Sunday, April 20, 2014

coaching

Step Change

Quick piece of admin -- starting next Monday, the site will run off the front page, rather than the blog/library pages. If I "go quiet" then you simply need to update your bookmarks.


Two months ago, via Rich Strauss’ twitter feed, I came to Tim Ferriss’ blog. I was skimming the blog and came across this question:

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

I’ve been asking myself that question, frequently, for the last three months. I came up with three items for my life:

  • Cash Flow Positive
  • Increased Email Efficiency
  • More Discretionary Time

Real change rarely happens without a crisis. Given that my life is very stable, I needed to manufacture my own crisis! It’s a useful technique for you to consider.

Fear, Anger and Flow

One of the interesting psychological effects of the end of the race season is the first wave of "cabin fever" that sweeps through my head (as well as my team). Between our peak periods, race weeks and recovery needs... many of us are starved for endorphins!

This neurological craving tends to show itself in a number of ways. Most common is that we start looking back on the season and wish we could have been "tougher" in our races.

I receive a lot of questions about how to deal with pain; and how to push harder.
Pain...
Harder...
In life we most often get what we expect - more than focusing on how much a task is going to hurt, or how difficult it may be. I prefer to figure out what's required to perform. Ultimately, our goal is performance, not pain tolerance.

This week I will share some ideas about true performance -- concepts and techniques that have enabled me to succeed in a range of fields. I will use athletics in my examples but sport is a metaphor for life. The tendencies that we show under athletic stress are the exact same ones that occur in our family and work environments.

Tour de Robbie 2009

This week's article covers: (a) thoughts on how to run a camps business; (b) my trip report from our Fall Canyons and Deserts Camp; and (c) tips that I picked up from a master of people skills.

A few months back Robbie Ventura (RV) asked me what we were going to do together this year. I suggested hosting a training camp together - RV was going to be in Vegas for Interbike so we built a route that started/finished from there.

Tip - Be willing to travel to your teachers.

Other than having fun (which is important), I like seeing Robbie each year for two reasons:

  • He is world-class in my weakest area (people skills); and
  • There is large option value in staying within his circle.

Being an extreme read/write learner and communicator, I am at a disadvantage when it comes to improving my people skills. To make improvement I need to get out there and interact! The coaching business has helped because I have a lot more telephone interaction than the past.

RV on the other hand is the opposite - I suspect that he spends most of his time dealing with the person that is right in front of him. So if your success depends on his help then you'll need to figure out how to get face-to-face with him. That leaves you with two choices... travel to Chicago or attend a training camp with him.

Creating Your Day Job

The advice, "don't quit your day job" is a common refrain, this week I share ideas about creating the life you want to live.

The photos this week are from our most recent training camp. I'd like to get a few more sign ups for our St George Ironman Weekend in November.

If you know an athlete that might benefit then please have them contact me.

Three days of training, including hotel/breakfast/dinner for $475. That price includes hotel/meals.


A bit of advice on making-it-happen.

Know what you want, specifically.
I have heard many athletes say, I would like to have a job working at training camps.

First... Which camp? With whom? Be specific.

Second... Observe the people that are living the life you (think you) want to lead. What have they done over the last TEN years and are you will to make the changes required in your own life to replicate their long term work. Understand the long term habits of successful people.

The second point is one that Marilyn made at the camp. She was asked what the difference was between success and failure in athletes - I'll paraphrase - Successful people are the ones that are willing to change their approach to achieve their goals.

Greg Bennett made a similar point - When I realized that I was competing against athletes with superior genetics, I realized that I had to be willing to do the work that others find too hard.

These themes return to me in all areas of my life.

Understanding Athletic Performance

We were very fortunate to have Dave Scott as our special guest to close out our July Boulder Camp this week. Dave made the observation that, more than protocol, what defines a Master Coach is the ability to get an athlete to do work.

Like all great athletes I have met, Dave is passionate about protocol. In fact, the strongest similarity between top athletes lies not in their programs, but in the powerful belief they have in their program.

Across the week of our Boulder camp we had presentations from Marilyn & Chris McDonald; Laura & Greg Bennett; Bobby McGee; Dave Scott and Justin Daerr.

One of the challenges facing a passionate athlete is the fact that every speaker will talk about a different approach -- some speakers will also share multiple approaches that they have used across a 10-30 year athletic career. This can be confusing!


Let's start with the basics:

What work-rate is required for YOU to achieve your goals?
Most athletes, and coaches, are unable to answer this question. That's a shame because this is a fundamental aspect of performance and will greatly impact the appropriate strategy to employ with your training.

For me to go sub-4 in a Half Ironman, 275 watts of average output is likely to be required (at least!). The word "average" is important there because, to optimize my race, I will need to be able to recover below that effort and sustain extended periods above that effort.

One school of thought is to build the capacity to hold that exact level of output.

Looking at my lactate profile, you will see that level of output is a Threshold effort for me.


Click to blow these charts up in a lightbox

Business Manifesto

I bumped into my buddy Ed this past week on the road to Ward - we'd been trying to catch up for a few weeks and it was an appropriate place to see him. With highly focused athletes, you either catch them training or at a meal. It's all about time management!

Ed asked me a great question about Endurance Corner, "so let's assume you hit the plan, does that cover your family's expenses?" The quick answer is "no", the business isn't a quick fix to my personal P&L. However, that's due to my expenses more than my revenues.

Ed's question got me thinking about the "why" of Endurance Corner as well as a few lessons that I've learned so far. At least a couple of these are broadly applicable so I'll run you through them in case you can apply them to your own situation.


Before we kick off, a couple of announcements.

Epic Camp is going to ride the length of New Zealand in January 2010

Start Up Lessons

I am back at my desk after a two-day trip in the Rockies. If you click the photo above then it blows up to have a look in more detail.

This was my second hut trip and, as you can see, it was a sunny day. Sun plus warm temperatures meant that I had snow balling under my climbing skins. If you have ever had mud stick to your hiking boots then imagine what it would be like if your boots were 181 cm long and you were hiking above 10,000 feet. I arrived at the hut at 2pm and was asleep (very) shortly thereafter!

This week we are talking business and the lessons I have learned so far with Endurance Corner. If you ask a finance guy to create a business then, generally, he will draw up a list of functions then head out and hire a person to fill each position. A classic mistake of cost base leading revenue -- that approach probably killed more than a few tech start-ups over the years. Well, it didn't kill us but it did cost "Gordo Incorporated" some bucks.

High Performance Coaching


These week I will share some thoughts/ideas that came out of three days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I've been quite busy on the business front -- apologies if your waiting for an email reply. I spend my spare time with Monica and Alexandra. I've also been doing yard work -- gets me away from my desk and into the sun!

Business Clinic Notes

The photo above contains more of "me" that most photos of me but, maybe, that's just the way I like to see it. You can pretend that I'm the candle...

"Keep in mind that your role with these athletes is, ultimately, to give them the confidence to stop."

-- Bobby McGee

I learned a lot this past weekend at the Business of Coaching Clinic. That quote above was a salient reminder that often we have the greatest positive impact on clients by giving them the confidence to chose a more positive path than the one that they are on.

Over the last fourteen years, I have used endurance athletics to avoid dealing with important issues in my life.

Some of my greatest successes as an adviser have been helping clients choose an alternative path for their lives.

