Endurance Corner Introduction
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Gordo Byrn's blog on triathlon training, ironman racing, personal planning, business and investing.
"Keep in mind that your role with these athletes is, ultimately, to give them the confidence to stop."
-- Bobby McGee
...here is the bottom line: you will have to do things very differently than you have in the past. And if not, the patterns will repeat themselves. This is usually the toughest part for all athletes, especially those who have achieved near perfection in their racing as you have done. You will need to shift the memories of what happened to your body when you trained hard. You will need to strengthen your self confidence on a very different level than you have been working at. You will most likely need to really look at your training program with different eyes and probably make some significant changes to that so that you not only avoid the burnout, but also maximize your genetics on race day.When I read that (less than 14 days after Ironman Canada 2006), I understood what he was saying. However... I didn't really understand at all and, I expect, that a year from now I will probably have an even deeper understanding of what lies behind those words. I've saved the full email and refer back from time-to-time.
Q -- Where does running performance come from?
A -- An enjoyment of consistent, long term, appropriate mileage.
Our photo this week is a shot of me dragging a tire after a 21-mile run at the Boulder Reservoir. My technique needs improvement for next time.
Why do I drag a tire around? I could give you reasons based on human physiology but the truth has to do with human psychology – I see value in doing things that other people aren’t willing to do.
I’ll probably be the only athlete on the Ironman Canada start line with ten weeks of tire pulls under his belt.
I love stuff like that.
We've got Baron Part Two over on Alternative Perspectives. Next week we will have Lydiard Part Two -- Alan's done a great follow-up article that I think is worth your time.
In the meantime, Alan wrote up his action plan from the USAT Coaches Clinic. If I remember then we'll follow-up with him in a few months on how implementation progressed. Personally, I find change implementation a greater challenge than issue identification.
On November 2nd and 3rd, I’ll be hosting a USAT Clinic on Building Your Coaching Business. We’ll start Friday (after lunch) and run through Saturday. The program will include case studies; practical tools for increasing revenues; financial planning tips/tools; branding/marketing tips/strategies as well as the opportunity to share ideas with each other.
Location will be the Olympic Training Centre in
My most recent book is Ubiquity, Why Catastrophes Happen. It's a worthwhile read. If you pick up a copy then consider two elements of the author's hypothesis:
Fingers of instability -- when I think about the challenges of terrorism as well as the structure of the Middle East conflict; I see deep fingers of instability. The implications of a small further stress on (any one of) these fissures, is very difficult to predict. If you are a worrier, then this book will give you plenty of fodder. I spent a lot of time thinking about the likelihood of WMD being employed.
In the last two weeks, three smart people have shared ideas with me about growing their businesses. While their current positions vary in terms of scale, the challenges that they face are similar. So here are some thoughts on coping with growth. The specifics pertain to the coaching/consulting industry but, I think, they are widely applicable.
Branding – in many consulting businesses the founder is the brand and your team is a reflection of you. When you are growing rapidly then, clearly, you are doing something “right”. It’s worth considering what that “thing” is. In a small consultancy practice, often the magic-ingredient is you. Your time, your knowledge, your personality, your efforts – this matters because…
…if you take on people to service your clients then it takes more time (initially) to train them. Do you have that time? Do you want that job? If not then you’ll need to recruit, then train, the trainer. After you've trained the trainers and coaches -- you've effectively trained your future competition.
…if you refer clients then there is an element of endorsement and you’ll want to ensure that your brand/reputation is protected. There are very few coaches that I’ll endorse via a referral.
Reputation takes years to build – protect it with everything that you do, everything you say, everything you write, everyone you endorse/employ… I take this to a an extreme and extend it right through to suppliers; clients; sponsors; coaches; mentors. There are companies/people that I would love to work with (and could teach me lots) but I’ve been unable to become comfortable with their ethics – so I’ve had to pass.
The theme of saying “no” to attractive opportunities is a recurring one. You need to be willing to turn down attractive offers in order to sustain your brand. Financial stability goes a long way towards building ethical integrity – more on that in a future letter on success factors.
