25 June 2008

Lifelong Athletics


The picture above is from 2004 -- that is Tom Evans without the shirt. Tom had a great race that day and, an even better day, last weekend when he won (with style) in Idaho. Now that Peter is flying float planes, Tom has to be the fastest Canadian Ironman. Outstanding for a married guy with a full-time job. When I have a tough day, or start to doubt myself, I think about Tom. He is a big inspiration to me.

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A book recommendation for you that I have been enjoying is Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger. When I have read Charlie Munger's writing, he often talks about his checklists -- trouble is, I couldn't find them anywhere. Until I bought this book -- they are a great appendix that the author assembled.

This week I am going to share ideas on a reader question.

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If you have a moment can you address training as a way to maintain a lifetime of fitness and how to manage your training with a long term view? I ask because for myself partly but mostly for my father who is 63 and a fit runner. After watching me at the Eagleman 70.3 he has decided to switch from marathons/ casual cycling to triathlon (I am supportive and think the focused cross training is likely more sustainable as he gets older). Do you have any recommendations for older athletes? Are younger athletes able to maintain their fitness as they age or does the volume over the years result in overuse injuries that surface later in life?

I wrote a blog on The Aging Athlete last November. That is a good starting point.

Long time readers will notice that my advice appears consistent across sex, age, experience and and goals. That is a conscious decision -- my experience is that consistent application of the Four Pillars applies very well across populations. For training protocol, I think that we should all research the lessons of Arthur Lydiard and translate to our sport, ability level and athletic age.

NOTE -- Lydiard is well known for his 100-mile per week base phase, I like to translate that into time for triathletes -- in Lydiard's population a 100-mile run week was about 11-12 hours of training. For sustainable results, keep those hours in your head, sticking with a hard distance target can be counterproductive.

Every athlete, that seeks long term success, should remember the essential nature of non-training factors. Put another way, new athletes can appear to "get away"with poor nutrition, never stretching, muscle imbalances, and weak recovery strategies. If you want to perform across ten, twenty, fifty years then these risk factors become key personal limiters.

A phased approach can work well. Phases within each week, month, year, four year cycle and decade. Consider the weak points in your current athletic inventory. What can derail you? Greatly improve these "consistency risk factors" in your transition period and early season. Then... maintain across your season. It takes far less energy to maintain a level of strength/flexibility/nutrition/immune function than it does to improve, or heal, when it goes off track.

As an example, even today, I feel that I continue to benefit from strength training done over a decade ago, yoga done eight years ago and two years of aerobic overload (2003/2004).

There are only a few (usually Olympic level) coaches that have the vision to nurture talent across a 6-12 year time horizon. Most people go-for-broke in 6-18 months and only the biomechanically gifted freaks survive.

Our reader closes with a great point -- lifetime volume and wearing out. Hardly anyone (other than former elite marathoners and ironman champions) discusses this with me. I suppose it is human nature to avoid focusing on the fact that we wear-out and die.

Listen to my interview with Dr. John Hellemans.

John is very good at respecting an individual's 'right' to make their own mistakes. However, he has been telling me for YEARS that the high level pursuit of ultradistance sports is unhealthy because of the training load IMers place on our bodies. I never had a real position on his point until this year (he's right). It's a lot like death -- it simply doesn't make sense until someone young, close to us, dies. Even then, our brains aren't wired to focus on our own mortality.

My buddy, Jeff (Dr. J) Shilt explains it this way... think of yourself as a car. You can use the best fuel, have a perfect service record and drive carefully. Still, no matter what you do, things will wear out eventually. 1200 hour training years don't exactly fit with "careful driving"!

Coming back to Hellemans, he is one of the best 50-somethings in the world at standard distance triathlon (8 world AG titles, I think). He's been in triathlon since it was founded and is still ripping today. He shoots for 12-15 hours per week of training load and that enables him to be a highly competitive and happy guy.

Tom Evans is my role-model for Ironman and John Hellemans is my role-model for life.