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Bobby challenged us to pick one thing from the clinic and apply it on Monday, noting that "people that go to conferences often collect information without applying it". The same applies with self-help books -- Mike Ricci noted that the most successful people that he sees are the ones that manage to apply 5% of the good ideas they come up with.

What did I apply? I decided to apply Mike's advice about considering, specifically, to whom your company is selling.

Since last year, the target Endurance Corner customer has been shifting in my thinking. This week, I sat down with Alan/Mat and we reviewed what everyone _really_ likes to do. As the lead adviser to the business, I thought about what I really don't like to do as well as what I do best.

We're still working on it but we've made a decision that we are going to be about selling value-added advice, and services, that are a product of our unique mix of skills (strong technical knowledge mixed with very deep real-world experience and access to the best minds/protocols/facilities in our sport).

Running a coaching business... other people (such as D3, CPC, CF, CTS, Ultrafit, VQ...) are able to do that better than us -- so we'll focus on supporting them, and their athletes, and their potential customers.

We will do a limited amount coaching to make sure that we remain practical in our application of our experience and continue to learn. It's essential that we walk-the-walk and follow our own best protocols.

That's a start.

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There was a lot of talk about "what coaching clients buy." Many thought that clients are buying "results." While clients are attracted to results, what I see is people buying...

...access to excellence (exemplified by the coach);
...compassion, listening, understanding (our society subtly tells many people that they have no worth);
...camaraderie (social networking, teams, community, sense of belonging);
...time management assistance (established high performers); and/or
...life skills assistance (young high performers).

Coaching is as an aspirational purchase for many people -- if you aim to position your self (your firm) at the top end of the market then you must ensure that your personal positioning is consistent with your target market.

Why do former Marines make excellent coaches? They have been trained in excellence -- it becomes who they are and apparent to their customers -- honor, ethics, excellence.

As Bobby said, you don't need to be an excellent athlete relative to others -- you need to be an excellent person relative to yourself.

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Mike challenged us to consider our differentiation as well as the areas where we can be world-leaders.

Two areas came to mind for me:
#1 -- personal transformations using athletics as a catalyst; and
#2 -- critical success factors for ultraendurance athletic competition, specifically Ironman triathlon.

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In listening to Mike, I wondered how many of us spend our time on what the client truly values.

Do we know what our clients most value?

How often do I make myself more busy, rather than more successful? Early in my coaching career the answer was... most of the time.

Bobby/Mike/me -- we acknowledged that every single thing that we do reflects on our brand, ourselves, our company -- every single act is a form of marketing.

We also shared our experience that we under-valued ourselves early in our careers. Bobby encouraged us to make the case that ours is a legitimate profession.

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Linda mentioned that we have 100,000 USAT members // with the correct business structure, a market share of 0.01% is enough to provide most coaches with a satisfactory income. This is a wide open industry. Even the established players have small market shares with clients that are easily persuaded to change.

Mike commented that one of his advisors cautioned against being in a non-scalable business... I highly recommend a copy of The Black Swan to that adviser.

Donovan noted that there are over 1,000 coaches on TrainingPeaks. What that tells me is that running, cycling and triathlon coaching are rapidly growing industries with highly fragmented and inexperienced competition -- ripe for standardization and consolidation // This is an opportunity for someone else -- we have made a strategic decision not to attempt to sort the market out.

There is tremendous value in the coach (or company) that creates a system for generating referrals and client inquiries. There is also value added in the coach (or company) that structures appropriate contracts, payment terms, legal protections and administrative assistance. But... how do you control quality? how do you retain your best performers?

The coaching industry will become more professional -- I expect that companies like TrainingPeaks will grow ever more sophisticated each year. The bottom end of the market will access their systems via web/iPhone. The top end of the market (companies like D3) will sell value-added services that go far beyond building training plans. The (current) middle market will get squeezed.

The key financial metric (to me) is revenue per relationship. This is different than "per client" -- you could have a low revenue client that generates a ton of referral and associate business. That is a high value relationship -- look beyond the dollars when you assess the key people in your network. Also look to the non-monetary benefits that accrue when you take on an assignment.

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Bobby challenged us to consider what we want to leave as our coaching legacy. The normal way to do this is to do an exercise where we write down our eulogy.

I don't need to pretend that I am dying to be honest with myself (although it does help). Daily, I consider my legacy as a person up to this point -- my flaws and failings providing fertile ground for self-improvement!

Some explicit tips that I wrote down from Bobby's presentation:
***Do graduate work after you have direct experience in your field;
***Teach kids to learn how to teach anyone;
***Leadership trumps protocol;
***Take formal instruction on your greatest limiters;
***Work only with people that you trust;
***Focus on what you do best;
***Develop passive streams of income;

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Bobby noted that he's not sure that training protocol makes much of a difference for Ironman triathlon -- he did this by contrasting with marathoning. Molina/Hellemans have said, essentially, a similar thing.

As a coach (or successful athlete)... if you think that your training protocol is essential for success remember that you are extremely biased by two effects:

(a) survivor bias -- you survived it; and

(b) silent evidence -- we are (mostly) unaware of the athletes that the protocol destroyed along the way.

More on the way we fool ourselves with "evidence" in The Black Swan.

Boil it down...
Talent, motivation, opportunity, direction -- those come from Daniels.
A ton of training -- that comes from Lydiard.

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One of the last talks of the weekend was my presentation on Personal Planning. I love giving this talk to groups of people and had been looking forward to giving the talk for WEEKS.

It is my favorite topic in the world because I passionately believe in the method that I have developed over the years.

I need to constantly work on my #1 point for 2008 which is listening. In the Q&A, I really struggled to shut myself up enough for us to learn from the other panelists.

During my planning presentation... I was in full flow -- really fired up...

I gave myself the mental combination of contrasting my love for Monica and the disappointment of failing to win IMC. What wasn't apparent, or explained, was the link between IMC and an expression of our love for each other.

Monica gave me total dedication this past year so that I could give 100% towards my goal. IMC is the only thing in my entire life that I have _truly_ worked towards yet failed to achieve (most my other successes are due to a combination of chance and natural ability).

I was wide open and had to pause because I was about to meltdown in front of 40 people (!)... it was a "good room" and they got me back on track. However, it took me days to 'recover' from being that open. Powerful stuff.

Monica likes to tease her Dad because he is known to get fired up; blow his circuit breakers; and cry -- all the while being wide open to the person he's talking with.

She may have married the same sort of guy...

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Files for Endurance Corner Radio

Alan's Talk on Zones -- Part One is on Alan's Blog -- Part Two is the PDF below, look at Page One of the scan... that is how many ways there are to say the same thing... just on Alan's desk!
alan_prez_pt2.pdf

Will's Talk on Training -- his test results and my recent lactate test.
will_bike_11_07.pdf
gb_runlactate_nov_07.pdf

The Oracle


I've carried the picture above around for a few years. I added a quote, "Being There". For me, the opportunity far out-weighs the outcome.

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After my long run last Sunday, Monica and I headed to Santa Cruz for a final visit with Mark and Brant before Ironman Canada. It was a quick trip but I don't judge value added on the time that someone spends with me. Mark and I were together for about three hours and we probably talked about "me" for less than half that time. That's got to be a record for me!

Following my visit with Mark, I had two hours alone at my motel. I'd left my computer behind and forgot to bring any books. It was just me and my note pad. These thoughts stem from the catalyst of Mark's presence -- they may not necessarily be exactly what he said.

