31 October 2006

Long Course Clinic Materials

Hi Gang,

The local squirrels seem to have taken an interest in my pumpkin -- they have been eating my "G".

I probably won't be publishing much for the next two weeks. I've written a lot over the last little while and will be starting a very long business trip that ends (lucky me) in Noosa, Queensland.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with the links for my Long Course Clinic materials...

Coach G's Key Workouts and Coaches' Tips -- Downloadable PDF

These next ones are PowerPoint presentations.

Coaching Long

Structured Bike Training

Effective Race Execution

Monica's Swim Presentation

Take care and keep it simple this fall!


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29 October 2006

Consistency Bias

I was mulling a few things over yesterday while doing yard work. It was a toasty day (the snow's gone again) and I was enjoying rounding up leaves.

Over the last week, I've been reading a wide range of race reports and discussing season reviews with my athletes. There are a number of recurring themes that come out of these:

***the desire to train harder all year
***the desire to train harder earlier in the year
***the desire to "figure out" nutrition strategies

The way our heads work, we have an in-built bias towards following our past decisions and beliefs. High achievers have a natural bias towards deepening this attachment. This influences the way that we perceive people, events and ideas.

This week Scott reminded me how it can be painful to accept a valid idea from a source that we find personally unappealing. The flipside also holds true, it is very difficult for us to reject a concept from a person (or coach, or mentor) that we find personally appealing.

Continual improvement requires a willingness to rethink our past actions and beliefs.

Our method of achievement will take only take us so far -- in many cases this is VERY far. However, eventually, we will need to consider if certain success traits (harder, harder, harder & more, more, more) could be holding us back.

Likewise you'll often see a level of anger or player-hate present in many top athletes -- that can work for a main set or even a long ride // however, it's a tough way to go about living and you can't maintain it indefinately. The next time that I see Mark & Brant -- top of my list is exploring ideas for moving through emotion to a place that I call "quiet power".

Back to the reviews and race summaries -- the observations that attract my attention run something like this...

...I choose X and it didn't really work out for me. I'm going to remember that and do Y next year.

A statement like the one above is very rare to see in public. If Faris only races two IMs next year then you'll know that he followed is his own advice from the Competitors Radio show.

My athletes, generally, share their most honest observations in private and (like me) need to be encouraged to consider if their choices could have been made a bit better.

How many times have you heard a coach say... "well, we didn't really get that right. Unfortunately, my program and strategy blew her up."

I don't hear it a lot -- however -- I do live it!

The best coach, and the best trainer, that I know... those two guys will readily admit that they make a lot of mistakes. It's the nature of life.

Many us suffer from consistency bias when we ignore the results of our actions (or our athletes, or our races). Everything in life is offering us feedback -- IF we are open to receiving it.

A common form of consistency bias is blaming external factors for sub-optimal results -- carbohydrate mixed with water seems to have a particularly toxic effect of many racers // it just might be worth considering pacing -- if you happened to be wearing a heart rate monitor.

Coaches should look to the results of their athletes -- athletes should remember that having a coach doesn't relieve them of the obligation to think for themselves.


Dave and I were talking about training this week. I told him that I'm putting together a team of top agegroup training partners for 2007.

He noted that I won't be racing agegroupers in Canada next year...
...I noted that I don't plan on racing in training next year.

In a group training environment, everyone compromises a little bit -- generally -- the strongest athlete compromises the least. I get dropped a lot in training (even when fit). It takes a lot of humility to stick with your session -- many of the top guys end up alone to avoid having to deal with this aspect of the group.

Be wary of our tendency to avoid information sources (and people) that would provide us with evidence that we need to change our beliefs/actions. The best example of this in athletic training is the heart rate monitor -- many people simply don't want to have to deal with the fact that they are training sub-optimally. They say that it isn't "fun" and it isn't "fun" to be confronted by the dissonance created by consistency bias. For me, the fun has always been in knowing that I am doing everything possible to achieve my goals.

