02 January 2009

Endurance Corner Introduction


One of the best lessons that I have learned as a writer is that you aren't an author until you publish.  There are a lot of 'nearly finished' projects out there. 

It's time to publish.

A good website, like personal fitness/portfolio balancing/endurance training, is never complete.  Feel free to share your ideas for enhancements as well as feedback.  No need to take it easy on me -- the tough feedback is often the most valuable.

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First... please adjust your bookmarks!
New Blog URL - http://www.EnduranceCorner.com/g_blog

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EnduranceCorner.Com has two components: 
  • the basic platform allows free access to the full collection of my videos, blogs and articles; and 
  • the coaching module (workout planner & forum) is available for a small monthly fee.
I started my fitness journey over 15 years ago.  Ironically, I walked pub-to-pub on the weekends!  I was living in London at the time and this was a BIG improvement from how I had spent my weekends in the past (sitting in a pub).

When I was ready to make a change towards a healthier lifestyle, I was welcomed by a group of UltraRunners.  UltraRunning has a counterculture vibe about it and the guys were very open with sharing information about training/nutrition/fitness.  It was a LONG period of trial and error while I figured out what worked.

One of the greatest areas of 'struggle' was my weight.  I was absolutely clueless on nutrition.  My UltraBuddies were pretty Old School -- recovery food was beer, pizza, nachos.  Like a lot of us, I exercised so I could eat more but I was never able to lose fat around my tummy and always had this dream of "being ripped".  Somehow I thought that ripped-ness would make me more desirable -- and it does... but, ultimately, that desire is empty and feeding vanity leads to crisis.  More on that some other time!

So... first up -- the new site is a free resource for Endurance Training, Triathlon and Nutrition.  I have taken my most popular writings from the last ten years; reworked them and published into a Single Location.  

You don't need to sign-up for anything, the library is open to all.  

You are welcome to link as well as republish any article (completely, with link back to my site).  If you'd like to publish extracts then contact me first -- I nearly always say yes for non-commercial uses.

Recently, I have been mentoring a great group of people towards an early season sprint triathlon.  Answering their questions has reminded me of the large impact coaches can have with patient, solid advice.  The simple lessons that I have learned are, by far, the most powerful.

From the Home Page, you can access a couple of YouTube clips that I recorded to explain what really matters.  It is easy to get distracted in life.  My new site, will work to keep clients, readers and myself (!) focused on the big picture.

Our current product is an Ironman triathlon coaching engine.  I have written an article that explains our coaching engine so I won't repeat myself here.  Suffice to say, I have built an open platform that enables you to tailor your program to the realities of your life.  It contains everything that is essential for us to begin a dialogue on your training. 

You can get a solid program in many places -- my unique offering is myself, as guide for your program.

When a coaching relationship works well, there are benefits much wider than just the field of competition.  I can promise that you'll be ready for your race.  With a bit of luck, we will be able to share experiences that deepen success in your wider life.  

Programs start at $25 per week, with discounts when you sign up for more than 30 weeks.  Here is a link to the most common questions we have received.

The new edition of Going Long will be out in early February.  Every athlete that joins will receive a signed copy of the 2nd Edition.

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The Future of Online Coaching
I first wrote about this back in May 2007 and my vision hasn't really changed.  I figured that it was sporting to explain what I saw.  I have been planning this site for years.

What is largely hidden from the triathlon demographic is the scale, and scope, of the transformation that is going to hit Western society.  It is human nature to project based on our past experiences.  It is impossible for any of us to quantify how a 40-50% decline in global asset values will change our societies.

Many of the changes are going to be unpleasant -- unemployment; personal bankruptcy; the pain of cutting back... however, these painful changes provide opportunities for realizing what matters most.  Many of us will find that we have spent the last 15-25 years spending money on items that didn't really enhance our quality of life.

What does that have to do with a coaching website?

I suspect that luxury spending is going to rapidly contract across the next two years.  Paying $7,500 to $20,000 per annum to a personal coach qualifies as a luxury item.  Speaking from experience, the family gets a bigger bang for its buck from child care assistance!

Triathlon grew up during the Great Expansion.  I suspect that different business models will be successful in the Great Unwinding.

Why not give it away for free?
Good question.  I was successful at building my personal brand by running a free website with the Tri Forum.  While it worked for my image, I'm not sure it worked for me.  Let me explain.

Success -- Within my paying clients, I can count my failures on a single hand.  Within my sponsored athletes and "personal projects", I can count my successes on one hand.

In my personal consulting life, my track record with people that don't pay me is poor.  My track record with paying clients is outstanding.  I have no idea for the reason behind this paradox.  EnduranceCorner.Com lets me use technology to lower my price point -- it is more equitable and enables me to reach a wider market.

My old forum (R.I.P.) generated a lot of goodwill.  Many of you have been with me from the early days and are a valuable part of my life, even if we never meet!  However, there are plenty of opportunities for social networking and other companies host it better than me.  As well, that business model is winner-take-all and when one is appealing to the masses (politics, media, forums) it is difficult to maintain one's ethics.

As a result, the forum on the new site will be for subscribing athletes only and hidden from public view.  I want to create an on-line environment where athletes, particularly the ladies, feel safe discussing what is on their mind.  I remember getting flamed in the early days -- it was really unpleasant.  Of course, out of that came perspective on fans, and anti-fans.

Ultimately, the direction the site goes will depend on you.  If we are offering good value then you'll let us know.

Cheers,
gordo

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24 November 2008

High Performance Coaching


These week I will share some thoughts/ideas that came out of three days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  I've been quite busy on the business front -- apologies if your waiting for an email reply.  I spend my spare time with Monica and Alexandra.  I've also been doing yard work -- gets me away from my desk and into the sun!

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If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas then send your congressman a copy of Atlas Shrugged. If you don't get the joke then you MUST read the book.

Financial bail outs, automobile bail outs, housing bail outs... we are close to making the common investment mistake of throwing good money after bad. As well, we're throwing a lot of money! Government does a crappy job with capital allocation. If you want to stimulate the economy then leave: (a) cash with people that are going to spend it; and (b) capital with people that know how to allocate it.  You get a lot more bang for your buck when you let the private sector allocate capital and fend for itself.

The Dow is about 40% off its peak, other markets are up to 60% down... property markets are 15-35% down (more if you HAVE to sell). Similar to how inflation was understated during the Great Expansion. The deflationary effects are being understated during the Great Unwinding. 

Considering human nature, and the fact that most of my countrymen are grossly over-leveraged... I am going to start moving from a deflation-defensive portfolio to an inflation-defensive portfolio. Just gotta figure out how. Throw your ideas in the comments section for me!

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High Performance Coaching
I haven't forgotten about your marathon questions, just pretty darn busy these days with a combination business obligations and the launch of my new coaching website (the developers are ahead of me for the first time in my life).

If you look many sports then you will find that the best high performance coaches are not necessarily the highest performers in their own lives.  This is because athletic performance measures a VERY narrow, but highly valued, aspect of human performance

Within my own life, I see myself as a high performer who enjoys teaching, rather than a high performance coach. It's an important distinction -- your kids would be safe with me.  I define success on whether your life is better having known me.

There is a fundamental paradox in elite athletics that you have to be willing to completely ruin yourself to achieve your maximum athletic potential -- what a lot of us miss is knowing the appropriate time to take that chance. Similar to many areas in life, a risk maximizing approach leads to disaster, more often than not.

When I meet MDs, PhDs, and coaches involved in elite athletics, I like to challenge them on our role in feeding the self-destructive tendencies in many of our athletes. As Bobby McGee notes, in some cases a coach's true role is giving their athletes the confidence and self-love to leave their addiction behind.

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OK with that philosophical opener, I'll toss out the best tidbits from the three days.

What is a level three coach?
If you'd asked me that a week ago, I would have told you... "one level up from level two" and I think that is what nearly every triathlon coach in America thinks. Here's what I was told, and it makes a lot of sense.

A Level Three Coach is:
  • a high performance coach
  • knowledgeable in draft-legal short course racing
  • able to assist an athlete that aspires to Olympic-level competition
As Coach KP noted in Colorado Springs... once you realize those points, there is a clear commitment to supporting the US Olympic program if you apply to become a Level Three coach. I think that is a good thing. I also think that we need to do a far better job communicating to the triathlon membership, as well as the coaches.

The goal of a Level Three coach is to help the US win Olympic medals -- I think that's the fundamental point. Given that 50% of the USAT budget comes from the amateur membership -- we should probably get clarity on that point. From my own point of view, aside from USAT helping to make amateur races insurable, I'm happy to support that goal.

The structure of the elite coaching program is being shifted from a "pull the athletes to Co Springs" to "support the athletes/coaches where they want to train". There is a lot of good stuff happening with ideas about supporting centers-of-excellence around the country. In my experience (colored by global triathlon adventures), this is absolutely the right way to handle it.

One dedicated coach, surrounded by a core group of athletes that will turn up EVERY day... is all it takes to create a world-class program. We've seen that in Christchurch, Victoria, the Gold Coast, Boulder, and wherever Sutto happens to be.

The sports science, sports psychology, testing, biomechanics... all the bolt on services... these are great but it is easy to lose sight of the main point about athletic performance. Programs get results from incentives that encourage athletes to train more than they ever thought possible. 

If our goal is Olympic medals that we want as wide a base as possible (recruitment) and a long term vision to build the athletes with potential (long term development). Spending a lot of money sending people to foreign races is a waste of time. 

Focus on recruitment, long term development and providing local races for the athletes with potential to win prize money -- don't hand money out -- let the good athletes win it. 

Make things hard for the athletes -- if an athlete lacks the passion, or the ability, better for everyone that they drop out early and find an area where they can be successful.

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We talked about the ITU points structure -- an area where I was completely clueless. I'm not going to recreate it here but, if you want to coach elites, then I suggest you get someone to teach you about it. It's pretty fundamental.

We talked about standardized testing and I will share these:

Swim -- 200 from a dive (max effort) -- rest one minute -- 800 from a push (best time)

Bike -- continuous 2 min intervals of 10w starting at 150w (men) and 100w (ladies) -- go to failure, track HR

Brick -- Junior targets are 30 minutes at 190w/260w (female/male) then 3K for time -- no more than 15s RI between bike/run. You might say "what about the small people" -- the wattage target isn't fair. Well, ITU racing isn't fair and if you can't hit the target then you'll likely get shelled out the back. Besides, you'll get some of it back on the run TT if you are small.

You will be able to find more benchmarks on the USAT website shortly.

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Sounds like they do a lot of supplemental oxygen training -- 26% and 60% mixtures.  I won't get into the specifics but will say that they believe it is important if an elite short course athlete lives at altitude full time.

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Functional exercises:
  • Goal is functional mastery NOT reps. Very important to move away from rep targets as athletes will always sacrifice form to hit targets.
  • Keep brain engaged and stop when mentally fatigued.
  • Start with NO load, have reset points, do movement pattern.
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Great line from the sports psychologist -- "The less clothes the athlete wears in competition the greater the chance for an eating disorder. I've never worked with a hockey player that had an eating disorder."

To develop mentally strong people, watch conditional love in your coaching -- proportion time & praise. You might get short term results from tough love but at maximum competition (Olympic Level) -- tough love athletes are much more prone to cracking.

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We met Krista Austin in the sports science department and bent her ear for three hours. She is the best sports scientist that I've ever met for translating science to performance. We talked about lactate, altitude, nutrition, depletion training and limits to performance. Highlights:

Capacity to raise lactate is often related to fueling. Athletes that lose top end lactate numbers could be chronically depleted.

She likes to track "fatigue rate" in training as a measure of performance. Similar to decoupling in longer steady state efforts but, for traditional endurance events, up to 2 hours, they might use VO2, or FT, intensity.

It takes 3 mins for lactate to stabilise in the muscles, then a further 2 mins to get out to the blood. Many labs use three minute steps then tie lactate values to the previous step to get around this point. She recommends sampling at the 5 min mark.

To get around issues with athletes blowing off CO2 when straddling during a treadmill fuel test (for lactates) they only plot the last minute of each 5 min step.  Good idea for us to test run fueling.

They start quite "high" in terms of intensity with their tests.  Might work for elites -- I had reservations about the data shown to me every for some of the national team members.  Looked like excessive speed early in the test.

Intermittent Hypoxic Training -- the first sports scientist that I've come across that has concluded that the main pathway for altitude benefits is via exercise in a desaturated state. She has done some really neat work with desaturation in training.

Altitude -- most people need about 300 hours of sleeping at altitude to get the training benefit. Points to a 5-7 week camp being optimal as well as endurance phases (at altitude) alternating with speed/recovery phases at sea level. Not practical for amateurs but very interesting for elites.

We discussed my personal protocol of extended steady with some mod-hard at altitude as well as my preferred altitudes for desaturation training.

VO2 -- interestingly, she said it takes 2-3 years for VO2 to plateau in elites. That's a lot longer than I normally hear.

Functional Strength vs Aerobic Power -- she made an interesting point that a lack of functional strength (gym strength, hill strength, one rep max) can result in athletes falling apart in longer highly intense aerobic efforts. We chatted about the need for athletes to tolerate extended work loads above goal ultraendurance effort in order to sustain race effort. We see this a lot in Ironman when an athlete "ought to" be able to hold a certain wattage but blows up (power/pace peaks aside).

Depletion training -- she talked me through protocols to enhance fat oxidation through depletion in training. I noted that my experience is that there are far greater gains to come from nutrition changes outside of training. I also noted that the self-destructive tendencies of ultraendurance athletes can get out of hand here. She noted that if she uses this technique then it is a specific, rather than chronic, protocol.

Dedydration and Performance -- she made a neat point that (within reason) economy gains from dehydration weight loss can overcome declines in performance.  Fits with my observation of managed dehydration in elite competition.

She saw merit in Asker Jeukendrup's approach to nutrition. She notes that athletes with body comp challenges tend to eat the wrong types of food at the wrong times -- it was more than a case of amount of energy. A lot of what she said sounded like Joe Friel.  She sees a lack of protein, good fats and veggies in most athletic diets.

For fast men over 155 lbs, I told her that I also like to train the fueling side of things -- i.e. the capacity to easily process fluids and nutrition during extended periods of steady to mod-hard exercise. This is a limiter for high performance long course racing -- but not ITU.  Not a focus for her -- makes sense as this is a limiter for 7+ hour competitions.

I'm going to invite Krista to our Boulder Clinic (July 2009) to chat nutrition and exercise physiology. I am also going to get our Boulder Clinic certified so that we can offer CEUs (coaching education units) -- good for qualified coaches as well as making your costs tax deductible. Drop me a line for more info.

We talked about errors in met cart measurements -- Douglas Bag (up to 2%); Parvo (up to 9%); New Leaf (up to 19%).

To have 99% confidence in a lactate measurement -- you need to allow +/- 0.6 mmol.
To have 99% confidence in a HR measurement -- you need to allow +/- 6 bpm.

Therefore, measurement tools should be used as a guide. Refreshing to have an honest talk about the limits of scientific precision.

I will end with a final tip for cold water racing... bring a thermos of warm water to "pre load" the wetsuit before water entry. Avoids all that cold water coming into the suit.

Back next week,
gordo


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12 September 2008

Principles of Breakthrough Performance


This week I am going to shift back to a discussion of athletic performance. However, this article is also a summary of what's worked for me in academics, marriage and business.

