31 January 2006

Edinburgh

So I've been spending the last week and a half in Edinburgh and I thought that I'd jot down a few observations.

I have quite a bit of business going on in Scotland and need to travel here for the next few years. So, I decided to arrange for a flat -- a small two-bedroom flat. It is the sort that is favoured by most of our professional tenants. Folks that commute to Edinburgh, like me.

I was in the UK a fair amount in 2005 setting up my new business. While here I was living with my business partner. That worked well to keep overheads down but now that we're funded, I figured that it would be best for the longer term if I moved out on my own.

My flat is in the 'New Town' of Edinburgh -- as a Canadian there is something entertaining about the 'New Town' being older than my country. Historically, the New Town is the main area where we've invested -- about 2/3rds of our capital is tied up in this one part of the World. The neighbourhood is about 170-200 years old, very nice period buildings and well located. Ten coffee shops, four bookstores, three supermarkets and a few dozen pubs/restaurants are all within a ten minute walk of my wee flat. As a bonus, I am less than 3KM from my pool.

The flat is owned by one of the businesses that I advise so it was interesting to try our product from the other side of the landlord:tenant relationship. Things went very smoothly. Probably the toughest part was getting my gear unpacked when I moved in. At the end of last week I found myself sitting in the middle of a batchelor pad but I managed to get back on top of things over the weekend.

Seeing as I'm based in a new part of town, it's thrown my standard running routes up in the air. Being a fan of routine, I had developed a 10K loop and a 10M loop. At first, I tried to recreate my existing loops but I'm not as well placed for those runs. So, I purchased myself a bike map of the city. I smiled when I bought it -- even in the early stages of my triathlon 'comeback' I still choose my runs based on cycling routes. Go G!

Over the weekend, I spent my time exploring the city as well as a series of sites that we've identified for development/refurbishment (that's what the JV does). We focus on the high end of the residential market so the main question I ask myself is 'would I want to live here'. I also wandered around George and Princes Streets listening to the crowds and asking myself 'would I want my economic livelihood to depend on these people'.

What struck me the most during my journeys around the City Centre was the number of different languages I heard. I consider that a very good thing for the long term health of a city -- historically one wouldn't think about the end of January in Scotland being a particularly international time. We had heard anecdotal evidence from a friend that is a serviced apt operator (he's been booming through the winter with weekend visitors).

Top all this off with ten-year swap rates recently hitting something like a 50-year low in the UK and all we need to make my 2006 perfect is some unexpected property market volatility. A well-funded investor loves short term adversity once the fundraising is closed.

One of the strange things about private equity/direct investment is that the best time to go fundraising is nearly always the worst time to be investing. Investors 'know' this in their hearts but it is still a real slog to raise capital is a countercyclical manner. I remember when I joined Schroders in the early 90s -- we lost out on a ton of deals (which can be frustrating) then we did a stack and made great returns as the market swung in our favour.

Fortunately our main joint venture partners see us as a countercyclical play -- choose good teams, establish relationships when the market could be a little toppy, set high standards for deal terms and wait... if the market keeps rolling along then everyone continues to make (relatively) easy money... if the market tightens then the combination of motivated managers and funding lets the venture lock up some attractive deals.

Over a seven to ten year time horizon, it is a great model -- espcially when the lead institution takes higher than standard margins across its entire investment. Nine months ago, I couldn't quite see the larger strategy for the bank, now that they have funded us (and three other teams) I can see the larger game that they are positioning themselves to play.

That's all for now.

g

24 January 2006

Singapore

Back at the airport after 24 hours in Singapore. The wet season is a great time to come here because, although still humid, the cloud cover and constant breeze result in some very pleasant temperatures. Dave was still surprised that I was in full-sweat after a short walk to his place from the Metro.

Had a double espresso here at the airport to assist with my sleep management strategy for the flight to London. Proofreading this piece twelve hours later, it seems to have worked. Waking up at 2am (UK Time) isn’t far off what tends to happen when I fly over from the US.

Back to the Lion City. In Dave’s sector of the market, rents have fallen by about 40-50% from their peak a several years back. While this doesn’t make Singapore “cheap” – it is presently much more affordable than other major financial centers such as London, New York, Hong Kong and Bermuda. My buddy’s place here would be at least double to rent in New York or London – triple in a similarly located neighbourhood (in terms of convenience).

Knowing the work ethic of the Singaporean people, I can see why I’ve been hearing so much about Singapore becoming an off-shore financial center. It is quite a nice way to break up the journey between Australasia and Europe.

Enjoyed a nice Thai dinner overlooking the water at Boat Quay this evening – the hustle of Asia – I don’t miss it but I am entertained by it when exposed again. I was feeling very chipper as I knew that I’d better take advantage of the outdoor dining opportunity before arriving in Scotland – I think that Edinburgh’s daytime high was about 6C today, with drizzle in the forecast, for the next three days. Good weather for indoor swimming, running and working on spreadsheets!

Now it wasn’t all completely soothing – armed guards at the American Club this morning were a very visible reminder that there are a few people in the region that aren’t exactly welcoming to folks that happen to look like me. Swimming in a very nice pool, in the tropics, with a few armed guards at the door… brought back memories of The Year of Living Dangerously.

The American free-rider effect on certain parts of the world is a topic that I may write about in due course. We rarely value that which we are given for free, and the USA gives a lot to the world for free. This subject is a topic that can get me a bit irrational, especially after eavesdropping on standard dinner conversation in Boulder. It’s weird to be a Canadian that is more of a patriot than many of my neighbors. Some folks really need to travel more – I actually see the rest of the world, rather than shopping for Tibetan trinkets on Pearl Street. OK, enough of that or I’ll get myself into trouble.

Well, that’s all for now. Since the start of this trip, I’ve sent along two emails to my travel lady. Both are aimed at adjusting future plans so that I can insert a few more of these “regroup” days into my schedule. A swim and a meal with a good friend go a long way towards ensuring that I can arrive in one piece. With the need to connect through Sydney to get onto the World’s Favourite Airline, I might as well visit a few pals along the way. Besides, I know a good indoor 50 meter pool that has generous lap swimming hours.

Monkeys and Dentists

I enjoy flights and periods where I can rip an entire book in one go. Binge reading – along with all my other outlier habits – appeals to me.

Fooled by Randomness, Taleb – another of my (thankfully growing) collection of works that help me understand how I view the world.