So in terms of life long athletics -- thinking through my own experience as well as my training partners left in the sport and long gone...

You can likely hit it pretty solid through to 25 years old. Athletically young athletes can also be very aggressive for 1, or 2, years when they are under 40. I have seen many athletes jumpstart their endurance by taking a sabbatical from work to focus on their cycling. However, hitting-it-hard for more than 18 months tends to fry athletes at all levels and compromises long-term consistency.

Remember that long term consistency is the best indicator of being able to approach our ultimate athletic performance. Far more than protocol, consistency is the universal characteristic that appears at the top.

High performing endurance athletes that come from non-impact sports (swimming, cycling) need to be VERY VERY careful when they start running. If you strap an elite swimming engine to a novice runner body then you nearly always ruin the athlete -- don't fall into the trap of fooling yourself with exceptions. There is a TON of silent evidence.

So my advice... if you have potential for triathlon then you will know within two years from starting the sport. Folks with high athletic potential improve very rapidly. With that rapid improvement comes the temptation for more, and more, and more... a good coach is valuable to protect you from the natural enthusiasm that comes from success. Know your coach's limiters and remember that we tend to be attracted to people that share our biases.

For whatever reason, we seem to think that there is more merit in ruining our bodies if we happen to be be "good" -- my rapid, and continuous, improvement hindered my capacity for an objective review of my athletic path. It wasn't until I approached my athletic peak, for a second time, that I was able to consider what the heck I was doing. Like so many things, most of us keep rolling until something breaks. Even then, how often do we chase the illusive "high" of past experience.

Once you have been doing endurance sport seriously for five years, and certainly by ten, you will have a clear idea of your potential, what you enjoy and (if you pause to think) should be able to figure out the "why" behind your participation. At that stage, it is worth considering how you are going to maximize your "athletic why" across the rest of your lifetime. If you read this blog weekly then you'll know that I've been mulling my "why" for a few years... ...and I am still training!

Off to the Rockies with Molina. Back online after the 4th of July.

Chose wisely,
gordo

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22 June 2008

The Back 40


The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
-- Richard Feynman

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Our picture this week is Scott Molina (looking buff at 48) competing in the Epic Italy, 4.5K uphill race. For me, his expression sums it up. Note that he is holding excellent form despite being totally worked. True running technique is what you are left with when you're wrecked. Here's a shot of Johno's run form... hills are a great way to improve running economy...



Scott is in town on Friday and, starting Saturday, we'll be hitting the Rockies for a week of altitude training. I was up on Magnolia Road this morning for a little high altitude prep. It will be interesting to see how Scott copes -- hopefully, he will have some of the Stelvio left in his bloodstream.

I'd show you a picture of my running form but... it left a bit to be desired when put alongside my fellow Epic coaches! We'll finish with a veranda shot at the Hotel des Alpes in Cortina. An outstanding hotel based in the heart of the Dolomites. A great base for the bulk of your vacation in the Italian Alps.


That is Randy from New York with Scott/me. I get a big kick out of hanging with guys from the East Coast. They live in a different world and that helps me maintain perspective.

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Back to the quote that started this piece off. If a man as clever as Feynman says that he needs to be careful about fooling himself then, I figure, there are a number of areas in my own life where I am currently fooling myself. So the last two weeks have been spent investigating how I am fooling myself.

Use of Capital -- I need to exercise consistent fiscal discipline across all areas of my life.

Athletic Achievement -- athletic triumphs are most satisfying when novel and unexpected. Across a lifetime, one may find greater satisfaction from success in a variety of fields. The joy of beginner's mind is exceedingly tough to maintain as one becomes more and more experienced (in reality, more and more biased!) in a field.

Athletics and Satisfaction -- satisfaction comes from living in harmony with my body and the sensations of personal health. These feelings are most prevalent when I am training for a competition. However, I think that I am linking competition to the feelings rather than seeing the link between lifestyle and personal satisfaction.

Relative Achievement and Competition -- the most peaceful moments of my adult life have been moving in harmony with nature, not defeating strangers in athletic combat.

