24 April 2008

Advisers and Leaders



We open with a snappy photo of Alan Couzens – he’s photogenic if you don’t give him time to realize that you are taking his photo. It is a little blurry but I don’t have many in the archives that have the big guy grinning ear-to-ear. We’ve turned him loose a bit on the training at this camp so perhaps his grin is endorphin-enhanced.

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One of the nice things about having a Human Performance Lab in my basement is that I am able to do whatever test, whenever I want. Two weeks ago, Alan hooked me up to the Met Cart and we updated my bike fitness profile. I will leave it to AC to use my data as he sees fit (we end up in his blog whether we like it or not!).

We were discussing the implications of my test – near identical O2 uptake with lower lactate levels. Again, best if I leave the technical discussion to the experts (i.e. AC). One of Alan’s suggestions was to increase the fat content of my diet. He did this indirectly by suggesting that I reduce the glycemic load of my breakfast. Eating less isn’t an effective option for me so I decided to add more calories to my diet.

He offered his advice with a caveat that he was a bit nervous giving me nutritional advice. If you know the two of us then you may smile at the thought of AC giving me nutritional tips. At first I didn’t get it – I was left pondering why an expert would be nervous sharing his advice with me. Then it hit me… he may have been concerned because of our relative ease with the 'nutrition-thing'.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to the big guy about this point but it is something that I face a lot so why not cover it here – AC and I “talk” a lot via the internet anyhow... J

There is a difference between advice and leadership. As a coach/friend/adviser/consultant, it is important to consider what the situation requires, as well as, what the client desires. I don't need my advisers to follow their own advice -- I need advisers that give me their best advice and objective feedback.

In my consulting career, I have often made incorrect assumptions about what the client desires – generally a mistaken assumption will result in the relationship breaking down due to lack of communication. My advisory failures are most often a result of a mistaken assumption (on my part) about what the client desires.

To be successful at offering what (I think) someone needs, I need to build trust by sharing ideas in a format that keeps them engaged and open. If I seek influence in a situation then I must start by creating trust.

Things to consider when deciding to offer leadership, advice or compassionate listening:

***What does the situation require?

***What does the client desire?

***What am I equipped to offer?

Triathlon is a strange sport where many of the leading experts were outstanding participants in the game. Many consumers are HEAVILY biased on the actual race performance of their advisers. I think this happens because the deeper purchase decision isn’t based on a search for expert knowledge. A personal triathlon coach is most often an aspirational purchase, separate from a search of improvement.

In other walks of life (swimming, cycling, basketball) the coach’s prior ability as a performer falls far behind his current ability as a teacher/mentor/leader. Swimming is an example where some great coaches have been very average athletes. Knowledge, communication skills and experience are the key ingredients – athletic ability scores very low outside of the marketing arena.

While leadership potential is boosted by walking-the-walk, the fact that we are human, prone to mistakes and share similar struggles to our clients most often makes us better advisers. Some of the most powerful communication that we can give our friends, family and clients is an open discussion of the real challenges that we face.

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We have space left in Epic Italy (June 7-16, eight days of training). Drop us a line if you are interested. Please include details on your athletic history and current fitness.

We finish with a shot of a flowering cactus. Southern Arizona had quite a bit of rain through the winter so we have been treated to wildflowers (March Camp) and flowering cacti (April Camp).


I love it down here.

gordo

PS -- saw my first snake of the year today!

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17 April 2008

Looking Forward


The shot above was taken in my CactusManSuit (courtesy of Jonas Colting). I was enjoying a triple soy latte in Tuba City, Arizona before heading out for a VERY crisp ride across the Navajo Nation. As you may tell from my half-smile, my motivation wasn't at an all-time high. It was two days after my canyon run and we learned that you don't need to be able to walk to ride well.

I'm going to write about two topics this week: some quick thoughts on success; and ideas on "my demographic".

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Success
I'm fond of asking myself (and my clients) questions. When I hit a road block, plateau or suffer a set-back, I ask myself "can I increase my effort to overcome this roadblock". For most of my life, the answer had been "yes" and I cut out other interests to be able to increase my personal effort on the task.

Alan has some guidelines that he uses in his coaching -- they run something like... never reduce... never trade... never compromise... // I'll let him write the whole story. They work quite well for people that are operating below their maximum capacity.

However, the majority of my clients are seeking to operate beyond their maximum capacity. I know that most my personal trouble come from over-estimating what I can handle.

