Joe wrote an interesting article last week about the future of triathlon (see the Winner articles). The article was great because it acted as a catalyst for discussion, reaction and emotion. Four days (and probably a few hundred emails) later Joe issued a clarification of what he meant to say. Frankly, I thought he said it pretty well in Part One.
When I read that article I was quite fired up and wrote a rather lengthy 'comment' on his page... then remembered President Lincoln's advice and deleted it!
I'm glad that I did because Joe's clarification was effective at spelling out his key point, which I'll come to. Wrapped around his key point were some truths about endurance training that likely made some of his readers a bit excited. I know that his comments gained traction on the net.
Remember Obama's guns, religion and bitterness line? Speaking one's opinion plainly doesn't always advance your cause.
Emotional responses happen when a respected figure points out truths that we'd rather not see. In fact, you could say that is the definition of a true friend -- an individual that's willing to share unpleasant truths about us.
I woke up this morning and looked out the window to find a good accumulation of snow on the ground. I was a little surprised. I didn’t remember my local Fox meteorologist, Crystal Egger (pictured) saying anything about an upcoming snow storm. Usually, she gets it pretty right. In fact, if I think back a couple of decades to my childhood, it sure seems that weather forecasting has improved a whole lot. It seems that back in the day, it was a running joke that the weather that we would wind up with was basically the opposite of what the meteorologist would predict.
Of course, like most things, I am sure technology has played a part in the improved accuracy of weather forecasting. Scientists are now able to sample, minute by minute, a myriad of benchmark #’s, from barometric pressure to humidity to minor fluctuations in temperature and furthermore, they are able to summarize this data to create accurate computer models to predict future weather behavior.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’re seeing where I’m gonna go with this..
March 16th -- Noon Denver -- Long Course First Timers -- we'll chat about approaching your first long course event. Hopefully, I'll save you from some of the mistakes I've made over the years!
Contact Me for a slot and/or send in your questions in advance.
Free to all and available for download after the fact.
This week I am going to use the answers to your marathon questions to help explain how the fat guy on the right of the photo became the blazing triathlete on the left. Not many people run 2:46 off the bike in an Ironman -- even fewer starting from a very comfortable 200+ lbs.
This is going to be a two-part series on marathon training. Part One will share some concepts which I believe impact all endurance sports, but especially, marathon training (stand alone and Ironman). Part Two will pick up the questions from last week, as well as, any from this week.
It has been a hectic week for me in Europe and I am now in Asia for a few days before returning to the US. Sorry that I missed the Friday deadline but I was busy growing grey hairs! No announcements this week, we will roll straight into Part One.
I had a look at average results for all marathons in the US in 2005 -- the results didn't surprise me, but they might surprise you. Average male finish time was about 4.5 hours, with the ladies just over 5.0 hours. That is for stand-alone marathons -- not running after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles of running.
This week, I am going to have some fun and write about a topic dear to my heart -- Old School Endurance. Not quite "Old Time Hockey" but Paul Newman's passing has been on my mind. Watching Slapshot is a rite of passage for a lot of my Canadian pals.
Management and communication tips can wait for another week -- if you are like me then you could be a little burnt out on reading about the dire state of the global economy. There is going to be plenty of time for working through the aftermath.
Two quick announcements before we get started:
I was looking for photos on the web this past weekend and discovered my interview on Endurance Planet -- scroll down the page, I am July 1st. 13 minutes long with some ideas about performance and coaching that might interest.
Bobby McGee, world-class running and triathlon coach, is featured on Endurance Corner Radio. Greg Bennett is coming in two weeks. Send questions to Justin Daerr.
This past week, I was running (in the rain, wearing a cotton t-shirt... Chuckie you would have been proud). I was rolling along thinking about this article and Ironman Hawaii in particular.
The legend of Ironman is fairly well known... a few military guys sitting around trying to dream up the wildest event they can consider... Waikiki rough water swim, ride around Ohau, Honolulu marathon... something like that. For me, that's Old School Endurance.
Sit around with your pals, dream up something off-the-charts then figure out how to do it. Outside of Ultraman, there aren't a lot of triathlon events that fit that mould any more. You are most likely to discover old school endurance on events like the Triple Bypass, Leadville 100, Hard Rock 100 or by bumping into an ultra-amigo on the Continental Divide trail.
Ironman has gained a lot over the years, lives have been changed for the better, and many cottage industries have popped up -- pretty much as a direct result of that original dare.
As a private equity guy, I think the sale this year could mark the high water mark for Ironman, but not necessarily for the WTC, as a company. From the outside looking in, I can see clear opportunities for further profit enhancement:
Ramp things up and either fold into a larger entertainment group, or sell a piece of Ironman through the public markets. I keep coming back to Planet Hollywood in my mind, though -- not a great outcome for the IPO shareholders but a great franchise name. I'd be wary if they take m-dot public. Of course, history tells us that select buyers will pay a large premium to own world-class brands. My concern would be the risk of declining cash flow.
Why sell? Long term capital gains tax rates are likely heading up; and a vendor wants to leave enough in it for the next buyer to generate a fair return. The deal made sense to me from both sides.
How to maintain growth of an expensive and time consuming hobby in the face of a declining economic environment? The 70.3 series is a good strategic move. It will be interesting to see how Ironman handles a significant economic slowdown within its demographic -- the Ironman target market has had a sustained bull run -- we should get Dan Empfield to share his thoughts. Perhaps he'll write something about his -- SlowTwitch reflects the pulse of the sport and Dan has a historical perspective that few can match.
Back to Old School Endurance. Before I ever did a swim set or bike repeat, I was a weightlifter, hiker, and (very average) sport climber. Like many of us, I got a kick out of dreaming up new projects -- my progression to mountaineering was the ultimate in Old School. Find a volcano somewhere in Asia -- use a three-, or four-, day weekend to fly-in, summit and fly-out. I would sleep rough and listen to the jungle.
These days a ten-mile climb wears me out... still it is September. A guy's got to rest some time!
Some of you might recognize the guy in the photo below -- this summer during Epic Camp Italy, I used my easy day, to ride past the turn off for the Messner Museum in the Dolomites. Everest, solo, no oxygen, no one else on the mountain. Pretty Old School!
Endurance has a number of different qualities -- all of which are important to consider if you want to (ultimately) race well. Each of these attributes is linked with the others and a breakdown in one area ends our ability "to endure".
Mental Endurance -- the ability to keep moving forward until the objective is met. Chip away, bit by bit, day after day. The downside is that people that score high here are the sorts the die in the mountains, or spend years pounding away at an area where they have little potential. I score reasonably well here, so need to balance persistence (good thing) with consistency bias (risky thing).
Working on our physical endurance benefits our mental endurance in many ways.
Anger management -- I experience a lot of background anger in the world, specifically what drives a lot of ultraendurance athletes to get so far away from home, from the 'real' world, from everyone else.
To truly endure, we need to accept the way things are. Somehow, years of physical endurance training managed to work-out a lot of situations, histories, and people that used to upset me.
Humility -- This could be the ingredient that creates the later life peak for the ultra-endurance athlete. It takes most of us a many years to have enough setbacks to gain the humility required to stop repeating our mistakes. The only sure fire way to increase my humility is wait around until an unexpected setback reminds me that I don't have all the answers.
Fear -- for me, fear is what leads anger. I struggle to see the emotional roots of my fears... ...I only feel the anger. I spend a lot of time searching for the fear that lies beneath my emotions. My main fear has to do with disappointing people that I respect.
Physical Endurance -- just like VO2 max, many people appear to be gifted with bodies that are created to tolerate volume well. Expeditions are a great example of this trait. When I was in peak mountaineering shape, I could carry/haul 130 lbs of gear daily, at altitude, for a week -- good for me, "easy" for a sherpa! I could do a tremendous amount of low intensity work then handle hours of tempo on a final "summit day".
What I couldn't do was swim, bike or run quickly -- let alone put them all together. Endurance is an essential component of fitness but it is only a component. At my mountaineering peak, I was a mediocre athlete. But my solid endurance base, enabled surprisingly rapid progress when I started converting endurance to race fitness.
Most adult triathletes come to our sport with a focus on race fitness prior to the creation of an endurance (and strength) platform. This is the piece of the performance puzzle that is missed by intensity-driven programs -- most likely because they are created by life-long athletes that haven't experienced an absence of endurance.
