21 August 2008

Valuing People

Value Their Opinions // Avoid Ideological Malice // Be Willing To Serve

I took the picture above on a recent visit with my mom at her home where I was raised in Carpinteria, California. The picture of the sunset is about 400 meters from her house and takes place about 300 times a year. I surfed this beach on a near daily basis and visits here are a strong link to some happy years. My mom is a wise woman whom I dearly love. She and my dad taught me to value people. I use the time at this beach for reflection and a primal connection with the ocean.

It is a goal of mine to continue to learn from my family, patients, clients and mentors (including those who don't know they mentor me). I first started using the internet in 1999. I recall having had a tendency to make readers defensive. I noticed that when sharing what I thought was a reasonable message some folks were reacting less than favorably.

About the same time something else was brought to my attention by a guy with whom I shared space in a Health Center that housed my chiropractic practice. He was an acupuncturist and practiced eastern medicine. A big white dude, he was also beyond Black Belt in martial arts (striped or polka dotted // something ridiculous).

After months of working along side one another we were talking face to face and he made reference to my 'challenging' stance. Subconsciously I was somewhat rigid and attempting to be my tallest self. He asked me why I had an attitude. I looked at him as he stood with knees slightly bent, hands loosely clasped behind his back, feet close together, one slightly in front of the other, eyes smiling. He was polite; but I still heard his message: “why are you posturing”.

I have thought a lot about that day and have examined other areas of my life to see where some posturing might decrease my ability to communicate. As a teacher and a doctor it has been my experience that if I want my opinion to be considered and well received; if I want to widen my reach and strengthen my message, I need to let others know that I am also listening. One step in the direction is letting go of the need to be continually right by assessing my own attitudes. In 1999 my attitudes were betraying my emotions and insecurities. No matter how I tried to disguise them, they leaked out with the openness of an anatomical chart. As I started searching for reasons for the friction I created I started finding things about myself I was not aware of; some of it I wanted to change. The good news; I can change my attitudes and behavior.

As well, if I am motivated to learn it is helpful for me to remain open minded; present my case and then listen to others who are willing to offer reviews, opinion and personal experience. I am more careful to avoid inflammatory statements than I was back in 1999 but still catch myself reacting instead of thinking. When I am conscious of wanting to communicate rather than be 'right' I use words like ‘often’ or ‘many’ or ‘some’ because there will always be a reader that notes an exception to my thoughts. When I render an opinion I try to leave room for dissent. Phrases like “with a reasonable degree of medical certainty” accomplish this and allow a well researched position to stand on its own when others see things differently. The result, hopefully, is that I am less defensive with regard to my own comments and more open to ideas that might strengthen my knowledge base; learning from others that may choose to help.

Making others feel valued means listening, letting folks express their opinion before rushing in to give an answer. It isn’t my job to fix people. That attitude may result in a reaction motivated by what I think over what is true. Considering role reversal, when I have something to say to another, it might just be enough that they hear what’s on my mind or in my heart.

When my daughters were infants it sometimes took a great deal of attention to understand what they wanted from me. Others times I could smell what they wanted; clean diapers. As they became old enough to make choices as children I had to change my tactics. Respecting them meant trusting them instead of assuming they would do a task wrong. As adults, we are quite similar. Valuing others is a way to help ensure they will do a task well.

I recently read that one of the best ways to show respect is to simply listen. “We offer our presence and open our ears, listening to the hidden hurts and heartaches, the deepest dreams and desires of one another.”

Dr. Kevin Purcell D.C.

Coach KP specializes in guiding long course triathletes. In the last five years, he has coached over 15 athletes to qualifying spots in Kona (including FPRO 2x). That list includes five international Ironman Age Group Champions and an AG podium at IM Hawaii.

01 August 2008

Exercise is Medicine

How we deliver a message to others greatly affects the level of cooperation we can expect from them and whether our suggestions are met with a smile or hostility. This is true for the politician who may be seen as an elitist; it’s true for health care professionals relating to their patients, parents to children and mentors to students.

Excerpts from an article by Judith Graham of the Chicago Tribune:

Researchers are offering a rare glimpse into the interior world of Alzheimer’s patients. The study indicates even those deeply disoriented or cognitively impaired dislike being patronized or treated as if they were children. It suggests that a sense of adult identity remains intact in people, even when an individual isn’t able to remember how old she is, where she is, what day it is or which family members are alive or present.

Videotapes of elderly men and women showed aides helping patients bathe, brush their teeth, dress, eat and take medicines, among other things. A frame by frame analysis of the tapes found that when nurses or aides communicated by using language that assumed a state of dependence patients were twice as likely to resist their efforts to help. The older men and women would turn or look away, grimace, clench their teeth, groan, grab onto something, or say no. These behaviors might be viewed as indications of distress at being patronized.

