This week, I'm going to share some thoughts that we have been discussing at Mitch's Desert Camp. These topics come up quite frequently, so I thought that I'd offer my take on them.
First though, from last week, I asked Monica what she thought my key blindspots were. Her observation was that I actively create more obligations than my athletic competition -- I'll be seeking simplification as I head into IMC. As for my own introspection, I came up with my desire to attempt to control the world around me (control, of anything external, being an illusion).
The camp was a great experience and I learned quite a bit from the athletes and other coaches. Alan and Jeff came up with excellent ideas for a series of articles. I hope to share their work with you in the weeks to come (they are writing, not me).
Alan has joined our new business and has two spots for athletes, if you're looking for a coach then drop me a line and we will discuss if we are a good fit for you. Aside from Monica, Alan spends the most time with me each week.
I shared some of Monica's swim workouts with the campers and emphasized a few things about triathlon swimming for them to consider...
>>>Tri swimming is not a competition in maximal oxygen consumption. I see a lot of inefficient swimmers working on their "engines", rather than improving their efficiency. I shared my favourite tool for rapid improvement in economy (three stroke breathing) -- not everyone is willing to "slow down" to speed up. If you've been plateaued using two stroke then perhaps your limiter is effciency, not effort.
>>>Swim pacing -- if triathlons started with a run then pacing mistakes would be much more evident. I know many, many athletes that start their long course racing at heart rates that aren't far off open half marathon levels. In other words, they kick off their day with a 30-75 minute max effort swim.
>>>Digestion -- Jeff shared his observation that max effort swimming shuts down the GI system -- in his IM racing, he has had to wait over an hour for it to restart after the swim. He's working on swimming more relaxed, until he learns how to do that... he needs to wait a long time before starting his energy/fluid intake. His view is that many people with his swim effort profile, run into trouble from eating/drinking too quickly after the swim. 2-2.5 hours without food or fluid intake is quite a deficit to overcome.
>>>Improvement -- I believe very strongly that swim training is similar to bike/run training. The key fitness component being steady state stamina -- this comes from sustained, moderate main sets of 30-60 minutes duration. Three stroke breathing being a great reality check during main sets to keep us in our endurance zones.
The approach above requires a level of dedication that many athletes will never manage. If you step-up then you can achieve an edge relative to the vast majority of your competition.
I started swimming at 30-years of age and trained myself down to a low-50s Ironman swim. I've been fortunate to study under a number of the best swim coaches in our sport. In my last three races I came out of the water with, or ahead, of the race winner. It can be done!
The Chinese have a saying that the most useful part of a pot is the space inside. In other words, the "spaces" in our lives are as essential as the events. At the camp, I found that I was most able to help people during the "spaces" in the camp, rather than during the training sessions.
When laying out the schedule for a training camp, it is tempting to keep things action packed. However, what I most enjoyed was a moderate training week with time for massage, yoga and interaction with the campers. There was plenty of informal interaction and that's what's most interesting for me.
If you are looking to learn, to grow, to change direction... then the first step is creating the space in your life for the "new" to come it.
Mitch shared some ideas on his personal training protocols with us and, hopefully, this is an accurate reflection of what he meant. In Mitch's own training, there are two kinds of sessions -- fun sessions (the bulk) and race-prep sessions (the key ones).
Fun sessions are what excite him, keep him training and reflect the way he wants to live. They may, or may not, be specific to his needs as an athlete. By keeping plenty of fun in his program -- he keeps his enjoyment and consistency high across the year. This is important because consistency is the #1 thing in a training program.
Race-prep sessions are his key workouts that he does to prepare his body (and mind) for the demands of his goal races. These are done much less frequently. They take a lot of discipline on his part. On Saturday, I rode with Mitch during one of his race-prep rides. I had NEVER seen him ride like that... dead even pacing, smooth power transitions on the hills... a complete eye-opener and learning experience for me.
Jeff noted that if you get ten successful people together in a room, most people will want to discuss their differences. However, the REAL information comes from learning their similarities -- what are the common elements of success?
Watching Mitch, I realized that he is a guy that deeply understands long course race pacing -- when he's "having a little fun" on a group ride -- that's just for kicks. When it comes time for a key session he's all business, as you'd expect from a Marine officer!
A good reminder that we rarely see the entire picture of an athlete's (or coach's) program.
The Boulder swim clinic has been postponed due to a scheduling issue, I'll let you know new dates when announced.
I raced on April 21st and will be writing that one up, as well as my up-coming race, in one week's time. You'll be able to read that on the Planet-X website in ten days or so. I'll post the link when it is live.
With a bit of luck, Mitch will "feature" me at one (or two) of his camps in 2008. I think that it would be fun to repeat a camp like this one (race then training) as well as a BIG bike camp.
Back in a few days,