Over the last nine weeks, my fitness has benefited from "The Pop". "The Pop" is an unexpected increase in performance. I've been popping in all sports as well as the gym. While my training partners continue to improve, the sensation inside me is that I've improved at a faster rate. So I've been asking myself "why".

In order to understand the process of this year, it's important to backtrack a bit to September 2006. When I read that Peter retired, I figured that there could be an opportunity to work with Mark. So I dropped him a line -- then followed up via email -- then followed up via telephone -- then went to his Sport & Spirit Clinic in Austin. I told Monica that if I wanted Mark to help my world then I should probably make the effort to learn about his world.

When I came to Mark, I wanted help with two aspects of my athletics:

#1 -- that I would nuke myself again in training. Across 2003 & 2004, I did more training than just about anyone I know -- that year culminated with a nine-week ride across America and ten-weeks of IronSchool with Dave Scott's elite group. The overall process was "successful" in that I went 8:29 at Ironman Canada 2004. However... I knew that I would be unable to repeat that level of training again -- my body simply couldn't train at that level.

#2 -- that I would blow-up in a race. There are only a handful of races where I've let go and gone as fast as I can go. I've haven't won most of these races but they have all been deeply fulfilling. With my 2006 racing, I felt like there was a governor on my efforts. I wanted to learn techniques for blowing through self-imposed limits.

Here's the crux of what Mark told me -- I've heard him repeat it many times so I'm sure that he won't mind me repeating it here:

...here is the bottom line: you will have to do things very differently than you have in the past. And if not, the patterns will repeat themselves. This is usually the toughest part for all athletes, especially those who have achieved near perfection in their racing as you have done. You will need to shift the memories of what happened to your body when you trained hard. You will need to strengthen your self confidence on a very different level than you have been working at. You will most likely need to really look at your training program with different eyes and probably make some significant changes to that so that you not only avoid the burnout, but also maximize your genetics on race day.

When I read that (less than 14 days after Ironman Canada 2006), I understood what he was saying. However... I didn't really understand at all and, I expect, that a year from now I will probably have an even deeper understanding of what lies behind those words. I've saved the full email and refer back from time-to-time.

Following the Austin Clinic, Mark agreed to take me on and I made a commitment to myself to follow the Sport & Spirit protocol to the absolute best of my abilities. For those of you that have attended the clinics, that means the spiritual aspects as well as the physical training aspects.

Most people come to a mentor or a coach looking for help "to achieve a result" or "to remove a problem". The difference in my case was that I came to Mark looking for new ideas and a commitment to change.

Wanting a result -- versus -- wanting to change.

Most people seek experts to achieve a result yet very few people are willing to attempt change.

Thinking about it, there have been four key "change points" in my triathlon career -- in each of them I learned a tremendous amount from adopting a new approach.

end 1999 -- implementing Friel's book, The Triathlete's Training Bible

mid-2002 -- training closely with Scott Molina (we started working informally at the end of 2000)

mid-2004 -- joining Dave Scott's elite squad

end 2006 -- working with Mark Allen

I can assure you that I'm tempted, daily, to return to my old pattern of out-training everyone. Fortunately, I keep improving so that takes a lot of the pressure off!

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A lady that worked in Brant's office died last Thursday. She happened to be Mark's age so death and longevity were on his mind. Death is _always_ on my mind and never far from me (especially when I'm riding).

I wonder if longevity should be the ultimate goal for all of us -- I acknowledge that my opinion on this will likely change as I grow older! Within my mountaineering career, I came to a point where the risk of dying exceeded the benefit that I received from climbing. That's why I shelved my ambitions for any Himalayan expeditions.

Within triathlon, I've often told myself (and others) that any damage that I do to myself exercising is far less than the damage I was doing in my "old life" before exercise.

What happens when your "old life" becomes your previous triathlon life? What are you left with if you transcend the false gods of alcohol, money, work, sex, fame and... exercise?

I'm working on that -- last Tuesday, I was left with truth, love and meaning.

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Back to Mark & Brant...

I can't tell you specifically how, or when, my fears left but I do know that my self-confidence started to increase following my May visit to Santa Cruz. There's something about visiting Mark's house in Santa Cruz that always makes me feel great. I must have told Monica ten times that Mark's place is my gold standard for housing. Everything that I look for in a house is there (black cat, warm sun, wood burning stove, and high speed internet...). More than the physical stuff, you've got the man himself and the vibe of the place.

On that trip, Brant joked that I didn't really need to seem him -- that I should simply rub my hands against Mark and pick-up some speed that way. I settled for a hug and a few hours of talking.

I'd encourage you to find non-traditional recovery avenues... whether it is a traditional religion, philosophy, nature, family, small kids, pets or the sea.

There is power in small and simple things.

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I can't end this piece without offering up a few technical details. Mat's pulling together a Top Ten list from the over fifty (!) pages that I've written this year. Off the top of my head here are some of Mark's techniques that worked very well for me...

Pacing -- pace every set, session, week, block, trimester, year so that you are strongest at the end. If you are an athlete with poor pace control in single-session training then this is likely a KEY limiter for you in your LIFE (not just athletics) -- you are at risk for trying too hard.

Pacing was an easier lesson for me. I had some trouble in November/December but managed to figure it out. You have to let your ego "go" when you are getting dropped. The Lads were crushing me pre-July.

Recovery -- the main difference between my training partners and me lies in what I don't do. I do far less than them on my easy days (2 per week, every week) and my easy weeks (1 every second or third week). I have never had this much structured rest my triathlon career -- I am setting seasonal personal bests in every single sport as well as the gym.

Recovery has been a very tough lesson for me. I continue to take pride in my ability to out-train most people. I've had to shift that focus to being an eGrip poster child. I battle with the urge to do more on most days -- Monica's been a great help here.

The Rules -- I love to follow the rules. Once Mark made the fundamental points clear (heart rate cap; pacing; weight floor) -- it was easy for me to stick with them. Where I've been challenged is when he removes the limits -- when I "go fast", I am supposed to go as fast as I can. The removal of all limits results in a similar fear to #2 above.

Back-to-backs -- if you look in my peak run week (posted last time) then you'll see that the bulk of my run volume was done in two day windows where a challenging run followed a solid session the previous day. Whether you are running, swimming, cycling or Big Day Training -- this is a highly effective way for an experienced athlete to safely (and specifically) overload themselves.

Be careful -- it took me over ten years to prepare for that week of running you saw. I did a similar thing with my cycling this past week (22 hours on the bike over five days, ending with a 160-miler on Saturday).

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I'll end with two observations, Mark adds value to me by:

***Helping me identify my personal "not to do"s; and

***Supporting me with a protocol that addresses the personal weaknesses that I've identified.

It is human nature to seek people to tell us "what to do" and follow protocols that enable us to showcase our strengths. My experience is that a deeper level of success may lie elsewhere.

Cheers,
gordo

Performance -- Training the Body


Our photo this week features "The Lads" -- in order... Mat, Denny, John, Brandon, Jeff. As their alter-egos... The Intern, The Lizard, Salsa, Rico Suave, Dr. J.

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Alan's written an excellent piece for this week's Alternative Perspectives. At the top of the AP-Blog, I wrote a disclaimer that you shouldn't assume that the articles represent my views. However, this piece represents the views of my new company, exactly.