Reading the early part of the book, I remembered a series of saying that the a few successful (for themselves and, generally, others) investors have mentioned to me over the years…

On Attribution of Success

[winking] “Gordy, we all KNOW that success is always down to good management.”

Allocation of Risk, Sharing of Gains

“The nice things about this business (Venture Capital) is the inevitability of the homeruns if you stick around long enough.”
If we don’t know then who does?

“Remember this, history tells us that we never really know which Fund will hit it big. If you invest then invest a little bit in everything.”

“Everyone that I know that has made it big in life has bet the
farm.”

…but didn’t the folks that went bust do the same?

++++

Monkeys – it’s the old adage about placing a zillion monkeys in front of a typewriter and one will come up with the bible. The result is a large variation in actual outcome across a wide population with outstanding performance due entirely to chance.

Dentists – a small variation in actual outcome across a wide population with a high expected outcome.

So which one am I?

When I view my life to date through the prism of a series of probable alternative outcomes (Monte Carlo self-simulation)– it is simultaneously terrifying and liberating.

Terrifying because there is no way that I can reasonably run a scenario that gets me back to my current situation, sitting here, quite happily, on this plane. I simply cannot comprehend a reasonable scenario that gets me back here. When I think about the key events in my life, the outcome that occurred wasn’t what anyone would have predicted.

Liberating because, either way, I am a big winner. If I am dentist then I am extremely good one. If I am a monkey then I am a seriously lucky one. Both ways, there is a large element of relief that I either figured something out (not quite sure what) or am pretty clueless and should relax a bit more (always a good idea for relentless planners).

In finance, I certainly feel more like a monkey than a dentist. As this was a key point of the very eloquent author, my self-evaluation is likely anchored by his book.

In athletics, I’ve been “insulted” by people calling me a dentist before – “anyone would get your results if they followed your path”. That never really sounded like an insult to me, still doesn’t.

As the author notes, because set-backs are experienced as disproportionately negative events, most people don’t have the staying power required to persist until a breakthrough (even if it is due to random success!).

As I’ve grown older, my attachment to past decisions has reduced and I’ve given myself increased freedom to change my mind – often to the concern of those around me. It turns out that the author thinks that this is a good thing for my personal safety as well as happiness. He states it much better than I could paraphrase.

Perhaps it depends on which aspect of my life I look at. There is a stack in the book so grabbing pieces that suit my self-view is probably how I went about reading it. I found myself highlighting passages in the text that held particular appeal to me.

Anyhow, time to spend a little time mulling over my one/five/ten year plan – net even a month old and time for a revision. Good thing that I wasn’t too attached to it.

A patient wife is a great asset and source of stability. She’s probably reading this as you are.

The only constant is change.

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23 January 2006

Epic NZ, Epilogue

So I am at the airport in Christchurch now. About to start a long journey to Scotland via Auckland, Sydney, Singapore and London. Not the most direct way to get there but the most comfortable & productive that I could schedule.

Had a great swim this morning. At the start of Epic Camp, I swam 2000m in 29:10 at max effort drafting like the dickens. This morning, I did a 2000m main set leaving on 1:30 base, holding 1:27.5 down to 1:22.5 per 100 (effort was steady to mod-hard).

Bumped into Scott and told him about it (I get excited by improvement). I said that it was great that Epic Camp helped me out so much. Scott pointed out that the several million meters that I swam from 2001-2004 might have helped me a bit more than 25K of swimming over the two weeks of Epic Camp.

He might have a point.

Because of my work commitments, I won't be able to train as consistently as I might like. However, a bit of forced rest is probably a good idea to keep me on track. When I get to Scotland, I am going to join a health club that has a 25m indoor pool. My game plan is to aim for five swims and five runs per week -- 20K swimming and 80K running. Cycling will probably be slim to nil. Still, I plan on getting an indoor trainer. Having it staring at me over the weekend could result in a few bonus hours of training.

My real European training mission is to make progress towards my 400 IM goal -- that makes short course more fun for me. Miss M says that I need to rip a 2:45 200IM (LCM) to have a shot at six minutes for the 400. She says that builds in a "buffer" for me. I figure that the number is closer to 2:52 or 2:53. I ended my workout today with a 3:02 so I have about 10 seconds to come out. I'm planning a TT for February 14th (three weeks time). Not sure if I'll go for the 400 or the 200. I'll let my coach decide.

The Achilles is perking up more and more. My massage guy was a little concerned that it might puff up due to all the flying. So... I am back on the anti-inflams for the journey to Scotland. I’m not the ideal traveler because I enjoy the freedom of being able to mix wine and coffee with my meals (a bad idea when I need to sleep).

So that's my news post Epic. To close out the Epic Reports, here are a few bonus ideas that I was mulling over the course of the camp.

What Price Leisure?
Friday morning, I woke up with plenty of time to get ready before heading off for the last day of the camp. It was a very pleasant morning, warm and clear. I made my coffee, chopped my fruit and sat down for a solo breakfast overlooking the estuary.

Realising that the view is just as relaxing from a rented house as one that I own myself.

Realising that breakfast is just as tasty when prepared by myself as opposed to live-in help.

I sat there trying to figure out the price of my relaxation, my moment of peace looking out at the Southern Alps and the water. What would I pay for this view? What would I give up for this view?

It is quite difficult for me to price the tranquility that comes from the combination of big training and nature. That's probably the best lesson for me from Epic. The fact that there are things that we can't price -- shared experiences with friends; time away from noise close to nature in beautiful surroundings. These experiences are very uplifting -- especially when combined with 70 hours of endurance training endorphins.

The Curse of Talent
Given the choice, would you choose to be a great talent or a great worker? We get both kinds of people at Epic Camp -- talented and hard working. Generally, most of us tend more towards one than the other.

For me, I'd want to learn how to be a great worker. Being able to achieve satisfaction from working towards a goal is a fundamental attribute of achieving both success and satisfaction.

Most the talented people that I've met (by this I mean genetics) -- by an large, they do the minimum required to get by and it's no surprise that they are often merely surviving. The workers on the other hand, they know that they have to constantly strive towards achievement. Gaining satisfaction from their daily effort, independent of the result at the end of the day.

Clas is one of the most dedicated worker-athletes that I've ever met. It's no accident that I have spent so much time shoulder-to-shoulder with him over the years.

