28 August 2008

2008 Year In Review, Part One, Athletics

This week's photo was taken while I was competing in the speedo division of Ironman Canada 2008. I am going to write up my race report for the Planet-X website. Additionally, my pals at XTri.Com have published a recent Q&A.

Long time readers will know that I like to spend September reflecting on how things went over the last year. This year, I am a bit ahead of schedule and will share some ideas that I have been considering throughout August.


Why Compete?
It may surprise you to learn that I don't really enjoy the "competing" part of athletic competition. While it is fun to win, how many of us are consistently dominating? Not me. Even when I win (or my clients win), I have concerns that the pleasure that I experience is just my ego being inflated. Humility does not come naturally to me and requires constant vigilance.

For short course racing, John Hellemans says that if you feel like quitting then you are going the correct effort. He is a multiple agegroup world champion and Olympic coach, so I remember his words. For much of this summer, I had that sensation in training -- I noted those feelings and reminded myself that, for Ironman, they were a clear indication that I was on edge and needed to be careful. I counted down my sessions, and the days, until Ironman Canada.

So why compete?

I have been getting slower for my last three years of Ironman racing. Similar to dying... we all know that slowing down is coming but it is a bit of a surprise when it actually arrives!

Why compete? Many valuable experiences are not pleasurable. The main personal benefits that I receive from racing all seem to come with "coping". We are all going to get knocked around a bit in life. Racing gives us a safe environment to train our coping skills. More specifically:

Coping with Public Success and Failure -- IMC 2007 was a public failure of a clearly stated goal. The failure caused me a lot of personal pain. However, trying our absolute best then failing... is liberating once we get past the pain. I am, mostly, free from concern over public performances. When I faced challenges in 2008, I looked inward... how do I want to respond to this decision, not... what will others think of this decision.

Pain results when Expectations (not performance) diverge from Results. Crisis comes from our expectations -- an athlete preferring to quit, rather than face the reality of their performance. Quiting stifles personal growth and, speaking from experience, it is far better to fail than quit. Getting across the finish line creates closure -- a DNF (that doesn't involve an ambulance ride) often remains an open wound.

Learning to cope with success is also challenging. People that like us for no reason aren't much different than people that hate us for no reason. It takes considerable self-esteem to remain ethically centered in the face of consistent positive feedback (social, financial, athletic...).

Dealing with a Lack of Control -- Control and stability are illusions, just ask any 68-minute Ironman swimmer! Racing drives that home to me, again, in a safe environment. Learning to manage our emotions, and decisions, while under extreme duress is a HIGHLY valuable skill that we take back into our daily lives.

Reaching Beyond Ourselves -- I have never made the lead swim pack in an international level triathlon. But... I don't rule it out! Racing provides us with an environment where we can achieve things that we thought were impossible. I've had a couple of disappointing Ironman races but... if I do happen to RIP one in the future... wouldn't it be great. Athletics have consistently shown me that I am capable of much more than I can imagine.

For me, the lessons of competition revolve primarily around self-awareness and self-control. Which leads nicely to...


Race Status, Elite versus Amateur
While I was counting down the days to Ironman Canada, I was also counting down the end of my elite career. There are elements of elite ironman training (high run mileage and risk of immuno-destruction) that don't fit with my personal plan for the next 30 years. On reflection, I also wanted to experience the (hoax) joy of winning without having to cope with the extreme duress and health risks that come from elite level training.

To explain my current thinking, I need to set the stage with a couple of stories...

A -- I have a few good friends that are former military officers. I have always been drawn to "something" that all good officers share -- the calling to be an exemplar. Charlie Munger uses the term with respect to CEOs but it applies to any person in a position of leadership (teachers, parents, coaches...). An exemplar is a leader that consistently holds themselves to a higher standard than their students.

B -- Within my own athletic career, the highlights aren't the times that I won races. The real highlights came when I performed close to the level of a great athlete (Tom Evans, Steve Larsen, Peter Reid). Not so often with Peter and not any more with Tom & Steve... but I hope you get my point... it is extremely motivating to have the opportunity to race alongside athletes that played a role in our entering sport in the first place.

