two threads -- 5,000 hits, say 10 seconds per hit -- 50,000 seconds or 13:53:20 of elapsed time. Neat, I bet that's not far off the average time for an Ironman. Anyhow, I haven't read the threads in detail but someone must be.

If you are trying to improve at anything in your life -- then do yourself a favour... stop. It's all a mind-jack and you're better off stretching, or filing papers or cleaning out your garage. Do anything. Debating won't get you there. Action will get you there.

The companies with the best business plans don't always succeed. Plans don't mean anything if you can't execute. To achieve something, we must first learn to do one thing. I'll write about One Thing in due course. Haven't quite worked out how to explain it. Swimmers are really good at it.

We've got to take action to get anywhere. Kicking around how many angels can dance on the head of a pin won't get us any closer to our goals. In fact, it moves us further away because often we need to work pretty darn hard just to stay in the same place.

We don't need a perfect plan -- we simply need to do a reasonable plan consistently. This applies in all things. If we can persist and enjoy doing what it takes -- we've won regardless of outcome and our outcome is much more likely to be positive. The most dangerous competitor is one that is willing to do everything to beat us but has a low attachment to outcome. Beware of the quiet smiling ones!

Often internet boards remind me a lot of the library at university -- the secret to good grades is not hanging out in the library -- the secret is actually doing some work. Training is a bit like that...

Anyhow, I would like to share a story. I've been thinking about some of my favourites over the last little while and I'll share them as I get time.

John "No Van" Mergler is a guy that I met three years ago at our first Epic Camp. An expat Brit that lives in Australia. I think he's a pilot, I'm notoriously weak at getting personal details out of folks -- that's OK, my wife is good at that.

I don't know much about John -- he's a quiet guy, I'm a talker. It's tough to learn about others when you talk a lot. I'm working on that.

Here's what I do know. Two weeks before Epic Camp, he was diagnosed with a stress fracture. Now if John was typical, then he would have sent off the "sorry g & scott" email that we normally get from someone at the last minute. John's a long, long way from typical.

What did he do?

Well, he recognised that he wasn't going to be running much at Epic so he decided to do a 1,000K bike week BEFORE he even turned up. He then backed it up with a 1,000K to open the camp -- quite a bit of that quietly grinding away beside me on the front.

In the second week of the camp there was a day when the entire camp got into the van due to the combined effects of gale force headwinds, rain and fatigue. Well, not everyone, Baron stuck with me and (after 4K in the pool) we rode 8 hours to Dunedin. Not five minutes after we arrived, Mergler rolled up with a SMILE on his face after solo'ing the entire second half of the ride. Blew me away. As a "celebration" we all ran off the bike. If you don't "get" this story then just hope you don't have to race against John much.

He qualified for Kona that year.

I normally see John in Hawaii. We have a quick chat about what he's been up to. A soft spoken guy, not one to brag about the thousands of Ks that he's done to become decent.

This year I didn't get my chat. I was wondering if he'd even qualified. The day after the race I got to see him... up on-stage collecting 2nd place in the 45-49. I was really happy for him.

Guys like John, they don't enjoy kicking our asses.
Guys like John, enjoy doing what it takes to kick our asses.

That's what we're up against and that's why he was smiling.

Happy posting.

Four Grand

For those of you following along at home...

I said that I'd report back when I managed to hit 4,000 meters. Happy to report that I made it -- have to say that it probably would have been better if I didn't look at the clock though!

Sunday opened up with 4x1000. When you look at ten lanes of long course swimming it can seem like the pool is one of the calmest places in the world. However, I get a kick out of the little games that are constantly being played in the lanes.

Pull-boy-racers... the French lads love Miss M. Tight Speedo and logos on her. Just like a Formula 1 race car... Pull-boy-racer sits out 300m, grabs bright yellow pullbuoy and pushes off right behind my lady for the swim of his life.

He's churning up the water behind her...
She's doing catch up...
He's slowly turning purple from the effort...

The afternoon before, I had recommended that M be more zen about it. It does bother her a little bit. I put on my wise-gordo-face and told her that she should simply relax, let him by and enjoy the swim.

