Gordo Byrn's blog
With the mood (near universally) negative, I've been trying to figure out my long term strategy for savings and investment. As I mentioned a few weeks back, I'm currently projecting a cash flow deficit for 2009. I suspect that I'm not alone in being in that position! Frankly, being able to absorb an unexpected set back is why I've been conservative over the last twenty years. I have been reminding myself that the world isn't ending but human psychology can be tough to counter.
This is going to be a two-part series on marathon training. Part One will share some concepts which I believe impact all endurance sports, but especially, marathon training (stand alone and Ironman). Part Two will pick up the questions from last week, as well as, any from this week.
It has been a hectic week for me in Europe and I am now in Asia for a few days before returning to the US. Sorry that I missed the Friday deadline but I was busy growing grey hairs! No announcements this week, we will roll straight into Part One.
I had a look at average results for all marathons in the US in 2005 -- the results didn't surprise me, but they might surprise you. Average male finish time was about 4.5 hours, with the ladies just over 5.0 hours. That is for stand-alone marathons -- not running after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of running.
Couple of announcements before we kick off.
Tucson -- we have ten slots left for our Spring Camp in Tucson. Dates are March 29th to April 5th. Six days of training, $2,350 includes everything but your airfares. The camp is appropriate for sub-13 hour IMers (and sub-6 hours Half IMers). For more info drop me a line.
Over on Endurance Corner Radio you will find three new podcasts -- Greg Bennett; Going Fast in Kona; and Chris Baldwin. If you want then you can subscribe to the podcasts through iTunes -- we are listed under Endurance Corner Radio. Jonas Colting will be live on Monday!
On October 14th, Monica gave birth to our daughter Alexandra (she's the one in the photo above). Seeing as I'm the writer in the family, I will share some observations across the last ten months.
We have all heard stories about massive weight gain during pregnancy. I've heard stories of women gaining up to 80 pounds across their pregnancies. Listening to these tales, many women must wonder if large amounts of baby weight are the norm. Do I have to become huge, to have a healthy baby? Monica's experience might be relevant to you.
Before we start with the pregnancy, I want to mention a little bit about the year before the pregnancy. When you look at the athletes racing in Kona, or ITU Worlds, you will see that most participants are optimized for performance, rather than personal health. In fact, I'd guess that many very fast elite athletes (male and female) would have trouble conceiving when they are peak athletic condition.
So my first recommendation for athletes seeking to conceive is to get a medical check-up and shift the basis of your athletics from performance, to health. That is something that Monica and I did across last winter. Although I continued to ride my bike, my overall training stress was low enough that I had sufficient energy to devote to fatherly duties...
Monica didn't ride and focused her training on swimming, running and yoga. She was in excellent health and physical condition. While we were trying to conceive, she kept both the volume, and intensity, of her program. She didn't do much fast running but she would swim fast three times per week.
Monica's main worries prior to getting pregnant:
I can relate to those concerns -- I share many of them every October and November!
The good news is you can maintain your body, your health and, most surprisingly, your fitness. Here's how she did it.
No Zeros -- Monica did some form of physical activity every single day, for her entire pregnancy - even the day her water broke. This performance was a lot better than Dad's record!
While our medical advice was not to commence a fitness program when you get pregnant, all our doctors said that it was OK to maintain a fitness program through pregnancy. Monica's doc also noted that there isn't much practical knowledge about pregnancy and the endurance athlete.
The warnings boiled down to:
Monica read the blogs of athletic moms like Bree Wee and Paula Radcliffe -- seeking to learn from their experience. She also consulted with coaches of elite female triathletes to learn from their experience. Something that came out of that research is the risk of stress fractures that result when moms come back too quickly. We received a lot of warnings about late term and postpartum running.
While most people talk about trimesters, looking from the outside, I noticed shifts closer to ten week blocks within M's 40-week pregnancy.
First ten weeks -- hormonal changes, mainly impacted mood and appetite. Monica was lucky in that her cravings were fresh fruit (rather than sugar/starch) related.
Second ten weeks -- feeling much better, moderated volume and intensity with attitude of baby-comes-first.
Third ten weeks -- pregnancy starts to show, pubic bone discomfort at 26 weeks, stopped running at 30 weeks, shifted to the elliptical trainer 2x per week.
Final ten weeks -- months of high frequency swimming left her very economical in the water, some high volume swim weeks, hiking started around 34 weeks, elliptical reduced to 1x per week.
Here's a great stat... total swim distance across the pregnancy... 908,600 meters. Average weekly volume was 14 hours and 45 minutes (includes yoga & cross training but not mellow walks with me). That average volume was down from 19-23 hours per week before conception.
The most surprising thing for me was that across her third trimester, Monica had returned to a level of aerobic swim economy that was on-par with where she was preconception.
To sum up Monica's focus:
The biggest mental challenges Monica faced were:
There will be days where you feel like everyone wants you to get huge, slow down and be uncomfortable. Those feelings are normal and it helps to know that all pregnant ladies are dealing with them.
If she had to give you one piece of advice with your pregnancy then she would encourage you to remain active, moderately, every day. Also remember that if you plan on breast feeding you'll burn off your baby weight safely and gradually.
The birth experience was intense and nothing like either of us expected. We went to "baby school" this summer but nothing can prepare you for the real thing.
All you experienced moms out there... you certainly downplayed the extreme nature of childbirth!
6:45pm Sunday (Zero Hour) -- water breaks, contractions start shortly thereafter
+6 hrs -- at the hospital, told cervix is 1-2 cm dilated
+15 hrs -- Monica's OB/Gyn gives an exam and notes that cervix is 1 cm dilated -- previous exam was incorrect; drug inserted to help cervix along
+18 hrs -- full blown labour gets going, strong contractions happening up to 2:30 min apart
+23 hrs -- another exam; disappointing news; uterus is ahead of cervix; only 2cm dilated; facing another 12 hrs of labour M opts for epidural
+24 hrs -- epidural kicks in with three hours of pain relief and relative comfort
+29 hrs -- pain relief gone; M feeling pretty strung out and ragged; doctor recommends sleeping pill to enable M to sleep; doesn't force it but strongly recommends
+30 hrs -- M waives off sleeping pill; gets anaesthetist to refresh the epidural;
+31 hrs -- another three hours of pain relief; a couple of short naps; makes a huge difference
+34 hrs -- pain relief wanes; good news that M is 8.5 cm dilated (one needs to get to 10 cm)
+35 hrs -- pretty extreme pain through transition; M starts pushing; has to pause because she nearly pushes the baby out before the doctor can get to the room
+35:30 hrs -- childbirth!
Things that surprised us:
The extreme amounts of pain -- likely magnified by duration of labour and lack of sleep. Picture the most despair your have ever seen in an athlete... this didn't even come close! I'm guessing that you'd only see close having to watch young people die or see people broken via torture. It's a good thing that babies are so cute!
The main thing that surprised me (M didn't see) was the large amount of blood that came out after the birth -- between the placenta and the blood, there was a bucket full of post-baby-bits. Didn't freak me out but it certainly got my attention.
Tips for the guys:
Being in the room, and supportive, provides a HUGE opportunity to strengthen your marriage. In life, we only get a few opportunities to demonstrate character. Child-birth is a total-body experience for your wife, being able to share that can create a deep bond. She will always remember if you were there for her.
Besides, after you watch, you'll spend the rest of your life grateful that your wife is handling the birthing part of the relationship. Blew my mind!
Back next week,
I suppose a lot of us are talking about Wall Street, greed, CEOs, bankers, bonuses... much of the discussion that I read, and hear, centers around a lack of ethics on the part of people in positions of leadership. With crisis comes opportunity. We have a unique opportunity to improve our financial system.
I am going to write about business but this could just as easily be a piece on doping.
A lot of poor decisions are rationalized by a belief that the action was justified by the actor being a good person. Given that we each have to live with ourselves, it is reasonable to believe that nearly every poor decision is followed by a post-fact rationalization.
Once we start living a lie, even a small one, we can find ourselves on a slippery slope that eventually leads to moral ambiguity. Far easier to stay a mile away from "the line" then risk the public humiliation that comes from high profile ethical lapses.
During times like these, one can easily see the costs from ethical lapses but it important to remember that our current situation started with a series of small decisions where the benefits appeared to out-weigh the costs. Step by step, the situation progressed until we have a crisis caused by lack of enforcement, excessive leverage and skewed incentives.
So now society, as a whole, pays the price. People are upset and human nature will seek vengeance. I suppose this article is my attempt to help channel that vengeance towards productive progress.
I like to remind myself that we win (individually, and collectively) by maintaining high ethics. Over a lifetime, there is much financial gain to be had by being reliable and extremely trustworthy. Greater than finances alone, there is much love and friendship to be received. There can appear to be short term trade-offs but there is no long-term cost to avoiding false gods (easy money, sex, alcohol, pride, false performance...).
As humans, we need to be wary of situations that screw up our ability to think clearly:
As citizens (coaches, managers, leaders), we also need to consider the incentives that we are putting in place. Are we creating systems that reward cheating? When we experience a lot of undesirable outcomes then it is more effective to change the incentive structure, rather than punish a never ending line of cheaters.
It's for this reason that you'll never get the drugs out of a big money sport, until the money starts to leave because of the drugs. The money is the incentive and sport rewards performance. Speaking from experience, Investment Banking faces a similar challenge.
It is also why draconian penalties don't work all that well to clean up a corrupt culture. The people on the inside have spent years justifying their actions and likely see the rules as the problem. You don't need a code of silence to enforce a corrupt culture because human nature does the enforcement for you. By increasing the all-or-nothing nature of the outcome, massive penalties can make it more difficult, not less, to break the chain.
To really change a dysfunctional culture, one needs to change the incentives.
So what were the incentives that appear to have created our financial crisis:
Top of my list is leverage -- we had plenty of warning that allowing companies, and investment vehicles, massive amounts of debt was systemically risky. We tolerated laws and investment structures that created a massive shadow banking system. LTCM happened about ten years ago. However, we didn't recognize the need to change back in 1998. You'd have be be a fool not to see it now.
The regulations are going to come. If your livelihood, or business model, depends on plentiful leverage then you had better start thinking about your back-up plan. Industries that rely on easy leverage are going to be decimated. I wouldn't be surprised to see laws making hedgefunds illegal. There is going to be coordinated global re-regulation.
Once you reduce the leverage in a system, you immediately reduce the profits available from gaming the system.
I also suspect that we will see laws banning many unregulated financial instruments as well as statutory limits on personal and corporate leverage.
Next is lack of transparency and disclosure. The act of telling the whole world (or at least your board of directors, bankers, employees and shareholders) what you are doing can help clear the mind. Disclosure needs to be compelled because human nature works to keep most of us pretty quiet in group situations.
Compelling disclosure can protect highly motivated people from themselves. Make it a crime (punishable by fine) for a company to have off balance sheet vehicles. If you are not willing to hold an asset on your main balance sheet... then should you be holding it at all?
In the UK, it is a crime (punishable by fine) not to share conflict of interest information with fellow directors. The law goes even further in that one needs to share the conflicts of other directors, if one has knowledge. I suspect that the US has similar laws on the books. So I don't think that a bunch of new laws are required. Rather, I think that consistent application of a straightforward code of conduct is required.
Next is enforcement. How much money does a white collar crime need to involve before there is a legal obligation to call the cops? I asked that question the other day and a lawyer couldn't tell me. A manager could misallocate hundreds of thousands of dollars and there isn't any obligation to call the police. I was amazed.
There is too much judgement given to directors in how they handle ethical issues. The upper echelon of any industry (or pro sport) is a club, the key players know each other and many outsiders are keen to get a seat at the table. If society has a problem with the culture of that club then we need to provide incentives for insiders to clean it up.
Which brings me to public humiliation, the single best deterrent available. While it might be fun to "win" -- letting down our peers and being disgraced... human nature sees that as HIGHLY unattractive. Elites pay attention when those around them are caught in ethical violations. Imagine how Eliot Spitzer's kids felt -- one really needs to be drunk on hubris not to think through how that situation had to end up.
Forgiveness and rehabilitation -- I'm not from the ban-them-for-life school of ethical punishment. My preference is to disclose; criminally convict (where appropriate); fine; ban for a reasonable period; and log the information on the public record.
Coming back to where we started this article, good people can make bad decisions and a lot of good can flow from a crisis that resulted from ethical lapses. Some examples:
Campaign finance reform -- McCain's actions on reform appeared to flow from the Savings & Loan crisis. Regardless of one's politics, you have to admit that John McCain has achieved tremendous good for his country. Did you watch the video? They should open each session of Congress by having the legislature watch the Obama campaign's "documentary". The 13 minute clip scared the crap out of me and I'm not even a politician.
Cycling reform -- David Millar (our photo this week) has become an advocate for cycling reform. He was caught, he did his time, his actions are on the public record -- now he appears driven to change the direction of his sport.
There are many more examples of good people getting caught (or not caught), coming clean then becoming a positive force for change (via personal foundations or crusades).
I suspect there are many CEOs and bankers that want to do the right thing for themselves, and their country. What we need to do is reduce the leverage they have available; limit their ability to sell unregulated products; enforce existing regulations; and publicly pursue/ban those that choose the break the rules.
Finally a few specific items that have been swirling in my head.
Mark to market accounting waivers -- John Mauldin is calling for the government to waive the obligation for companies to mark asset values to market. He is making his case by selecting certain assets that are clearly trading below long term value. We are in this mess because of a culture of non-disclosure, hiding bad assets and moral hazard from companies not having to live with the results of their decisions.
Advocating changing the rules, hiding the problem, giving banks time... that is how we got into the mess in the first place. John is a great writer, I read his letter every week, he has most things right, but I think he's got this one wrong. If you don't want to mark assets to market then don't buy those assets.
Compel full, and open, disclosure to create trust. If banks are allowed to hide their problems then we will never get the interbank market going again. Get everything out in the open and, where necessary, grant short-term waivers for capital adequacy ratios.
Government investments in bank equity -- our governments are shortly going to guaranty all our banking deposits as well as invest massive sums of capital into the balance sheets of our banks. I was amazed when Secretary Paulson said that the government wasn't going to seek board representation, or other rights. Would Goldman Sachs invest $700 billion without board representation, veto rights and disclosure requirements?
I suspect that the government is going to get taken to the cleaners on its investments. I couldn't invest $700,000 effectively if I had to rush -- $700 billion? It is likely to be a mess either way.
The money is the incentive, we must drive change at the same time as investment. As an investor, your power is strongest the moment before you invest. Once you've got a couple billion in a company, human nature creates massive inertia. This is a unique opportunity. There will be zero change if not driven by the governments that are saving these institutions. I take a lot more comfort in the British approach, so far.
Next week, I'm going to change direction and talk about Fit Pregnancy! Monica says that she really appreciated reading articles that athletic women wrote about their baby experiences. She's not a writer (but she makes really nice handmade cards...) so you'll have to read the story second-hand from Papa G.
A good friend sent me a link to an interview with Andrew Bacevich. The interview provides interesting points of view on patriotism, foreign policy, projection of power and the central values of American society. It takes an hour to get through and it was a useful way to spend a Sunday morning.
The interview is, nominally, with reference to Bacevich's book, The Limits of Power. The author is described as a conservative historian but many of his points are often made (far less effectively) by my liberal friends. The link was sent to me by a veteran who said that he watched with tears in his eyes because someone had finally put into words what he had felt for years.
An example is his position on "not war" as opposed to peace -- my quote, not his. It's the first time, I have heard someone talk about the Iraq war in a more nuanced point of view. Generally, we are presented with binary choices (in/out; win/lose; victory/defeat). Bacevich goes deeper and examines the impact of a full commitment in one area which limits our ability to commit in other areas.
As an investor, I look at the opportunity cost of a position. As a historian, Bacevich does the same thing with respect to the projection of power and the allocation of national capital. Like many strengths, wealth/force/power/fitness may be most useful when applied sparingly.
This week, I am going to have some fun and write about a topic dear to my heart -- Old School Endurance. Not quite "Old Time Hockey" but Paul Newman's passing has been on my mind. Watching Slapshot is a rite of passage for a lot of my Canadian pals.