C -- The quickest way to learn that external success is an illusion is to "win". Even then, "victory" is a powerful drug and highly addictive. There are many ways to keep score. In athletics, we use a clock. In other fields, they may count mistresses, dollars, clients, page views, sales transactions... external success can become a trap.

A long introduction to say that I have decided to race elite for another year. Slowing down with style will make me a better man, at a minimum a more humble man!

Racing beside Simon Lessing, and the traveling Aussies, at Boulder Peak 2009 should provide me with a solid stress management opportunity. As well, there are athletes out there that will enjoy taking me down. Why deny them that pleasure? Scott jokes that our Epic Camp clients enjoy taking down "the Ultraman".

Outside of Worlds, I'm not quite slow enough to make it a fair fight in the agegroup ranks (it could get a lot more fair during an up-coming break). In business, I have tried to be willing to sacrifice success to remain true to my values. So, you guys in the 40-44 next year will be safe from me... but I will be benchmarking against you. When you track me, remember that I have a 10 meter draft zone and, likely, had to swim alone, often without a wetsuit!

The Canadian federation makes it a bit challenging for non-resident nationals to receive their elite cards. As a result, I am going to seek a US Elite Card (once my Green Card comes through). To my friends north of the border, know that I love Canada and am a proud Canuck.

Next week, I will publish Part Two. That letter will cover the intersection of Business, Athletics and my Personal Plan. I have things sorted for my 40s but have discovered a few areas that need to be addressed to prepare for my 50s and 60s.

I play a long game.

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24 August 2008

Real World Bike Speed

This week, I'm going to talk a bit about the evolution of my approach to the bike leg in triathlon. I have gone DEEP into the archives for your reading enjoyment!


But first, two multimedia links for you.

Laura Bennett Olympic Video -- great if you have kids that are wondering what it might take to get themselves into the Olympics! The video is about 24 minutes long -- so let it buffer.

Chris McDonald Podcast -- The Big Unit updates on his year since winning IM Louisville last August. Great info on racing Challenge Roth as well as life at the sharp end. More Chris can be found at his blog.


You can waste a ton of energy thinking about your bike position -- each year, I try a few changes in January/February then tinker through the year based on optimizing COMFORT, not power.

Short course athletes might think that comfort doesn't matter. However, if it takes you a few miles to loosen up then your race is OVER before you get into your run groove.

For Ironman, if your back locks up on the bike then you give away tons of "aero". 112 miles of riding is a heck of a long way to endure a tight position.

So, remember what really matters to triathlon performance:
  1. Consistency -- consistent training over many years
  2. Nutrition -- high quality fuel for optimal recovery, body composition and performance
  3. Aerobic Stamina -- maximizing aerobic economy and endurance at your optimal race effort
  4. Pacing -- back-end loaded race effort to optimize speed across each leg and increase the probability of outstanding run performance
Bike position has NOTHING to do with how your bike looks racked in transition. Your bike position is about how you perform on your bike as well as how you run off your bike.

Your true bike position is what you are holding when tired, not fresh.


Let's get into a few photos to kick off.

You might recognize the guy above. Craig Walton is one of the most respected, and fastest, non-drafting athletes in the World. I throw this up to remind myself that my nose doesn't need to touch my stem.

OK, now for a bit of raw reality with some of the positions that I've used over the years. Below is a shot from my first bike fit with John Cobb, April 2002.

The position looks great on the trainer. Trouble is... how the heck do I see where I am going? Look at my vision. Straight down. So I would have to crane my neck upwards even to see a few meters up the road. Not great for long distance triathlon.

As an interesting aside... I look fit in that photo but I am totally smoked and only a few weeks away from my first bout of serious overtraining. If I knew then what I know now...

Below are my next two bikes -- the position I rode in 2004 as well as what I changed to in 2005. The reason I changed in 2005 was I wanted to get my saddle more forward. I will come to the "why" in a little bit.