Metabolic Endurance -- I don't read a lot about this in the literature but I see it with people that are able to survive when placed in extreme situations -- as well as athletes that are (ultimately) able to go 'fast' in an Ironman. Physical endurance is the ability to walk from Boulder to Vail. Metabolic endurance is the ability to do it on minimal food and water. Some coaches/athletes seek to train this through (effectively) starvation.
Perhaps a future article will talk about self-starvation, and self-denial, in an attempt to exert control within a mind that feels out of control. It's a complex psychological issue that is far easier to observe than treat. I have had my greatest success with simple acceptance and affection for (fellow) crazies.
Constitutional Endurance -- relates to how fast we recover, our immune systems and what we generally call our "constitution". We see this a lot at Epic Camp... there is normally one, or two, campers that manage to get stronger as the camp progresses. Some individuals can simply take more than others -- and keep bouncing back. In my mid-30s I could get away with extreme training -- at least I thought I was getting away with it!
Molina once managed the first week of an Epic Camp on nothing but liquid calories. He'd had the trots for a week leading into the camp! He didn't mention this to anyone lest we rip him to shreds -- Epic Campers can behave a bit like hyenas when they get fatigued...
Scott's not the only example of World Champions that score off-the-charts for Old School Endurance -- Tom Dolan is a guy that springs to mind. Talent, motivation, and the capacity to out-train any swimmer of his generation.
Now you might think that Ironman Hawaii is the ultimate test of endurance -- we could be fooling ourselves. The photo above is how Amundsen chose to spend his summer when he raced Scott to the South Pole. Great story. Guts will only get you so far without preparation.
The real test of Ironman is the months, and years, of daily training that are required to put together a fast race. That is the true test and probably why we see such an emotional release at the finish line -- so much went into that one day.
Some suggested reading to get your Old School mojo working...
Endurance, Shackleton (pictured above, likely the greatest demonstration of human endurance, ever -- gotta love the frosty beard, Monica won't let me grow one...)
Many enjoy the romanticism of endurance-Samurai that go down in flames -- the problem with that approach is you can't write up your adventures if you are dead on the mountain.
Being a success oriented guy, I like the stories that centre around getting the team home in one piece.
Molina's 50 in 2010 -- it's going to take me a while to build back up but I'm looking forward to Going' Old School one more time with my good buddy. We'll need to come up with something special.
Good luck to everyone racing Kona -- when it gets tough remember that it's just one day!
Back next week,
I will share my thoughts on his operation when I give my talk on coaching business models at the November Coaches Clinic. It was a fun weekend observing a successful businessman (and business) up close. It's impressive what the Vision Quest team have built. I've nicknamed the CEO... "Hurricane Robbie".
Thanks to Jim Sauls, you will find more velodrome photos HERE.
Once I get the data I'll pass it along to Planet-X for them to post up. You can read my 2008 plan over there now.
The island is an extreme place and the thought of racing here again is frightening for me. The only other course that generates a similar level of anxiety is Lake Placid. What these courses share is the fact that any pacing errors will be punished. In Kona, you get punished both severely and publicly. Of course, learning to cope with that is a useful skill, even if you never really ‘overcome’ a situation.
Non-technical readers may wish to skip ahead...
12/3s – typically, I do these as 15 minute continuous cycles of 12 min steady then 3 min mod-hard. Bob Korock was nice enough to share one that he uses that is done as 12 min mod-hard (Half IM avg watts) then 3 min easy. This is specific preparation workout, rather than general endurance. Most people would see the Tempo 12s as superior to the Steady 12s. That depends on your needs and the time of the season. Even in Kona, steady state stamina and a superior endurance physiology at the metabolic level are fundamental limiters that I see in the field.
For a few years I’ve suspected that certain strong (and large) athletes have the aerobic capacity to perform at a work rate that exceeds their metabolic capacity. Put another way, the athlete’s fitness across an event duration exceeds their capacity for fueling. Post race analysis of power/pace data shows that the athlete “should have” been able to tolerate the efforts.
Watching, and talking to, athletes in Kona – it appears that there is a risk that we spend too much time developing our threshold performance and neglect to maximize our metabolic efficiency both in terms of output and input. I have seen some speedy Ironman performances done off the back of throwing a ton of volume at an athlete. I wonder about the stickiness of training that maximizes the ability to process carbs and oxidize fat. I also expect that there are genetic, nutritional and training factors that influence these limiters to performance.
The persistence of metabolic efficiency adaptations is an important consideration because it might explain why I’ve done some ripping IMs fatigued with sub-optimal threshold training/performance. Perhaps I maximized my real constraint which is metabolic in nature. We’ve got a lot to learn about what’s really happening in 8-17 hour events. Robbie talked about RAAM-pace // the speed that results from your maximal rate of glycogen synthesis. After two days all RAAM athletes are running on empty -- we have seen RAAM speed in athletes that tried to lose weight at Epic Camp. In ironman terms I call it POLAR (Pace Of LAst Resort).
Anyhow, my second workout tip for you is one that Joe Friel shared with me. The mainset is a doozey… four hours at goal IM wattage within a race simulation workout that is done on a flat course. If you get more than a 5% heart rate deviation (at the end) from the steady-state heart rate achieve (in the middle) then you are either… (a) aiming too high in terms of wattage; or (b) lack the ‘depth’ of fitness required. Either way, you must lower your wattage target. I think that this is an excellent session because (if you use the data) you greatly increase your probability of running well.
FYI, these sessions are late-season workouts. I won’t be trying them anytime soon.
She’s teaching straight-arm recovery, too avoid crisscross and overshooting on entry she instructs outside edge of hand entry (I tend to go pinky).
In starting the stroke, engage the outside edge of the hand and the base of the palm, rather than fingertips. This should engage the lat rather than firing just the deltoid.
I’m a deltoid dominant swimmer and felt the difference immediately.
In a few years, we will see guys like Ken Glah and Greg Fraine racing in the 50+ category. It will be fun to see what’s possible. As for me... I don't plan on denying you the chance to take me down in my 40s... ;-)
I received a great quote from Jo Lawn right after the race… “to win here you can’t have a bad _minute_ let alone bad day. The girls are going for it the whole way”.
Even if the fields are getting more competitive, there remains a lot of room for performance through superior pacing. Powermeters are going to become standard for most athletes -- as a coach, you need to be building your experience with power. There are a lot of smart people sharing tips on maximizing Ironman performance (2peak.com's ideas on power output bike vs. run). The sports scientists are catching up on what really drives IM performance.
Less than 5% of the athletes I watched climbing Palani used their powermeters. That’s a lot of ammo to use in the first twenty miles of the bike. I'm speaking from recent personal experience here... you gotta trust me!
I’ve been fortunate to work with Ron Ottaway (winner of the 70-74 agegroup) for the last six years. I will share my thoughts on The Aging Athlete in an up-coming letter. For what it’s worth, Ron was fast when he came to me (five times on stage in Kona). However, he did win his agegroup by over an hour so I feel qualified to comment on what works (at least for him).
Ron was 20-minutes down at Hawi and started the run right beside 1st place (probably his best bike pacing, ever, in an Ironman). I’m looking forward to reviewing his power file. The challenges that face the ageing (speedy) athlete are unique as hanging onto developed fitness is a lot easier than building it up.
The fastest elite times may be similar to what Mark and Dave put up but the depth of the field is greatly increasing. Track the Top 10/20/30 (M/F) overall times to prove it to yourself. Top Ten used to be a reasonable dream for me... now I'm not so sure!
Most people that do run camps target an average pace/intensity FAR too high. This time of year I am running 8-9 min per mile with my heart rate <145 style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">
Power Talk – I’ll be speaking on training/racing with power at a September 19th meeting of the Boulder Triathlon Club. 7pm at the Senior Center beside the East Boulder Rec Center.
We’re going to have catering/support/sag at the standard of the camps I do with Scott/Johno. Eight days, all-inclusive, $2,250 per camp (we cover everything but your travel to/from
Alternative Perspectives has a neat article by my friend Terry Kerrigan. He's writing about Power Reserve.