Management and communication tips can wait for another week -- if you are like me then you could be a little burnt out on reading about the dire state of the global economy. There is going to be plenty of time for working through the aftermath.
Two quick announcements before we get started:
I was looking for photos on the web this past weekend and discovered my interview on Endurance Planet -- scroll down the page, I am July 1st. 13 minutes long with some ideas about performance and coaching that might interest.
Bobby McGee, world-class running and triathlon coach, is featured on Endurance Corner Radio. Greg Bennett is coming in two weeks. Send questions to Justin Daerr.
This past week, I was running (in the rain, wearing a cotton t-shirt... Chuckie you would have been proud). I was rolling along thinking about this article and Ironman Hawaii in particular.
The legend of Ironman is fairly well known... a few military guys sitting around trying to dream up the wildest event they can consider... Waikiki rough water swim, ride around Ohau, Honolulu marathon... something like that. For me, that's Old School Endurance.
Sit around with your pals, dream up something off-the-charts then figure out how to do it. Outside of Ultraman, there aren't a lot of triathlon events that fit that mould any more. You are most likely to discover old school endurance on events like the Triple Bypass, Leadville 100, Hard Rock 100 or by bumping into an ultra-amigo on the Continental Divide trail.
Ironman has gained a lot over the years, lives have been changed for the better, and many cottage industries have popped up -- pretty much as a direct result of that original dare.
As a private equity guy, I think the sale this year could mark the high water mark for Ironman, but not necessarily for the WTC, as a company. From the outside looking in, I can see clear opportunities for further profit enhancement:
Ramp things up and either fold into a larger entertainment group, or sell a piece of Ironman through the public markets. I keep coming back to Planet Hollywood in my mind, though -- not a great outcome for the IPO shareholders but a great franchise name. I'd be wary if they take m-dot public. Of course, history tells us that select buyers will pay a large premium to own world-class brands. My concern would be the risk of declining cash flow.
Why sell? Long term capital gains tax rates are likely heading up; and a vendor wants to leave enough in it for the next buyer to generate a fair return. The deal made sense to me from both sides.
How to maintain growth of an expensive and time consuming hobby in the face of a declining economic environment? The 70.3 series is a good strategic move. It will be interesting to see how Ironman handles a significant economic slowdown within its demographic -- the Ironman target market has had a sustained bull run -- we should get Dan Empfield to share his thoughts. Perhaps he'll write something about his -- SlowTwitch reflects the pulse of the sport and Dan has a historical perspective that few can match.
Back to Old School Endurance. Before I ever did a swim set or bike repeat, I was a weightlifter, hiker, and (very average) sport climber. Like many of us, I got a kick out of dreaming up new projects -- my progression to mountaineering was the ultimate in Old School. Find a volcano somewhere in Asia -- use a three-, or four-, day weekend to fly-in, summit and fly-out. I would sleep rough and listen to the jungle.
These days a ten-mile climb wears me out... still it is September. A guy's got to rest some time!
Some of you might recognize the guy in the photo below -- this summer during Epic Camp Italy, I used my easy day, to ride past the turn off for the Messner Museum in the Dolomites. Everest, solo, no oxygen, no one else on the mountain. Pretty Old School!
Endurance has a number of different qualities -- all of which are important to consider if you want to (ultimately) race well. Each of these attributes is linked with the others and a breakdown in one area ends our ability "to endure".
Mental Endurance -- the ability to keep moving forward until the objective is met. Chip away, bit by bit, day after day. The downside is that people that score high here are the sorts the die in the mountains, or spend years pounding away at an area where they have little potential. I score reasonably well here, so need to balance persistence (good thing) with consistency bias (risky thing).
Working on our physical endurance benefits our mental endurance in many ways.
Anger management -- I experience a lot of background anger in the world, specifically what drives a lot of ultraendurance athletes to get so far away from home, from the 'real' world, from everyone else.
To truly endure, we need to accept the way things are. Somehow, years of physical endurance training managed to work-out a lot of situations, histories, and people that used to upset me.
Humility -- This could be the ingredient that creates the later life peak for the ultra-endurance athlete. It takes most of us a many years to have enough setbacks to gain the humility required to stop repeating our mistakes. The only sure fire way to increase my humility is wait around until an unexpected setback reminds me that I don't have all the answers.
Fear -- for me, fear is what leads anger. I struggle to see the emotional roots of my fears... ...I only feel the anger. I spend a lot of time searching for the fear that lies beneath my emotions. My main fear has to do with disappointing people that I respect.
Physical Endurance -- just like VO2 max, many people appear to be gifted with bodies that are created to tolerate volume well. Expeditions are a great example of this trait. When I was in peak mountaineering shape, I could carry/haul 130 lbs of gear daily, at altitude, for a week -- good for me, "easy" for a sherpa! I could do a tremendous amount of low intensity work then handle hours of tempo on a final "summit day".
What I couldn't do was swim, bike or run quickly -- let alone put them all together. Endurance is an essential component of fitness but it is only a component. At my mountaineering peak, I was a mediocre athlete. But my solid endurance base, enabled surprisingly rapid progress when I started converting endurance to race fitness.
Most adult triathletes come to our sport with a focus on race fitness prior to the creation of an endurance (and strength) platform. This is the piece of the performance puzzle that is missed by intensity-driven programs -- most likely because they are created by life-long athletes that haven't experienced an absence of endurance.
Metabolic Endurance -- I don't read a lot about this in the literature but I see it with people that are able to survive when placed in extreme situations -- as well as athletes that are (ultimately) able to go 'fast' in an Ironman. Physical endurance is the ability to walk from Boulder to Vail. Metabolic endurance is the ability to do it on minimal food and water. Some coaches/athletes seek to train this through (effectively) starvation.
Perhaps a future article will talk about self-starvation, and self-denial, in an attempt to exert control within a mind that feels out of control. It's a complex psychological issue that is far easier to observe than treat. I have had my greatest success with simple acceptance and affection for (fellow) crazies.
Constitutional Endurance -- relates to how fast we recover, our immune systems and what we generally call our "constitution". We see this a lot at Epic Camp... there is normally one, or two, campers that manage to get stronger as the camp progresses. Some individuals can simply take more than others -- and keep bouncing back. In my mid-30s I could get away with extreme training -- at least I thought I was getting away with it!
Molina once managed the first week of an Epic Camp on nothing but liquid calories. He'd had the trots for a week leading into the camp! He didn't mention this to anyone lest we rip him to shreds -- Epic Campers can behave a bit like hyenas when they get fatigued...
Scott's not the only example of World Champions that score off-the-charts for Old School Endurance -- Tom Dolan is a guy that springs to mind. Talent, motivation, and the capacity to out-train any swimmer of his generation.
Now you might think that Ironman Hawaii is the ultimate test of endurance -- we could be fooling ourselves. The photo above is how Amundsen chose to spend his summer when he raced Scott to the South Pole. Great story. Guts will only get you so far without preparation.
The real test of Ironman is the months, and years, of daily training that are required to put together a fast race. That is the true test and probably why we see such an emotional release at the finish line -- so much went into that one day.
Some suggested reading to get your Old School mojo working...
Endurance, Shackleton (pictured above, likely the greatest demonstration of human endurance, ever -- gotta love the frosty beard, Monica won't let me grow one...)
Many enjoy the romanticism of endurance-Samurai that go down in flames -- the problem with that approach is you can't write up your adventures if you are dead on the mountain.
Being a success oriented guy, I like the stories that centre around getting the team home in one piece.
Molina's 50 in 2010 -- it's going to take me a while to build back up but I'm looking forward to Going' Old School one more time with my good buddy. We'll need to come up with something special.
Good luck to everyone racing Kona -- when it gets tough remember that it's just one day!
Back next week,
Before we get into the BMP, a couple of announcements:
It's my brother's birthday today. Happy Birthday Chuck! Relevant to the US elections, there is a clip about the Canadian Health Care system -- not exactly G-rated, you've been warned.
Brooke Davison just won the overall female AG title at Nationals in Portland last weekend. She's interviewed (with her 2 year old) over on Endurance Corner Radio.
Coffees of Hawaii now have decaf. Albert was kind enough to send me a sample bag and I'm hooked. Out photo this week is from the plantation on Molokai. When you grind the beans, they look the reddish color of the earth (seen in the picture). Enter "EC" at checkout for a 20% discount.
It's amazing what we can get done when something _really_ matters to us. My main client in the UK is working through its business plan with banks, shareholders and suppliers. As part of this process, we have been having a series of meetings with people that are fundamental to a successful outcome. Separate from content, I have found that my approach has a BIG impact on outcome. So here's my Big Meeting Protocol.
I had eleven days of preparation for the Big Meeting this past week.
I undertook independent discussions with senior managers; key shareholders; and lenders. I wanted to speak with people one-on-one because it reduces the tendencies we have in crowds -- peer agreement, avoiding bad news, consistency bias, deferral to authority. As the listener, I need to be aware of my own tendency to use these conversations to confirm, rather than to learn.
Prior to our meeting, I wanted to have a clear idea on the position of each of the company's projects. Our final internal meeting was a top-to-bottom review of every project on the company's books -- took three hours and we already knew the deals. We might not have identified all the issues, but we did our best to make sure that we all knew the same issues. This enables clarity in communication.
Finally, I believe that it is essential to have a clear understand on the cash position of a business. Running out of cash is not a good thing. I probably spent a full day considering the very short term cash position for the business. As I wrote last week, a buffer of liquid assets provides time -- in business, as in life, time can be very valuable.
Visualization is not just for Ironman swim starts! Throughout my business career, I have used visualization to prepare for, and rehearse, important meetings. While things rarely go as mentally (or actually) scripted, having mental and written plans increases your chance for a successful outcome. It also increases relaxation during your competitive event (in this case a business meeting!).
I have the exact same routine that I use for Big Meetings.
If the meeting is in the afternoon, or evening, then I will leave the office early to get my training done. I'll eat my pre-meeting meal and return to the office.
The routine makes sure that I am alert, relaxed, stress-free and fueled. Generally, key meetings don't last more than 3 hours.
In an important, or crisis, situation... it can be tempting to skimp on nutrition, sleep, or exercise. For me, that is always a mistake. My productivity and clarity are far higher when I stick with my routines. As well, I do my best problem solving when exercising (a meditation of movement, perhaps).
Big Meetings are stressful. When work stress increases, my caffeine intake halves. Clear decisions require us to slow our reaction time. Pausing, before acting, is tough enough when stressed, near impossible with a quad-latte coursing through our veins.
I didn't have a wingman this past week but have had one on the past.
In the UK, they have a habit of placing a small plate of cookies on the table at business meetings. Quite civilized, one meets for tea, cookies and business discussion...
If you have a wingman, ideally one with a low emotional attachment to outcome, then your wingman can "offer you a cookie" if you start to freak, or get off track. The pause to eat your cookie, could enable you to reset. You don't really need a cookie to use this technique... what you need is a calm friend and a pre-agreed strategy for signaling a need to pause. I suppose that is the role that an attorney takes in many situations. However... if you turn up with a lawyer then you might freak the other parties at the meeting!
If you don't know... ...then just say so
Kind of sounds like something Johnny Cochran would say. He really was a character.
Managing serious situations is about trust -- you might get away with spinning things in normal times but it is a poor strategy when faced with important decisions.
For my meeting this week I had two computer screens running (three spreadhseets); two reports open on my desk; and a hard bound book containing a year's worth of notes. With all that information, days of preparation and over ten years of advising the client... I was STILL stumped a few times!
If the stakes are high, and the quality of the decision relies on the accuracy of information, then people don't mind waiting a couple of minutes (or even another hour) while you calculate the right answer.
A commitment to accuracy/transparency is an attractive trait in a trusted advisor.
You'll see that I use a lot of "race tactics" for my Big Meetings. In reality, these are performance tactics. High performance in business, athletics and academics is all the same.
Take time to learn from successful outcomes and remember that the toughest situations are ripe with opportunities for learning.
Next week, I'm going to share specific ideas for managing through a recession. As I predicted last spring, we are moving into the action phase of global liquidity shock which was triggered back in August 2007.
As we saw with the demise of the American Investment Banks, it is a lot better to take action, than be acted upon.
Until next week,
Financial security and capital allocation are the topics for this week's letter. I have been wanting to write about these for some time. What a background in the capital markets -- a very rough week for people.
I am extremely busy on the business front. As you can imagine, we face a very challenging time in UK Property. If you are waiting for an email reply then I will get to you, just need some more time. Each day, I have had to parcel my energy, prioritize tasks and schedule recovery.
OK -- a couple of announcements...
***I turned on comments so that so we can interact. Take it easy on me. You'll find that moderation is 'on' so I need to review before they go live.
***Endurance Corner Radio has podcasts from Joe Friel and Chris McDonald. Send feedback to D.J. J.D., who is leading our effort. Joe is talking about his background (very interesting) and training. Chris explains how we can break Chris Lieto's course record at IM-Moo by using IM-Loo as part of our taper -- its easy if you just follow his point-by-point instruction for race week...
***Joe is going to be speaking at our Boulder Triathlon Camp next July. The camp is open to all levels/distances and will have a mix of hands-on instruction, training and discussions. Cost is $1,250 -- drop me a line for more details. We've got some great speakers lined up.
Who knew the markets would melt down? Personally, I don't blame the short sellers. They are only acting on what insiders and smart researchers have been telling us for months... our financial system needs to be recapitalized. Massive global deleverage is tough. In my own ventures, it is the main cause of the difficult situation faced by friends and clients.
What lessons can we learn?
Acquisition of capital is different than borrowing debt. Because debt comes from third party sources, we need to be wary of the tendency to view it as 'free' money. When I work with individuals, or companies, that run into trouble, it is often a crisis created by borrowing to the maximum extent permitted. Permitted under law, permitted under debt agreements, permitted by running X creditcards. An appropriate amount of leverage is well, well below the maximum that can be borrowed.
To me, capital in its most simple form is cash and liquid assets. Before we talk about how to allocate, let's consider how to acquire:
1 -- spend less than you make
Physically, I have been overweight before. When I was heavy, I would often wish that I could wave a wand and "be thin". If I could just get a chance to start all over then everything would be alright. I would tell myself that I wouldn't make the same mistakes again.
Finances are a lot like that. When we have no capital, we can spend a lot of time wishing that we had capital.
Physical fitness is just like financial health. Until we take actions, and create habits, that change the direction we are heading... we will keep heading the same direction. We have to make the change.
The two tips that I shared above come from The Richest Man in Babylon -- a good read on the topic of personal finances. I like that book because it doesn't make things too complicated.
3 -- Protect core capital.
What is core capital? Put simply, it is capital that you cannot afford to lose. Having no assets at 65 years old is a far different situation than being wiped out in your 20s.
At 40 years old, my view on core capital is ten years living expenses. While the income from that capital doesn't come close to covering my living expenses, it does give me years to adjust when faced with an unexpected setback. Across a full career in business, we can be certain that we will face multiple setbacks. After the past 14 days, the importance of core capital has become very apparent.
How do I protect core capital?
4 -- Be wary of leverage.
My core capital is completely unleveraged. While this reduces my return, it greatly reduces the risk profile on my portfolio.
I go even further in that I don't care about my investment return on core capital, I care about safety.
Within my business projects, I am willing to use leverage but, these days, only with capital that is above my core capital. Why am I so conservative?
5 -- You only need to achieve financial security once.
By following the basic principles in my book recommendation you can give yourself an excellent chance to achieve financial security over your lifetime.
Sure we are exposed to Black Swans but you can stack the deck in your favor if you educate yourself and stick to the basics.
It is surprisingly difficult to stick to the basics. We let our guard down, we cut corners, we are less careful. We need to be constantly vigilant!
For capital allocation, my first consideration is where I will be living in the future.
This is important to make sure that I have assets (and currencies) that will balance my future liabilities. While I don't trade currencies, I consider purchasing power parity when deciding about large investments which match, or don't match, future plans.
I don't have a lot of sophistication in my review -- I look at things such as daily living costs, relative prices of accommodation, interest rates.
When I think about property purchases, I am very specific -- seeking good value, in a specific neighborhood, of an appealing city. I define value back to my long term currency. For me, that means converting back to USD, the US is my likely home.