Benefits of Financial Wealth -- the two greatest benefits of financial wealth are independence and freedom. Using our wealth for its most obvious use (goods and services) reduces it ability to provide us with what truly matters.

All of the above feed into my personal values and ethics that I have built up over the last ten years.

Successful Marriage based on kindness and respect
Peaceful Listening
Retreats with Nature
Wake-up Early
Ethical Life with Meaning
To explore and share new experiences
To read good books and learn
To write and teach
Temperate weather with ample sunshine
Maintain expense/income balance

The title of this article refers to years 40 to 80 of my life. My goal with my current review is to establish a frame of reference against which I can make decisions of varying duration and expected outcome.

I thought that I was going to have to re-write "everything" then discovered that my values were fairly well documented within my existing business plan.

I will finish this week with a shot of my nephew sporting the GordoWorld team colors at a local swim meet...


I've got a few spare jerseys in the basement -- if your kids are interested then drop me a line with your address. [Update -- they all went in 24 hours]

Still thinking,
gordo

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16 June 2008

48 Switchbacks


Our lead photo this week is the Passo di Stelvio – I spent Saturday riding up its forty-eight switchbacks. The photo is taken looking down and shows less than one-third of the climb, without doubt, one of the greatest rides in the world.

If you are a cyclist then I highly recommend a pilgrimage to Italy. Don’t leave it too late, though. I am in great shape and used my 34-27 extensively!

Epic Italy was my ninth Epic Camp. I learn, and re-learn, lessons each time I go through the Epic experience. To promote contemplation, I left my iPod packed for the entire camp. Epic went well and what follows are some observations that I hope you find interesting.

Big training isn’t for everyone and, even if you are ‘good’ at it, it can be counterproductive to your health and goals. However, undertaking massive challenges can be rewarding and lead to personal growth.

I now know that I can’t “win” Epic Camp. I might win “the game” but, to do that, I place myself in such a hole that I forfeit my larger life goals. Learning the value in doing less has been one of the most useful lessons of my athletic journey.

At Epic, we place ourselves under immense stress. Why? Each of us has a different answer to that question and, I suspect, many of the athletes never stop to consider their own answer. Here is mine… I attend Epic because training camps work.

If you have athletic goals then you are far more likely to achieve them when you surround yourself with a total training environment.

The essential components:

Removal of outside stressors – I didn’t check email once during the camp. This has a very positive impact on my recovery and clarity of mind. Our support team are also essential – laundry, maps, aid stations, meals. This is a huge benefit, even when balanced with the distractions of language, culture and different foods.

Social pressure – We all want to “look good”. If I host a camp then (to maintain my self-image) I can’t sleep through swim practice, take a van ride or skip my runs. What I can control is hitting the minimum workouts, doing my best and trying to be cheerful the whole time. I am placing myself in an uncomfortable situation where success is achieved by enduring the discomfort.

NOTE – In earlier years, social pressure to out-train every athlete temporarily ruined my health. In our larger society, social pressure to keep up with financial expenditure can lead to financial ruin. So be very careful with how you set yourself up in public (and the company you keep – your peer group greatly matters).

Massive Training Overload – My athletic advantage is capacity to train. If you can cram a ton of work into your body, absorb it and learn when to spend it… then you will improve. You will also place incredible stress on your immune system and wear your body out faster than if you were more moderate in approach. As with many things, there are increasing costs and decreasing benefits as you move up the performance curve.

In my experience, the costs outweigh the benefits for many athletes. Eight days of Epic Camp can be a great reality check on whether athletic success is desirable, probable and personally profitable (in the largest sense). Most people don’t have the necessary combination of genetics, attitude, life situation and talent to train (or work) at an elite level. Still, it can be fun place to visit.

Of course, if I had failed to try… that would have been a great (and, perhaps, silent) failure in my life.