Quality Control – I have considered building an international network of consultants (to the point of drafting a business plan). However, I wasn’t able to get comfortable that:
…remote coaches would be able to represent my brand appropriately. For this reason, everyone in our company (Alan, Mat, Monica, me) works “here” in
…remote coaches would gain enough from “HQ” to justify a mutually beneficial long term relationship. We’d have to work extremely hard on retention for minimum return on our efforts.
Retention – How do you keep your best people? Even working with friends, I haven’t (yet) come up with a business model that is sticky enough to keep "remote" coaches/consultants together for the long term. The effort required at HQ is greater than the return that we could fairly charge the remote offices.
When I ran the numbers on the “take” that would be required for an attractive return on investment – it didn’t stack up (for the investors, the coaches, or me). My return on effort/capital was far greater by giving away our intellectual property, selling high value services and operating in a managerial capacity.
What keeps people in a network?
***Success – friendship is great but nothing builds teams like sustained, meaningful achievement. I want everyone around me (clients, athletes, friends and training buddies) to succeed. Talking about this with Jeff this morning, I noted my success obsession (to go with my controlling obsession).
***Fairness – there needs to be a fair exchange of efforts. What’s fair? I don’t think that there is a fixed answer and fairness changes over time.
***Value – if you take anything from someone (revenue, product, goods, time, thought…) then there needs to be adequate compensation to them. Personally, I work hard to make sure that everyone close to me receives a little bit more than I think is fair. That doesn’t always mean that they see it that way but it has been an effective strategy for me.
People within my circle that don’t operate in a similar manner tend to move away over time. It’s an interesting paradox that when everyone gives a little extra to another, there is more for all.
***Challenge – probably related to success. Challenge is the ability to actively participate in success; learn and apply that knowledge. “Winning” is fun but “meaning” derives from active participation in the daily process of success.
Where does all this leave me? Yet another list of goals!
Help people – I’ve set a target of 1 million athletes over the next thirty years – sounds like a lot but I estimate that I’m well on the way there (over 25,000 copies of Going Long have been sold).
High return per hour invested – “return” defined in terms of personal satisfaction, rather than dollars (but they do help).
Learn through teaching – our new lab will greatly improve my knowledge, that’s fun for me
Improve communication skills – more public speaking
Grow our reach – we will be launching podcasting (slowly) after IMC; vodcasting will, likely, follow that.
Build the brand – I lead my family’s financial leadership and my personal brand is our safety net.
Within our new business, Endurance Corner, we are building:
A central hub of excellence (coaching, training, testing, consulting, sports medicine, rehabilitation);
Knowledge sharing via camps, clinics and our on-line presence;
Single location to enhance mutual learning; maintain quality; enhance communication; build personal ties; and have fun together.
One specific question that I had – that triggered this article:
Q – What is a normal share of revenue for me to earn on a coaching referral?
A – Instead of thinking about the “take” – consider… the value that you add to the client (and coach); also consider if you have the time/desire to manage the relationship. If I refer an athlete outside of our network then that is a favor (to the athlete because I am careful where I point people // and // to the coach because it is a potential order). If I refer an athlete within our network then we need to ensure that our brand is protected and value is delivered to the client.
Overall compensation – within our business the basic package includes items that are important to us (health care; retirement savings; training; certification; education) – monetary compensation depends on a mixture of the value added (not merely revenue added) to the coach’s main client as well as the individual’s capacity to work effectively.
We provide infrastructure with opportunity.
One of the challenges of using a traditional periodization model is that the cycles of volume don’t always fit with the realities of your life. Put another way, when you use a table to determine your training schedule, you are typically doing either too little, or too much. Of these two situations, “too much” is the most risky.
What follows is an approach that I’ve been using with my athletes for the last few years. The traditional approach to periodization that we used in my book (Going Long) is both proven and effective. This letter seeks to provide you with alternative ideas that have helped many of my athletes achieve greater consistency and satisfaction with their training.
Here are the key concepts:
1 – the Basic Week approach maximizes training consistency over multiple months and seasons. By aiming for a “little less” each week, you will achieve more over the long run.
2 – your Weekday training is determined by the reality of your life situation, primarily your obligations to work and family.
3 – your Weekend training is split between an Endurance Day (typically Saturday) and a Family Day (typically Sunday).