Fast forward to Sunday...

I watch this happening; bridge up to M's feet; and swim Monsieur PBR into the lane line. It's a bit embarassing to lose it like that but I suppose I am a bit protective about my wife.

When he tried the same thing on me later in the swim, I flipped under the lane line and just left it.

We left him sitting on the side of the pool wondering what the heck had happened.

Back to my swim -- emboldened by my 4x1000, I set out for 4,000 continuous this afternoon.

Result?

66 minutes -- I've got some work to do!

Quotes of the week...

3:15 in the afternoon, we've been riding a while in 4C, we're cold and I lean over to M...

"I think we should pick it up, it's going to be a push to make it home before dark"

One hour before dark...

"Hey, I think we might make it. [laughs] Now you can compare stories with Baron! Normally, he's around in situations like this."

Slow but enjoying it.

Choose Wisely

Here's an interesting post I wrote six years ago.

What makes me smile is that I was thinking six years back when I wrote it. And now... we are six years ahead.

...and I had absolutely NO clue what was possible back then, as a "speedy" 10.5 hour guy.

...and I realize that, even as a 8.5 hour guy, I was merely decent. For me, now, speed doesn't really start until you are a low 8-hour guy and even that seems reasonable on certain courses.

We don't need a whole lot of single sport talent to manage a 20-minute 1,500, hold 250w for the bike and hold 3:50 min Ks for a marathon. In fact, as a single sporter, you'd simply be "good for a working athlete". Hardly international class.

Molina once told me that was the great thing about triathlon -- you truly can out work your competition. My experience is that it's the way in most things, providing we define success correctly.

I was reading an article the other day when the writer basically said... "I wish that it was different but due to my lack of **** I'll never..."

Three reactions when I read a person writing that about themselves (and I read it a lot, maybe I look for it).

First is compassion, dude you really need a hug when you've settled once-and-for-all in your life.

Second is a strong reaction to grab the guy through the screen and shake some sense into him. Amigo, don't fold before you've even started! Don't you see that it's not about world domination, rather simply a quest to do a little better than you thought possible. Becoming a bit more than you thought you could be!

I react a bit violently because I don't accept (fear?) the implication of this kind of attitude. If I'd accepted my internally/externally defined limits then there are many, many things that I'd never have achieved.

No fate, no fate but what we make. So much good material in the Terminator series!

Finally, after I've settled down, there is a certain acceptance that some folks want to define their limits. I wonder about that... Why could that be? Perhaps to relieve themselves of any obligation to try and the personal responsibility that comes along with accepting that we create our own life situations.

Often, a smile then spreads across my face as I am reminded that herein lies the opportunity for ethical competition. Explain exactly what you are going to do, explain why you are going to do it, then out work the competition while enjoying yourself.

Years later, some will shake their heads and describe why they wouldn't have been able to do it, and overlook ten thousand hours of dedicated effort.

At least that's what I read the other day. The lads were talking about me but seeing as I don't know them, I can only assume that they were talking about themselves.

I do seem to get a big charge out of negative motivation at times. There is an deep (not so saintly) glow that appears when the work and persistence pay off. Leaving some to wonder about the road not taken.

I wonder where I'll be in six years?

Back To Basics

My seven month break from triathlon training has given me the chance to learn and try out a few things.

Fitness – everyone always wants to know how much fitness you lose and how long it takes to come back. I’ve been on a low volume, sporadic training program for most of 2005. I started the year in fantastic shape and am now still in pretty reasonable shape. Not fast in triathlon terms but healthy and fit relative to the population at large. How’d I do that?

Well it wasn’t by design. I’ve been doing what I felt like all year and haven’t used any technical equipment to track my volume, pace or duration. Most weeks were in the 4-7 hours of training range and I took a stack of zeroes when work, travel or my mood meant that I choose not to exercise.

I managed a few solid running weeks where I was close or over 100K/60M. Two nice bike weeks between IMNZ and the end of November – I was in the 400-500K range for each. My last real swim training was the steakhouse challenge back in March or April.