What does this have to do with our sport? Do you remember when you first started training for triathlon or Ironman? I remember my own level of excitement. In fact, I occasionally shared my enthusiasm with others. However, that didn’t last long because nearly everybody outside the sport who heard about my plans had something less than encouraging to say. I soon decided not to discuss my training with folks outside the sport.

Let’s shift focus a bit to a specific segment within our sport’s population. What is it like for the Vets and Super Vets in our sport? I was discussing this with Scott Molina a couple days ago. His comment was "What I’m hearing from older athletes is that when they tell some one about their training or that they are training for an Ironman the listener’s response is usually negative – that they’re ruining their health."

While on my run I was thinking about dementia and heart disease and many other physical and mental maladies. I think it important that we encourage masters athletes to explore limits by remaining active. We know for a fact that mental stimulation maintains plasticity in the brain. Learning new skills, a new language, laying down new neuropathways and having concrete physical goals are proven methods for keeping the brain young and even reversing signs of aging. It is a fact that most of us can actually increase the plasticity of the brain. We know the heart builds corollary arteries when confronted with high cholesterol and arterial blockage and we know that a positive mental outlook is one of the driving forces behind maintaining over all health; especially as we mature. In some cases, it appears that the loss of choice and a sense of 'power' risks setting in motion physical decline. We should be asking "how can encourage mature men and women to stay very active".

In over 25 years in a practice where patients come to me in pain it has been my experience that activity or inactivity alone is not a predictor of degenerative joint disease (DJD or osteoarthritis). Sedentary folks can and do have advanced DJD _and_ the severity of the osteoarthritis doesn't always match the patient’s symptoms. Like wise, only mild degeneration can be accompanied by debilitating pain. DJD, can stem from a familial or a genetic predisposition. I see young men and women with arthritis absent trauma and I see older men and women who are very active who have little or no degenerative changes.

What does give a peek into the future beyond family history is a patients past history of acute injury. Trauma can lead to adhesions, inflexible scar tissue, decreased blood flow, ligament damage and aberrant motion. Loss of normal motion and optimal circulation do seem to be predictors of osteoarthritis. In other words, maintaining motion and restoring normal motion and function is the key to recovery following injury/trauma and as prevention.

Some people see an athlete with DJD and assume it is from a lifetime of running or biking or lifting weights but fail to consider that the arthritis might be there whether the athlete ran or not. In fact, it is my opinion that a lifetime of exercise often lowers complications of the disease. Some medical experts are of the opinion that activities such as running and biking actually stimulate growth of new cartilage in those areas that are wearing out.

There is a need to have increased open discussion among endurance athletes that explores long term health and elite performance; as well as the benefits of endurance sport that stave off aging (mental and physical) versus possible degenerative changes. Given that many if not most veteran athletes have some form of degenerative change, and that increased activity benefits the human condition in many ways, I see a greater need to promote awareness.

More from Scott: When Dr. John Hellemans opened his first Sport Medicine practice named SportsMed he did so with this slogan on the building: “Exercise is Medicine.


Dr. Kevin Purcell DC
Certified Active Release Technique (ART)
USAT Level ll Certified Coach

25 June 2008

The Evolution of an Age Grouper

Here is a picture of a dozen relatively new ducklings which I took this weekend here in a neighborhood close to mine. These guys tie into my posting as I am writing about an evolving triahtlete and these guys are rapidly growing. Fyi- These little dudes swim a lot faster than I do!

Today is the June 1 and I've been back in Seattle for 9 months now. Yesterday I did the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon, my first race of the season and it was awesome!

I woke up at 5:20 after hitting the snooze button twice and did some visualization (I use that term loosely) and ate some cereal before loading up my rig. After stopping at SBUX in Madison Park for my morning coffee I rolled across the 520 Bridge en route to Lake Sammamish where the race was being held. The air was clear and bright (if air can be bright I'm not sure, but at least the sky was) with the temperature in the upper 40's and the water temperature in the upper 50's.

I arrived at the transition area with about an hour to spare and got my body markings before going in and setting up my station. After laying out my wetsuit, bike gear and checking out all of the cute girls in the vicinity (races can be considered the bar scene for athletes and just like I was too shy to approach them at bars I don't do it here either) I pulled on my running shoes and ran around the parking lot for 10 minutes to get warmed up.

Unlike in previous year's races (all one and a half of them) I showed up with the expectation that I was going to perform at a relatively respectable level and I was confident that I would do well.