The challenge to Alan... to you... to me... is to apply that protocol. The acquisition of knowledge is far easier than the application.

Early in my coaching career, I was much more prone to adjusting my views under pressure from my athletes. As I've gained experience, I've tried to model myself (more and more) along the Hellemans-Model, as I observe it...

...accept that athletes have the right to follow their own plans
...offer clear, direct advice when asked for an opinion
...minimize energy spent on athletes that ask for your opinion then ignore it

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Q -- Where does running performance come from?
A -- An enjoyment of consistent, long term, appropriate mileage.

Working backwards...

Mileage -- walking, running, jogging, hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, cycling, waiting tables, standing -- it's all good. What counts? Everything that involves your legs counts.

Appropriate -- Alan and I are going to review Daniels' Running Formula in the weeks to come. The #1 point that I take out of that book is... If you want to train faster then prove it by racing faster.

It is far more important "to train" than to train "fast". Athletes that chase power/pace nearly always underperform on race day. I've seen that around me for my entire athletic career. Guys that can totally kick my butt in training end up miles behind me on race day.

One more quote that I like (from Dr. J) -- Prove that you can operate below your limits before seeking to outperform them.

Appropriate could mean anything from 5 to 150 miles per week. There are no fixed rules -- you'll have to figure it out for yourself. With my own experience -- it took me years to get to the point where I could tolerate a 'normal' running week that you might read in a magazine. I spent 1993-1998 'training' in a very general sense.

Long term -- from a standing start, it is going to take 10-15 years to see what's possible. If you are looking for the 10-15 week program for excellence, you are fooling yourself.

For those of you familiar with Daniels' v-dot tables. My v-dots by year...
mid-90s -- 33
1997 -- 45
1998 -- 47
1999 -- 50
2000 -- 51
2001 -- 54
2002 -- 57
2003 -- 60
2004 -- 62
2005 -- 60
2006 -- 60
2007 -- 65

There's a lot of training _and_ a lot more than training that moves an athlete from a v-dot of 33 to 65. In 1997, I was "fast" within my training circle. There are many definitions of fast -- as athletes find when they move to Boulder, Christchurch or other centers of athletic excellence.

Consistent -- As a triathlete, I currently run about 225x per annum. That level of volume was impossible for me when I started. I started by walking, hiking and lifting weights. I didn't jump-start my athletic career by signing up for an Ironman.

Enjoyment -- 225 runs per annum across, say, eight years... 1,800 runs. If you're going to invest that level of time then you'd better be enjoying yourself. Athletes that see their sport as "work" rarely succeed on the deepest levels.

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Here's a summary of the toughest week of running that I'll do this summer. It was the program for last week and broke many of the "rules" that I apply as a coach.

Elite Tri -- Specific Prep -- Run Program
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Monday -- off running; swim/gym

Tuesday -- swim/bike (four hours) and run two hours off the bike holding 7:30 per mile pace

Wednesday -- high altitude, hilly run of 15 miles with Tim (6 miles in 50 minutes then 9 miles in 50 minutes); swim/bike with evening five miler slower than 8 min per mile

Thursday -- morning five-miler slower than 8 min per mile; ride four hours easy with depressed heart rate (I wonder why?)

Friday -- off running; swim only

Saturday -- little under six hours worth of tough swim/bike with mixed tempo run off the bike (8 miles)

Sunday -- swim an easy 2400 meters (to wake up legs) then 23 miler with Tim and evening four-miler

= 76 miles at ~7:36 per mile

I've had 3:15 (off the bike) marathoners tell me that they are unable to run slower than seven-minute miles.

I've also had Clas shake his head at how I run sub-2:50 by spending much of my time cruising around at eight-minute pace.

It's the pace changes that make life interesting in gWorld. :-)

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Coming Soon -- Training the Mind & True Limiters

Consulting Business Models


Our photo this week is a shot of me dragging a tire after a 21-mile run at the Boulder Reservoir. My technique needs improvement for next time.

Why do I drag a tire around? I could give you reasons based on human physiology but the truth has to do with human psychology – I see value in doing things that other people aren’t willing to do.

I’ll probably be the only athlete on the Ironman Canada start line with ten weeks of tire pulls under his belt.

I love stuff like that.

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We've got Baron Part Two over on Alternative Perspectives. Next week we will have Lydiard Part Two -- Alan's done a great follow-up article that I think is worth your time.

In the meantime, Alan wrote up his action plan from the USAT Coaches Clinic. If I remember then we'll follow-up with him in a few months on how implementation progressed. Personally, I find change implementation a greater challenge than issue identification.

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On November 2nd and 3rd, I’ll be hosting a USAT Clinic on Building Your Coaching Business. We’ll start Friday (after lunch) and run through Saturday. The program will include case studies; practical tools for increasing revenues; financial planning tips/tools; branding/marketing tips/strategies as well as the opportunity to share ideas with each other.

Location will be the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs. We have a great panel coming together and more details will follow once they are confirmed.

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My most recent book is Ubiquity, Why Catastrophes Happen. It's a worthwhile read. If you pick up a copy then consider two elements of the author's hypothesis:

Fingers of instability -- when I think about the challenges of terrorism as well as the structure of the Middle East conflict; I see deep fingers of instability. The implications of a small further stress on (any one of) these fissures, is very difficult to predict. If you are a worrier, then this book will give you plenty of fodder. I spent a lot of time thinking about the likelihood of WMD being employed.

Critical State -- whether the subject matter is earthquakes, financial markets, human conflict or iron atoms, the author talks about the conditions where one small action is a trigger for further subsequent results. This had me wondering about the critical state within the human brain -- the ability of a single neuron to impact the entire brain.

Extending that neuron consideration to what (little) I know about quantum mechanics. The ability of a single neuron, within the observer, to change the reality of what's observed. At that point my head started to swim... the author did warn against taking physical science concepts into the social sciences.

+++

In the last two weeks, three smart people have shared ideas with me about growing their businesses. While their current positions vary in terms of scale, the challenges that they face are similar. So here are some thoughts on coping with growth. The specifics pertain to the coaching/consulting industry but, I think, they are widely applicable.

Branding – in many consulting businesses the founder is the brand and your team is a reflection of you. When you are growing rapidly then, clearly, you are doing something “right”. It’s worth considering what that “thing” is. In a small consultancy practice, often the magic-ingredient is you. Your time, your knowledge, your personality, your efforts – this matters because…

…if you take on people to service your clients then it takes more time (initially) to train them. Do you have that time? Do you want that job? If not then you’ll need to recruit, then train, the trainer. After you've trained the trainers and coaches -- you've effectively trained your future competition.

…if you refer clients then there is an element of endorsement and you’ll want to ensure that your brand/reputation is protected. There are very few coaches that I’ll endorse via a referral.

Reputation takes years to build – protect it with everything that you do, everything you say, everything you write, everyone you endorse/employ… I take this to a an extreme and extend it right through to suppliers; clients; sponsors; coaches; mentors. There are companies/people that I would love to work with (and could teach me lots) but I’ve been unable to become comfortable with their ethics – so I’ve had to pass.

The theme of saying “no” to attractive opportunities is a recurring one. You need to be willing to turn down attractive offers in order to sustain your brand. Financial stability goes a long way towards building ethical integrity – more on that in a future letter on success factors.