I didn’t really notice the fatigue from the few decent weeks that I had because when I got run down I’d simply take three days off! I am also fortunate in that I am flex-time for 20-25 days a month and can sleep a lot and do my work at odd hours.

Nutrition – I need to put on a suit a few days each months. One of the nice things about a suit is that while the wearer might change size, it doesn’t. So you get clear feedback. My suits also date back to my days in Hong Kong as a working athlete (my business partner points out the date frequently). Whenever my suits start to get a bit tight, I know that it’s time to tighten up on nutrition. This seven month period is the longest that I’ve been able to keep a stable weight (while training single figures) in my adult life. Stable weight is one sign that our nutrition is in balance. When I was a triathlete, I would start each year heavy but still in OK shape. This time I _knew_ that I wasn’t going to be in great shape. So I had to start the training year in good nutritional condition. That gives us a big advantage when starting up – in terms of energy, in terms of being able to move, in terms of positive self image.

On that self image point – shaved down the other day. It’s worth 2KGs mentally. If you are a non-triathlete reading this – then you’ll simply have to trust me.

Four Pillars – if you are interested in any form of endurance training then I’d encourage you to read my Four Pillars article on my tips page. It is the best piece of training advice that I’ve ever managed to write. Having coached it for the last five years, and now living it, it’s the fastest way to improvement. I won’t run through it again in detail here. I’ll just say that it I am following it to the letter right now and have a way to go before hitting the volume benchmarks in the text.

The game plan is to: (a) get my swim to 4K relaxed, continuous; (b) get my bike to six hours; and (c) get my run to two hours. Once I have achieved that then I will try to do ABC in the same week. Once I have achieved that then I will try to do ABC in the same weekend. If I achieve than then it will be time for Epic New Zealand and we’ll try to that that about 4-7x in twelve days.

Recruitment – I read a lot on the internet about specificity. What I’d really like to know is what muscle group and movement pattern do we not require for triathlon? My first week back was a real eye-opener because I was moving like I’ve seen many age-group athletes. Basically, my body was pretty much asleep. While I’d been running, most of the major muscles groups, especially in my core, were completely asleep. I had an inability to recruit muscles and that left me extremely weak. Ten days in, my muscles are waking up – due to a broad, lightweight, non-specific approach to strength training. I feel far, far better immediately and my performance has improved. Ten days is simply not enough time for fitness to come into play (and my running had me in pretty good cardio shape to start). So I think the specificity argument is a poor one for working triathletes. We need to have our total body awake and two 45 minute core, balance, conditioning sessions can really help.

Stretching – we’re not getting any massage these days. I need to work about 45 hours per week on my property business; combined with shopping, meals and training means that time is tight. So we have a deal that we will stretch 15 minutes after our longest bike or run workout of the day. It is making a big difference for both of us and even that little bit has us making progress in terms of recovery and range of movement. 15 minutes a day. I’m working full-time, training once or twice a day and still getting the shopping done (laundry is a bit behind though!).

The Basic Week – my basic week is pretty basic! From 9am to 9pm I am working everyday. We have a proper sit down meal whenever we eat at home. I turn off my machine and lay out the table French-style. Out of my work day I take breaks for training, food shopping and trips to the post office. We haven’t gone out yet, and probably won’t more than 2x the entire time we are in Montpellier. We’ve planned a two day trip to Paris at the end of December as that gives us something to look forward to. Pretty basic, eh?! Well, that’s what it takes. I was the same way when I was training in Hong Kong.

So the training week is six days “on”; one day “open” (last week open meant “off”). We do three days where the training break is a ride. The other three days consist of a morning run then a combo session in the afternoon (coffee, core conditioning, swim – in that order). So we get a coffee-date three times a week. We hold hands when we go shopping too!

Soreness and Fatigue – what used to qualify as a recover day or workout in January/February is now a proper session for me. I’ve gone past four hours of daily training two times since we started. Both times resulted in 11+ hours of sleep that night. Phew, I get tired – I can’t remember the last time this little volume would wipe me out. I also get sore as the little muscles involved with triathlon wake up and are used anew.

4K really is a long way to swim! I haven’t got there yet. When I hit the benchmark, I might drop back in and let you know.