Some examples that we bump into a lot in our sport:
***Excessive training load
***Persistent nutritional deficits (quality, quantity, timing)
***Lack of consistent sleep

Those are the three most common that I've experienced in my own training. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I find it useful to ask myself the opposite to see if I am missing something:

***Could my body sustain more training load?
***Would I be more successful by eating less?
***Should I reduce my sleep?

Of course, when we are trapped in self-sabotaging patterns, it often takes a crisis (or seriously crappy race) to get us to look fresh at our approach. When we reach the point that more is clearly insane... then we might be ready to try less.

One final thought on success -- a friend noted to me the other day... "I did everything that I was asked". I smiled at the time.

Not everyone understands the difference between success and compliance. Success isn't about doing the minimum.

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Below is a snap of me cradling a mixing bowl of oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Here's a stat that you probably didn't know -- I tend to eat 28-35 whole eggs per week when training big. I also eat a lot of olive oil, nuts, avocados, fish, chicken and beef. My main nutritional "weakness" is mayonnaise! Interestingly my hdl/ldl ratio is about 1:1 (96/100 to be exact).


Alan thinks that I should try to eat "even more gordo" -- so I may place myself on the Colting Plan, eat even more good fats and maximize my real food intake. It can be challenging to do that when daily calorie demands go sky high.

I don't count calories, grams of macro nutrients or seek to optimize any ratios. What I do is eat for fuel and seek to limit ANY loss of lean body mass (EVER).

This brings me to...

My Demographic
I was looking at the agegroup breakdown at Ironman Arizona and realized that I appear to have found a sport where my demographic represents the "average client". By far, the largest grouping of athletes was men 35 to 50 years old. When I read the popular (triathlon) press, this demographic doesn't seem to be all that represented -- unless they are buying the swimsuit issues...

I thought that I'd lay out some key concepts for the 35+ guys to remember // things are going to change from what you remember in your 20s. Take it from me, or Scott Molina... or Dave Scott... or Mark Allen... ...the needs of the speedy veteran athlete are very different than what you may read in the magazines.

#1 priority is Training Consistency // you gotta be training to hold on to what you got and "holding on" has to be a key motivator of men in my demographic. Those eyeball searing workouts that you think you ought to do... if they result in an injury then you are likely to lose fitness, and lean body mass, that will be very tough to regain.

Once you are over 50, the cost of injuries is even greater.

#2 priority is Keepin' What You Got // whether you use hills, big gears, paddles or Gold's Gym -- covet your strength. It insulates you from injury, keeps you healthy and improves your mood. I also suspect that heavy weights buoy naturally declining hormonal levels (as does a limited amount of high intensity cardio).

Jeff Cutteback is a name that you might have heard -- if you are in "My Demographic" then you should do some research on Jeff. He's been speedy for a long while and just finished 15th overall at IM Arizona (nipping Molina's record in the 45-49). Jeff's is 49, going to Kona and I suspect that he has a birthday between now and October... go get 'em Jeff!

As I start to feel the impact of multiple 1,200 hour training years (mainly on my feet), I have begun to consider how best to use my remaining lifetime mileage.

There is a school of thought that says "keep the hammer down and hope medical science stays in front of me". However, like most of "My Demographic", I started triathlon to lose a bit of weight and challenge myself. The whole "being fast" thing happened as an accident. Back in 1999, I was merely looking for a daylight finish.

With my pals I talk about the divergence between elite athletic performance and personal health. As I age, I start to wonder about the divergence between optimizing speed at 40 years old and maximizing athletic enjoyment across the next thirty years.

I like my feet, my knees and my hips -- it would sure be nice to hang on to the Original Equipment for as long as possible!

Whether it is at the bottom, or the top, of the range... "My Demographic" is where we will each see our maximum athletic potential decline.

...and that could be why we are all out there trying to prove something to ourselves!

Just trying to figure out what.

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Off to our second Tucson Training Camp in the morning. Should be a great week of training with old, and new, friends. We have a solid group of amateur athletes; our superb support crew and an outstanding ten-day forecast from weather.com.

See you out there,
gordo

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12 April 2008

Views on training


I've been doing quite a bit of training over the last three weeks. While my actual hours committed are only slightly higher than normal, the energy output has been increased. In my spare time, I have been focusing on Monica, my clients and my recovery. That hasn't left any motivation for writing (or reading).

However... as I swim, bike and run in the Desert Southwest, there is ample time to think! It is just that those thoughts don't seem to get much past my mind.

As an aside, my mental conditioning coach likes to ask "where do your thoughts go when they leave your mind"? My two cents is that they go straight into our bodies. Part of the role of exercise in my life is releasing thoughts from my body.

So this blog will sum up a few thoughts that keep coming back to me. By writing them down here, I hope to set them free!

