20 September 2007

Year End Review 2007

Shortly, I will be on the road to Santa Cruz. I am looking forward to the weekend with Brant and Mark. Questions, fears and a persistent desire to spend time alone in nature. I don't expect anything fancy from the guys but their calming presence is useful for clear thinking.

This is an interesting period for me because I have huge energy, both mental and physical, but... I sure get tired if I try to 'train'! On the mental side, I am ready for short bursts of activity (like blogging) but am struggling with getting much sustained work done, such as the second edition of my book.

Before this week's letter, a reminder that I'll be speaking at a USA-Triathlon Clinic, in Colorado Springs. First weekend of November. If you want to learn practical tools for making a living from sport (running, cycling, swimming, triathlon) then this is the clinic for you. The speakers have helped build many successful coaching business and will be sharing how they go about it.

Also, if you watch Mat's blog then he'll link up an interview that we did with Chris McDonald, Ironman Kentucky champion. Look there on Monday. The interview is great. Thanks to Chris and Marilyn for dropping by the studio.

Key things that I was reminded of:

***athletes that are going to do well at elite IM get to the top of the AG ranks quickly. There is a very rapid early performance progression -- then you have to start "training". Chris, Clas and I -- it took each of us two years to get into low 9-hour shape (mid-9s for me). Clearly some athletes have an edge getting down to that point (Kona Qualifier shape).

***for the men especially, a massive capacity to absorb (not merely do) work is a universal requirement. Chris' 2006 season is not for the faint hearted! Nearly all the top guys have done some large, sustained volume at some stage. Chris is unique in that he hasn't (yet) faced deep overtraining.

***there is value in taking yourself far, far beyond your comfort zone -- the pathway from which performance flows isn't clear to me -- mental and well as physical, perhaps

***expect extreme financial despair and hardship along the athletic path -- you are making a decision that will result in a permanent reduction in your financial stability // folks in their early 20s are not equipped to think this through to their 40s, 50s and beyond

***you will face bleak periods where you want to quit; you're also likely have some great days

***even as an Ironman Champion, your athletics (alone) will have you living below the poverty line. You'd better really enjoy training and actively/immediately develop alternative income sources.

It's worth a listen -- remember that Chris "made it" farther than most of us will achieve in our athletic careers. He is an 'outlier' and your mileage will vary -- the average elite retires broke (but fit and with a nice tan) when they can no longer cope with the financial stress.

Head to the Planet-X website on Monday. They should have an MP3 and PowerPoint presentation that I did on Training/Racing with Power. I went into a lot more depth than the IronmanTalk podcast. Many thanks to Mat/Alan/Brian/Rebecca for their help in creating this for you.


Since I left Hong Kong at the end of 2000, I’ve operated on a year that runs October to September. Most years, Ironman Canada sits as the center of my athletic universe and, at times, the center of my total universe. As a result, September is a time for reflection and planning.

When I fail to achieve a goal (such as winning Ironman Canada), there is a temptation to radically change things. Reading my writing from the first few days after IMC I can see this pattern. However, before one considers what didn’t work, it is worth considering what did work. So I have spent some time thinking about the following:

***What worked this year?

***What changes might enable things to work even better next year?

***What held me back this year?

***What changes are required for continued personal growth?

***Did I give my previous plan every chance to succeed?

***What do I enjoy doing?

Notwithstanding all that, there are deeper considerations to be made prior to tackling the issue of athletic success. To bring these issues into focus I’ve asked myself:

***What did I achieve in the last year? Specifically, what are the items that will have a long term beneficial impact on my life?

***If the next twelve months were similar to the last twelve months then would I be OK with that?

***What items need my focus to make personal progress over the next twelve months? More specifically, how do I want to focus my personal development activities over the next year?

Given my high level of effectiveness and satisfaction, there are a lot of things working in my life. In seeking to improve performance on a single day (August 24, 2008) – I don’t want to impair the quality of the other 364 days of my year.


I’m going to share my thoughts on the answers to the questions but, within this article, “my thoughts” are the least important aspect. Why? Because they are merely my answers.

I’d encourage you to seek, then ask, the right questions of yourself.