Big Dogs

I'll get to how my training is going in a later entry but will note that I sure get tired FAST these days and have forgotten how tired simply being sore all the time can make the mind.

Over the last twelve months, Monica has trained a lot with a good buddy of mine, Spencer. They are well suited to each other because Spencer likes riding at M's speed. I also think that they had a bit of a weird contest going with who could eat _less_ on a long ride or key workout. They had more excuses for not eating during training than a ten year old boy has for losing his homework.

Spencer comes from a track background and his best junior 1500 time is comfortably faster that what I'd run a K at when I was that age. Like most speedy athletes he seems to prefer to train on two things... water and pain.

So M and I were out riding in the French countryside a few days ago and I was tearing into my second bar after a few plates of breakfast. I asked if M had eaten anything. It went like this...

G -- Have you had anything this ride?
M -- I had a bar at the start.
G -- That was your breakfast!

G -- You know training in GordoWorld is different than MonsyLand.
G -- It ain't SpencerVille either!

M -- What do you mean?
G -- Look, Epic is coming up and you want to train with the Big Dogs
G -- If you want to train with the Big Dogs you gotta eat

M -- I eat
G -- I ain't talking about a hundred calories an hour
G -- Look you wait, KP will be there. That guy can eat.

G -- Big dogs, baby. Big dogs.
G -- You gotta eat.

Discount Rates

So are you saying to look at our new P3 Carbon and current account balance and say that "I have $10,000 invested/saved, this P3C is $4000, so that's 40% of NAV" and ask ourselves if it's really worth 40% of NAV to get that bike.

I've been in the habit of viewing things in terms of opportunity cost - ie given my expected return, spending $4,000 a P3C costs ~$100,000 (in 2005 dollars) at the age my parents are now...

I prefer to look at what things cost today, right now. Looking too far into the future can be a bit of a trap.

Let’s say you are earning $60,000 per annum, taking home about $3,350 per month after taxes. I pulled those figures out of the air but let’s assume. If you can save $600 per month then that implies monthly expenses of $2,750.

$10,000 in the bank is about 3.5 months of expenses and 17 mths worth of savings. $4,000 on a bike represents – 1.5 months of expenses and a half year worth of savings.

Now you’d need to consider it for yourself but in terms of return on investment in triathlon, you’d likely get a lot more performance from spending that money on six weeks of full-time training than a bike.

However, the bigger picture is that (based on my assumptions) you’re considering sinking six months work into a depreciating asset. Six months work is a heck of a lot of effort, now the bike will give you pleasure but is it really that much more pleasure than what you are riding right now?

When I was in my 20s my big goal was to get myself to the point where I could take an entire year off from work. I had various plans on where I’d spend that year (drinking in Greece; sailing the world; climbing the seven summits). The plans changed and developed as I did.

A few years back, I read that Bill Gates liked to hold one year’s expenses in cash on his company’s balance sheet. That really appealed to me because it was similar to the goal that I’d set myself.

These goals can be a trap in themselves because do we mean one year’s expenses…
…covered in capital
…covered in unearned income
…indexed, covered in unearned income
…indexed, adjusted for future dependents, covered in unearned income
…indexed, adjusted for future dependents, covered in unearned income, assuming market crash
…just like fitness, there is always more

I probably think way too much about this stuff but that’s the way I have always been about most things that can have a direct impact on my life.

We each need to decide for ourselves. Generally, most folks don’t get past that first line so it is an academic discussion. I joked with a buddy recently that the only people that truly understand discussions on sports psychology are the folks that don’t need it. Same with most fields – nutrition, personal finance…

Another trap is to build liabilities in line with assets – leverage is useful and having the skills to assemble/package assets is deemed valuable these days, because it enables folks to make money from packaging financial products around those assets. It is amazing, the premiums paid to folks in the financial services industry.

There is value from simply having control of a stack of assets – even if you are leveraged to the hilt. In certain market conditions, a company (or guarantor) is far safer being technically insolvent than having a lot of security cover. By having nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose – if you can live with that then there can be freedom there – quite a few elite athletes live that way for a few years. That life doesn’t work for me though because I value security and personal freedom very highly.