The cities that I really like are: Edinburgh (GBP); Paris (EUR); San Francisco (USD); Hong Kong (quasi-USD). I don't have any exposure to those markets presently but I keep an eye on them.
Currencies that I like are USD (matched to long term liabilities); CHF/EUR (long term stability). Some people like Singapore dollars but you only need to look at a map to see that there is real political risk in the neighborhood. In terms of Asian exposure, my preference would be a moderate yielding real property investment in Hong Kong.
When I was starting out, I thought that it would be nice to "be rich" -- whatever that means. Along my journey, I have realized that wealth is neither the goal, not the benefit of financial security.
The two main benefits are ethical reinforcement and personal freedom. If the pursuit of wealth forces you to compromise your values, or ties you to unpleasant situations... then one really needs to consider if that is a benefit at all.
Following the events of this past week, a very relevant consideration.
Our photo this week is my buddy, Chris McDonald. Much of this article has come from considering his approach, as well as observing myself. I think he'd admit that he's taken himself far, far beyond what he thought possible even a few years ago.
Simplicity -- Whether you are considering an investment portfolio, new project development, sales strategy, or how to complete a stretch week of triathlon training. Increased simplicity improves your probability for success. Remove as much as possible from your life.
Specifically, to achieve top success requires the capacity to outperform your competition, daily, for a very long time. Some of the competition are more talented, more experienced, better funded, smarter... simplicity is an edge that you can give yourself.
Dilution of effort -- every item, thought and obligation added to your life dilutes your ability to fully commit to what is required for success. Single minded obsession is often a recipe for a future crisis -- still... if we are having a discussion about performance... then alternating obsession with recovery can be an effective strategy.
For any task requiring high quality, focused output (creative, technical, athletic) the periods when you are doing nothing are equally important to the periods where you are following your vocation. In athletics, periods of unstructured training (easy days, transition periods) can fulfill this role but you will still need some time where you are free to sit in a chair and chill out.
So when you are laying out your plan for breakthrough performance, I would encourage you to plan, and protect, your rejuvenation periods. I have watched some truly great athletes destroy themselves by trying to hold their athletic "high" a few months too long.
Stability -- there are a lot of areas where we dilute performance with instability:
Financial -- assuming that you have shown aptitude for your passion, you should allow at least five years to see what's possible in terms of performance. Being able to stay the course is very important -- you are looking at 10,000 hours worth of effort to see what's possible. Consider your out-goings and in-comings, the athletes that get this "right" follow a clear written plan.
If you are following a high-pay vocation then be wary of spending "because you can". A high burn-rate limits flexibility, personal freedom and can leave you beholden to the company, or person, that signs your pay check. I also believe that it makes ethical purity much more challenging.
If you are forced to ratchet down an expensive lifestyle that never generated incremental happiness then you will feel _real_ pain and loss.
Alan wrote a recent article on athletic periodization -- as I read it, I realized that it is a parable of my approach to life -- moving between business, investing, marriage, spirituality, triathlon and coaching. For each "run" I take at Ironman excellence, there are months, sometimes years, of careful preparation -- Base training for life!
So... I will offer some specifics that are proven for triathlon success.
Finances -- a minimum of three years living expenses, in cash, in the bank and a plan for maintaining your financial security. Financial stress drains performance. Figure out your personal financial weak link and create a simple plan to improve it.
Geography -- no more than two training bases, one VERY low cost, the other in an environment that makes it easy to address your key personal limiter, whatever that might be. Access to at least eight months of pleasant outdoor riding; and access to at least four months of long course swimming. Altitude isn't important. Watch what you spend on airfares.
Approach -- early in your athletic career, your #1 focus should be building your capacity to absorb steady-state training load. If you aspire to be a top Ironman athlete then progress gradually until an average training volume of 25 hours per week can be achieved within a five month span. Just focus on the training, you'll learn a lot. Once you can handle that load then increasing the average speed will offer a lot more gains than cranking the volume even further.
Note, the time requirements for athletic success imply very flexible part-time employment, or unemployment! With meaningful work obligations (that require analytic capacity), it simply isn't possible for me to move much past 12-18 hours per week. Even then, I need to be HIGHLY organized.
Timelines -- Five years of dedicated endurance training would be a fast progression to where you need to worry about your specific protocol. In the early days, any reasonable protocol will show progress. Train every day and avoid doing anything too silly.
Be very wary of seeking an intensity-driven short cut. You will make gains but you will limit your ultimate development. Running is a great example where "run easy every day" can result in fantastic gains, for years, for all new runners. It is also my preferred protocol for elite swimmers/cyclists that must give their connective tissues years to catch up to their aerobic engines.
Competitive Exposure -- Maintaining a challenging, but not overwhelming, competitive environment is important for motivation and progression.
I recommend that you podium at agegroup World Champs before racing elite. If you can't podium then the best decision may be to develop as a fast amateur. This will free you to consider options, and opportunities, that present themselves outside of athletics. Realistically, until you can podium at agegroup World's then you are unlikely to be able to survive as an elite athlete. Even then, the road is a fun, but tough, one.
Pulling all of that together. The big things that I have observed over the years:
Next week, I am going to shift back to investing, specifically the process that I go through when deciding how to allocate capital.
All my best,
This week’s letter is about taking the time to consider the long term implications of our current choices as well as offering some insight into how I approach my personal planning.
The photo above has me thinking about some additional adjustments to my TT position - I will be tinkering this winter!
If you haven’t been to the Alternative Perspectives page in a while then you might enjoy two articles from Coach Kevin Purcell. The most recent was a thought provoker for me and very enjoyable.
2009 Boulder Camp – I am very happy to confirm Joe Friel and Bobby McGee as guest coaches at our Summer Triathlon Camp. Joe and Bobby have been instrumental in my athletic career and share more than fifty years of collective coaching experience.
As a reminder, the camp will run from July 20 to 25, 2009. By letting you handle your accommodation and morning meals, we have been able to set the cost at a very affordable $1,250. This camp is open to all abilities, all-distances and will have a balanced focus between skills development, triathlon training and athlete education. To confirm a slot, please drop me an email.
Two book recommendations for you: FIASCO is a great read about structured products and investment banking – it fits with my observations from a career inside the financial services industry.
Website Optimization is a good read for anyone that runs a web driven business, or brand. The book made me realize how little I know -- lots of easy ways to improve the reach of my writing. I read the book with pen, paper and a high speed internet connection. I approached the read like a "workbook" taking notes and making changes to my website outline.
I was walking around Edinburgh this week and noticed that it is impossible to see a credit crunch. The buildings don’t know who owns them, or the prices that we place on them. That realization settled me down at the start of a very busy week. The UK faces challenging economic times.
My trip to Scotland confirmed suspicions on the state of my personal NAV. Long time readers may remember that I sold my UK property exposure in 2005/2006 and used a portion of the proceeds to help establish a Scottish residential property developer. While the development business is stable, the market outlook for sector is weak.
I’ve seen a big reduction in the upside component of my personal portfolio and a stack of paper profits went up in smoke. My marked-to-market net worth went down significatly in 2008. No wonder investment banks are looking for a way to avoid reporting the true market value of their illiquid securities. It was a (very) good thing that I am not personally leveraged -- I would be toast if I was a hedge fund.
Interestingly, prime residential rents are way up in Scotland. We have seen a 50% increase in our portfolio yields over the last three years and, I suspect, there are more rental increases to come. The upward yield shift gives comfort to our bankers (in a time when they aren’t hearing a whole lot of good news).
We haven’t seen any evidence of forced selling by developers. This could change if the main lenders take a hard line but, to date, all the key participants seem content to sit-it-out until market conditions improve.
Times like this are potentially volatile because if everyone is doing nothing then there is substantial downside risk if assets (at the margin) are forced through the market. Prices always move at the margin and, in a thin market, the actions of a few can impact the balance sheets of the many.
The Tri Biz
Over the last three years, my largest single expense category has been “triathlon”. In 2005, I downsized my sources of triathlon revenue to create space for a big increase in my financial consulting business. The net cost of doing that was probably on the order of $100,000. I suspect that is a much smaller cost than many athletes bear when they downsize work commitments to focus on qualifying for World Champs. A single year off as a doctor, investment banker or CEO can cost a multiple of my figure.
I’m fond of saying that the easiest way to increase net income is to reduce personal expenditure. I remind myself of this because the consumption treadmill is a seductive trap, constantly marketed to us through the media.
In my annual review, I look at my expenses (current, projected, core and surplus) as well as my revenues (current, projected, downside, potential). I would encourage you to do the same.
Why? Because we always underestimate the large effect that small changes have over the time lines of our lives.
$33K per annum, for seventeen years, at 4% is $782,000.
By taking action to eliminate my net triathlon cost (today), I can finance my unborn daughter’s college education (tomorrow). Of course, all this is contingent on not spending the money elsewhere, or being miserable with the change. We can take cost control too far.
For me, starting a business helps spending discipline. My accountant tells me that the IRS will "help" further by disallowing losses if we lose money for three consecutive years. As well, I have considered bringing in a financial partner to create social, and profit, pressure. There are a lot of benefits to 100% ownership (see Raising the Bar) but I also benefit from having obligations to people I respect.
My game plan for personal expenditure control:
***Focus on the training camps that I am hosting Tucson (April); Epic France (June); and Boulder (July). Last year, I attended nine training camps and only one made a positive contribution to Gordo Incorporated.
***Consolidate the best of my writings into a single location for you (the reader) to access easily. The best marketing lesson from my triathlon experience is “give away good information for free”. Helping people is fun and creates massive goodwill. I have a stack of content spread between five websites. My content is underutilized and tough to access.
***Place my library within a website where I will be able to combine: (a) my coaching skills; (b) my writing skills; and (c) my enjoyment of helping people learn from athletics.
My financial consulting business has (effectively) total concentration with a single client. I am a big believer in the value of concentration (and the illusion of diversification). However, small things matter over long timeframes… one, or two, additional relationships will make a difference.
The benefit of my business model is it fits with my desire to main freedom of location and schedule. Commitments given to clients limit my freedom of occupation (somewhat), but I love working and there is a fair exchange.
An up-coming letter will discuss (in detail) my current personal portfolio strategy. While my outlook hasn’t changed, my portfolio structure changed (due to those paper profits evaporating).
The Truly Precious
There are clear requirements to a long term focus on elite athletics. These requirements have associated costs that can increase over time.
Financial – outlined above.
Structural – to run well in triathlon, I need to maintain a high level of annual run volume. Having spent most of 2007 walking around my house in fluffy slippers (to comfort bruised feet), I know that the required level of volume is wearing my feet out.
Emotional – I don’t know about you… but I am not a whole lot of fun from three to eleven weeks out from a key competition. I used to get around this by living alone in the spare room of a fellow endurance athlete, or hibernating upstairs at my house in Christchurch. The IronMonk-gig worked for athletic performance but lacked in terms of emotional well-being. I have increasingly found that I can’t be the husband I want be while spending 20 weeks a year on the knife edge of human endurance.
Monica is so completely loyal that she’d back me for another five years of relentless focus. She respects me too much to offer the soft option of backing off to please-the-wife. I didn’t truly understand the brilliance of doing that for your husband until this year. If you are married to somebody like me, it is the best way to ensure peace of mind in your man. I’ve got a couple buddies that have managed the freedom but haven’t (yet) found their peace. Don’t think that I’ve necessarily found any!
Addicts come up with all sorts of ways to justify their actions. Generally, I am only able to fool myself for five to fifteen years at a given vocation. Increasingly, I find better and better things to focus on. Fatherhood represents another opportunity for self-knowledge.
I have been truly fortunate to have the opportunity to spend much of the last decade living as an elite athlete. It has been a tremendous experience and worth all the overtraining, financial costs and other occupational hazards. I rarely regret the past, even my mistakes and “hard times”.
One of the main hazards of objective decision making is caused by a combination of consistency bias, overvaluing what we own and overweighing sunk costs. “I have given up too much to change course” is a common thought pattern that can skew clear judgment. There are also tremendous social pressures that we place on each other to remain consistent in approach. We have an in-built bias against “flip-floppers”. This is a bit odd in a world where most of our key decisions are made against a background of incomplete, and changing, information.
I have always enjoyed “doing what it takes” and, I suspect, that most obsessed folks are excellent at getting the job done. Seeing this trait, could be why Monica likes me to have a project. Too much idle time leaves me short on endorphins.
It’s an interesting time for me. With my sport, increasing costs are reducing my enjoyment from doing what it takes. Frankly, I’d rather be a world class person than a world class athlete. I am fortunate to have been exposed to role models that manage to do both.
Since 2004, I hoped that winning Ironman Canada would give me a fairy tale ending. Just like Monica, Life doesn’t appear to have offered me an easy way out.
Back next week,
Long time readers will know that I like to spend September reflecting on how things went over the last year. This year, I am a bit ahead of schedule and will share some ideas that I have been considering throughout August.
For short course racing, John Hellemans says that if you feel like quitting then you are going the correct effort. He is a multiple agegroup world champion and Olympic coach, so I remember his words. For much of this summer, I had that sensation in training -- I noted those feelings and reminded myself that, for Ironman, they were a clear indication that I was on edge and needed to be careful. I counted down my sessions, and the days, until Ironman Canada.
So why compete?
I have been getting slower for my last three years of Ironman racing. Similar to dying... we all know that slowing down is coming but it is a bit of a surprise when it actually arrives!
Why compete? Many valuable experiences are not pleasurable. The main personal benefits that I receive from racing all seem to come with "coping". We are all going to get knocked around a bit in life. Racing gives us a safe environment to train our coping skills. More specifically:
Coping with Public Success and Failure -- IMC 2007 was a public failure of a clearly stated goal. The failure caused me a lot of personal pain. However, trying our absolute best then failing... is liberating once we get past the pain. I am, mostly, free from concern over public performances. When I faced challenges in 2008, I looked inward... how do I want to respond to this decision, not... what will others think of this decision.
Pain results when Expectations (not performance) diverge from Results. Crisis comes from our expectations -- an athlete preferring to quit, rather than face the reality of their performance. Quiting stifles personal growth and, speaking from experience, it is far better to fail than quit. Getting across the finish line creates closure -- a DNF (that doesn't involve an ambulance ride) often remains an open wound.
Learning to cope with success is also challenging. People that like us for no reason aren't much different than people that hate us for no reason. It takes considerable self-esteem to remain ethically centered in the face of consistent positive feedback (social, financial, athletic...).
Dealing with a Lack of Control -- Control and stability are illusions, just ask any 68-minute Ironman swimmer! Racing drives that home to me, again, in a safe environment. Learning to manage our emotions, and decisions, while under extreme duress is a HIGHLY valuable skill that we take back into our daily lives.
Reaching Beyond Ourselves -- I have never made the lead swim pack in an international level triathlon. But... I don't rule it out! Racing provides us with an environment where we can achieve things that we thought were impossible. I've had a couple of disappointing Ironman races but... if I do happen to RIP one in the future... wouldn't it be great. Athletics have consistently shown me that I am capable of much more than I can imagine.
For me, the lessons of competition revolve primarily around self-awareness and self-control. Which leads nicely to...
Race Status, Elite versus Amateur
To explain my current thinking, I need to set the stage with a couple of stories...
A -- I have a few good friends that are former military officers. I have always been drawn to "something" that all good officers share -- the calling to be an exemplar. Charlie Munger uses the term with respect to CEOs but it applies to any person in a position of leadership (teachers, parents, coaches...). An exemplar is a leader that consistently holds themselves to a higher standard than their students.
B -- Within my own athletic career, the highlights aren't the times that I won races. The real highlights came when I performed close to the level of a great athlete (Tom Evans, Steve Larsen, Peter Reid). Not so often with Peter and not any more with Tom & Steve... but I hope you get my point... it is extremely motivating to have the opportunity to race alongside athletes that played a role in our entering sport in the first place.
C -- The quickest way to learn that external success is an illusion is to "win". Even then, "victory" is a powerful drug and highly addictive. There are many ways to keep score. In athletics, we use a clock. In other fields, they may count mistresses, dollars, clients, page views, sales transactions... external success can become a trap.
A long introduction to say that I have decided to race elite for another year. Slowing down with style will make me a better man, at a minimum a more humble man!