Of course no matter how well prepared we are or how confident we think we might be there is that little voice inside of us we have to contend with. You know which one I'm talking about, the one that tells us we aren't good enough and we are going to get our asses kicked. Somehow this guy in my dome trys to convince me that some dude that has been sitting on his couch all winter watching reality tv and pounding micro brews to escape the bleak reality of a Seattle winter is going to roll out on this sunny day and blow me and all of my hard work away. It is in silencing this inner critic and telling it that we did the training, we are in shape and we are here today to kick that voice's ass that enable us to secure our first victory of the day. Of course, the voice has logged many hours of steady training as well and he is not one to be beaten easily.

Being a part of me he is no quitter and he came right back at me, taunting me as I pulled on my wetsuit and walked down to the lake for my warm up swim. He got pretty loud and cocky as I waded into the water and realized it was a little bit colder than the night before and hesitated. Finally after remininding myself the importance of not being a whimp (not exactly what I said but you never know who will be reading this) and how beneficial a warm up is I threw my face in the frigid water and started to swim. Finally after 5-10 minutes of warming up I hauled myself over to the starting line to kick off the 2008 season.

For the first time ever in a race I didn't get in the back of the pack for the swim start and settled in closer to the front- half running half swimming to get going. My swim was OK and it was certainly better than last year by leaps and bounds I did stop a few times when I started swimming into people, but this was an entirely new experience for me... actually passing people so I think my system was in shock. This time I was in freestyle the entire time which apparently is a pretty effective way to race. No dog paddling, no back stroke, no side stroke, no visions of some hunch back dude on a flat boat with an eye patch dredging the bottom of the lake for my bloated dead body. Pretty solid all the way around.

I finished the swim strong coming up on the beach in 8 minutes and ran to the transition in a much better mood than past races. I knew I was in pretty good shape when I actually had to dodge people in the transition area as in the past this area has been some pretty lonely real estate for me. Aside from taking a full two minutes to pull my jersey over my heart rate monitor I had a fairly smooth transition and was off.

Once on the bike I passed quite a few people in my age group and remained fairly strong throughout the bike leg. Unlike the standard long course training that I do with my heart rate around 140ish I was pinning it the whole time and had my heart rate around 160 and 175-180 on the hills. I could feel the lactate sludge building up and burning in my legs but that feeling was trumped by the endorphin high that I was experiencing at the time. There are few highs in life that I can think of that compares to the feeling of racing. Even when in deep pain it has a way of locking me into the present moment and no matter how intense I am into the race I notice the beauty in everything. The scenery, the athletes-both the elites and average guys and girls out there giving it their best- it is very moving for me. It is times like these that I am truly appreciative of the gift that is my life.

But no matter how locked in I get it doesn't mean my mind doesn't wander and here are a few random thoughts from the ride...

-Maybe I shouldn't have had that shake from BurgerMaster last night

-Why do I think a stormtrooper is coming when I hear disc wheels

-I wonder what Issaquah tastes like? Is it better baked or sauteed? What would it be infused with if it were on the menu at most Seattle restaurants?

-who chooses the music they play at races? Why do we always have to hear good time oldies? why don't they play Metallica?

-I wonder if the lady in the 40-45 age group riding the mountain bike and listening to her Ipod thought it was cool that my legs are shaved? (I am not making this stuff up- I won't put into print what I come up with on long training rides)

So... enough of the race course philososphy. I pulled into the last transition and nearly encountered catastrophe. Due to a problem with team JFT2 uniforms not arriving in time I was racing in my old gear. Normally not a big thing, but... I had used my shorts for training in the pool and they had nearly disintegrated. They were certainly not the form fitting spandex they once were and my cut off jean shorts from my pseudo hippie days would probably have offered more support. As I was trying to dismount coming into the transition my shorts got stuck on my seat and I nearly bit it. Fortunately I have ample practice of averting near disaster while moving at high speed from my time on the slopes and as the crowd applauded my high wire act I was able to pull out of my nose dive and eject from the bike. It was only hours later when my friend Phil made his kids go inside when I came over to their house did I discover that I had torn a nice hole in my shorts exposing my pasty white backside.

The final transition was not too bad and I hit the running trail in high gear. I kept up what I felt was a "blistering" pace for the entire run and according to my calculations I did the run in just under 20 minutes and this was later confirmed by the official timer. I felt like my chest was going to explode the entire run, but at least I kept my heart rate steady (160-1755) Ha! I felt strong the entire run and had enough of a kick left to pass several more people at the end and finish with a time of 1:16:22. Random thoughts for the run...

-Oh my God, how much time do I have to prepare for Vineman?

-I wonder how long I could run all out at altitude before my hands start to shake?

-I'm glad I had that shake at BurgerMaster last night

Overall I was very happy with my performance and I am optimistic about the 2008 season. Next up is the Cascade's Edge Oly on June 21st, hopefully it won't be snowing that day.