As you can see above, different frame but, in reality, same position. Two important aspects to note about the picture on the left:

1 - look at the angle of my arms, they are pointing down. You see this a lot at the races. My front end is too low for my flexibility. As a result, my low back is constantly firing and my back will tighten as my ride progresses. Eventually, I'll have my wrists on my aerobar pads and form a big wind scoop with my body. My bike, however, looked excellent racked in transition!

2 -- I corrected this point in the picture on the right. I'm able to relax my back in the position. An important point... a higher front end can result in a lower, more relaxed, back. This is very important to remember for all distances.

The positions above worked out well for me -- they weren't all that aero but they were, on balance, comfortable enough for me to run very well (3 hours flat on the day photographed below).

In 2003/2004/2005, I had three podium finishes at Ironman events and managed one of the fastest times ever at Ironman Canada 2004 (8:29). However, those races were done with a 7 meter draft zone.

Bump the draft zone out to 10 meters and my position becomes more relevant. Why? Try sitting fourth wheel at 40 km.h with 5 meter gaps between bikes. You will very quickly see that 7 meters Ironman (front to front) is quasi-draft legal once you can hold 40 km.h. To race well in the agegroup ranks you must learn how to use your competition both effectively and ethically.

Recognizing this fact, I have been working on getting more slippery. With four months until my 40th birthday, there is limited upside with my horsepower. My current position is photographed below.

Things that I want you to notice:

Wheels -- 1080 front, sub-9 disc rear -- this is an insanely fast wheel combo. If you are going to run the 1080 then you must practice in training. If I had to choose my single greatest source of speed then the wheel set wins. I used to be highly skeptical about the impact of wheels until I put these on my bike.

Vision -- I can see up the road without straining my neck. I can't see far... but I can see far enough.

Helmet -- Giro Advantage Two -- if you are a heavy sweater, racing in hot weather, or suffer from dehydration on the run... then GO VENTS. If you are racing in the cold then an aerohelmet is the most efficient way to keep your core temperature up. Keep the tail down against your back (my IMNZ race photo shows a big gap, that is a no-no).

Seat Height -- at the high end of acceptable, seems to work for me.

Cleanliness -- no bottles catching the air coming down my back. My spares are in a bike bottle in my seat tube bottle cage. Fluids are via aerobar mount and down tube bottles -- can be accessed with minimal body movement. I wear a skinsuit, so there is no flapping clothing.

Arm position -- Going narrow as sped me up (see differences in photos below). The ONLY way that I can hold a narrow position is to pull my elbows backwards towards my hips. I run a very shot stem.

One more photo so you can see nose of saddle relative to BB (below). When TTing at high power (>FTP), I slide forward to the nose of the saddle. This saddle position is a compromise, I have found that I lose too much climbing power/comfort if the saddle goes any more forward. With the PX frame geometry, I am at the limit of how far forward I can go.

While it might be tempting to slam even more forward... remember that you need a place to put your head and you don't want to create chronic neck pain. Your TT position needs to be comfortable, otherwise you'll never train in it!

A couple of final points to consider:

Wind Tunnels -- I spent several thousand dollars with wind tunnel testing a few years ago. Frankly, it gave me the wrong answer. I recommend field testing, ideally race performance data.

Ride Strategy -- How you use your position is as important as the position itself. I am looking for a position that enables me to relax in the fast parts of the course and be comfortably powerful in the slow parts of the course.

I have power variability in my rides because I rest at high speed. I avoid power spikes as they impair my run for very little time gain. I will, however, lift my power in the slow part of the course. I am constantly considering effort versus air speed when TTing.

The bike is the only part of a triathlon where you can coast with very little time penalty. The run provides ample opportunity to lay it down, as well as, the greatest time penalty for cracking.


What to Optimize?
Triathlon cycling has little to do with elite road TTing or the 4K pursuit. While we can learn from elite cyclists, we need to remember that our event has different physiological requirements.