Quality Control – I have considered building an international network of consultants (to the point of drafting a business plan). However, I wasn’t able to get comfortable that:

…remote coaches would be able to represent my brand appropriately. For this reason, everyone in our company (Alan, Mat, Monica, me) works “here” in Boulder. We spend a lot of time together.

…remote coaches would gain enough from “HQ” to justify a mutually beneficial long term relationship. We’d have to work extremely hard on retention for minimum return on our efforts.

Retention – How do you keep your best people? Even working with friends, I haven’t (yet) come up with a business model that is sticky enough to keep "remote" coaches/consultants together for the long term. The effort required at HQ is greater than the return that we could fairly charge the remote offices.

When I ran the numbers on the “take” that would be required for an attractive return on investment – it didn’t stack up (for the investors, the coaches, or me). My return on effort/capital was far greater by giving away our intellectual property, selling high value services and operating in a managerial capacity.

What keeps people in a network?

***Success – friendship is great but nothing builds teams like sustained, meaningful achievement. I want everyone around me (clients, athletes, friends and training buddies) to succeed. Talking about this with Jeff this morning, I noted my success obsession (to go with my controlling obsession).

***Fairness – there needs to be a fair exchange of efforts. What’s fair? I don’t think that there is a fixed answer and fairness changes over time.

***Value – if you take anything from someone (revenue, product, goods, time, thought…) then there needs to be adequate compensation to them. Personally, I work hard to make sure that everyone close to me receives a little bit more than I think is fair. That doesn’t always mean that they see it that way but it has been an effective strategy for me.

People within my circle that don’t operate in a similar manner tend to move away over time. It’s an interesting paradox that when everyone gives a little extra to another, there is more for all.

***Challenge – probably related to success. Challenge is the ability to actively participate in success; learn and apply that knowledge. “Winning” is fun but “meaning” derives from active participation in the daily process of success.

Where does all this leave me? Yet another list of goals!

Help people – I’ve set a target of 1 million athletes over the next thirty years – sounds like a lot but I estimate that I’m well on the way there (over 25,000 copies of Going Long have been sold).

High return per hour invested – “return” defined in terms of personal satisfaction, rather than dollars (but they do help).

Learn through teaching – our new lab will greatly improve my knowledge, that’s fun for me

Improve communication skills – more public speaking

Grow our reach – we will be launching podcasting (slowly) after IMC; vodcasting will, likely, follow that.

Build the brand – I lead my family’s financial leadership and my personal brand is our safety net.

Within our new business, Endurance Corner, we are building:

A central hub of excellence (coaching, training, testing, consulting, sports medicine, rehabilitation);

Knowledge sharing via camps, clinics and our on-line presence;

Single location to enhance mutual learning; maintain quality; enhance communication; build personal ties; and have fun together.

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One specific question that I had – that triggered this article:

Q – What is a normal share of revenue for me to earn on a coaching referral?

A – Instead of thinking about the “take” – consider… the value that you add to the client (and coach); also consider if you have the time/desire to manage the relationship. If I refer an athlete outside of our network then that is a favor (to the athlete because I am careful where I point people // and // to the coach because it is a potential order). If I refer an athlete within our network then we need to ensure that our brand is protected and value is delivered to the client.

Overall compensation – within our business the basic package includes items that are important to us (health care; retirement savings; training; certification; education) – monetary compensation depends on a mixture of the value added (not merely revenue added) to the coach’s main client as well as the individual’s capacity to work effectively.

We provide infrastructure with opportunity.

The Future of On-line Coaching


Our photo this week is my friend Sandi on her way to a personal best in the Edinburgh Marathon. A PB and a big smile! I also want to give a shout out to my pal (Miss A) in Sydney, she's going through chemo right now and good thoughts come in handy. The Byrn Family sends you a healing vibe...

Alan and I started a "book club" here at GordoWorld HQ. The first one that he offered me was "de Castella on Running". I will give you a chance to read it before I offer up my book review -- well worth the time to read. My book for him was "The Richest Man in Babylon". Mat has joined us for the summer so, perhaps, he'll throw in a good title.

I had a quote sent to me from Vern Gambetta's Blog -- I surfed the blog and found a great post on success that he linked up from three articles -- Really Good Stuff.

More than being smart, what's helped me is the ability to learn from smart people. Thank you to all the readers that share their "good stuff" with me.

++++

My buddy Ken is doing his MBA at Berkeley. He is kind enough to keep me in the loop on the latest developments in entrepreneurship as well as what's happening in the Bay Area. I've been developing a business plan for a new company and we have been sharing ideas covering technology, coaching, on-line communities and what's 'happening' on the internet. Much of what follows is a reflection of various ideas that Ken's shared with me -- perhaps there's value outside of Harvard after all... ;-)

This could be a bit choppy as I'm still working through my ideas . Writing is, part of, how I think and develop concepts/strategy. In addition to Ken's tips, Alan has been surveying the wider coaching, community and training applications market -- he's put together some surprising briefing papers that have been really helpful to my Advisory Board. When it comes to fact-finding and analysis, he does a far better job than I could. I tend to "rush to judgement" -- Alan's the other way, he'd still be doing research if I hadn't put a deadline on him...

...we're a good fit.

On-line coaching (triathlon) is a bit unique on the internet in that clients pay for content. Other successful content models that spring to mind are WSJ-online and The Economist. In those cases, I pay for timely, specialist content, written by smart people. The content (for now) is superior to what's available on the free sites.

But perhaps triathletes aren't paying for 'content' -- perhaps they are accessing an application for peace-of-mind and to make contact (on some level) with the founder/creator/moderators of the site. Perhaps they _want_ to pay to feel like they are doing something positive for their athletics -- I know that this is a big driver for the urge to "get a coach" or "join a club".

With web technology, it is tempting to over-invest at the front end to increase the "gee whiz" factor with clients and, therefore, justify the subsciption fees that are charged. Personally, I'd want to attract people with a reasonable, free beta version -- let them debug and help me design my vision.

Another approach is to be a follower of technology and focus on creating a simple, effective application. A low overhead front end where you plow a decent chunk of revenues into direct marketing to your clients -- late summer/early fall advertising, free articles and booths at key expo locations.

Both of these models are operating successfully in the triathlon marketplace. What struck Alan and me was that in other sports 'coaching' applications are given away for free -- equipment manufacturers develop them to build their brands; shift product; and attract traffic.

If you are shifting millions of dollars of merchandising, then fifty thousand (per annum) on programming is merely a portion of your marketing budget. Fifty grand per annum across five years would wipe out (the technical edge) of all the existing players.

I've had two smart companies approach me to build a coaching business for them but they wanted me to do it, essentially, for free. Why would a coach:entrepreneur build a brand for free? Within a branded goods business, it is straightforward to calculate the increase in equity value that can be created from a successful web-marketing strategy. I'm sure that many people see the opportunity -- however -- we are all busy folks. Someone will need to get on with it.

When I think about what matters in an on-line training program -- Basic Week Generator; Log; Season Planner; Reference Articles -- these components manage themselves once built. The founding team can sit back. I don't see sustainable advantage from a content, or application, driven business model.

The structure of athletic success // consistent, variable overload across time // that doesn't require constant revision of reference material and application drivers. It's a lot like coaching -- once you've "taught" your athletes your protocol then client retention is down to: (a) whether they like hanging out with you; (b) whether they are proud to be associated with you; (c) non-athletic value addition (life skills, career management); and (d) the team/community aspect that you create within your business. There could be more -- that was off the top of my head.