A few hours later now, I’m on a flight from Sydney to Singapore and I’ve just finished the book Fooled By Randomness. Great read that had me looking at a number of things from a fresh angle. I might write about those ideas a bit later. Made me view myself in a new light.

Always More, Always More
I was driving the crew in one of the Epic Vans that Jonas claims to love so much (a classic story that he’ll tell you after a few Red Bull & Vodkas some time). So I was in the van and Clas and I were chatting about our ride across the USA – NINE (!) weeks of averaging 100K per day.

We get to the Lodge and Molina points out that he had three YEARS in the 80s where he averaged 100K per day. With riding like that I asked him why he didn’t win the Tour de France. He pointed out that he won a hundred races instead.

Point taken.

Later he would confide that with five to six hundred 200K plus days (literally) in his back, he might have overdone it a bit. I can’t win either way!

The next day Miss M points out that my two swim PBs were on par with the average nine year old girl. Love your ladies, challenge your men.

I’ll show you two!

Tap the Hate
When all else fails go to hate.

That’s what I kept advising the crew on Epic. I come across an ability to manufacture and access the power of anger/hate in many of the best athletes that I know – Baron gets pissed off a lot but you need to know him to see it. As for me, I can’t hide anything from Monica. We both do it and that’s why it’s tough to do real training together. You don’t want to “bring the hate” when your sweetie is nearby.

Plenty of good books cover that observation better than me. Just wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only one using that technique. Lots of people feel a bit “bad” for using it as training tool.

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17 January 2006

Epic NZ, Week Two

Phew, what a few days. What does a guy think about when he’s pulling for eight hours? Not a whole lot really but here are some ideas. I could probably make this a pretty decent piece but I’ve only got just over an hour until dinner.

Have you been reading KP’s blog? It’s being able to spend time with guys like him that makes these camps special for me. Always outnumbers, always outgunned, always moving forward.

Today at the base of Arthur’s Pass he asked me for my recommendation on whether he should continue. Earlier, he was completely screwed and Darryl (uber-support dude) asked me if KP was going to continue… my reply – that is up to Kevin, not me.

Anyhow, by the time we got to the base of the climb – we were all soaked, KP had his Northern Cali wet weather gear on (he thinks he bundles up, he has no clue – not his fault, he grew up there). KP’s back is history, he can’t even stand when off the bike.

So he asks me what to do – I told him the truth – with that back, there is no way you can make the climb, it is the hardest climb that I’ve ever done. I also knew that if he ceased up then there was a good chance that he might die of exposure before we could get him off the mountain. He let me ride away.

Riding up the mountain, there are massive waterfalls all over the place –Jurassic Park stuff. My Achilles tendon has been acting up a bit – due to loose pedal and my Week One pacing strategy (more about that later). I’m trying to get up on minimal wattage but as the guy with powermeters are sure to report, there was no easy way up that climb. Most of us learned that it really is possible to keep a bike vertical with a cadence <20 rpm.

I saw a second support vehicle heading down so that gave me some comfort that the lads weren’t going to expire on the climb. It really was that kind of day. If they post a photo of my riding kit you’ll see that I was quite well prepared.

Brandon rode up to me and was singing! I wasn’t sure if he’d truly lost it or was simply happy. It was the sort of day where we were all training well past ridiculous.

Still, we’re all safe now and that is a relief to me. Having Monica and many of my best pals on the road means that I get concerned when the conditions get dicey.

Oh yeah, we had an aquathon this morning. Monica took down the Terminator! It was the best that I’ve ever seen her run. She looked fantastic. Later she crashed due to a series of events and some wet train tracks – she’s OK now and resting beside me in bed.

Life can change very quickly. Up or down.

That was one of the things I was thinking about on the way up the climb – cold, wet and very happy.

You know, the ride is going to end soon – better savour it.

+++

The last two days (not today), I instituted a change of tactics. I wanted to see how fast I could get my mini-group from A to B without blowing anyone up. Some of the lads on the gTrain thought that I was doing them a favour. Like I told M, I wasn’t doing anyone a favour, I was showing off to my wife!

Molina tried to teach me something a couple or three years ago – we were on a four day bike tour and heading downhill. A couple of guys that had arrived that morning (Weekenders) went to the front and starting DRILLING it on the way down. I was like… what-the-heck? Scott smiled at me and said, “hey, don’t worry about it, let them be strong.”

Let them be strong.

Here at Epic Camp we have a stack of people that are used to always being strong. Probably always being the strongest in their training groups.

Well, part of what we do on these camps is take everyone to the point where they aren’t strong. We’ve all cracked on this camp – well, maybe not The Baron, but I’ve seen him crack other times!

Anyhow, the flip side is that we’ve all hard our strong moments. Part of what being a good training buddy, coach or friend is about is letting people be strong. Not giving in, rather giving people a chance to show that they are strong.

Once you look at athletes through that lens, well, a lot of their actions seem more reasonable. The guy just wants his shot of being strong – let’s give it to him. Probably took me a week to work that out – a week of getting drilled, an injury and two years since Scott made the point. I get there eventually!

Scott and Stephen are really impressive and I am glad that the lads had a chance to seem them in action. I’m also glad that Stephen had a chance to see how Clas approaches training. I suppose that part of what I might have offered the lads on my wheel was an insight that they wouldn’t seen with Clas (because they are out the back when he does that kind of training).

In a unit, if you build the trust of the weaker riders that you aren’t trying to kill them then they feel secure. When folks feel safe they focus on what they need to do – heads are clear – just ride as best you can – no man behind – the stronger will do a bit more work. It’s a different kind of strength and when you contrast it with a group that’s constantly attacking itself – it is amazingly efficient.

Besides showing off, I wanted to make that point to the people in my group. Set an even pace, keep everyone together and you can go a pretty decent speed. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to shatter a group – you merely need to choose your moment. However, to keep a group together and deliver that group with everyone (even me) knowing that they couldn’t have done the ride faster – that takes a mixture of strength and patience that you don’t see a lot. Clas has it – he’s an 8:21 guy – if you play nice then he’ll show it to you – if you play silly then you’ll likely ride alone. He won’t tell you though; you’ll simply find yourself with a bunch of crazies attacking each other.

Some days I can see it more clearly than others. Fatigue, injuries and long pulls – they clear my mind.