Mat's blog talks about the role of expectations in performance -- it's extremely rare for a new athlete to have the humility to accept their actual bike fitness. I'm willing to bet that you've had similar thoughts in your racing -- I certainly have. What makes Mat's race unique is that he didn't bow to what he thought he had to do -- he simply did his best. A good lesson for all of us.
I'm back on top of my email -- if you've been waiting a while for an reply and it doesn't come through then please follow-up. There was considerable back-log on the server and some messages may have gone missing.
Whether I achieve, or fail to achieve, my goals – there is always a huge “sigh” at the end of a long build towards any event (fundraising, competition, deal completion, business sale, graduation, new product development).
Transition points are challenging as I am at my best when working towards a tough goal. Outcome doesn’t have as large an impact as the process of sustained personal excellence towards a task. Once the smoke clears, there’s always the sensation of “well, what next”? I’ll come to that in Part Three.
Three things that I’ve been mulling in my head:
First, in evaluating the merits of a decision, I want to consider how I did based on the information that I had at the time, rather than the outcome. It’s possible to make good decisions and have sub-optimal outcomes. Likewise, we can have superior outcomes that are purely due to chance. A great discussion of this point is in Robert Rubin’s book about his time as
Second, I failed to achieve my goal and am currently in nine-hour Ironman shape. It is tempting to “adjust” outcomes by rationalizing external/internal variables. That is bogus. Beware of the trap of fooling yourself with post-experience rationalizations – people close to us will often support rationalizations in an attempt to soothe our egos.
In order to learn from any experience, we need to see the raw reality of our performance. When I blow it, I need to know it. It is the fastest way to learn and improve.
In my last post, I talked about “life best” fitness – sitting here today – I don’t think so! Fitness has physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. I may have optimized certain elements of my physiology but I failed to optimize my _performance_ on the day. The clearest indicator of fitness is performance.
Finally, although I didn’t see it at the time, the race was “lost” in the first hour of the competition. In 2005, I had a similar experience (
Swim Pacing – the swim start was super fast and that surprised me. Why? Perhaps, I created a perception that I was one of the people that you “had to beat” to do well. Perhaps, I wanted the field to race on “my terms”.
I made a choice to swim “easy”. This was a poor decision – why did I do that? I was well trained (physically) to solo at max aerobic effort – I’d been doing weekly open water swims for the entire summer. However, I ended up cruising a large chunk of the swim leg. Why? I went “easy” because I wanted the swim to be “easy”. This was a failure of mental preparation and a poor decision based on the information at the time.
Bike Pacing – coming out of the water, I gave up nearly seven minutes to Mr. Doe. I told myself that was OK, I’d simply had a “flat tire” during the swim. Early in the bike, I found myself riding with Yastrebov/Marcotte/Curry. This encouraged me as the guys are experienced, excellent athletes. My early ride felt like a repeat of 2004 (except the elite draft zone was three meters longer and those are three VERY material meters). I told myself to relax and let the lads pace me back into the race.
Sounds great, eh?
Reality proved a little different! The boys were laying serious hurt on me. We ripped the front half of the course. Even factoring in the tailwind, the first fifty miles of the bike represented the fastest riding that I’ve done in THREE years.
If we are looking to optimize race performance then we need to operate under our maximum capacity for most of the day. So why did I make this decision? I was seeking to maximize race position – maximize, not optimize.
I started racing an hour late _and_ two hours early. If you know the Ironman Canada course then you’ll understand the paradox.
Not only did I ride super strong, but I rode off the front of the lads around Mile 80 – Kieran (in first) was 15 minutes up-the-road but Johno (in second) was close. The first hundred miles was the most intense Century Ride that I’ve done in the last five years. The breakthrough ride that I’d dreamed about was happening. However, it may have proved more effective to place it in July!
Over the last two years, my coaches have recommended that I try to blow myself up on the bike (B- and C-priority races). The irony of doing it during my AAA-priority race makes me smile, and certainly doesn’t make me unique.
The results of my bike pacing happen to nearly everyone in the field. People asked me what “went wrong”? Nothing went wrong; my race outcome was perfectly normal. The fact that it took me so long to wreck myself shows that I was in decent physical shape.
The critical piece of information that was missing was my _actual_ bike fitness, relative to the guys I was riding alongside. I made an internal decision (pacing) based on external variables (the lads). However, I had zero 2007 experience racing with those guys, and then, decided to go off the front of them.
Having ‘blown it’ with my first decision of the day, I don’t have any regrets with trying a new race strategy. The huge serving of Marathon Humility was informative. I was conscious enough on the run to see that my experience was directly my creation – “why, oh why, did I do this to myself”. I was entertained by my self-created suffering. Hopefully, I won’t make this form of entertainment a habit!
Out on the bike, I failed to drink enough water but was saved from disaster by the excellent running conditions. A bit of dehydration may have led to increased complications on the run. The choice to drink less was a very poor one because it makes it much tougher for me to assess the magnitude of my cycling over-exuberance. Still, even if I knew _exactly_ the degree that I blew it on the bike; I will be a different athlete next time.
Whether, or not, there will be a next time is the subject of Part Three. In Part Two, I’ll share thoughts on how the past year went for me. I am in the process of reviewing, then updating, my Personal Plan for the next year.
One final thought, a couple of the lads emailed that they hope to race me on a better day. Last weekend’s race was my absolute best effort and represented total dedication at my end. I brought my A-game to
In our lives, we rarely give ourselves the chance to give our absolute best towards any endeavor. My wife, my clients and my team put a tremendous amount of energy into my race preparations. Daily, I reap the benefits of this focus on excellence.
The toughest part of the entire day was (my perception of) failing to deliver to my crew. As Mark warned, when the race gets tough, the surface fears (failure, fatigue) melt away to the reality of our subconscious fears. I didn’t realize how much I loved Monica until the only disappointment that I felt was not delivering on her dedication to my goal. That is an interesting piece of self-knowledge.
Under duress, I failed to consider that the reward we receive for loving is more love, rather than more performance. If you can relate then you are a very lucky person. If I sound a bit flakey then that is OK too. I only started to understand recently.
Huddle asked me about my Big Room Speech being a motivator. Not so much any more -- my main personal driver is simply to "go fast". However, having the chance to stand up in front of a room of people and say that I love Monica, that would be fun. I didn't get my shot this year so I'll write it here instead!
Sweets, I really appreciate the massive effort that you put into my athletics this year and I love you very much!
My current location is Banff, Alberta and I'm riding intermittent wireless from a public parking area near the Bow River. Check back on September 10th for the first of a three part series. I've been running through the race, as well as, the year in my head for the last few days. I'll share ideas on: (a) the race; (b) the year; and (c) the future.
Many thanks for the pre-race good wishes -- I read them all prior to last Sunday and have managed to reply to (most of) you from Banff.
Monica pointed out that my race ended up mirroring one of my greatest triathlon fears. I found myself laughing (internally) as I had a personal moment, on my hands and knees, at Mile Eight of the run. As usual, the 'fear' was far worse than reality. Quite ironic that I had to get myself into life best fitness in order to self-detonate.
The most interesting aspect of the week was that, through a single blog entry each week, I created a change in the way other people saw (and reacted to) me. Three hours of writing each week was enough to tilt (a small niche of) the World.
Things are a bit backed up on the email. Expect replies to extend into mid-September.
Not (yet) a Hollywood ending but I'm a fan of French Cinema in any event.
Last week I mentioned that Mat is on board for the summer. He asks a lot of questions, almost as many as me! Seeing as I take the time to answer (most of) his questions and... seeing as he does come up with some good questions... I asked him to start writing down a record of our discussions. Mat does a great job of expressing the meaning behind what we discuss. You can find Mat's Blog here -- he has a nice writing style.
Next week we will launch a new feature, Alternative Perspectives. Each week I'll share an alternative view on a topic that interests me. I think that you'll enjoy some different views. We're going to open up with a piece written by Alan on the Lydiard Approach to endurance training. It fits nicely with my "de Castella" book review which will be coming in July. Alan has a strong technical mind and likes to get into the science that lies beneath "what works". His technical strength keeps me honest when I stray too far into lay-terminology (or simply make something up to suit my example!!!).
