26 March 2007

Where You Want To Be


Our photo this time is my buddy, Greg, on top of Everest.

You know, I never really thought about why a guy would carry an Epic Camp sign to the top of the world. However, with a couple of years to think about it... I've developed a theory.

Greg and I worked together for a few years. Looking back, I think that Greg hired me as more of a life and general endurance advisor than a triathlon coach. Greg's got a knack out of getting the most out of his "team" and he very carefully put together the pieces required to give himself a shot at climbing Everest.

Managing a team of people for an individual goal is an interesting concept -- you can apply those skills to Everest; the Olympics or a race like Ironman Canada. It takes many, many people to put together an individual performance. Many don't even realize the role that they play.

So a little story, after IM-New Zealand in 2005, Greg comes up to me at the Awards Dinner, thanked me for my support and said, "g-man, I'm RIGHT where I want to be". Monica was there with me and there was a lot said by our TOTAL silence to that statement.

Greg had just completed the race in 12:30. Knowing a little bit about mountaineering, Monica asked me my opinion about the likely outcome of his expedition. I said that it was most likely that this would be the last time we would ever see Greg. We spent the next few months reading Greg's Everest Website waiting to see what would happen.

What I didn't know what that Greg's "taper" is best summed up by this picture. Not exactly, keeping the feet up. He'd deliberately shagged himself and used an Ironman as a practice summit day.

Crafty fella!

Turns out that he was right where he needed to be -- he got the photo (via the North Ridge) and his team left the mountain in one piece.

As for his tri-coach... I didn't start proper training again until NINE months after that race. Greg should have been worried for me!

An interesting lesson -- I delivered exactly what he wanted without even knowing what was required of me. Further, I thought that he was heading to disaster, while I was actually sliding deep into the valley of fatigue (from a 2nd place overall placing).

My students teach me a lot -- it does take me a few years to learn their lessons...

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Are you where you want to be?

It's worth considering that question from time to time for many reasons. I'll lay out that athletic case this time. Perhaps, I'll write about life philosophy some other time. That's more about being the person that we want to be.

The longer days of April combined with increasing fitness are exactly what many of us will need to tip ourselves over the edge in terms of training.

Before full blown overtraining sets in we have to ignore many repeated warning signals. Here are a few:

***Muscles that are persistently sore to the touch
***Chronic inflamation of tendons or muscle insertions
***Chronic GI distress
***Staleness in training
***Increase/Decrease in sleep pattern
***Increase/Decrease in weight or appetite
***Sugar cravings
***Low/High heart rate relative to effort
***Injury -- true accidents are few and far between

I know a number of very fit people that have lived with the above for multiple years. They are so fit that no one would ever consider that they were shelled.

If you have a couple of these then you can rest now and pull yourself back from the brink. Or... you can keep the same pattern going and end up with the same result. I did for five years and my results were good, very good, better than I ever thought possible! So pushing through things can work quite well... then I was forced to decide if I truly wanted to move to a higher level of performance.

April is when we start to see more frequent "nuked please help" posts on the internet. When they pop-up remind the person to: (a) rest; and (b) learn from what toasted them. I wouldn't spend much more time than that -- most of us (myself included) have too much invested in our existing patterns to change them until we are REALLY ready. It took a six-month nuking for me to realize that, perhaps, there could be another way to play things.

Which brings me to...

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Where I happen to be.

I did a race this past weekend and, in a few days, I'll type up a report for posting over on the Planet-X website. I'll also send along my ergomo data file -- if it downloads OK -- I broke my download cable and am standing by for a new one.

So my build-up and the race went really well. Best case scenario for me -- my one hour bike power and my running vVO2 Max are both at lifetime bests. This off a "stagnated" aerobic run test -- Mark writes about plateaus here...

What would you do if the most versatile male triathlete of all time took the time to write a series of articles explaining how best to train? What if his protocol appeared too simple to be true? What would you do?

I started by reading them -- scroll down on that link to get the articles.

When you read them -- watch how you tend to want to argue with him. How you think you are different. How it might not apply to you. Then ask yourself, "Who is arguing?"

There is deep power in the consistent application of simplicity -- however, our minds find it near impossible to fathom. As I remind my athletes, our greatest challenge lies in learning to over-ride our instinctive desire to screw things up for ourselves.

As I was powering along at life best watts -- the main things on my mind were circles, joy and breathing. There isn't much better than racing through the desert when we are fit.

So what to do next? Well, I'm going to do the most difficult thing possible.

I'm going to stop "trying" to get faster and return to an endurance focus for the next four weeks. It's super tempting to get leaner, train harder and go even faster. My base is deep so there is a pretty good chance that I could be ripping by May.

However... I'm looking for something really special on August 26th and that's going to require some patience. So, just like after Epic Camp in January, I'll ease off, hit the gym and be smart.