Racing beside Simon Lessing, and the traveling Aussies, at Boulder Peak 2009 should provide me with a solid stress management opportunity. As well, there are athletes out there that will enjoy taking me down. Why deny them that pleasure? Scott jokes that our Epic Camp clients enjoy taking down "the Ultraman".
Outside of Worlds, I'm not quite slow enough to make it a fair fight in the agegroup ranks (it could get a lot more fair during an up-coming break). In business, I have tried to be willing to sacrifice success to remain true to my values. So, you guys in the 40-44 next year will be safe from me... but I will be benchmarking against you. When you track me, remember that I have a 10 meter draft zone and, likely, had to swim alone, often without a wetsuit!
The Canadian federation makes it a bit challenging for non-resident nationals to receive their elite cards. As a result, I am going to seek a US Elite Card (once my Green Card comes through). To my friends north of the border, know that I love Canada and am a proud Canuck.
Next week, I will publish Part Two. That letter will cover the intersection of Business, Athletics and my Personal Plan. I have things sorted for my 40s but have discovered a few areas that need to be addressed to prepare for my 50s and 60s.
I play a long game.
This week, I'm going to talk a bit about the evolution of my approach to the bike leg in triathlon. I have gone DEEP into the archives for your reading enjoyment!
But first, two multimedia links for you.
Laura Bennett Olympic Video -- great if you have kids that are wondering what it might take to get themselves into the Olympics! The video is about 24 minutes long -- so let it buffer.
Chris McDonald Podcast -- The Big Unit updates on his year since winning IM Louisville last August. Great info on racing Challenge Roth as well as life at the sharp end. More Chris can be found at his blog.
You can waste a ton of energy thinking about your bike position -- each year, I try a few changes in January/February then tinker through the year based on optimizing COMFORT, not power.
Short course athletes might think that comfort doesn't matter. However, if it takes you a few miles to loosen up then your race is OVER before you get into your run groove.
For Ironman, if your back locks up on the bike then you give away tons of "aero". 112 miles of riding is a heck of a long way to endure a tight position.
So, remember what really matters to triathlon performance:
Bike position has NOTHING to do with how your bike looks racked in transition. Your bike position is about how you perform on your bike as well as how you run off your bike.
Your true bike position is what you are holding when tired, not fresh.
Let's get into a few photos to kick off.
OK, now for a bit of raw reality with some of the positions that I've used over the years. Below is a shot from my first bike fit with John Cobb, April 2002.
The position looks great on the trainer. Trouble is... how the heck do I see where I am going? Look at my vision. Straight down. So I would have to crane my neck upwards even to see a few meters up the road. Not great for long distance triathlon.
As an interesting aside... I look fit in that photo but I am totally smoked and only a few weeks away from my first bout of serious overtraining. If I knew then what I know now...
Below are my next two bikes -- the position I rode in 2004 as well as what I changed to in 2005. The reason I changed in 2005 was I wanted to get my saddle more forward. I will come to the "why" in a little bit.
1 - look at the angle of my arms, they are pointing down. You see this a lot at the races. My front end is too low for my flexibility. As a result, my low back is constantly firing and my back will tighten as my ride progresses. Eventually, I'll have my wrists on my aerobar pads and form a big wind scoop with my body. My bike, however, looked excellent racked in transition!
2 -- I corrected this point in the picture on the right. I'm able to relax my back in the position. An important point... a higher front end can result in a lower, more relaxed, back. This is very important to remember for all distances.
The positions above worked out well for me -- they weren't all that aero but they were, on balance, comfortable enough for me to run very well (3 hours flat on the day photographed below).
Bump the draft zone out to 10 meters and my position becomes more relevant. Why? Try sitting fourth wheel at 40 km.h with 5 meter gaps between bikes. You will very quickly see that 7 meters Ironman (front to front) is quasi-draft legal once you can hold 40 km.h. To race well in the agegroup ranks you must learn how to use your competition both effectively and ethically.
Recognizing this fact, I have been working on getting more slippery. With four months until my 40th birthday, there is limited upside with my horsepower. My current position is photographed below.
Wheels -- 1080 front, sub-9 disc rear -- this is an insanely fast wheel combo. If you are going to run the 1080 then you must practice in training. If I had to choose my single greatest source of speed then the wheel set wins. I used to be highly skeptical about the impact of wheels until I put these on my bike.
Vision -- I can see up the road without straining my neck. I can't see far... but I can see far enough.
Helmet -- Giro Advantage Two -- if you are a heavy sweater, racing in hot weather, or suffer from dehydration on the run... then GO VENTS. If you are racing in the cold then an aerohelmet is the most efficient way to keep your core temperature up. Keep the tail down against your back (my IMNZ race photo shows a big gap, that is a no-no).
Seat Height -- at the high end of acceptable, seems to work for me.
Cleanliness -- no bottles catching the air coming down my back. My spares are in a bike bottle in my seat tube bottle cage. Fluids are via aerobar mount and down tube bottles -- can be accessed with minimal body movement. I wear a skinsuit, so there is no flapping clothing.
Arm position -- Going narrow as sped me up (see differences in photos below). The ONLY way that I can hold a narrow position is to pull my elbows backwards towards my hips. I run a very shot stem.
OLD ARM POSITION, wide
While it might be tempting to slam even more forward... remember that you need a place to put your head and you don't want to create chronic neck pain. Your TT position needs to be comfortable, otherwise you'll never train in it!
Wind Tunnels -- I spent several thousand dollars with wind tunnel testing a few years ago. Frankly, it gave me the wrong answer. I recommend field testing, ideally race performance data.
Ride Strategy -- How you use your position is as important as the position itself. I am looking for a position that enables me to relax in the fast parts of the course and be comfortably powerful in the slow parts of the course.
I have power variability in my rides because I rest at high speed. I avoid power spikes as they impair my run for very little time gain. I will, however, lift my power in the slow part of the course. I am constantly considering effort versus air speed when TTing.
The bike is the only part of a triathlon where you can coast with very little time penalty. The run provides ample opportunity to lay it down, as well as, the greatest time penalty for cracking.
What to Optimize?
Here is my ride logic:
#1 -- what is my best case scenario for power output and average speed across the race distance, ignoring the run?
#2 -- what is the fastest position that I can hold at 95% of best case power?
#3 -- open with (at least) the first fifth of the ride at 90% of best case power. Lower heart rate into my target zone and establish hydration, nutrition and comfort.
#4 -- if I am feeling good then gradually shift upwards to 95% of best case power and hold as RPE increases across the ride duration.
#5 -- invest my greatest effort into the slowest parts of the course. Remember that (nearly) every meter of the run will be slower than the bike.
#6 -- until I run well, keep lowering my target bike effort.
What is it Worth?
The two things left for me to consider are my fork/front wheel combo as well as my wrist height (guys like Levi seem to lift arm angle to close off the wind scoop entrance, Fabian less so).
With a bit of luck, I may be able to pull a couple more watts out.
"Can you expand on your practice of relentless positivity and how you apply it to training, racing, everyday life- and those occasional down periods most of us must deal with."
Happy to share ideas.
The first step for me with any topic/challenge is awareness. Without awareness of our patterns, biases and habits, we tend to roll through life on autopilot. So, I want to create awareness of my current programming as well as the triggers that can toss me into an unconscious reaction.
It has been close to a decade since I undertook the program outlined in The Artist's Way. The program appears really hokey at the start but has a tremendous amount of value. I don't really know how, or why, the program worked for me but it enabled me to gain clarity on my values and biases.
In the case of personal attitude -- awareness would likely concern how/when we speak/write/think of ourselves in a negative attitude. Awareness would also include how we speak/write/think of others in a negative attitude -- in my experience, the more needy our ego, the greater the desire to speak poorly of others.
We too often accept vocal negativity from 'popular' people because of their station in society. If we want to be positive about ourselves, we need to be positive about everything. Remember that fit, beautiful, popular, rich and successful -- none of these imply "positive".
Peer group is an easy way to improve attitude (or screw it up). Positive people want to be associated with others that reinforce their attitude. In building quiet self-confidence, you will make yourself much more attractive to the sorts of people that you want in your life.
If you note the sorts of people that attract you, then you can quickly learn about your true value system. Over time, your peer group will modify your value system. Choose wisely!
Learning Positivity -- A good technique to start the ball rolling is to carry a small notebook around and record 'good things' as they happen to you (at least one per day). Our brains seem to do a lot better at finding faults then seeing good events. The notebook helps reprogram us by noticing something good; then writing it down and making it more concrete. No need to write down your judgments/negativity and don't worry if you find that there is a steady internal conversation that is less than ideal (its perfectly normal).
Another technique that I use is reminding myself that every person/situation has something to teach me -- even if it is patience, or anger management. So the internal dialog goes, "this situation seems to be stressing me, but I am learning how to cope and manage myself. So, actually, it is pretty useful for me."
Getting a momentary pause into my head to consider the situation is magic. By maintaining my self-awareness, I can often direct the outcome. My (slower) conscious reactions are nearly always superior.
NOTE -- this is why I avoid repling to an email/post/friend when irritated. I give myself 24-hours to mull things over -- the quality of the reply is always better. If I am really wound up then I write a reply (in Word, so I can't accidentally send) and review in the morning. I have never had to send the reply to feel better. Breaking the cycle of attacks is a noble calling!
Interestingly, I have also found that nearly everything in my life will work itself out in a few days WITHOUT my involvement. I suspect that we all greatly overestimate our importance to the world. This is also good to remember because we tend to be so self-absorbed that we fail to notice much of what's happening around us. Very good news as it means that most of my mistakes go unnoticed.
So we have a continuous, and circular process of:
We can most easily adjust our patterns through control of our writing. Diaries/Blogs are very powerful tools that we can employ. Know that public expression exposes us to the slings and arrows of the insecure -- nothing demonstrates our collective insecurity quite like an internet forum that enables anonymous posting. Participation in such a community strengthens its power over us and brings its dysfunction into our peer group.
Once you feel that you have a handle on your writing then speaking/teaching is a very powerful method of reinforcement. Beware of our tendency to insert little self-depreciating 'asides' -- these are not alright. We don't need to pull ourselves down to be attractive to others. Humility doesn't require self-abuse.
The Dinner Party Game -- I've spent over an hour saying something positive about each successive person that was being cut-down at a dinner party. It is a fun game, but fatiguing. I passed on my next invite to that house (peer group).
Teaching -- when I had a public internet forum (that enabled anonymous posting), it provided me with a great platform to clarify and establish my thoughts on a wide range of topics. It also provided me with a daily opportunity to reinforce the views/qualities that I wanted to build into myself. However, be aware that consistency bias is a powerful force that must be battled to retain an open mind.
Feedback -- having a trusted adviser share areas for improvement can be really beneficial but remember that we each have a limit for the amount of "tough love" that we can handle. Quite often, you are best served by advisers with whom you have no emotional attachment. A coach exists to take the blame and (once trust is established) point out items that others would avoid. The client is normally quite adept at taking the credit for progress.
There is always a subtle background desire for reprisal when I receive a direct, and accurate, assessment of my weaknesses. As a result, I ask Monica for feedback when I can handle it and NEVER before bed. I never ask an adviser for feedback when I know that I am unable, or unwilling, to try their advice.
Coping with down periods. These are the key things that I use to try to perk myself up:
Wake-up time -- if I can get myself out of bed on time... this seems to help. Sleep pattern is HUGE for me.
Light -- I turn on every light day/night when I am awake. Bright light seems to help. In winter, I recommend walking outside during the brightest time of the day.
Sleep -- going to bed early (but not too early!) seems to help. I try to avoid napping more than 15 minutes because that normally means I don't sleep as easily at night. When I was working long hours in Hong Kong, weekend naps were really helpful. Back then, I was so tired that falling asleep was never an issue.
Music -- my iPod is a valuable tool to perk me up when I'm feeling a bit flat.
Intensity -- sustained high intensity is a bad idea (for me) when feeling flat. However, alactic training can perk me up. Alactic training is short (5-20 second) bursts of high intensity training.
Strength Training -- I find that lifting weights helps cheer me up.
Nutrition -- refined carbs are the bane of the mood swinging athlete. If I am going to take comfort in food then I aim for protein and good fats. When I am depressed my brain chemistry is screwed up enough without deviation from my normal (high quality) diet.
Peer Group -- I am very lucky that my wife, and buddies, like me despite my flaws. Hanging around with them when I am flat is beneficial (even if Monica has to drag me out of the house).
Movement -- one hour per day, every day, non-negotiable -- walking counts!
The final thing is a reality check. No matter how depressed I get, I can remind myself of the following:
The three points above, help me persist with my emotional rehab exercises (outlined above). Once I come out of my funk (not during), I sit down and figure out what triggered it. Key triggers:
Looking at the list above, the two weeks surrounding an A-priority event have a lot of these triggers.
Also beware of anything that can change your brain chemistry -- prescription drugs, alcohol, recreational drugs. As well as major forms of life stress: moving, change of job, divorce, death of a close family member, etc...
When done with a wellness-focus, the athletic lifestyle provides me with the greatest probability of emotional stability. Far better than the false gods of alcohol, sex, work, money, and personal superiority.
It is ironic that endurance athletics is most effectively used as a coping mechanism absent of the protocols that are designed to maximize performance.
Over the long term... the desire to succeed is most effective as a mental trick to get myself out of bed in the morning.
The best lesson that I was taught this year was never mess with another person's motivation. That is a tough thing to do as I battle with the desire to "be right". I want to do a better job at respecting what gets other people out of bed in the morning.
Our photo this week is Team Bennett (Greg & Laura).
As I type this, Laura is heading to Beijing in order to represent the US in the Olympics (pretty cool). I have been fortunate to get to know the Bennetts over the last little while.
When I compare Laura to myself, what stands out is her true attitude. By "true attitude" I mean the way she is. She is not working on having a positive attitude -- she "is" positive in a very peaceful sense.
Over the last eight years, I have made a consistent, conscious effort to reprogram a habit of relentless positivity. I also work on seeking to view situations from the opposite perspective. My attitude is a habit, Laura's attitude is a trait. Give me another 20 years and I might get there!
When I was working with Dave Scott in 2004, I was amazed at his grasp of the competitive dynamic of Ironman racing. Dave's toughness and physical skills are legendary but, I think, what really gave him an edge was understanding the competitive dynamic of a race and knowing how to "win".
The only person that I've met with a similar level understanding of mixing terrain, skills and tactics is Greg Bennett (the other "GB"). Seeing as I am an older, long course guy... (i.e. no threat!) ...Greg speaks freely around me. Like listening to Molina, I kick back and soak up the knowledge. Every single time I sit down with Greg, I learn something new. What's unique to Greg is his capacity to create, then execute, a winning strategy. There are a lot of strategic coaches out there but they rarely have the physical goods to deliver their own plans. He's formulating, visualizing, then executing his own victories.
With a bit of luck, we will be able to schedule the Bennetts as part of our evening speakers series at our Boulder Camp next July.
Toby (from Art of Tri) has offered a 20% discount to all gBlog readers. What you do is enter the discount code at check-out. The code is GORDO-99 and the website is HERE. Monica and I like the hoodies.
One of Art of Tri's taglines is "One Passion...Endless Training". That can mean a lot of different things. Five years ago, I might have interpreted that as making sure that I met my daily target of Five-A-Day.
Five hours of training, rather than five servings of fruits and veggies!
More and more, "Endless Training" is about maximizing my athletic enjoyment across a lifetime. Taking care of my body and making sure that I'm still able to do interesting things into my 60s and 70s.
The first time I rode up the Tourmalet (pictured below), there were two guys well into their 60s (perhaps 70s) grinding their way towards the summit. Totally soaked in sweat -- suffering in silence. Frankly, they looked a lot like Montgomery, Newsom and me -- just older!
I want to be those guys. I want to be on the Tourmalet in 2030 (hopefully with Molina.
Add It Up
Rarely do we invert the question.
Instead of stating "What it takes", I start by asking my clients "What have you got?"
In order to figure that out you need to Add It Up and I like a time inventory/log to get a hold on that. Consider in a week, time spent...
Don't waste time scheduling your perfect week -- rather, observe, and log, what you are really doing. You will learn a lot.