When our attachment to performance is greater than our attachment to the past -- we will find that we are open to new ways of doing things.

Most people would rather be right, than effective. We should think about that as we surf the internet searching for threads to reconfirm our biases.


Probably my most cherished belief is that the athlete that does the most training wins. In fact, I've often said in the past that I have never run into a problem that couldn't be overcome from excessive volume and focus. Well, that worked to a very speedy point (8:29) but I've decided that it is time to take a gamble to try to get past that point.

The gamble doesn't involve modifying any of my training protocols -- so if you think that there is a change there // I haven't been effective in communicating. My protocol is exactly the same with two exceptions...

#1 ***my focus is on absorbing (not doing) training

My first four weeks were 15/12/17/17 hours, including yoga. Typically I would slam right back into 30 hours weeks. This year I'm focusing on eight months of preparation, for eight weeks of training, for eight hours of racing.

The last time I "peaked" was August 2004 and I don't intend on peaking prior to August 2007. It takes a huge amount of patience and I am tested daily (by good friends with good intentions).

#2 ***I've placed a ceiling of 148 bpm on all my efforts

I am using my exact same training protocol, simply under that ceiling. I'm a lot more diligent with my strength and yoga than I have been since 2001.

When you start losing the ability to undertake the small things -- that could be a sign that you're hitting it a bit too hard. In October, the fact that I am enjoying my yard work is a good sign.

Aerobic Run Test #2 showed 20 sec per mile improvement. I don't expect that every three weeks. For those of you that haven't used a moderate protocol before -- results will probably be slower. Remember that I was in <3 off-the-bike marathon shape only two months ago.

I'll leave you with an observation that Mark shared with us in Texas. A high intensity early season protocol will rapidly move you to the SAME level of fitness that your achieved the previous year (it works). Mark's protocol is what, he believes, moves us to a HIGHER level of fitness later in the year (it works better).

If you've been peaking in April then choose wisely.

Remember that everyone around us has bought into our past actions/beliefs. Expect to be tempted by old patterns and partners.

To get different results from the masses, we need to train differently.


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26 October 2006

Giving Up

Before I get into this post, if any readers have ideas for securing 10 commercial treadmills at a discounted price then please drop me a line.

Step One of our pool project is establishing a year-round training centre on the site. The largest single cost item is our treadmills. We'll have world-class athletes (and kids) using them -- it's a worthwhile cause and I can tell you more if you drop me a line.


I’ve been thinking about useful traits for self-improvement.

If you’ve read my stuff over the years then you will have read about the importance of “one thing” – essentially the ability to focus on the repeated execution of one simple task. Success in any field is the result of linking up thousands of “one things” over time – in fact, that’s pretty much life – a series of present moment decisions. The decisions of the past creating our current situation.

The challenges within our life are often created when our decision making process breaks down.

Superior results, results that have satisfaction and meaning, most easily flow from an ethical and effective decision making process. There is an interesting conflict with all those present moment decisions – the trade-off between short term satisfaction and longer term development.

Successful people have an ability to take satisfaction in making decisions that most benefit their long term performance. This desire for long term performance (or the pleasure from working towards a challenging goal) dominating short term temptations.

Now we can take this too far, I have a very good friend that always seems to choose the option that is most personally challenging for him – this results in a lot of self-imposed discomfort. He seems to like it, though.

Another risk to success is dilution of effort from over-scheduling. Our society seems to have this concept that it is “good” to have a wide range of interests. Personally, I’m interested in winning Ironman Canada and growing closer to my wife. Those are my two true interests. I have other items that I spend time on BUT I don’t fool myself that outstanding progress can be achieved in them. I simply don’t devote enough time to them. You can’t win Le Tour and run General Electric – well, we know that… but how often do we block our greatness by seeking exactly that.

Success through simplicity. Why is simplicity important? Because success requires overcoming ourselves. I don’t know about you but when I deal with myself I really need to keep the message simple!