Here is my ride logic:

#1 -- what is my best case scenario for power output and average speed across the race distance, ignoring the run?

#2 -- what is the fastest position that I can hold at 95% of best case power?

#3 -- open with (at least) the first fifth of the ride at 90% of best case power. Lower heart rate into my target zone and establish hydration, nutrition and comfort.

#4 -- if I am feeling good then gradually shift upwards to 95% of best case power and hold as RPE increases across the ride duration.

#5 -- invest my greatest effort into the slowest parts of the course. Remember that (nearly) every meter of the run will be slower than the bike.

#6 -- until I run well, keep lowering my target bike effort.


What is it Worth?
The changes that I outline above have removed 30 watts (~11%) from the power required for me to average 40 km.h here in Boulder. I suspect the key three changes are: improved wheels; smaller wind scoop; and smarter application of power. I have field tested with aerobic TTs from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

The two things left for me to consider are my fork/front wheel combo as well as my wrist height (guys like Levi seem to lift arm angle to close off the wind scoop entrance, Fabian less so).

With a bit of luck, I may be able to pull a couple more watts out.


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15 August 2008

Being Positive

Chris asked:
"Can you expand on your practice of relentless positivity and how you apply it to training, racing, everyday life- and those occasional down periods most of us must deal with."
Happy to share ideas.

The first step for me with any topic/challenge is awareness. Without awareness of our patterns, biases and habits, we tend to roll through life on autopilot. So, I want to create awareness of my current programming as well as the triggers that can toss me into an unconscious reaction.

It has been close to a decade since I undertook the program outlined in The Artist's Way. The program appears really hokey at the start but has a tremendous amount of value. I don't really know how, or why, the program worked for me but it enabled me to gain clarity on my values and biases.

In the case of personal attitude -- awareness would likely concern how/when we speak/write/think of ourselves in a negative attitude. Awareness would also include how we speak/write/think of others in a negative attitude -- in my experience, the more needy our ego, the greater the desire to speak poorly of others.

We too often accept vocal negativity from 'popular' people because of their station in society. If we want to be positive about ourselves, we need to be positive about everything. Remember that fit, beautiful, popular, rich and successful -- none of these imply "positive".

Peer group
is an easy way to improve attitude (or screw it up). Positive people want to be associated with others that reinforce their attitude. In building quiet self-confidence, you will make yourself much more attractive to the sorts of people that you want in your life.

If you note the sorts of people that attract you, then you can quickly learn about your true value system. Over time, your peer group will modify your value system. Choose wisely!

Learning Positivity -- A good technique to start the ball rolling is to carry a small notebook around and record 'good things' as they happen to you (at least one per day). Our brains seem to do a lot better at finding faults then seeing good events. The notebook helps reprogram us by noticing something good; then writing it down and making it more concrete. No need to write down your judgments/negativity and don't worry if you find that there is a steady internal conversation that is less than ideal (its perfectly normal).

Another technique that I use is reminding myself that every person/situation has something to teach me -- even if it is patience, or anger management. So the internal dialog goes, "this situation seems to be stressing me, but I am learning how to cope and manage myself. So, actually, it is pretty useful for me."

Getting a momentary pause into my head to consider the situation is magic. By maintaining my self-awareness, I can often direct the outcome. My (slower) conscious reactions are nearly always superior.

NOTE -- this is why I avoid repling to an email/post/friend when irritated. I give myself 24-hours to mull things over -- the quality of the reply is always better. If I am really wound up then I write a reply (in Word, so I can't accidentally send) and review in the morning. I have never had to send the reply to feel better. Breaking the cycle of attacks is a noble calling!

Interestingly, I have also found that nearly everything in my life will work itself out in a few days WITHOUT my involvement. I suspect that we all greatly overestimate our importance to the world. This is also good to remember because we tend to be so self-absorbed that we fail to notice much of what's happening around us. Very good news as it means that most of my mistakes go unnoticed.