In my consultancy practice, my clients receive the greatest value when I ask the right questions -- not when I give the most forceful answers.

I need to constantly remind myself of the above point because giving answers soothes the ego. Of course, the uncertainty of the outcome of our own questions is what makes life fun.


My greatest success this year was making one lady feel loved. I was helped by the fact that she has a kind disposition, patience and high self-esteem (guys, look for these traits in a wife). I’ve greatly leveraged my ability to achieve by strengthening the person closest to me.

Once you have the right people around you, spend your time strengthening them and assisting with the achievement of their goals -- your efforts for others will multiply when they come back to you.

JK asked about learning to say "no" to folks. For me, success is about getting people around us to say "yes" to our goals, rather than telling them "no" to their desires.

How do we do that? #1 -- we focus our time on the highest return items for those in our inner circle. #2 -- we communicate our personal mission clearly and simply. #3 -- by supporting those close to us and communicating our goals // we give them a stake in our mission. Finally, we hold ourselves to the absolute highest standards possible -- we must be working harder (and happier) than anyone in our circle. If we want to lead then we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than our team.

Personal Health
Coming back to my own review. In terms of long term personal health, shelving the drinking worked well for me. Slate ran excerpts from the Bush biography, Dead Certain. The President’s views on drinking rang true. I miss certain aspects but I really enjoy the clarity of thought that comes with the absence of hangovers. I was surprised at how easy it was to stop -- I get cravings from time-to-time but a non-alcoholic beer seems to settle that down.

With two years of consistent training completed since my last overtraining bout, my physical confidence has increased. My fearless (and somewhat futile) bike ride in Penticton was a real breakthrough for me.

Mental Skills
The area where Brant most helped me was the confidence to see the goodness in my life. Like most of my best teachers, I’m not sure if he set-out to teach that lesson. However, he was the catalyst for a change in attitude.

There is irony in how following what makes me happy has such a positive impact on the world around me. The way we live could be more important than the specifics of how we live.

Living how we want with a closed heart -- selfish?

Living how we want with an open heart -- inspirational?

Our conditioning often tells us that in order to do “good” we need to deny ourselves. I deny nothing of my dreams, or spirit, and there are clear and persistent messengers that encourage me to follow my heart.

Personal Growth
There are a lot of areas that hold me back so, for 2008, I’m going to choose the one where the benefit to me is far larger than the effort required to change. Peaceful Listening. My personal development goal for 2008 is to make a habit of peaceful listening. To me, that means listening with a still heart. I will practice with a still heart – perhaps I can progress to an open heart for 2009!

Goal Setting
Did I give my plan a chance? Absolutely. However, if I am honest then there are aspects of the plan where I operated below my capacity. It could take me a few years get it right. Am I willing to put in the time? Is my inner circle willing (and able) to support me?

I was talking to Clas and he asked me if I thought that I had put too much emphasis on Ironman Canada race day. I had to think about it. The reality of my life is that I focus on most of my days. I have goals for nearly every day of my year. I’m to the point where I assess myself based on the time that I manage to get out of bed each morning. It’s weird but I love jet-lag because I’m out of bed by 3am local time!

When I miss my private goals, or when I don’t live up to my personal standards of excellence, it “hurts” at some level. The pain isn’t too bad because I have the next goal and, by and large, I meet my commitments to myself. The difference with Ironman Canada race day is that my goals are stated publicly and missing them is apparent to all.

What I see now is the tremendous amount of good that results regardless of my public performance on that day. Perhaps that will free my mind from the concern about letting down the people that are closest to me. Missing a swim workout in February certainly doesn’t generate the same level of goodwill!

Avoid regret for a man that has the freedom to follow his dreams, and does. Feel empathy for those who live under the illusion that they are trapped in prisons, and don’t.


PS -- Alternative Perspectives next Monday will have Dr. J's piece on doping. For perspective, the annual cost of proving that I am clean is equal to my gross prize money from my best year of racing (2004). This year my gross prize money was about $2,000. You don't get rich from any aspect of triathlon (coaching, writing, racing). In fact, you have to be very good at all three to survive on sport alone.



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