Our photo this week is John Shilt (Dr. J's younger bro). John is an Epic-Vet, IM finisher and solid guy. I often get the sense that he wonders why he's out there during some of our mega sessions. There is something about John that I find deeply entertaining. It's probably the portrait of deep suffering that he radiates on his long sessions -- early pacing isn't (yet) his forte... He probably thinks that I dream up most our sessions to specifically torture him -- while not 100% true, it is much easier to do a challenging session when you have a guy like John slogging his way through it. Keeps my relative emotional state in perspective. He's a great addition to our squad.
The Trail Ridge ride was over eight hours in the saddle and it was essential for me to back-it-up on Sunday. My focus for the first four hours of the day was eating and staying relaxed. Across the entire ride (Trail Ridge), I ate...
***2,250 cals of Pro4 gel-lyte
Athletes love challenging themselves to train on nothing; to trim recovery nutrition; and survive on less. That may work for certain events but long distance traithlon is not one. I use the aid stations that are provided at my races.
There is surprising reluctance to long duration training at maximum rates of absorption. For many athletes, carbohydrate processing is a constraining variable on performance. How often do we hear about race-day stomach problems? Learning appropriate race-situation pacing and fueling is an essential skill. Jeff "Dr. J" Shilt is writing up an article on this point and I'll share the link when we have it live.
What I have found with my tougher rides is that sustained mod-hard intensity results in stomach back up if there is material protein or fat in my nutrition. I have been using Infinit Recovery for my endurance training and that works great when I am in an endurance phase (easy and steady training in cooler weather). I have shifted to their Heat Mix on the warmer, more intense days.
The back-it-up ride went fantastic for me. I managed to negative split our out-and-back route. It always amazes me how tough it is to negative split a 100-mile ride. The few times that I have done it during an endurance session, I have had to drill it in the final half hour. This time was no different -- an hour of mod-hard intensity to finish off 13 hours of riding over the weekend.
One of the best sessions that you can do for race preparation is a double-loop ride, no drafting, a single stop for fluids -- 45-55 miles per loop. You'll learn a ton. Run an hour off the bike if you want a reality check -- the answer that you get may make you a bit uncomfortable!
Questions to ask yourself following the workout:
>>>Was I ready to run a marathon?
The lads have faith in me but -- until you experience that ride -- there is no basis for understanding what is required to give yourself a chance to perform. We are doing workouts where there is no place to hide from our errors. Guys are starting to "forget" HRMs and splits... a sure sign of the appearance of cognitive dissonance!
Most (but not all) of the guys are training to perform -- these individuals learn fast. The guys that are training to train, they are having a lot of fun and that's their main motivation. They are still valuable members of the squad -- their enthusiasm is an essential part of how we get the most out of ourselves.
I ended Sunday very tired so when the lads suggested that we return early to Boulder, we packed the car and headed back down. My first training cycle ended on Sunday and I skipped the long run planned for Tuesday (swim, gym, run instead).
Here's a recap of the cycle...
Nine days was tons for me. When I was less experienced I used to shoot for 21 days of hitting it. Now, I aim for specific overload until I am tired.
For an athlete that is new to big volume training, a desk job can be a blessing. Extra spare time can lead to DEEP fatigue -- in my squad the vets are helping the new guys avoid wrecking themselves.
All of the speedy guys in the squad have been doing more volume, with more intensity and taking less rest days than me. Within the "speedsters", everybody but Billy Edwards has had some sort of immune system challenge (infection, illness, and/or mild exhaustion). Billy is a Marine and they seem to have a different sort of DNA.
I'm getting exactly what I need from the team -- I hope they are getting what they want from me. Part of me feels responsible when I watch my training partners flattening themselves -- however, deep fatigue is the real goal for many endurance athletes -- inner peace through physical exhaustion. That was a huge motivator for me in the past. Who knows? They could be "right" -- I had breakthrough after breakthrough when I was hitting it very, very hard.
Most people that ask me for advice think that I am giving them a watered down program. They hide their fatigue in case I "take away" training from them! In fact, I lay out a little more than I expect we can handle. Similar, to my own program, we all need to step down from time-to-time. Having the humility to back-off is a valuable skill.
Mat and Alan have been the most reasonable out of the group -- probably because they spend the greatest time with me. The other guys spontaneously step past what I've advised. Perhaps they didn't study the outline of the entire summer program that I circulated... I know they read this blog so this is (yet another) warning that my front-running training partners tend to underperform on game day.
Coming up in the next cycle... week one will have a broken marathon Tues/Wed with an average elevation over 9,000 feet; and a broken IM-sim on the weekend (Big Day/Long Run Combo). Week two will be the highest volume week (SBR) of the summer with an emphasis on bike training. We hope to end the second cycle with a 150-mile ride on Saturday and a 21-mile run on Sunday. This time, we're targetting a 13-day block. I'll keep you posted.
Even if the lads end the summer deeply fatigued -- I have total confidence that the execution lessons that we are learning will serve us well.
While it helps to be fresh for IM, it's not a prerequisite for success, nearly the entire field races tired and I've seen outstanding performances from tired people (including myself). This year, I plan on being considerably fresher than years past.
Before you assemble your summer training plan, I recommend that you read the first two pages of this article. It is the clearest summary that I've written on the critical success factors for long course race performance. Take time to consider your critical success factors -- your plan should include specific overload to address the key components of long course racing...
***the ability to comfortably swim 2.4 miles
Until you can do these in a month, week or weekend -- be cautious when you try to do them in a day.
Oh yeah, Mat is reviewing my websites (GordoWorld.Com, Byrn.Org, CoachGordo.Com) as part of his summer internship. We will be simplifying the articles and streamlining navigation. If you have any favourite articles then please print and save at your end. For republishing and/or non-commercial uses, please drop me a line in advance.
Books that I've recently read (all good): The Last True Story That I'll Ever Tell; All Marketers Are Liars; and Through Our Enemy's Eyes. Currently reading "Ghost Wars".
One business book and the rest are background reading to evaluate what our leaders are saying about the threat from terrorism. I think that there is room for improvement on how the issue is being framed.
Before we shift to the topics, a bit of a personal update. This weekend, we're doing a high-altitude training camp across the Rockies to Winter Park. My version is...
Saturday -- 210K Boulder to Winter Park via Trail Ridge Road; easy run PM
Tuesday marks the 11th day of my first specific prep training cycle. If things go as planned then I'll have six days with 5+ hours of training; a long run; and four decent swims. The main focus of this training block is my riding.
The lads don't know it yet but the Sunday ride will have a 10m draft zone -- following last week, a couple of them mentioned that they wanted to get their noses in the wind. So this will be a perfect opportunity for a Reality Check. Several sustained hours of 128-145 bpm are very different when the heart rate isn't being driven by repeated high power surges.
The new arrivals at altitude will change Saturday to: AM long course swim; drive to WP; Berthoud Pass Ride (10K climb starts 9000+ ft); easy run PM with the group. The long ride on Saturday has an extended piece over 10,000 ft (to end a 3+hr climb) and that is VERY draining when you aren't fully acclimatized.
A future letter will cover my thoughts on altitude -- my practical altitude experience (real, artificial, sea level to 20,000+ feet) is broad from both mountaineering and triathlon. I have had plenty of different experiences and will share my views for you to consider.
Oh yeah, the pool is around 8,500 feet so it should be entertaining watching a bunch of fatigued triathletes use three-stroke and flip turns! I doubt that we'll be going very fast.
Personal Planning -- Part Two
A friend asked: When you were tired in 2005 and knew it was time to take a break from triathlon, how did you know what to do? I have so many questions in my head about the future that I don't know where to start. What is the best plan for me?
The first thing to do is write down EVERY question and issue that you have. Make it a two column table. In the second column, write about how each topic makes you "feel" -- there will be a tremendous amount of self-knowledge there.
Know that I strive to do the best plan for "me". Telling you what to do would be a mistake because you don't need to do what I would do. "Your" job is the same as mine, figure out the best plan for "you". Don't follow what I do, per se. That said, my case study might give you some ideas -- plus I enjoy writing about me! Remember that I had a lot of good fortune over the last few years -- I probably just got lucky! You mileage will vary.
In Spring 2005, I was not willing to consider that it was time to take a break until it was apparent that I couldn't do _ANY_ material training.
To move out of denial, I had to get very tired. Monica had to walk me around the block to get my body moving again. I did Swim Camps (Chop House Challenge) and started training for the Leadville 100. I was completely missing the numerous, very clear, signs that I was fried.