Most EpicVets get a permanent benefit from the camp. However, given the psychological profile of our sport, we have had a few customers (myself included) absolutely torch themselves. Only the fittest athletes have a shot a sustaining what we do at Epic.

The camps are a great study in psychology and coping mechanisms. While we have “rules” for scoring points at the camp, everyone ends up playing their own version of the game. I suspect that we do this so that we each “win” in our own way. The people that attend are so used to winning that we each withdraw (at times) when faced with a situation where we may “lose”.

Next year, we will host two Epic Camps –New Zealand in January and French Alps in June. I have told Johno & Scott that I am 100% for the French Alps. I can’t confirm attending New Zealand right now.

If you are interested in learning more about Epic Camp then send us an email with your athletic background.

The camps are most effective for people in Sub-10 hour Ironman shape. With our climbing camps (Rocky Mountains, Pyrenees, Alps, Dolomites), there is no place to hide so you need to turn up in solid bike shape.

If you aspire to Epic then Endurance Corner will be hosting more moderate training camps in 2009 – Tucson in early April (sub-13 to sub-10 IMers) as well as Boulder in July (open to IMers of all ability levels). I’ll share more details about these camps in the coming months.

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The Pinnacle

In early 2003, I managed to go under nine hours at Ironman New Zealand. For a guy with my background, that’s fast.

Two weeks after that race, Scott Molina asked me “What if that’s it?” My reply was, “there’s always more”. Five years, two bouts of serious overtraining and six-months away from my 40th birthday… I am starting to see the relevance of his question…

In 2004, I achieved outstanding personal fitness from cramming eight weeks of high volume training into a nine-week block. My training partner on that adventure was Clas Bjorling – one of the toughest, and nicest, athletes that I have ever met. We didn’t try to “get fast”. We did the trip because we thought that it would be fun to swim/bike/run across America. The trip was more effective than fun – a life with meaning isn’t always fun.

Don’t assume that if you did the same trip then you’d get as fast as us! The trip “worked” because we (somewhat accidentally) created an environment where we gave ourselves what we needed at the time. Always remember to consider what YOU need as well as your current personal limiters. This is tough to do – I find it much easier to follow the advice of others than sit down and think for myself. Thinking is work.

Back to my fitness… early this year, I started to notice that I was able to do anything that I wanted on the bike. This is different than being able to do _anything_. I have limits but when I am riding in my peer group I can achieve what I set out to do – even if that is merely to survive.

Greed, in all things, is a source of personal downfall. Ten years ago, I altered my course from maximizing financial gain to increasing my life satisfaction. At its root, overtraining syndrome is a form of greed, an obsession with athletic performance that, ultimately, leads the athlete to sickness.

In regaining my athletic fitness I noticed clear parallels with the world of international finance. The most striking is the lack of health amongst some of the long-term practitioners. There are a lot of wrecked bodies in high finance and elite athletics. As a defense, the high performers would probably point to the poor health of the masses but, for me, that misses the point. What is the point of achievement if we need to damage ourselves (or compromise our ethics) in the process?

Few people arrive at the position where they are able to rationally see the benefits of less. Typically, we only see the benefits of change when we hit the bottom of our personal potential, or face a major crisis.

So as I blast up a 2,000 meter climb in the Dolomites, self-assured in my King of Mountains jersey, I ask myself… how am I serving the larger goals of my life? Will an extra 20 watts on my functional threshold get me to the top of the bean stock? How about an extra 50 watts? An extra 100 watts?

Then it dawns on me, I have learned this lesson before.

Day Three, Epic Camp Italy 2008 – I ride off the front pretty easily and realize that I should really enjoy the next few months because this is as quick as I am going to get. At one level (performance), my athletic mission is complete. At another (personal wellness), it is beginning.

Molina noticed the change in me and found it entertaining. He might not know the source until he reads this blog. Monica saw it months ago, before I had even noticed. Both of them roll their eyes when I say “this is it”. They’ve heard it all before.

What about Scott’s question?