Training is a great example. Here’s my list for Ironman excellence (your list will be different, this one really only makes sense to me):
***train daily
***wake up early
***don’t drink alcohol
***limit travel

Those four items form the legs of my performance platform. Without them, I won’t get the full benefit from the tens of thousands of actions that I’ll do over the next year. With them, any reasonable training protocol will show good results. Without them, I won’t be able to support the protocol for great results. With them, my year will be successful regardless of outcome. A virtuous circle starts from the application of a few simple principles.

The creation (and nurturing) of simple success circles is a key role for leaders, mentors, coaches and parents. Within my own circle, the way it seems to work is that the opposite of each category (skipping training; sleeping late; getting loaded’ traveling lots) leads to other effects that derail increasing fitness. So while the circle is good, its greatest benefit lies in helping me avoid paths that don’t enhance fitness.

By making things as simple as possible, it gives me a structure to get comfortable saying “no” to myself and others. An inability to say “no” with empathy holds many of us back. I see some very kind and generous people that have their souls sucked right out of them by a failure to limit commitments. Within my own life, being grouchy is nearly always due to being overscheduled, or having made a decision inconsistent with my goals. Simplicity helps me avoid both.

Your circle will have different criteria – but mine is a pretty good one for adult athletes. All the athletes that I know that stick to it are pretty solid – and the folks that I know that deviate would likely improve if they figured a way to incorporate the criteria.

Okay, that’s just the opener! So there are all these positive actions, decisions, beliefs that need to be created, executed and reinforced for success. In addition, there are many items that I need to “give up”. There are a lot of different ways to give up…

…giving up items to create more free time
***internet surfing
***12 hour email turnaround
***most elements of a normal social life
***many interesting business opportunities
***many needy (and worthy) people

…giving up to stay within my success circle
***binge training
***showing off in training
***hammering myself for no particular reason
***being publicly “strong”

As an aside, a need to be publicly correct is a killer for learning – learning to be “wrong” is a toughie . I’ve been fortunate in that being open to change is something that doesn’t seem to cause me much stress. In fact, I probably seek change more often than I need to achieve my goals. I haven’t quite figured that out.

My key challenges within my training:
***make continual progress with my fitness between now and August

***stay healthy and avoid overtraining // avoid creating situations that impair my ability to absorb training – as an agegroup athlete, I quickly realized that my #1 limiter was absorption, not execution, of training.

***stay within my circle by declining attractive opportunities

This piece is mainly for reminding myself because one of my challenges is continually adding stuff to my life.

To achieve more, I spend a lot of time focusing on doing less.


18 October 2006

Early Season Training

Many athletes use the early season (winter/spring) to focus on improving a single sport.

Generally, the greatest triathlon gains come from building overall endurance and cycling strength by increasing our focus on the bike. However, for many of us, this simply isn't practical once the weather turns chilly. As I write this in Boulder, there is snow on the ground. Good thing that I am off to Noosa in three weeks.

So what to do? Well, the first thing to remember with early season training is that it is EARLY! You have a long year ahead and you don't want to burn any material mental toughness with your program.

We also need to consider what aspects of our previous program held us back -- you'll be tempted to return to old patterns -- such as my personal challenge... overtraining!

Your overall goal should be to build the platform (endurance, strength, nutrition, flexibility) that will support your late spring and summer training.

Here is one protocol that is highly effective. I've used it several times in the past on both myself and my athletes. I hope it helps you.

Pace your season like your races.
Be strong at the end.



KEY things for a running focused early season...

**HR <= the lower of (a) MAP; and (b) the top of steady run zone. Follow this at all times. Note that this cap will let you go a bit "harder" on the bike (up to mod-hard) and in the water (mod-hard to hard RPE). However, remember that this is the cap, not the target -- I'm not smashing myself just yet!