More than enjoying training, what I really love is personal achievement. Sitting around fried doesn't offer me any of that. So... I dropped training and moved on to something else, where I had a shot at some personal achievement. Not everyone is achievement oriented -- I think that most people would prefer to be liked. I also have a strong desire to be accepted but my self-acceptance is high enough that my main thing is achievement. A more spiritual way of presenting this would be a constant search for my ultimate potential -- perhaps I'll get there some day. For now, I tend to have a desire to "win" at most of what I do.
Once I moved past denial, I came very quickly to acceptance -- I nearly always do. I think that I skipped "anger" but you'd have to ask Monica about that. More on this topic HERE - a very good read.
With acceptance in hand, I looked around at what I could do. At that stage, the two best "options" in my life were Monica and Chris (my business partner). I asked Monica to marrry me and I listened very careful to what Chris told me was happening in the business. When you have a relationship with a high energy entrepreneur then there are always opportunities around. In speaking with Chris I realized that a problem that we had (too many good deals, not enough money) had created an opportunity to form a new company. My Hong Kong business attire was pulled out of the closet and I spent two years helping him establish the new company.
The lessons as I see them:
***When you are unable to do the work required to reach your goals -- it's time to take a break. The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. I was struggling to get out of bed!
***Lives are fluid, change is natural and should be (at a minimum) accepted. Part of the reason that I warn people against public goal statements is that it takes massive self-confidence to change direction once you've made a public statement. There is a very strong social bias against changing course. It is one of the toughest obligations of leadership.
***My best plan at June 2007 will not be my best plan at March 2008. I always have the ability to change my plans. My goal is to make the best choices (today) given my skills, opportunities and desires.
***The plan will change but your core values are likely to stay the same. Knowing what is truly important to you; knowing what gives you satisfaction -- this knowledge will ease you through the periods of transition.
***Transitions are VERY tough -- I've been divorced, changed careers (3x), relocated internationally (4x), lost my health (2x)... all challenging things. However, through it all, I always enjoyed spending time with "me". Sticking to our personal ethics really helps in difficult times. It's why I avoid associations with people with weak ethics -- in both finance and athletics it can be tempting to spend time with the ethically slack.
The fact that you were asking me about my "break" means that you need to take one. Here are some other points for the overtrained athlete to consider:
If you continue then you won't improve -- you've seen your performance stagnate, or decline. More of the same will generate the same results. You are wasting valuable time.
Accept that you may never achieve your goals. You certainly won't achieve them by following the same path. In my journey, this acceptance was very liberating and opened up many new, and rewarding, paths/relationships for me.
If you take a break then you can put yourself in a position to benefit from the return of your drive, your health. What is different for me in 2007? Two main things -- long term financial stability and the massive support that I receive from Monica. Many athletes are drained by a lack of financial and emotional stability in their lives.
Stability matters, in 2004, the difference between Tom and me was 0.35%. In other sports the differences are even smaller.
The road back:
I've "won" well before August 26th -- I'm enjoying playing a strategic game with my body. Finance is the exact same game with contacts, emotions and intellect.
Many who win, never win anything at all -- this is especially true of those that lose their personal ethics, most commonly these days through fraud or doping.
I'm typing on Monica's computer right now. I've placed my machine on "break" for the weekend to free my mind to get through a challenging two days of training (six to seven hours of SBR each day this weekend).
I was out with the "lads" yesterday and they gave me exactly what I was looking for. I'd set my heart rate monitor to beep at 149 bpm -- I find that the alarm going off makes it easier for me to stick with my pre-defined workout. Just like the first day of an Epic Camp, I was out the back pretty consistently the entire workout. The longest that I lasted with the group was 35 minutes worth of uphill big gear work in the first 90 minutes.
Mark and I worked out an "Ironman Canada" simulation route that's designed to lift the elements of bike fitness that are required for Penticton success. It will be interesting to see how my fitness develops across the summer -- the Lads are very fit right now and provide clear benchmarks.
In 2004, my strong training buddies helped bring me to a whole new level of performance. Hopefully, we'll do that again.
Whether we are talking about weight loss, financial health, race fitness, or education -- we all overestimate what we can achieve in the short-term and underestimate what we can achieve in the long-term.
For the topics that matter to me (my Top Ten list), I've found that six months is a good period of time to see some progress. I check my personal business plan quarterly but I don't always see much progress -- even across 13 weeks. On my trip to Scotland last month, I reviewed my personal business plan. The last serious revision was eight months ago. While the components of my life strategy change over time -- the core elements have been stable for years.
When we look back across a longer period of time, we can consider the feedback that we have received on each item.
Many wonder about the right path to choose, the correct decision to make, whether it is "all worthwhile", and if we are getting anywhere at all. When I am relaxed and conscious -- say, in a good "listening mood" -- I find that I have a better chance to review my life rationally.
When I think through the above, the feedback that I received over the last eight months is that I am heading the right direction and that my key risk areas remain the same. I sense that I've made all these big changes -- but -- my core essence has stayed exactly the same. Still, the pattern of Clear Feedback is encouraging. My answers...
***Yes, quite a few
Items #4 and #5 can offer an athlete Clear Feedback that the pathway to deeper success is less, rather than more. The massive level of commitment for high-level success can leave us blind during the periods where we can benefit from a more relaxed approach.
Remember that our minds will always search for an EXTERNAL cause of the challenges that we face. Individuals that are able to make continual progress adjust their INTERNAL responses to external variables.
When I ask questions of my self/athletes/friends that are designed to help consider this point... the most common reply is absolute silence. There are very few times when we are open to considering change. Even when I have "known" that change was required, I have always tended towards trying "harder" within my existing patterns.
So far, the best method that I've found for rapid learning/change is to find mentors that excel in the areas where I am weak and follow their advice.. verbatim -- I'm not exactly transcending my limiters but it is effective in generating results.
What's are my goals? Here's a list:
***Start the ride with a solid long course (50m) swim -- 4,500m, building to 5,500m by the end of the summer
That's the Ironman Champion Weekend.
Lots of fast folks get through this weekend but their relative intensity is too high -- or they do it while drafting, telling themselves that they are doing what it takes because they are training "fast".
That's not it.
The goal is to build towards this weekend -- I have only "hit" it really well a few times in my career. I nearly always end up going easier than I outlined above. Still, I can live with my race results -- I'd rather race above my training performance!
One other point, completion of this workout is NOT what it takes to do well. The weekend is simply something that I work towards. In 2006, 8:36 in Brazil (5th) and 8:5x (3rd) in Canada -- I didn't manage to "hit" the weekend that entire year! The best that I managed were "steady" main sets -- as a result, I adjusted my IM bike pacing to match my training performance, ran great and placed well.
So 2006 was preparation for... 2007's base training... and the first five weeks of my specific prep block... so that I can absorb two blazing weekends in late July. 75+ weeks of prep for 15-16 hours of training.
Kind of a long way to say... when you are well up the road on the only sub-8:30 guy on the ride then you might want to ask yourself "why". Of course, I'm totally fine with getting dropped... ;-)
There was a fair amount of self-talk this past weekend!
PS -- think about the best long ride that you ever had... ...Ironman doesn't feel like that.
This week’s photo is one of my favorites from the archives. One year ago this week, Team MonGo on the beach in
One announcement before I kick off, I’ll be speaking at a USAT Coaching Clinic on November 2nd & 3rd – location is the Olympic Training Centre at
I promised that I’d share a few of the ideas that Mark passed along to me – I’ve been bumping into Mark off-and-on for a few years. I’ve taken every single opportunity to speak to him over the years. Some of what I’ll share below I picked up before we formally started working together – some of it may have nothing to do _directly_ with Mark but he was a catalyst for change.
To kick off, I went back to my notes from the Fit Body, Fit Soul clinic in September last year. It’s been eight months already! So much has happened, and yet, I feel as if I’m exactly the same person… …but I’m not.
In reviewing my notes, I see that I had four “fears” and one “desire” that I wanted to send on their way. When I met with Mark in January, he told me not to worry about them because they were already gone. Similar to writing something down in a blog; the identification and sharing of a fear greatly reduces its power.
At the clinic, I wrote down quite a bit about sleep and healing. My sleep patterns have always provided a direct insight into my personal productivity.