I'm telling you exactly what I am doing, there are no secrets and, yet, it is very tough (for all of us) to follow a simple protocol. One of life's little ironies.

Choose wisely,
gordo

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17 March 2007

Just One Thing


A roadtrip shot to kick off this installment. That's my brother, Chuck, looking at the camera and we're rolling in California.

A book recommendation for you, Just One Thing, John Mauldin (Editor). I finished the chapter on Psychology Matters. That chapter, alone, is worth the cost of the book. It is an excellent essay on how thousands of years of neural programming make it quite tough for us to execute a strategy that runs counter to our collective biases/instincts.

The chapter authors are writing about investment strategy but the psych chapter is broadly applicable. For example, it's why I'm always encouraging athletes to establish a simple, basic week which they repeat.

Success starts from being able to keep a single promise to ourselves. We make that a habit and grow outwards from there.

I'm working on four "one things" that will sustain my preparations to win Canada in August. Don't Drink; Wake Up Early; Train Consistently; Travel Less. There isn't a single mention about main sets or any physiological matters in my strategy -- the training is a given. What matters is creating the ability to maximize my ability to absorb the training and my "one things" enable that to occur.

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Given that I posted my tougher sessions last time, I expect that a number of you will be bound to try them. Be warned, most athletes get the intensity phases of their seasons wrong and blow themselves to bits. I've ended my year a few times with inappropriate intensity. You'll also be tempted to open the trottle on every single session and go crazy with stacking the intensity. Remember that you only need a little bit.

For every (very) tough main set that I add to my week, I tend to remove 2-3 hours of aerobic training. Most athletes cannot afford to lose that amount of aerobic volume from their weeks.

Put more plainly -- optimizing most adult athlete's VO2 Max performance is normally sub-optimal for their race performance.

As well, if you are preparing for a 4-17 hour event in April or May then seeking to optimize your fitness in March/April will be counterproductive for your overall athletic development. There will be a lot of athletes doing end-of-season training for the Boston Marathon, the Wildflower triathlon and/or Ironman Arizona that, while (possibly) scientifically optimal, will prove to be sub-optimal.

By training smart, we can do very well by avoiding the training (then pacing) mistakes that our competition will make. I always remind my crew that we should let the other athletes make the mistakes. It's tough enough to train properly -- no need to stack things against ourselves.

Be honest with yourself on your likely limiters as well as where you've made mistakes in the past. Most adult athletes are limited in terms of their steady-state endurance, not their central cardiovascular systems.

These tips fit hand-in-glove with the psych chapter. See if any of this makes sense in your athletics, family life, investment strategy or work place attitude:

1 -- Under emotional duress. people shift to high risk, high return choices -- even if they are objectively poor choices.

2 -- When self-esteem is threatened, people become upset and lose their capacity to regulate themselves.

3 -- Self-regulation is required for many forms of self-interest behaviour... ...self-regulation appears to rely on limited resources that operate like strength or energy, and so people can only regulate themselves to a limited extent.

4 -- Making choices and decisions depletes this same resource... once this resources is depleted... the self becomes tired and depleted, and its subsequent decisions may well be costly or foolish.

5 -- Irrational and self-defeating acts become more common in the wake of rejection.

I see (and exhibit) a lot of the above at an Epic Camp. Nothing like extreme stress to bring out the best (or the limiters) in a person.

Anyhow, there is a lot more in the chapter and I'd encourage you to get yourself a copy. The "Psychology Matters" chapter was written by James Montier -- great stuff.

Keeping it simple and trying to be true to my word,
gordo

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11 March 2007

Viva Las Vegas


My buddy, Ed, says that my blog entries are too complicated for him to read when he's in a big training cycle. So here's one just for Ed!

If you don't understand the triathlon shorthand then don't worry, I'll probably come up with some philosophy for next time. Here's one idea that I remembered after my last piece -- the most important person for me to say "no" to is myself.

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We're in Vegas for a couple of weeks of training and I love the place. We're staying in the southern part of town about half way between Lake Mead and Red Rocks. Yesterday I ran at Red Rocks in the morning and ended my day with a ride beside Lake Mead -- even squeezed in a masters session with Frank (the RD for Silverman).

Vegas has a lot of "characters" and the people watching is always interesting. We're on the fringes of the action and we'll probably keep it that way.

I did another aerobic run test this morning -- still the same speed! I ended up averaging 150bpm instead of 148bpm -- 6:28 per mile (6:15/6:30/6:33). So I'll keep it rolling for another three weeks. I'm in an intensity cycle right now to see if I can move through the plateau.

Here's a sample of the sorts of workouts that I've done and will be doing...

I haven't done this one myself but Simon's been leading it weekly at the Boulder Res and it is a great run workout for early season...