**You need to trust this protocol as you will be able to easily exceed. I'm constantly slowing myself down these days. Most people simply cannot follow this protocol -- they are too attached to their ego in training and racing. If we want different results than the masses then we need to train smarter than the masses. This is how we create continual improvement -- you can rush yourself back to last year's fitness, and that may be fine for some. Personally, my goal is to take myself into a whole new level of fitness. This is how I moved my IM run consistently under three hours.

**If you compare your normal base training heart rates with the "ceiling" then most will see that they have been doing a lot of tempo within their previous base periods -- pretty much all year, all days! This results in a narrow aerobic base, relative to our personal potential.

**The purpose of increased run frequency is time-efficient widening of the aerobic base as well as increased leg durability.

**With the HR cap, there will be walking on hills -- if I can walk then so can you. Your humility will serve you well on race day.

**Run duration isn't a key metric. Simply run 45-60 minutes each time, follow the cap, make sure that you have at least one day per week without any lower body work. For advanced athletes, after you've done 3-4 weeks of this protocol, you could add a second run on one day; or a long hike instead of your run -- keep the rest day! After 6-8 weeks you can add a longer run. However, the greatest gains come from volume built through frequency -- not longer or faster runs.

**Keep swimming -- focus on building bilateral relaxation -- get your continuous, relaxed, bilateral swimming to the point where you can swim 4,000 meters without stopping -- pace does not matter. A gradual build up over 12 weeks should be plenty of time for an experienced triathlete. Don't swim hard, don't bother with TTs, swim relaxed and as often as fits your life. This is how I moved my swim sub-60 minutes.

**Strength training 2x per week -- start embarrassingly light, perfect form, slow and relaxed. Be humble. Free Weight Squats are the single best exercise in the gym -- learn perfect form and how to rotate your pelvis forward/down to protect your back.

**Bike -- real low volume or placed on hold when stretching the run frequency.

**Yoga -- 3x per week for the first 12 weeks of the season. Huge upside here -- if you have a non-tri spouse/partner then do it together. Again, most people will not invest in this aspect of their portfolio -- as a result they tend to experience reduced economy and increased time lost through injury.

This gets you to...
Swim 3-4 hours
Bike 0-2 hours
Run 5-6 hours
Strength 1-2 hours
Yoga 3-4 hours

Total = 12-18 hours per week. A stack for any working athlete and most people (living in the real world) will have to trim duration to get to 8-12 hours per week.

Remember that a moderate program applied with outstanding consistency over a long time is what builds fitness. You want to be a rock star at the end of the summer, not in March!

For reference, this sub-9 hour IMer is 12-15 hours per week right now including my walking and yoga. I'll stay here for a total of six weeks. That's AFTER a month of zeros and walking. I could easily tolerate more (volume, intensity, frequency) but, I think, that would risk my ability to hit it when it matters and I'd start to skip yoga!

Testing -- do a MAP test (run) at the start of the season and every three weeks thereafter. FYI -- my first result was 7:10 per mile (average) in early October -- personal best from 2004 was 6:00 per mile. I'll test again around Halloween. I use three miles -- you want to choose a distance that will give you about 20 minutes of running after a 15 minute warm-up. With
cool down that is a 45 minute session


06 October 2006

Unifying Theory

A few years back, Scott and I were in Taupo the day after Ironman New Zealand. If you scan the results over the years then you'll see that the year I was 7th (I think) there was a South African guy that was 2nd or 3rd. His name escapes me but he's an accomplished Ultrarunner -- does the Comrades Marathon.

That evening, Scott leaned over to me and said, "hey, let's go see what we can learn from that guy". We sauntered over and I had a practical demonstration of Molina's view that every successful person has something to teach us. Over the years, I've tried to carry this view with me -- some days I do better than others.

An openness to new ideas is a trait that characterizes many of the best Kiwi coaches. Staying open to new concepts is really tough due to our minds constantly trying to impose a Consistency Bias on us -- as well as -- our tendency to filter all input in a manner that supports pre-existing beliefs. Fire up any (and every) forum the internet and you'll see many experts demonstrating both consistency bias and pro-active filtering. It's something that we all need to watch if we want to make effective decisions with imperfect and uncertain information. As an aside, when I think I have certain and perfect information, I get a bit nervous. Life, as opposed to death, is more probabilities than certainties.