As I grow older I am a big fan of connecting the dots and seeing how various singular events throughout life tie into others to make up the big picture. The past six months (hell the past 3 years) has been an interesting time in my life. I have seen my business and training/fitness take off and I have been through a somewhat difficult break up (or a relationship restructuring to place it in a positive sense) I have made it a practice to to ask questions of whatt good will come out of a seemingly bad situation. I now know that if I hadn't gone through the break up, I wouldn't have shaken up my routine and gone to the Endurance Corner Tucson camp this past March. This event has continued to have a positive impact on my life in many ways (Props to you Court!)

For me this was taking a big risk. In uncertain financial times it was a bit of a sacrifice for me to put out the money it took to travel down and attend, but I knew that it would be money well spent in supporting my goals. This is why I work to make money in the first place.

The second fear that I had to overcome was the fear of embarrassing my self. There were around 20 talented, hard working athletes at the camp and it took a leap of faith for me to leave my ego back in Seattle and just go down and give it my best. Sometimes that is all that we can do.

Just being around the Endurance Corner guys and all of the athletes was a big inspiration to me and I made it through the week relatively unscathed. Fortunately Gordo and JD had it set up that it was all I could do to roll out of bed and get my work in. I had no energy left to feel embarrassed and I certainly had no pride. This gave me a huge confidence boost and a new realization of just what it takes to become great at this sport.

You see, for me I love the training and the racing involved in triathlon, but I get much more out of it than that. I always look for ways that I can cross pollinate other areas of my life with the lessons and examples from sports. How can I use this experience to make me a better friend, boyfriend, eventually husband and dad. How can I use this transformation I've undergone as an example to others. How can I be more productive in business. This is what I think of when I'm not thinking about the milkshakes and dopers legs falling off when I'm out on my long rides.

For what it's worth I placed in the top third in my age group and wasn't too far from being where I want to be which is in the top 10. I'm feeling much better about the racing aspect of myself than I was when I was at the back of the back (Gordo, there is a difference) However I wasn't extremely attached to the outcome in either case. I might even be less attached now that I know it's more about my process and if I continually prepare the outcome will take care of itself- in both racing and life.

"Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common." Satchel Paige

Get after it!


14 February 2008

The Inner Game

Some high quality thoughts from my buddy KP. I hope you enjoy.


My brother and I recently compared our experiences growing up. There are four siblings; three bothers and a sister. The three brothers shared a room. We had the same father and mother. Our parents were married until my dad died suddenly at age 49. At that time, we were 23, 21, 20 (me) and 16. All of us are married with children. How different could our experiences have been, right? My brother recalls family dynamic slightly differently than I do. He remembers subtle perceived preferences, advantages and opinion in ways that fit ‘his story’. I have my own story, as do my sis and other brother. We each have our own remembrances; each unique. If we asked my mom which one of us she loved most she would laugh at us like we were little kids who never grew up and answer something like “whichever one needed me most at that moment”.

While most of us consider ourselves free of prejudice and relatively open minded, it appears we are influenced by our individual view of the family and our efforts to be part of the unit. The truth, as we see it, affects the way we interact with people, events and even ourselves. My view of myself limits or supports my ability to act. It alters what I see and don’t see; what I question or fail to notice; what I am willing to risk in an effort to achieve, or what I settle for because “that’s out of my reach”. When I am made aware of my bias toward myself, I am given freedom of choice. Considering the laws of quantum physics that tell us much of who we are is what we choose to be, removing bias means that even our normal daily activities can result in a new paradigm when “who we are” is free.

So this begs the question, what’s your story? If four siblings from a well adjusted, loving family give four different views of the same or similar events, the stories must be shaded by the teller of the tale. What are you telling yourself? It can be difficult to separate your story from what is real. This applies to relationships and to careers. Is the deck stacked against you? Is life unfair? In sport, is there a little voice that is telling you I am not good enough, not fast enough, not smart enough or not tough enough? Some people do have legitimate complaints or handicaps, but continually using hardships as an excuse can become a limiting behavior.

In the book “The Inner Game of Tennis” W. Timothy Gallwey draws the distinction between fulfilling the ultimate human possibility and a simple way to develop certain inner skills that can be used to improve any outer game of your choice. It’s about learning to get out of your own way so that you can learn and perform closer to your potential. There is an internal conversation going on within all of us. He calls the talker, critic controlling voice Self 1 and the self that has to hit the ball (or run, bike, swim, work, socialize, romance) Self 2. Turns out, the less we hear from Self 1 the better Self 2 performs. The more we trust in Self 2 potential the better we execute and the quieter Self 1 conversation is. This “Inner Game” will never change as long as human beings are vulnerable to fears, doubts and distractions of the mind.