If this is the Pinnacle then this is enough. Frankly, 2/3rds of my current fitness is enough – I would, however, have to adjust my bike gearing for the French Alps next summer. Scott was running a 30-tooth small chain ring in the Dolomites and many of us had gear envy.

Choose wisely,

g

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08 June 2008

Poor Charlie's Almanack


I am going to change gears from the tri-writing of the last few weeks and write about some personal and financial ideas.

Before we get into that a few announcements.

Boulder Summer Training Weekends -- we have a couple of slots left in each of our July and August camps. Full details here -- The weekends are a mixture of training as well as a chance to sit down talk with the EC coaching crew.

Epic Camp Italy -- starts this coming weekend. You can follow the action on the Epic Camp website. Scott and Johno have come up with a very challenging route. Should be entertaining and I am glad that I've taken my preparations seriously. Unfortunately, Mike Montgomery won't be able to join us so it looks like Molina is the man-to-beat for the campers with Pink Jersey aspirations. I have made a promise to myself that I won't tack on a single bike kilometer so that probably rules me out of the overall competition.

PodCast -- I did an interview with Mark Byerley, a fellow Canadian based in Waterloo. You'll find MP3 and WMA versions HERE.

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Alan wrote a fun piece about his thoughts on athletic performance. I enjoyed it and can relate to a lot of what is in there. Thoughts that flowed...

In life, participation trumps performance -- however, successful performance helps maintain participation.

If it really is all about participation then playing the "performance game" can be a good way to keep going. If tweaking, experimenting and fine tuning keeps you heading out the door then its all good!

I need to maintain an open mind about the sources of other people's motivation. Motivational tools that work are important.

I have a lot of respect for 'scientists' (and coaches) that front up and get out there. There is so much about sports performance that we don't understand. If we get all the MSc's/PhD's out there then we're bound to learn some more!

AC wrote about heading towards the end of the first half of his life. That caught my eye as I have started preparing my 40-year plan that will take me to 80 years old!

I have been reading Poor Charlie's Almanack a great read and a reminder about several keys to successful living, and investing.

The best tip (so far) is to approach your lifetime investing as if you have a twenty punch card. Each time you make an investment, it costs you one punch. Consider a 40-year investment career with twenty key decisions. That really appeals.

The implication of this approach (for me) is that we want to think very carefully about each investment and be highly selective. When we bet, make a substantial investment, with a margin-for-safety built into the price and ensure capital preservation.

This is great advice -- thinking back, my investment track record is dominated by the performance of my five largest investments. Get rid of those five deals and my personal track record would be below average. I have never been diversified and have had poor returns from my limited stock picking. I would be ahead if I removed all my small investments // every one that I ever made. As a portfolio, they had a poor return and sitting on cash would have been superior. I appear to lack discipline when I am not committing a substantial portion of my net worth.

Munger is a fan of Ben Franklin (see section on Virtue in the link) and points out that Franklin reduced his commitment to business when he was 42 so that he could focus on his writing, science and other interests. Thinking about Franklin triggered the decision to consider the second half of my own life. The key questions that I have been pondering:

What are my values?
Where do my greatest skills lie?
What can be achieved when these combine?

I recommend the Almanack to you. I have the Second Edition and it looks like they just revised with a Third Edition.

Not sure about internet connectivity in Italy -- if I can get on-line (and have the energy) then I'll update from Epic Italy. Otherwise, I'll be back the week of June 16th.

Cheers,
gordo

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01 June 2008

Athletic Legacies and Training Speeds


This week, I will share some ideas on being fast as well as some detail on my own program. I will also touch on a few paradoxes between my training approach and my racing performance.

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Last weekend, I raced the Triple T in Southern Ohio (that's me in the photo above -- I'm on the bike with the Zipp 1080 front -- seriously fast wheel, use with caution!). The race has a unique format. Athletes complete an Ironman but the distance is split into four races over three days (a prologue, two Olys and a HIM). To place well, an athlete needs to be able to perform well when tired – one of my strengths.