So that's the Molina bit of this story. Now Physics... first up, I have a grade eleven physics education so don't take _anything_ that I write as accurate on the science itself.

When I was reading The Quantum World I noticed that the author (Ford, I think) had a deeper desire that underlay his explanation of the technical detail. He had a desire for a unifying theory that could bridge between Newtonian and Quantum mechanics. A grand theory that would bring harmony to discussion in his field by fitting everything within a new framework.

Ford also ran through what physicists like in a theory -- simplicity, broad application, able to test, robust... these were a few things that I remember. His chapter does this subject a lot more justice and is a worthwhile read simply to understand (one view) of the components of an effective summary of knowledge.

Now what's this have to do with Molina. Well, whether it is: (a) endurance training; (b) property investing; (c) choosing life partners; (d) personal satisfaction & happiness; (e) a life with meaning; (f) raising kids; or (g) anything that is important to you...

In all these areas...there are a multitude of theories, protocols and methods for achieving an end goal. Some of these are stated explicityly and others are implied through our implicit actions, statements and beliefs.

Personally, I have the same end goal for everything in my life (My Prime Directive) but that's me. If you think about it then you'll likely have various end goals that are important to you and their importance will vary over time.

Time! Consider where you spend your time in your life. Depth of knowledge, over time -- perhaps that's a form of wisdom. Perhaps it is depth of self-knowledge independent of time? Perhaps wisdom is consistency of right action -- treat others as we wish to be treated.

I was on my run this morning and backing off from 147 bpm each time I got excited on this topic. On my run I came up with an exercise in the Unification of Knowledge. I'm writing it here so that I can come back next September when considering what to do for my retreat!

Choose any topic that's important to you.

How do you know that something is important to you?

Choose the topic upon which you spend the most time each week. If this isn't the most important thing in your life then you should probably re-prioritize before you unify your knowledge.

Another aside... don't be fooled by words or thoughts -- the items that we do consistently are the ones that are most important to us. Overlooking actions can be a fundamental mistake in business, especially unethical actions. The best lesson I learned in my early career was never back a "crook" and always be willing to make less money in order to retain your personal ethical standards.

I've known many people that spend the bulk of their week on actively feeding a sense of victimization; worrying; or being fearful. Know that you WILL get what you most focus on -- choose wisely!

Back to our topic -- let's choose Endurance Training because that was the context that I was thinking about.

1 -- Start a little book and in it write down statements and beliefs on your topic. Spent a month simply noting these items -- try to get as many different views as possible, don't classify them.

The internet is a great for sourcing a wide range of views -- someone once asked me if I was worried that reducing the amount of media input I receive would reduce the availability of good information for decision making. Here I would answer that one needs to separate "noise" from "signal". Most of the input from modern media is merely noise designed to attract our attention (through fear, envy or entertainment). In order to give myself a chance to process information on subjects that are important to me I try to actively reduce the noise in my head. I spend very little effort remembering things that aren't important to me.

2 -- So... after a few weeks of building the Statement List -- review it and beside each "fact" note: (a) I agree; (b) I'm unsure; (c) I disagree.

3 -- Once you've got all your beliefs down on paper -- sort them into their categories (yes, unsure, no).

4 -- Spend some time on each belief figuring out under what conditions it would be appropriate in the "other" camp. In other words, under what conditions would your true beliefs become false & false beliefs become true. A great reality check for an investor that doesn't want to sell is to ask him under what conditions he would be willing to sell.

5 -- On your unsure beliefs consider the sources (written, verbal, practical, theoretical, other...) that can help you learn more about them.

I often remind myself that most of my best lessons came from learning what was _not_ appropriate for me. When I blow it -- that's when I really learn. It's also something that I bear in mind with my coaching. We need to have a willingness to let ourselves, and our clients, make their own mistakes -- the lessons learned are far more powerful and longer lasting.