So we have a continuous, and circular process of:
  • Create awareness;
  • Consider (then adjust) peer group; and
  • Seek to reprogram self.
We can most easily adjust our patterns through control of our writing. Diaries/Blogs are very powerful tools that we can employ. Know that public expression exposes us to the slings and arrows of the insecure -- nothing demonstrates our collective insecurity quite like an internet forum that enables anonymous posting. Participation in such a community strengthens its power over us and brings its dysfunction into our peer group.

Once you feel that you have a handle on your writing then speaking/teaching is a very powerful method of reinforcement. Beware of our tendency to insert little self-depreciating 'asides' -- these are not alright. We don't need to pull ourselves down to be attractive to others. Humility doesn't require self-abuse.

The Dinner Party Game -- I've spent over an hour saying something positive about each successive person that was being cut-down at a dinner party. It is a fun game, but fatiguing. I passed on my next invite to that house (peer group).

Teaching -- when I had a public internet forum (that enabled anonymous posting), it provided me with a great platform to clarify and establish my thoughts on a wide range of topics. It also provided me with a daily opportunity to reinforce the views/qualities that I wanted to build into myself. However, be aware that consistency bias is a powerful force that must be battled to retain an open mind.

Feedback -- having a trusted adviser share areas for improvement can be really beneficial but remember that we each have a limit for the amount of "tough love" that we can handle. Quite often, you are best served by advisers with whom you have no emotional attachment. A coach exists to take the blame and (once trust is established) point out items that others would avoid. The client is normally quite adept at taking the credit for progress.

There is always a subtle background desire for reprisal when I receive a direct, and accurate, assessment of my weaknesses. As a result, I ask Monica for feedback when I can handle it and NEVER before bed. I never ask an adviser for feedback when I know that I am unable, or unwilling, to try their advice.


Coping with down periods. These are the key things that I use to try to perk myself up:

Wake-up time -- if I can get myself out of bed on time... this seems to help. Sleep pattern is HUGE for me.

Light -- I turn on every light day/night when I am awake. Bright light seems to help. In winter, I recommend walking outside during the brightest time of the day.

Sleep -- going to bed early (but not too early!) seems to help. I try to avoid napping more than 15 minutes because that normally means I don't sleep as easily at night. When I was working long hours in Hong Kong, weekend naps were really helpful. Back then, I was so tired that falling asleep was never an issue.

Music -- my iPod is a valuable tool to perk me up when I'm feeling a bit flat.

Intensity -- sustained high intensity is a bad idea (for me) when feeling flat. However, alactic training can perk me up. Alactic training is short (5-20 second) bursts of high intensity training.

Strength Training -- I find that lifting weights helps cheer me up.

Nutrition -- refined carbs are the bane of the mood swinging athlete. If I am going to take comfort in food then I aim for protein and good fats. When I am depressed my brain chemistry is screwed up enough without deviation from my normal (high quality) diet.

Peer Group -- I am very lucky that my wife, and buddies, like me despite my flaws. Hanging around with them when I am flat is beneficial (even if Monica has to drag me out of the house).

Movement -- one hour per day, every day, non-negotiable -- walking counts!

The final thing is a reality check. No matter how depressed I get, I can remind myself of the following:
  • I have felt this bad before;
  • I will feel better eventually; and
  • Only I can take responsibility for my recovery.
The three points above, help me persist with my emotional rehab exercises (outlined above). Once I come out of my funk (not during), I sit down and figure out what triggered it. Key triggers:
  • Sleep disruption
  • Long haul air travel
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in exercise habits
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Excessive training intensity
  • Excessive use of altitude
  • Illness
  • Injury
Looking at the list above, the two weeks surrounding an A-priority event have a lot of these triggers.

Also beware of anything that can change your brain chemistry -- prescription drugs, alcohol, recreational drugs. As well as major forms of life stress: moving, change of job, divorce, death of a close family member, etc...

When done with a wellness-focus, the athletic lifestyle provides me with the greatest probability of emotional stability. Far better than the false gods of alcohol, sex, work, money, and personal superiority.