Our photo this week is my buddy, Chris McDonald. Much of this article has come from considering his approach, as well as observing myself. I think he'd admit that he's taken himself far, far beyond what he thought possible even a few years ago.

Simplicity -- Whether you are considering an investment portfolio, new project development, sales strategy, or how to complete a stretch week of triathlon training. Increased simplicity improves your probability for success. Remove as much as possible from your life.

Specifically, to achieve top success requires the capacity to outperform your competition, daily, for a very long time. Some of the competition are more talented, more experienced, better funded, smarter... simplicity is an edge that you can give yourself.

Dilution of effort -- every item, thought and obligation added to your life dilutes your ability to fully commit to what is required for success. Single minded obsession is often a recipe for a future crisis -- still... if we are having a discussion about performance... then alternating obsession with recovery can be an effective strategy.

For any task requiring high quality, focused output (creative, technical, athletic) the periods when you are doing nothing are equally important to the periods where you are following your vocation. In athletics, periods of unstructured training (easy days, transition periods) can fulfill this role but you will still need some time where you are free to sit in a chair and chill out.

So when you are laying out your plan for breakthrough performance, I would encourage you to plan, and protect, your rejuvenation periods. I have watched some truly great athletes destroy themselves by trying to hold their athletic "high" a few months too long.

Stability -- there are a lot of areas where we dilute performance with instability:

Financial -- assuming that you have shown aptitude for your passion, you should allow at least five years to see what's possible in terms of performance. Being able to stay the course is very important -- you are looking at 10,000 hours worth of effort to see what's possible. Consider your out-goings and in-comings, the athletes that get this "right" follow a clear written plan.

If you are following a high-pay vocation then be wary of spending "because you can". A high burn-rate limits flexibility, personal freedom and can leave you beholden to the company, or person, that signs your pay check. I also believe that it makes ethical purity much more challenging.

If you are forced to ratchet down an expensive lifestyle that never generated incremental happiness then you will feel _real_ pain and loss.

Alan wrote a recent article on athletic periodization -- as I read it, I realized that it is a parable of my approach to life -- moving between business, investing, marriage, spirituality, triathlon and coaching. For each "run" I take at Ironman excellence, there are months, sometimes years, of careful preparation -- Base training for life!

So... I will offer some specifics that are proven for triathlon success.

Finances -- a minimum of three years living expenses, in cash, in the bank and a plan for maintaining your financial security. Financial stress drains performance. Figure out your personal financial weak link and create a simple plan to improve it.

Geography -- no more than two training bases, one VERY low cost, the other in an environment that makes it easy to address your key personal limiter, whatever that might be. Access to at least eight months of pleasant outdoor riding; and access to at least four months of long course swimming. Altitude isn't important. Watch what you spend on airfares.

Approach -- early in your athletic career, your #1 focus should be building your capacity to absorb steady-state training load. If you aspire to be a top Ironman athlete then progress gradually until an average training volume of 25 hours per week can be achieved within a five month span. Just focus on the training, you'll learn a lot. Once you can handle that load then increasing the average speed will offer a lot more gains than cranking the volume even further.

Note, the time requirements for athletic success imply very flexible part-time employment, or unemployment! With meaningful work obligations (that require analytic capacity), it simply isn't possible for me to move much past 12-18 hours per week. Even then, I need to be HIGHLY organized.

Timelines -- Five years of dedicated endurance training would be a fast progression to where you need to worry about your specific protocol. In the early days, any reasonable protocol will show progress. Train every day and avoid doing anything too silly.

Be very wary of seeking an intensity-driven short cut. You will make gains but you will limit your ultimate development. Running is a great example where "run easy every day" can result in fantastic gains, for years, for all new runners. It is also my preferred protocol for elite swimmers/cyclists that must give their connective tissues years to catch up to their aerobic engines.

Competitive Exposure -- Maintaining a challenging, but not overwhelming, competitive environment is important for motivation and progression.

I recommend that you podium at agegroup World Champs before racing elite. If you can't podium then the best decision may be to develop as a fast amateur. This will free you to consider options, and opportunities, that present themselves outside of athletics. Realistically, until you can podium at agegroup World's then you are unlikely to be able to survive as an elite athlete. Even then, the road is a fun, but tough, one.

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Pulling all of that together. The big things that I have observed over the years:
  • Maintain simplicity in weekly routine.
  • Follow a low cost annual plan that limits travel, yet makes it mentally easy to train.
  • Good training partners are golden -- they get you through the inevitable down periods and help you stay the course.
  • Focus on building your capacity to train. Stop doing anything that results in missing tomorrow's training.
  • Sleep lots.
  • Until you can beat everyone within a two hour drive from home, there is no need to spend money traveling to races.
  • Focus on executing your weekly training plan, not achieving weekly results. Progress can lay hidden for months. I've had plateaus that lasted years.
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Next week, I am going to shift back to investing, specifically the process that I go through when deciding how to allocate capital.

All my best,
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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12 April 2008

Views on training


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only way is UP!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A good guy for me to hang around.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great reminders from Justin

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15 February 2008

Snow Farming

Our photo this week is a post workout shot of Ben Pattle. Ben lives in the Gold Coast and is over in New Zealand for a training camp put on by John Hellemans.

A few months ago, John asked me if I would be interested in giving an evening talk to a U23 Elite Triathlon Camp that he was organizing. I jumped at the opportunity and signed on to attend the camp for two weeks. I am not sure that John realized that he had invited me to attend the camp -- he kept emailing me to confirm my dates and eventually pointed out that there wasn't any funding available for 39-year-old, Canadian, Ironman Athletes at his U23 Short Course Camp...

Lucky for me, we managed to work things out by treating me as a solo athlete that was operating in parallel to the Tri NZ Camp. I have been doing my best to keep my head down, stay out of the way and support the session goals. Good practice for me!

In the first couple of days of the camp, three athletes asked me (separately), "why would you come train with us"? The main reasons: (a) my respect for John Hellemans; and (b) I was sure that I would learn something from spending two weeks with coaches/athletes/experts that differ from my peer group.

Probably the first thing that stands out is the training, nutrition and physiology of the athletes is very "textbook" in nature. Everything about this camp fits what I read in the literature. In this world, sport science and real-world experience operate in harmony.

I suppose that living in a world where the median competitor will be racing for 13 hours tends to skew my perception of what athletes require. As well, the athletes here are a unique population with half the camp coming from a distance swimming background. The former swimmers talk about consistent 70-100,000 meter weeks (plus dry land). That level of volume is simply the 'standard' load to be reasonable. Training camps took some of them up to 120,000 meters per week.

So how does a 20-24 year old elite triathlete train? Pretty much like most people think that they "ought" to train.
  • Something 'hard' six out of seven days -- you and I would find it hard, for them it is mostly moderately-hard (in HR and lactate terms). When they go "very hard" it is off the charts for you and me -- most of us can't get there (and those that do tend to take the rest of the week off or get sick).
  • The faster swimmers turn crimson when they swim at threshold -- their capacity to 'work' in the water is impressive. Capacity to (and enjoyment of) work remains a differentiator between athletes.
  • Limited steady training -- endurance sessions start easy/recovery and finish mod-hard (textbook roadie training). Similar to the eskimos having 12 words for snow -- Ironman Athletes have many ways to describe "steady". In this world, they call it boring!
  • Lots of power spikes on the bike, their event does not require excellence in TT ability. They train to tolerate the demands of their bike leg. Big gaps between average and normalized power. Jumps, bridges, burning matches... all normal and expected.
  • No-nonsense swim sessions, swimming in the 'slow' lane yesterday, I was lapped at the 125m mark of a 200. The fast swimmers could hold 1:15/100 meter pace for close to two hours.
  • 90% of the weekly training volume has a clear purpose and structure.
The implications are what you'd expect -- they swim great, can handle a ton of pace changes (all sports) and perform very well in training sessions that are under 3 hours. In short, they are solid draft-legal short course triathletes (guess that's why they are on the team!).

FWIW, after seeing these athletes up-close for a week, I think distance swimming (idealy mixed with a couple years of 400 IM training) is the ideal background for a triathlete. The fitness from distance swimming can be seen in the outstanding recovery in-workout and between-workouts. The stronger athletes have heart rates that drop like stones when the pace backs off.
Nutritionally, due to their age and training intensity zones, their diet is very carb-focused when compared to my own. Just like Epic Camp, some of the folks are experiencing digestive distress when intensity combines with a fair amount of bread/cereal. That said, the food that is offered enables each athlete to choose their own 'style' and it has been easy for me to eat the way I like and maintain high nutritional quality. There is salad and veggies with lunch/dinner and I've been having my scrambled eggs each morning.

We have an experienced sports science team that have been monitoring the athletes inside, and outside, of their training sessions. For the first time in years, I have been formally tracking my morning data (mood, sleep, training, muscle soreness, MRHR, SpO2, weight). The objective data is useful as a crosscheck against subjective perception. Fortunately, my body seems to be working in harmony with the training schedule. Being able to opt-out of sessions and train by myself has probably helped. I'd be pretty smoked if I did the full week that the team completed. The "mod-hard" bike work and "endurance" swim sessions have seen me working quite hard.

As a long course athlete, I wonder if there is upside in addressing their relatively undertrained steady zones on the bike. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, the athletes are in their specific preparation phase for Elite Nationals in three weeks. So, now isn't the time to worry about that. However, at some stage, I expect that improving their steady-state bike/run fitness might benefit their late-race performance.

One of the guest speakers made an interesting point -- there are things that you have to do if you want to be the best. His tone was that these things are non-negotiable, they simply "are". If an athlete chooses not to do them then they will not reach their maximum personal potential. That really rang true to me. How often do we catch ourselves settling for being good enough.

During my talk, I shared KP's advice that the true enemy of great is good. Everyone here is good. Looking around, I expect that a few might become great. Out of the great athletes, one might make the commitment to seek their fullest personal potential. It will be fun to watch the athletes develop and become part of a growing Kiwi tradition of Triathlon Excellence.

+++

If you click the title of this post then you'll go through to the Snow Farm website. We are over 5,000 feet here, high enough to get an altitude effect (my O-sats have been in the low 90s every morning for a week).

Road bike training requires a 13K drive down to the main road. From Wanaka (45 mins away) there are five different routes available -- all decent.


The run training is excellent due to the nordic ski tracks. As well, you can get close to 7,000 feet by running up the nearby mountains (the campers did just that this week).

Wanaka has pool and open water swimming. The lodge does an all-inclusive deal and has a mix of accommodation standards. I am staying in a nice room with an en suite. Our host (Steve) even gave me the green light to help myself to the industrial espresso machine.

The living is good!

gordo

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PS -- I am half way through a two week cyber-retreat so won't be back on-line until the end of next week. It's been a fantastic break and is providing me a chance to reflect on a number of items.

Every time I pull-the-plug, I am amazed at how my recovery speeds up. There is speed in simplicity.

Word File of my SnowFarm Daily Diary

PowerPoint Presentation to Young Athletes

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10 February 2008

Reflections on Overtraining


Our photo this week is Team MonGo at Ben Lomond Saddle above Queenstown, New Zealand. Monica and I went for a hike last week and were treated to some amazing views. Our “hike” turned into a pretty solid workout and I managed to convince my training partner to take the gondola down to save my legs. At the top of the Gondola, we ran into Epic Vet Eliot as well as his dad. They were on their way up as we were finishing. Eliot’s mohawk makes him pretty easy to spot from a distance.

++

An Epic Camp provides plenty of opportunity for self-reflection. My hour long final podcast is a reflection of my internal dialogue when logging big miles. As you can probably tell from the podcast, I am comfortable spending time alone and find my idiosyncrasies amusing. Molina thinks that this is a characteristic that long-term ultra junkies share. We are the funniest guys we know but aware that we probably overestimate our amusement value to others.

This past trip, I had Scott chat me through his career – starting from 100 mile run weeks (at 15) through to his athletic peak (at 25) then winning Ironman Hawaii (at 28) then retiring (at 33). Homeboy is one durable athlete to hit it hard for 18 years. Suffice to say, he is comfortable being tired.

The Terminator needed an overhaul when he retired and he spent five years working as a personal trainer and lifting weights. That takes us to 38 and I arrived in his life at 40. The “fastest” that I have seen him was Epic Colorado in 2003 when he was 43 years old – he was fast across all three disciplines and could hang with Clas/me (no sweat). Clas had the fastest run at Zofingen and I ran 2:49 at IMC that year; we were in Podium IM shape.

The rough timeline is important for some of the points I will make later. I may not have got it exactly right but my listening is improving.

++

The closer you get to your ultimate physical potential; the greater the “payback” that will be required when you exceed your body’s ability to recover. As you approach your maximal race fitness, there is a divergence between athletic success and physical well-being/longevity.

Fitness is a very powerful drug that programs deep athletic memories. Almost by definition, athletes with the ability to take themselves beyond reasonable levels of training/fatigue are at risk for overtraining. In fact, some successful elites may even tell you that overtraining is essential for success.

I’m not sure those words are what the champions mean. Here’s my shot at it:

  • Completing a lot of work is a requirement for success in any field.
  • The closer we get to our maximum capacity to “do” work, the closer we are to completely ruining our ability to “absorb” work.
  • As a species, we are poor at seeing much further than the current moment – especially with a stack of endorphins coursing through our veins.
  • Take all of these together – mistakes are to be expected and overtraining is a “normal” hazard for the endurance athlete.

Scott had more success than pretty much anyone in the history of our sport – he’d make anyone’s top ten list for race victories.

His payback period was five to ten years. I am nearing my third anniversary of hitting the wall and I wonder…

  • Have I paid back enough?
  • Have I learned my lessons?
  • When will the Old G re-appear?

+++

Five years until he got back to triathlon training and ten years until he was really rippin’ it up again.

Years… not seasons… not months… not weeks.

This struck me because I had five months off in 2005 (April to August) then eased back into hour-per-day training for a few months before starting back with structured triathlon training in December 2005. Across 2006, it was touch-and-go with quite a bit of residual fear in my body. If you have ever had an injury then you’ve likely experienced the fear of re-injury. Overtraining is a spiritual and immune system “injury” with a similar psychology.

All across 2006, I was looking for a sign that I was “healed” and that soon I would be able to get back to the training that I remembered.

An important note – the training that we remember is our lifetime best performances blurred by the passage of time. A long term training log is a wonderful tool for a reality check. I use it often with my most headstrong athletes (and myself). Lifetime bests have the deepest chemical signatures – check the facts before making assumptions about how you “used to be”.

In 2006, my training was erratic and I used the cushion of working in my business to hide from reality. Perhaps I was past it, perhaps I was still tired, perhaps I was cured of my desire for mega-miles.

Long time readers will know what happened next, I went to Mark and Brant for some help putting myself back together – both physically and spiritually. I re-established my connection with nature and saw some of the patterns that caused my fatigue.

I thought I was healed – more accurately… I hoped that I was healed. On many levels I was healed. Without a doubt, Mark’s training protocol gave me my health back – I highly recommend his method if you are seeking to break a cycle of fatigue, injury or overtraining. The combo of Mark and Brant is an amazing duo – I have no idea how, or why, it works but (for me) it was really something special.

…but the fear remained, along with an emotional component of fatigue. Each time I would become fatigued, I was waiting to fall into exhaustion.