So I've been thinking how all the above will impact the new business. Four things that I've come across and have been thinking about for the new business:

A -- Good brands market themselves
B -- Build it for yourself
C -- "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses" -- Henry Ford
D -- A business exists to serve the goals of its owner

When those components mix in my head I get the urge to strip away the endless complexity that is conjured up to market products & services. Complexity in goods to make you pay for more gizmos. Complexity in services to make you pay to look inside the Black Box.

Why not offer a simple program and spend time supporting clients in a manner that enhances success?

Some people just want a plan -- give that for free. Others may want interaction, personal advice, a deeper understanding (the complexity behind the simplicty) -- they can purchase consulting services or join an on-line community. This level of interaction requires: judgement; share of mind; and experience. Specialist advice that requires human capital -- providing sustainable advantage within the advisory team.

A key question -- "How would you respond to a new entrant offering your application for free -- what is your sustainable advantage?"

++++

Looking ahead on the technology, I expect that we'll see "coach-in-a-phone" shortly -- PT On The Net as well as Dave Scott's site are laying the foundations for this next step.

Mark asked me my thoughts on the best video feed; I thought about that for a bit and advised him to wait until the market sorted it out. Just like podcasting gave all of us the ability to become radio broadcasters; I'm sure that vod-casting (or its equivalent) will be worked out in 12-24 months.

Similar to PT On The Net -- I expect that we'll get PT-down-the-wire with workouts coming directly down the internet into plasma TVs -- there are people doing this already via DVD. I don't think that their current pricing models are sustainable as new entrants will enter the market and give it all away for (close to) free. If a company has a subscriber base of several thousand readers then you can pump the workout down the line for 25c, or give it away for free by selling an advertising header/footer.

The personal training market is going to split into low-end (cheap and cheerful) and high-end (relationship/high value added) -- the people in the middle that are charging $50-80 per hour to hang out with clients -- they will get squeezed.

A bit of an aside... I've never been able to figure out tech-valuations -- given the rapid change; the tendancy for competitors to give away applications for free; the near-zero site loyalty... why the large valuations? I'm sure there is an army of investment banker writing reports on "why" but I don't see sustainable, long term cash generation. I'm a long term cash-flow kind of investor.

Video coaching -- I was riding yesterday and thinking that it must be possible to combine GPS, key workout structure, and coach video into a handbar mounted device. You could have Coach Gordo along for your ride -- in my dream, I had Dave Scott telling me not to slack off with my twenty minutes standing on the flats!

Some of the more nimble triathlon entrepreneurs are starting this process with Computrainer's group training product -- Mark joked that it was the perfect combination for overtraining... twelve triathletes; loud music; head-to-head video monitors and sixty minutes on your lunch hour... you don't even get a chance to "sit-in" -- hammer down the whole way!!! :-)

Video consulting and conferencing -- watch the weekly or daily briefing where the expert panel discuss questions that were sent in by their clients. Personalise the concept with high quality "face-to-face" interaction with the smartest minds in your sport, or industry.

If we look to the hourly rates in law, taxation, accounting, finance then the best of the best will be able to greatly leverage their knowledge. The challenge faced by many highly skilled people is that they are tied to their office and local geography -- that's going to change. You'll have the world on a plasma screen in a few years, if you want it. I see it starting with live video feeds into "success conferences".

The question, "How do we position our team, and create the reach, so that we'll be able to access the clients that will want these services?"

++++

Implications?

From my own point of view...

>>>front end costs should be incurred to leverage personal human capital

>>>a model focused on traffic / reach generates a return via an increased premium earned on personal human capital

>>>follow technology via the widest, established channels -- let MS, IBM, Yahoo, Apple and Google battle it out. Sit under the technology umbrella of the market leader(s).

>>>consider how to address the 'entertainment' factor -- 'gee whiz' is how a lot of people have fun // very important in coaching as it is recreation for the target market (as well as distraction at the office!)

>>>focus on increasing specialist knowledge and experience -- entire team must be dedicated to continual study // human capital, connections, networks and real relationships. While the basics remain the same, the ability to appear at the cutting edge is good marketing. Looking at it another way -- race results attract clients; delivering success keeps them.

>>>share expert information/experience constantly and as broadly as possible.

>>>invest assuming that your application can be wiped out in 12 months. The established players are better funded (essentially "free" equity) and have the ability to crush you whenever they feel like it.

That's a tough way to end it -- good thing we sit on the fringe of a niche sport.

Still thinking,
gordo

Working Athlete Periodization & Prime Property


I've been on the road for a few days so our photo is another shot from the archives. I am missing Monica!

I've been a little jet lagged this week and took the opportunity to write up some thoughts on an alternative periodization approach. It's what I've been using for myself, and my crew, over the last few years. I'll explain the approach more fully in the Second Edition of Going Long. Joe and I will be working on the update this Fall and it should hit the stores in 2008. While the core of the book will stay the same, we have enough new information to merit a re-write. The second edition will be supplemental to the first -- an extension, rather than a replacement.

I read in The Economist that viagra could help reduce jetlag when flying East (no joke). Don't think I'll try it but it did make me smile.

The top end of the UK housing market is cranking along -- no signs of the slowdown that I was reading about this week in the US market (Toll Brothers). I've been thinking about the main drivers of the persistent boom in top end pricing -- declining long term interest rates, plenty of global liquidity and strong executive salaries in the financial - legal - accounting - insurance industries. The banks are offering very large mortgages to the right sort of buyers - up to 10x pre-tax income. On my trip, I've heard of multi-million, 100% loan:value mortages.

Edinburgh is seeing multiple pre-qualifed buyers competing on houses worth in excess of $3 million. This is a completely new situation. Five years ago, one of our companies was the first buyer to pay over $2 million for a townhouse -- today that same property is worth over $4 million ($6 million post-renovation). Too bad we sold that one! If you want to read about some seriously large housing appreciation then research the performance of the top end London market. In dollar terms, the last three years have been truly amazing.

Interestingly, the top end yields are reasonable in London, better than Edinburgh. I expect that we'll see significant rental growth in our key Scottish markets. For our highest quality product, we have seen rents move by 20-40% over the last 12 months. That's a big move for a sector that saw flat rents from 1998-2004 and isn't the experience of the broader market.

At a micro level, the market is being driven by an increasing number of top end buyers/renters. These clients are looking for high quality in locations that (by their nature) will always be cramped for supply. Combine that with a (well placed) reluctance to undertake their own refurbishment projects and you have a situation were the best properties earn a premium return.

By "best", I'm referring to the top 0.1% of the market. We stick to the most desirable properties to ensure full occupancy and high liquidity. We want to able to rent and/or sell in any market situation because an illiquid portfolio with empty properties can kill you in a downturn.

It's been a very interesting trip for me.

++++

One of the challenges of using a traditional periodization model is that the cycles of volume don’t always fit with the realities of your life. Put another way, when you use a table to determine your training schedule, you are typically doing either too little, or too much. Of these two situations, “too much” is the most risky.

What follows is an approach that I’ve been using with my athletes for the last few years. The traditional approach to periodization that we used in my book (Going Long) is both proven and effective. This letter seeks to provide you with alternative ideas that have helped many of my athletes achieve greater consistency and satisfaction with their training.