It is ironic that endurance athletics is most effectively used as a coping mechanism absent of the protocols that are designed to maximize performance.

Over the long term... the desire to succeed is most effective as a mental trick to get myself out of bed in the morning.

The best lesson that I was taught this year was never mess with another person's motivation. That is a tough thing to do as I battle with the desire to "be right". I want to do a better job at respecting what gets other people out of bed in the morning.


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08 August 2008

Add It Up

Our photo this week is Team Bennett (Greg & Laura).

As I type this, Laura is heading to Beijing in order to represent the US in the Olympics (pretty cool). I have been fortunate to get to know the Bennetts over the last little while.

When I compare Laura to myself, what stands out is her true attitude. By "true attitude" I mean the way she is. She is not working on having a positive attitude -- she "is" positive in a very peaceful sense.

Over the last eight years, I have made a consistent, conscious effort to reprogram a habit of relentless positivity. I also work on seeking to view situations from the opposite perspective. My attitude is a habit, Laura's attitude is a trait. Give me another 20 years and I might get there!

When I was working with Dave Scott in 2004, I was amazed at his grasp of the competitive dynamic of Ironman racing. Dave's toughness and physical skills are legendary but, I think, what really gave him an edge was understanding the competitive dynamic of a race and knowing how to "win".

The only person that I've met with a similar level understanding of mixing terrain, skills and tactics is Greg Bennett (the other "GB"). Seeing as I am an older, long course guy... (i.e. no threat!) ...Greg speaks freely around me. Like listening to Molina, I kick back and soak up the knowledge. Every single time I sit down with Greg, I learn something new. What's unique to Greg is his capacity to create, then execute, a winning strategy. There are a lot of strategic coaches out there but they rarely have the physical goods to deliver their own plans. He's formulating, visualizing, then executing his own victories.

With a bit of luck, we will be able to schedule the Bennetts as part of our evening speakers series at our Boulder Camp next July.


Toby (from Art of Tri) has offered a 20% discount to all gBlog readers. What you do is enter the discount code at check-out. The code is GORDO-99 and the website is HERE. Monica and I like the hoodies.

One of Art of Tri's taglines is "One Passion...Endless Training". That can mean a lot of different things. Five years ago, I might have interpreted that as making sure that I met my daily target of Five-A-Day.

Five hours of training, rather than five servings of fruits and veggies!

More and more, "Endless Training" is about maximizing my athletic enjoyment across a lifetime. Taking care of my body and making sure that I'm still able to do interesting things into my 60s and 70s.

The first time I rode up the Tourmalet (pictured below), there were two guys well into their 60s (perhaps 70s) grinding their way towards the summit. Totally soaked in sweat -- suffering in silence. Frankly, they looked a lot like Montgomery, Newsom and me -- just older!

I want to be those guys. I want to be on the Tourmalet in 2030 (hopefully with Molina.

Endless Training.


Add It Up
Most of the discussion about endurance sports is prescriptive in nature. Athletes create goals and ask friends/experts/coaches to comment on what-it-takes. Coaches opine about optimal protocols required for "success". Success being defined in terms of beating all-comers, personal bests or qualifying for World Champs.

Rarely do we invert the question.

Instead of stating "What it takes", I start by asking my clients "What have you got?"

In order to figure that out you need to Add It Up and I like a time inventory/log to get a hold on that. Consider in a week, time spent...

Personal Admin
House Maintenance

Don't waste time scheduling your perfect week -- rather, observe, and log, what you are really doing. You will learn a lot.

There are no sacrifices required for success, merely choices. Most people will resist the above exercise because they don't want to be faced with the information that would result.

One of the choices I make is to sub-contract as many non-core items as possible. Paradoxically, I also retain a number of items that might appear to be low value added:

***Cooking red meat
***Trash, recycling and pet poop
***(Moderately) heavy lifting -- I need assistance for the truly heavy
***Rose garden watering

I could probably sub-contract these items but I find them relaxing and happen to be very good with pet poop.

