Spring Break With Gordo Byrn By Mat Steinmetz
Spring Break With Gordo Byrn
I first heard the name Gordo Byrn when searching the Internet for useful triathlon information. While I was sifting through all of the great forum advice, I kept reading things like “check on Gordo World” or “check over on Gordo’s site.” This sparked my interest and I wanted to know more about this Gordo guy. I ventured over to www.gordoworld.com and discovered an array of useful triathlon tips. Like many athletes, I was drawn to a guy that started triathlon at the age of 30 and in just a few short years turned himself into an elite IM athlete. Granted, not everyone can take themselves to that level, but I thought he must be doing something right. Having studied exercise physiology at my university, I was able to understand a lot of the training principles he was writing about. In an industry that thrives on discovering the magic training approach and then selling it, this was something different. Gordo stressed that if you are willing to put in the “the work,” you will give yourself the chance to maximize your athletic potential. I was impressed with his willingness to help other athletes by answering questions on his forum, posting training articles, and writing about his experiences in the process.
Before this trip, Gordo had asked me to make a list of questions that I had for him. So, as you would expect, I arrived in Vegas with a half dozen pages of very complex training questions. The funny thing was that after a few days with him, most of my questions had been answered without ever asking. With Gordo’s guidance, I realized that I was over-thinking things and I wasn’t focusing on what truly mattered.
Written below are some of the key points that I took away from this trip.
If you are like most triathletes, you probably spend a lot of time discussing training protocols, often wondering if you are doing the right one or whether this person is right or wrong? These debates over training protocols pertain to about 10% of what really matters and time is better spent, focusing on the 90% that does. What is that 90%? finding a way to enjoy the process of getting out the door and training consistently. I was having a hard time accepting the simplicity of the training and letting the 10% distract me from achieving my goals. Have a plan, but what is inside that plan is not as important as executing the plan consistently, the act of doing.
How do you feel?
Triathlon is an experiment on your OWN body. Whenever I got the chance to get an opinion from Gordo about a particular workout, he always turned it back on me. He would ask, “How do you feel? What is your past experience? What is the most you’ve done recently?”
This sort of discussion helped me realize that whether you are coached or not, you are in complete control over your plan. A coach can give you guidance with structure and a plan, but ultimately you are in control. As an athlete you need to evaluate how well your body is responding to the demand that is being placed on it. What are your limits? When do you begin to break down? How far can you take it?
Even athletes at the highest levels take rest days. I always had this misconception that guys like Gordo are out there drilling it every day, which made it hard for me to feel at ease with taking a few easy days. Gordo stressed that “It is not how much training you can do, but how much you can absorb.”
Note to self: I need to be careful with this because it is an easy excuse not to train. Make sure you aren’t justifying resting because you are being lazy.
Tracking fitness during the base phase
People always wonder how long should the base phase last? Or, how do I know when I’m ready for some faster stuff?
This method isn’t an exact science, but more of a gauge/benchmark and when performed enough, this test will give you a good indication of your aerobic fitness.
To learn more, visit www.markallenonline.com
Heart Rate Monitors
I think a heart rate monitor is a very viable tool in learning about your body. By getting to know your body, you can begin learning how different variables (hydration, fatigue, climate, altitude, sleep, etc.) affect your performance.
I have found inserting short periods of walking into my running has had a tremendous impact on my running development. It is tough to be humble and slow to a brisk walk in front of all your buddies, but I have been able to achieve a greater quality of running because of this. I am able to recover more quickly, absorb more volume, and have become a faster runner with this protocol.
You can read more here: www.coachgordo.com/gtips
This pretty much sums it up: www.gordoworld.com/gblog
It is easy to write down a goal finish time on a piece of paper, but it is far more difficult to actually execute a plan to achieve that goal.
A good plan includes appropriate pacing to maximize your speed across the entire day, resulting in your fastest finishing time. Control factors that are in your power (pacing, nutrition, equipment, ect.) and be prepared with a plan to handle factors that are out of your control (weather, terrain, flats, dropped bottles). Through proper race simulations, you should have a good idea where your fitness lies. If you are in 13 hour Ironman shape and try and race at 10 hours, then you’re in for a long day.
The main thing I took away from this trip was “simplicity.” Triathlon training is not as complicated as we make it. I have found that creating this mind-set has helped me become more consistent with my training because I enjoy it more. Protocol doesn’t completely matter and athletes need to enjoy what they are doing. The more pleasure you find in your program, the more likely you are to train. The more you train, the more fit you will become. I really feel it is as simple as that.