4 – The training on your Endurance Day shifts based on your experience, fitness, goal event and the time of the year. You progress the nature of this day gradually and in harmony with daylight, climate and your fitness. Early season the purpose of this session is to build “endurance”, the ability to complete your desired race duration. As the season progresses, you shift your focus towards “fitness”, the ability to perform across your desired race duration.
It is typical for novice athletes to focus on “endurance” for multiple season. I spent many years with endurance as my main (nearly, sole) focus. An endurance athlete never graduates from focusing on steady-state stamina – it is the fundamental component of athletic performance.
5 – On your Family Day, place the people that support your athletic goals first. This increases your emotional harmony and gives you a break from athletics. It also has a positive athletic benefit because you arrive at work fresh on Monday – keeping you employed (!) and increasing the quality of your Weekday sessions.
6 – By agreeing a training schedule with all key players in your life, you remove the constant struggle to “squeeze in” and “juggle” training sessions. You have an agreed structure that you’ll repeat for the rest of your life. This is a holistic approach that fits your training into the larger goal of a successful lifestyle.
When you set-up your Basic Week keep the following tips in mind:
1 – aim for a Basic Week structure that you can complete “no sweat” forty weeks per year. You want to have a structure that enables you to outperform on a weekly basis. This is an important part of building credibility with yourself.
2 – while the timing structure of your week should remain the same, ensure that you vary your training protocol (what you do in each session) every six to eight weeks. Your fitness will progresses from variable overload applied consistently across many years.
3 – twice a year, insert a period of unstructured training. At the end of your season take 2-8 weeks of unstructured training and in the middle of each year at 1-2 weeks of unstructured training. The closer you move to your maximum potential and the greater your athletic success, the more recovery you will need to insert into your year.
4 – every three weeks back off on the training load, even (and especially) when you think that you don’t “need” it. You are playing a long-term game where athletic fatigue creeps into the body very gradually.
5 – use benchmark testing to track your progress. Remember that multiple month plateaus are common; the rapid progression of the novice athlete is not the typical experience of a veteran to our sport.
Your ultimate athletic development is determined by your athletic consistency, not the nature of your toughest sessions. Protect your consistency and your fitness foundation; these are the keys to reaching your fullest potential.
Hope this helps,gordo
This week’s photo is one of my favorites from the archives. One year ago this week, Team MonGo on the beach in
One announcement before I kick off, I’ll be speaking at a USAT Coaching Clinic on November 2nd & 3rd – location is the Olympic Training Centre at
I promised that I’d share a few of the ideas that Mark passed along to me – I’ve been bumping into Mark off-and-on for a few years. I’ve taken every single opportunity to speak to him over the years. Some of what I’ll share below I picked up before we formally started working together – some of it may have nothing to do _directly_ with Mark but he was a catalyst for change.
To kick off, I went back to my notes from the Fit Body, Fit Soul clinic in September last year. It’s been eight months already! So much has happened, and yet, I feel as if I’m exactly the same person… …but I’m not.
In reviewing my notes, I see that I had four “fears” and one “desire” that I wanted to send on their way. When I met with Mark in January, he told me not to worry about them because they were already gone. Similar to writing something down in a blog; the identification and sharing of a fear greatly reduces its power.
At the clinic, I wrote down quite a bit about sleep and healing. My sleep patterns have always provided a direct insight into my personal productivity.
My four key tips for improved sleep are:
***Wake-up at the same time every day
***Moderate use of stimulants (mine are coffee, training stress, intensity and evening speaking)
***No email or business after dinner
***Simplify week structure and number of commitments
I also wanted to reduce overall stressors on my body. The four things that I wanted to achieve where: eliminating alcohol; improving nutrition; reducing travel; and limiting internet.
Sitting here on British Airways, I have to admit that I didn’t reduce my travel much – I’ve been all over the place! However, my internet surfing is way, way down and that helped in many areas. Avoiding chat forums and most media, eliminates a source of external noise that saps productivity.
One of the quickest ways to increase productivity is reduce the mental junk food that you consume. Are your media choices consistent with excellence? Are you making the same excuses for media outlets that you used to apply to your nutrition?
I asked these questions to myself and the answers were informative. So I write to you here instead of joining in the chorus of disharmony elsewhere.