Here are the key concepts:

1 – the Basic Week approach maximizes training consistency over multiple months and seasons. By aiming for a “little less” each week, you will achieve more over the long run.

2 – your Weekday training is determined by the reality of your life situation, primarily your obligations to work and family.

3 – your Weekend training is split between an Endurance Day (typically Saturday) and a Family Day (typically Sunday).

4 – The training on your Endurance Day shifts based on your experience, fitness, goal event and the time of the year. You progress the nature of this day gradually and in harmony with daylight, climate and your fitness. Early season the purpose of this session is to build “endurance”, the ability to complete your desired race duration. As the season progresses, you shift your focus towards “fitness”, the ability to perform across your desired race duration.

It is typical for novice athletes to focus on “endurance” for multiple season. I spent many years with endurance as my main (nearly, sole) focus. An endurance athlete never graduates from focusing on steady-state stamina – it is the fundamental component of athletic performance.

5 – On your Family Day, place the people that support your athletic goals first. This increases your emotional harmony and gives you a break from athletics. It also has a positive athletic benefit because you arrive at work fresh on Monday – keeping you employed (!) and increasing the quality of your Weekday sessions.

6 – By agreeing a training schedule with all key players in your life, you remove the constant struggle to “squeeze in” and “juggle” training sessions. You have an agreed structure that you’ll repeat for the rest of your life. This is a holistic approach that fits your training into the larger goal of a successful lifestyle.

When you set-up your Basic Week keep the following tips in mind:

1 – aim for a Basic Week structure that you can complete “no sweat” forty weeks per year. You want to have a structure that enables you to outperform on a weekly basis. This is an important part of building credibility with yourself.

2 – while the timing structure of your week should remain the same, ensure that you vary your training protocol (what you do in each session) every six to eight weeks. Your fitness will progresses from variable overload applied consistently across many years.

3 – twice a year, insert a period of unstructured training. At the end of your season take 2-8 weeks of unstructured training and in the middle of each year at 1-2 weeks of unstructured training. The closer you move to your maximum potential and the greater your athletic success, the more recovery you will need to insert into your year.

4 – every three weeks back off on the training load, even (and especially) when you think that you don’t “need” it. You are playing a long-term game where athletic fatigue creeps into the body very gradually.

5 – use benchmark testing to track your progress. Remember that multiple month plateaus are common; the rapid progression of the novice athlete is not the typical experience of a veteran to our sport.

Your ultimate athletic development is determined by your athletic consistency, not the nature of your toughest sessions. Protect your consistency and your fitness foundation; these are the keys to reaching your fullest potential.

Hope this helps,

gordo

Grip Tips


This week’s photo is one of my favorites from the archives. One year ago this week, Team MonGo on the beach in Brazil. Sitting here on a plane to the United Kingdom, I can remember the warm sun on that morning. I’m far from Brazil right now but it seems very close. Good memories.

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 Colorado Springs. This is the same weekend as last season. This year we will focus on the “business” part of coaching. The clinic is open to coaches/athletes of all sports. More details as I work them out with Tim Boruff of USAT.

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 America was trash).

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 Santa Cruz is the slowest that you’ll ever see me eat.

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!

Why?

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 Penticton”. It got to the point where I even skipped weighing myself for a few weeks because “making weight” ceased to be an issue for me. I checked in this past week… doing fine.

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 Canada with a 4 min per K max aerobic pace that I broke through.

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).

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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 Brazil, took two weeks off then did Epic Camp France. I won’t be repeating that pattern this year!

***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 Magnolia Road last Sunday and combined my fastest split with lowest average heart rate. I’m in great marathon shape;

***I’ll do more long bike rides (than the year I rode across America for base training);

***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 Penticton on August 26th. I’ve created a situation where I am “ahead of plan” – this gives me the confidence to insert extra recovery and greatly increases the probably of success. It also removes the pressure to hit homeruns – I don’t need to prove anything in training (listen to Faris on Competitors Radio for his take on AG-training in San Diego).

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!

gordo

Long Course Clinic Notes


The photo is more from Halloween -- the moose antlers were a gift from a good friend on my 31st birthday. I dug them out of storage from my candy duties. We had high margin candy, word spread in the neighbourhood and I was reduced to dealing out PRIA bars after a mere 60 mintues. Groups of 10-12 kids started turning up, some only wearing track suits!

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I'm writing this from my hotel desk in Hong Kong. I signed a stack of financial accounts down in the business centre and packed them off to FedEx. So my business trip is officially over. All that remains is an afternoon flight to Auckland and an early morning connection to Brisbane.

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Day One of the clinic started with Monica & Andy handling the swim session. I'd never seen my brother-in-law in action and he was an impressive guy. I think that I'll rope him into my tri team in Boulder -- more on the team in my next post (from the Southern Hemisphere).

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For Day Two, we had Susan Williams (the most humble olympic medalist I've met); Bobby McGee and Tim Hola (fresh off a <9> "...the struggle is sometimes hard to see because it is not a struggle between good and evil as much as it is a struggle between the good and the best...

"...the good is always an enemy of the best because the good is so good; it has the feel of good, but ultimately it is less useful because it is not the best."

Those lines above sum up everything that I've learned in my adult life and explain why an ethical life devoted to excellence is, on reflection, the only option for personal satisfaction.

Back to the clinic...

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Susan talked about Barb building up to sets of 3x100 on the stretch cords -- we need some of those for Noosa!

Tim's program at 24 hours per week in the big weeks shows why he's so dominant. For a working athlete to hit that schedule in his on-weeks shows a mastery of recovery and scheduling.

Tim's tips for what to do outside of training -- W.I.N. and mental attitude -- show where he gets a little extra out of himself and his training.

Tim shared this... "See Your Goals Every Day". Reminded me that I need to print out my goals and paste them up in Noosa. FYI -- I had an "8:29 Ironman Canada" on my wall for 15 months before I did it -- even dreamed about it in the summer of 2004. Cam Brown probably thought I was nuts when he visited my "shrine" (bedroom) in 2003.

If you get the chance to visit Siri's basement in Boulder then you'll see the same thing in action today. She even uses the same quotes as me!

W.I.N. -- what's important now

In listening to certain of the debates/questions over the weekend. I wrote this down, "Information is rarely a limiter". In other words, many coaches/athletes would do better devoting their energies searching for simplicity, rather than additional complexity.

Bobby shared his elite periodization pattern -- by week it goes Long; Long; Easy; Hard -- then you repeat. If you inserted another "easy" at the end of the cycle then you'd have a nice pattern for a five week "camp" in any sport.

Bobby shared his experience that fit athletes need to be worried about key workouts going too well. This has been shared with me by elite swim coaches. As we near true peaks in fitness -- we need to be extra careful as we have the ability to spend that fitness in training. Dave shared this with me in 2004 and I did a good job of limiting myself in training.

Bobby pointed out that Ironman running has more in common with a long hike than marathoning. He challenged the coaches with the question -- do you train your athletes to get the most out of their walking? Do you equip your athletes with the mental skills to get the most out of their walking? Do you enter your races with the strategy to get the most out of your walking?

I've shared his run:walk strategy many times. More can be found on www.BobbyMcGee.com

His best concept... was when he asked that we consider if we are training a central or a peripheral response with our training. Very insightful.