There are no sacrifices required for success, merely choices. Most people will resist the above exercise because they don't want to be faced with the information that would result.
One of the choices I make is to sub-contract as many non-core items as possible. Paradoxically, I also retain a number of items that might appear to be low value added:
***Cooking red meat
I could probably sub-contract these items but I find them relaxing and happen to be very good with pet poop.
My point is we can only "create time" by reducing our commitments. In my podcast with Chris McDonald, his advice to the aspiring athlete was "sell everything". Extreme simplicity is another way to reduce commitments -- if you don't have a house, car, consulting practice, spouse, job, garden, pet... then there is nothing to spend time on. Remember that elimination of many of these items will have a negative impact on our ability to have a life with meaning.
OK... once you've added-it-up. Reflect on the following levels of endurance commitment...
Nine hours of training per week -- at this level, you will be able to achieve personal health and enjoy the wellbeing that comes from endorphin release. Remember that the greatest benefit you receive from an active lifestyle comes from the first hour in your daily routine. At this level, you are unlikely to maximize your potential as an "athlete" and a lot of people are curious about how far they can go.
Fifteen hours of training per week -- at this level of long term commitment, you have a very good shot at achieving the bulk of your athletic potential. I think that it represents an achievable target for an athlete that wants to make endurance sport a fundamental aspect of their life.
Now the kicker... endurance sport attracts a lot of extreme people, such as myself. After a taste of early success... we convince ourselves that "achieving the bulk of our personal potential" is selling ourselves short. So we target...
Twenty-One hours of training per week -- if you want to squeeze the last few percentages (and we are talking small percentages) from your performance then you're looking at a 1,000 hour annual commitment for an extended period of your athletic development.
Thing is... even if you can handle it physically (many can't)... as you shift ever upward on the endurance commitment scale... you will notice that, eventually, you also need to annually commit an extra 700 hours of sleep and spend an extra 350 hours on athletic admin (massage, stretching, changing, showering, travel).
For many, what was once an enjoyable 450 hour annual commitment, gradually becomes an all-encompassing obsession sucking upwards of 2,000 hours a year.
So in addition to adding up your available time, also consider what level of athletic commitment makes the most sense in terms of the life that you are seeking to create for yourself.
Sit on that nest egg for 20 years at 5%
This week I'm going to share some ideas about what I am seeing in the financial world as well as discuss how July went for me (in an athletic sense).
First an announcement on 2009 Training Camps. Right now, I have committed to three training camps. Each camp has a slightly different focus that I'll touch on. If you are interested in more information on any of them then drop me a line.
Side note -- cyclists are welcome to any of the Endurance Corner camps, the swim/run aspects are optional.
Endurance Corner Tucson Camp -- March 29 to April 5, 2009 (Sun-Sun), training will run Monday to Saturday. An early season camp with a "training" focus. Appropriate for 13 hour and faster IM athletes -- as well as -- 6 hour and faster Half IM athletes. Highlights will include Mt Lemmon, Cactus Forest Trail, Kitt Peak and Madera Canyon. We will be based at The Hotel Arizona -- camp price is all inclusive for the week ($2,350).
Epic Camp France -- June 13 to 22, 2009, training will run Sunday to Sunday. It must be the Kiwi Winters but John and Scott have upgraded our initial thoughts on route. This one will be doozy! Highlights will include the Galibier, the EmbrunMan Bike Course and Stage 17 from this year's Tour (Embrun to Alpe d'Huez, massive). We will finish off the camp with an EpicMan competition that includes a TT up Alpe d'Huez -- camp price is all inclusive and expected to be ~e3,300. Epic Camp is only appropriate for athletes in sub-11 hour shape -- be prepared for up to 27 hours of training in the first three days of the camp.
During the day we will take advantage of the outstanding terrain that is offered in, and around, Boulder. Evenings will include expert speakers on a range of subjects (nutrition, mental skills, building your training week, getting the most out of our bodies). The price point on this camp will be lower as athletes will sort their own breakfasts/lunches/accommodation/transfers -- we will handle support, sag, sports nutrition, and dinners. More info to come -- drop me a line if you want to reserve a slot.
If you've been looking for an opportunity to train with me (and my network) but were concerned about your "speed" then the Boulder Camp is a great opportunity for you. It will be an active week that blends physical fitness with education on performance and personal wellness.
Speaking of personal wellness... Alternative Perspectives has a great piece from Kevin Purcell about a number of different factors that relate to endurance sport and exercise. Click THIS LINK to check it out.
Pricing -- prices move at the margin. Stepping back from commodity markets (which I don't understand), the "margin" appears to be characterized by increasing supply, reduced ability to pay and increasing risk premiums.
Transaction Volume -- the people that I know with the capacity to pay are staying on the sidelines. A few are dabbling in commodities but no one is, yet, investing real money (for them). Regardless of what they say publicly, I don't see the international banks doing much external lending. As I wrote a few months ago, what seems to be happening is internal discussions on how best to sort their existing client relationships. Done properly, an active restructuring of loan portfolios could prove to be profitable for the banks (and painful for the shareholders of non-performing loans).
I started my career in the early 90s when asset values were falling, PE ratios were (relatively) low and leverage was only available on conservative terms. In that market, my firm made solid profits from backing solid management teams and cash flow businesses. However, what really helped was multiple, liquidity and leverage expansion (a tailwind of mushrooming global liquidity).
I've been thinking about how one might profit when things turnaround. Haven't come up with anything -- although I have put any US property investments on hold while the financial sector's liquidity position continues to weaken.
Another thing that I remind myself of... the world isn't ending. Times are tough for the people at the "margin", no doubt about that -- if you are working in a factory building SUVs then there will be very real stress. However, broadly speaking, the economy is rolling along, slower but still moving.
Given the scale of the write-offs in the financial sector, the economy is doing well. Perhaps there is a longer lag effect that has yet to be seen. I expected the impact from last summer's credit crunch to be larger and more severe. My contacts in the banking sector lead me to believe that there could be a wave of "action" coming towards the end of this year. In the past, I've found that most large organizations prefer inaction, over action, in a crisis situation.
If the banks start taking clear, consistent action on their loan books, that would lead me to believe that we are through the worst of the crisis. Right now, most organizations continue to consider their options.
Ed made the observation that many triathlon writers have a background current of anger in their blogs and forum posts. The anger is something that I have noticed and stopped reading certain sites/writers because of it.
Perhaps anger is too strong a word -- a better way to put it might be "grumpy". I was swapping emails with Tom and Scott the other day. Tom made the comment that his training approach was designed to avoid getting too grumpy. Scott was forgiving me for an email that was sent
So maybe that is another early warning signal that an athlete may have done enough training... when we move from being fatigued into the Grumpy-Zone.
I called Monica this morning from Vail and made sure to point out that I was merely tired, not grumpy. She chuckled and said that the drive back to Boulder offered plenty of time to enter the G-Zone.
Anyhow, when guys as experienced as Evans/Molina warn about the G-Zone... it might make sense to keep on eye on it. When the world starts to drive us crazy, perhaps we are simply a little over-reached.
Cheers via bootleg wireless in the high Rockies,
This past weekend, I was racing at the Vineman 70.3 in
It seems somewhat obvious but it is worth setting the scene with the observation that we can race in three types of fields: weak, moderate and strong. Each of us will cope a little differently within these levels of competition and each type of racing is useful for an athlete.
I chose Vineman because a strong field of elite competition was likely. I figured that Chris Legh, Craig Alexander and Chris Lieto would turn up. The bike course is against my preference and having strong athletes there would provide me with an honest picture of my fitness. It is easy to fool ourselves in training – you line up with five of the best athletes in the world, you will get some clear feedback.
Little did I know that a lot of other speedy people had the same idea and the race was one of the fastest that I have done. Terrenzo, Craig and Steve finished in a different zip code than me. As an aside, Cam Brown traditionally puts a similar amount of time into me in a Half IM as he does in a full IM. I’m not sure if I have ‘weird physiology’ or am simply soft. I saw Mark Allen this afternoon and, like Dave Scott, his standard for a decent Ironman starts at about 8:10 for the guys!
Lining up with such great athletes, I felt completely relaxed. The expectations are on them and, if things go well, then I have a shot and beating them. As well, there are plenty of people to tow you along, or chase down later.
A few years ago, I asked Scott why one of his athletes was always choosing the toughest events. It was clear to me that the athlete could win a lot more races with ‘better’ race selection. Stepping aside from appearance fees… Scott said that it is fun to go fast and race the best people. Vineman last weekend gave me an appreciation of the benefits of strong competition.
I came within 5 (!) meters of making the front swim group. There was a bend in the river and the depth went down to 18 inches. The lead group stood up and everyone looked at each other. That was my shot to get back on but I couldn’t quite bridge on. If I had really been willing to kill myself… ???
As it turned out, neither could Chris Legh and I ended up swimming beside him. I eased off to get on his feet and another athlete “had” that position. So I backed off and got behind him. He then lost Chris during an acceleration around the turnaround buoy – beware of turns! Anyhow, he was kind enough to tow me for the rest of the swim (much appreciated) then drop me in transition!
My transitions left quite a bit to be desired. The speedy guys took a couple of minutes out of me during the race. Not to mention at least one kilometer of soft pedaling while I tried to get my feet in my bike shoes. My skills are “ok” but the top guys have the little details wired. X-Factors.
Before the race I predicted that I would average 40 km/hr on the bike and run about 1:20 for the half marathon.
As it turned out, despite shifting my training focus heavily towards the bike, the top guys rode close to ten minutes into me and I ran 1:15 off the bike. I’m not sure if my slower bike performance is mental or chronological (Father Time). I am grateful that my position/equipment is improved because I am able to get a lot more speed from my power.
The elite draft rules (10 meters) make a big difference on bike speed. For what it’s worth, being able to ride under agegroup rules (7 meters) would make a big, big difference to my times. Perhaps I’ll demonstrate in my 40s when I go back to agegroup racing – with a 7 meter draft zone very fast times are possible with smart tactics.
I used all my gizmos on the bike – HR, speed, cadence, power. For racing I am using the new wireless SRM with PowerControl VI. I’m very happy with that product – paid retail, and boy do they charge (PowerTap works great if you are on a budget).
I recalibrated on race morning and that may have had an impact on my power numbers (which seemed a bit low). For the techie people out there, I raised my offset from 570 to 609. Adjusting manually back down to 570 makes the numbers look a lot more ‘normal’ compared to my testing and powertap data.
As an interesting point, coping with ‘low’ power data is an unpleasant, but valuable, experience. Even as a seasoned athlete, seeing low data was depressing for me. Ironically, I’m only happy on the bike when I am riding too hard!
When I arrived in T2, I definitely felt like quitting. I suppose that it is tiring to go fast but, inside my head, the sensation was that it is depressing to go slow. I had run the numbers on my day and calculated that I was going to finish in about 4:20.
With Monica waiting outside of T2 (wondering why it was taking me so long in there), I made myself a deal that I could retire from athletic competition but only after I ran 13 miles. Finish line retirement was OK, quitting in front of my wife wasn’t acceptable (perhaps that’s why she came…)
Heading out on the run, Jay-Z was arriving on the bike. While it was nice to see that she was leading the ladies’ race, her presence drove home that I hadn’t exactly scorched the bike. It also meant that I had better get moving because Joanna loves running guys down!
I ran on feel and had no idea about pace. I noticed that everyone (that I could see) started their run faster than me (Monica asked if I had stopped to eat a burrito in transition). This continued until about 2K into the run when I started to relax a bit and speed up.
Approaching the turnaround, I saw that I was two miles down on Terrenzo, Craig and Steve. I perked up for a bit then saw a long line of people heading out of the turnaround area – how did so many folks get in front me? However, my good mood persisted as I figured that I could catch at least a couple of them. I caught a few more guys and the fear of them coming back on me spurred me along.
Arriving at the finish line I was surprised to see 4:04 on the clock. That’s less than a minute outside of my personal best for the distance. Part of me was a little disappointed because it looks like I have to postpone elite retirement for a bit longer!
Jay-Z held on for victory and Monica tells me that she’s won three straight Half Ironman races. That lady has been speedy for a very long time. She let me feel her gold ring from the 2000 Olympics during the pro meeting and it is always nice to race alongside her.
I wonder how fast I could go if I was as tough as the ladies?
One of the key things that Charlie Munger repeats in his Almanack is the advice to "always invert". I have been reading that advice for three years but only recently started to grasp the meaning. I think what he is trying to tell me...
...to improve your chances of being successful, make sure you figure out what can kill you.
Munger believes that a solid track record of success can be created by sticking to what you know, working hard and limiting your poor choices. Inversion is a method of bringing potentially poor choices, or situations, to the front of your mind.
The books that I recommended in the last few weeks do a great job when it comes to applying this advice in the real world. However, I spent yesterday considering what derails athletic success.
According to Daniels, the two key aspects of athletic success are inherent ability and motivation.
However, our ability to achieve athletic success is a mixture of what we choose to do and what we choose to avoid. Nothing impacts choices as directly as your peer group -- choose associates wisely.
Across an athletic lifetime, there are ample opportunities for self-sabotage. World Champions (like Molina) have interesting stories about personal triumphs. They have hilarious stories about their mistakes. Unknowingly, I have been studying oral autobiographies of great champions/investors/coaches over the last eighteen years.
How we defeat ourselves in racing
The Dead Zone -- the dead zone starts at the average wattage (and heart rate) for a Half Ironman race where you ran well. What is "running well"? I like to define it as within 7% of a fresh half marathon split. Within my own racing, I can come within 5%.
Why do I call it the dead zone? Because if you spend too much time above your average Half IM power (or heart rate)... your hopes of a decent marathon will DIE. The more time you spend there, the greater the likelihood of marathon difficulties.
We shouldn't blame the molecular structure of our nutritional choices, the issue lies with our selected race effort.
In racing, the #1 thing that can kill you is choosing a race pace that exceeds: (a) your fitness; or (b) your capacity to fuel to the finish line.
The likelihood of a superior performance increases the more easily you start the day. Consider:
Swim -- once you are swimming an easy to steady effort, you will find that you need to massively increase effort for a tiny increase in pace. You won't believe the scale of this relationship until you actually try it for yourself. In fact, a number of athletes strongly resist learning this knowledge.
As the saying goes...
The test workout is 5x800 meters (each one faster than the one before) -- best done open water or in a 50-meter pool. Check your average/max HR per lap against your pace per lap. Compare your workout average pace/HR with the average pace/HR for the final two laps.
Bike -- providing you choose humble gearing (a BIG assumption), you have the option to moderate and totally control your effort. If a former World Ironman Champion like Scott Molina can ride with a 30/27 then you should be able to suck-it-up and be realistic about your gearing needs.
Run -- if you blow on the run then the time penalty is MASSIVE, the cost of a marathon meltdown is disproportionately high. At Ultraman, I have pulled back 10-minutes per MILE, off athletes that run into trouble.
Does your prior race record show that you have the experience, fitness and competence to "race" to what you think is the limit of your fitness? I put "race" in quotes because very few people ever race an Ironman.
So what is a realistic effort for you to aim for on the bike? Here is a test workout... 3x40 mile loops, no long climbs, no drafting, with less than 90 seconds of stopping between each loop. Do each loop faster than the one before -- if you pull that off (and aren't wrecked) then Lap 2 is a good guideline. If you can't descend the laps, or if you are totally worked at the end, then even your slowest lap is too fast.
Download your data from this workout and look at your actual heart rate and power profiles. That is your benchmark for IM -- given that you are swimming 2.4 miles and running a marathon as well... you are likely to need to step _down_ from that actual training data. Similar to the swim test set... you will feel a lot of mental resistance when faced with this information. Many don't want to know.
No doubt some of you think that I am nuts to recommend a 200KM race simulation ride -- does your prior racing track record show that you have the knowledge to determine appropriate pacing?
I did a series of race simulation rides in 2001 -- they were extremely tough and the lessons are still with me! For some reason, lessons learned alone, in training, tend to stick with me longer than repeated errors made in the heat of competition.