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The photo that opens this week's letter is the Grand Canyon. Jonas and I thought that it would be a fun challenge to run to the river (and back) in a day. The canyon is a very powerful place and I highly recommend that you experience it for yourself. The number of eco-systems in a single place makes it very special. Totally by chance, we rolled through when there were different flowers blooming with every 1000 feet of elevation change. Fantastic!

The canyon had a strong effect on more than just my calves... in the days that followed, I felt a lot of emotions about that run. The canyon drove home my mortality in a different way than passing semi-trailers. Inside the canyon are many separate worlds that have been rolling along for thousands of years -- separate from any credit crisis, mortgage default or profit sharing agreement.

I can't promise that you'll have a similar experience but, regardless, it's worth the trip. If you come with me then I'll buy you a patch at Phantom Ranch. Big J asked why he was getting his patch at the bottom, but thought about it for a bit and smiled at me.

The only way is UP!


Jonas has been with me for the last three weeks as we travel around the desert with Kelly, our uber-support lady. Below we are the back of the monsterwagon (as he likes to call it).


In a few ways, the big guy is more gordo that gordo... it is strange when you are spending a lot of time with someone that shares your idiosyncrasies. The people that know both of us will probably be smiling because our greatest similarities are often the things that can irritate (but only slightly, naturally) those around us. Rather than dwell on how J & G maximize their "take" from the world around us... I'll share some observations about how Jonas approaches life.

By any definition, he is one of the most _successful_ athletes that I know. He's been fast for 15 years and supports his life by using his athletics to build his personal brand. He is living well and positioning himself for a healthy, sustainable future.

Nutrition -- he eats very, very well. The main differences that I noticed from what I write about is a large helping of good fats with every single meal. When my volume is high, I tend to pour olive oil on most meals (other than fruit). Big J uses olive oil, nuts and avocados. He eats a ton of fruit. Despite massive energy output when training (his average training speed is high) his %age of calories from processed foods is lower than nearly every one I know.

People tend to think that fast athletes never get tired. In fact, fast people get VERY tired. What separates elite ultraendurance athletes is: (a) how they cope with fatigue; and (b) their capacity to recover from stress/fatigue. The longer the event, the more important this becomes.

Jonas is super experienced and very successful over a long period of time. He has the confidence to walk, or grab a van ride, when he thinks it is required. He jokes that he might have been more successful if he had simply been a little tougher. There is a real humility that surrounds him.

As for success... with a VO2-max of 6.9L per minute you can do a tremendous amount of damage to yourself. I can't imagine having that sort of horsepower. While J's peaks may have been greater from a sustained all-or-nothing approach; I very much doubt that his life success would have been improved. He has achieved a remarkable position in his life -- he is an elite triathlete that has a strong personal brand, a business that works outside of race performance, and the personal flexibility to come train with his Canadian buddy in the spring!

His method of achievement isn't anything fancy -- relentless work. He is on his computer 4-8 hours per DAY answering emails, talking to client and blogging (in Swedish) about his trip.

While his inherent ability helps his race performance, his life success has been created by a drive for personal excellence and consistent work over the last 15 years.

A good guy for me to hang around.

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Justin Daerr is the Camp Director for our Endurance Corner camps -- that's him above. The guy just LIVES for sag... ;-)

Justin gave the campers two great pieces of advice that I wanted to pass along. You will find them useful in your athletics, and your lives, if you apply them.

When training with people that are stronger than you... don't look for work. When you are undertaking a challenging task (a race, a training camp, a project) that requires uncommon stamina then pace your workout, your day, your week...

The successful athlete can't afford to max-out in any single training session because he needs to get back out there the next day. The day, the race, the week will get hard eventually -- sometimes not until your are back at home in private!

JD's other observation is that there are three approaches/aspects to the endurance lifestyle: Racing, Training and Touring. If your goal is performance then you need to spend the bulk of your time Training (not racing or touring).

Probably the most common training error is low-level racing in training. While this approach can work (especially if you are stronger than your buddies) -- eventually, it is self-limiting. Athletes that are plateaued and chronically injured are likely racing all the time. Long training camps (and how we cope in the weeks after) are great for helping us learn an appropriate training load. The skill lies not in the overload, rather the tough part is knowing how far is "far enough".

Something that we all deal with when deeply fatigued is "touring". Chronic "tourists" are generally married to the volume figures that they place in their training logs and have 50% (or more) of their weekly volume in their "easy" training zone. Being a tourist is a lot of fun and there is a time of year (and week) for easy training. Something that JD reminded us about is understanding when training has become touring. Maximizing our training program usually means cutting back on touring.

I found myself touring for a while yesterday and took today easy so that I could get back to training.

Great reminders from Justin

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05 April 2008

On Break


Blogging is on break. Please check back mid-April.

gordo