The booze and the nutrition were straightforward to sort out. I’m very lucky that Monica creates a wide range of fantastic meals. We’re eating extremely healthy meals that change daily. Previously, we ate “chicken and salad” for dinner every night (very healthy but lacking in variety). The shift to a wide range of organic ingredients added materially to our grocery bill but, for us, it is a price worth paying. Nutrition offers me a sustainable advantage over my competition and will enhance my family’s long term quality of life.
One of the last notes that I made at the clinic was that we achieve balance by living in harmony and peace with our environment. Are Monica and I a “sustainable family”? Not yet, the amount of garbage that I generate still bothers me (not enough to do much about it though). We are re-doing our garage and basement and generating a ton of trash. Garbage, and my direct impact on the environment, is a topic that I’ve been thinking about since 2004 (when the only thing I left on my trip across
My brother gave me a nudge on composting, so we’ve got that happening now. I planted a dogwood tree near my compost pile and it seems to be enjoying my initiative.
If you’ve read a simple book on sustainability then send me the title. I’d welcome some ideas.
Overall, as you can gather, things are going well and I am enjoying the challenge of making changes to my approach.
One of the interesting effects of Mark’s protocol…
I am enjoying success with sensible training…
the success enables me to be ever more sensible…
and generate ever more success.
Flip it around… an elite cycling buddy of mine once shared this circle with me…
he didn’t achieve the results he wanted early in the year…
so he skipped his mid-season break where he re-establishes his base…
so he kept racing and didn’t achieve the results he wanted.
Lest you think that I’ve gone soft… I still overload myself quite a bit. The main change that I’ve made is much more structured recovery.
My four week rolling volume has ranged from 47 hours (post-Epic in January) to 99 hours (the block that followed Epic Recovery). To put that in context, in the Spring of 2004, I peaked at just over 140 hours in a single four week block.
OK, what did Mark say?
Well, prior to my last trip we discussed very little in terms of specifics. Our discussions were more about training philosophy (pacing a year, pacing a season, pacing a workout, background) as well as settling my mind down (doing enough, keep the cap, be patient). I enjoy talking to Mark – the guy relaxes me. Breakfast in
What I’ve written in this blog contains more detail than what we discussed – I went to his site for supplemental information. I’ll outline the few areas where I received clear tips. You’ve heard some of this before!
Heart Rate Cap – the “cap” that Mark likes is a real cap. Elites don’t get any special dispensations – perhaps someone can ask Macca about his program and drop me an email! I need to know if there is an alternative protocol for the sub-8:10 Kona plan…
I stuck to that cap as best as I could. Within the cap, there are pace/power/speed peaks but there is no sustained hammering. When you go hard, you have a reason and you go really hard.
In the interests of full disclosure I did have two days where I drilled it “off plan” – one at each of the training camps that I did. These were hard sessions that were done a day, or two, before I had them officially scheduled. Group training is tough even for an experienced guy like me! Mark told that would probably happen and I should remember that blowing it didn’t need to become a habit.
The cap has a neat implication – looking for more information, I went to Mark’s site and read his tip to try to keep things over 120 bpm when doing an endurance session. That is an absolutely brilliant tip!
This completely removes any pressure during an endurance session. When I go out, my mission is to get over 120 bpm and not cross 148 bpm. I can use all my knowledge, my zones, my power meter, my lab results – however, too much complexity will leave you feeling less than satisfied. Why? Because you will ALWAYS find a metric that you aren’t meeting – your knowledge will beat you down! Mark’s system removes that.
If you get out the door then you are pretty much guaranteed a successful workout.
That’s a recipe for consistency and consistency is what really matters.
Another clear piece of advice that Mark gave was not to let my weight go under 160 lbs (I’m 6-1, post-yoga). Imagine that (!), an ultraendurance coach telling me not to get too light – sacrilege!
When he told me, I was disappointed – if figured that 157 was possible if I ate super light this summer... like many of us, I enjoy driving my weight down for races – yes, I have a deep seeded desire to control things.
Not only did Mark set the weight floor, but he followed up on it (twice) with me. Clearly, this wasn’t a passing comment. His rationale is: (a) for IM we need maximum power; and (b) to go really fast we need maximum ‘reserves” (physical, mental, spiritual). Power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.