A word on averages, fast triathlon cycling is about learning to optimize your speed on the LOWEST possible wattage. An athlete that can go the same speed as you on 80-90% of your power has a huge advantage once the run begins. We all tend to focus on the big numbers, however, the athletes that are most impressive are the ones that go quick on low power. Learning how they do that can give you and edge -- some ideas... aerodynamics, fast in the slow bits, avoiding spikes, bike skills, relaxed at high speed.
Even armed with the above knowledge, it is near impossible to apply it when stressed and surrounded by people making poor decisions. Socially, it is far safer to fail conventionally than 'risk' success in an unconventional manner. I have numerous podium finishes that result from (what others call) cycling 'weakness'.
Q. What is the #1 killer of athletic success in training?
I have been working with athletes for ten years now and the greatest challenge that we face is managing fatigue. Athletes that successfully manage fatigue are more consistent with their training (and happier) thereby increasing their ultimate athletic success.
Here are some tips for improving how you manage fatigue.
Chasing Fitness -- Chasing fitness happens when you sit down and calculate the "fitness" required to meet an athletic goal. You then train at your goal fitness level, rather than your current fitness level. We do this in a lot of different ways -- solo athletes, do this by chasing Personal Bests in workouts; group training athletes, do this by seeking to "win" workouts with "faster" athletes.
My experience is the best training partners are slightly weaker physically, stronger mentally and very fun to be around. You then let the group dynamics lift your fitness.
As for the effect on your training partner... remember that most of your competition isn't consciously seeking their personal best, they are controlled by moment-to-moment emotions.
Chasing Averages -- I've nuked myself a few times with this approach, most recently last week. Here is how it works... you sit down with a recent lab test, or race result. The data is "real" so you have confidence that it will provide a reasonable benchmark to what you should do. You then pull out the exercise physiology textbooks and calculate the precise intensity that you should hold for the workout. Then, for an unexplained reason, you add 5-10% to the intensity and 10-20% to the duration! Fortunately, I cracked fairly early in that workout!
Another word on why averages are misleading. Have another look at the chart above. The average of that ride was 253w. About 6% of that ride was less than 100w but less than 2% of the ride was greater than 400w. With heart rates/power/pace, there are always more very low values than very high values. The longer, and more variable, the workout the greater this effect. As well, my brain always seems to "normalize high". If you ask me to guess the average power of an effort that I just completed (when I watched the screen a lot), I am nearly always 5-10% too high.
What does this mean?
A - If your goal effort is 180-190w then you'll probably average ~175w if you execute correctly.
B - If you set your powermeter on "average watts" and try to hit a number then the majority of your ride will be well over that number and you'll fail to notice (highly costly) power spikes.
No Man's Land Training -- A fit athlete will have the capacity to train every session a little bit "too hard". Taking the three main physiological markers, AeT/LT/FT, the mid points between each of these, should be avoided, with particular attention being paid to the mid-point between AeT and LT. There is a big increase in recovery requirement (and hardly any training benefit) from training slightly over these points, as opposed to slightly under. See the attachment from last week for more info.
NOTE -- intensity moderation is easier to apply to others than ourselves! Having a coach review workout files (post fact) can help you stay sane.
The final three points are sleep, life stress and nutrition (including drug/alcohol use). These are huge in terms of their impact on the amount of fatigue we carry around in our lives.
Sleep -- an extra hour of sleep, every night.
Life Stress -- consciously choosing to do less, in order to achieve more.
Nutrition -- eat real food.
The more simple you can make your life, the greater the chance that you will be able to execute successfully.
Living The Dream
Q. My description of a dream job would be: one that involved endurance sports, is active, flexible, challenging, and has a good potential for return on my investment of time and money. Very, very, very difficult to find something that meets those requirements, I think. I've contemplated becoming a race director, opening a gym/training facility for endurance athletes, going to school for ex. science, or getting a job with a company in the industry. All have their appeal. But its a huge set of steps between considering these possibilities while still in school and taking the plunge and leaving a steady job and income to try some venture of my own devising.
I've been reading your blog for a while and you seem pretty qualified to answer my question, which I am getting to. I've asked enough questions to realize that asking "how do I get that dream job" has just as many answers as there are people to answer; that is, everyone has a different story, and while they do help, they won't help me figure out my own plan. So my question is this: what is the most important skill/trait I can cultivate now and while working in engineering to help prepare me for the kind of profession I am contemplating?
Because of the high value we place on personal freedom, jobs with large degrees of freedom, rarely come with a high return on capital (human or financial). That said, when I look at the things that are most important to me (freedom, fitness, health, nature, love), these items do not cost much to acquire. They did, however, require years of preparation in terms of planning, positioning and effort.
The opportunity to build personal capital in your 20s is valuable. However, when I look back, even more valuable was: (a) being surrounded by a group of highly intelligent people that enhanced my desire to work; (b) the acquisition of a wide range of skills and the opportunity to apply these skills in a range of situations; (c) instruction (by example) of the level of commitment/effort/perseverance required to achieve challenging goals.
When I look for people to associate with, I ask myself, "does this person have a track record of achievement backed by work ethic and strong personal values?" Spending your 20s focused on the creation of that sort of person would be time very well spent.
More specifically for your goal, my advice is to focus on building your expert credentials, as perceived by your target market. Share your knowledge freely as it has little value if hoarded. The market will let you know if your experience has value and relevance.
Sharing your experiences, also improves your communication skills. In the field you are considering, effective communication is important.
Within your expert credentials, three things to consider:
Image -- always present yourself the way you wish to be seen by your target market. Be aware that most people will quickly see through a lack of authenticity. Remember that what takes decades to build can be pulled down very quickly. Respond slowly, and thoughtfully, in environments you don't control (such as other people's internet forums).
Within my own life, I have found it much easier to eliminate choices that don't fit my desired image than create something that doesn't exist. If you chip away at the items that don't fit then you will find that, over time, you end up with a "self" that is in pretty good shape. Over the last few years, I have taken a hard look at the aspects of my life that run counter to honesty, kindness and health. I work daily at the elimination of small things that are inconsistent with these values.
Put yourself in the right peer group, learn to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and gain control over the little things that are inconsistent with the person you want to become.
Perception -- there is the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us. From a business point of view, an understanding of how others see us is very useful. What aspects of your story resonate with your target client base? What special, or interesting, knowledge do you have to share? Sharing genuine experiences of an interesting life is probably the most popular form of soft-marketing you can do. We share a love of interesting stories.
Knowledge -- do you know what you don't know? Do you know what you need to know? Do you have multiple approaches available to help your clients? At the beginning of our athletic journey we know so little. Start by figuring out how the different approaches work, and don't work, for you. Work with the best people you have access to. Solidify your knowledge by sharing, and teaching, it.
Most of us get into trouble when we stray into areas where our knowledge is limited. Even as you achieve expert status (whatever that means) resist the urge to opine on all range of subjects. Focus on sharing experience in the areas where you have specific, and relevant knowledge. One of the nice things about being part of a smart team is that you have the ability to bring in support when clients ask questions outside of your core competency.
The ability to ask for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. One needs to be self-confident to admit one's limitations.
If you put yourself "out there" then there will be people waiting to sling arrows, or anonymous comments, at you. By sticking to what you know, it will make it easier to handle it when people seek to bring you down. Remember that our critics exist to criticize, no matter what they say, they have little interest in helping us.
While you are building the above be aware that the more successful you become the greater you are at risk for being hurt by various forms of cognitive bias. One of the reasons that I study under different teachers is to keep my "toolbox" filled with more than one approach for each problem.
Many experts become so immersed in their own dogma that they lose their intellectual freedom. I have had some very intelligent people agree with me in private, but note that they can't change their opinion because of the weight of their past public record. We share an irrational bias against people that change their opinion. Always give yourself the freedom to change your mind in light of new information.
I didn't answer your question directly because people that create world-class financial returns from triathlon are more scarce than World Champion triathletes. However, there are many examples of people that create an enviable lifestyle in our sport, and I believe you will find that much more rewarding than outsize financial returns.
Hope this helps,
Two weeks ago, I offered some general outlines for training camps. A little over a year ago, I offered some general outlines for altitude training. In reviewing those pieces, it struck me that they lacked practical advice for how YOU might approach a training camp at altitude. So that is my mission this week... offer you practical tips on how to get the most out of a 3-10 day altitude camp.
Why go to altitude?
For the endurance athlete, I define altitude:
The first tip is to spend the bulk of your training camp one level higher than home. For example, if you live at sea level then be based at moderate altitude (4,500 to 6,500 feet). Remember that the primary goal is blood desaturation, then recovery. If you live/train too high then you end up with excessive desaturation and inferior recovery. Each day during training, feel free to sneak up a further level -- however -- be careful when training two-levels-up as fatigue/training stress is greatly magnified.
At an altitude camp, my main goals are (order of importance):
Some altitude training locations:
My most common mistake with training at altitude is going too hard during the camp. Don't race during altitude training camps.
Tips to avoid going "too hard":
I have seen outstanding athletes ruin their training camps on day ONE, from ignoring the tip above. Even if you follow that tip, you may find that your early days at altitude leave you quite tired.
Finally, one that I learned from Chuckie V, NEVER CLIMB INTO LIGHTNING. The mountains will be there next time.
Hope this helps,
Files for Download
A book recommendation for you that I have been enjoying is Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger. When I have read Charlie Munger's writing, he often talks about his checklists -- trouble is, I couldn't find them anywhere. Until I bought this book -- they are a great appendix that the author assembled.
This week I am going to share ideas on a reader question.
If you have a moment can you address training as a way to maintain a lifetime of fitness and how to manage your training with a long term view? I ask because for myself partly but mostly for my father who is 63 and a fit runner. After watching me at the Eagleman 70.3 he has decided to switch from marathons/ casual cycling to triathlon (I am supportive and think the focused cross training is likely more sustainable as he gets older). Do you have any recommendations for older athletes? Are younger athletes able to maintain their fitness as they age or does the volume over the years result in overuse injuries that surface later in life?
I wrote a blog on The Aging Athlete last November. That is a good starting point.
Long time readers will notice that my advice appears consistent across sex, age, experience and and goals. That is a conscious decision -- my experience is that consistent application of the Four Pillars applies very well across populations. For training protocol, I think that we should all research the lessons of Arthur Lydiard and translate to our sport, ability level and athletic age.
NOTE -- Lydiard is well known for his 100-mile per week base phase, I like to translate that into time for triathletes -- in Lydiard's population a 100-mile run week was about 11-12 hours of training. For sustainable results, keep those hours in your head, sticking with a hard distance target can be counterproductive.
Every athlete, that seeks long term success, should remember the essential nature of non-training factors. Put another way, new athletes can appear to "get away"with poor nutrition, never stretching, muscle imbalances, and weak recovery strategies. If you want to perform across ten, twenty, fifty years then these risk factors become key personal limiters.
A phased approach can work well. Phases within each week, month, year, four year cycle and decade. Consider the weak points in your current athletic inventory. What can derail you? Greatly improve these "consistency risk factors" in your transition period and early season. Then... maintain across your season. It takes far less energy to maintain a level of strength/flexibility/nutrition/immune function than it does to improve, or heal, when it goes off track.
As an example, even today, I feel that I continue to benefit from strength training done over a decade ago, yoga done eight years ago and two years of aerobic overload (2003/2004).
There are only a few (usually Olympic level) coaches that have the vision to nurture talent across a 6-12 year time horizon. Most people go-for-broke in 6-18 months and only the biomechanically gifted freaks survive.
Our reader closes with a great point -- lifetime volume and wearing out. Hardly anyone (other than former elite marathoners and ironman champions) discusses this with me. I suppose it is human nature to avoid focusing on the fact that we wear-out and die.
Listen to my interview with Dr. John Hellemans.
John is very good at respecting an individual's 'right' to make their own mistakes. However, he has been telling me for YEARS that the high level pursuit of ultradistance sports is unhealthy because of the training load IMers place on our bodies. I never had a real position on his point until this year (he's right). It's a lot like death -- it simply doesn't make sense until someone young, close to us, dies. Even then, our brains aren't wired to focus on our own mortality.
My buddy, Jeff (Dr. J) Shilt explains it this way... think of yourself as a car. You can use the best fuel, have a perfect service record and drive carefully. Still, no matter what you do, things will wear out eventually. 1200 hour training years don't exactly fit with "careful driving"!
Coming back to Hellemans, he is one of the best 50-somethings in the world at standard distance triathlon (8 world AG titles, I think). He's been in triathlon since it was founded and is still ripping today. He shoots for 12-15 hours per week of training load and that enables him to be a highly competitive and happy guy.
Tom Evans is my role-model for Ironman and John Hellemans is my role-model for life.
So in terms of life long athletics -- thinking through my own experience as well as my training partners left in the sport and long gone...
You can likely hit it pretty solid through to 25 years old. Athletically young athletes can also be very aggressive for 1, or 2, years when they are under 40. I have seen many athletes jumpstart their endurance by taking a sabbatical from work to focus on their cycling. However, hitting-it-hard for more than 18 months tends to fry athletes at all levels and compromises long-term consistency.
Remember that long term consistency is the best indicator of being able to approach our ultimate athletic performance. Far more than protocol, consistency is the universal characteristic that appears at the top.
High performing endurance athletes that come from non-impact sports (swimming, cycling) need to be VERY VERY careful when they start running. If you strap an elite swimming engine to a novice runner body then you nearly always ruin the athlete -- don't fall into the trap of fooling yourself with exceptions. There is a TON of silent evidence.
So my advice... if you have potential for triathlon then you will know within two years from starting the sport. Folks with high athletic potential improve very rapidly. With that rapid improvement comes the temptation for more, and more, and more... a good coach is valuable to protect you from the natural enthusiasm that comes from success. Know your coach's limiters and remember that we tend to be attracted to people that share our biases.
For whatever reason, we seem to think that there is more merit in ruining our bodies if we happen to be be "good" -- my rapid, and continuous, improvement hindered my capacity for an objective review of my athletic path. It wasn't until I approached my athletic peak, for a second time, that I was able to consider what the heck I was doing. Like so many things, most of us keep rolling until something breaks. Even then, how often do we chase the illusive "high" of past experience.
Once you have been doing endurance sport seriously for five years, and certainly by ten, you will have a clear idea of your potential, what you enjoy and (if you pause to think) should be able to figure out the "why" behind your participation. At that stage, it is worth considering how you are going to maximize your "athletic why" across the rest of your lifetime. If you read this blog weekly then you'll know that I've been mulling my "why" for a few years... ...and I am still training!
Off to the Rockies with Molina. Back online after the 4th of July.
Our picture this week is Scott Molina (looking buff at 48) competing in the Epic Italy, 4.5K uphill race. For me, his expression sums it up. Note that he is holding excellent form despite being totally worked. True running technique is what you are left with when you're wrecked. Here's a shot of Johno's run form... hills are a great way to improve running economy...
I'd show you a picture of my running form but... it left a bit to be desired when put alongside my fellow Epic coaches! We'll finish with a veranda shot at the Hotel des Alpes in Cortina. An outstanding hotel based in the heart of the Dolomites. A great base for the bulk of your vacation in the Italian Alps.
Back to the quote that started this piece off. If a man as clever as Feynman says that he needs to be careful about fooling himself then, I figure, there are a number of areas in my own life where I am currently fooling myself. So the last two weeks have been spent investigating how I am fooling myself.
Use of Capital -- I need to exercise consistent fiscal discipline across all areas of my life.
Athletic Achievement -- athletic triumphs are most satisfying when novel and unexpected. Across a lifetime, one may find greater satisfaction from success in a variety of fields. The joy of beginner's mind is exceedingly tough to maintain as one becomes more and more experienced (in reality, more and more biased!) in a field.
Athletics and Satisfaction -- satisfaction comes from living in harmony with my body and the sensations of personal health. These feelings are most prevalent when I am training for a competition. However, I think that I am linking competition to the feelings rather than seeing the link between lifestyle and personal satisfaction.
Relative Achievement and Competition -- the most peaceful moments of my adult life have been moving in harmony with nature, not defeating strangers in athletic combat.
Benefits of Financial Wealth -- the two greatest benefits of financial wealth are independence and freedom. Using our wealth for its most obvious use (goods and services) reduces it ability to provide us with what truly matters.
All of the above feed into my personal values and ethics that I have built up over the last ten years.