+++

I can’t remember what kind of shape I said I was in at the beginning of the camp. Suppose that I could check. I do know that I am in far better shape now and I haven’t (yet) received the physical benefit from the training. When we come back from a lay-off (or injury) there is always a bit of confidence in our bodies that needs to be restored – I told Mark the other day that he was my insurance policy when I was pulling the crew. I didn’t know if that was possible and felt better knowing that he was there in case I detonated.

I really love this stuff. It’s a relief to find out that my immune system is up to the challenge. I think the main thing that was holding me back was life stress and I’ve taken steps to sort that out.

Not sure when I’ll write next, perhaps on the plane heading to the UK after the camp.

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15 January 2006

The Dudes


Jonas, Clas and Bjorn set me up with TWO (!) Swedish bike jerseys, one Swedish Cross Country top, a Swedish Monster-Chocolate Bar and a selection of Alsolut.

Top guys.

National triathlon gear always gratefully accepted.

The photo above is the four of us in Hanmer Springs. The last time we were all together like that was World's Toughest Triathlon in Auburn, California.

14 January 2006

Epic NZ, Week One

Sunday morning -- the bulk of the crew are just finishing up a local Half Marathon race that Johno and Scott lined up. Pretty impressive results from the lads -- have to say that I am impressed with everyone here. The guys are all training out of their skins -- hopefully, they are sharing their experiences.

Most of the lads hit their weekly PB for volume some time on Day Three -- and we kept it rolling thereafter.

I started the camp with new pedals and a complete lack of pace discretion -- gut feel is that the combination overloaded my calves and toasted one of my ATs. Currently hooked up to an eStim machine with Voltaren flowing through my veins (I don't like anti-inflams but I hate the idea of a van ride more). Tomorrow is 220K+ over at least 3 saddles/passes. Not really sure what's going to happen.

Still, it's all good. The lads aren't the only one's training out of their skins. This is far and away the easiest way to get into shape. I've been spat out of a few times but that's OK -- the guys doing the spitting (Skin & Bones Bayliss and The Baron) have what it takes to be low-8 IMers. Hopefully, Stephen's eyes have been opened as well -- he rolls a good gear on the flats for a 70kg lad. I was at the end of a five-man pace line -- dead flat, no wind and I went out the back at 45kph near the town of Hope -- that was Thursday. I was lost at Hope. I did get a bit of satisfaction of using my local knowledge to beat everyone on to the College through better route selection (I told the guys that I could be useful).

...and Mike C should remember that. He's right there shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Something about Canadians and big volume -- Robo Seth and now Mike. We need to think up a nickname for him. Something about these Canadians -- they are just so... cheerful! Great guy.

Jonas had a few tough days at the start -- I suppose two workouts in December (total) wasn't the best prep. However, he took the pain and is getting stronger every day. Mentally, it is quite a bit tougher for a <8:30 dude to get spat out the back then a <10 guy. The big guy had me doing fly in the pool yesterday and was back to his goofy self. I predict that he'll be back to his monster-self once we are churning down the Old West Coast Road on Thursday -- I hope to be there!

KP tells me that my board is spending a lot of time debating training protocols. Tip of the day... make a choice, stick with it for 2006 and search the dbase (while stretching) when you feel like kicking it around again.

Bella has been on fire the whole way. An example of how ride, don't think, can really work. She's riding blind (no HR, no speed, no cadence, no power, no problem!). Just hangs on. We dropped her last Thursday because she ran out of gears on a descent. Back on the flats, we keep the pressure on and, despite that, she towed Brandon back up to our group. Some folks train very well in a group situation, she's one of them.

So what about the title... well, Dave likes to train with Simon. Now Dave is the fittest guy I know in his 50s... however... Simon is the fittest guy that I know period!

Dave loves to run with Simon -- speed is addictive and training with the big dogs is a lot of fun. However, often our mind and muscles are stronger than our connective tissue. As a result, Dave spends a lot of time with running injuries and I've been known to comment that it's simply nuts to do run training with Simon.

If you've been reading Wim's blog then you'll know that my pacing strategy has been remarkably similar to Dave's. The results not far off either.

Oh yeah, Wim's taken the exact opposite approach to me. He's up at the front but conserving and being very moderate in his approach. That probably is not appearing in his numbers because he's in such good shape. One of the best things about these camps is getting to meet guys like Wim. I hope that we'll be able to train together in the future (fingers crossed he doesn't get too fast or I won't be able to hold his wheel!).

Scott's suggested easing off a few times, in private and in public, however, I can't help it. It's just a lot more fun to be the slowest guy in the fastest group.

Can't promise when I'll get a chance to write again. Things are about to get tough for the next few days.

12 January 2006

Ten Hours

Well, ten hours has turned into 40 hours. I expect that I might get a chance to write a bit on Sunday -- depends as there are rumours of back-to-back eight hours days on the weekend. We'll see.

If you've sent me an email then I will get to it eventually. Current inbox is 200 and climbing.

The lads tell me that they are writing so hopefully they are offering sufficient coverage. As for me, I'm in survival mode.

g

10 January 2006

Epic NZ, Jan 11th

Phew, I am surviving much better than expected. However, after another eight hour day of training, I need to go to bed. Hopefully more in about ten hours when I wake up.

The lads have found bootleg wireless so I'll let them speak for me.

g

09 January 2006

Epic NZ, Jan 10th

OK, I am a little shelled right now so Dave's story will have to wait a bit.

Quote of the day to Wim and Mitch...

Wim: I wonder what it is going to be like when you guys decide to ride hard?

Mitch: If I wanted to ride easy then I would have stayed at home.

Tomorrow is dedicated to John Newsom. The first mega-ride that I ever did was with Johno. We rode from Christchurch to Nelson in two days -- 500+K.

One of my first bonks ever -- a really serious one where I nearly chundered happened about 30K into the ride tomorrow (that was about 180K into the ride that day). At that stage, Johno was feeling far to chipper and offered me some wine gums -- didn't go down so well. For the rest of the ride... "want some wine gums? each time we swapped out". Suppose you had to be there. Johno thought it was hilarious -- I was less sure.

Anyhow, it was rides like that that helped me really improve my cycling performance and learn to cope with the fatigue and emotional valleys that we fact in IM racing.