My point is we can only "create time" by reducing our commitments. In my podcast with Chris McDonald, his advice to the aspiring athlete was "sell everything". Extreme simplicity is another way to reduce commitments -- if you don't have a house, car, consulting practice, spouse, job, garden, pet... then there is nothing to spend time on. Remember that elimination of many of these items will have a negative impact on our ability to have a life with meaning.

OK... once you've added-it-up. Reflect on the following levels of endurance commitment...

Nine hours of training per week -- at this level, you will be able to achieve personal health and enjoy the wellbeing that comes from endorphin release. Remember that the greatest benefit you receive from an active lifestyle comes from the first hour in your daily routine. At this level, you are unlikely to maximize your potential as an "athlete" and a lot of people are curious about how far they can go.

Fifteen hours of training per week -- at this level of long term commitment, you have a very good shot at achieving the bulk of your athletic potential. I think that it represents an achievable target for an athlete that wants to make endurance sport a fundamental aspect of their life.

Now the kicker... endurance sport attracts a lot of extreme people, such as myself. After a taste of early success... we convince ourselves that "achieving the bulk of our personal potential" is selling ourselves short. So we target...

Twenty-One hours of training per week -- if you want to squeeze the last few percentages (and we are talking small percentages) from your performance then you're looking at a 1,000 hour annual commitment for an extended period of your athletic development.

Thing is... even if you can handle it physically (many can't)... as you shift ever upward on the endurance commitment scale... you will notice that, eventually, you also need to annually commit an extra 700 hours of sleep and spend an extra 350 hours on athletic admin (massage, stretching, changing, showering, travel).

For many, what was once an enjoyable 450 hour annual commitment, gradually becomes an all-encompassing obsession sucking upwards of 2,000 hours a year.

So in addition to adding up your available time, also consider what level of athletic commitment makes the most sense in terms of the life that you are seeking to create for yourself.

Ten years
1,550 hours per year
$15 per hour (say, $25 less 40% in taxes/costs)
5% return on savings
= $292,000

Sit on that nest egg for 20 years at 5%
= $775,000

Choose wisely,

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01 August 2008

Buy Signals & The G-Zone

As you can see from the picture above, wild animals have moved in with us. The kittens have a few strange habits but, all in all, are a good addition to the team.

This week I'm going to share some ideas about what I am seeing in the financial world as well as discuss how July went for me (in an athletic sense).

First an announcement on 2009 Training Camps. Right now, I have committed to three training camps. Each camp has a slightly different focus that I'll touch on. If you are interested in more information on any of them then drop me a line.

Side note -- cyclists are welcome to any of the Endurance Corner camps, the swim/run aspects are optional.

Endurance Corner Tucson Camp -- March 29 to April 5, 2009 (Sun-Sun), training will run Monday to Saturday. An early season camp with a "training" focus. Appropriate for 13 hour and faster IM athletes -- as well as -- 6 hour and faster Half IM athletes. Highlights will include Mt Lemmon, Cactus Forest Trail, Kitt Peak and Madera Canyon. We will be based at The Hotel Arizona -- camp price is all inclusive for the week ($2,350).

Epic Camp France -- June 13 to 22, 2009, training will run Sunday to Sunday. It must be the Kiwi Winters but John and Scott have upgraded our initial thoughts on route. This one will be doozy! Highlights will include the Galibier, the EmbrunMan Bike Course and Stage 17 from this year's Tour (Embrun to Alpe d'Huez, massive). We will finish off the camp with an EpicMan competition that includes a TT up Alpe d'Huez -- camp price is all inclusive and expected to be ~e3,300. Epic Camp is only appropriate for athletes in sub-11 hour shape -- be prepared for up to 27 hours of training in the first three days of the camp.

Endurance Corner Boulder Camp -- open to all abilities, all distances -- July 20 to 25, 2009. Camp starts the Monday following Boulder Peak Triathlon. Camp will mix education with training.