Worth repeating – power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.
So the floor relaxes me and I start to focus on eating super healthy because “if I only get 160 lbs then I better make sure that they are the fittest 160 lbs in
Our “technical knowledge” may take issue with caps and floors – however, if the goal is getting the athlete to focus on what truly matters then, for me, they are extremely powerful tools… …and I knew what I was doing before I started working with Mark!
The first time I heard Mark speak about winning in 1989 he shared his experience with “giving up” during the race. He didn’t quit, rather he completely accepted his situation and acknowledged that he would continue to the best of his ability.
I had a similar experience with my running test. I was kicking out that same result for SIX months while training 20-40% less than normal. I can assure you that it was testing! It wasn’t until I totally accepted that I was going to race
Of course, it might have been all that training…
I take your point but remember that, at my level, the training is taken for granted. Everybody in the Top Ten trains to the best of their ability. The differences are not due to lack of effort – the differences are due to the combined effects of little things over an extended period of time.
The final point is Mark’s tip that when I “go fast”; I should go as fast as I can. Of all the tips, this is the clearest change from my previous approach because to “go fast” I need to rest up and really rip it. I freshened-up for every fast session and race that I did this year. Previously, I’d only freshen a few times a season.
Training up at my maximum heart rate is new. Coming from an ultra background, I expect that my top-end has never been fully trained (going back to school days). That is a change that Mark brought to my program – the limited application of maximum effort training. In the past, I’ve tried to go “really fast” but I’ve carried too much fatigue to achieve the levels that I’ve seen in 2007.
How much tough stuff? Looking at my calendar, 16-18 days (Sept 2006 to May 2007) where I let my heart rate go over 150 bpm for a sustained period of time. Of those days, I hit maximum heart rate on less than ten. Of the ten, I hit life highest heart rates on five or six.
I was under 150 bpm for the first 14-15 weeks of this season – my longest endurance phase in the last seven years (even while overtrained – yes, I am the type to test myself when nuked).
It’s a good thing that I’ve been pacing myself because last week we ran through Mark’s view on specific preparation for an elite athlete. We didn’t talk main sets or highly structured workouts, I already know how to structure a bike ride.
We discussed weeks, and days, of race specific overload:
***Big weeks (SBR, Bike and Run);
***Big Day Training (see my tips page);
***Back-to-back Long Rides;
***Double run days.
It’s essentially the same structure that I’ve been using in the past. The training is the SAME as what I’ve been doing in the past. It is nearly identical to the program that Scott Molina has been teaching me since 2000, and not far from what I learned from Dave Scott in 2004.
So what’s different? The mind craves differences!
***I’ll start the final block completely fresh – after two weeks of maintenance training, I will do less than five hours this week – half of my weekly volume will be on this coming Sunday. The only other time that I was this fresh in May, I raced Ironman
***My initial run fitness is much higher with my max aerobic, FT and VO2 paces at life best levels. I completed a 20-miler on
***I’ll do more long bike rides (than the year I rode across
***I’ll do less fast running and start it later in the summer – when I run fast, I will run very fast;
***My long runs will stay under 150 bpm – previously, my longest runs would also be some of my fastest. I’ve done some tough 20-milers in the past;
***Including this week (and race week), I will have five unloading periods (two more than normal) and each period is about double the duration of normal;
The differences relate to ensuring that I absorb the training required to go very fast in
When I started reaching the podium at International races, I asked Scott what I should change to go faster. His advice was: (a) remember to keep what made you fast in the first place; (b) make your tough days tougher; and (c) keep your easy days easy.
There is very little change in my training protocol. The adjustments come mainly in my recovery protocol. As my tough days increased their load, we found that I needed easy periods, as opposed to easy days.
It all looks so simple sitting on my excel spreadsheet…
Should be an interesting summer!
Those lines above sum up everything that I've learned in my adult life and explain why an ethical life devoted to excellence is, on reflection, the only option for personal satisfaction.
"...the good is always an enemy of the best because the good is so good; it has the feel of good, but ultimately it is less useful because it is not the best."
A few ideas that have been rolling through my head this week.
My seven month break from triathlon training has given me the chance to learn and try out a few things.