Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Columnists

Does Crime Pay?

When my wife asked if I was going to read Tyler Hamilton's book, I wasn’t sure. I had a hunch that I’d get seriously pissed off and I like to avoid unnecessary stress.

I read a few reviews and they were generally positive. So I got myself a copy. It wasn’t what I expected.

Balancing Life, Not Triathlon

Does your life function inside the bubble of the triathlon world or does triathlon fit inside the bubble of your life?

Stripping away everything-triathlon from my world, I’m a husband, father, full-time IT professional, coach, friend, son and brother. If I tried to squeeze and balance those components of my life inside a world dictated by triathlon, I’d lose and my bubble would pop. Triathlon only fits when there’s balance amongst those things that weigh heavier in importance.

When All Else Fails, Go to Anger... But Don't Go There Often

I was in the middle of a ride about a month ago in my big build before my second Ultraman UK when I had an experience with a lot of anger. Training was good and I was very well fueled, but it still seems like every time I'm close to my limits I get angry without anything in particular setting me off. Luckily I was riding solo!

Juggling Family and Triathlon

I took a course in Motor Learning as part of my undergrad. On the first day of class, the professor gave us a proposal. We could skip the first test if we were able to juggle two tennis balls with one hand for 20 consecutive catches. I sat in the back of the class with a sly smile. I knew how to juggle. Out of 60-something students only about five of us attempted this feat. I was the only person who skipped the first test.

If you are married with kids and racing long distance triathlon, you need to learn how to juggle at least two objects with one hand.

Crushing Cramping

Most athletes’ cramping strategy consists of “hope in a jar.” Sodium, magnesium, potassium, pickle juice... all have been reported to bring relief from cramps.

While placebos are effective for half the people I coach, I’ve taken a different approach with my own athletics. Today I will offer you practical tips you can take to improve your durability.

A Sense of Urgency

I was fortunate to recently spend some time with one of the members of our management team. She was training some new staff and mentioned the need to teach our new co-workers the ability to work with “a sense of urgency.”

I am now a few short weeks from my first Ironman World Championship. Achieving this goal has required three years of dedication, consistency, focus and luck. I came to our sport at age 40 and I am starting to feel the weight of change in my life. My nest is now empty, menopause looms, my body is aging and I often wonder if my willingness to suffer will eventually wane.

Getting Over the Addiction

I know this guy. About 10 years back he realized that he wasn't in the best of shape. In fact, looking in the mirror he could see a gradual decline into poor health and larger trouser sizes. At that point, fortunately, he had a moment’s revelation and just enough motivation to carry out a plan that changed his life: diet and exercise gave him the health and the waist measurement he desired. It wasn't enough. Fitness became an addiction and triathlon is a place where fitness addicts end up. It's a vicious circle that starts with a sprint tri and ends with an ironman, except it doesn't end; once the ironman is done, the question -- obsession -- becomes Kona. This guy gave up a good job, left friends and family behind, and traveled halfway around the world in pursuit of that obsession.

"How Do They Get It Done?" - Trying to Balance Triathlon Training with Life Outside of It

Many of us have busy lives that we choose to make even more complicated by not only adding a sport like triathlon to it, but also wanting to continuously improve and even excel. Over 22 years of coaching -- 15 of those helping triathletes -- I’ve seen my share of unbalance in an athlete’s life but in the majority of cases I have learned and gained so much appreciation for those who do it “right” and not only make themselves happy but make those around them happy as well.

Sport and Life

We bring sport into our lives and it has an impact on everything we are. The entire package: asking our work, our families and our friends to be a part of our new found love. It effects our outlook, our decision making and our way of life.

I think it's important to first acknowledge that this lifestyle most likely isn't going to "go away." It is likely not a "phase" you are going through. It is a lifestyle of habits, choices, friends and how you as a person have chosen to live your life. It impacts everything.

Building Athletic Confidence

Recently, a friend shared: "One thing about your writing is that you seem sure of yourself in the moment. Do you ever feel uncertain in your pursuit of excellence and sense of control?"

I suspect that many former elites miss the simplicity that comes from a single-minded focus on a goal of athletic excellence. I consider myself very fortunate to have had a few years to completely devote myself to sport.

Elite athletics taught me that finishing times are the least important results I received from athletics. What truly mattered was clarity, physical power, a sense of freedom and self-confidence. At some stage, I’ll need to let go of those. For now, I’m hangin’ on!

Twenty-Four Hours of Eating

"I bet you can eat whatever you want!"

I've heard that more than a few times and the truth is I would love nothing more than to eat a bacon cheeseburger with curly fries but I often end up with a bowl of salad.

What can I say? My meals are boring.

Embrace the Off

I started doing triathlons after my freshman year in college and over the next three years I began to train more and more. Nevertheless, I always kept one off day which was also called “game day”. Attending a school with a large football program tends to make Saturdays a bit more of a holiday/party atmosphere than you might find in some other towns across the nation. With these kind of distractions each fall, it was easy to take a day away from studying and training.

Dealing with Adversity

Whether you are a seasoned racer or someone taking on a first race there is one sure thing that is going to happen in your athletic endeavors: you are going to have to deal with adversity.

Adversity can be used to describe many different things, can come in many forms, and is obviously different for each individual person. It also usually goes hand in hand with both success and failure on many levels.

Triathlon-Related Deaths - The Facts and What You Should Know

Last August I volunteered to help with a USA Triathlon (USAT) review of race-related fatalities in recent years. Since this issue has been in the news these past couple weeks with athlete deaths at the inaugural Ironman New York triathlon and again at the USAT National Championships in Burlington, Vermont, I thought I’d share my experience with the review, some data you might find interesting, and some thoughts about a path toward better race safety.

