Saturday, January 31, 2015

Columnists

From the Rearview, I've Got Clear View…

Most of us in endurance sport keep a close eye on our fitness. We have benchmarks we expect to see in specific prep, after a taper and after post-race or end of season layoffs. Heart rates change, power numbers fluctuate, pace and percieved exertion look and feel different as well. Over time we are either trying to improve those benchmarks or maintain them, depending on age and depth of experience.

Do you have an idea of personal health markers and how they might change if you stopped living healthfully? And if you are only giving a part time effort toward being the healthiest you can be, do you have any idea how much more you can do?

My Tough 2012

After Kona in 2011, my coach Kevin Purcell and I put together the game plan for 2012:

  1. Find an early qualifier for Kona with a flat bike course
  2. Qualify at IM Texas
  3. Race Kona

The plan was simple and realistic because we could expect four spots in my age group and flat bike courses suit me perfectly as I’m relatively tall and, at 83kg, I’m not the lightest.

Looking Back... Going Forward

Over the past month I’ve spent time planning for athletes’ 2013 seasons, but while looking forward I have had to spend time reflecting back over the past year or two to help in getting the future correct. Simply, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned or confirmed with my athletes (or myself) over the past year.

Three Powerful Strategies to Incorporate in Your 2013 Season Plan

In my last blog post, I offered a quick retrospective on some of the things that I would like to do differently as my squad heads into 2013.

While it’s always good to look back on the past with a critical eye, it is equally important to celebrate the successes -- the changes that we made this year that led to some breakthrough performances. I’ll attempt to recount some of those in this article, so that you, the reader, can apply them to your own 2013 plan and have your own breakthrough year!

Five Questions for Your Doctor

Readers here at Endurance Corner will know that I’m a fan of a periodic visit to the doctor for a check-up. In a previous column I discussed the rationale and the value in athletes having a doctor and on my blog I’ve offered suggestions about how to find a good primary care doctor. Today I’m sharing five important questions for your doctor that will help you get the most out of an annual visit.

Getting to the Start Line

Ironman preparation is long, and it gives you plenty of time to screw things up. Alas, I seem to manage to get myself injured with great consistency before my ironman races. Before my last race of the season -- Ironman Florida -- I kept true to myself and managed to crash three weeks before race day. I was not happy.

Blown Base

With the year wrapping up and winter rolling in for many of our readers, I thought I’d share my three most memorable base-training errors.

Turning My Weakness Into My Strength

I’m writing this on the day where I finally achieved my goal of squatting 12 reps at 1.5 times my bodyweight. That strength set is the bar Alan Couzens identified for me being “strong enough.” When I started working with Alan, I didn’t really think strength was a limiter until he said for me to be able to play with the big boys I needed 10 kilos more muscle. I accepted the challenge and chalked up my hands.

Addressing Persistent Weaknesses

Addressing weaknesses is a tricky thing. Once identified, it is tempting to either fight them like a gladiator or avoid dealing with them altogether. The latter approach will ensure weaknesses remain so, while the former is likely to erode strengths and lead to burnout. I know this to be true because I have tried each of these strategies!

"The Best of Endurance Corner" - Now Available!

Endurance Corner has been a leading resource for long course triathlon training and racing advice. In our first “Best of” book, we’ve pulled together advice from our team of experts to help guide you to iron-distance success, focusing on five key content areas:

  • Setting up a successful season
  • Executing your race plan
  • Using training camps to slingshot you past your competition
  • Creating a healthy lifestyle
  • Developing mental strength

Overcoming Weaknesses

The first step to overcoming any weakness is having the ability to recognize it. Most of us are pretty tough on ourselves so we can create a huge list of things we want to improve. An actual weakness is slightly different, and it's sometimes hard to identify exactly what it is.

Coaching Lessons 2013

With most everyone’s season winding down, at least in the northern hemisphere, I thought that I’d share three lessons that I picked up from our team in 2012.

The End of Your Season

I am now unloading fitness after a fourteen month journey that ended with crossing the finish line in Kona. I started this journey in August of 2011 with a breakthrough performance at Ironman Louisville and a Kona qualification in May of 2012 at Ironman Texas.

Unloading for me usually means “touching” swimming and cycling once or twice the week post race. This year it included touching a Mai Tai or two as well.

The Little Things - Improving Your Small Weaknesses

Last month I discussed looking at a relatively long term planning picture at this time of year to give yourself some focus and direction with your training. While many athletes still need to focus on improving those bigger picture items first, there comes a time when smaller ones can make a difference.

K.I.S.S.

In my opinion, the title of this column is a term that has been forgotten or simply not used enough!

Are you asking yourself what is K.I.S.S? Keep It Simple Stupid!

After my last article on the 40 boring weeks, I got bombarded with the question, “What should I do during the 40 boring weeks?” I can say just about every person who wrote me was trying to make it far more complicated than it really needs to be.

A Cautionary Tale

Following Tyler Hamilton’s book, a friend recommend David Millar’s book, Racing Through the Dark. I got a kick out of the book as Millar and I have crossed paths many times without meeting (Hong Kong, Noosa, France).

Endurance sport attracts people, myself included, who become manic on depressants -- the two most common being fatigue and alcohol. Millar shares anecdotes of how he responds to fatigue and booze (my depressants of choice in my 20s and 30s).

If you are prone to feelings of mania then you’re probably at risk for depression.