By the end (or even the middle) of an ironman race, most athletes have a peripheral system that is so shot that they have an inability to place a meaningful load on their central system. Ironman is an event that challenges the peripheral system. This is VERY different from nearly all other endurance events (marathons, TTs, road racing, swimming).

Bobby's run:walk is so effective because it preserves the peripheral system. I'm going to trial his protocol when I am down in Australia. It's a good time of year to experiment. He's got a <2:30 style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">
gordo

Long Course Clinic Materials


Hi Gang,

The local squirrels seem to have taken an interest in my pumpkin -- they have been eating my "G".

I probably won't be publishing much for the next two weeks. I've written a lot over the last little while and will be starting a very long business trip that ends (lucky me) in Noosa, Queensland.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the links for my Long Course Clinic materials...

Coach G's Key Workouts and Coaches' Tips -- Downloadable PDF

These next ones are PowerPoint presentations.

Coaching Long

Structured Bike Training

Effective Race Execution

Monica's Swim Presentation

Take care and keep it simple this fall!

gordo

Coaches & Athletes

A few ideas that have been rolling through my head this week.

All coaches have biases, insecurities and blind spots. When your needs as an athlete bump up against one (or more) of these; that’s when errors of judgment occur.

The toughest and most important part of athletic success is getting out of bed every morning, on time, for many years. When we take actions that risk our ability to back-it-up (even if physiologically beneficial) we are gambling with the big picture of what it takes to succeed.

Be wary of coaches living out their athletic dreams (and managing personal insecurities) through pushing their athletes over the edge.

Is the coach seeking to control the program or the athlete? My most effective coaching relationships are more like conversations than prophesies.

Having had the opportunity of five years of world class coaching – where I went wrong is when I took advice and added to it. The most counterproductive (and common) change was going harder, for longer, than instructed – I’ve completely ended my season twice.

Don’t spend any time with a coach with weak ethics. Life is about a lot more than athletic results. Repeated exposure to a man of weak character can impair you for years.

The best training partner is one that gets you out the door, supplies a few laughs and keeps you from inadvertently nuking yourself. A lot of great athletes have benefited from a training partnership with “weaker” athletes.

The key benefit of athletics is providing us with a forum through which we can overcome ourselves. Ultimately, that is the only thing that a race, or a competitor can offer us.

Athletes that miss this point spend their entire lives chasing a finish line that never satisfies.

Back To Basics

My seven month break from triathlon training has given me the chance to learn and try out a few things.

Fitness – everyone always wants to know how much fitness you lose and how long it takes to come back. I’ve been on a low volume, sporadic training program for most of 2005. I started the year in fantastic shape and am now still in pretty reasonable shape. Not fast in triathlon terms but healthy and fit relative to the population at large. How’d I do that?

Well it wasn’t by design. I’ve been doing what I felt like all year and haven’t used any technical equipment to track my volume, pace or duration. Most weeks were in the 4-7 hours of training range and I took a stack of zeroes when work, travel or my mood meant that I choose not to exercise.

I managed a few solid running weeks where I was close or over 100K/60M. Two nice bike weeks between IMNZ and the end of November – I was in the 400-500K range for each. My last real swim training was the steakhouse challenge back in March or April.

I didn’t really notice the fatigue from the few decent weeks that I had because when I got run down I’d simply take three days off! I am also fortunate in that I am flex-time for 20-25 days a month and can sleep a lot and do my work at odd hours.

Nutrition – I need to put on a suit a few days each months. One of the nice things about a suit is that while the wearer might change size, it doesn’t. So you get clear feedback. My suits also date back to my days in Hong Kong as a working athlete (my business partner points out the date frequently). Whenever my suits start to get a bit tight, I know that it’s time to tighten up on nutrition. This seven month period is the longest that I’ve been able to keep a stable weight (while training single figures) in my adult life. Stable weight is one sign that our nutrition is in balance. When I was a triathlete, I would start each year heavy but still in OK shape. This time I _knew_ that I wasn’t going to be in great shape. So I had to start the training year in good nutritional condition. That gives us a big advantage when starting up – in terms of energy, in terms of being able to move, in terms of positive self image.

On that self image point – shaved down the other day. It’s worth 2KGs mentally. If you are a non-triathlete reading this – then you’ll simply have to trust me.

Four Pillars – if you are interested in any form of endurance training then I’d encourage you to read my Four Pillars article on my tips page. It is the best piece of training advice that I’ve ever managed to write. Having coached it for the last five years, and now living it, it’s the fastest way to improvement. I won’t run through it again in detail here. I’ll just say that it I am following it to the letter right now and have a way to go before hitting the volume benchmarks in the text.

The game plan is to: (a) get my swim to 4K relaxed, continuous; (b) get my bike to six hours; and (c) get my run to two hours. Once I have achieved that then I will try to do ABC in the same week. Once I have achieved that then I will try to do ABC in the same weekend. If I achieve than then it will be time for Epic New Zealand and we’ll try to that that about 4-7x in twelve days.

Recruitment – I read a lot on the internet about specificity. What I’d really like to know is what muscle group and movement pattern do we not require for triathlon? My first week back was a real eye-opener because I was moving like I’ve seen many age-group athletes. Basically, my body was pretty much asleep. While I’d been running, most of the major muscles groups, especially in my core, were completely asleep. I had an inability to recruit muscles and that left me extremely weak. Ten days in, my muscles are waking up – due to a broad, lightweight, non-specific approach to strength training. I feel far, far better immediately and my performance has improved. Ten days is simply not enough time for fitness to come into play (and my running had me in pretty good cardio shape to start). So I think the specificity argument is a poor one for working triathletes. We need to have our total body awake and two 45 minute core, balance, conditioning sessions can really help.

Stretching – we’re not getting any massage these days. I need to work about 45 hours per week on my property business; combined with shopping, meals and training means that time is tight. So we have a deal that we will stretch 15 minutes after our longest bike or run workout of the day. It is making a big difference for both of us and even that little bit has us making progress in terms of recovery and range of movement. 15 minutes a day. I’m working full-time, training once or twice a day and still getting the shopping done (laundry is a bit behind though!).

The Basic Week – my basic week is pretty basic! From 9am to 9pm I am working everyday. We have a proper sit down meal whenever we eat at home. I turn off my machine and lay out the table French-style. Out of my work day I take breaks for training, food shopping and trips to the post office. We haven’t gone out yet, and probably won’t more than 2x the entire time we are in Montpellier. We’ve planned a two day trip to Paris at the end of December as that gives us something to look forward to. Pretty basic, eh?! Well, that’s what it takes. I was the same way when I was training in Hong Kong.

So the training week is six days “on”; one day “open” (last week open meant “off”). We do three days where the training break is a ride. The other three days consist of a morning run then a combo session in the afternoon (coffee, core conditioning, swim – in that order). So we get a coffee-date three times a week. We hold hands when we go shopping too!

Soreness and Fatigue – what used to qualify as a recover day or workout in January/February is now a proper session for me. I’ve gone past four hours of daily training two times since we started. Both times resulted in 11+ hours of sleep that night. Phew, I get tired – I can’t remember the last time this little volume would wipe me out. I also get sore as the little muscles involved with triathlon wake up and are used anew.

4K really is a long way to swim! I haven’t got there yet. When I hit the benchmark, I might drop back in and let you know.