I’ve been coaching athletes and tracking my health markers since 2000. It’s fashionable to think we are unique but I suspect you can group athletes into three categories:
These are my current “go to” workouts when time is tight (or motivation is low!).
I always feel better after one of these.
From the start of my racing career, I was able to perform above my training and beat athletes who appeared fitter than me. The mental side of life has been an area where I’ve done well over the years.
Rib injuries pop-up fairly frequently in our team.
I crashed hard in October 2011. Despite having to cope with some dark days, I got a lot right with my recovery from that injury.
Last summer, in an effort to improve my cycling, I stopped running. This proved to be a serious screw up that required months of rehab.
I’m a past champion of Ultraman Hawaii and the concept of doing less, doing the minimum, getting by... none of these are appealing to me. I’m all about more and I lose interest when winning isn’t an option.
However, the concept of only needing 12 weeks to ramp myself up (and kick booty) is highly appealing to me. How can we put ourselves in a position so we always have the ability to scale up for a race?
There are three main reasons that I attend training camps:
This week’s article is about the first point above and covers lessons from our most recent camp in Tucson.
Our next camp is June in Boulder -- we cater to all ability levels and distances, including road cyclists and mountain bikers. The camp is priced excluding accommodation so you can scale up or down depending on your budget. Contact us with any questions.
I’ll be there and I hope you can join me.
As an elite, I struggled with my ability to really crank on the flats. Some things I realized about myself:
I had a mental block that I needed to overcome -- a fear of blowing up. So I always rode with a psychological governor. It wasn’t until the end of my elite career that I overcame this limiter by completely exploding myself in an effort to win Ironman Canada!
Aggressive aero positions aren’t optimal for me -- to generate big power, I need my elbows quite close to my hips and a relatively open thigh:torso angle.
Early in my triathlon career, I decided that I need to do some “fast training.” So I warmed up, found a safe stretch of road and did 8x1 mile MAX on 1 mile easy spinning recoveries. My 8x1 “all out” session kicked off a block of high-intensity training that ruined months of smart training.
The platform on which your race rests is built with long blocks of sustained endurance work.
These workouts are best done on flat terrain, with very even pacing with very few stops.
Seek to build your endurance so that you can complete steady cycling volume equal to your total race duration (swim, bike and run).
At our Tucson Camp, I shared thoughts on drug use in sport.
A key selling point on staying clean is my experience that “getting fast” won’t change your life. If you compromise your ethics in the hope of benefiting from cheating then you’re going to be disappointed.
While getting fast didn’t change my life, the transformation from fat to fit to fast completely changed my life.
Via complete devotion towards my goals, I went far beyond what I thought feasible, then discovered that the goals didn’t provide meaning.
In 2008, our team doc contacted the Agency for Cycling Ethics in Los Angeles and spoke with Paul Scott. We were curious what it would cost to “prove” we were clean. We were quoted $10,000-12,000 per athlete. This figure was totally out of reach for us. It likewise proved financially not viable for the company, as it folded later that year. Much of this cost is the result of the weekly labs required by its protocol to reduce the chance of someone skirting around a positive test
After two running injuries last fall, I asked our team doc, Jeff Shilt, for a running rehab program. He shared his elite athlete rehab protocol, it was an excellent program:
Considering the time commitment required for Jeff's program, I knew there was zero chance that I'd be able to execute it. Rather than fail, I searched for an alternative plan.
Many years ago (in a country far, far away) Scott Molina told me he felt sorry for the wife of an athlete, who was having a tough time with her hubby's focus on sport. The tail end of the conversation went like this...
Molina: The guy's totally obsessed.
With the EC Team, we just finished up our annual Big Steel Challenge, where we play a game to see how much weight we can lift in a month.
I was talking with Justin Daerr about the purpose of triathlon strength training and he noted that his main focus is to “get strong.” I agree with Justin and our best advice to get strong is in my Strength Training for Triathlon article.
Outside of the obsessive focus of a potential Kona Qualifier, most people fail to start a strength program because they overestimate the minimum commitment to benefit.
Ask yourself three questions:
Think back to 2012. What are the challenges that were faced by friends and teammates?
In my athletic circle, we saw:
2012 wasn’t a “bad year” -- it was surprisingly normal. Setbacks are the norm and I could create a similar list for most years. The dark days of winter provide an opportunity for self-reflection (apologies to my pals in Oz!).