The guys did great today. Absolutely massive day on Monday then another solid outing with 3K swim; 140K ride; and 50 min run. Some of the lads tacked on to the ride and a few even swam 6K -- took them more than 2 hours!

Pretty tired -- I did better today and didn't hit the wall.

Tomorrow is a tough 180K on the bike -- a number of us are going to swim/run before. A good idea because we aren't going to feel like a run when we arrive.

OK -- more later.

Epic NZ, Jan 9th, round up

Oh my that was a tough day.

We opened up with 3200m in the pool (good to see Roly again). Main set was 2000 timed. I swam a 29:10 which was at least 10s per 100 faster than anything I had been doing in Montpellier -- can't beat the group environment.

Then we rode 190-205K depending on the group and the route home. I did much better than I expected for the first five hours. Some good times there. The highlights...

Wim and I dropped back for a pee and the lads picked it up -- swapping it out for 15 minutes we averaged 325w+ and bridged back. Just as we caught the group they slowed down -- naturally they claimed it was an accident we had to work so hard.

Did OK on the first KOM -- 9th over the top, no points but nothing too bad.

On the second KOM -- had a little more trouble, started to feel dizzy at the top but managed to be 7th over the top and get a single point. Probably the first climb (ever) that I legitimately beat Bjorn -- of course, he'd done back-to-back 180K days before today!

Later it was Swedish revenge though when Mister A freighttrained me out the back after 40 minutes with the A Team.

Had a great smile when we were sitting well over 40kmh and I am thinking about rolling out the back. I look over and it is KP!!! He was hanging with the Big Dogs.

The lads notched it up a level and that was it for KP, and me shortly thereafter.

Jonas smoked by a little later -- guess his van ride over the 2nd KOM let him freshen a bit... (check the photo gallery later, oh the SHAME...) he was penaltised. Anyhow I was going to say something but Bella was on his wheel. Big J pulled over and Bella put the HURT on me. Ouch! It's been five years since I was dropped by a girl and as soon as Jonas assumed control, I went right out!

Baron ended the day in Yellow by winning all the KOMs and getting to 200K. Pretty impressive given he's been injured for the last two weeks. He's very tough to beat when he has the attitude that I saw out there today.

My ride ending with an hour of personal time totally blown, nearly riding off the road once. I was pretty darn depressed. Then I got a flat, had a break and perked up a bit. After a 40 mintue break at HQ, managed to get my run done with a couple of the lads. That run was a big victory. No way I would have done that on my own.

Quite a few guys set distance and duration PBs to day, including Monica.

Tomorrow is a bit more reasonable -- 140K as 60K flat then 80K rolling up hill.

++++

Lots of emotional ups and downs for me today. That's a lot of what this is about. It's just like an ironman -- we need to learn to control the peaks and get ourselves through the valleys.

Have to say that I didn't really master my pacing. Wim summed it up nicely... "Nice ride today, g. However, given your preparation you might have managed it a little bit better." I think that Wim is going to have a great camp. He's got an excellent attitude and is in great shape.

Plenty of horsepower out there on this camp! We have some outstanding Civilian athletes. Mike from Canada was right up there all day. Dude has some massive quads and climbs like a goat.

OK that's enough. I gotta go to bed.

++++

Tomorrow is dedicated to David Plew -- your homework is to google the Queenstown AG Standard Distance World Champs.

I'll also write a little bit about what I am going to talk about tomorrow after dinner. "What are we trying to accomplish here?"

08 January 2006

Epic NZ, Jan 9th


Woke up early. Slept real good last night. I think I might be close to 95% freshened up after my little illness.

Looking around the room last night at our briefing there are some FIT dudes on this camp. It will be interesting to see how things play out over the course of the camp.

OK, each day (if I remember), I am going to dedictate the day of training to someone -- a pal or someone else that I've either found entertaining or learned something from.

So today, today is KP Day.

Kevin Purcell is a guy that I meet about six years ago. He's come along to every Epic Camp that we've done over the years. The return leg of the ride that we are doing today is similar to the ride that we ended the first ever Epic Camp. With one exception, today, we don't return over Long Bay Road.

I'm sure my account of Long Bay Road is somewhere on the Epic Site. It is a climb that even had the Baron swerving back and forth across the road. KP was sitting on about 170+ bpm for most of the way up -- not because he wanted to, but because that was the only way to get up.

As he neared, what he thought was, the top. He saw all of us waiting and poured it on for a big finish. Admirable except that he had about another 10-15 mins worth of climbing along the spine of the crater. I remember smiling to myself and telling him, "great finish but we're only about two-thirds of the way up". His smile said it all.

Kevin loves choosing the hard way. In fact, as an advisor to him, I spend a lot of time trying to convince him that he needn't always choose the _hardest_ way. It's like that with a lot of my high achieving athletes -- I spend a lot of time dialing them down.

At Epic, we have a policy that everyone has the right to do as much, as hard, as often as they want. So we won't be dialling anyone down.

Of course, I hope the guys realise that Bjorn and Bevan are only along for the day. Last year, I spent a day on Mister A's wheel and never recovered.

Oh yeah, in that photo are Chris McDonald, KP, John Mergler and Clas. KP was training with a couple of <9 IM guys and a Top 5 Kona finisher. None of us knew that at the time, though. What we did know was that we all liked to train, hated to quit and chose to head up Long Bay Road rather than take the easy way back to town.

More later.

g

07 January 2006

Epic NZ, Jan 8th

So after thirty-eight hours of air travel, we arrived in Christchurch. I had devised a detailed flight strategy for our trip. It involved carefully timed periods of sleep, work and movies. I managed to stick to my own plan and am feeling good. Still a bit of illness lingering in my sinuses so I'll try to keep my powder dry tomorrow.

On the flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, about twenty-six hours into the trip, I leaned over to Monica and confided, "I really do love flying. I can sit here, they feed me every so often, I can work and nobody can send me anything extra to do." I've always felt safe on planes, kind of like when you are hiding out in bed as an over-reached athlete. I even like airplane food.

Had dinner with Scott and Erin last night. Erin commented that it was the most social that she'd ever seen me. Fear and lack of fitness can make me quite fun to be around. I made a conscious effort not to talk too much and to avoid spending the whole night talking about triathlon.

Scott was out putting the finishing touches on his epic fitness (solo bonus ride) so I got to speak with Erin for about an hour. It was a nice insight into my buddy because a lot of the stuff that I heard sounded quite a bit about some of the things that M says about me. Refreshing to hear that I'm not the only crazy one.

