Xtri Chats with Gordo Byrn By Betsy Delcour
Xtri Chats with Gordo Byrn
One of the most beloved figures in triathlon, this man quickly achieved one name status: Gordo. Unlike the other one-name status triathletes out there, what sets Gordo apart is the fact that he's a normal guy who's living the dream of many age groupers out there. He didn't really get his start until he was about 30; until then, he worked in private equity in various places around the world, partied hard and had the physique to show for it. He decided to change his life and competed at IM Canada for the first time in 1999 finishing in 11:06. In 2004 at the same race, he ran a 2:46 marathon to finish second to Tom Evans with his time of 8:29. But along the way, he's shared his wisdom with anyone willing to read it - there is no easy way! We recently had the chance to chat with Gordo; here's what he had to say...
1. Gordo, congrats on your race at IM Canada! It looked like a solid day, with some pretty even splits for you. Can you tell us how the day went?
You are too kind. I was at the pool today and joking with a buddy that I spent my day at Ultraman pace rather than Ironman pace. My performance was consistent but slower than I had anticipated (about 30 minutes overall). I had a few issues before, and during, the race that may have contributed but found myself quite a bit off the pace that my training indicated.
Post race I was chatting with Tom Evans and he asked if I thought that "I got out what I put in". This year, my result was out of balance with my preparation (which was great). Ironman is a neat event in that we rarely get things totally "right". There is always something to tinker with, or, when things go great... we figure that they will go _even_ better if we do more. My blog this week will cover more about my thoughts about how this year went as well as the way forward.
If folks are interested in the nitty gritty of my race then check the Planet-X website in a week. I'll send them a more traditional race report to publish.
2. Your first IM race was in 1999 at IM Canada. What’s different about how you approach an IM now, racing as an elite, as opposed to that first time? You finished in 11:06, which is really pretty good (IMHO) for a first attempt!
Check out Robbie Ventura's race (10:49 with a 4:51 bike split) for a great ironvirgin result. Pretty amazing giving the challenges that he faced this year as well as his outside commitments (4 kids, Tour de France commentary, VisionQuest Coaching).
As for myself, as I age, my training becomes more and more like the early days.
The things that are similar:
***I need to schedule a lot of recovery. I can't "hit it" for much longer than a week these days.
***I aim to prepare myself for a limited number of key workouts.
***I try to keep my weekly schedule as simple as possible
Probably the biggest differences are:
***I have the background to sustain 2-7 day periods of volume overload, mainly with my bike training.
***I rest when I am tired and don't grind through workouts when highly fatigued.
***While being far more relaxed on race day, I have far higher expectations about my performance.
3. You seem to travel to various parts of the world fairly frequently. What is/are your home base/s? How do you balance training with travel?
You can split most successful people into two camps: those that enjoy the process; and those the enjoy results. Taking that into triathlon, I think that you can split athletes by those that prefer to train and those that prefer to race. Champions comes from unique individuals (like Scott Molina) that combine a love of training, a love of racing, exceptional durability and inherent ability.
That is a long intro... basically, I am a trainer at heart, more accurately, an explorer. I have lived in Vancouver, Montreal, London, Hong Kong, Christchurch, Bermuda and Colorado. I've been on-the-road for the last twenty years and don't really consider anywhere home. Rather than a geographical commitment, I have an emotional commitment to my wife, Monica. So, for the rest of my life, home will be where Monica wants to live and I will do my exploring from that base (Boulder, CO - for now).
Work-Family-Travel balance. I give a talk on that subject that takes about a half an hour. I'll boil it down... what works for me, and my clients, is a simple weekly schedule that stays the same wherever I am in the world. While our location changes, our lives are VERY similar no matter where we are. I work, train and share experiences with Monica. We also pay close attention to where, and when, we travel. We go to places, and associate with people, that make it easy for us to live a healthy lifestyle.
4. Speaking of places around the world, you’re part of the team that puts on the original Epic Camp. How did you, Scott Molina and John Newsom come up with this program? What’s the logic behind doing all the epic mileage and capping it off with a race at the end? How’d it go in Italy this past summer?
The idea for Epic was all Scott -- his professional career was one long epic camp! Scott and I love training -- that is the main driver for us. For the clients, the camps show them that we are all capable of far, far more than we think possible. We remove all the limits, give them total support (sag, meals, laundry, training pals, routes, races, gamesmanship) and see what happens. We've had some amazing athletes pass through our camps and it is fun playing a small part in their development into champion athletes.