***Number off the runners
***Each runner takes a turn doing an interval
***Interval is 15 seconds to 2:30 long // runner's choice
***No one can pass the leader of the interval
***Leader can go as fast, or as slow, for the duration
***After each interval, everyone jogs very easy back to the last runner in the group
***Repeat for 15-30 minutes

Pretty good session and you can include runners of a range of abilities.

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Here are a few that I've done...

Fast Run -- designed to get the HR way, way up // 6x3 min fast on 90s RI // I've done flat as well as slight up/down (Marshall Road at the Res if you know it). I had thought that 180 bpm might be possible but at altitude all I hit was 175bpm and that had me seeing spots and sucking BIG air.

Hard Tempo Run -- aiming for an ending HR that is about 10 bpm under the Fast Run -- I managed to hit 173bpm on this (8bpm over my 1 hour max at Snowman Stampede). Terrain alternates dead flat with hills. Hills are FT+ effort up and FAST on the way down -- aim for decent form and solid "impact" on the descents. Main set is like 3x8 min on 4 min RI. RI for my running is always walking.

Long Run -- keep it aerobic -- mixed terrain, hills before flats. Still doing a 12 minute cycle of run:walk. Sprained my anke running in the snow but am back in action after a fast recovery -- used a machine called GameReady that really took the swelling out of my ankle.

Double Run -- insert on a few Tempo and Long run days. Have only done once so far -- the evening after the Snowman Stampede.

Long Ride -- main intensity is done at the end of a long ride -- aim for 20 minutes of work over functional threshold // when I tried to go 3x8 min fast (4 min RI) at the 2.5 hour mark of a four hour ride last week I had MAJOR fade but still hit 170 bpm, so a decent effort. Anyhow, new plan for this week...

ITU SBR Session -- This week I will do a solid swim (main set as... 5x400 lcm leaving on 6 min with effort as fast, mod-hard, steady, mod-hard, fast) then straight into a trainer session with 4x6 min fast on 3 min RI. After the trainer session, run immediately 5 miles steady. This is an ITU-type workout that the lads would do in NZ -- I'm going to recover by riding easy, they would alt between steady/mod-hard/fast -- I'm not quite at that part of my season, yet. The ITU lads would back that up with functional & core strength/run speed in the evening but I'll take the rest of the day off!

Swim -- I've been doing one quality overdistance workout each week; a solid IM swim day and a continuous swim. This past week was decent in terms of volume (22.5K meters equivalent). My continuous swim today was 4000 scm as 2000 relaxed then alt by 100 faster, 100 easier -- probably had a differential of 10s per 100 between the faster and the easier.

I've also been inserting long periods (60-120 mins) of higher cadence riding into the early parts of some long rides. Bobby wants me to get my run cadence up and this seems to be helping.

Boulder riding has been mainly in the flats and lower volume. Vegas riding will have more hills and remain lower volume as I am in an intensity cycle.

Heart rates remain very responsive -- the 175 bpm during my 6x3 min fast last Wednesday was the highest HR I've generated in Colorado.

Take care,
gordo

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05 March 2007

The Magic Formula

Blogger is having a little trouble uploading my photo. So...

There's an alternative one posted on Planet-X with my race report. That photo is of the Snowman Stampede. As you can tell from that snapshot, the day lived up to its billing. The race was my first sustained effort of the season and it went well for me. I can attest that an hour of drilling it at altitude gives a pretty strong hypoxic training stimuli.

For those of you that enjoy data, my average heart rate for the hour was 165 bpm and my max was 170 bpm. That compares to my heart rate cap of 148 bpm -- I've been using that for all "endurance workouts" as well as during "endurance" phases of training.

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I was sent a weblink the other day to a philosophical website. I enjoy reading these sites and surfed around for a while. Around the same time, I was contacted by an athlete looking for an exact determination of his endurance training heart rate threshold, what I call AeT (aerobic threshold).

The two events reminded me that our minds craved certainty as well as clarity. We're always looking for...

...the magic formula
...the magic protocol
...the perfect partner
...the perfect wave
...the perfect day
...the perfect conditions
...the ideal plan

A man more wise than me pointed out that this craving for something other than what we are tends to make a lot of people unhappy. Still, I think that spending time learning from experts can be time well spent.

It's interesting though... my experience is that you have to learn a tremendous amount to get yourself to the point where you see that nearly everything that you learned is a distraction from what matters.

The people that get the most practical use from their knowledge, tend not to be the ones with superior knowledge. Individuals with the greatest reach excel in clear communication, rather than technical detail. This drives many experts absolutely bananas! Personally, I find that entertaining for some reason.

So on the site that I linked up is a quote about success. You can read the entire essay here.

"The secret of success of every man who has ever been successful -- lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don't like to do."