In life, we most often get what we expect and this probably held me back. My fears also prevented me from following my heart with the sort of training approach that I enjoy and have found effective. There were a lot of self-rationalizations that went on in my head but, in reality, I was scared.

If you read my Ironman Canada 2007 race report then you know what happened next… total public meltdown and my worst race performance relative to fitness in five years.

That was followed by four months of depression that culminated in three weeks in the tropical paradise of Noosa where I struggled to get out of bed. A few things got me moving:

Commitments – last October I made a commitment to Monica that I would do at least one hour of activity every single day for the rest of our life together (walking counts!). As an athlete, or an athletic spouse, you either understand why that is important, or you don’t. As my love for, and understanding of, Monica grows; I see how lucky I am to have a life partner that understands me better than I understand myself.

Personal Responsibility – nobody “made” my situation, it was the direct result of choices I made. I did my best to take small concrete actions that moved me back towards the life I want to live. Getting out of bed each morning is the most important thing that I do. If I can get that done then 89 out of 90 days, everything flows from there.

Acceptance – with most of my recovery challenges, my healing progresses most rapidly once I accept that I might never get better. By ceasing to resist my fatigue, my mood, my challenges – I start to improve. I don’t think that we ever “overcome” or “conquer” our fundamental challenges in life – we learn the patterns, habits and strategies that are effective to keep us moving forward.

All of these thoughts occurred to me because last week, training felt different to me. Epic made me tired but it didn’t make me scared. I commented about my improved form to Molina and he said that he didn’t notice any difference (or anything impressive). On reflection, that made sense because the change was on the inside.

It was a lot of fun to have my health back and enjoy training with the guys. I need to remember that as the memories of Epic return to me while training.

+++

I suppose my point is one that Mark shared with me. The factors that lead to breakdown accumulate across many years (often in parallel to increased athletic performance). Any improvement, from rock bottom, will feel like healing.

The greater your success leading up to the breakdown, the longer your recovery will likely take. Be patient in the early stages – my impatience through the early years of overtraining is what led to hitting the wall.

The stages, for me, were:

  • Breakdown;
  • Total rest;
  • Resumption of light activity – this is where health and biomechanical issues can be addressed;
  • Resumption of unstructured triathlon training – address patterns/habits that lead to breakdown;
  • Resumption of triathlon training balanced with equal periods of scheduled recovery (this step is very rarely done – it was the key to a rapid return to fitness in 2006); and
  • Resumption of elite triathlon training that is balanced with extended transition and early season training.

Adult athletes should remember that stress and fatigue that builds up outside of sport can often manifest itself as athletic overtraining.

I’ll keep you posted.

g

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22 December 2007

Endurance Training Protocols


Our photo this week is Team MonGo doing wheat-grass shots at the Noosa Farmer's Market -- don't mind our goofy hats but the UV was 13 and we were trying to save our skin!

I was going to write about “mood management” (aka depression) but that doesn’t strike me as very festive – and, besides, I’m feeling better… …so we will pick that topic up in the new year.

Before we kick off a brief update on our Tucson Camps. We are doing two camps – March 22-30 (five spots left) and April 19-27 (three spots left). The camps will have a bike focus and are appropriate for athletes that are in 13-hour Ironman shape and faster. Looking around the internet, you have a lot of choices for 2008 camps. Here’s a bit on how we differentiate ourselves.

What makes us unique is our people. Our coaching/support team is a mixture of elite and highly successful agegroup athletes. We can tell you “what it takes” and also give you an objective view on “what’s realistic” within your life.

Jeff Shilt – Endurance Corner Doc, works full-time as an orthopedic surgeon/clinician. Multiple Ironman and Epic Camp finisher, most recently a Top 50 finisher at Ironman Canada.

Justin Daerr – been up on stage as an agegrouper in Kona and recently 8:40 at Ironman Florida (4:40 ride and sub-3-hour run) Similar to Jeff, a self-made athlete that has put thousands of hours into improving. More on JD in the outline at the bottom of this message (see attached below).

Alan Couzens – Endurance Corner Exercise Physiologist, our sports science go-to-man. IM finisher and long term student of Olympic coaches/athletes.

Mat Steinmetz – graduate degree in exercise science, Mat heads up the testing program at our lab. Finished his first IM this year in Kentucky.

Gordo Byrn – from totally out of shape in the mid-90s to Ultraman Hawaii Champion (2002) and Top Ten fastest all-time result IM Canada (2004, 8:29). Co-author Going Long (over 20,000 copies sold). Former private equity partner (Schroder Ventures).

Monica Byrn (end of each camp) – one of the fastest swimmers (male or female) in our sport. IM Swim personal best of 46 minutes (IM New Zealand 2005). Monica will be offering up swim tips and leading a break-out session for the ladies.

Kevin Purcell (March Only) – husband, parent, leading coach and over-50 triathlete. Multiple Epic Camp finishes, Kona qualifications and agegroup podiums. Kevin is a particular expert with issues facing female and veteran athletes.

Robbie Ventura (April Only) – founder of Vision Quest Coaching, former elite cyclist on US Postal. Robbie brings a fresh look to long course racing. He’s attending the camp to prepare for Ironman Canada 2008.

My opinion is that what makes us truly special is our set-backs; failures; disappointments; and flaws. Of course, laying all those out wouldn’t be particularly motivating! Suffice to say, if you are facing a personal challenge in your life then we have personal experience with it, or have advised others in dealing with it.

We run the highest level of support you will find anywhere – maps, vehicles, sag, meals, laundry, sports nutrition, massage. The support means that you will get more training done.

Drop me a line if you want more information. I’m happy to answer any questions. The camps are intimate so we are able to tailor the schedule to meet personal needs (please remember to tell us).

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My recent article on XTri got my mail box humming with various questions. I’ll pick these up as well as explain some philosophical points about endurance training.

What’s the best training protocol for me to use?

Start by considering what your goals are as well as the items that are holding your back.

Think along a three-year timeframe – what are the pieces that you will need to put together to achieve your goal? Most clients that come to me are seeking their ultimate success by the end of the next year. Life doesn’t work that way – nor would it be particularly rewarding if it did.

Many athletes are limited by factors outside their athletic lives (financial instability, poor nutrition, drug/alcohol use, conflict within their peer group, personal planning, ethical weakness, spousal abuse, sleep). Until these factors are addressed – no protocol is optimal.

To achieve our true athletic potential, we need to be operating from a position of harmony and stability. We also need to be willing to change.

What are you willing to change? Most people say they are willing to change but when they hit a true roadblock – revert to past patterns. There is an illogical (but real) comfort in our disfunctions.

Plateau’ed athletes are most often held back by these non-athletic factors – many chase various athletic protocols looking for the magic formula to over-ride these non-athletic limiters. Time and time again they crash due to the energy-draining impact of disharmony and lack of stability with their lives.

OK, I have my life in order, what do you recommend?

There isn’t one magic formula and I have doubts as to whether protocol has a large physical impact. We make endurance training far more complex and difficult than it needs to be. An effective protocol enhances mental state improving nutrition and athletic consistency. Similarly, an effective protocol has sensible limits that enhance consistency and speed recovery.

What works for an athlete finishing Top-5 in Kona will, likely, be totally inappropriate for an athlete seeking to qualify for Kona. In turn, the aspiring Kona-qualifier will be able to absorb a very different program than a first-timer.

Often we find ourselves training at a level that we aspire to attain – rather than – the level appropriate for our current fitness. Clients often compare my recommendations to the published programs of athletes that are, literally, hours ahead of them on race day.

As an aside, you should be wary of using any data that you have not directly measured across weeks (perhaps months). Much of the training data that I read is incorrect, or misleading in presentation.

If I had to point you in a direction then I’d say – search for the program that will enable you to maximize the amount of training you can absorb across a three-year timeframe. Then, do everything you can to avoid self-sabotage and promote consistency.

Some specific tips for this time of year:

Structure – lay out a Basic Week that you believe you can handle every week for the first 12 weeks of 2008.

Volume – go back to your log for January to March 2007. Calculate your average weekly volume.

Reality Check – most people will find that their Actual 2007 Week is 25-50% less than their Goal 2008 Week. At this stage, you will be tempted to make excuses for why this year will be different. That is a mistake –your actual performance is where you are currently at. That’s OK. The goal is to maximize your actual position.

Adjust – trim your Goal 2008 Week so that is lined up with your Actual 2007 week.

Execute – Weeks 1/4/7/10, do your goal week; Weeks 2/5/7/11, OK to increase volume with extra workout frequency (if you want); and Weeks 3/6/9/12 should be about 20% less than target.

Intensity – Keep your heart rate/power/pace under the lower of your VT1/LT heart rate/power/pace. Which ever ceiling you hit first -- stop there, that's fast enough. If you don’t have access to physiological testing then use Mark Allen’s MAP method.

Two exceptions: (a) big gear, low cadence work on the bike – you can exceed VT1/LT wattage, but not HR; (b) short bursts of high power/pace exercise swim/bike/run – you can exceed VT1/LT power/pace, but not HR.

As an aside, if your VT1/LT heart rate is lower than your MAP heart rate – use the VT1/LT heart rate (I recommend that you check it by sport). When you are honestly applying Mark’s protocol and it isn’t working then your VT1/LT heart rate is likely lower than your MAP heart rate. Athletes with this profile will nearly always think that the protocol didn’t work because they were going too easy! In fact, they were training too intensely to build the desired endurance adaptations.

If your VT1/LT heart rate is higher than your MAP heart rate then I would stick to MAP for your early season endurance training. After three months of endurance training, I would retest (by sport) and do your mod-hard (tempo) training slightly under VT1/LT power/pace with a cap of VT1/LT heart rate.

NOTE on MAP

Most people do not deviate on the high side – I think I am the only one we’ve seen so far in the lab (and my 39-year old physiology is far from normal). Even then, it might simply be an early season abnormality. We will know more as we use the met cart to track me across an entire year.

Far more common is VT1/LT occurring under MAP – as a result endurance adaptations are compromised when athletes use MAP as a target, rather than a ceiling – athletes show this very frequently in their bike data.

Many coaches use VT1/LT as the bottom of their endurance training zones – while you will get measurable fitness adaptations training at (and above) VT1/LT, desirable long distance endurance adaptations are compromised.

Nutrition – You will have more energy than last winter and be sick less often. Use your increased energy to increase the quality of your nutrition. We don't need to have cancer, to find an anti-cancer diet effective. I've found the nutritional method that we share in Going Long to be highly effective.

If you apply this protocol for the first quarter of 2008 then I absolutely guarantee that you will hit April 2008 fitter than April 2007. In addition, you will find that you have space in your life to be successful in much deeper sense than athletics alone.

Happy Holidays,

gordo


Justin's Coach CV, Word Doc

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19 October 2007

Lab Work, Career Beginnings and Entitlement

I was in Kona last week and the artist of the above print (Mike Field) took me out on his sailing canoe. Heck of a good time.

A Reader Asked...
...my question to you is what one book (or if that is too tough) what several books have had the most impact on your beliefs, thoughts, views, etc. I feel like I am in a significant transition point in my life where I have achieved a lot but still feel like I’m not sure where I’m heading

I Replied...
The book -- that's easy for me -- The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron -- I read the book (and did the program) the first summer that I spent in Boulder (2000).

Seven years later, every single thing that I wrote on my Top Ten list had come true. I thought that some of the items were a bit of a long shot as well. The interesting thing about that book (and the program) is that it is a tool to unlock whatever is lurking inside of us. It's a powerful program -- it seemed pretty goofy at the start but seeing it through changed my life.

FWIW, I would have described my life in 2000 EXACTLY as you laid out in your question.
====

Lab Work
We have been playing in the lab this past week. I did four tests (bike lactate step with fuel; max aerobic run; resting metabolic rate; and a brick where I held AeT wattage for 80 minutes). So far, no ground breaking insights and I appear to be pretty normal.

Running the fuel test in tandem with the lactate test is very interesting (to me at least). In some athletes we are seeing material divergence between their lactate profile (AeT/FT) and their met-cart profile (AeT/VT1/FT). Often times the lactate test indicates that the athlete ought to be training more intensely than the fuel test. The fuel test has given us an insight into why using top end performance to determine endurance training zones is prone to error. We'd kill Alan if we used a 20 min max effort test to set his endurance zones on the bike -- he can really rip when there's plenty of glycogen available. I'm sure that he'll write more after we arm him with a bit more data. For what it's worth, this is where in-the-field experience is invaluable -- the testing provided us with a metabolic reason for him being so whipped all the time.

Given that nearly every athlete wants to know the pace/power/intensity at which their fat burning is maximized we're putting together a progressive test to determine that point for recreational athletes. My sister-in-law runs daily on her treadmill so she's the perfect candidate to test our protocol. In an up-coming letter I will share ideas on burning more fat, and storing less.

Visiting various labs and speaking with a range of PhDs, it is surprising to us that every lab (and just about every sports scientist) has a unique protocol for VO2 max testing. We've arrived at our own consensus and will be running it past a few personal contacts. A few more weeks and we will publish where we ended up. Seems that there is a fair amount of "art" in the testing science.

Drop mat "at" endurancecorner.com a line if you are interested in some testing.

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Career Beginnings
I read pmarca's blog from time-to-time and came across an interesting piece on where to work. Thinking back to my own path, it is excellent advice.

I stumbled into Private Equity in 1990 -- I was hand-trained by a founder of the British venture capital industry (Jon Moulton). I think that Jon would say that the article I linked up is reasonable -- the amount of cash that flows into all segments of the finance industry is unbelievable. Many of the players within the game believe that they actually deserve it, others stay quiet and earn their money below the radar. Jon comes out and says what many of us have been thinking for years.

Jon plays a game at which he is a world-class player -- it's fun to do things when you are better than most your competition. I think that he's the only person in the world that's built two leading private equity firms from scratch. He makes a lot of money but could make even more if he felt like pushing things. His business serves his desire to work with great people and play the game -- financially, he's had more than he needed for the last twenty years.

He knows a lot lot about money and I hope that he sits down and writes out his thoughts one day -- that's a book I'd love to help write. We have access to Warren Buffet's annual reports but there's a ton of great stuff that's scattered amongst the memories of Jon's employees, partners and managers.

Here's a bit on how I met him... against the advice of the senior partner that interviewed me, Jon decided to hire me straight out of university. These days, nobody really gets that chance -- the industry players are, for the most part, established players and it is VERY tough to get a seat at the golden table.

Back in 1990, I was cheap, graduated with first-class honors (Econ/Finance) and Jon knew my Dad. The first two points were a key part of his buying decision -- Jon likes to hire smart people. He figures that if you can score well at a good school then you should be "useful for something". Knowing my Dad limited his downside because he could recoup his investment via satire.

From the early days, I was fortunate in that he found most of my flaws entertaining (there were many). Jon likes to be entertained. His wit is so fast that it took me six months until I was able to understand what he was saying. His partners used to translate for me and, even today, I probably miss many of his jokes. He's operating at a pretty high level.

My starting pay was less than the cleaners and my desk was the only one in the firm that Jon could see from his own. That made for interesting times as he would lean forward and shout "Byrn! Heel!" when he had a task for me. I'd drop everything and come running. Whenever I was given a task by Jon, I'd work non-stop until it was done. One management team nicknamed me "the rottweiler", I had a lot to learn about people skills.