Rather than engaging the willfully blind, I’ve been thinking about how we could tip the scales towards clean athletes. Frankly, it’s made me sad to see that most of the triathlon media have acted to suppress discussion of the history of doping in our sport.
With the year wrapping up and winter rolling in for many of our readers, I thought I’d share my three most memorable base-training errors.
With most everyone’s season winding down, at least in the northern hemisphere, I thought that I’d share three lessons that I picked up from our team in 2012.
Following Tyler Hamilton’s book, a friend recommend David Millar’s book, Racing Through the Dark. I got a kick out of the book as Millar and I have crossed paths many times without meeting (Hong Kong, Noosa, France).
Endurance sport attracts people, myself included, who become manic on depressants -- the two most common being fatigue and alcohol. Millar shares anecdotes of how he responds to fatigue and booze (my depressants of choice in my 20s and 30s).
If you are prone to feelings of mania then you’re probably at risk for depression.
After reading Dr. Bob’s account of his vasectomy, I was a little nervous heading into my own. I figured if a Vice-Chairman at the Mayo Clinic had an experience that involved grapefruit-sized equipment, I was going to be out of action for quite some time!
This week I’ll share my experience of my vasectomy -- I’m going to be direct so consider yourself warned...
I recently finished up Scott Jurek’s autobiography. It brought back memories of many a big day. By way of background, I asked Scott to coach me when I was trying to get myself out of a funk due to overtraining. Probably a good thing that it didn’t work out between us. At that stage of my life, I needed rest more than I needed to run a 100 miles!
Seeing as this is going to be the last one for our family, I thought I’d do a round up article for you.
The two most important things we learned this time were:
Those made a huge difference with Monica’s comfort for this third round.
When my wife asked if I was going to read Tyler Hamilton's book, I wasn’t sure. I had a hunch that I’d get seriously pissed off and I like to avoid unnecessary stress.
I read a few reviews and they were generally positive. So I got myself a copy. It wasn’t what I expected.
Most athletes’ cramping strategy consists of “hope in a jar.” Sodium, magnesium, potassium, pickle juice... all have been reported to bring relief from cramps.
While placebos are effective for half the people I coach, I’ve taken a different approach with my own athletics. Today I will offer you practical tips you can take to improve your durability.
I thought that I’d share how I build a power-based race simulation rides for ironman. It’s not particularly complex (at least to me). The “art” comes from interpreting the fatigue that the athlete will carry into the marathon and not screwing up the run with an inappropriate bike-power strategy.
Recently, a friend shared: "One thing about your writing is that you seem sure of yourself in the moment. Do you ever feel uncertain in your pursuit of excellence and sense of control?"
I suspect that many former elites miss the simplicity that comes from a single-minded focus on a goal of athletic excellence. I consider myself very fortunate to have had a few years to completely devote myself to sport.
Elite athletics taught me that finishing times are the least important results I received from athletics. What truly mattered was clarity, physical power, a sense of freedom and self-confidence. At some stage, I’ll need to let go of those. For now, I’m hangin’ on!
Last month, Marilyn shared different taper strategies that you could use to get yourself race ready. Now that I’m optimizing my life, ahead of my athletic performance, I want to share the strategy that I used for Leadville.
In a nutshell, I took my 3-year-old daughter on the road for seven days and placed race day in the middle of the trip. My wife thought I had lost my mind!
Many athletes use sport and work as a socially-acceptable way to spend time away from the kids.
When I was younger, much of the attraction of big training was a willingness to do things that seemed too difficult for others. In considering race week, I realized that my training volume was going to be way down. I figured that building my relationship with my daughter and being a hero with my wife was a good investment.
One of the challenges for an athletic parent is maintaining excellence in the face of the realities presented by a growing family. Some quit competition, others get squirrelly, a few get divorced... I tried a summer of cycling only.
Being in my 40s, even when I have the time, I often can’t recover from what my mind tells me is “proper” training. In preparing for Leadville I dropped my running for the summer (close to zero) and was able to train (on the bike) like my 30s.
Many of us delay the realities of age by changing sports -- pro cyclists coming to ironman, triathletes learning to nordic ski for the Birkie or regular folks trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve been hitting you over the head with how little you know about pacing. My goal was to instill humility, rather than beat you down!
While you might not know Kona-specific race pace, I’m going to share how fast feels. Cultivate these feelings during the Core Block workouts.