Individuals find meaning and derive pleasure from varied activities. Building successful businesses, building successful families, maintaining healthy bodies and service, come to mind.
In the forward to the book Gallwey pulls this quote:

What is the real game?
It is a game in which the heart is entertained
The game in which you are entertained
It is the game you will win

Of course winning isn’t everything. The oldest and best known surviving morality play is from circa 1485. Recalling the message from the play ==>

"Man can take with him from this world ...
nothing that he has received, only what he has given".

Everyman -- 15th Century

“In the play, the main character, Everyman, is stripped, one by one, of those apparent goods on which he has relied. First, he is deserted by his patently false friends: his casual companions, his kinsmen, and his wealth. Receiving some comfort from his enfeebled good deeds, he falls back on them and on his other resources -- his strength, his beauty, his intelligence, and his knowledge -- qualities which, when properly used help to make an integrated man. These assist him through the crisis in which he must make up his book of accounts, but in the end, when he must go to the grave, all desert him save his good deeds alone. The play makes it's effectively grim point that man can take with him from this world nothing that he has received, only what he has given.”

The Norton Anthology of English Literature


01 January 2008

The Baron On Damage Control

Clas shares some practical tips on coping with unplanned lay-offs.  

Above is how modern Vikings take-it-easy over the winter.  Clas claims that motorsports enhance bike handling skills.

Even if you have read my previous articles 5 or more times and happen to get injured, over trained or sick, don’t freak out. Getting worked up will not help your situation at all. The best thing you can do to speed up your recovery is to accept it, stay positive and spend more time on other things in your life that make you feel good.

No matter the degree of your over training, injury, or illness, in my experience there are a few things you can do to help speed your recovery. Of course you can use these things even if you do not have an injury or illness that forces you to take a break. I think that most of us would be even better athletes if we could be a little more “human” in our living for a few months every year. If we want to perform 100% at a few races every year, then I believe that we must also let ourselves perform at 50% at least for a few month every year. If not, then I feel you may risk having your body perform at 90% all year round.

Take a break after the season, do some other fun things for a few months. Keep your running, swimming and stretching going, but keep it light. Then when you start training again your body and mind will be ready to push for another 9-10 months.

I've brought up a few of these things in my previous articles, but I bring them up again because they are very important for your recovery.

I will mix up some concrete ideas with some basic writing in regards to having an illness or injury. I know the subject is what to do if you already have a illness or injury, but I hope most of you are injury free and want to share some ideas so you can stay that way.

First of all, when an injury or illness occurs, see a good sports physiologist, doctor, or literature on your problem so you can get started on a good recovery program. The sooner you get professional help the sooner you will be back on the road. Ask your friends if they have someone they would recommend.

The above advice also includes minor injuries that you deal with during daily training. If you know you have a weak spot, work on it daily, or at least weekly. Some of us, like myself, are not yoga gurus that can make a knot of our own bodies. So, if you know you are tight, don’t wait until you get injured before you stretch. Make it a daily routine to stretch for at least an hour on your days off from training.

If you keep a training journal, also include the hours you spend stretching. These hours can be more valuable than some of the hours you spend out on the road.

Once you have more information about your illness/injury and have started your recovery program you should have a good idea how long it will take until you will be back on the road. Even if your break is a few months to a year, try to make something good out of it. This is a good time to focus on all the items that get neglected during your regular periods of training.

If you happen to develop some chronic fatigue your energy will be VERY, VERY limited and you must be careful with not doing too much. Spend your energy finding a good doctor that has experience with treating illnesses like this. I doubt that you will get the right treatment from a regular doctor because this illness is so complex and you have to treat your body on many different levels which most doctors don’t have experience doing. This is the illness that I have the most experience with and because your energy is so limited it’s even more important to spend the energy on the right things and with the right people. Your life doesn’t stop because you are ill or injured, so, you might as well do something productive with your time.

Here is a list of some random ideas for you if you have/want to take a break from training.

1. Learn to speak a new language or to play an instrument…….

2. Spend more time with your family and friends. (Choose the ones that bring you energy and make you laugh)

3. Spend more energy on your job (If this makes you feel good and brings you more energy, otherwise leave it out)

If you are a professional athlete like myself who doesn’t have a “real” job, then try to get one. When my energy got better, I found it very useful for my mind to get a part-time job to have something else then just training to think about. This can also provide financial stability when prize money is not an option.

4. Learn more about items that will be useful when you resume training and racing. For example, learning more about nutrition or overall training philosophy (this is okay as long as it doesn’t make you feel stressed because you can’t train as you want)

5. If you can still do a little bit of activity but have to stay away from your particular sport, why not try learning some other sport that doesn’t affect your injury or illness. This could be anything from motor sports to yoga. Learning new things can be very fun and bring you a lot of energy.

