09 September 2007

Choices


Presently, I’ve moved on from the Canadian Rockies and am a bit jet-lagged in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before we get into this week’s letter, a few quick announcements:

Power Talk – I’ll be speaking on training/racing with power at a September 19th meeting of the Boulder Triathlon Club. 7pm at the Senior Center beside the East Boulder Rec Center.


The Business Aspects of Coaching
– November 2nd & 3rd in Colorado Springs – registration is now open. The clinic is a chance to learn more about managing your coaching business as well as tips for personal financial planning. USAT have arranged housing/meals through the Olympic Training Centre so the cost is very reasonable.


Tucson Training Camps – March 22nd to 30th & April 19th to 27th – please contact “mat” “@” endurancecorner.com to reserve your spot. If you have any questions on suitability or the actual camp program then drop me a line.


We’re going to have catering/support/sag at the standard of the camps I do with Scott/Johno. Eight days, all-inclusive, $2,250 per camp (we cover everything but your travel to/from Tucson). Sign up for both camps and we will arrange physiological testing and review your training program as part of the package. The camps are going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to them.


Alternative Perspectives has a neat article by my friend Terry Kerrigan. He's writing about Power Reserve.


Mat's blog talks about the role of expectations in performance -- it's extremely rare for a new athlete to have the humility to accept their actual bike fitness. I'm willing to bet that you've had similar thoughts in your racing -- I certainly have. What makes Mat's race unique is that he didn't bow to what he thought he had to do -- he simply did his best. A good lesson for all of us.


I'm back on top of my email -- if you've been waiting a while for an reply and it doesn't come through then please follow-up. There was considerable back-log on the server and some messages may have gone missing.


++++


Whether I achieve, or fail to achieve, my goals – there is always a huge “sigh” at the end of a long build towards any event (fundraising, competition, deal completion, business sale, graduation, new product development).


Transition points are challenging as I am at my best when working towards a tough goal. Outcome doesn’t have as large an impact as the process of sustained personal excellence towards a task. Once the smoke clears, there’s always the sensation of “well, what next”? I’ll come to that in Part Three.


Three things that I’ve been mulling in my head:


First, in evaluating the merits of a decision, I want to consider how I did based on the information that I had at the time, rather than the outcome. It’s possible to make good decisions and have sub-optimal outcomes. Likewise, we can have superior outcomes that are purely due to chance. A great discussion of this point is in Robert Rubin’s book about his time as Clinton’s Treasury Secretary.


Second, I failed to achieve my goal and am currently in nine-hour Ironman shape. It is tempting to “adjust” outcomes by rationalizing external/internal variables. That is bogus. Beware of the trap of fooling yourself with post-experience rationalizations – people close to us will often support rationalizations in an attempt to soothe our egos.


In order to learn from any experience, we need to see the raw reality of our performance. When I blow it, I need to know it. It is the fastest way to learn and improve.


In my last post, I talked about “life best” fitness – sitting here today – I don’t think so! Fitness has physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. I may have optimized certain elements of my physiology but I failed to optimize my _performance_ on the day. The clearest indicator of fitness is performance.


Finally, although I didn’t see it at the time, the race was “lost” in the first hour of the competition. In 2005, I had a similar experience (Cam beat me by 20+ minutes that day). If you are going to lose then you might as well learn something.


Swim Pacing – the swim start was super fast and that surprised me. Why? Perhaps, I created a perception that I was one of the people that you “had to beat” to do well. Perhaps, I wanted the field to race on “my terms”.


I made a choice to swim “easy”. This was a poor decision – why did I do that? I was well trained (physically) to solo at max aerobic effort – I’d been doing weekly open water swims for the entire summer. However, I ended up cruising a large chunk of the swim leg. Why? I went “easy” because I wanted the swim to be “easy”. This was a failure of mental preparation and a poor decision based on the information at the time.


Bike Pacing – coming out of the water, I gave up nearly seven minutes to Mr. Doe. I told myself that was OK, I’d simply had a “flat tire” during the swim. Early in the bike, I found myself riding with Yastrebov/Marcotte/Curry. This encouraged me as the guys are experienced, excellent athletes. My early ride felt like a repeat of 2004 (except the elite draft zone was three meters longer and those are three VERY material meters). I told myself to relax and let the lads pace me back into the race.


Sounds great, eh?


Reality proved a little different! The boys were laying serious hurt on me. We ripped the front half of the course. Even factoring in the tailwind, the first fifty miles of the bike represented the fastest riding that I’ve done in THREE years.


If we are looking to optimize race performance then we need to operate under our maximum capacity for most of the day. So why did I make this decision? I was seeking to maximize race position – maximize, not optimize.


I started racing an hour late _and_ two hours early. If you know the Ironman Canada course then you’ll understand the paradox.


Not only did I ride super strong, but I rode off the front of the lads around Mile 80 – Kieran (in first) was 15 minutes up-the-road but Johno (in second) was close. The first hundred miles was the most intense Century Ride that I’ve done in the last five years. The breakthrough ride that I’d dreamed about was happening. However, it may have proved more effective to place it in July!


Over the last two years, my coaches have recommended that I try to blow myself up on the bike (B- and C-priority races). The irony of doing it during my AAA-priority race makes me smile, and certainly doesn’t make me unique.


The results of my bike pacing happen to nearly everyone in the field. People asked me what “went wrong”? Nothing went wrong; my race outcome was perfectly normal. The fact that it took me so long to wreck myself shows that I was in decent physical shape.


The critical piece of information that was missing was my _actual_ bike fitness, relative to the guys I was riding alongside. I made an internal decision (pacing) based on external variables (the lads). However, I had zero 2007 experience racing with those guys, and then, decided to go off the front of them.


Having ‘blown it’ with my first decision of the day, I don’t have any regrets with trying a new race strategy. The huge serving of Marathon Humility was informative. I was conscious enough on the run to see that my experience was directly my creation – “why, oh why, did I do this to myself”. I was entertained by my self-created suffering. Hopefully, I won’t make this form of entertainment a habit!


Out on the bike, I failed to drink enough water but was saved from disaster by the excellent running conditions. A bit of dehydration may have led to increased complications on the run. The choice to drink less was a very poor one because it makes it much tougher for me to assess the magnitude of my cycling over-exuberance. Still, even if I knew _exactly_ the degree that I blew it on the bike; I will be a different athlete next time.


Whether, or not, there will be a next time is the subject of Part Three. In Part Two, I’ll share thoughts on how the past year went for me. I am in the process of reviewing, then updating, my Personal Plan for the next year.


One final thought, a couple of the lads emailed that they hope to race me on a better day. Last weekend’s race was my absolute best effort and represented total dedication at my end. I brought my A-game to Penticton and the guys in front of me beat me while I tried my best.


In our lives, we rarely give ourselves the chance to give our absolute best towards any endeavor. My wife, my clients and my team put a tremendous amount of energy into my race preparations. Daily, I reap the benefits of this focus on excellence.


The toughest part of the entire day was (my perception of) failing to deliver to my crew. As Mark warned, when the race gets tough, the surface fears (failure, fatigue) melt away to the reality of our subconscious fears. I didn’t realize how much I loved Monica until the only disappointment that I felt was not delivering on her dedication to my goal. That is an interesting piece of self-knowledge.


Under duress, I failed to consider that the reward we receive for loving is more love, rather than more performance. If you can relate then you are a very lucky person. If I sound a bit flakey then that is OK too. I only started to understand recently.


gordo

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