Thinking about it. There’s an element of being able to say “no”; or perhaps “not yet” in savings. Delayed gratification, or gratification from delay. Saving, eating right, going to bed early, under scheduling our lives – the pay off can appear to be later but, for me, is simply a more relaxed “right now”.

Anyhow, I got a bit sidetracked from the point.

Discount rates – in my life no purchase really mattered that much to me until I had one year’s cash flow saved in the bank. Once I had built the discipline to get myself to that point (in my mid-20s), I had the skills to manage my savings/expenditure so that I was always covered as I chose to increase (or decrease) my personal burn rate. Being a good administrator would be similar.

Now being a good entrepreneur is often completely different. However, entrepreneurs value the ability to work/create more than personal security. They are “winning” every day they are at the office. There is nothing that they’d rather be doing than working (only met a few guys in this league).

Motivation is something that I think about quite a bit because I always assume that other's motivation is similar to mine. That the world is seen through my eyes by others and that is mostly incorrect. Most folks see things totally differently. In fact, many (most) having too much going on in our heads to see much of anything outside ourselves.

Sixty Zeroes

So Ced told me to keep parking illegally -- bet me that I'd save money over the month. I decided to skip that and smiled as I saw the ticket man (and a line of twelve cars with tickets on the way to the pool). Must be the season for giving in France.

Monsy seems to be confusing the local workmen. They keep walking in on her when she's changing. I told her it's standard operating procedure for the lads in the South of France. Still, she's not used to having to lock herself down in a cubicle to get ready to swim or hit the gym. Apparently a couple of guys "when to jail for that" in Boulder -- we're a world away from Colorado!

This week marked the start of my five week campaign to get myself in some sort of reasonable shape for Epic Camp. Trying to make it out the door on a daily basis and not fall behind in my work. Starting back from ground zero while managing my inbox is a good reminder from my earlier days as a working athlete.

How did I go? Well, I enjoyed myself by was amazed at how weak I am and how tired a little training makes me. As for the specifics, they are going to remain confidential as I don't want to place any undue pressure on myself. Suffice to say that you wouldn't be awed by my current performance. My goal for the end of December is being able to complete my swim/bike/run goals from my Four Pillars article.

About the title... what's a zero? A zero is when you don't do any training for a day. I'm not sure exactly how many zeroes that I pulled down so far in 2005 because I stopped my training log in March or April. However, I do know that it's a lot more than sixty. I took a zero today to end my first training week.

So where does the sixty come from? Friday night I was lying in bed mulling things over. I've been having quite a tough time turning my brain "off" these days. I wake up and it just starts rolling... or I lie in bed and it keeps rolling... the fatigue that I get from training is so pleasurable precisely because I clears my head of all those thoughts. I can remember when I started training in Hong Kong the feeling of pleasure from a mind full of nothing at the end of a day of trail walking. Exercise addition being one of the more socially acceptable sleep aids I've used over the years.

What do you think of when you are training? For me, when it is going well, I am thinking of absolutely nothing. Pure nothing. Wonderful stuff.

Back to the sixty zeroes -- that is how many my good buddy KP had in the bag from his pre-epic preparations when he arrived in Auckland for Epic North Island a couple of years ago. He got through that camp, survived the desert road, avoided "the tape" and shared more than a few laughs with me and the lads. As Dr. J said last year, "life is good, sure, but these times, these experiences, this is what it's really about". That keeps me smiling as the camp ticks closer with each day. If it's hard, if I suffer, if I get crushed, blown out the back, whatever... well that really is the point. So the 'worst' it goes, the more hilarious the experience. Plus, Molina tends to lay off a bit when I am getting beat on. I'm looking for a bright side a bit with my training these days -- I could be the first epic participate kicking off with triple figure zeroes for the training year. It is a concern.

We are a bit isolated here in France. I still have my internet connection and my email -- thank god for wireless global roaming or I'd be hooped. In reality all we have is each other and that's a nice opportunity for us, espcially after a summer where I spent five out of the first seven weeks of my marriage on the road.