Italy was a great camp and the Passo del Stelvio is a must-do for any serious cyclists. That said, I get a lot of pleasure from watching the Tour each summer and being able to remember the Pyrenean climbs that we did in 2005. So next June we are heading back to France for a camp in the Alps. John and Scott have put together an extreme route that will challenge us all. It is the main focus of my training year.
5. Most readers are familiar with the fact that prior to your life in triathlon, you were a partner in a private equity firm. Are there any lessons you learned from that industry that help you as a triathlete? What was it that made you decide to pursue triathlon 100%?
Probably the #1 ingredient missing from most people that desire success is a clear understanding of time management, process management and prioritization. I meet many young people that are very pleasant to be around but lack the ability to work. In Private Equity, I was extremely fortunate to be hired into one of the most successful firms in the world. Throughout my 20s, my peer group consisted of people that were far more intelligent and experienced than me. My only way to "compete" was to work extremely hard. So my main takeaway from Private Equity was learning how to manage myself with high productivity.
That said, it wasn't until I left Private Equity (and had a divorce) that I considered aspects of my approach, and personality, that were self-limiting. So the work ethic helped with triathlon, but I wasn't able to truly succeed as a triathlete until I addressed my lack of personal humility and abrasiveness.
6. In training and racing, do you prefer to use power taps, heart rate monitors and other devices to measure your performance, or are you more of a “go by feel” type of athlete?
I am always going by feel. Learning to dial into our breathing is the most valuable tool we can teach ourselves as athletes. However, there are times where we can mislead ourselves -- at these times, the tools can be useful.
For most of the training year, I focus on getting my training done. JFT -- just train. What really matters is getting out the door on a daily basis, making continual progress and preparing yourself physically/mentally for the specific preparation period. For most of the year, I use a heart rate monitor to cap my efforts. Like anyone, I can get overexcited on my good days -- I don't want to do anything silly that will compromise tomorrow's training.
When training "gets serious", I use my PowerTap, SRM, heart rate monitor and a watch to track the data. The data helps make me a better teacher. As well, as I age, it is interesting to see how my data changes. To date, the changes are not what the scientists have led me to believe would happen.
7. On your site, you mention that you keep the number of athletes you coach at one time to six people. What types of athletes do you coach? Do they cover a broad spectrum of abilities, or do you focus on certain types?
There are many different levels of coaching. Joe and I have sold over 30,000 copies of Going Long and just completed the Second Edition. I write a weekly blog which is read by a few thousand athletes and Endurance Corner has an internal network where a few hundred athletes participate.
I limit my one-on-one coaching to create space for other things in my life. I work with all levels of athletes and am most useful for clients that have a desire to tap the total package of my skills (triathlon, finance, business, life).
In January, I will launch a coaching platform, that will enable athletes to benefit from my experience in balancing work, training and family. I spent this afternoon with my development team and will let you know more as the site progresses.
8. If you could give three pieces of training advice to average age groupers, what would it be? How about three pieces of financial advice to average middle class people?
1 -- Consistency is paramount, never sacrifice tomorrow's training.
2 -- Keep your sport fun, remember that you are on a lifelong journey.
3 -- Every so often, take yourself out of your comfort zone.
I'll give you three that I have spent the last ten years FREQUENTLY reminding myself of:
1 -- Always spend less than you make.
2 -- The quickest way to increase disposable income is to decrease personal expenditure.
3 -- Collect experiences, not possessions.
When things go wrong financially, it tends to come back to violating one of the points above.
9. Which race performance are you most proud of?
2nd place to Tom Evans at Ironman Canada 2004, 8:29 with a 2:46 marathon. That result won't get my name on the Rotary Park walk-of-fame in Penticton but brings me a lot of satisfaction. Trying to revive that result has brought me a lot of pain (mainly in 2005 & 2007). However, we grow through personal struggle and I have been blessed to learn from my "failures".
10. When not coaching, blogging, training, racing or travelling, how do you like to spend your time? Any non-tri related talents or past times?
I like to read good books -- pretty much always non-fiction. So reading and writing are my "treats" -- they replaced alcohol, which played a large role in my 20s.
As for non-tri talents -- my life with Monica, and my "real" business life, play a large role in my life. With the launch of my new coaching platform, you will get to see more of the business side of Gordo Inc.