No catchy lead in here, just nine interesting facts worth knowing about the athlete's heart.
We train to race. This is the reason we do set after set, day in and day out. The race is the big day, the test, the party. It's where we get to head out and truly see where we are.
A lot of factors come into putting a race together: physical, mental, experience, equipment, conditions, courses, goals. You need to consider all of those factors when planning your race.
In business, I’m constantly looking for ways to spend time to save time. I spend my time learning how to do repetitive tasks more efficiently. As a consultant, I’m conscious of every shift, click and keystroke. Little changes, multiplied by the millions of shifts, clicks and strokes we will do in our lives, can be powerful.
Through the years, I have had had six direct competitors in my business. Two of them were national chains within throwing distance. Why did we prevail?
We knew our business.
I used a similar strategy to prevail at Ironman Texas this year.
Last year, a buddy went to Riccione, Italy, for a bike camp and had a blast. This year, I joined him and want to share some observations specifically about Italy and camps in general.
As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of using fatigue curves as an indicator of the relative top end power versus submax endurance strength of an athlete. By looking at how an athlete’s power decays as event duration increases, we are able to make some conclusions as to the endurance capacity of that athlete and we are able to extrapolate down the curve to make some pacing goals/predictions for event durations which the athlete may infrequently attempt. This is especially useful for ironman athletes.
However, despite the usefulness of the fatigue curve, it still only represents a general impression of the athlete’s endurance.
In today's day and age of smart phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, and on and on, we all feel the need for constant feedback or information from the outside world.
I don't think things are a lot different in our sport of triathlon. There is more information available than we know what to do with.
As dedicated long-distance triathletes we spend a lot of time, energy, and money in realizing our goals. I believe that one of the key ingredients to success is how well your training program works for you.
A good coach is important to a strong and consistent training program for those of us who are not going the self-coaching route. In my brief time as a focused triathlete I have found that there is more to it than just how good your coach is. In the first two years I worked with two coaches before joining Alan Couzen’s roster and losing my “coaching wanderlust.” Having finally found something that works has helped me realize what’s important to me in a coaching relationship.
When attempting a breakthrough, whether it a race performance, mental barrier or physical barrier, it’s often best not to put an exact time limit on it. The reality is we need to set up our training and our programs so that we are doing things to improve on a daily basis. If we do that, and assuming the plan is guiding us in the proper direction, breakthroughs will happen. Quite often you’ll feel the change and sense something is coming and other times it may surprise the heck out of you. What follows are few ways and items to consider on your path to breakthrough training and performances.
I started writing this month's column while sitting in the airport on my way to Italy to meet Gordo for a week of training. That’s big travel to connect with the guy who provides me with my training plans. Somebody asked me what I was training for this year and I didn't have a clear answer at the time. Actually, I still don’t have one. I'm wondering if my big training month will gives me some answers.
Pretty much everybody who decides they want to do an ironman knows there are going to be some long rides. It usually varies on how many or how often for different people and different programs. Each athlete's ability and experience level also dictates the length of the long ride.
I am a cyclist at heart. I love riding my bike. The beauty about cycling is generally the more you can ride, the better you get. There does come a point where the work rate itself within the total hours of riding becomes key, but nobody can argue the importance of the big epic ride within the ironman build. It gives you the chance to practice pacing and nutrition, builds durability and endurance, and helps you embrace the mental challenges of being out there a long time.
A breakthrough occurs when we learn something we didn’t know we didn’t know. Afterward, we view it as wisdom, but that connotation conjures up old chiefs, so for our purposes, let’s call it (an) experience. Not to underestimate what another 10 to 20 years of life experience will add up to in wisdom!
Last month was mental toughness month on EC. Being an athlete that gravitated away from the searing nature of short duration racing, it’s natural that I feel an affinity for competitions that hinge more on execution than pain tolerance. Knowing that I’m somewhat "weak" is one of my strengths as I’ve had to learn other ways to win.
“Before Breakthrough Training, Chop Wood, Carry Water. After Breakthrough Training, Chop Wood, Carry Water”
I borrowed today’s title from the Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
What is breakthrough training? For me, it is about viewing it the right way: it is a continual quest with no end date and no real peak. When the goal is to qualify, it is not fair to the coach or the athlete to pick a specific race or year.
Breakthrough training is often interpreted as a sort of magic bullet. I still hope for the day when I'll wake up to find myself swimming consecutive 1:15 100s and 6-minute mile pace doesn’t take any real effort. It hasn't happened yet though.
What is more important are the breakthroughs I’ve had in my head, and those are what I’d like to share. Those moments -- like the eureka moment we all get when we solve a math problem -- really do feel as if walls have been removed in our minds, and where things that seemed so separate and incompatible suddenly become dualities, two sides of the same coin.
After a failed attempt at a first draft of this article, I went back to the drawing board. In other words, I logged on to Google. When I entered the word “complacency” I got a page full of websites listing official definitions. I read through a number of them and even ventured to Urban Dictionary to see if someone had a clever offbeat definition (they did not; though it was in there). The online dictionaries all had nearly the same definitions and two words seemed to be the most common: “self-satisfaction” and “unaware(ness)” What this tells me is that complacency is essentially always an afterthought. It is not something felt in the present, but something that a person likely identified in themselves when trying to find out what went wrong.
So what exactly is it?