Jon's done more for diversity in the financial services industry than any other person I've met in my career -- I'm surprised that no one ever talks about that. Hand ups, rather than handouts. To see this, you would need to look to the man's actions rather than his words -- Jon would probably tell you that he only hires the best people and doesn't give a stuff about backgrounds. That's true but doesn't explain the texture of most of his competitors.

I worked in London at a time when capital under management was benefiting from rapid portfolio growth and a shift in asset allocation. We knew that the industry fundamentals were good but we failed to grasp just how fast our world was changing. We were lucky to have some very bright Harvard MBAs on the team that provided strategic background -- Jon was at his best adding value to the firm by doing good deals, rather than strategic oversight.

The American players were the Big Boys (with their private jets and stretch limos) but we held our own in terms of net returns. The concepts of portfolio management and net returns were in their infancy. I was one of the first people to build a full-fledged model of a private equity fund, Jon's idea, not mine! Because our returns were great, we were in a position to educate our investors without risking our P&L, rare in financial services!

Another great idea Jon had was to calculate the equity IRR from doing a buy-out of the FTSE index and rolling all interest (after dividends) for five years. He loved it when my calculation (looking back five years) showed an equity IRR of 30% per annum. This was 1992 and the parallels to today's hedge fund industry are clear -- making money from leverage rather than sound investment judgment.

I worked internationally, first in London then in Hong Kong. When I'd plateaued in terms of personal development, I headed out on my own and have been involved in founding start-ups since then (property investment, property development, consulting, human performance, tourism).

Operations aren't my forte. As you might guess from reading my stuff -- what I do best is take a range of ideas; assemble them in the language of finance; and structure a deal/company so that good people get involved in supporting the plan. I do the easy bit -- the people that execute daily do the tough stuff.

As I emphasize to Alan and Mat, make the most of your learning opportunities. Boulder, 2007, human performance, alongside an experienced coach/investor/athlete. I didn't realize how unique my situation was until years after working for Jon.

Similar to my piece on the future of the coaching industry; I have a piece in my head on the future of Human Performance consulting. I'll write that up because there is an opportunity to create a world-class business in Boulder and I need help with the day-to-day.

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Health Warning
I'm being pretty direct below and when I re-read it... I sound a little negative on "living the dream". I suppose that is because most of the elites that I meet are a bit clueless on what they are heading for as well as the long term implications of their decisions. Still, poverty isn't fatal and athletics is a lot of fun.

My decision to seek to maximize my athletic potential in 2000 was an outstanding life decision -- in a sense, I saved my life. However, the financial benefits that one forgoes in following an athletic path are material. Nobody (coaches, athletes, race directors) goes into triathlon for the money.

If you think that you are too "poor" to afford health insurance then I recommend that you reconsider. I have many friends in our sport that have sustained medical bills in excess of $10,000 within the last five years. The highest that I know about is more than $100,000. If something happens to you then it's going to be pretty major -- a high deductible insurance policy costs very little relative to the financial impact of most cycling accidents (Alan/Mat pay ~$150 per month for a PPO plan that includes dental).

Taking $2,500 or $5,000 on the chin is nothing compared to a six figure bill landing in your lap. For my family, I self-insure the small to moderate stuff with a gold standard plan that backs me up for anything major.

When deciding what constitutes major; consider it as a percentage of your personal Net Asset Value.

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Entitlement In Sports

A listener observed:

It continues to amaze me how difficult it is to be a pro triathlete and the sacrifices you have to make. Perhaps in the future you could discuss what needs to change in our sport in order for elites to make a fair wage?

So many ideas come to my head when I read the above observation. Please know that I am speaking generally rather than replying directly to you. Your question touches on the fundamental issue that many people have with entitlement.

What do we truly deserve? Start here for ideas on that!

Fair wages – elite athletes are volunteers and no one has an inherent ‘right’ to train all day in the sun // I recommend a trip through rural China and India for anyone that believes otherwise. Elites are free at any time to get themselves a job in the traditional workforce – most “pros” in all sports have at least a part-time “real” job.

We all are susceptible to a feeling of entitlement in our lives – I feel it in myself. An early dose of random misfortune can often be a blessing.

The national associations (like New Zealand) that make it “hard” on their elites are doing them (and their taxpayers) a favour. If an athlete’s prospects are poor then we certainly don’t want to make it easier for them to hang on – a trip back to the traditional workforce can be educational and do wonders to motivate those on the edge.

If you want to make a living as a world-class athlete then you’d better be a world-class athlete. Most elites aren’t world-class, they are proficient and hard working.

Making It – you don’t “make it” as an elite triathlete – with a few 1-in-1,000 exceptions you make a bit of money for a few years then you retire (often with a beat up body and a smoked immune system). Winning a few races isn’t like making partner in a law firm – you will be heading back into the workforce (probably with short notice and before you want).

For most elites (and fast AGers), fast racing is great marketing, rather than income earning. The athletic "class" that make the greatest return from their racing are the “athlete coaches” that place consistently in their divisions. They represent achievable success in their local markets and share their experience with increasing life satisfaction from racing. As a "class", elite triathletes make nothing. My lifetime prize money is equivalent to two months current expenses (maybe less, I'm probably overestimating).

If the goal is to make a decent living then channeling the energy spent on athletic excellence into just about any other field will result in superior financial returns.

However, it is the challenges that make the pay-off so rewarding – whether competing for money, a Kona slot or simply to finish. Most of us would do it for free – actually most of us pay to do it!

Rewards – as a society, we place a tremendous value on physical beauty and athletic power. We have been conditioned for our entire lives than a lean, fit body is the ultimate achievement. As I age, I take comfort in having a better body in my 30s than I did in my 20s. I expect that the “reward” that many elites receive stems from the way we perceive an elite athlete.

Change – I’m not sure than anything needs to change in the sport of triathlon. If the athletes were to organize themselves and take charge of race promotion then they might be able to capture a larger share of the sport’s revenues. However, I see this as unlikely for a few reasons:

***lack of skills // as a class, elites are great athletes, not great businessfolk. The federations and race organizations have a massive edge and strong financial incentives to maintain the status quo. As a practical point, even if an athlete had the skills – why does it make sense to put a lot of effort into helping a group of second tier pros make more money? Pretty low return for your personal charity investment and, I expect, that you would get a lot more bang for your buck in other fields.

As an aside, my personal experience with Bradventures, NA Sports and HFP Racing is that they get money to athletes that support their company vision and add value to their businesses. Graham Fraser has done a tremendous amount for elites (as well as others) but we don’t hear a lot about it. He’s probably learned that critics exist to criticize.

Many young pros focus on explaining why they should be given money – a far better proposition is to demonstrate how you can add value to the company by being an ambassador of their brand mission. I had ten years of investment experience when I came to triathlon and it took me years to figure this out. One thing I did figure out was that using my skills to beg for free bike shorts was a low return activity.

***the events are bigger than the athletes // There are very few athletes that can benefit a race director by their presence.

Life Lessons – the lessons that we learn with a personal quest for our maximum potential are highly valuable and the training is a lot of fun. At some stage of our lives, I think that everyone should spend a couple of years trying to be their absolute best at something. The lessons are independent of outcome.

Remember that sport (and a meaningful life) is challenging – that’s the point!

As Ms Rand noted... China, Russia and others have tried a system that tried to be fair to everyone -- it had all the wrong incentives.

More next week,

gordo

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01 August 2007

The Oracle


I've carried the picture above around for a few years. I added a quote, "Being There". For me, the opportunity far out-weighs the outcome.

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After my long run last Sunday, Monica and I headed to Santa Cruz for a final visit with Mark and Brant before Ironman Canada. It was a quick trip but I don't judge value added on the time that someone spends with me. Mark and I were together for about three hours and we probably talked about "me" for less than half that time. That's got to be a record for me!

Following my visit with Mark, I had two hours alone at my motel. I'd left my computer behind and forgot to bring any books. It was just me and my note pad. These thoughts stem from the catalyst of Mark's presence -- they may not necessarily be exactly what he said.

Over the last nine weeks, my fitness has benefited from "The Pop". "The Pop" is an unexpected increase in performance. I've been popping in all sports as well as the gym. While my training partners continue to improve, the sensation inside me is that I've improved at a faster rate. So I've been asking myself "why".

In order to understand the process of this year, it's important to backtrack a bit to September 2006. When I read that Peter retired, I figured that there could be an opportunity to work with Mark. So I dropped him a line -- then followed up via email -- then followed up via telephone -- then went to his Sport & Spirit Clinic in Austin. I told Monica that if I wanted Mark to help my world then I should probably make the effort to learn about his world.

When I came to Mark, I wanted help with two aspects of my athletics:

#1 -- that I would nuke myself again in training. Across 2003 & 2004, I did more training than just about anyone I know -- that year culminated with a nine-week ride across America and ten-weeks of IronSchool with Dave Scott's elite group. The overall process was "successful" in that I went 8:29 at Ironman Canada 2004. However... I knew that I would be unable to repeat that level of training again -- my body simply couldn't train at that level.

#2 -- that I would blow-up in a race. There are only a handful of races where I've let go and gone as fast as I can go. I've haven't won most of these races but they have all been deeply fulfilling. With my 2006 racing, I felt like there was a governor on my efforts. I wanted to learn techniques for blowing through self-imposed limits.

Here's the crux of what Mark told me -- I've heard him repeat it many times so I'm sure that he won't mind me repeating it here:
...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.

Following the Austin Clinic, Mark agreed to take me on and I made a commitment to myself to follow the Sport & Spirit protocol to the absolute best of my abilities. For those of you that have attended the clinics, that means the spiritual aspects as well as the physical training aspects.

Most people come to a mentor or a coach looking for help "to achieve a result" or "to remove a problem". The difference in my case was that I came to Mark looking for new ideas and a commitment to change.

Wanting a result -- versus -- wanting to change.

Most people seek experts to achieve a result yet very few people are willing to attempt change.

Thinking about it, there have been four key "change points" in my triathlon career -- in each of them I learned a tremendous amount from adopting a new approach.

end 1999 -- implementing Friel's book, The Triathlete's Training Bible

mid-2002 -- training closely with Scott Molina (we started working informally at the end of 2000)

mid-2004 -- joining Dave Scott's elite squad

end 2006 -- working with Mark Allen

I can assure you that I'm tempted, daily, to return to my old pattern of out-training everyone. Fortunately, I keep improving so that takes a lot of the pressure off!

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A lady that worked in Brant's office died last Thursday. She happened to be Mark's age so death and longevity were on his mind. Death is _always_ on my mind and never far from me (especially when I'm riding).

I wonder if longevity should be the ultimate goal for all of us -- I acknowledge that my opinion on this will likely change as I grow older! Within my mountaineering career, I came to a point where the risk of dying exceeded the benefit that I received from climbing. That's why I shelved my ambitions for any Himalayan expeditions.

Within triathlon, I've often told myself (and others) that any damage that I do to myself exercising is far less than the damage I was doing in my "old life" before exercise.

What happens when your "old life" becomes your previous triathlon life? What are you left with if you transcend the false gods of alcohol, money, work, sex, fame and... exercise?

I'm working on that -- last Tuesday, I was left with truth, love and meaning.

++++

Back to Mark & Brant...

I can't tell you specifically how, or when, my fears left but I do know that my self-confidence started to increase following my May visit to Santa Cruz. There's something about visiting Mark's house in Santa Cruz that always makes me feel great. I must have told Monica ten times that Mark's place is my gold standard for housing. Everything that I look for in a house is there (black cat, warm sun, wood burning stove, and high speed internet...). More than the physical stuff, you've got the man himself and the vibe of the place.

On that trip, Brant joked that I didn't really need to seem him -- that I should simply rub my hands against Mark and pick-up some speed that way. I settled for a hug and a few hours of talking.

I'd encourage you to find non-traditional recovery avenues... whether it is a traditional religion, philosophy, nature, family, small kids, pets or the sea.

There is power in small and simple things.

++++

I can't end this piece without offering up a few technical details. Mat's pulling together a Top Ten list from the over fifty (!) pages that I've written this year. Off the top of my head here are some of Mark's techniques that worked very well for me...

Pacing -- pace every set, session, week, block, trimester, year so that you are strongest at the end. If you are an athlete with poor pace control in single-session training then this is likely a KEY limiter for you in your LIFE (not just athletics) -- you are at risk for trying too hard.

Pacing was an easier lesson for me. I had some trouble in November/December but managed to figure it out. You have to let your ego "go" when you are getting dropped. The Lads were crushing me pre-July.

Recovery -- the main difference between my training partners and me lies in what I don't do. I do far less than them on my easy days (2 per week, every week) and my easy weeks (1 every second or third week). I have never had this much structured rest my triathlon career -- I am setting seasonal personal bests in every single sport as well as the gym.

Recovery has been a very tough lesson for me. I continue to take pride in my ability to out-train most people. I've had to shift that focus to being an eGrip poster child. I battle with the urge to do more on most days -- Monica's been a great help here.

The Rules -- I love to follow the rules. Once Mark made the fundamental points clear (heart rate cap; pacing; weight floor) -- it was easy for me to stick with them. Where I've been challenged is when he removes the limits -- when I "go fast", I am supposed to go as fast as I can. The removal of all limits results in a similar fear to #2 above.

Back-to-backs -- if you look in my peak run week (posted last time) then you'll see that the bulk of my run volume was done in two day windows where a challenging run followed a solid session the previous day. Whether you are running, swimming, cycling or Big Day Training -- this is a highly effective way for an experienced athlete to safely (and specifically) overload themselves.

Be careful -- it took me over ten years to prepare for that week of running you saw. I did a similar thing with my cycling this past week (22 hours on the bike over five days, ending with a 160-miler on Saturday).

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I'll end with two observations, Mark adds value to me by:

***Helping me identify my personal "not to do"s; and

***Supporting me with a protocol that addresses the personal weaknesses that I've identified.

It is human nature to seek people to tell us "what to do" and follow protocols that enable us to showcase our strengths. My experience is that a deeper level of success may lie elsewhere.

Cheers,
gordo

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26 July 2007

Performance -- Training the Body


Our photo this week features "The Lads" -- in order... Mat, Denny, John, Brandon, Jeff. As their alter-egos... The Intern, The Lizard, Salsa, Rico Suave, Dr. J.

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Alan's written an excellent piece for this week's Alternative Perspectives. At the top of the AP-Blog, I wrote a disclaimer that you shouldn't assume that the articles represent my views. However, this piece represents the views of my new company, exactly.

The challenge to Alan... to you... to me... is to apply that protocol. The acquisition of knowledge is far easier than the application.

Early in my coaching career, I was much more prone to adjusting my views under pressure from my athletes. As I've gained experience, I've tried to model myself (more and more) along the Hellemans-Model, as I observe it...

...accept that athletes have the right to follow their own plans
...offer clear, direct advice when asked for an opinion
...minimize energy spent on athletes that ask for your opinion then ignore it

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Q -- Where does running performance come from?
A -- An enjoyment of consistent, long term, appropriate mileage.

Working backwards...

Mileage -- walking, running, jogging, hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, cycling, waiting tables, standing -- it's all good. What counts? Everything that involves your legs counts.

Appropriate -- Alan and I are going to review Daniels' Running Formula in the weeks to come. The #1 point that I take out of that book is... If you want to train faster then prove it by racing faster.

It is far more important "to train" than to train "fast". Athletes that chase power/pace nearly always underperform on race day. I've seen that around me for my entire athletic career. Guys that can totally kick my butt in training end up miles behind me on race day.