Easy swim this morning in the QE2 pool -- that's really my favourite pool in the world. Lots of good memories there and it is the fastest pool that I've swam in. We'll be back 7am tomorrow to kick things off.

I picked up a new bike yesterday. The boys at BikeRight did a fantastic job for me -- all I had to do was put on my shoes, clip my chip strap and hop on. They'd saved my measurements from a previous bike fit so it was ready to roll. Pinarello Marvel, Campy Record 10sp, 175 Carbon Cranks, 53/39 & 12-25. The colour scheme matches my Oomph team kit so I'll be stylin'.

Johno pointed out that I'd forgotten to install aerobars. I pointed out that I wasn't going to be needing them!

Just in case... Scott suggested that I bring along a pair for old times sake. Fortunately, Johno had held onto my Syntace clip-ons ("You know... I won Ultraman on these bars...")

One of our bags was sent pre-Christmas from France to ChCh. Didn't quite make it here so I headed out shopping today. Found a full zip (long sleeve!) summer weight Castelli cycling jersey as well as a couple of new bib shots. I often wonder why more companies don't make full zip cycling kit -- especially the light weight long sleeve ones. Given that I am so pale -- I'll need the extra coverage to avoid being totally roasted here in New Zealand.

Johno and Scott have spent the winter planning all kinds of events for this trip. I may have inadvertently given them a few ideas back when we first started planning this camp (53 weeks ago). We are going to have some massive days. Scott was telling me about how he needed to trim a little distance off the Double Takaka day. I protested, "dude, these guys are expecting to be shelled, we can't make it too easy on them!"

Then he told me about the 72 hours that follow that day. Johno and Scott aren't disclosing the various "events" that they have cooked up. They'll probably throw me a bone as I get a bit fatigued over the next few days. Being cut into the planning always perks me up.

Well, time for me to pack up. We have our welcome dinner tonight and I'm looking forward to seeing the crew.

Oh yeah, my disclosure of the day. We are thinking about Epic South Africa at the end of this year. If anyone reading this is South African and wants to help organize that camp then drop me (or Johno) a line.

Conrad Stoltz is from Stellenbosch (sp?) and Simon said that he used to train there with the British Team. The time zone (and overnight flight from Cape Town) is very well suited to my business in the UK. Tim Don's name was also floated. If you know either of these guys then I'd like to get in touch with them to see if they can point us in the right direction.

My new roommate, here in ChCh, is from Cape Town as well. Lots of signs that this could be a good idea.

That's all for today.

g

PS -- tomorrow will be my longest training day (including IMNZ) since last January.

06 January 2006

Epic NZ, Jan 6th

I’m going to ramble because I have four hours of battery power and not a lot of action happening here on British Airways.

Scott tells a story about how a mutual friend finds my story motivating “because he knows how slow you were, gordo”. I love that story because it contains some of what motivates me – overcoming gordo and changing the way I view myself. In 2003, I got the chance to motivate our pal. In 2006, I wonder who will get fired up from kicking my butt?

Sitting here above the former USSR at present. Not really sure where the plane is but I am well caffeinated and killing a few hours. The trip routing was my decision. I purchased a round-the-world ticket many months ago. When I do that I need to guess our likely routing. I had guessed that I might need a stop in Hong Kong – turns out that I didn’t. So we are about one-third of the way through a 36-hour (plus) journey from Montpellier to Paris to London to Hong Kong to Auckland to Christchurch.

I decided to bite the bullet and put myself onto New Zealand time as soon as possible. It is currently 3:30 in the afternoon Kiwi time so I’ve got a bit more work to do with staying awake. If I keep myself going then I’ll run out of batteries about dinner time.

In an earlier piece, I had mentioned that I was going to share my ideas on how I will attempt to get myself into decent shape again.

Being sick this past week after four weeks of training enabled me to get a bit of perspective on how time & experience adjusts our perspective.

Twelve years ago, my “illness comeback” sessions of this week would have been major outings in themselves. I can remember hikes in Hong Kong where 20 minutes of walking uphill had me sitting under a tree, slightly dazed and enjoying a break.

It’s amazing what we can train ourselves to get used to.

So Step One is completed – I managed a month of training where I averaged more than 90 minutes a day. I might sound forlorn at times but don’t be fooled by that. It is simply the natural ups and downs of coming back from a break.

A few months ago, on a day when I was being stressed – there were more than a few – M suggested that I get myself a massage to relax. Good advice – it was at my suggestion that she greatly increased her use of massage. I replied, quite seriously, that I didn’t have time to relax and wouldn’t be getting a massage until I was able to train 45 minutes twice a day. Ah the corporate life, so easy to get lured back into that mindset. I hadn’t written (or thought) about money very much from 2001 to 2004. Now you see it weekly, here on this page. We become what we surround ourselves with – choose wisely – a topic for another time.

Anyhow, I hope you found some of my writings useful on that subject. Remember to balance them with a warning that you don’t want to forget to enjoy your life. With people and jobs, we need to define how much we are willing to give.

Phase One was getting back to swim, bike and run training – and… seeing if I actually enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what would happen.

As it happens, it turns out that I still very much enjoy it. That’s good news as I have made a bunch of plans over the next few months and it would be a shame not to enjoy following through.

Phase One was also about seeing what my body could handle – specifically my lower legs, shoulder rotators and immune system. All of which were pushed to the limit in 2004. It turns out that I can still handle a fair amount – just not as much as I was hoping. I suppose that it was unreasonable to expect that I’d be able to tolerate 30-35 hours per week after taking March to November pretty much off. Still, that was my non-published goal in my head. In hindsight, that was a bit crazy but, then again, many of us in this sport are somewhat “fringe” in our outlook on life.

Right now, I seem to be OK with about 20 hours per week, 25 being the mark where I start to fall apart. As one would expect from a lack of base, I have a very poor tolerance for tempo (and above) work – always have when I am tired or rebuilding.

My unsupervised workouts pretty much all ended up counterproductive – if I had simply gone M’s pace then I likely would have avoided illness and logged triple digits for December (she did, both). My unsupervised training is a lot like how many of us train – wind up the iPod Shuffle, head out and hammer! There is a certain discipline that is instilled from 30+ hour weeks. You never go harder than you need to because there’s always that little bit of lingering fatigue.