Winter Power Gym Session

Fall and winter are the time of year to really start to focus in the gym. Building strength, power and new dynamic movement can really improve you for the next year's season. This is especially important for older athletes, injury prone athletes, lighter framed athletes and almost all female athletes.

Carrying Your Training Load

If you have followed along all these years, you have watched my journey from a back of the pack triathlete to a Kona qualifier and finisher. How did I get from there to here?

I had to learn to carry my load in training. Training load or work is a combination of intensity and volume. The safest way to learn to carry your load is to manipulate the amount (volume) of training you are completing. The off season is a great time to experiment with your training load.

Don't Forget the Time Out

I want to race faster.

I think for the majority of us that neatly summarizes our major goals for the next season. From back to front of pack athletes, we want to improve; to race better than we have done before. That usually means faster. This simple idea grows into a plan encompassing months of our lives and committing ourselves to hours of training. The danger when chasing bigger goals is we simply try to do bigger training without consideration for timing or our own capacity to handle more. I will confess, I've done it, and -- okay -- sometimes I've got away with it in the short term, but when we're looking at an entire season there needs to be greater management of training load.

V-Day

After reading Dr. Bob’s account of his vasectomy, I was a little nervous heading into my own. I figured if a Vice-Chairman at the Mayo Clinic had an experience that involved grapefruit-sized equipment, I was going to be out of action for quite some time!

This week I’ll share my experience of my vasectomy -- I’m going to be direct so consider yourself warned...

Speak Up

Many of us carved out most of the day on October 13 to sit in front of a computer and watch the best compete against the best in the Ironman World Championships. I’m certain that the thoughts and dreams were magnified watching the actual event unfold on that magical island and the pinnacle of our sport. Thoughts and questions rang loud: “I wish I could race there,” “Next year is my year,” “What do I need to do to get to Kona?”

Big Goals Are More Than a Result

I’ve always felt uncomfortable about the phrase “big goals.” The bigger they are, the longer it will take to achieve them, therefor the journey becomes more and more significant. Also, by redefining enjoyable activities into “big goals” seems to me like the easiest way to suck the fun out of something. Don’t be in a hurry to get triathlon over and done with, with goals accomplished and ticked off list.

That said, it is good to have aspirations, things you want to do, and these things do take planning.

Plan It Then Forget It

When I talk to others about big goals I’m often surprised that people don’t necessarily know what they are up against. What does it take to qualify? Where are you relative to that qualification standard? What do you need to do to get to the standard it takes? These are all important questions you should ask yourself early on when you are formulating your plan for how to reach that coveted goal.

Ultras and Health

I recently finished up Scott Jurek’s autobiography. It brought back memories of many a big day. By way of background, I asked Scott to coach me when I was trying to get myself out of a funk due to overtraining. Probably a good thing that it didn’t work out between us. At that stage of my life, I needed rest more than I needed to run a 100 miles!

Values and Big Goals

My first trip to Kona was in 2006. I considered myself lucky to get there. I didn't really know what I was doing and hadn’t put in what I consider to be appropriate training for an athlete looking to qualify for the World Championships. However, I happily accepted my roll-down slot, went to Kona that year and then quickly realized that if I ever wanted to get back, I was going to need to make some changes.

Seinfeld Knows Sport

When I see reruns from most 1990s sitcoms I wonder how I ever enjoyed watching any of them. Of course, there are exceptions, most notably: Seinfeld. I always loved how Seinfeld managed to pull multiple story lines together in the final scenes of a show, no matter how seemingly unrelated they all appeared to be. My assumption, whether right or wrong, was that the writers of this show must have written their scripts by starting with the conclusion. Putting the entire show together began by knowing where they wanted to end.

Establishing major goals in triathlon is not much different in my eyes. In this case, the final scene lies in the key race. Knowing where you want to be on that day should determine how you build your training as you work backwards to present day.

Planning for Next Season Begins Now

Most everyone in the Northern Hemisphere is closing out their race seasons (or already has). Now is the time to consider an off season. The definition of "off season" may vary from athlete to athlete, but the basic gist for almost everyone is that the next "season" is many months away and your current motivation is changing.

Adding the Squat to Your Strength Routine

To strength athletes, squats are known as the king of all exercises. And, despite being endurance athletes, most ironman competitors can gain a lot from adding squats to their routine.

Squats are more effective than dedicated abdominal work at developing core strength, which is necessary for maintaining good form during the ironman marathon. The movement of squatting resembles the pedaling action, so work done here resembles huge strength gains on the bike. Remember if you want to push 300 watts aerobically, you need kilos of aerobic quad muscle, so get it in the gym!

Give It Time

Most athletes, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, are winding down their triathlon racing seasons. While many athletes may put their triathlon gear and thoughts away for awhile, the goal driven, performance driven athletes are planning. They are planning the next year or the maybe even the next three years. Although you have some down time from training, do yourself a favor and begin thinking out how you might want to plan next season (more than just the races you sign up for) and potentially the years beyond.

Motivational Balance

Most of us are corporeal beings, so our lot in life is to be constrained by time and space. There are only so many seconds in our lives and hence, we need to be constantly minding our fractions. There will be many articles coming through the last few weeks on methods to achieve the balance required to have success in life and triathlon. However, I will propose that something’s ‘gotta give.

How do we determine what we will focus on and what will we let slide? In other words, what factors determine our choices? Maybe I wanted to really know, why do any of us choose the lifestyle of triathlon, when so many other important things clamor for our attention?