One more quote that I like (from Dr. J) -- Prove that you can operate below your limits before seeking to outperform them.

Appropriate could mean anything from 5 to 150 miles per week. There are no fixed rules -- you'll have to figure it out for yourself. With my own experience -- it took me years to get to the point where I could tolerate a 'normal' running week that you might read in a magazine. I spent 1993-1998 'training' in a very general sense.

Long term -- from a standing start, it is going to take 10-15 years to see what's possible. If you are looking for the 10-15 week program for excellence, you are fooling yourself.

For those of you familiar with Daniels' v-dot tables. My v-dots by year...
mid-90s -- 33
1997 -- 45
1998 -- 47
1999 -- 50
2000 -- 51
2001 -- 54
2002 -- 57
2003 -- 60
2004 -- 62
2005 -- 60
2006 -- 60
2007 -- 65

There's a lot of training _and_ a lot more than training that moves an athlete from a v-dot of 33 to 65. In 1997, I was "fast" within my training circle. There are many definitions of fast -- as athletes find when they move to Boulder, Christchurch or other centers of athletic excellence.

Consistent -- As a triathlete, I currently run about 225x per annum. That level of volume was impossible for me when I started. I started by walking, hiking and lifting weights. I didn't jump-start my athletic career by signing up for an Ironman.

Enjoyment -- 225 runs per annum across, say, eight years... 1,800 runs. If you're going to invest that level of time then you'd better be enjoying yourself. Athletes that see their sport as "work" rarely succeed on the deepest levels.

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Here's a summary of the toughest week of running that I'll do this summer. It was the program for last week and broke many of the "rules" that I apply as a coach.

Elite Tri -- Specific Prep -- Run Program
======================================
Monday -- off running; swim/gym

Tuesday -- swim/bike (four hours) and run two hours off the bike holding 7:30 per mile pace

Wednesday -- high altitude, hilly run of 15 miles with Tim (6 miles in 50 minutes then 9 miles in 50 minutes); swim/bike with evening five miler slower than 8 min per mile

Thursday -- morning five-miler slower than 8 min per mile; ride four hours easy with depressed heart rate (I wonder why?)

Friday -- off running; swim only

Saturday -- little under six hours worth of tough swim/bike with mixed tempo run off the bike (8 miles)

Sunday -- swim an easy 2400 meters (to wake up legs) then 23 miler with Tim and evening four-miler

= 76 miles at ~7:36 per mile

I've had 3:15 (off the bike) marathoners tell me that they are unable to run slower than seven-minute miles.

I've also had Clas shake his head at how I run sub-2:50 by spending much of my time cruising around at eight-minute pace.

It's the pace changes that make life interesting in gWorld. :-)

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Coming Soon -- Training the Mind & True Limiters

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19 June 2007

Specific Prep -- June 2007


This week I am going to share some ideas about specific preparation for Ironman. Next week I'll publish a letter on Altitude. I wrote them both up but my editor (Mrs. Byrn) said that it was a little overwhelming to combine the two topics. Besides, I have a very solid week of training coming up so it is nice to be a little ahead on the writing.

Last week I mentioned that Mat is on board for the summer. He asks a lot of questions, almost as many as me! Seeing as I take the time to answer (most of) his questions and... seeing as he does come up with some good questions... I asked him to start writing down a record of our discussions. Mat does a great job of expressing the meaning behind what we discuss. You can find Mat's Blog here -- he has a nice writing style.

Next week we will launch a new feature, Alternative Perspectives. Each week I'll share an alternative view on a topic that interests me. I think that you'll enjoy some different views. We're going to open up with a piece written by Alan on the Lydiard Approach to endurance training. It fits nicely with my "de Castella" book review which will be coming in July. Alan has a strong technical mind and likes to get into the science that lies beneath "what works". His technical strength keeps me honest when I stray too far into lay-terminology (or simply make something up to suit my example!!!).

Our photo this week is John Shilt (Dr. J's younger bro). John is an Epic-Vet, IM finisher and solid guy. I often get the sense that he wonders why he's out there during some of our mega sessions. There is something about John that I find deeply entertaining. It's probably the portrait of deep suffering that he radiates on his long sessions -- early pacing isn't (yet) his forte... He probably thinks that I dream up most our sessions to specifically torture him -- while not 100% true, it is much easier to do a challenging session when you have a guy like John slogging his way through it. Keeps my relative emotional state in perspective. He's a great addition to our squad.

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Specific Preparation
Our trip to Winter Park went really well. I always forget the difficulty of the ride over Trail Ridge Road -- it's a very solid climb (over three hours uphill). The climb has a long time up over 10,000 feet and that's quite taxing. I had a 27-tooth cog on the back and once I went through 10,500 feet, any material effort had me over my max aerobic heart rate (a little under 90 minutes of 148+ across the weekend).

The Trail Ridge ride was over eight hours in the saddle and it was essential for me to back-it-up on Sunday. My focus for the first four hours of the day was eating and staying relaxed. Across the entire ride (Trail Ridge), I ate...

***2,250 cals of Pro4 gel-lyte
***2x32 oz bottles Infinit Heat Mix
***4 Clif bars
***3 V8s
***1 gatorade
***1 Hagen Dazs Ice Cream Bar (at the 105 mile mark)
***5+ litres of water

Athletes love challenging themselves to train on nothing; to trim recovery nutrition; and survive on less. That may work for certain events but long distance traithlon is not one. I use the aid stations that are provided at my races.

There is surprising reluctance to long duration training at maximum rates of absorption. For many athletes, carbohydrate processing is a constraining variable on performance. How often do we hear about race-day stomach problems? Learning appropriate race-situation pacing and fueling is an essential skill. Jeff "Dr. J" Shilt is writing up an article on this point and I'll share the link when we have it live.

What I have found with my tougher rides is that sustained mod-hard intensity results in stomach back up if there is material protein or fat in my nutrition. I have been using Infinit Recovery for my endurance training and that works great when I am in an endurance phase (easy and steady training in cooler weather). I have shifted to their Heat Mix on the warmer, more intense days.

The back-it-up ride went fantastic for me. I managed to negative split our out-and-back route. It always amazes me how tough it is to negative split a 100-mile ride. The few times that I have done it during an endurance session, I have had to drill it in the final half hour. This time was no different -- an hour of mod-hard intensity to finish off 13 hours of riding over the weekend.

One of the best sessions that you can do for race preparation is a double-loop ride, no drafting, a single stop for fluids -- 45-55 miles per loop. You'll learn a ton. Run an hour off the bike if you want a reality check -- the answer that you get may make you a bit uncomfortable!

Questions to ask yourself following the workout:

>>>Was I ready to run a marathon?
>>>How easy would I have had to go in order to run a marathon to the best of my ability?
>>>What would have happened if I swam 4000m immediately prior to the ride?
>>>How about if that swim had the highest average heart rate of my race?
>>>Considering that, how easy would I have to swim/bike in order to run a marathon to the best of my ability?

The lads have faith in me but -- until you experience that ride -- there is no basis for understanding what is required to give yourself a chance to perform. We are doing workouts where there is no place to hide from our errors. Guys are starting to "forget" HRMs and splits... a sure sign of the appearance of cognitive dissonance!

Most (but not all) of the guys are training to perform -- these individuals learn fast. The guys that are training to train, they are having a lot of fun and that's their main motivation. They are still valuable members of the squad -- their enthusiasm is an essential part of how we get the most out of ourselves.

I ended Sunday very tired so when the lads suggested that we return early to Boulder, we packed the car and headed back down. My first training cycle ended on Sunday and I skipped the long run planned for Tuesday (swim, gym, run instead).

Here's a recap of the cycle...
Sat -- Big Day, Flatter Ride -- total about 7.5 hrs
Sun -- Big Day, Hill Ride -- total about 6.5 hrs
Mon -- easy (no memory, forgot to write down)
Tues -- Big Day, Hill Ride -- total about 6 hrs
Wed -- Bobby McGee Run Drills; Big Swim; Easy Flat Ride -- total about 5.5 hrs
Thurs -- Switzerland Trail Duathon -- hill bike and a tough 15-miler (PB run time) -- total about 4 hours
Fri -- easy SBR -- about three hours
Sat -- 125-mile high altitude hill ride with 30 min easy run -- total over 8 hrs
Sun -- 100-mile race sim ride with 25 min easy run -- total over 5 hrs

Nine days was tons for me. When I was less experienced I used to shoot for 21 days of hitting it. Now, I aim for specific overload until I am tired.

For an athlete that is new to big volume training, a desk job can be a blessing. Extra spare time can lead to DEEP fatigue -- in my squad the vets are helping the new guys avoid wrecking themselves.

All of the speedy guys in the squad have been doing more volume, with more intensity and taking less rest days than me. Within the "speedsters", everybody but Billy Edwards has had some sort of immune system challenge (infection, illness, and/or mild exhaustion). Billy is a Marine and they seem to have a different sort of DNA.

I'm getting exactly what I need from the team -- I hope they are getting what they want from me. Part of me feels responsible when I watch my training partners flattening themselves -- however, deep fatigue is the real goal for many endurance athletes -- inner peace through physical exhaustion. That was a huge motivator for me in the past. Who knows? They could be "right" -- I had breakthrough after breakthrough when I was hitting it very, very hard.

Most people that ask me for advice think that I am giving them a watered down program. They hide their fatigue in case I "take away" training from them! In fact, I lay out a little more than I expect we can handle. Similar, to my own program, we all need to step down from time-to-time. Having the humility to back-off is a valuable skill.

Mat and Alan have been the most reasonable out of the group -- probably because they spend the greatest time with me. The other guys spontaneously step past what I've advised. Perhaps they didn't study the outline of the entire summer program that I circulated... I know they read this blog so this is (yet another) warning that my front-running training partners tend to underperform on game day.

Coming up in the next cycle... week one will have a broken marathon Tues/Wed with an average elevation over 9,000 feet; and a broken IM-sim on the weekend (Big Day/Long Run Combo). Week two will be the highest volume week (SBR) of the summer with an emphasis on bike training. We hope to end the second cycle with a 150-mile ride on Saturday and a 21-mile run on Sunday. This time, we're targetting a 13-day block. I'll keep you posted.

Even if the lads end the summer deeply fatigued -- I have total confidence that the execution lessons that we are learning will serve us well.

While it helps to be fresh for IM, it's not a prerequisite for success, nearly the entire field races tired and I've seen outstanding performances from tired people (including myself). This year, I plan on being considerably fresher than years past.

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Before you assemble your summer training plan, I recommend that you read the first two pages of this article. It is the clearest summary that I've written on the critical success factors for long course race performance. Take time to consider your critical success factors -- your plan should include specific overload to address the key components of long course racing...

***the ability to comfortably swim 2.4 miles
***the ability to comfortably ride 112 miles
***the ability to comfortably run 26.2 miles

Until you can do these in a month, week or weekend -- be cautious when you try to do them in a day.

gordo

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13 June 2007

More On Personal Planning


This letter will focus on a recent conversation with a buddy of mine. He was asking me for advice on Personal Planning. Our photo this week is Richter Pass on the Ironman Canada course. Two things that I think of every day (maybe every waking hour) -- Monica and Ironman Canada.

Oh yeah, Mat is reviewing my websites (GordoWorld.Com, Byrn.Org, CoachGordo.Com) as part of his summer internship. We will be simplifying the articles and streamlining navigation. If you have any favourite articles then please print and save at your end. For republishing and/or non-commercial uses, please drop me a line in advance.

Books that I've recently read (all good): The Last True Story That I'll Ever Tell; All Marketers Are Liars; and Through Our Enemy's Eyes. Currently reading "Ghost Wars".

One business book and the rest are background reading to evaluate what our leaders are saying about the threat from terrorism. I think that there is room for improvement on how the issue is being framed.

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Before we shift to the topics, a bit of a personal update. This weekend, we're doing a high-altitude training camp across the Rockies to Winter Park. My version is...

Saturday -- 210K Boulder to Winter Park via Trail Ridge Road; easy run PM
Sunday -- 180K Winter Park to Rand, return; easy run off the bike
Monday -- AM Swim; PM Easy Run
Tuesday -- AM Swim then Long Run; drive back to Boulder

Tuesday marks the 11th day of my first specific prep training cycle. If things go as planned then I'll have six days with 5+ hours of training; a long run; and four decent swims. The main focus of this training block is my riding.

The lads don't know it yet but the Sunday ride will have a 10m draft zone -- following last week, a couple of them mentioned that they wanted to get their noses in the wind. So this will be a perfect opportunity for a Reality Check. Several sustained hours of 128-145 bpm are very different when the heart rate isn't being driven by repeated high power surges.

The new arrivals at altitude will change Saturday to: AM long course swim; drive to WP; Berthoud Pass Ride (10K climb starts 9000+ ft); easy run PM with the group. The long ride on Saturday has an extended piece over 10,000 ft (to end a 3+hr climb) and that is VERY draining when you aren't fully acclimatized.

A future letter will cover my thoughts on altitude -- my practical altitude experience (real, artificial, sea level to 20,000+ feet) is broad from both mountaineering and triathlon. I have had plenty of different experiences and will share my views for you to consider.

Oh yeah, the pool is around 8,500 feet so it should be entertaining watching a bunch of fatigued triathletes use three-stroke and flip turns! I doubt that we'll be going very fast.

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Personal Planning -- Part Two
A friend asked: When you were tired in 2005 and knew it was time to take a break from triathlon, how did you know what to do? I have so many questions in my head about the future that I don't know where to start. What is the best plan for me?

Here's what I meant to say. There are several aspects of this topic that are important to me:

The first thing to do is write down EVERY question and issue that you have. Make it a two column table. In the second column, write about how each topic makes you "feel" -- there will be a tremendous amount of self-knowledge there.

Know that I strive to do the best plan for "me". Telling you what to do would be a mistake because you don't need to do what I would do. "Your" job is the same as mine, figure out the best plan for "you". Don't follow what I do, per se. That said, my case study might give you some ideas -- plus I enjoy writing about me! Remember that I had a lot of good fortune over the last few years -- I probably just got lucky! You mileage will vary.

In Spring 2005, I was not willing to consider that it was time to take a break until it was apparent that I couldn't do _ANY_ material training.

To move out of denial, I had to get very tired. Monica had to walk me around the block to get my body moving again. I did Swim Camps (Chop House Challenge) and started training for the Leadville 100. I was completely missing the numerous, very clear, signs that I was fried.

More than enjoying training, what I really love is personal achievement. Sitting around fried doesn't offer me any of that. So... I dropped training and moved on to something else, where I had a shot at some personal achievement. Not everyone is achievement oriented -- I think that most people would prefer to be liked. I also have a strong desire to be accepted but my self-acceptance is high enough that my main thing is achievement. A more spiritual way of presenting this would be a constant search for my ultimate potential -- perhaps I'll get there some day. For now, I tend to have a desire to "win" at most of what I do.

Once I moved past denial, I came very quickly to acceptance -- I nearly always do. I think that I skipped "anger" but you'd have to ask Monica about that. More on this topic HERE - a very good read.

With acceptance in hand, I looked around at what I could do. At that stage, the two best "options" in my life were Monica and Chris (my business partner). I asked Monica to marrry me and I listened very careful to what Chris told me was happening in the business. When you have a relationship with a high energy entrepreneur then there are always opportunities around. In speaking with Chris I realized that a problem that we had (too many good deals, not enough money) had created an opportunity to form a new company. My Hong Kong business attire was pulled out of the closet and I spent two years helping him establish the new company.