During the day we will take advantage of the outstanding terrain that is offered in, and around, Boulder. Evenings will include expert speakers on a range of subjects (nutrition, mental skills, building your training week, getting the most out of our bodies). The price point on this camp will be lower as athletes will sort their own breakfasts/lunches/accommodation/transfers -- we will handle support, sag, sports nutrition, and dinners. More info to come -- drop me a line if you want to reserve a slot.

If you've been looking for an opportunity to train with me (and my network) but were concerned about your "speed" then the Boulder Camp is a great opportunity for you. It will be an active week that blends physical fitness with education on performance and personal wellness.

Speaking of personal wellness... Alternative Perspectives has a great piece from Kevin Purcell about a number of different factors that relate to endurance sport and exercise. Click THIS LINK to check it out.


Buy Signals
There hasn't been a whole lot of good news on the financial, or economic, fronts recently and this has started to impact my outlook. Here are some of the things that I have been reminding myself over the last little while:

Pricing -- prices move at the margin. Stepping back from commodity markets (which I don't understand), the "margin" appears to be characterized by increasing supply, reduced ability to pay and increasing risk premiums.

Transaction Volume -- the people that I know with the capacity to pay are staying on the sidelines. A few are dabbling in commodities but no one is, yet, investing real money (for them). Regardless of what they say publicly, I don't see the international banks doing much external lending. As I wrote a few months ago, what seems to be happening is internal discussions on how best to sort their existing client relationships. Done properly, an active restructuring of loan portfolios could prove to be profitable for the banks (and painful for the shareholders of non-performing loans).

I started my career in the early 90s when asset values were falling, PE ratios were (relatively) low and leverage was only available on conservative terms. In that market, my firm made solid profits from backing solid management teams and cash flow businesses. However, what really helped was multiple, liquidity and leverage expansion (a tailwind of mushrooming global liquidity).

I've been thinking about how one might profit when things turnaround. Haven't come up with anything -- although I have put any US property investments on hold while the financial sector's liquidity position continues to weaken.

Another thing that I remind myself of... the world isn't ending. Times are tough for the people at the "margin", no doubt about that -- if you are working in a factory building SUVs then there will be very real stress. However, broadly speaking, the economy is rolling along, slower but still moving.

Given the scale of the write-offs in the financial sector, the economy is doing well. Perhaps there is a longer lag effect that has yet to be seen. I expected the impact from last summer's credit crunch to be larger and more severe. My contacts in the banking sector lead me to believe that there could be a wave of "action" coming towards the end of this year. In the past, I've found that most large organizations prefer inaction, over action, in a crisis situation.

If the banks start taking clear, consistent action on their loan books, that would lead me to believe that we are through the worst of the crisis. Right now, most organizations continue to consider their options.


The G-Zone
I am typing this blog from the base of Mt Evans, Colorado. My training buddy, Ed, is likely heading down from the summit. I missed the summit due to fatigue -- my high altitude run training seems to require extended recovery. Even with the extra fatigue, I love it in the high Rockies.

Ed made the observation that many triathlon writers have a background current of anger in their blogs and forum posts. The anger is something that I have noticed and stopped reading certain sites/writers because of it.

Perhaps anger is too strong a word -- a better way to put it might be "grumpy". I was swapping emails with Tom and Scott the other day. Tom made the comment that his training approach was designed to avoid getting too grumpy. Scott was forgiving me for an email that was sent
during a very grumpy afternoon!

So maybe that is another early warning signal that an athlete may have done enough training... when we move from being fatigued into the Grumpy-Zone.

I called Monica this morning from Vail and made sure to point out that I was merely tired, not grumpy. She chuckled and said that the drive back to Boulder offered plenty of time to enter the G-Zone.

Anyhow, when guys as experienced as Evans/Molina warn about the G-Zone... it might make sense to keep on eye on it. When the world starts to drive us crazy, perhaps we are simply a little over-reached.

Cheers via bootleg wireless in the high Rockies,

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