6 -- Then consider the various philosophies that are present in your field.

For example, a great swim coach once presented his philosophy to me as "build power; recover; repeat". That was his over-riding objective in working with all his elite athletes. Its simplicity had an immediate appeal to me. If you were an athlete in his squad, you would always know the overall objective. There can be a lot of power in simplicity.

List out all the various philosophies that you've studied in your area. For example, if your topic is "success in the workplace" then think about the most successful people that you've worked with. How did they approach the task? Which of your beliefs are consistent/contray to their own.

By the way we generalize all the time...
...Friel Training, Molina Training, Gordo Training...
...Buffet Investing, Value Investing, Momentum Trading...
...Yield Play, Arbitrage Play, Capital Growth Play...

What I want to do here is look at the assumptions that underpin the generalization. Spend more time on seeing the similarities than the differences -- our brians prefer it the other way.

So after all this... we come to what I've been thinking about over the last little while...

The most powerful philosphies are the ones that are: simple; inclusive and effective.

If we are seeking to build a successful personal protocol then we want to spend the most of our time studying under teachers that excel in these areas. We also want to study under (ethical & effective) teachers that have approaches different than our closest mentors. We probably want to study a few heretics as well but not so closely that our ethics are diluted. Within my own life, there are a few very successful teachers that I don't want to study under because I find their ethics lacking.

Phew, that sounds like a lot of work. Well, it's a good summary of what happened to me in my 20s (through luck more than choice) in Finance. In my 30s, it is an reasonable summary of my conscious and unconscious approach to learning about sport.

Most people are not willing to invest the work (effort over time) required to become masters in their fields. Ultimately, success (at one level) derives from undertaking (and absorbing) the most work in a given field.

Anyhow, I know that many of us spend a ton of mental mindpower on the areas in which we have a passion. Within my own life, I think that this exercise would help me redirect a portion of my effort from strengthening my biases towards identifying, and broadening, my decision making framework.


One final thought that has been shown to me in September is that to receive we must learn how to successfully give.

If you are finding that your sponsors/clients/customers are not as forthcoming as you'd like then consider what you have been offering them over the last little while.

Effective people spend as much time figuring out our needs as they do in satisfying their own.

Happy Fall,

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05 October 2006

MAP Heart Rate

Hi All --

Had a few questions for more info on Mark's HR guides and the meaning of MAP. In the man's own words...

Mark Allen on Heart Rate Training

I'll be following this myself in my Base Preps -- the wrinkles that I'll add is a Three Mile run test (Pace to HR) and a 20 min flat bike test (Watts to HR). The number I am using is 148 bpm.



02 October 2006

Fit Body, Fit Soul

I spent the weekend with Mark Allen and Brant Secunda -- summary is HERE

My full notes are HERE

A good buddy asked...

Just read your notes. Very interesting to say the least. I guess the bacon cheesburgers are off the menu. I may be wrong, but when you wrote that the heavy volume might have been a cause for the lack of absorption fo the training, are you thinking that the Epic Camp sort of volume might not necessarily be the way to go?

I replied...

I think that the Epic Camps are very useful and chatted with Mark about it. He said that cycling overload was a key part of his preps.

Where he thinks that people go wrong is not knowing what they are trying to achieve and "why" -- blindly hammering; a lack of humility in group training; constant work over 145 bpm (for you, my # is 148)... these things hold many people back.

So the change that I will make is better tracking of my fitness -- am I improving with each cycle. If not then I need to consider...
...just a bad test
...too much volume
...not enough rest
...time for hard training

Most people jump all over the place without any thought. As you know, I think a lot. However, I know that I can do a better job and be more disciplined in my base training. I also need to be much better with stretching and strength training. In order to reach my ultimate potential, I need to do everything right.

I think that I can still eat the burgers! It's the fries that might have to be limited. Even then... if I run from Keauhou then I'm having the full monty. The booze is completely axed for now.