Successful Marriage based on kindness and respect
The title of this article refers to years 40 to 80 of my life. My goal with my current review is to establish a frame of reference against which I can make decisions of varying duration and expected outcome.
I thought that I was going to have to re-write "everything" then discovered that my values were fairly well documented within my existing business plan.
I will finish this week with a shot of my nephew sporting the GordoWorld team colors at a local swim meet...
Our lead photo this week is the Passo di Stelvio – I spent Saturday riding up its forty-eight switchbacks. The photo is taken looking down and shows less than one-third of the climb, without doubt, one of the greatest rides in the world.
If you are a cyclist then I highly recommend a pilgrimage to
Big training isn’t for everyone and, even if you are ‘good’ at it, it can be counterproductive to your health and goals. However, undertaking massive challenges can be rewarding and lead to personal growth.
I now know that I can’t “win” Epic Camp. I might win “the game” but, to do that, I place myself in such a hole that I forfeit my larger life goals. Learning the value in doing less has been one of the most useful lessons of my athletic journey.
At Epic, we place ourselves under immense stress. Why? Each of us has a different answer to that question and, I suspect, many of the athletes never stop to consider their own answer. Here is mine… I attend Epic because training camps work.
If you have athletic goals then you are far more likely to achieve them when you surround yourself with a total training environment.
The essential components:
Removal of outside stressors – I didn’t check email once during the camp. This has a very positive impact on my recovery and clarity of mind. Our support team are also essential – laundry, maps, aid stations, meals. This is a huge benefit, even when balanced with the distractions of language, culture and different foods.
Social pressure – We all want to “look good”. If I host a camp then (to maintain my self-image) I can’t sleep through swim practice, take a van ride or skip my runs. What I can control is hitting the minimum workouts, doing my best and trying to be cheerful the whole time. I am placing myself in an uncomfortable situation where success is achieved by enduring the discomfort.
NOTE – In earlier years, social pressure to out-train every athlete temporarily ruined my health. In our larger society, social pressure to keep up with financial expenditure can lead to financial ruin. So be very careful with how you set yourself up in public (and the company you keep – your peer group greatly matters).
Massive Training Overload – My athletic advantage is capacity to train. If you can cram a ton of work into your body, absorb it and learn when to spend it… then you will improve. You will also place incredible stress on your immune system and wear your body out faster than if you were more moderate in approach. As with many things, there are increasing costs and decreasing benefits as you move up the performance curve.
In my experience, the costs outweigh the benefits for many athletes. Eight days of Epic Camp can be a great reality check on whether athletic success is desirable, probable and personally profitable (in the largest sense). Most people don’t have the necessary combination of genetics, attitude, life situation and talent to train (or work) at an elite level. Still, it can be fun place to visit.
Of course, if I had failed to try… that would have been a great (and, perhaps, silent) failure in my life.
Most EpicVets get a permanent benefit from the camp. However, given the psychological profile of our sport, we have had a few customers (myself included) absolutely torch themselves. Only the fittest athletes have a shot a sustaining what we do at Epic.
The camps are a great study in psychology and coping mechanisms. While we have “rules” for scoring points at the camp, everyone ends up playing their own version of the game. I suspect that we do this so that we each “win” in our own way. The people that attend are so used to winning that we each withdraw (at times) when faced with a situation where we may “lose”.
Next year, we will host two Epic Camps –
If you are interested in learning more about Epic Camp then send us an email with your athletic background.
The camps are most effective for people in Sub-10 hour Ironman shape. With our climbing camps (Rocky Mountains, Pyrenees,
If you aspire to Epic then Endurance Corner will be hosting more moderate training camps in 2009 – Tucson in early April (sub-13 to sub-10 IMers) as well as Boulder in July (open to IMers of all ability levels). I’ll share more details about these camps in the coming months.
In early 2003, I managed to go under nine hours at Ironman New
Two weeks after that race, Scott Molina asked me “What if that’s it?” My reply was, “there’s always more”. Five years, two bouts of serious overtraining and six-months away from my 40th birthday… I am starting to see the relevance of his question…
In 2004, I achieved outstanding personal fitness from cramming eight weeks of high volume training into a nine-week block. My training partner on that adventure was Clas Bjorling – one of the toughest, and nicest, athletes that I have ever met. We didn’t try to “get fast”. We did the trip because we thought that it would be fun to swim/bike/run across
Don’t assume that if you did the same trip then you’d get as fast as us! The trip “worked” because we (somewhat accidentally) created an environment where we gave ourselves what we needed at the time. Always remember to consider what YOU need as well as your current personal limiters. This is tough to do – I find it much easier to follow the advice of others than sit down and think for myself. Thinking is work.
Back to my fitness… early this year, I started to notice that I was able to do anything that I wanted on the bike. This is different than being able to do _anything_. I have limits but when I am riding in my peer group I can achieve what I set out to do – even if that is merely to survive.
Greed, in all things, is a source of personal downfall. Ten years ago, I altered my course from maximizing financial gain to increasing my life satisfaction. At its root, overtraining syndrome is a form of greed, an obsession with athletic performance that, ultimately, leads the athlete to sickness.
In regaining my athletic fitness I noticed clear parallels with the world of international finance. The most striking is the lack of health amongst some of the long-term practitioners. There are a lot of wrecked bodies in high finance and elite athletics. As a defense, the high performers would probably point to the poor health of the masses but, for me, that misses the point. What is the point of achievement if we need to damage ourselves (or compromise our ethics) in the process?
Few people arrive at the position where they are able to rationally see the benefits of less. Typically, we only see the benefits of change when we hit the bottom of our personal potential, or face a major crisis.
So as I blast up a 2,000 meter climb in the Dolomites, self-assured in my King of Mountains jersey, I ask myself… how am I serving the larger goals of my life? Will an extra 20 watts on my functional threshold get me to the top of the bean stock? How about an extra 50 watts? An extra 100 watts?
Then it dawns on me, I have learned this lesson before.
Day Three, Epic Camp Italy 2008 – I ride off the front pretty easily and realize that I should really enjoy the next few months because this is as quick as I am going to get. At one level (performance), my athletic mission is complete. At another (personal wellness), it is beginning.
Molina noticed the change in me and found it entertaining. He might not know the source until he reads this blog. Monica saw it months ago, before I had even noticed. Both of them roll their eyes when I say “this is it”. They’ve heard it all before.
What about Scott’s question?
If this is the Pinnacle then this is enough. Frankly, 2/3rds of my current fitness is enough – I would, however, have to adjust my bike gearing for the French Alps next summer. Scott was running a 30-tooth small chain ring in the Dolomites and many of us had gear envy.
Before we get into that a few announcements.
Boulder Summer Training Weekends -- we have a couple of slots left in each of our July and August camps. Full details here -- The weekends are a mixture of training as well as a chance to sit down talk with the EC coaching crew.
Epic Camp Italy -- starts this coming weekend. You can follow the action on the Epic Camp website. Scott and Johno have come up with a very challenging route. Should be entertaining and I am glad that I've taken my preparations seriously. Unfortunately, Mike Montgomery won't be able to join us so it looks like Molina is the man-to-beat for the campers with Pink Jersey aspirations. I have made a promise to myself that I won't tack on a single bike kilometer so that probably rules me out of the overall competition.
PodCast -- I did an interview with Mark Byerley, a fellow Canadian based in Waterloo. You'll find MP3 and WMA versions HERE.
Alan wrote a fun piece about his thoughts on athletic performance. I enjoyed it and can relate to a lot of what is in there. Thoughts that flowed...
In life, participation trumps performance -- however, successful performance helps maintain participation.
If it really is all about participation then playing the "performance game" can be a good way to keep going. If tweaking, experimenting and fine tuning keeps you heading out the door then its all good!
I need to maintain an open mind about the sources of other people's motivation. Motivational tools that work are important.
I have a lot of respect for 'scientists' (and coaches) that front up and get out there. There is so much about sports performance that we don't understand. If we get all the MSc's/PhD's out there then we're bound to learn some more!
AC wrote about heading towards the end of the first half of his life. That caught my eye as I have started preparing my 40-year plan that will take me to 80 years old!
I have been reading Poor Charlie's Almanack a great read and a reminder about several keys to successful living, and investing.
The best tip (so far) is to approach your lifetime investing as if you have a twenty punch card. Each time you make an investment, it costs you one punch. Consider a 40-year investment career with twenty key decisions. That really appeals.
The implication of this approach (for me) is that we want to think very carefully about each investment and be highly selective. When we bet, make a substantial investment, with a margin-for-safety built into the price and ensure capital preservation.
This is great advice -- thinking back, my investment track record is dominated by the performance of my five largest investments. Get rid of those five deals and my personal track record would be below average. I have never been diversified and have had poor returns from my limited stock picking. I would be ahead if I removed all my small investments // every one that I ever made. As a portfolio, they had a poor return and sitting on cash would have been superior. I appear to lack discipline when I am not committing a substantial portion of my net worth.
Munger is a fan of Ben Franklin (see section on Virtue in the link) and points out that Franklin reduced his commitment to business when he was 42 so that he could focus on his writing, science and other interests. Thinking about Franklin triggered the decision to consider the second half of my own life. The key questions that I have been pondering:
What are my values?
I recommend the Almanack to you. I have the Second Edition and it looks like they just revised with a Third Edition.
Not sure about internet connectivity in Italy -- if I can get on-line (and have the energy) then I'll update from Epic Italy. Otherwise, I'll be back the week of June 16th.
Last weekend, I raced the Triple T in
Earlier this week, I sent my race report to Planet-X, Zipp and Blue Seventy. I expect that the PX crew should have it live shortly (click HERE on Tuesday). As you will read, I ended up with the quickest time for the weekend and was reminded that it is quite tough to go fast. Alan touches on the physiological reason why it is tough for me to go hard in his latest blog.
When you know the training/approach required to go fast – but can’t seem to do it – that knowledge can reduce your training satisfaction. In 2005, I was dealing with quite a bit of frustration.
Likewise, even if you arm yourself with the fitness to “go fast” – the knowledge of how hard you have to race can make you realize a few things. Now that I am “fit” I am reminded how tough it is to tap my fitness. Riding around the rolling hills of
I feel very fortunate in my athletic life -- first (and foremost) to have the opportunity to train on a daily basis; and, second, to have experienced a high level of success. Strangely, just like my success in the corporate world, I have come to realize that there isn’t anything magical at the end of the rainbow. When I finish first, it simply means that nobody faster turned up and I sit around waiting for my pals to catch up.
For me, the satisfaction lies in experiencing the physical sensation of performing close to my potential. I can feel that in training AND, at training speeds, I can relax a bit and look around at nature. During a bike TT, I have to hold my head totally still and avoid creating any additional turbulence with my helmet (!). I save a few seconds but miss the view.
What is my point? Just a reminder of the following…
If you are dissatisfied with yourself at the back of the pack then you will have the same feelings in the middle of the pack. There are a lot of people chasing self-esteem at the races – I doubt you’ll find it in your racing (you could find it in on your athletic journey, though).
If you think that qualifying for Kona, winning your agegroup, or winning a race will change the way you feel about yourself then you may be disappointed. My experience has been that outstanding preparation is more satisfying than performance. However, I seem to be more process-oriented than most.
Coaches (and athletes) should be extremely wary about defining success in terms of relative performance. Our egos greatly overestimate the importance of victories.
The lessons of athletics come from the process of overcoming ourselves and learning to create habits that support our goals. Success is a continual process of finding patterns/choices/decisions that hold us back and eliminating them. These lessons are independent of inherent ability and ultimate performance.
Inherent ability and relative performance impact the satisfaction we receive but those feelings are shallow compared to the deeper meaning that arises when we overcome our fears and failures.
Take some time to consider the legacy that you are creating for yourself. How have the last five (or ten, or twenty) years served the life that you want to create?
How I Train & Race
With that in mind, I am going to change direction and share some ideas about how I get “fast” relative to myself. How do I improve my performance?
Consistency – the last two week’s articles are a good summary of my Big Picture approach. As a number of male readers wrote in… “it wasn’t just for the ladies”. I wrote that piece to remind myself, and you, of a few things.
Training Load – for ultradistance triathlon, your ultimate potential is closely correlated to the training load that you can absorb. If you have factors (genetic, occupational, whatever) that limit your capacity to absorb training then you will struggle to be a competitive ultradistance triathlete. This can be an unpopular message to deliver.
NOTE -- this point applies most directly to your performance against others -- by training smart, nearly everyone can perform far better than we imagined relative to ourselves.
Your struggles will show as:
If you have the psychological make-up to be a great athlete but lack the physical back-up then you are going to get frustrated coping with the above. I know athletes that manage to convince themselves that the above characteristics are success traits (!?). I would characterize them as failure markers – when you are dealing with two, or more, then you are limiting your ability to be successful in the large picture of your life.
My advice would be to consider if there is an alternative avenue for you to direct your energies where you could be great. Even if you are the “total package” for endurance sport, the rate of return on hour invested is low. If you are in it for reasons other than financial return or athletic glory, then acknowledging that fact will help you maintain a clearer perspective on how to organize your life.
In my life, I wonder if chasing race victories is simply a socially acceptable justification for wanting to do endless training camps. Training is fun, racing is tough.
I spent the 1990s banking 24,000 hours of work in the financial services industry. It is the return from a decade of work and a decade of training that created my athletic life (today). If you look at a snapshot of me (or anyone else) – then it is impossible to see the 20-30 years of choices that resulted in their current situation..
OK, now a few specifics…
Within each sport my first goal is to maintain efficiency, strength and endurance – read my Four Pillars for what that means. For EVERY distance of triathlon competition, that must be your first goal – both as a novice and an expert – it all starts from there.
The sports scientists say that our absolute VO2 can be trained up in about ten weeks – because of its quick return, intensity is great product to “sell”. It hurts and you get quick returns – must be good, eh?
By applying the Four Pillars, you can improve your power/pace at AeT/LT/FT for ten YEARS. Further, you will find that your capacity to sustain threshold efforts is linked directly to the depth of your steady-state fitness.
What do I mean by “depth of fitness”? I mean “consistent training load” – the first two bullets of this section. Depth of fitness shows mostly in your training log, not short durations TTs or the lab.
In an race like the Triple T – you see “speed” in the prologue // you see “fitness” in the final 13-mile run.
Now, even more specific…
Swimming – As a beginner, I received a huge return on my initial months of swim training. For my first year, I improved nearly every month. It was a lot of fun and the improvement became addictive. Then I reached my first (of many) swim plateaus. The early plateaus where easily overcome by adding volume. My later plateaus required adding volume and intensity. I had to learn how to “work” in the water. In order to improve from my current level, I need to be swimming 22-25,000 meters per week with three solid workouts and an IM set on my “easier” day. Swimming is the most intense aspect of my current program.
Cycling – Cycling is the heart of my endurance program. To perform well, I need a consistent load of 10-15 hours per week with my big weeks around 20-25 hours. Early in my career I did a lot of “touring” (easy cycling) but that is out of my program now. If I can’t ride at least steady then I cut the workout short. When I am riding well, I have the capacity to ride long periods on the flats (uninterrupted) The core of my program is rides of 3-5 hours duration with no more than two short breaks. Cycling is where I do the most work (effort over time) in my program.
Running – For a guy that runs well in races, I run relatively slowly in training. My program has two goals – run (nearly) every day and make my long runs my toughest sessions. That’s it. As a result, I am rarely injured and have a long track record of consistent running. REMEMBER -- if you want to run well then you need long term mileage. This is far more important than the physiological benefits of fast running.
Strength Training – about 70 sessions per annum with about 25 of those sessions hard enough to leave me sore for more than three days.
Here is the paradox – when I time trial, I turn all of that on its head.
Swim – lowest intensity part of my day
Bike – sprint and oly distance will see lots of power spikes; Half IM distance will see lots of power spikes in the 2nd half of the ride; IM distance very few power spikes.
Run – sprint and oly distance run fast the whole way; Half IM build effort and focus on a very fast final 10K; IM stay relaxed in the first half, quick in the 3rd 10K and hang on for the final 10K.
On race day, I have found that time trialling results in a faster time than racing. However, I have won a couple of events when I raced, rather than TT’d.