On my “lower” volume protocol, I always have enough energy for a bit of spontaneous tempo – so far, all that’s netted me is unnecessary fatigue.

I realise the irony in 20 hours per week being “lower”. But, I believe that 1200 annual hours is minimum required for me to make progress. No point in editing that point of view because anything else feels like a maintenance program.

One nice thing about my lack of endurance training tolerance right now is that it means that I, paradoxically, have energy for other things. I don’t have enough endurance to make myself all that tired. I simply managed to make myself sick. Sound familiar? I see it a lot with highly motivated working athletes.

Accepting my personal volume limits, I have enough time for wife & work. That’s a good thing. I can think back to when I wouldn’t accept those limits and find myself strung out a lot. So maybe I am learning a few things.

The zeroes that I wrote about weren’t all write-offs. I only had one true zero and that was early in the month when I let a little work related hiccup create a distraction. The other zeroes all involved a bit of Japanese Training (that’s what Molina and I call walking). M particularly savoured the 80 minute powerwalk across Paris to the Gare de Lyon… “it is just five minutes past Notre Dame” We made it to the train with a whole seven minutes to spare. It was snowing but, as I pointed out, “at least we had a tail wind”.

There are a lot of good memories from the initial phase – I’ll miss my swim lane buddies from the Olympic Pool in Antigone (vertical breaststroke, stationary backstrong, snorkel man) – there was always something going on in that pool to entertain.

M's only body issue came following a two hour powerwalk during my illness last week. Her calf tighted (and is still tight) from being dragged out around Montpellier.

M asked me the other day to rate my fitness at the end of November and right now. Between 1 and 10. I defined 10 as rock-star, Transamerica, Ironman shape. I figured that I was about a 4 when I started Phase One. Right now, I feel like I am about a six.

What’s a six?

Well a six is about ten hour Ironman shape – please don’t make me prove it! That makes me smile because six years ago that was life best fitness.

M asked what kind of shape I was going to be in after Epic. I said that I had no idea but it would take a few weeks for me to bounce back. I just pray that I have the mental fortitude to keep my powder dry for the first week. I completely blew it with my pacing last year in Australia. Three hours on Bjorn’s wheel nearly derailed my entire camp.

What about Phase Two of my fitness program? Well, phase two starts on Monday – in about eighty hours, actually. I am using the airplane & illness taper (more than a few have led the way on this one) and certainly won’t be over-reached heading into the camp.

The opening day of the camp is going to be my longest training day since last January. I’ll be out there longer than my time from Ironman New Zealand last March. Fortunately, we have a big camp and I am sure that there will be some folks that I can work with on the way back from Akaroa.

If you hear reports that I am being unusually friendly then you’ll know that I’m hurting and looking for a wheel. True class is being a team player when you don't need to be -- Johno showed that last year in Australia. Put more into the group than his personal standing in the point competition.

Now what about my approach? I’ll share a conversation with you that I had on the Queen K last October. We weren’t racing in Kona, rather we were a couple of guys chatting while watching other people race.


Dude: So are you going to race again?
G: Sure, just not sure if I can handle the training.

D: That’s good to hear. What are you going to change about your approach this time?
G: Nothing, really.

D: Nothing?!
G: Nope, I think I got it right last time around. I’m going to have six months completely unstructured – no main sets, no pressure, no structure. Do as much volume as I can tolerate, have fun, just like in 2003. Then I’ll do a race and see where I am at. If I am having fun then I’ll crank the volume further, ride across the US in 2007, freshen and do a specific preparation block.

D: Geez Gordo! How can I compete with that?
G: You can’t.

…and only one of us was joking.

That said, it’s easy to talk the talk. On Monday, I’ve got to walk the walk. Phase Two is Epic, a bit reckless to do it with my lack of base but I have a two week business trip scheduled for when the camp completes.

The trip will be followed with two weeks of work followed by another training camp, this time ten days in Tasmania.

What I am planning is one high volume week per month to push my endurance bounds. The rest of the time… wife, work and sport will exist in harmony -- due to my fitness matching very well with the time that I want to commit to my marriage and business.

Being able to pursue high level performance in one area can be counterproductive to achievement in other areas – mentally, I’m a bit thankful for that right now and that could prove to be a limiter in itself in due course.

When I was working in Hong Kong (1999/2000), I found that my main limiter was ability to recover from training – this time around, so far at least, it is pretty similar.

Twenty five hours of air travel to go!

01 January 2006

Freedom

The perception of personal freedom is a fundamental part of what makes me happy.

The perception of a lack of personal freedom – the feeling of being overly constrained due to a sense of duty. This is a source of a lot of aggression, violence and dissatisfaction.

Getting one’s self to the point where there is an element of freedom – that can be a source of calm. Because of this, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that life is a choice – there are implications of each choice and not all of these are pleasant but... it is still _always_ a choice.

Being sick is getting _real_ old and winter has worn out its welcome in gWorld. That’s most likely because the illness isn’t hitting the road. I’m reduced to long walks around Montpellier – I've got this hot walking buddy that accompanies me -- walking her gordo.

December has reminded me about the athletic edge that I gave myself from avoiding the need to bunker-down and do “yet another” session in the cold. I knew that there was a reason that I started living in the tropics and swapping hemispheres.

Financial Freedom

What do you think when you hear those words? I think that most people would think about being able to _spend_ whatever they want.

Dietary Freedom

Is that about being able to _eat_ whatever we want?

Sexual Freedom?

How about that one?

In a consumer society we often think that additional happiness comes from being able to consume more – spend more; eat more; fool around more; drink more… whatever grabs our fancy.

It comes back to what I wrote about intent.

If we take away the controls then (at least initially) we can get a bit slack. Drop by any university campus and you can see that in action.

Lately, my thoughts have been on financial freedom. I'm a planner and I've used December to plan through 2006 (first) then through to my 40th (last week) and most recently through to my 50th (last few days).

When we understand how certain things support key long term goals -- that can make little short term inconveniences appear in a different light.

The trade off between the quick & easy option and investing for later return -- making that decision frequently -- building that into our core habits. That is a key element of the process of achievement. Nutritional success, financial freedom, many things are built upon the consistent application of this habit.

So here is what we did...

In the fall, we tracked every single expenditure we made in a 30-day period, right down to our lattes.