There's quite a bit that KP and the boys would appreciate about France. #1 is the real deal coffee that they are serving up all around the place. Espresso is what they call coffee. Hard core coffee you feel. Coffee that is so strong, I am a little nervous going for a second round. The French are great with their coffee -- they go for the single shot versions and alternate with cigarettes. I imagine that one could get pretty charged up with that. Being used to Starbucks, I have to slow myself down from slamming a double shot in two swigs.

How do you feel when people who don't know you write nice things about you? I feel quite nervous. I think that it's a mistake to place our faith in anything other than our own itegrity. I know me and I am pretty normal from the inside looking out. Perhaps the nervousness comes from a sense that whether we are positive (or negative) it's the same trap to seek satisfaction/inspiration/motivation from sources outside of our own actions.

Not much of a point to this one. Just had to clear my head.

Make vs Spend


Sorry, just want to make sure I understand - you are saying to evaluate the financial opportunity cost in terms of (a) percentage of your personal Net Asset Value - ie. the impact that this decision is likely to have on one's long-term wealth, both in terms of capital draw-down and lost income to invest and (B) in terms of the ability to maintain one's standard of living (or at least a reasonable one).

When I left Hong Kong I knew that my income was going to fall _a lot_. However, my expenses were going to fall as well. What I didn’t realise was the magnitude of the change.

What happened was that I was spending less than 10% of my Hong Kong rate even while traveling in Australia/New Zealand. I was also able to buy a house in Christchurch for about one-year-HK-rental equivalent (early 2000, a nice time to buy property just about anywhere). Now not every VC is willing to live on couches and with the parents of adult friends while he figures out what he is going to do. Still, it worked for me.

On the income side, I took advantage of some coaching opportunities. They didn’t bring in a lot of cash but… they brought in a lot of cash relative to my triathlon cost of living. So while they wouldn’t make a good use of my time when I was in Hong Kong, they made a lot of sense when I was on the road.

The result was that once I subtracted my tri-life expenses from my tri/coaching/unearned income, I realised that I had a much larger multiple of capital available to finance myself. I’d based my initial estimate on Hong Kong expenditure but I discovered that by leaving Hong Kong I was able to eliminate nearly all my overheads.

Most people have no idea where they are really spending their money. They simply spend until they run out each month.

Also, beware of the trap of mistaking “standard of living” for “quality of life”. Most folks ratchet up their standard living (expenditure) in line with (or ahead of) their income. As a result, they are never able to accumulate any capital and are held captive to their perceived income requirements.

When you start to evaluate expenditure relative to NAV, rather than income – it can change your view on whether things are “worth it”. Folks that aren’t good at saving don’t really like to face this method of personal accountability. I know some folks that spend a multiple of their NAV on traveling to races (or clothes, or vacations, or whatever) each year.

Scott once told me that it’s not what you make, it’s what you spend. As with many things he told me, good advice.

What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

I’ve been enjoying writing again. Whenever I get busy or particularly tired, writing seems to go by the way-side.

Had someone ask me for the key things that I learned about writing from the Going Long process. Here’s what I wrote:

Probably the two most important things that helped me..

1 -- making a detailed outline of the entire book -- chapter by chapter and section by section. Very helpful.

2 -- clearing the decks -- setting my schedule up so that I had two full weeks to focus exclusively on the book. I wrote six days per week and had to finish the rough draft of the goal chapter before I was allowed to leave my office (which was a Starbucks).

I also hired Wy to collate my existing writings into the pre-draft of each chapter. That gave me ideas and text to get the ball rolling. There were extensive rewrites from the early drafts but once you have the entire book down -- totally rough -- it is FAR easier to create a solid product that reads well. Once we had the final drafts, Joe's cold review of the finished product -- start to finish was very, very valuable. So a project partner that understands your subject matter is valuable. Having a guy like Joe involved really helped me as I am weak in many of the areas where he is strong.

Overall, I was surprised at just how tough it is to write a book. My 2005 project was my 2nd book but I haven’t really got stuck into that project. While I have a lot of bits and pieces, I don’t have the chapter structure. Perhaps my super-long-haul flights in early 2006 will get me rolling on that. No rush there as I keep learning each year.