The lessons as I see them:

***When you are unable to do the work required to reach your goals -- it's time to take a break. The will to win is nothing without the will to prepare. I was struggling to get out of bed!

***Lives are fluid, change is natural and should be (at a minimum) accepted. Part of the reason that I warn people against public goal statements is that it takes massive self-confidence to change direction once you've made a public statement. There is a very strong social bias against changing course. It is one of the toughest obligations of leadership.

***My best plan at June 2007 will not be my best plan at March 2008. I always have the ability to change my plans. My goal is to make the best choices (today) given my skills, opportunities and desires.

***The plan will change but your core values are likely to stay the same. Knowing what is truly important to you; knowing what gives you satisfaction -- this knowledge will ease you through the periods of transition.

***Transitions are VERY tough -- I've been divorced, changed careers (3x), relocated internationally (4x), lost my health (2x)... all challenging things. However, through it all, I always enjoyed spending time with "me". Sticking to our personal ethics really helps in difficult times. It's why I avoid associations with people with weak ethics -- in both finance and athletics it can be tempting to spend time with the ethically slack.

The fact that you were asking me about my "break" means that you need to take one. Here are some other points for the overtrained athlete to consider:

If you continue then you won't improve -- you've seen your performance stagnate, or decline. More of the same will generate the same results. You are wasting valuable time.

Accept that you may never achieve your goals. You certainly won't achieve them by following the same path. In my journey, this acceptance was very liberating and opened up many new, and rewarding, paths/relationships for me.

If you take a break then you can put yourself in a position to benefit from the return of your drive, your health. What is different for me in 2007? Two main things -- long term financial stability and the massive support that I receive from Monica. Many athletes are drained by a lack of financial and emotional stability in their lives.

Stability matters, in 2004, the difference between Tom and me was 0.35%. In other sports the differences are even smaller.

The road back:
***2005, regain health and create stability
***2006, see if I could "prepare" again
***2007, gain support of a mentor with strengths that matched my blindspots

I've "won" well before August 26th -- I'm enjoying playing a strategic game with my body. Finance is the exact same game with contacts, emotions and intellect.

Many who win, never win anything at all -- this is especially true of those that lose their personal ethics, most commonly these days through fraud or doping.

Cheers,
gordo

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12 May 2007

Success, Discipline, Bad Deals and Bodhisattvas


The photo this week relates to my final topic of bodhisattvas. The other topics that I'll share ideas on are success/results; discipline/compromise; and bad deals.

Before we kick off a public service announcement on helmets and seat belts... the good weather has a number of my pals riding naked!

It is worth remembering that we never choose when we will have a life threatening accident. Helmets have saved me from two very serious head injuries. If you don't want to wear a helmet for yourself then wear it for your friends/family -- we are the ones that will be left to pick up the pieces when you sustain a serious injury.

If you insist on riding without a helmet then please, at a minimum, carry an organ donor card.

++++

Success vs Results
A friend recently remarked that while he 'lived' better than anyone that he knew, he believed that I enjoyed the way that I lived far more than him. There wasn't any envy in his statement -- just an observation on the difference between consumption and satisfaction.

There is, I believe, a related topic in athletics -- the difference between achieving success and achieving results. There are a lot of different aspects of this topic and I will limit myself to a couple of sub-topics this evening.

There are several training techniques that produce results while rarely leading to success. I'll share a few:

***Starvation training, exercise anorexia, depletion training -- whatever you'd like to call it. Over the short term, self-starvation can be performance enhancing. There are several successful trainers that actively push their athletes down this path -- results are achieved and others (including the athlete) are left to pick up the pieces.

***Overtraining -- a really interesting topic for me. Within my own training, I was successful, with a high quality of life during all of my overtraining phases. When I look around my friends and read case studies of world class athletes, I see that there are positive physical and mental adaptations that occur as a result of the lessons leading into an overtrained state. Pretty much everybody at the top of their sport has blown themselves up at some stage.

Having come out the other side of both these topics, I find it difficult to participate (in any way) in an athlete's desire to impair themselves. However, I do have empathy for the athlete that argues for his right to nuke himself. You'll certainly miss your health when it is gone, so it is best to ensure that you have a very good reason for venturing to the limit.

These topics present interesting ethical dilemmas that (I expect) healthcare professionals must balance on a daily basis. The balance between respecting a person's right for self-determination and my desire to surround myself with individuals that embody the life that I want to live.

At many levels, athletes look to their coaches/trainers/advisors/mentors for affirmation that their strategies are "what it takes". I'd caution you to consider if a solitary focus on results will, ultimately, lead you along the path of a successful life.

Speed, money, body fat percentage, net worth -- these may enhance our perceived quality of life but they do not represent quality of life. The more fixated we become on them, the more we'll miss them when they're gone.

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Discipline vs Compromise
Another buddy of mine shared an observation that taking care of his financial obligations was forcing him into a position of compromise with his training. He noted that he struggled with compromise -- the underlying sentiment being that he was results focused on his training and didn't want to back down from achieving in that field.

If you've been reading this blog for a while then you'll know that financial prudence is a fundamental belief of mine. When I am out of financial balance, I can't really think about much else. This presents challenges as I broaden my consulting practice to help people with their financial situation. In fact, I have a little sign beside my desk now... "assist without ownership". The sign is part of my drive to free myself from the illusion of controlling anything outside of myself.

I thought about my friend's comment and my first response (internally) was a quick retort that there is a massive difference between compromise and discipline. However, given a week to mull it over... I think that my buddy had it absolutely correct.

Changing our patterns is difficult
Changing our patterns takes time and effort
Meaningful change requires new methods of thinking
Without the catalyst of a crisis, most are unable to make meaningful changes

I think that my strong initial reaction was generated by my own pattern of thinking. Here is how I see it...

"I never compromise, I make positive decisions that support my desired goals. I'm doing what it takes to achieve success."

You can easily change this to...

"I am constantly compromising, all I do is say 'no' to myself. I try so hard to escape my failed patterns. Poor me."

Same thing...
Different mind set...
Different probability of success.

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Bad Deals
Whether it is a poor investment, a weak hiring decision or a failed relationship, we are all going to make a few bad deals in our lives. Due to space constraints and to protect the guilty (i.e. me!)... I'll skip the specific examples.

Here are the key things that have helped me deal with my most serious personal challenges:

Forgiveness -- not your spouse, not your business partner, not your employee -- forgive yourself for having made such a poor decision to start with. When I'm in a bad deal, nearly all of the angst that I feel comes from a mixture of fear and embarrasment for a self-generated failure. I made a poor choice -- I blew it -- things didn't work out as planned. To think clearly, to move forward in a positive manner, my first step is to forgive myself.

Effective -- you'll have a lot more success in your exit strategy if you focus on being effective, rather than being right. Seeing as you've (hopefully) managed to forgive yourself for entering into the deal -- there is no need to get the other party/company/boss/employee to admit that they screwed up as well. You don't need to be "right" -- you do need an exit that protects your position while preserving your ethics. If you are in settlement negotiations remember that your self-respect is the only asset that you truly own.

Tests -- while you are working towards a successful exit strategy, expect to be challenged emotionally with 'unreasonable' requests. I used quotes because it is important to remember that the other party is likely fighting for their own financial/emotional survival. In these situations, people can do some strange things.

Sunk costs -- in a bad deal, the time/money/emotions of the past are gone. What matters is having the mental clarity to make effective decisions about where you will invest your current (and future) time/money/emotions.

As a professional investor of 17 years, I can tell you that (as a rule) you will make the greatest return by never, ever, ever, ever following your money when a company is off plan. I watched us burn millions of pounds learning that lesson in the early 90s. A simple rule that is far from easy to implement.

As a human being of 38 years, I can say that the strength of my relationship with Monica stems from the self-knowledge and self-commitments that flowed from the errors that I made in previous relationships. To get a different outcome, I had to change my approach, rather than my partner.

Finally, for what it's worth, my most valuable life lessons have come as a result of bad deals. The financial and emotional costs that I've paid have returned huge dividends through improved decision making and perspective about my life situation.

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Bodhisattvas
If you click the link then you'll get a proper definition of a bodhisattva -- I like Jack Kerouac's, "a brave wise being or a great wise angel". I think that I had one of these mythical creatures in my house the other day.

Allow me to explain...

The photo that leads the blog this week is my father-in-law as a young man. As you can see, he was a military man and worked on a carrier flight deck.

A few months after that photo was taken, Robert was involved in an accident where he was sucked into a jet intake. His buddies pulled him out of the engine and he was dead on the scene. The engine blades sliced his shoulder quite badly and he lost enough blood for his heart to stop. Fortunately, the crew managed to revive him.

He's never really explained to me what dying was like -- I doubt that he'd be able to find the words and, even if he did, how could I understand. Anyhow, after they managed to get him stable from the first accident, his shoulder became infected and it wasn't looking too good for him. Interestingly, when he describes this period of his life he focuses on his friend in the hospital, playing checkers and laughing daily. Dying was quite beneficial for his mental outlook!

I attended Robert's 70th birthday party and he explained a few things to us. He didn't really give a speach, rather he shared a few ideas that had been helpful to him. It was a bit like being handed thirty zen koans. I only remember a few things from his talk but he's been threatening to publish his memoirs.

The observation that stuck with me was his statement that he is constantly surrounded by mirrors.

When I am at my most "clear", I don't seek to overcome, or fix, myself. Rather, I use self-acceptance to create empathy by seeing myself reflected in others. Some traditions talk about being "one" with the world -- so far the best that I can manage is a little empathy. It's a start.

Another of the things that he shared is that the accident super-charged his ability to "feel", specifically, to experience love. A person that is supercharged on love has some interesting characteristics -- Robert's emotional circuit breakers can get overloaded and he's prone to crying when he's really happy -- which means that he cries at just about anything because he sees beauty in most things (other than the Bush administration but he's working on that).

Like a lot of my best teachers, simply being with him leaves me feeling better. He's got quite a bit to teach me but I know it all already. My head likes to file everything in sequential or opposing terms. Some knowledge doesn't quite fit that way.

Back next week,
gordo

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03 February 2007

Phase Two Training


I like the photo above – the orange color of the light reminds me of the warmth of the winter sun in California. There’s a feeling around Santa Cruz that represents much of what I’ve been searching for since leaving Hong Kong in 2000. The closest word to describe it is ‘peace’.

Post-Epic, I was fortunate to be able to spend a couple of days with Mark Allen. While we talked quite a bit about triathlon, I didn’t walk away with a bunch of notes about main sets and training sessions. A lack of notes is an unprecedented change! I do have to confess that I did make a few notes at our first meeting over breakfast. My brother commented that I must have been pretty fired up because I wasn't eating.

The single best thing about Mark’s method is its simplicity. Many people send me notes asking questions about the protocol. There is nothing more to tell you than what you read here.

Mark’s “coaching” me this season but a better description would be that he is guiding me. When I think about “coaching”, my mind seeks direction, instruction and certainty.

Tell me what to do to be great...
Tell me exactly how to do it...
Provide me with the answers to what I think I am seeking...

Real meaning and growth come from figuring out our own way, rather than following instructions.

As a guide, Mark’s provided me with the basics for Phase One. If you’ve read the articles on his website as well as my summary of the Fit Body, Fit Soul seminar then you’ll know as much as me about the protocol. Yes, it really is that simple. I may have more experience than you to apply the protocol but there isn’t anything more. He’s not holding anything back.

The simplicity would have been completely lost on me as a novice and (I suspect) that many athletes refuse to believe the powerful nature of harmonious simplicity.

I’ve often noticed a mutual tendency to create dependency between coaches & athletes. Naturally, it exists only in friends and associates!

The constant review of workouts, the fine-tuning, the periodization… as I learn more about myself, I see that most of this is wasted energy. I wonder how often we “discuss” to avoid facing the issues that are staring us in the face – issues that require us to change in order to progress. Even if we don't need to change (which I doubt)... I'd rather direct as much of "me" into the plan as possible.

####

Have you managed to string together those 12 weeks of consistent moderate training that I spoke about in October?

What happened since I reminded you in December?

If you haven't managed it then there is still plenty of time -- after all, it is only the start of February. Keep trying!

Here's why...

There’s no point in progressing your training until you can string together a dozen weeks of consistency. The more you struggle with consistency, the more you’ll be tempted to rush your preparation and cut corners.

Performance flows more easily by establishing your cycle of success.

####

January is the time for budgets and planning. During my 48-hour stint in Scotland, we talked a lot about our business' plans for the year. If you are interested in what I do other than triathlon, here's a link to an aspect of the company.

You may be surprised how many people don’t have a plan -- by simply writing down where you want to go, you will get a clear edge over nearly everyone. The power of simplicity!

Even those with a plan struggle to execute it. It’s the same for all of us and I’m no different than you. I read my plan to remind myself what I need to do. My moments of clarity can be pretty spread out -- so I need to write them down quickly and review them often.

Our ability to create, then observe, our patterns and habits greatly influences what we are able to achieve in our lives.

"To know others is intelligence, to know yourself is wisdom."

What I have benefited from is making a ton of mistakes and being exposed to experienced people that shared the lessons of their mistakes with me. These first few months with Mark have reminded me that our best advisors can be the ones that help us ask ourselves the right questions, rather than answering the endless noise created by our minds.

Take time to consider that point...

The best teacher is the one that helps us figure things out for ourselves.

I’ve written six page emails to which the best reply was a telephone call where we talked about the seasons and pacing across a year. Two weeks later, my head had dreamed up a whole range of new issues, which only had a vague connection to my previous ideas.

We can only see things in others that exist in ourselves. By not participating in the noise of my head, Mark helped me better see it.

Now I write my blog instead!

ha ha ha

####

A little bit about focusing on what we need in triathlon. While in Santa Cruz, we spent an evening running through the logic of the eGrip on-line engine. I entered some pretty extreme values to see if I could “tilt” the server. No such luck, it kicked out a week that was very close to what I would have created for myself. It took me only a couple of minutes to fine-tune.

If you are looking for a cost effective “coach” then I’d recommend his site as well as a copy of my book, Going Long. The book has sold over 25,000 copies and that blows me away.

Once you have your simple plan, you may consider pulling the plug on all the chat forums and repeat, repeat, repeat to the best of your ability. Remove the distractions from execution. Make a habit of "doing".

It's not easy for me to stay away but I've been off forums since my own board was shut down last summer. I was running with a good friend this morning (Richmond Park, London with the deer -- very nice) and we were discussing the internet. He observed that there is a forum where you can ask a trained nutritionist any question you want and she'll reply for free. Hardly anyone posts! Rather than post to an expert, people end up asking perfect strangers for guidance (most of whom struggle with their nutrition but they are extremely generous with their experience).

We often think that boards are a meeting place for experts. Quite often, they turn into places were people come to reinforce their existing biases or self-image (particularly "poor me"). Watch for that -- you don't want those things in your head.

Keeping my head clear is why I'm very wary of television and any form of violence these days. I haven't watched a movie in a long while.

If you are seeking change in your life then look out for habits that become a time sink.

Beware of the enemies of action!

####

So what about the title of this piece? Well, Phase Two of my season kicked off this week.