Earlier this week, I sent my race report to Planet-X, Zipp and Blue Seventy. I expect that the PX crew should have it live shortly (click HERE on Tuesday). As you will read, I ended up with the quickest time for the weekend and was reminded that it is quite tough to go fast. Alan touches on the physiological reason why it is tough for me to go hard in his latest blog.

When you know the training/approach required to go fast – but can’t seem to do it – that knowledge can reduce your training satisfaction. In 2005, I was dealing with quite a bit of frustration.

Likewise, even if you arm yourself with the fitness to “go fast” – the knowledge of how hard you have to race can make you realize a few things. Now that I am “fit” I am reminded how tough it is to tap my fitness. Riding around the rolling hills of Southern Ohio I asked myself (more than once) why I was spending the weekend, away from my wife, chasing strangers around the backwoods?!

I feel very fortunate in my athletic life -- first (and foremost) to have the opportunity to train on a daily basis; and, second, to have experienced a high level of success. Strangely, just like my success in the corporate world, I have come to realize that there isn’t anything magical at the end of the rainbow. When I finish first, it simply means that nobody faster turned up and I sit around waiting for my pals to catch up.

For me, the satisfaction lies in experiencing the physical sensation of performing close to my potential. I can feel that in training AND, at training speeds, I can relax a bit and look around at nature. During a bike TT, I have to hold my head totally still and avoid creating any additional turbulence with my helmet (!). I save a few seconds but miss the view.

What is my point? Just a reminder of the following…

If you are dissatisfied with yourself at the back of the pack then you will have the same feelings in the middle of the pack. There are a lot of people chasing self-esteem at the races – I doubt you’ll find it in your racing (you could find it in on your athletic journey, though).

If you think that qualifying for Kona, winning your agegroup, or winning a race will change the way you feel about yourself then you may be disappointed. My experience has been that outstanding preparation is more satisfying than performance. However, I seem to be more process-oriented than most.

Coaches (and athletes) should be extremely wary about defining success in terms of relative performance. Our egos greatly overestimate the importance of victories.

The lessons of athletics come from the process of overcoming ourselves and learning to create habits that support our goals. Success is a continual process of finding patterns/choices/decisions that hold us back and eliminating them. These lessons are independent of inherent ability and ultimate performance.

Inherent ability and relative performance impact the satisfaction we receive but those feelings are shallow compared to the deeper meaning that arises when we overcome our fears and failures.

Take some time to consider the legacy that you are creating for yourself. How have the last five (or ten, or twenty) years served the life that you want to create?

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How I Train & Race

With that in mind, I am going to change direction and share some ideas about how I get “fast” relative to myself. How do I improve my performance?

Consistency – the last two week’s articles are a good summary of my Big Picture approach. As a number of male readers wrote in… “it wasn’t just for the ladies”. I wrote that piece to remind myself, and you, of a few things.

Training Load – for ultradistance triathlon, your ultimate potential is closely correlated to the training load that you can absorb. If you have factors (genetic, occupational, whatever) that limit your capacity to absorb training then you will struggle to be a competitive ultradistance triathlete. This can be an unpopular message to deliver.

NOTE -- this point applies most directly to your performance against others -- by training smart, nearly everyone can perform far better than we imagined relative to ourselves.

Your struggles will show as:

***Injury
***Low energy
***Illness
***Poor workplace performance
***Poor relationship performance
***Disordered eating (there is a lot more of this behavior than eating disorders)
***DNS and DNF results
***Low race performance relative to training performance

If you have the psychological make-up to be a great athlete but lack the physical back-up then you are going to get frustrated coping with the above. I know athletes that manage to convince themselves that the above characteristics are success traits (!?). I would characterize them as failure markers – when you are dealing with two, or more, then you are limiting your ability to be successful in the large picture of your life.

My advice would be to consider if there is an alternative avenue for you to direct your energies where you could be great. Even if you are the “total package” for endurance sport, the rate of return on hour invested is low. If you are in it for reasons other than financial return or athletic glory, then acknowledging that fact will help you maintain a clearer perspective on how to organize your life.