Go Into Race Week Like a Fighter

Ironman is a tough sport, but for the many-time ironman finisher the race in itself doesn’t provide motivation. Motivation has to come from within. What is more, the experienced ironman knows it’s just a race, it’s not life and death, and a terrible race isn’t dangerous. And this is what sometimes makes preparation hard, especially compared to other sports… Muay Thai for example.

Living the Dream

I always chuckle when I think of one of our EC coaches (Justin Daerr) passing me on a tough day during camp and shouting out, “Living the dream!” Some days I really feel like I am living the dream and other days (during my Kona prep) I contemplate that we all get what we deserve.

Being able to be an ironman athlete can work for almost anyone. Being able to do it well and not end up unemployed, divorced and living homeless with your multitude of bikes requires a few things.

Three Common Rookie Race Week Mistakes

Six months ago you thought this week would never come. You set out a strategy and you executed the journey. Now your emotions are being flooded with anxiety, nervousness, confidence, and intrigue. It’s race week, and it’s time to showcase the previous months of discipline and determination.

Your preparation during the week of a race can vary greatly. Determining factors are distance of your race, importance of the race within your season, race environment, and where you are in your personal development or ability. For the purpose of this article I want to reach out to those early in their development of racing ironman-distance triathlon, and who are in the week of their “A” race for the year.

Get Organized for Race Week

A good friend always sends me the same email the Monday before the following weekend’s big event: “It’s race week!” Race week can and should be exciting. The hard work is done and the only thing really left to do is press “play.” However, making race week what it should takes preparation and planning prior to the actual race week. I like to think about not having to think during race week.

The Hero Taper

Last month, Marilyn shared different taper strategies that you could use to get yourself race ready. Now that I’m optimizing my life, ahead of my athletic performance, I want to share the strategy that I used for Leadville.

In a nutshell, I took my 3-year-old daughter on the road for seven days and placed race day in the middle of the trip. My wife thought I had lost my mind!

Many athletes use sport and work as a socially-acceptable way to spend time away from the kids.

When I was younger, much of the attraction of big training was a willingness to do things that seemed too difficult for others. In considering race week, I realized that my training volume was going to be way down. I figured that building my relationship with my daughter and being a hero with my wife was a good investment.

Mastering Race Week Nerves

After months of work race week creeps up on you and you realize there are only seven more days before it's all over. Nerves hit. You know there is nothing more you can do, this is as good as you get, but you fear that there is something that might happen in those remaining few days to derail your goal. Panic builds. Each day that brings you closer to the race also brings increasing doubts and fears.

This is perfectly normal and with experience you learn many ways to better manage the stress. Here are some things that work for me.

Dial In the Early Run Miles

We often train it on a weekly basis, and maybe even multiple times during a week, but do we really get it right in training? If we don’t get it right in training, will it magically happen on race day? I’m talking about transition runs and using key training days to work on the skill of pacing the opening few miles of the run during your race correctly.

Be Prepared

Like many kids growing up, I participated in Boy Scouts. I learned many valuable skills from that program, but if there was one take-away lesson I remembered, it was their famous tag line to “be prepared." The value of this simple statement is particularly noticeable during race week.

Race Week - Self Management or Self Sabotage

While following the Olympics in the beginning of the month, I found myself wondering how the athletes who competed in the final days handled the weeks leading up to their events without being distracted by the excitement, hype, and hassle of travel, the Olympic Village, the media and every other disruption. Certainly the seasoned, more experienced athletes have mastered self-management during race-week. Just as certainly, there were some athletes that experienced “self-sabotage” in the weeks or days leading up to their events.

Race Week in Your Happy Place

Early in my career as a business owner, vacations were rare. The few that I took involved stressing about the vacation, making the travel plans for the vacation, scrambling to get everything done for the vacation and spending a sleepless night packing to leave at an evil hour the next morning.

I quickly learned this process was not going to work as I spent multiple vacations with some type of illness. Irritating to me and annoying to my family.

It is no coincidence many triathletes end up sick during race week as they juggle the finishing touches on their preps/tapers, meeting work deadlines and family commitments.

Developing a Race Week Routine

The final days leading into a race are not a time to build fitness, but it is still a time where your decisions can maximize -- or hinder -- your upcoming performance. We all respond differently to things like travel, stress and training, so learning your individual right balance of everything in the days preceding a key race is critical to successful racing.

Here are five tips to help you establish race week routines.

Racing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB

One of the challenges for an athletic parent is maintaining excellence in the face of the realities presented by a growing family. Some quit competition, others get squirrelly, a few get divorced... I tried a summer of cycling only.

Being in my 40s, even when I have the time, I often can’t recover from what my mind tells me is “proper” training. In preparing for Leadville I dropped my running for the summer (close to zero) and was able to train (on the bike) like my 30s.

Many of us delay the realities of age by changing sports -- pro cyclists coming to ironman, triathletes learning to nordic ski for the Birkie or regular folks trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Eat, Drink, Worry a Little... and Have Fun

The last days before a big race are hell. I dread them. The training is in the bag, tapering has me edgy and wanting to move; ironman preparation is very long, making the stakes high; getting it wrong really stings. It seems it’s the same for everyone, though, and unfortunately that tends to show. Smiles are few and far between, people size each other up, and ironman racers are generally not the friendliest bunch in the days before the starting gun goes.

My recipe to dealing with the stress of race week comes down to four things: planning, routine, withdrawal, and a healthy dose of fun.