I’ve been reading quite a bit recently on the subject of creativity, as it seems to be vogue in the literature of business, education and even neuroscience. It’s a subject that has interested me for some time and our research group at Stanford was looking at measures of enhanced creativity in patients with bipolar (manic-depressive) disease 15 years ago.
There is no question that breakthrough solutions (that is to say bursts of creativity) develop from at least two separate strategies.
In the six years since I started ironman I cannot think of a single breakthrough training day. There have been many memorable sessions -- some for the scenery, others for the company, some where I went further than I had before and others where I worked harder -- but no individual session stands out for leading to a breakthrough in my performance. I'm not starting another article on consistency -- it is important -- but just being consistent wasn't enough.
So when I look at six years of (mostly) consistent training, what made the difference? What took me from being another focused age-grouper to being a faster, focused age-grouper?
I am pretty sure that most of us have had a disappointing race or athletic performance in our career. If you have not, consider yourself lucky!
A lot of us tend to throw our toys out of the crib and blame it on the conditions or someone else. I think there are several things we need to do when we have a disappointment in a race. First thing is give yourself at least 24-48 hours before you make any rash decisions
Your second step should be to take a step back and look at what happened!
I had a conversation with a training partner last year about mental toughness during which my friend suggested that we can always become tougher, and should seek to do so. I was reluctant to agree with that outlook, but it sure got me thinking. Like any athlete, I have experienced both sides of the mental barriers to performance; situations in which I gave 100% of what my body was capable of, and others in which I know in my heart that I did not. Sometimes I have experienced both of these states in the same race! So what was the difference?
Every year, we give our daughter and our nephews an adventure for Christmas. One year, we decided that the adventure would be white river rafting in the Gauley River. We had a hint of things to come when the guide asked to discuss the day’s adventure privately with us.
He pointed out that we had a great day ahead -- actually, a world class day. The river was almost at its highest level due to recent storms. A few more feet, and the river would be closed. He informed us that almost the whole ride would be Class V rapids which increased the level of danger.
After some debate (my partner is the cautious one operating out of the Worst Case Scenario Guidebook), we elected to take the trip.
I recently returned from Hawaii and wanted to share tips in case you find yourself cycling or training for triathlon on the island of Kauai. The island is a special place with a different vibe than you’ll find on the more crowded islands.
In a previous article, I wrote about the general issue of serum cholesterol and lipid levels and I’ve always encouraged athletes to “know their numbers.” I'd like to extend that conversation and talk about the most common scenario I hear about: the athlete who has a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level and who is encouraged to take a statin medication for treatment.
You know those sessions that cause you to just cringe in fear if anyone even mentions them? We all have them. The coach says, "Okay, today we are going to do a solo bike TT for one hour, best possible pace," or "1500m TT in the pool," and you get that shudder.
As far as triathlon coaches go, I think I have a fairly homogenous group of athletes that I tend to work with. They are typically guys who have been plugging away with relatively high levels of annual volume for a number of years and have had either inconsistent results or results not in line with they work put in.
Since my sample of athletes are fairly uniform in athletic history, the key to attaining a breakthrough performance for these athletes more often than not comes down to a few slight tweaks to the way they have been doing things.
Mental toughness comes in many forms. Often, mental toughness is defined as the ability to suffer more than the competition during a race.
Years of training, racing and coaching have expanded my perspective of mental toughness. It definitely pays to be mentally tough when you’re 20 miles into the ironman marathon and you feel like you can’t possibly take another step. But mental toughness is needed long before the 20-mile mark, or even the starting line. It is mental toughness that helps to build real, race day fitness.
What subject could be more germane to a group of endurance athletes than mental toughness? After all, given the vast evidence supporting the central governor theory of fatigue, it follows that increasing mental toughness will boost performance. I propose further that we are all tough on crime, we dole out tough love and even our cleaning products are tough on stains, so c’mon: let’s all get tough.
Similar to many aspects of common sense, it’s hard to really define what we mean by mental toughness. This is pretty important, since most of us hope to enhance our mental toughness and it’s hard to enhance what you cannot describe.
When trying to become a successful athlete it’s not hard to drive yourself into submission thinking you need to be physically tough every minute of every day. The reality is we need to learn when to be physically tough, when to be mentally tough, and at times, when to be neither. Then again, being neither often takes a bit of mental fortitude. As a result, not being tough can be the toughest thing for a lot of us. The key to athletic success is not only deciding how to be tough, but what tough really is and in what scenario. There are a variety of ways to make yourself strong, durable, and in the process a better athlete
A few of you may know that I began my college studies with a view to a career in sport psychology. After a few years of study it became clear to me that my mechanistic mindset was far better suited to exercise physiology and so I left matters of the mind behind. Or so I thought…
In case you hadn’t noticed, April is “Mental Toughness” month on Endurance Corner. When I learned about the theme, I thought, “This is me; this will be good.” After all, I think of myself as pretty tough.
I’ve come from the “slow class” at a below average high school which was nearly closed down the year I graduated to getting an honours degree in a tough subject. I’ve beaten alcoholism and stayed away even when I’ve been homeless. I’ve been attacked with knives on several occasions. I’ve worked 16-hour overnight shifts with only a 20-minute break picking orders in warehouses. I’ve spent winters without hot water and days without food. I’ve run through a heart attack in a sprint triathlon (winning my age group). And I’ve sat through a Nelly Furtado gig for a girl.
I’d like to think all of that was for something -- even the pop concert was a learning experience -- but is this sort of toughness required for Kona?