6. Take a vacation or go on a retreat. Go alone or with a few of your favorite people. This is a great time to get to know others better or if alone, rediscover yourself. Some of us have been so busy for so many years that we barely know ourselves.

Take some time to reflect on your life and what you want to achieve in the future. Evaluating yourself can be a little bit depressing at first because it can be the first time that you've ever experienced something that took you out of your normal routine. It may also be the first time you've realized that the things you are doing might not go on for ages. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you are doing, but if you at least know it won’t go on for ever, then you might put some more effort into enjoying it as much as possible while it lasts.

These are the sort of things that I have done over the last year that have helped me in my recovery. It’s very easy to get depressed, sad, or angry when you get a long lasting illness or injury, but it’s okay if life sucks sometimes (as a good friend of mine told me) and it’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. However, it won’t help your recovery if this happens too often.

Many people have told me, and I've slowly started to believe them, that it’s often after a injury or illness that forces you to learn new things that will help you grow as an athlete and come back even stronger than before.

Instead of freaking out, get the best professional help you can, enjoy your break and you will be back stronger then ever.

Best regards
Clas Björling

11 December 2007

Racing Long

Kevin knows more than most about converting fitness to performance. Not only can he write about this topic, he has lived it, repeatedly.

I hope you enjoy this article.

When I guide clients toward their IM goals, I like to use Power, PE and HR. Used together, those three data points can give the clearest picture of real time efforts on the bike, cardiovascular stress on the body, fueling and hydration issues. As a coach who reviews power files of athletes seeking to race to potential, I often uncover key nuggets of data that are critical to unlocking the ability to execute a superior race plan; a plan that gives them the opportunity to run 26.2 miles _well_ off the bike. That race plan should include pre-race fueling (breakfast), correct swim, bike, run efforts and specific, individual hydration and fueling strategies. This is a good time to pause and say that not everybody needs a power meter to race well. Some athletes crack the code without using power or monitoring HR. If you feel you are one of those guys or gals, rock on!

If you find yourself under performing at your AAA race, listen up, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not many athletes nail their first IM. When it happens you’ll find somebody who did more than get fit; they also studied. Interestingly, many in this fraternity struggle in subsequent IMs. Given the fact that nearly everyone shows up to IM fit, and that much of the field underperforms relative to training markers, we can assume that important questions that focus on race execution are going unanswered or ignored. Our personal 'best races' will happen when we feel no fear and have the confidence that we are well prepared. Having race ‘experience’ implies that we have had the opportunity to answer questions that relate to execution. What type of experience you bring to the table is dependant on whether you learn from your success and/or failure. It is imperative that an athlete be honest with self about past performance and racing/training efforts; identifying what needs to happen to catapult to the next level. Beyond fitness, what needs to happen? (1) often it is finding the focus to complete and execute your race plan within specific efforts levels more than a specific time goal. (2) I think it wise to begin by focusing on personal excellence; which results in your fastest finish time. (3) for many athletes struggling to get it right, training and race experiences highlight this truth – there is a need to reduce efforts over the early part of the race. (4) many athletes fail to understand that to perform, we need to structure our preparation so that IM becomes routine as possible. With those thoughts in mind, I have some suggestions.

IM requires that we have a plan. Then, you need the ability to discern whether the plan was executed effectively. Often, athletes use ‘end of race’ power averages as a way to help answer that question. Good stuff, because a well executed IM bike will show quite specific power averages. However, averages don’t readily acknowledge tactical errors, power spikes, fading watts, rising HRs and declining power. Averages may hide events that render a plan obsolete. You can have great looking ‘entire ride’ averages and blow yourself to bits. Those who study successfully executed IMs will tell you that vast majority of the races they examine have _very_ similar characteristics. In fact, many of us believe that even those athletes that do not use a power meter would produce power files similar to successful athletes who do ride with meters. In other words, while it is not necessary to ride with a power meter to execute well, using one can benefit athletes that struggle while relying on PE and HR.

What should entire ride averages look like? I have heard some suggest that the range for correct power over a flat IM bike might be from an average of 65% of FTP for the less fit, to above 75% of FTP for the very fit (Functional Threshold Power being defined by Andrew Coggan as a well executed, best effort, avg power over a 60min TT). In my practice, I have found a smaller range signals success // more like 70-73% FTP. Averages in the 74-75% range may be successfully used by the very fittest athletes riding 4:30 and running sub3 marathons because their race day is abbreviated relative to most of the field. Even for the elite of the elite, riding above avg 75% FTP for an IM ride while hoping to have a lifetime best run attached appears optimistic. If it has worked that way for you, and you are riding 5-6hr bike splits you might consider that identified FTP was low // or that you may still have a better run in you over 26.2 miles off the bike. Very few athletes will purposely choose to ride harder, knowing they are hurting their run, hoping that it upsets their competition’s race plan in a significant way.