Summing up Phase One…
***14 weeks of base training (HR <= 148 bpm) ***Epic Camp (phew!) ***Two weeks mellow with high run frequency I achieved most of what I wanted in Phase One. The area where I fell short was strength development. I suppose the best way to look at it is that I have plenty of upside in Phase Two. To give you an insight... 3x15 squats at 135lbs was tough this week. I will be working towards 3x12 at 185lbs. For reference, six years ago I ended my strength phase able to do 3x12 at 225lbs comfortably. On the plus side, my aerobic fitness and stamina are strong for February. My benchmarks and training volume indicate that I'm in good shape. I don't want to be in great shape at this stage of the season. My aerobic test has stalled (7:10/6:50/6:25/6:18/6:23/6:28 -- October to January) so it is time to kick off Phase Two and add in some tougher stuff. Before you lace up your spikes... note that my approach was... 14 weeks of simple base training; a bike-oriented aerobic overload cycle; then rest. I spent two months "stalled" and didn't rush to use intensity. It was more important to establish the depth of my aerobic platform than start the tough stuff. When you think that you are behind (and our minds always try that on) then it is tempting to constantly rush. This is fundamental -- to absorb tough training, we need width and depth in our platform. Appropriate preparation is required to get the benefit from harder training. Mark’s guidelines to me were pretty simple, “a couple times a week go as hard as you can -- finish the main set with your heart rate as close to max as possible”. You can read an article on his website that lays it out. Don’t bother sending me an email for more info, that article tells you more than I heard! In fact, you'd be silly not to read everything on his website -- he just might have something to teach us.

Of course, if you read his advice then you might be left in a position requiring change and we are often unable to change without the stimulus of a crisis.

In terms of the session structure, I have enough experience to create something that is reasonable but that didn't stop me from asking Molina then checking with Mark! What we came up with was a main set like 6x3 minutes fast on 90s rest – it’s what I did to kick off Day Eight at Epic.

I’ll use some variations but workout structure is not a constraint on performance.

What I target is:
***intensity (fast);
***rep duration (2-4 minutes);
***rest (about 50% of rep duration);
***cadence (92-94, bike & run); and
***form (best -- this is important).

I'll note power/pace when convenient but they are a result, not a target. I'm seeking a physiological response rather than a target performance. It's easy to get caught up in the data (personal limiter of mine). All of my breakthroughs have come when I removed my mind from what I was seeking to achieve. For my money, that is the crux of performance psychology.

I was a bit jet lagged on Thursday and did my first session in the dark around Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. It was 5am and I was running with the aid of moonlight. If you know the climb then I started at the base of the steep side. Two uphill reps (rest was downhill walking) then four repeats along the top (3 upwind, 1 downwind). I started uphill to ensure a good HR response.

I couldn't see my heart rate monitor so I set it to beep at 170bpm. The set ended up 6x2:45 (fast) on 90s walking rest, probably 15 minutes over 170bpm. When I checked my data after the session, I saw that my max for the workout was 185bpm. That's the highest heart rate that I've generated since I started triathlon. High octane stuff -- I've felt the training stimulation for the last three days -- the physiological responses leave me feeling like I'm on happy-juice.

It will be interesting to see if the ability to generate high heart rates continues because the main difference between me and my "fast" pals is their ability to access higher power/pace by driving their heart rates higher than me. I'm efficient within my steady zone but the top guys can load me up by accessing their superior top ends.

In the past, I've chosen to carry background fatigue that limited my ability to elevate my heart rate. Those long term periods of being overreached were a conscious decision to develop my stamina and endurance. Even with the associated periods where I was overtrained, they were successful from a knowledge and performance viewpoint.

I'm seeking a deeper level of success this year.

####

I've adjusted my race schedule (yet again).

Feb -- Snowman Stampede, 10-miler in Denver, hope I don't need crampons!
Mar -- Lake Havasu Olympic Distance Triathlon
Apr -- Desert Olympic Distance Triathlon
May -- Napa Half Ironman
June -- Prospect Lake Sprint Triathlon

July and August will be specific preparation for Ironman Canada. In the summer, I get enough action with my key sessions. My "best" training performance will likely be seen July 16th to August 5th. Thereafter, I build inwards for game day.

As Mark reminded me in Santa Cruz, through all the training, it is important to remember that there is a race coming. When Ironman Canada arrives I plan on being ready.

All my best from Bermuda,
gordo

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20 January 2007

Why Epic


Games Day is over and, for the record, Mark Pietrofesa won quite handily – remember that name because if you are in the 40-44 then you’ll be getting to know him quite well over the next few years. Steve Larsen nipped him for a slot at Vineman in 2005 but I’m putting my money on Mark for the re-match, certainly over the full distance in Hawaii.

####

I wrote some of this a few days ago...

I’ve finished my third monster brew of the day. I’m trying to stay awake until 7pm so I can sleep through the night.

The nutritional cracks have become open fissures – I had a couple of bowls of ice cream last night; tortilla chips the night before and pancakes this morning. For me, the nutrition heading off the rails is a sign that it is time to back off on everything, rest up and absorb the training. I have four weeks worth of business, personal and family travel coming up. So I’m going to take things easy and try to run most days.

In early December, Monica asked me whether I would go to Epic if I hadn’t committed to it. At that time, I was very tired and scared about the camp. Scared? Yes, scared. You see, I know what these camps are like. I also have intimate knowledge about overtraining. It scares me.

[Very] Big Week Training is risky but the risk:reward ratio is worthwhile for me – I’ve spent over a decade learning about how I respond to endurance training. As I want to explore my ultimate potential as an athlete then there are certain risks that need to be undertaken. What I’m trying to do this time around is make sure that I’m following the most appropriate path.

I’m glad that I turned up – first to see the guys and second because this was the best two-week training camp that I’ve ever had. Stripping out the easier stuff, I managed 45 hours of steady and mod-hard training in 14 days. That is a massive amount of work to put into my body in January.

For the top performers in any sport, the physiological training is a given. We must do the work to generate the physiological changes that give rise to the potential for breakthrough performance.

Work is a given – that’s why I remind athletes that protocol isn’t the decisive factor. It has an impact but it doesn’t dominate the path from potential to performance. What really matters is the psychological and spiritual changes that happen during Big Week Training.

Fatigue – an acceptance of fatigue as a physical state of the body, rather than a mental problem of the mind.

Humility – an acceptance that we do have certain limits on certain days. However, learning that our limits are far, far further than we thought possible. By removing ourselves from our daily routines, we “trick” our minds into allowing us to exceed our previous athletic definitions of ourselves.

Work – teaching the mind that work is a relaxing form of pleasure. Getting to the point where five to six hours of steady cycling (in the wind and rain) is more of a meditation than a training session.

Confidence – seeing that physiological superiority results from absorbing more work, over more time – rather than an innate, unachievable genetic edge.

These are the lessons that we seek to bring the athletes that join us at Epic Camp. They are also the lessons that I renew each time I arrive at Epic.

When you read about Epic Camp you may think that it is about pain tolerance. For some of the athletes that could be the case. For others, that might be the way a few of the days feel. For me, Epic is about training my mind that sensations that I may have felt as pain are better expressed as joy. I use nature, the Epic Lads and the “game” to reprogram my emotional framework. There was as much psychological as physical “practice” happening at this camp.

Once the fatigue starts to pile up, the psychological cracking shows first. An athlete’s psychological systems will break down well in advance of their physical systems.

Epic is a direct challenge to what an athlete previously thought as reasonable and challenging. Most the lads deal with their psychological challenges internally. Over the years a few break out in public (generally around Day 7 or 8).

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Coming into the camp, I had a few goals that I wrote about…

***Keep HR under 148 for the first week – managed that for all but an hour of riding on Day Five. Keeping intensity down in a group situation is extremely tough – I was dropped a couple of times on Day One but bridged back when the pace eased. We need a tremendous amount of self-confidence to allow ourselves to go out the back in a group situation. Most people are unable to execute their plan in a group situation or under psychological pressure. They can not do it.

***Pull the longest ride of Day Three (225K) – got that done with Charlesy as my wingman.

***Hit it hard a few times in Week Two – similar to the amount of Week One endurance training, I managed much more than I thought possible – two hours at 300w+ on Day Eight and a tough main set/group ride on Day Ten. I also drove my HR up into the 170s for the entire run on the Day Eight Aquathon.

***Be cheerful, less controlling and listen more – better than previous camps and I’ll keep working on these points!

If you head over to the Planet-X bikes website then you can check out my data from those hard rides. The most interesting data (for you) might be Day Eight and Day Ten. They will give you an insight into my threshold and VO2 power.

My favourite day was probably Day Seven when I broke a spoke fifteen minutes into the ride (and in the rain). Once the crew had me rolling again, I rode alone, playing catch-up, and was able to build the ride, hour-by-hour for five hours. Confidence that I can ride well when fatigued is something that I was seeking at the camp and I found it at the end of Week One.

Many of the lads report a sensation of improving fitness during the camp. I think, what really happens is that the body & mind simply get used to working for long periods of time. Physiologically we fatigue, mentally we strengthen.

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I know some guys where Epic has changed their lives – 50 to 80 hours of training changing the direction of someone’s life. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that. Scott and I are doing what we were born to do – it’s our path. Some folks get that, some don’t.

I ended up with my lowest total (and points “standing”) for any of the camps. However, in terms of training stimulation, this would have to be the most specific camp for my goal of winning Ironman Canada in August 2007.

Sitting here on my flight out of Queenstown, I’m the least fatigued from any of the previous camps. I’m going to absorb the training because I want to get faster, not because I am deeply overreached.

The game plan for February is to physically re-group, run frequently and organize the non-triathlon aspects of my life.

Monica is a very high priority for the next two months.

####

In Alexandra, we had a Q&A session with the lads. Here are a couple of highlights that you might want to consider within your own program.

Triathlon is a young sport. I’m fortunate to have been able to learn from a number of the pioneers and experts of our sport. In watching the lads at Epic, I see that what I think is possible (for myself and others) sells our potential short. Many, many times I would have advised athletes to skip sessions (or stop training altogether) if I was “coaching” them at Epic. If we had stopped at a “reasonable” level then (without exception) we would have failed to learn valuable lessons about ourselves and human physiology.

One of these days, we’ll get Dr. J to undertake a study of us at Epic, until then, you’ll have to take my word for it. Much of the triathlon advice that you receive is the equivalent of someone telling you that the Earth is flat.

Please don’t take _anything_ that you hear as the end-all. Take what sounds reasonable, what has worked for people like you and experiment.

Take action, make mistakes, learn and share your experiences.

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Is Big Week Training the “optimal protocol”?

Along your endurance journey, don’t expect to find “one way”, “one approach”, “one protocol” or “one method”. Big Week Training is merely one tool that you can place in your athletic (or coaching) toolbox. For experienced athletes, Big Week Training is a safe way to bump up our performance.

Watching Crazy Mike was interesting because he went both long and hard (daily). I don’t recommend that but… he got through it and put in excellent output (swim, bike and run) session, after session, after session.

High Volume, High Intensity is high octane training and, last night, Scott talked about the risk of staleness and overtraining. In a group environment, it is possible to blow an entire season of fitness across a single fortnight – especially if we forget that we must pay a recovery price eventually. Like me, Mike is planning on recovering through February.

Each camp we continue to learn a tremendous amount from watching the guys. One of Scott’s key observations is that if you get a group of top athletes together and raise your expectations then nearly everyone will step up. We sure saw that on this camp. I couldn’t believe how much they got done. I purposely cut back the volume and piled on the steady-state for this camp.

Week One was 40 hours of training and Week Two was 20 hours of training. Because my relative reality was that I was doing less than the Epic Lads, this was the easiest (and highest quality) sixty hours of training that I’ve done since the summer of 2005.

Day One
***Run 12K steady (used Bobby McGee run:walk for the entire camp, except the Day 8 Aquathon and short games day runs)
***Swim 3K with 2K TT (14:30/14:08)
***Ride Six Hours (five of which were steady to mod-hard)

Day Two
***Swim 3K with 2K steady
***Bike 4.5 hours (four of which were steady to mod-hard)
***Run 10K easy

Day Three
***Ride 7.5 hours (five of which were steady to mod-hard, last 30 minutes mod-hard to hard)

Day Four
***Swim 3K open water (1K steady rest easy)

Day Five
***Swim 3K steady to mod-hard
***Run 10K mod-hard then 1K fast
***Bike Three Hours (middle hour crisscross max aerobic pace; last hour steady to mod-hard)

Day Six
***Swim 3K (1K band only then 2K steady)
***Ride 4.5 hours easy

Day Seven
***Easy 30 min run
***Ride 5 hours build by hour easy to mod-hard

Day Eight
***Ride Four Hour (60 min build to mod-hard; 60 min mod-hard to hard; 30 min steady then easy)
***Aquathon – 10 min steady swim; 15 min hard to very hard run

Day Nine
***Swim 2.4 Miles Open Water 52 minutes (wide range of intensities)

Day Ten
***Easy morning run 10K
***Four hour ride including 6x3 min @ VO2 watts on 90s RI; one hour hard rolling pacing line; one hour steady to mod-hard
***Swim 40 mins include 30 min steady

Day Eleven
***Games day include 6 min 400 IM, Five Minutes threshold running and some power events
***Ten minutes easy swimming

Day Twelve
***Three hour ride (include one hour steady; some big gear work and twenty minutes fast)
***Easy 90 minute run in the evening

Day Thirteen
***Swim 2.4 Miles Open Water 51 minutes (easy to mod-hard)

Day Fourteen
***Run 80 minutes steady
***Catch this plane to Auckland

The top agegroup guys did MORE than the above (Crazy Mike was close to double). Some of you are trying to beat these guys.

Compared to (some of) our competition we achieved one or two months worth of key sessions in a single training camp. It takes many years of patient, smart training to prepare the body for undertaking this sort of training camp.

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I’ll share some of my non-linear recovery techniques that I used over the last fortnight. Nobody ever writes about this stuff as it pertains to triathlon. I can't be the only one with this experience!

So this is what really happened. Much of this is operating at different levels of my experience. I’ve always been willing to access anything that works.

Fit Body, Fit Soul – I used what I learned from Mark and Brant at their weekend clinic. They can teach you better than I can and their lessons have helped move me closer to my ultimate potential as an athlete.

The Sun – On the morning of Day Two, I spent an hour on the beach watching the sun rise. Some might call that a meditation but I was simply looking around, relaxing and asking for help.

The Weather – In heat, or in rain, I will run palms-up for a period of time to absorb energy from the sun or the sky. I use a similar technique within my yoga practice.

Yoga – I did frequent, short yoga sessions – up to three times per day.

Massage – I had five massages in the sixteen days that I was in New Zealand.

Monica – I spoke to Monica five times over the sixteen days that I was in New Zealand. This is the least direct contact that I’ve had with her since we’ve been together. However, I probably held her in my heart for five to twelve hours per day. At my end it felt like I was pulling energy from her. She’s pretty tired right now. I don’t know if that was my doing! Over the years, there have been a few people from which I have pulled energy when training at a high level.

Breathing – When I was surrounded by the power of nature; or saw a flower; or saw an animal; I would breathe the experience into my body. With my little injuries, I would direct the breath towards the part of my body that needed to recover (another technique from yoga).

Dreams – I had dreams about each of the key people in my life. They gave me various pieces of advice. Some of which I remembered, some of which merely made me feel nice when I woke up in the morning.

iPod – I like listening to good music on my iPod.