Many people prefer not to have this info staring them in the face. I've worked with some highly successful people that have no idea what and where they spend their money. They are rarely financially free.

I knew the number was going to be large. When I returned to the workforce, I had ratcheted my overheads back up to Hong Kong levels, telling myself that "I could afford it" and I could, today.

Later, I asked myself:
...what happiness was my incremental expenditure buying today?
...what was the potential cost tomorrow in terms of my freedom?

Going back to fulltime corporate work involved an element of sacrifice, a fairly compensated sacrifice but... if I simply blew all that compensation (because "I could") then the actual return on time invested would be pretty low. Nil, acutally.

Not surprisingly, as I get older, I realise more and more than personal satisfaction received relative to time invested, is an important consideration. Perhaps the only consideration once we are on track in our lives.

With our cash outlay tracking, I asked Monica to guess the ending figure in advance -- let's call her guess X. By the end of Week One we were at 1.5 of X. Ten days in we were at 2X and we finished up the month at 3X.

Most people can only name 35% of their monthly expenditure. I did a little better with my initial prediction being 85% of the total. To be fair to M, she didn't have the benefit of seeing what I was spending on the road starting up my company. She did well given the lack of transparency, what she didn't realise was that our household expenditure was 3x what she saw, suppose that I wanted to make that point. She's the more fiscally prudent member of the team so it wasn't required.

Armed with the base line figure, I projected out a full year including: personal expenditure (mainly travel for me); business overheads (office, staff and more travel); health insurance; rentals; and holidays.

With all those outgoings starting me in the face, my potential sources of income started to look a heck of a lot more attractive. Situations that appears to impinge my freedom rapidly changed into attractive ways for me to cover my overheads.

I also clearly saw that the easiest way to avoid items that irritate, or impinge, is to remove the expenditure that they are required to finance.

How does all this relate to freedom?

I need to set the scene for that.

Peter Drucker did a series a few years ago for the Economist (worth reading and if you have an on-line subscription you can review). One of the, many, interesting concepts was that human resources are the means of production in a knowledge based economy. Put plainly, when the "factory floor" is a desk with DSL, then YOU are the capital that drives your business. The implication being that if you are a smart person with marketable skills then you aren't tied to your employer. At least, in the same way as if you were a manual employee in the 'old' manufacturing based firms of the past.

Dental hygenist;
Paralegal or lawyer;
PA;
Accountant;
Marketing ececutive;
and on and on...

All of these positions are highly mobile. You need an office from which to work and other members of a skilled team but... you are highly mobile with a good skill set.

What can constrain that flexibility?

Mortgage payments;
Car payments;
Any form of personal debt;
The perception that you _need_ to live at a certain level of _expenditure_;

All of the above created (and sustained) by a high personal expenditure relative to personal savings.

To be able to utilise the freedom inherent in our skills is a key requirement to leverage one's self in a knowledge based economy. More plainly, in many things, you'll only negotiate your best deal when you are willing to walk away from the table.

Indeed, I'd say that it is an essential part of being able to get a fair price for one's services. Employee turnover is costly and inconvenient -- increasingly so as we become more and more ingrained within a successful organization.

So there's a double whammy -- personal overspending increases our reliance on our sources of income; and reduces the personal freedom that comes from savings exceeding expenditure.

Personal financial freedom being the ability to live the way we want, rather than spend whatever we want. One doesn't need to be financially rich to be free in this sense.

There are only a few sectors (and people) where external sources of capital enable long term deficit spending. When I think about that I come up with charismatic entrepreneurs and the US Government.

Phew, that was a long aside.

That was the set-up for building my strategy from 40 to 50 years old. Those can be highly productive years for the well placed knowledge worker. By then, we will have 15-30 years of work experience and a pretty good contacts network (or at least had a fair shot at building our network).

Network is a good way to consider it. If it is all about human capital then access to people and education become more and more valuable. I was trying to get to that in my MBA piece. The value lying in attaining access to, education from, the very best people.

In our 40s, we are old enough to give backers comfort that we know what are are doing, but not so old that people are concerned about our being too old to follow through. There is a clear age bias that starts to creep in from 55 onwards. I have witnessed that, and been a part of it.

Setting one's self up so that at 50, you have a high degree of financial freedom, that is very valuable in my book. Financial freedom defined as being able to live the way we want and work for who we want (most likely ourselves).

Now 13 years is the furthest that I've ever looked out. Generally, for business and personal planning, the furthest I plan is five years. Those five year plans change radically every one to two years. Knowing that change is going to happen, and not being married to the plan, is essential for success in a constanly changing environment (be it your company or your body).

Why did I look out so far this time?

My 2005 review showed me two things: (a) that I was on track from an NAV (net asset value) point of view; and (b) my overheads had jumped up significatly.

I wanted to figure out what was required to stay on track. Could I truly afford to live the way I thought? Like all good financial analysis, I built up a little spreadsheet for that...

The next step (for me) was to take a closer look at my expenditure and figure out if we are getting value for money on each line item. Nothing radical in business but how often do we do that personally? The personal annual budget -- worth considering on January 1st.

If you got this far then well done!

That was quite a mind dump and so I'll finish up with a little story for you.

It's not about me, although I do live a bit like the central character.

"Bob" started his career at 20. He sold retail for minimum wage in a small town. Not many people know that about him but he'll happily tell you about his background if you ask.

Given that he's an expert in his field, most people that meet him want to get some free consulting from him. So that ask him about what he knows. I was lucky, the first time I met him, I was tired so I simply listened while he told me the story of what he did.

Bob was good at retail. He knew a lot about his product range and was an avid user of the brands that he sold. Over time, some of his customers asked him for consultancy advice. At first, Bob couldn't believe that people would value his advice. He was flattered and worked for free. Eventually, his customers became paying clients.

Roll forward twenty five years. Bob's been a student of his field and the "science" of business. He's moved from retail, to consultancy to the founder of his own consultancy company.

Step by step.
Piece by piece.
Day by day.
Year by year.

Recently, "Steve" was talking to me about Bob. Steve wasn't talking about this story. Steve mentioned (with a slight tinge of envy) that Bob was taking another month-long cycling vacation. He was saying that it would sure be nice to have the financial freedom to do stuff like that.

Get it?
If you do then you are lucky.

Most people only see the vacation.

Choose wisely.

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