My four key tips for improved sleep are:
***Wake-up at the same time every day
***Moderate use of stimulants (mine are coffee, training stress, intensity and evening speaking)
***No email or business after dinner
***Simplify week structure and number of commitments
I also wanted to reduce overall stressors on my body. The four things that I wanted to achieve where: eliminating alcohol; improving nutrition; reducing travel; and limiting internet.
Sitting here on British Airways, I have to admit that I didn’t reduce my travel much – I’ve been all over the place! However, my internet surfing is way, way down and that helped in many areas. Avoiding chat forums and most media, eliminates a source of external noise that saps productivity.
One of the quickest ways to increase productivity is reduce the mental junk food that you consume. Are your media choices consistent with excellence? Are you making the same excuses for media outlets that you used to apply to your nutrition?
I asked these questions to myself and the answers were informative. So I write to you here instead of joining in the chorus of disharmony elsewhere.
The booze and the nutrition were straightforward to sort out. I’m very lucky that Monica creates a wide range of fantastic meals. We’re eating extremely healthy meals that change daily. Previously, we ate “chicken and salad” for dinner every night (very healthy but lacking in variety). The shift to a wide range of organic ingredients added materially to our grocery bill but, for us, it is a price worth paying. Nutrition offers me a sustainable advantage over my competition and will enhance my family’s long term quality of life.
One of the last notes that I made at the clinic was that we achieve balance by living in harmony and peace with our environment. Are Monica and I a “sustainable family”? Not yet, the amount of garbage that I generate still bothers me (not enough to do much about it though). We are re-doing our garage and basement and generating a ton of trash. Garbage, and my direct impact on the environment, is a topic that I’ve been thinking about since 2004 (when the only thing I left on my trip across
My brother gave me a nudge on composting, so we’ve got that happening now. I planted a dogwood tree near my compost pile and it seems to be enjoying my initiative.
If you’ve read a simple book on sustainability then send me the title. I’d welcome some ideas.
Overall, as you can gather, things are going well and I am enjoying the challenge of making changes to my approach.
One of the interesting effects of Mark’s protocol…
I am enjoying success with sensible training…
the success enables me to be ever more sensible…
and generate ever more success.
Flip it around… an elite cycling buddy of mine once shared this circle with me…
he didn’t achieve the results he wanted early in the year…
so he skipped his mid-season break where he re-establishes his base…
so he kept racing and didn’t achieve the results he wanted.
Lest you think that I’ve gone soft… I still overload myself quite a bit. The main change that I’ve made is much more structured recovery.
My four week rolling volume has ranged from 47 hours (post-Epic in January) to 99 hours (the block that followed Epic Recovery). To put that in context, in the Spring of 2004, I peaked at just over 140 hours in a single four week block.
OK, what did Mark say?
Well, prior to my last trip we discussed very little in terms of specifics. Our discussions were more about training philosophy (pacing a year, pacing a season, pacing a workout, background) as well as settling my mind down (doing enough, keep the cap, be patient). I enjoy talking to Mark – the guy relaxes me. Breakfast in
What I’ve written in this blog contains more detail than what we discussed – I went to his site for supplemental information. I’ll outline the few areas where I received clear tips. You’ve heard some of this before!
Heart Rate Cap – the “cap” that Mark likes is a real cap. Elites don’t get any special dispensations – perhaps someone can ask Macca about his program and drop me an email! I need to know if there is an alternative protocol for the sub-8:10 Kona plan…
I stuck to that cap as best as I could. Within the cap, there are pace/power/speed peaks but there is no sustained hammering. When you go hard, you have a reason and you go really hard.
In the interests of full disclosure I did have two days where I drilled it “off plan” – one at each of the training camps that I did. These were hard sessions that were done a day, or two, before I had them officially scheduled. Group training is tough even for an experienced guy like me! Mark told that would probably happen and I should remember that blowing it didn’t need to become a habit.
The cap has a neat implication – looking for more information, I went to Mark’s site and read his tip to try to keep things over 120 bpm when doing an endurance session. That is an absolutely brilliant tip!
This completely removes any pressure during an endurance session. When I go out, my mission is to get over 120 bpm and not cross 148 bpm. I can use all my knowledge, my zones, my power meter, my lab results – however, too much complexity will leave you feeling less than satisfied. Why? Because you will ALWAYS find a metric that you aren’t meeting – your knowledge will beat you down! Mark’s system removes that.
If you get out the door then you are pretty much guaranteed a successful workout.
That’s a recipe for consistency and consistency is what really matters.
Another clear piece of advice that Mark gave was not to let my weight go under 160 lbs (I’m 6-1, post-yoga). Imagine that (!), an ultraendurance coach telling me not to get too light – sacrilege!
When he told me, I was disappointed – if figured that 157 was possible if I ate super light this summer... like many of us, I enjoy driving my weight down for races – yes, I have a deep seeded desire to control things.
Not only did Mark set the weight floor, but he followed up on it (twice) with me. Clearly, this wasn’t a passing comment. His rationale is: (a) for IM we need maximum power; and (b) to go really fast we need maximum ‘reserves” (physical, mental, spiritual). Power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.
Worth repeating – power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.
So the floor relaxes me and I start to focus on eating super healthy because “if I only get 160 lbs then I better make sure that they are the fittest 160 lbs in
Our “technical knowledge” may take issue with caps and floors – however, if the goal is getting the athlete to focus on what truly matters then, for me, they are extremely powerful tools… …and I knew what I was doing before I started working with Mark!
The first time I heard Mark speak about winning in 1989 he shared his experience with “giving up” during the race. He didn’t quit, rather he completely accepted his situation and acknowledged that he would continue to the best of his ability.
I had a similar experience with my running test. I was kicking out that same result for SIX months while training 20-40% less than normal. I can assure you that it was testing! It wasn’t until I totally accepted that I was going to race
Of course, it might have been all that training…
I take your point but remember that, at my level, the training is taken for granted. Everybody in the Top Ten trains to the best of their ability. The differences are not due to lack of effort – the differences are due to the combined effects of little things over an extended period of time.
The final point is Mark’s tip that when I “go fast”; I should go as fast as I can. Of all the tips, this is the clearest change from my previous approach because to “go fast” I need to rest up and really rip it. I freshened-up for every fast session and race that I did this year. Previously, I’d only freshen a few times a season.
Training up at my maximum heart rate is new. Coming from an ultra background, I expect that my top-end has never been fully trained (going back to school days). That is a change that Mark brought to my program – the limited application of maximum effort training. In the past, I’ve tried to go “really fast” but I’ve carried too much fatigue to achieve the levels that I’ve seen in 2007.
How much tough stuff? Looking at my calendar, 16-18 days (Sept 2006 to May 2007) where I let my heart rate go over 150 bpm for a sustained period of time. Of those days, I hit maximum heart rate on less than ten. Of the ten, I hit life highest heart rates on five or six.
I was under 150 bpm for the first 14-15 weeks of this season – my longest endurance phase in the last seven years (even while overtrained – yes, I am the type to test myself when nuked).
It’s a good thing that I’ve been pacing myself because last week we ran through Mark’s view on specific preparation for an elite athlete. We didn’t talk main sets or highly structured workouts, I already know how to structure a bike ride.
We discussed weeks, and days, of race specific overload:
***Big weeks (SBR, Bike and Run);
***Big Day Training (see my tips page);
***Back-to-back Long Rides;
***Double run days.
It’s essentially the same structure that I’ve been using in the past. The training is the SAME as what I’ve been doing in the past. It is nearly identical to the program that Scott Molina has been teaching me since 2000, and not far from what I learned from Dave Scott in 2004.
So what’s different? The mind craves differences!
***I’ll start the final block completely fresh – after two weeks of maintenance training, I will do less than five hours this week – half of my weekly volume will be on this coming Sunday. The only other time that I was this fresh in May, I raced Ironman
***My initial run fitness is much higher with my max aerobic, FT and VO2 paces at life best levels. I completed a 20-miler on
***I’ll do more long bike rides (than the year I rode across
***I’ll do less fast running and start it later in the summer – when I run fast, I will run very fast;
***My long runs will stay under 150 bpm – previously, my longest runs would also be some of my fastest. I’ve done some tough 20-milers in the past;
***Including this week (and race week), I will have five unloading periods (two more than normal) and each period is about double the duration of normal;
The differences relate to ensuring that I absorb the training required to go very fast in
When I started reaching the podium at International races, I asked Scott what I should change to go faster. His advice was: (a) remember to keep what made you fast in the first place; (b) make your tough days tougher; and (c) keep your easy days easy.