An important point -- I think very wide ranges of % FTP used in IM (correctly or incorrectly) are associated with a foggy notion of what FTP really was to begin with (high or low) prior to race, and those foggy numbers become even less clear when early pacing errors and poor fueling tactics begin to skew data beyond usability. As we move away from relative elite fitness or the very strong AGer, we generally move toward the less experienced athlete. The less experienced athlete is typically less able to identify FTP in a way that accurately translates to a 5.5 to 6.5 hour ride + fueling + successful marathon. However, in my experience, if/when the less experienced, moderately fit athlete does ID correct power ranges, either alone or with an advisor, the average percentage of FTP used over an IM is still in the 70% range, as long as they find a real FTP number.

Again and again and I see athletes over estimating FTP through a 20min test, or by sitting up the last 5min to boost numbers or by focusing too much of training on swelling threshold power numbers without confirming execution of correct IM efforts over 5-6hrs of biking as it fits into 9-12hrs of racing. Not only do I think a 20min TT is too short as a test, it doesn't seem to translate well to a 5-6 hour ride. I have found the 30min best effort TT (-5%) to be a relatively good proxy for the 60min test. Still, the 60min TT is better, and past successful HIM and IM performance with excellent runs attached the best.

An athlete’s threshold and correct IM power ranges are initially located through the relatively short but tough test mentioned above and then can be tracked over time. The second, more difficult and confirming test (say, race simulation ride or a Big Day Brick) is used more sparingly over the last 10-12 weeks in specific prep, prior to your AAA race. It is a reality check. The best predictors of IM performance are the KEY workouts in specific prep and the library an athlete builds of past IM performances; the races with good runs attached // not the 30-60min TT for threshold power. The short tests are quit helpful, but not enough. Athletes who depend on short test FTP numbers alone, often use about 5-10w too much over the first half of the course; just enough to cause digestive disturbance, significant dehydration and a sub-optimal run.

CyclePeaks gives your power file a Variability Index: VI is normalized power divided by average power. Does a tight VI mean you raced optimally? If an athlete incorrectly names his/her race efforts via power, a tight VI does not represent optimal race execution, only good execution of a faulty plan. Further, because an athlete's optimal plan should show quite a bit of variable power on courses with terrain changes, an overview of execution should include the athlete's approach to flats, rollers, extended climbs and descents. Correctly identifying the %FTP to be used over variable terrain and riding tactically will result in a tight VI. In my experience, VI has less to do with the actual power used and everything to do with how the power is applied. A larger VI reflects power spikes (the way power is applied or removed suddenly // it is tactical). Tactics in IM, where we successfully run a marathon off the bike, are different that those used in bike only races.

Over the course of an IM, an athlete can shift from seconds of threshold watts (100% of FTP) while cresting a climb, to moderately hard power used on extended climbs (80-86% FTP) to steady flat efforts (70-73% FTP) to soft pedaling descents (say 50-65% FTP or less) and still ride with a tight VI. In fact, if done correctly, averages will fall in that 70-73% range. It is the transition from one power to the next that can damage your ability to run well. Your strongest race via power will have a tight VI if you obey power caps and shift efforts purposefully. Power spikes are what make VI large. Example: at IM Hawaii, a ride with steady efforts on flats, moderately hard efforts on rollers and extended climbs, seconds of well placed threshold efforts and soft pedaling the descents, will give a VI near 1.04 if shifting efforts is done carefully. I think anything over 1.05 for IM is failure to execute optimally with regards to running your best for 26.2 off the bike.

My must do’s prior and during an IM Race == >

1) correctly identify FTP with 95% of 30min TT power (minimum) or 60min TT for some. Use these numbers in conjunction with PE and HR and *note if and when power can be tactically misleading (heat, dehydration, calories intake, etc).

2) corroborate findings above as correct IM efforts over 5-6hr race simulation ride // or better yet, as part of Big Day Brick where ride and run-off follows race breakfast and tough 4-5k swim (very helpful).

3) in specific prep, marry results from #1 and #2 with correct HR caps, experienced PE and proper fueling

4) use varied power that fits specific parts of the course (climbs, rollers, flats, descents). Use established threshold and VO2 watts as max caps to be used rarely or numbers never to be seen.

5) *apply variable power changes while avoiding power spikes* (resulting in VI at or below 1.05)

6) fuel the bike as part of your determination of race execution – they are intimately connected. If you cannot eat and stay aero at a given effort, and then run well, you better seriously consider a new bike position and/or your named FTP. Give yourself a chance to run to potential!