I received the following in my mailbag. I spent most my 20s feeling this way about one thing or another (sailing, athletics, travel…).

I've seen a few off-handed comments about how you semi-retired from the world of VC when you were about 30. I guess you always knew you would reenter the working world but you had some tri-business to take care of... is that a fair assessment?

I was 32 when I handed back my partnership – I’d been with the firm for ten years. At the time, I didn’t have any strong goals in terms of triathlon achievement. I figured that I’d be able to get into the low-9s in terms of IM performance but that wasn’t the driver for me at all. The main driver was that I’d become a bit bored with my working life and the pollution in Hong Kong was really getting me down. As well, I think that I was a bit worn out from ten years in London/Hong Kong – however – I didn’t feel that way at the time.

I've thought about taking time, maybe 6-9 months or maybe several years when I turn 30. This happens in about 2 years. I'm wondering if you could share some insight into how you decided it was time for you. I know it's a rather personal thing which wouldn't necessarily apply to me, but I'm interested in your thoughts anyway.

You are right that we each have to find our own way, our own experience. I’ve seen others try to follow the path of a friend that appears happy/content to find neither. Perhaps, that’s because a feeling of satisfaction arises from the way we think on the inside rather than how we are acting on the outside.

I didn’t have any real plan or strategy – I simply had a very clear feeling that I had to leave. Before I left the firm, I took a two month leave-of-absence. I spent most of that in Boulder and truly loved the freedom of being able to train (helped to grab a Kona slot in the first week of my break). Back then, I wasn’t constantly on-line and had much less going on. So I had 7-9 weeks that were almost completely my own. I’d wake each morning (staying in the mountains above Boulder) and write for 20-40 minutes. The process of morning writing, training and spending time alone – that helped me realise what I wanted to do and deprogram from Hong Kong.

If you are wondering what’s really possible with athletics then an experienced guy like yourself really needs to allow five years and attack it with a true passion/joy. With a period as short as 6/9 months, you’ll get into great shape but you won’t be able to make the physiological changes required to see what’s possible. You need a few years simply to prepare/build yourself so that you can do the training required to see what might be possible.

I feel like there's a lot more I want to do in my professional career, but I also realize that this might be a good time in my life to pursue athletics in a more focused manner.

You’ve likely got 50 years left to pursue both your working and athletic lives. That’s worth remembering – in a lot of different ways.

If you are just about to get yourself in a position to make a stack of cash in your career (Monsy calls that making “bank” – I always smile at that expression) – then… think it through before you hand that back to ride your bike. What I always do/did was review what I was forsaking financially against two criteria: (a) percentage of current NAV; (b) percentage of annual cost of living. Not a bad way to review most financial decisions because it focused on current capital as well as current burn rate. Probably the VC guy in me.

Thinking about that – I do the same evaluation in terms of my training – I look at average weekly volume in each sport compared to race distance. Learned that from Mister A – the big guy taught me a few things.

However, I have to admit that it is a HUGE trip to be right up at the sharp end (of any race) and there is a sell-by date on that (but Joe B is still winning them). However, if we are talking about being world class then you can do that in your 40s, 50s, 60s… and it is plenty competitive. I coach a guy in his late 60s and it’s been WAR between him and his pals for years. A good natured kind of war, though.

One of the things, for me, is that I haven’t been very good at kicking back and waiting it out. When I have been most happy is when I’ve thought something up and gone for it.

The thing that swung it for me was that I realised that my worst case scenario was that I’d get my old job back – perhaps at a bit less money but I was earning more than I needed. I was also earning far more than I needed to do the things that I loved. Reviewing where I was spending my time and money in 1998 and in 1999 was an eye opener for me.

So… I was fortunate to get myself into a position in my early 30s where I could support myself for a year of training. I also surfaced various part-time “jobs” that were able to contribute towards covering my overheads. So I managed to hold my personal NAV steady while doing what I loved. For me, that seemed like a great deal. I also had a multiple of my annual burn rate socked away so that gave material comfort.