There is very little change in my training protocol. The adjustments come mainly in my recovery protocol. As my tough days increased their load, we found that I needed easy periods, as opposed to easy days.
It all looks so simple sitting on my excel spreadsheet…
Should be an interesting summer!
Still on the road this week so a few thoughts on: priorities; realistic protocol choices; and externals.
Some general points on goals and priorities.
Within my life, my goals are signposts (or waypoints). They are not a destination in themselves, rather they help me be the sort of man that I want to be. They support a desired lifestyle and ethical framework for me. With that in mind, I’m always free to change my goals (or my approach) with new information.
Some of my pals (and readers) often appear to take my goals more seriously than I do. What I strive for is total commitment with limited attachment -- some days go better than others on that front! I think that we need to be wary of sticking to stated goals when changing circumstances show that another makes more sense. That's why I advise careful thought before making public statements -- they often come back to bite when we are least equiped to deal with them!
That said, what I’ve found in my own life is that my true goals are timeless in nature. They span cultures as well as trends/fashions. These are the values which lie beneath the items that I may place on my Top Ten list. See my Personal Planning post (September 5th, 2006) – the key things for me are:
All of the above are available to me on a daily basis and, with the exception of my marriage (and the weather), only require action on my part. I have complete control over them.
Within my life, I see very little link between “balance” (in the Western sense) and personal satisfaction. It often feels that I have to work at keeping my life focused (and a bit out of balance), in order to achieve a deeper level of success.
However, there is a strong link between “harmony” and personal satisfaction. Harmony flowing most easily when I am living up to my commitments to myself – everything that I appear to do for “others” is undertaken as a result of a desire to maintain my personal view of self. To think otherwise can generate a lot of resentment – there are a lot of highly successful “self-less” people living lives of background anger due to failing to realize this point.
I think you answered your own question – your life is stable, you are improving and you feel like you are absorbing the training. Those three items describe an athletic approach that is successful in terms of our life.
What I’ve seen in my own training as well as the training of my athletes is that for an athlete to get close to their “ultimate athletic potential” (whatever that may be) requires a level of time commitment that most people don’t want to make. The time required simply doesn’t fit into their overall life goals. It sounds like you’re in that position right now. So I’d stick with what’s working for you.
What you may find is that using the occasional “Big Day” (see my Coaching Long Course Athletes article) in your training provides a different sort of training stimulus for you. Consistent, variable overload, absorbed over time. That goal can be achieved by a multitude of methods & protocols.
You will maximize your “speed” when you maximize your “stamina” – that is why I place such a fundamental emphasis on the long term, consistent application of steady-state aerobic training.
You are correct with the subtle emphasis that I’ve started to place on “absorbing”, rather than completing. There is an over-emphasis on the completion aspect of training – there are a lot of simple (but not easy) ways for us to enhance our absorption of training (sleep, nutrition, massage, flexibility, time management, financial stability, emotional stability). The items that I share within this blog are what, I believe, drive a deeper level of performance.
Well before I was racing elite, I learned (through Joe Friel) that my limiter was the ability to recover, not the ability to train. Most the athletes that I work with start their first year with me doing a lot “less” in their eyes – yet at the end of the year, they have done “more” because they didn’t nuke themselves, stayed healthy and had greater consistency.
Finally, genetics are the ultimate “external”. There is zero that can do about them. Time spent worrying about them is 100% wasted energy.
Focus on what you control. Ideally, what you control right now.
Joe Friel taught me that the only difference between a fantastic and a poor performance is that we learn more with a poor performance. I'd go further and say that what we learn with success can lead to some of our greatest mistakes [See Deep Survival by Gonzales].
One of Scott Molina's favorite sayings is that we can justify a lot when we are winning. He was talking about races but, we are ALL winning at many levels nearly all the time. Even if you think that you are unsatisfied, from a human survival viewpoint, we are huge winners. In fact, when we consider some of the things that we do worry about, well, that really drives home the point.
Mark Allen mentioned to me that the patterns and experiences that we lay down when we are successful are what we need to overcome to move past that level of success. Within life, our approach will take us to a point. To get past that point, or even to stay at that point, our approach, and our beliefs, will need to adjust as our environment, and as we change.
So that's the opener
Now a break for the photos!
What you have on the photos is TT-2004 (Trek) and TT-2006 (Cervelo) and TT-2007 (Planet-X).
The most recent shot is how I spend a chunk of my week here in Noosa... living the dream on my porch. Like the headband? It makes me smile. That position is "short stem, flipped up, seat back 2cm, spacers out". I've been trying a few different options.
If I can get my torso stretched out more then it appears to be a big improvement over the previous two years. My shoulders are lower than normal even with that hump in my back (which is mainly spine, not scapula). Saddle looks a bit low in the various photos (we took ten) but it is quite powerful (from Week One wattage, the only way was up).
I also think that I have some scope to put some spacers back in as my head (even with helmet & looking forward) would be lower than my spine. That 2004 position went 8:29 -- certainly some upside there. I was riding with my shoulders around my ears!
You see... I'm trying to stay open to new TT positions to move past my previous success!
I've got a post on "true wealth" in my drafts folder but it didn't quite get to where I wanted it. I did a post on wealth last January 1st so perhaps I'll run it then as a one-year review.
If you've noticed that the archive (right margin) is out of action then so have I -- we're on to that. May have happened in a migration that we did a few weeks back.
The thoughts on wealth started when I was doing my quarterly review of my personal plan. I've also been reading a series of books about wealth and the stock market (The Money Game; Reminicenses of a Stock Operator; and The Richest Man in Babylon). The Babylon book is the most practical. The other two have great stories and a reminder that performance is merely how elites keep score. The enjoyment lies in the path, the game.
If you read my stuff (that was actually about me) from 2005 then you will see a thread running through my most of my personal writing. It went something like... once I knew that I wasn't able to do what it takes to perform the joy went out of it for me.
That is interesting to me because it points to several assumptions that I had that must have been very deeply help. These assumptions were the result of the line of thinking that I opened with.
When we only have one way to succeed, eventually, the changing cycles of life will get to us. It also ignores the fact that are as many ways to succeed as there are successful people. Anybody that tells us that their way is the only way... they haven't really looked around.
In October, a buddy lent me a copy of the Triathlete interview with Peter Reid. The most interesting thing that I found in there was Peter's observation that once he couldn't do the training required (by him), he knew that it was over (for him). It's good to see that I'm not the only one that has felt that way about our sport.
When we "fail" we get clear (and memorable) feedback that our approach isn't working. However, when we succeed we receive different feedback -- that our approach worked (at a given point; for a given circumstance).
Many successful people end up chasing their memories of what that success entailed. Who knows if we are even chasing the right memories! Even if we are chasing the correct memories, is it the right time to be chasing them?
Dave Scott told me (through M) that every race is different, every season is different, every year is different. He was probably trying to tell me that I didn't need to ride across the US each year to do a decent Ironman. John Hellemans has been telling me that (indirectly) for about three years!
I just might be starting to listen.
To attain our very best, we need to challenge ourselves to remain open to new approaches. I like to think about it as being flexibly stubborn, or intelligently committed.
Results come from commitment to a process. The challenge for me has been to remain committed to the results, rather than a specific process. Am I deeply committed to my process or my performance?
In my life, I've used many different approaches. Successful outcomes resulted from my commitment to, and belief in, the approach that I was using -- more so than the specific approach. Our commitment and belief systems are very powerful in creating our results.
Relentless commitment to any reasonable process will take us quite far. It is when we want to get even further that we need to consider how we've been holding ourselves back.
I was mulling a few things over yesterday while doing yard work. It was a toasty day (the snow's gone again) and I was enjoying rounding up leaves.
Over the last week, I've been reading a wide range of race reports and discussing season reviews with my athletes. There are a number of recurring themes that come out of these:
***the desire to train harder all year
The way our heads work, we have an in-built bias towards following our past decisions and beliefs. High achievers have a natural bias towards deepening this attachment. This influences the way that we perceive people, events and ideas.