*For best pre-race preparation I'd like to see a greater emphasis placed on field tested FTP (not indoors) melded with well executed long race simulation workouts (breakfast, swim, bike + run-off.

In addition to Power, I pay close attention to HR guidelines as heart rate is an objective measure of cardiovascular strain. You might have a very accurate idea of threshold power and power guidelines for your IM, but if you don’t fuel and hydrate well, your performance will suffer early, perhaps even ending your race should you fail to slow down and correct the errors to that point. In IM, I strongly suggest you monitor heart rate over riding by power alone. Beware of thinking those numbers are redundant; the two markers tell different tales. I always track Power, HR and PE. In problem situations, if things get funny (as they sometimes do) I may have to go with PE, lower HRs and alter my plan until my body returns to a recognizable working order. Ironman is a long day. Acceptance can be difficult. One of the great lessons of IM is found in the frustration that comes from poorly executed races. They force the athlete who is listening to accept reality. There is always a reason things go right – and there is always a reason things deteriorate. We all know someone who at times can race very well on PE alone. If that isn’t you, hang in there; it’s possible for everyone to figure this IM puzzle out.


08 December 2007

How To Avoid Over Training--Part Two

So what have I learned from my experience and other ideas I have to avoid over training in general??

***Listen to your body and mind. I know it’s hard because we are so used to being able to push trough everything which works most of the time allowing us to bounce back pretty quickly. However, there comes a time when you have been pushing and pushing for so long that your body and mind are starting to act against you. When things don't feel right and this feeling persists, please take a step back and look at your whole situation before you run yourself down.

***Set goals and build a race/training schedule that makes you perform at your best but that you can manage without counting on a miracle.

***Rest before you are totally wiped out. It’s better to take an extra easy day or a complete day off every week then having to take a year off due illness.

***Training breaks you down; resting/ recovery builds you up. Build your training around your easy days/days off and not the other way around.

***If you get extra stress from things outside of training, don’t try counter this stress with even more training. Train a little less when you are busy with other things, and train more when your schedule is less full. Our bodies can only handle a certain amount of stress. Sometimes we can train 40 hours a week and still recover and get stronger, but sometimes we get rundown in a 15 hour week. Be a little flexible!!

***It can be a good idea to have other things in life that are important to you other then training and racing. We need a balanced life and with a balanced life we get harmony in our bodies and when we have harmony in our bodies then they respond much better to all the things we want them to do--like recover better from training.

When only one thing in your life is important then you can get yourself in trouble because one day you may have to stay away from that thing. I that thing gets taken away, your life can get pretty tough and boring and that can let you down. Keep in mind that we need to be balanced.

***During the times when you put extra stress on your body try to give your body the best fuel possible and try and get a lot of sleep.

***If you happen to put yourself over the edge, don’t freak out. Look at your schedule and cut out all the things that are not VERY IMPORTANT. You need to minimize the stress on your body, both physically and mentally. Do things that make you relax and happy.

***Our minds are the most incredible things that are on this planet. With our minds we can climb Mount Everest, finish an Ironman (and fast if you want it badly enough), be able to survive deadly illnesses, it’s just a question how badly we want to achieve things.

With our minds we can also set ourselves back. We can focus on the wrong things, start thinking negative, we can get in our own way prohibiting recovery and happiness. It’s okay if life sucks sometimes, that’s just how life is. When day after day, week after week, you are feeling like life just has negative and dark things to offer you. Then I think you are not trying your best and you need to try to see things in a different way.

It’s up to you how you want to see life. If you are always being negative and seeing everything in black, life will probably just bring you negative things, but if you can start to see the positive and bright things in life then life will bring you more positive.

In the beginning, it can be hard to find these positives, but as soon as you find them you can probably start to see them everywhere.

***Be patient, both to achieve things in sport and with things in life. It’s like my over training. I didn’t get myself in this situation by doing a long run a little bit too hard or skipped a rest day one. I have pushed myself over the edge slowly over the last couple of years and even when I passed the edge I kept pushing. It will probably take me about the same time to come back to 100 % health.

***Focus on things in life that bring you energy. If they don’t, try to see things you are doing from another view and if they still don't give you energy, you should probably let go of these things and do something else. This can be sport, jobs, friends, relationships.

These are the things I can think of when it comes to trying to stay healthy and injury free. I’m sure I have forgotten a few important things, but if you come up with something that I missed, please send me an email clasbjorling "at" hotmail "dot" com It could help me and others improve our energy and health.

Remember to stay balanced. I think that’s one of the most important components if you want to live a long and happy life.

Best regards