That pretty much sums it up for me. There's nothing more that I can tell you about success.

..but I'll give it a shot anyhow!

I prefer to program myself in positive, proactive ways. Figure out what you want to achieve then seek out experts of character and pattern yourself on their actions, thoughts and beliefs.

That's all great but... you are going to need a HUGE amount of energy to keep up with an individual that has deeply engrained their success patterns into their mind, body and spirit. In fact, most people will get overwhelmed by the power of their mentors.

So while the author of that essay is pointing out the difference between success and failure -- he is not addressing why the failures struggle to keep up. When people breakdown, it is their process that falls apart.

So how do we give ourselves the energy to maintain our circle of success? How do we give ourselves every chance to form those successful habits?

Here are some ideas that I came up with. They are what work for me. Perhaps they will help you. I'd encourage you to find out what works for you. Much better than following what works for me!

All of the following are things that we can "do" in order to build the energy that we have available. The closer that I stick to these guidelines, the easier (and deeper) I find my ability to achieve my goals.

Simplicity
-- most people try to do too much. At any given time, I can manage doing two things "right" in my life. Everything else is being done "ok" at best. If you come over to my house then you'll see the two things that I'm working on right now. I posted it on my fridge. I want every single person that is close to me to know what I'm working on.

Nutrition -- there is a clear link between nutritional quality and mood. Running deeper than mood, there is a direct link between energy and nutrition. I smile when people tell me that "a calorie is a calorie". It's not that way in my body and it's not that way in terms of our impact on the Earth.

Our bodies are the most direct expression of how we feel about ourselves and our nutritional choices are the most frequent actions that we take with respect to our (physical) selves. Food choice is easier than thought choice!

Recovery -- there is a certain pride in many cultures (and sub-cultures) around sleep deprivation and self-suffering. At a certain level, something inside us can "feed" of this stress but (eventually) you'll fade away. The "hard" path may feel satisfying for a few years but it is worth remembering that most of us are playing an 80 year game! I have big plans for my body twenty years from now -- some of the lads might get me this decade but if I just hang on long enough...

Love -- this is a big one and I'd encourage you to think about love in the absolute broadest sense of the word. What I mean is any thing, person or experience that enables us to feel more "open". In my world this includes: Monica, nature, church, friends, training, old tress, snow, sun, wind, animals, little kids, water... all of these are spiritual "openers" for me and lift my energy.

Attitude -- attitude is mission critical. My mentors/advisers/pals and I had an email thread the other day about "coaching elite athletes". What started as a discussion on coaching elite triathletes (rather infrequently elites in life), turned into a platform for some very successful people to define their personal definition of success. What was fascinating to me was that EVERY one of the successful people had achieved their person definition of success. They may not have achieved my definition (or your definition) but they achieved their own. A clear reminder that we must choose our goals wisely. What comes next is important...

Successful people cultivate an abundance mentality for their goals within themselves. They "are" what they are seeking to achieve. Through this self-expression, they achieve success prior to achieving their goals.

Unsuccessful people (unconsciously and consciously) cultivate a scarcity mentality within themselves. The focus on their "lack" of what they are seeking and long for the day when they will achieve it. This day rarely comes.

Change in our life situation most effectively stems from an improvement in our personal outlook, expressed by what we cultivate in ourselves. We are most able to attract the things, experiences, people that we cultivate within ourselves.

In, then out.

Our culture has it completely backwards with many of the messages that we are fed within the media. The searching for satisfaction (and change) without. The unsucecssful are constantly wondering why their impression of the world remains rooted as a reflection of what they hold within. The truly successful smile and give thanks that they have learned to be satisfied with what they have created within themselves.

So that's my Energy Creator list! What about my personal energy reducers?

Related to simplicity -- I train myself to say "no" to attractive opportunities. If you have trouble with this point then start by saying "no" to unattractive opportunities. No joke, I know plenty of people that repeatedly choose to do things that they hate rather than having to face saying "no" to somebody that's probably too caught up in their own life to notice.

Nobody likes saying "no" to people (comes back to the opening quote about successful habits) -- I was fortunate in that I was forced to learn how to say "no" in my first job. In venture capital, we had to say "no thanks" to a lot of people. Given that it is as tough for the partners as it is for us... the junior guy on the team gets plenty of practice saying "no" early in the investment process -- the partners get the really tough ones... saying "no" late in the process!

I tend to extend my zone-of-no-thanks from opportunites... to situations... to people... to habits... to foods... to the web ...to anything that is a distraction from my ability to devote myself to my two main goals.

Sounds a bit extreme, and I suppose that it is, however I am looking for a very deep level of achievement, satisfaction and success.

The Magic Formula -- a self-sustaining circle of sustained action over time.

Choose wisely,
gordo

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