In my life, I wonder if chasing race victories is simply a socially acceptable justification for wanting to do endless training camps. Training is fun, racing is tough.

I spent the 1990s banking 24,000 hours of work in the financial services industry. It is the return from a decade of work and a decade of training that created my athletic life (today). If you look at a snapshot of me (or anyone else) – then it is impossible to see the 20-30 years of choices that resulted in their current situation..

OK, now a few specifics…

Within each sport my first goal is to maintain efficiency, strength and endurance – read my Four Pillars for what that means. For EVERY distance of triathlon competition, that must be your first goal – both as a novice and an expert – it all starts from there.

The sports scientists say that our absolute VO2 can be trained up in about ten weeks – because of its quick return, intensity is great product to “sell”. It hurts and you get quick returns – must be good, eh?

By applying the Four Pillars, you can improve your power/pace at AeT/LT/FT for ten YEARS. Further, you will find that your capacity to sustain threshold efforts is linked directly to the depth of your steady-state fitness.

What do I mean by “depth of fitness”? I mean “consistent training load” – the first two bullets of this section. Depth of fitness shows mostly in your training log, not short durations TTs or the lab.

In an race like the Triple T – you see “speed” in the prologue // you see “fitness” in the final 13-mile run.

Now, even more specific…

Swimming – As a beginner, I received a huge return on my initial months of swim training. For my first year, I improved nearly every month. It was a lot of fun and the improvement became addictive. Then I reached my first (of many) swim plateaus. The early plateaus where easily overcome by adding volume. My later plateaus required adding volume and intensity. I had to learn how to “work” in the water. In order to improve from my current level, I need to be swimming 22-25,000 meters per week with three solid workouts and an IM set on my “easier” day. Swimming is the most intense aspect of my current program.

Cycling – Cycling is the heart of my endurance program. To perform well, I need a consistent load of 10-15 hours per week with my big weeks around 20-25 hours. Early in my career I did a lot of “touring” (easy cycling) but that is out of my program now. If I can’t ride at least steady then I cut the workout short. When I am riding well, I have the capacity to ride long periods on the flats (uninterrupted) The core of my program is rides of 3-5 hours duration with no more than two short breaks. Cycling is where I do the most work (effort over time) in my program.

Running – For a guy that runs well in races, I run relatively slowly in training. My program has two goals – run (nearly) every day and make my long runs my toughest sessions. That’s it. As a result, I am rarely injured and have a long track record of consistent running. REMEMBER -- if you want to run well then you need long term mileage. This is far more important than the physiological benefits of fast running.

Strength Training – about 70 sessions per annum with about 25 of those sessions hard enough to leave me sore for more than three days.

Here is the paradox – when I time trial, I turn all of that on its head.

Swim – lowest intensity part of my day

Bike – sprint and oly distance will see lots of power spikes; Half IM distance will see lots of power spikes in the 2nd half of the ride; IM distance very few power spikes.

Run – sprint and oly distance run fast the whole way; Half IM build effort and focus on a very fast final 10K; IM stay relaxed in the first half, quick in the 3rd 10K and hang on for the final 10K.

On race day, I have found that time trialling results in a faster time than racing. However, I have won a couple of events when I raced, rather than TT’d.

One final point, the above is not a protocol for health. It contains FAR too great a training load. Once we go past ten hours per week, we are being driven by something different than personal health – mental wellbeing? a circle of athletic obsession? I haven't figured that one out completely!

g

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Feedback from last week.

One reader commented that she has a strong desire for a "performance" program and asked for my thoughts.

The most important aspect of your program is getting out the door each day. If you are doing that consistently then you are successful. You personal health depends much more on "doing" than the specifics of "what you do". I think that we all spend too much time sweating the details within our programs.

One of the fascinating aspects of human nature is how we (all) assume that a program of consistency and moderation contains a hidden "cost". The articles I share here are my views on what it takes for us to become high performers -- in both life, and the athletic arena.

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