This week Scott reminded me how it can be painful to accept a valid idea from a source that we find personally unappealing. The flipside also holds true, it is very difficult for us to reject a concept from a person (or coach, or mentor) that we find personally appealing.
Continual improvement requires a willingness to rethink our past actions and beliefs.
Our method of achievement will take only take us so far -- in many cases this is VERY far. However, eventually, we will need to consider if certain success traits (harder, harder, harder & more, more, more) could be holding us back.
Likewise you'll often see a level of anger or player-hate present in many top athletes -- that can work for a main set or even a long ride // however, it's a tough way to go about living and you can't maintain it indefinately. The next time that I see Mark & Brant -- top of my list is exploring ideas for moving through emotion to a place that I call "quiet power".
Back to the reviews and race summaries -- the observations that attract my attention run something like this...
...I choose X and it didn't really work out for me. I'm going to remember that and do Y next year.
A statement like the one above is very rare to see in public. If Faris only races two IMs next year then you'll know that he followed is his own advice from the Competitors Radio show.
My athletes, generally, share their most honest observations in private and (like me) need to be encouraged to consider if their choices could have been made a bit better.
How many times have you heard a coach say... "well, we didn't really get that right. Unfortunately, my program and strategy blew her up."
I don't hear it a lot -- however -- I do live it!
The best coach, and the best trainer, that I know... those two guys will readily admit that they make a lot of mistakes. It's the nature of life.
Many us suffer from consistency bias when we ignore the results of our actions (or our athletes, or our races). Everything in life is offering us feedback -- IF we are open to receiving it.
A common form of consistency bias is blaming external factors for sub-optimal results -- carbohydrate mixed with water seems to have a particularly toxic effect of many racers // it just might be worth considering pacing -- if you happened to be wearing a heart rate monitor.
Coaches should look to the results of their athletes -- athletes should remember that having a coach doesn't relieve them of the obligation to think for themselves.
Dave and I were talking about training this week. I told him that I'm putting together a team of top agegroup training partners for 2007.
He noted that I won't be racing agegroupers in Canada next year...
In a group training environment, everyone compromises a little bit -- generally -- the strongest athlete compromises the least. I get dropped a lot in training (even when fit). It takes a lot of humility to stick with your session -- many of the top guys end up alone to avoid having to deal with this aspect of the group.
Be wary of our tendency to avoid information sources (and people) that would provide us with evidence that we need to change our beliefs/actions. The best example of this in athletic training is the heart rate monitor -- many people simply don't want to have to deal with the fact that they are training sub-optimally. They say that it isn't "fun" and it isn't "fun" to be confronted by the dissonance created by consistency bias. For me, the fun has always been in knowing that I am doing everything possible to achieve my goals.
When our attachment to performance is greater than our attachment to the past -- we will find that we are open to new ways of doing things.
Most people would rather be right, than effective. We should think about that as we surf the internet searching for threads to reconfirm our biases.
Probably my most cherished belief is that the athlete that does the most training wins. In fact, I've often said in the past that I have never run into a problem that couldn't be overcome from excessive volume and focus. Well, that worked to a very speedy point (8:29) but I've decided that it is time to take a gamble to try to get past that point.
The gamble doesn't involve modifying any of my training protocols -- so if you think that there is a change there // I haven't been effective in communicating. My protocol is exactly the same with two exceptions...
#1 ***my focus is on absorbing (not doing) training
My first four weeks were 15/12/17/17 hours, including yoga. Typically I would slam right back into 30 hours weeks. This year I'm focusing on eight months of preparation, for eight weeks of training, for eight hours of racing.
The last time I "peaked" was August 2004 and I don't intend on peaking prior to August 2007. It takes a huge amount of patience and I am tested daily (by good friends with good intentions).
#2 ***I've placed a ceiling of 148 bpm on all my efforts
I am using my exact same training protocol, simply under that ceiling. I'm a lot more diligent with my strength and yoga than I have been since 2001.
When you start losing the ability to undertake the small things -- that could be a sign that you're hitting it a bit too hard. In October, the fact that I am enjoying my yard work is a good sign.
Aerobic Run Test #2 showed 20 sec per mile improvement. I don't expect that every three weeks. For those of you that haven't used a moderate protocol before -- results will probably be slower. Remember that I was in <3 off-the-bike marathon shape only two months ago.
I'll leave you with an observation that Mark shared with us in Texas. A high intensity early season protocol will rapidly move you to the SAME level of fitness that your achieved the previous year (it works). Mark's protocol is what, he believes, moves us to a HIGHER level of fitness later in the year (it works better).
If you've been peaking in April then choose wisely.
Remember that everyone around us has bought into our past actions/beliefs. Expect to be tempted by old patterns and partners.
To get different results from the masses, we need to train differently.
A very fast AG buddy asked me for my thoughts on preparing for Hawaii. These might be useful if you happen to be a speedy person preparing for a late season IM.
1 -- July should be about getting moving rather than hammering yourself with race specific work
2 -- Beware of excessive heat stress in August -- key workouts should be positioned to maximize performance -- easy sessions will give enough heat acclimatization -- don't do any key sessions across the middle of the day. Because the swim in Hawaii generates a lot more fatigue (rough water, non-wetsuit) than usual // and // given the heat index in August... I think that it is worthwhile considering a swim camp (9-14 days long) for August. Get your swim volume right up -- say 28-35 km per week equivalent. Put the run/bike onto maintenance for this period. You can really step it up in the water when hot without any risk of heat exhaustion -- nice way to spend the hottest time of the year.
3 -- September...
a -- week of sept 25th is a very good week to shed all fatigue and end with that Specific Prep weekend that I designed for you
b -- if you go for that strategy then make the weekend of Sept 23/24 lighter than you think you need -- in other words treat the weekend of Sept 30/Oct 1 like it is a B-priority race and freshen for it
c -- I would place your greatest training load in the first half of September -- that is when I would challenge myself from a training point of view -- again, watch the heat stress
4 -- October -- be smart, be patient, keep it rolling, build inwards towards the race
5 -- Weekday Training -- maintain your strengths during the week -- challenge yourself on key weekends -- freshen on both Monday and Friday with Friday being very light
6 -- Take more weekly rest that normal in October
A -- to work on reducing bike "fade"
First third of the ride place HR _cap_ of 3bpm _under_ the bottom of your steady zone -- ride 10+ meters behind a strong buddy and do not exceed cap (he will pull away a number of times when warmed up -- that's the point)
Then sit on your steady zone for 50K (you might reel him in)
10K easy -- load up on drinks
Then (3x) -- 3K mod-hard/12K steady (you should reel him in)
Then 10K easy
Then 30 minutes building to the top of your mod-hard zone (he'll be gasping on your wheel if you get your pacing right)
===> this is one tough ride when you combine with a long run within 48 hours
===> ensure proper hydration and eat at race levels
B -- Once you've done your key period in September -- I'd consider shifting the long run to 48 hours after the long ride. That will increase quality.
Pacing in Hawaii is tougher, not easier than CDA
a -- very strong AG field
b -- deep pool of decent swimmers
c -- lots of climbing in first 40K
d -- massive arousal and poor decision making
e -- VERY hot start to the marathon with the out and back on Ali'i
#1 reason though... if you screw up your early marathon pacing then the heat/humidity totally punish you. It's a lot tougher to regroup from early run mistakes. So your downside risk is magnified.
Overall, I think that it takes a number of years for most athletes to get their personal pacing correct. That probably explains why the folks that figure-it-out remain pretty consistent.
Be wary of basing your pacing off other athletes -- a lot of them are DNFs or on a suicide mission. Race your best race.
On the bike hold back until you hit Waikoloa on the _return_ leg. At that stage you'll likely need to focus to stay aero and avoid power fade.
On the run, I see merit in holding back until after you have completed the Palani climb -- by then you'll have a sense of how much the heat has hit you. Once you go through the turnaround in the Energy Lab I'd build it all the way to the finish. This is where you can make real time on folks.
Remember that you're in great shape -- have had high consistent volume for the last 6+ months. Your key sessions should be aimed at assisting with your execution rather than adding a lot of fitness. From a fitness perspective, you are in a great position. The key will be giving yourself the best chance to get your fitness from the practice field to game day.