One final point, the above is not a protocol for health. It contains FAR too great a training load. Once we go past ten hours per week, we are being driven by something different than personal health – mental wellbeing? a circle of athletic obsession? I haven't figured that one out completely!
Feedback from last week.
One reader commented that she has a strong desire for a "performance" program and asked for my thoughts.
The most important aspect of your program is getting out the door each day. If you are doing that consistently then you are successful. You personal health depends much more on "doing" than the specifics of "what you do". I think that we all spend too much time sweating the details within our programs.
One of the fascinating aspects of human nature is how we (all) assume that a program of consistency and moderation contains a hidden "cost". The articles I share here are my views on what it takes for us to become high performers -- in both life, and the athletic arena.
Before we get into this week's letter an announcement:
Colorado Altitude Camp -- June 27th to July 5th
Five athlete slots -- one coach (me).
Highlights -- Brainard Lake (10K); Trailridge Road (11K); Steamboat Springs, Vail, Vail Pass, Loveland Pass, Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, Snow Mountain Ranch Swimming Pool (>9K!), Mt Evans (14K).
$2100 per person includes everything but transport to/from Boulder. Contact me with your athletic CV for more info. Discounts available for sub-8:50 IMers and/or athletes that swim faster than me.
Below is a chart that we prepared to illustrate a typical profile for a fit amateur female athlete. The chart is a mixture from a few different ladies and shows a 'normal' profile. If you would like then click on it to see a large image.
Interestingly, fit female athletes have the capacity to do nearly 100% of their training at an intensity that shuts down most of their fat burning. If you have body composition goals -- you want to burn fat, not calories.
I am not talking world class female athletes -- I am likely talking about YOU. By "fit" I mean a woman that has been training for a few years, is active and can get through a triathlon of any distance. In other words, fit relative to the general population -- not the people winning at World Champs.
How many women (and men) train "hard" and never seem to be able to lose weight. While it is tempting to blame our genetics... the fault may lie in our approach.
I don't know about you but I started training to lose weight -- period. Weight loss was my ONLY goal. I have never coached an athlete (male or female) that didn't share this desire, at some level.
In my experience, a moderate approach to training intensity yields a much deeper satisfaction from your athletes. Why? Here are the benefits:
***Faster weight loss
The "go hard" approach will work for some -- there are well-known training squads that thrive on energy deficits and extreme work ethic. What I am suggesting is for you to make an informed choice based on the life you want to live.
Remember that, as human beings, we are not great at considering long term costs/liabilities. As well, our media doesn't cover the shattered tibias, twisted psyches and torched metabolisms of our athletic heroes of yesteryear -- they run cover photos of the lithe bodies of today.
So, for the ladies out there that may be coping with frustration, or a personal plateau. Here are some simple tips to maximize both your performance and your athletic satisfaction.
What to do?
What to eat?
In all areas, focus on positive choices that support your long term goals -- denial strategies aren't effective.
When it all gets too much -- take a break and try to keep things in perspective. As my home page says... do not take life so seriously, no one will make it out alive.
We all make mistakes -- my failures are signs that I have been trying too hard. The main thing is staying in the game.
Before we move into the letter, a couple of announcements:
Summer Training Camps in Boulder -- the EC Team have carved out three weekends [June 7/8; July 12/13; and August 2/3] for small group training camps. If you would like to come to town for a weekend totally focused on long course racing then read full details in Mat's Blog. I will be in town for the July and August weekends and available for Q&A.
For the coaches out there, the EC Team would be happy to be your support crew. Feel free to talk to us about how we can back you up.
Boulder Performance Testing -- over on Alan's Blog, AC has been running through a series of articles sharing what we have been learning as a result of our fuel efficiency testing. While testing is the only way to get your personal data, the concepts of fuel efficiency and optimal pacing are essential to consider.
Based in Boulder, the team offers testing/consultancy services to help athletes (all sports, all distances) gain a better understanding of personal limiters and optimal pacing strategies. Our role is often to help athletes consider:
***Is my race performance in line with my training performance?
***What is the optimal pacing strategy for this course and distance?
***Have I been able to execute my pacing strategies in the past (in training, in racing)?
***Is my event dominated by AeT, LT, FT or VO2 benchmarks/performance? (see attachment below for explanation of our terms)
***Does my training program, and race schedule, mirror the specific demands of my key competitive event(s)?
Last week I laid out the general components of a successful plan, the role of a coach is to ensure that the specific components of the athlete's strategy are consistent with these points above.
If you want to read more about the Critical Success Factors for endurance athletics then you will find them HERE. The article is about long course triathlon but is directly applicable to 95+% of the field at every running, cycling, swimming or triathlon event.
Two of the greatest fears that we witness (daily) in group training situations are fear of missing out, and fear of being left behind. Two stories...
During an easy recovery ride in Tucson, we came across a female rider stopped at the side of the road. We passed and she jumped on our group. We were spinning very mellow and the rider went around us and headed down the road. Later that night, I asked if anyone got the urge to hammer past the lady for "daring" to ride through us? There were a lot of knowing chuckles.
As a test workout, I often ask my athletes to: (a) get dropped on purpose; (b) ride 20m behind the group for an entire ride; or (c) hold pace as I randomly accelerate around them. It can be VERY tough to mentally handle those situations.
I have found that our capacity to tolerate short term "training humiliations" is tied into self-worth and personal identity. There is a lot of mental noise going on during most group workouts!
When we find something emotionally difficult -- odds are -- the situation is bumping against personal fears and challenging our self-image. True confidence arises from acceptance of our own performance not the capacity to dominate the performances of others.
Hardness has its roots in domination -- softness (or being open) is rooted in acceptance. In what mode would you expect to make the best decisions?
It takes a surprising amount of specific training to become conscious enough to think clearly while acknowledging these fears.
When your race performance is diverting from your training performance -- look outside of your physiology for solutions. Instead of focusing on the last few percent of physical performance -- a large breakthrough could be available by relaxing and softening up (RASU).
Justin's latest piece on XTri talks about coping with his shift from agegroup to elite racer. A very honest look at the mental challenges that we share when racing.
On that fear of missing out... I deal with it every time I decide to rest/recover!
Back Next Week,
Before we roll into the letter, I was back in the Grand Canyon last Tuesday. This time I was running solo and applying the lessons from my first trip. It is amazing how quickly the body can adapt to stress. While I wasn't much faster on the round trip -- the damage that the run did to my body was a fraction of the first time. This time four weeks ago, I could barely walk and my legs were absolutely trashed. With respect to Ironman marathoning, durability is an essential fitness component that is near impossible to measure quantitatively. My average heart rate for the "run" was 117 bpm and it is one of the toughest sessions that I will do all year.
Alan's latest blog piece provides a window into my lab-fitness and a discussion of performance limiters. Something that JD pointed out at the April camp was that each of the Endurance Corner coaches has a different take on the same topic. That is part of what makes us a good team, and also a source of creative friction.
When I test myself I remember the following:
***Testing is three dimensional, performance is four dimensional. The test measures my ability to perform a specific task over a period of time. Performance, in sport and life, requires the ability to execute over multiple years. Life is about coping with the unexpected. By definition, our capacity to manage change cannot be measured in a controlled environment
***X-Factor // At our April camp, Robbie Ventura gave an excellent talk on fast time-trialling. The bottom line of his talk (for me) is some athletes go fast on race day for a range of "little things" that they are able to put together. Robbie calls these little things the X-Factors of racing. Successful people have the capacity to execute a series of little things, consistently, over time. For me, this skill is habit based. Our X-Factor capacity cannot be measured in the lab.
If you review my bike chart over on AC's blog then remember that it is the result of more than 20,000 hours of endurance exercise. We get a lot of question about how athletes can make changes to improve their charts in 6-8 weeks.
In your training do not be in a hurry, for it takes a minimum of ten years to master the basics and advance to the first rung. Never think of yourself as an all-knowing, perfected master; you must continue to train daily with your friends and students and progress together in the Art of Peace.
I have been fortunate to study under a few masters of triathlon -- even they admit that their main skill is guessing better than average.
The power of my plan lies in the general, not the specific. Here's what I mean -- when I get it right (and I make a ton of mistakes)...
***A simple plan that I can remember and execute every day
***Periods of specific overload that address key limiters
***Scheduled recovery, and downtime, before I need it
***No one session, day, week, month compromises the period that follows
***Enjoyable, relaxing and satisfying
The above factors lead to outstanding execution over the long term. That, in turn, leads to performance.
99% of the noise in our heads (mine is no different) is a distraction from the above, makes very little positive impact on performance and reduces energy available for recovery.
Which brings me to...
Given the impossible task of seeking to control the world around us AND our limited willpower, influence, energy... I tend to focus my true efforts on a very, very, very limited set of circumstances. I figure that I can be "hard" for a couple of hours per week, MAX. If I am "hard" more often then my overall performance will, ultimately, be compromised.
One of my past mentors taught me that we live with a six-shooter and no extra ammo. If we are thinking of using a "bullet" then we'd better make sure that it is a key point. That analogy has stuck with me and 95% (or more) of my training builds me up (mentally, physically). I only do a little bit that breaks me down.
I could be a little soft from a sport performance point-of-view // and // that is likely why HTFU gets my attention. However, after thinking about it for over a month, I don't know a single long term high achiever that is "hard".
In racking my brain, I only considered people that I knew. There are hard personalities that we hear about but I suspect that they are fabrications.
The toughest competitors that I know are soft in real life (though they try to hide it in public). Our fears and emotional weak points are powerful motivators when channeled towards performance.
When you reach a point where you can't handle any more... relax and soften up.
RASU -- maybe I'll get some hats printed up...
Cheers from New Mexico,
I'm enjoying my last afternoon in Southern Arizona. Tomorrow, Ben (from the February Snow Farm camp in NZ -- in photo above) and I will head north to Phoenix. Then on to Flagstaff and a repeat of the Canyon run. Monica warned me not to be a hero and JD's advice was to PB by "one second" so... I think my pals are telling me not to fry myself when we head to Phantom Ranch on Tuesday.
Next week, we follow the same route back to Boulder with one modification -- inserting a ride from Cuba, NM to Los Alamos, NM (the long way via Jemez). We drove that road to end our April trip and the climbing is too good to miss. Back-to-back centuries from Farmington to Los Alamos will put the final touch on my preparations for Epic Italy.
Dr. J was trying to figure out why the camps are so much fun and decided that the best aspect is the fact that we offer every camper an opportunity to challenge themselves on each day. You don't have to take the offer but it is there. Sharing those sorts of experiences with people is a lot of fun for us. We'll be running the Tucson camp again next spring as well as adding a mid-summer camp in Boulder. The camps tire us out but it is a "good tired" and provide me with a role to play as I age.
Come along next year and you can benchmark yourself against my Mount Lemmon time -- I do well on anything uphill over 20-miles...
Here's a summary of the key articles that made it through my media filter this past week. Given that I was training an average of five-hours-per-day with the campers... you probably heard even more than me...
***Declines in median prices of over 20% in Sunbelt and Southern Californian locales.
Looks to me that both Mood and Money are heading down. Financial historians note that the property market is like a giant aircraft carrier... slow to turn but, when it does, tending to overshoot fair value.
I suspect that everyone in America knows someone that has had their house repossessed in the last year -- that is going to color all of our judgment as we hear more of these stories.
Towards the end of last year, I recommended that aspiring homeowners get their Net Asset Statements and Revenue/Expense budgets in order. Have you done this? In order to position yourself to take advantage of potential buying opportunities you need to have your financing, and finances, in order.
We are thinking about buying an investment property (not second home). Here are my criteria:
***Climate opposite to Boulder, CO
Sound like a good deal? It does to me -- perhaps a bit "too good" for this stage of the cycle. To hit those numbers I would need a vendor to accept 15-40% less than their current asking prices. However, having done my homework, my bid price is 10% less than the most recent deal that actually completed and therein lies a tip...
Figure out what an asset is worth to you, prior to anchoring with the price expectations of the vendor
This is important all the time but even more essential in a declining market with constant negative information. By figuring out a price at which you are "unlikely to be wrong" -- you have a much better shot at being right over the medium- to long-term.
What are the signs that a target market might be poised for a large correction?
Potential buyers are building in expected price declines -- no one in the nation is expecting prices to rise. Most owners are holding depreciating assets -- we all HATE holding depreciating assets. At some stage, vendors will sell to remove the pain of a thousand paper cuts.
If you rent with a view to buying then negotiate strongly on early termination provisions -- the more Blue Chip your profile, the more aggressive you should be on all terms.
The ability to complete quickly will be seen as highly attractive by sellers. Vendors are going to get increasingly keen.
On the corporate lending side, I have not yet seen credit contraction in line with the capital that has been written off by the financial sector. I suspect that the front line banks are current preparing strategies for how they will deploy, preserve and recover capital over the next 12-18 months. When we start to hear about rising corporate bankruptcies then we will know that we've moved into that phase of the credit crisis.
Here are three things that I keep hammering into myself when I'm thinking about making an investment:
#1 -- I don't "need" to do deals (doing nothing is OK)
Be prepared, attractive buying opportunities will present themselves to educated investors.
Until next week,
We open with a snappy photo of Alan Couzens – he’s photogenic if you don’t give him time to realize that you are taking his photo. It is a little blurry but I don’t have many in the archives that have the big guy grinning ear-to-ear. We’ve turned him loose a bit on the training at this camp so perhaps his grin is endorphin-enhanced.
One of the nice things about having a Human Performance Lab in my basement is that I am able to do whatever test, whenever I want. Two weeks ago, Alan hooked me up to the Met Cart and we updated my bike fitness profile. I will leave it to AC to use my data as he sees fit (we end up in his blog whether we like it or not!).
We were discussing the implications of my test – near identical O2 uptake with lower lactate levels. Again, best if I leave the technical discussion to the experts (i.e. AC). One of Alan’s suggestions was to increase the fat content of my diet. He did this indirectly by suggesting that I reduce the glycemic load of my breakfast. Eating less isn’t an effective option for me so I decided to add more calories to my diet.
He offered his advice with a caveat that he was a bit nervous giving me nutritional advice. If you know the two of us then you may smile at the thought of AC giving me nutritional tips. At first I didn’t get it – I was left pondering why an expert would be nervous sharing his advice with me. Then it hit me… he may have been concerned because of our relative ease with the 'nutrition-thing'.
I haven’t had a chance to speak to the big guy about this point but it is something that I face a lot so why not cover it here – AC and I “talk” a lot via the internet anyhow... J
There is a difference between advice and leadership. As a coach/friend/adviser/consultant, it is important to consider what the situation requires, as well as, what the client desires. I don't need my advisers to follow their own advice -- I need advisers that give me their best advice and objective feedback.
In my consulting career, I have often made incorrect assumptions about what the client desires – generally a mistaken assumption will result in the relationship breaking down due to lack of communication. My advisory failures are most often a result of a mistaken assumption (on my part) about what the client desires.
To be successful at offering what (I think) someone needs, I need to build trust by sharing ideas in a format that keeps them engaged and open. If I seek influence in a situation then I must start by creating trust.
Things to consider when deciding to offer leadership, advice or compassionate listening:
***What does the situation require?
***What does the client desire?
***What am I equipped to offer?
Triathlon is a strange sport where many of the leading experts were outstanding participants in the game. Many consumers are HEAVILY biased on the actual race performance of their advisers. I think this happens because the deeper purchase decision isn’t based on a search for expert knowledge. A personal triathlon coach is most often an aspirational purchase, separate from a search of improvement.
In other walks of life (swimming, cycling, basketball) the coach’s prior ability as a performer falls far behind his current ability as a teacher/mentor/leader. Swimming is an example where some great coaches have been very average athletes. Knowledge, communication skills and experience are the key ingredients – athletic ability scores very low outside of the marketing arena.
While leadership potential is boosted by walking-the-walk, the fact that we are human, prone to mistakes and share similar struggles to our clients most often makes us better advisers. Some of the most powerful communication that we can give our friends, family and clients is an open discussion of the real challenges that we face.
We have space left in Epic Italy (June 7-16, eight days of training). Drop us a line if you are interested. Please include details on your athletic history and current fitness.
We finish with a shot of a flowering cactus.
I love it down here.
PS -- saw my first snake of the year today!