Some of this I can explain, some of this I am simply sharing with you.

More than understanding my experiences, I’d encourage you to explore your own.

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Protocol is not the differentiating factor between athletes.

Passion, persistence and patience – combine those with any reasonable protocol and you’ll get results. The people that tend to take issue with alternative protocols are, typically, unable to do the protocol they don’t like; or, are trying to profit from an alternative view of the world. For example, most coaches passionately believe in the way _they_ like to train. From a sales & leadership point of view, that belief is essential.

Scott and I really enjoy the camps. We do them to spend time with the lads and enjoy ourselves. We have a deep enjoyment of training.

On the podcasts, there was a tone that Epic Camp is special, possibly elitist. It is special for the Epic Vets because it represents a shared experience, a very different experience and an outside of the box experience.

While it is a unique experience “for us” you could recreate it for yourself. I’ve done it a number of times over the years and it’s helped me.

Epic Camp is unique and special; but Big Week Training is open to anyone with a backpack and a map!

What is unique here is the nature of the athletes. We are sharing a massive undertaking alongside experienced, confident and (mostly) mellow high achievers. The older guys that come have achieved a very high level of success (in multiple fields). With this success comes humility and (if you listen) a willingness to share knowledge.

We also get athletes that are searching for a level of validation (of themselves and/or from others). It’s ironic that we often need to achieve something to learn that it doesn’t really matter. It never was about the goal – the goal merely provides us something around which we can wrap a lifestyle.

The man who competes with no one
In all the world, has no competitor.

And that’s a wrap for another year.

gordo

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12 January 2007

EC:NZ'07 Update

I’m enjoying a home-made mochaccino right on our first of two “regroup” days. I had to negotiate for these days to be inserted!

22 hours of training in three days and I had to haggle for a chance to put myself together!

Because I didn’t run yesterday, Molina is threatening to revoke my “complete the camp” bonus. He’s top of my list for Week Two…

Scott will write about Motivation and I hope you read it. He’s been at this for a very long time. He’s had his ups and downs – perhaps he’ll share those some day. It takes a long time to get good and many people say they want to get good. However, most people don’t want that. Most people want the “good”. The people that get to the top, what they really want is the “work” to get good. To do a lot of work, over a long time… that takes Motivation. Motivation is a habit; success is a habit. Hopefully, Scott will offer up some tips for us.

Here’s how I see it work in myself and others…

We often create imagined injustices to keep us rolling. I’ve found that as I mature, my motivation comes more purely (Quiet Mind, Quiet Power). When I was younger I used a lot of coffee, anger, music or imagined injustice to get rolling. Perhaps that was a sign of carrying excessive fatigue. Clas jokes that when you need a full pot of coffee to get through your main set then perhaps your program is a bit tough! With a more moderate approach, I can motivate from within.

Look for that in your self – recovery is the final option for many highly motivated people (not just athletes).

To do the work required to achieve greatness – that takes a long time. Simply to get back to the fitness I had in 2004, I laid out a 21 month plan. 21 months of planning… leading towards the third athletic peak of my life… in the ninth year of my triathlon career. I hear about athletes seeking to “peak” three times in a season! Life doesn’t work like that.

Molina was planning on leading a contingent of lads up Arthur’s Pass for a bonus ride. However, the rain in coming down _very_ steady right now so we’ll have to see if that ride gets rolling. The clouds are sitting right over the hills and the lake is calm. Doesn’t look like it will blow over anytime soon…

I’m confident that most the Yellow jersey contenders will get out there today. Hopefully, the rain will ease a little for them but I wouldn’t count on it.

So what about the camp so far. Well, after what has supposed to have been a very cold Kiwi summer, we’ve had pretty good weather. Yesterday was quite damp but everyone brought enough gear so that we all made it through without incident. Johno called the weather “patchy” and it seemed like I had a patch that followed me for about six hours!

We’ve got a guy here from London, England – Toby. Yesterday morning, I was suited up with everything, including a pair of neoprene swim gloves (see Aquaman photo of Molina), helmet cover, booties, and synthetic long underwear (good for crappy riding weather, made by Asics). Toby turned up in shorts and reluctantly put on a pair of arm warmers. He said that he wanted to “save” his leg warmers in case the weather took a turn for the worse. I suppose that it is all a matter of perspective. We convinced him to put them on prior to the ride – air temp was 10C at the start and went down as low as 9C before we got over Lewis Pass (about 3.5 hours ride time to the pass).

I’ve done the route before – never in one go, though! To get through what I expected to be an 8-9 hour ride, I broke it up into pieces. I also left my iPod rolling the entire time. I rode with the groupetto yesterday. I haven’t done much riding with the groupetto at previous camps, so I can’t comment on what it is normally like. At this camp, you’ve still got a lot of very strong guys in the second bunch.

I like to set my own pace when riding. That’s a nice way of saying that I am a bit of a control freak and dislike having pace dictated to me. I’m working on that!

Clive, Albert, Mark and Lou – they also like rolling at their own speed and that can be quicker than mine – especially when we are going uphill. I’ve been “backing off” on the hills. By backing off, my power “only” increases by 25-50% from what I put out when pulling. Some of the lads must be lifting close to 100% from what they are putting out on the flats. Those surges add up across a 1,000K bike week!

So we broke up a bit. On the second KOM, I was doing my normal back-off thing and was probably going a little too easy as there were five guys up the road at one point. I figured that I was putting a damper on things with my moderate approach – especially for Mark who likes to give it a go. Albert was almost out of reach and somebody had to give him a push! So I picked things up a bit (five minutes at 375w; three minutes at 400w) to get Mark within striking distance – I went to 151 bpm and sent Mark after Albert. He played it very well and got past the Albernator, never easy!

Towards the end of the ride it was just Andrew Charles and me – KP, if you are reading this then it was a lot like the ride to Westport (except AC didn’t start frothing at the end). We alternated steady main-sets with easy periods to see how long it would take us to reel in the guys up the road.

Clive was particularly tough to bridge back to! With the lads that have been coming to Epic for a few years, it is enjoyable to see their development as triathletes. Clive’s riding great these days, especially for someone who came out of a Canadian winter to join us.

So those are my memories of Day Three. I can still get my heart rate up when I want, so don’t appear to be too shelled.

Some notes on Epic for those of you who might be considering big training to jump start your own training:

***150 bpm // 150bpm is a magic number in my experience. If any of us do sustained work over 150 then there is a material recovery cost. The young guys can burn a lot more matches than the vets. My cap of 148 bpm has served me well in Week One. I’ll get to open it up a bit in Week Two – for now, patience.

***Running // I have only done two runs so far. A solid steady effort on Day One and an easy run on Day Two. I didn’t run yesterday (D3) as I felt that 225K and 7:40 of pulling was enough. The running combined with bike intensity really beats the legs up. I’m a little sore this morning – but the legs don’t feel as “damaged” as previous camps.

Brandon “bdc” Del Campo and Mike “Crazy Mike” Montgomery both ran 2.5 hours on Day Two! Mike’s coming off a solid run camp so he seemed to tolerate it a bit better. Yeseterday, Mike got the location of the first KOM a bit wrong – thought that he was attacking with 20K to go… turn out that it was 50+ KM of rollers. At least he had a light tailwind to help him out – he’s riding without aerobars. Hence the name… Crazy Mike.

***Nutrition // I made the mistake of eating two cans of Thai Chili Tuna on Day One. Phew! Blew through that, quite literally. Nutrition is a real challenge on the camp – not because of the support, the good choices are there… the challenge is making the good choices! I did better at dinner yesterday with lots of veggies. The next two days are low volume days so I will do better. If you have a body that isn’t used to a lot of sugar/starch then a change in diet can be quite stressful.

***Mental // We are all tired. There comes a point – say after six hours of riding on Day Three where the fatigue is mental – that might sound counterintuitive but… it is not your body that decides to back off, it is your mind. This is where the group really helps.

Having Charlesy on my wheel yesterday was great. I’d announce that I was starting a main set in five minutes and he was my “witness” – Scott calls this getting pushed from behind. You don’t want to crack in front of your ride buddies. Athletes of different abilities can ride together all day. This assumes that the guy at the front rides friendly and backs off on the hills. Most male group training is about trying to kill your ride pals – lifting 100% on all hills. It is also how most people race.

Might make good group riders – doesn’t do squat for your IM times.

***Peaks // There’s been a little throwing up and bonking. Yesterday flushed a few people out. When you are doing big training day after day after day, you need to have your training and recovery nutrition wired. Eating little bits continuously as well as ensuring plenty of fluids.

Day Three shook a few people up – a couple of mushroom clouds went up out there. Slight depletion, power peaks and sustained periods over 150 bpm… generally result in some painful personal time to evaluate the error of your ways.

Some people learn, some don’t.

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Back from my only session today (D4) – 3K open water swim event.

Lou gave us a great lead out and we made the front group! However, their pace was a bit punchy so I let them go. Lou hit a tree! So that slowed him down. We swam it in for 5th and 6th. The four upfront were Molina, Scott Davis, Mark P and Albert. Mark’s really able to lift himself for the events.

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I’ll share a few memories from the other days.

My favourite memory from Day One was the swim TT. We started 10s apart and Johno split all the fast guys up so my drafting opportunities were limited. Or so I thought…

BDC was starting 10s back. It was a dive start and I opened with a 1:20 first 100. BDC must have swum a 1:13 because on my second flip turn was RIGHT there. Made me smile. My mood improved even more when he made his “move” at 250m and came by. If any of you wonder how my swimming improved in the last couple of years. It is due to the combination of Monica’s training program and guys like BDC. I enjoyed a very comfortable 550m in the froth behind Brandon. Once his pace settled down, and I was doing catch-up drill, I tapped his calf and came by for a pull. I figured that we’d swap 400s. Of course, at the back of my mind, I knew that there could be a chance to break away and get my 10s back from him.

After 200m we passed Jarret, and the slightest gap opened up… so at the 1K mark I swam a hard 200. You need to be able to do that at ANY time in an IM swim. That is much more important than your first 400m or your sustained pace. At the sharp end, it is surviving the pace changes that determines your swim time. BDC has improved a lot but didn’t make the pace change… he lost at least 40s in the last 800 due to missing the change (and worked just as hard doing it).

I experienced some power fade at the end of Day One during the 70K TT. The TT was my idea because I wanted the campers to experience some legit riding when they were still fresh. Just like the 2K swim TT – athletes rarely do long main sets. A two hour TT after six hours of training gives us an honest insight of our fitness.

If you want to see your real fitness then schedule a 30-90 minute best aerobic TT (not threshold!) at the end of your long workouts. Keep your HR on target and look at your real aerobic pace – some people simply don’t want to know…

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The best part of Day Two was making the group and the fact that nearly all of us finished the ride together. The muffins at 100K were also pretty tasty!

The depth of the riders on the camp means that there is always someone willing to pull the second group back to the front after each set of climbs. As well, the TT took a little bit of the starch out of the young guns. Finally, we didn’t have any points on the line so the Contenders were holding back (just a little) – saving up for their long runs later in the day!

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The Gate of Pride

I just finished a book called Everyday Zen (Charlotte Joko Beck). The author is western and gives a modern (to me) interpretation of certain zen concepts. She uses a wide range of examples to illustrate her points. One chapter talks about how progress is often inhibited when we bump into the “gate of pride”. It’s something that merits consideration for all of us. I’ll give a few examples as they pertain to athletics.

Think about your training partners… it can be tough to see these in ourselves…

How much is enough?

Here at Epic we don’t set any limits on the athletes. We even provide incentives (with our points game) for people to over-do-it. It’s amazing what people will do to themselves in a group environment for a couple of points. We all love to play the game – that’s what life is when you consider it – a game.

It is up to every athlete to decide their personal limits. The group helps most of the guys go far past their previous limits. As well, as I have mentioned before, when we are all tired, the physical limits become mental ones. Pacing, hydration, nutrition, sleep, stretching – these are all limiters.

When we blow, we will cite a physical limiter… however… it was mental choices (pace, nutrition, hydration, volume, intensity) that lead to a (perceived) physical collapse.

The more pride we have, the harder we bang against that gate.

Some bang for weeks… some for years… some forever…

True Strength

I mentioned this on the podcast.

The “weakest” guy at Epic Camp is one of the strongest guys back home. The athletes that join us are high achieving successful people. They aren’t used to compromising with themselves, or due to the force of another. Even the strongest guy at Epic will have a bad day eventually. And when you do… you’ll get smacked down.

I used to get pretty grumpy when that happened.

The “CTI” athletes (can’t take it) are, generally, the ones that race below their training performance. The guys that smile; nod; and say “you got me there”… they tend to bounce back and grow from the group experience.

Bevan and Molina are two guys that seem to enjoy getting smashed. Bevy because pride doesn’t have much of grip on him (he’s probably going to get very good and will need to watch that – nothing fails like success). Molina because he proved whatever it was that he needed to say with his professional career – 100+ wins can take the edge off, for some. Others just keep chasing whatever they seem to be seeking…

We’ve had some great athletes at Epic Camp that struggled with the lack of control forced on them by being in a group of strong athletes. It’s fun to be the Alpha Male but you learn a lot more about yourself when you’re getting dealt.

As I am finding, an evangelical zeal for training (or anything else) will get you to a point (a very successful point if you have the right combination of skills, passion and persistence). When you want to get past that point, you’ll need to consider the elements of your success that have been holding your back. Within my athletic career (and business career), pride always had to give way to humility to truly tap my personal potential.

This has been the second great lesson of triathlon for me.

The first lesson was that we can all achieve far, far more than we ever dreamed possible.

Not sure if I’ll write again but six pages is enough!

Take care,

gordo

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20 August 2006

Maximising Athletic Performance

Hi All,

This is the start of my Good, Better, Best thoughts. They are flowing from a desire to expand my seminar thoughts -- an outline can be reached HERE.

What I am working towards is a "master" PowerPoint presentation that I can tailor to various audiences. It would take me all day to run through the current draft and I haven't typed up the PDF attachments for Key Workouts; Training/Racing with Power and Benchmarking.

If I come to your tri club then we'll run through the key topics that apply to working athletes. Due to time constraints the only places (over the next year) where you'll hear the Full Monty is my November 2006 Seminar as well as Epic Camp (assuming I'm chatty!).

There is nothing "new" here. I'm pulling thoughts together from what I've experienced over the last eight years.

If you happen to see a gap then shoot me a note.

Cheers,
gordo

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07 August 2006

Unloading

Before I get stuck into this topic. A few thoughts that I’ve had on doping. I don’t usually think about the topic much but with Floyd in the news all my non-athlete pals keep talking about it to me. Stepping aside from the specifics of Floyd…

It’s not surprising to me that some people choose to cheat. Physical prowess doesn’t imply ethical strength any more than physical attraction does. I think that it is in all of our natures to ascribe high character to high achievers. However, I don’t think that achievement is a good predictor of ethics.

It’s possible to waste a heck of a lot of energy thinking, talking and debating ideas/people that we will never really know. I have enough going on with trying to figure myself out – spending time worrying about a well-known stranger is something that I try to avoid.

When we look for motivation from outside of ourselves, be it guru, coach, athlete, mentor, hero… we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Lasting motivation comes best from the inside, from seeking to be our own heroes. While world champions show us what’s possible – the very human mistakes of others remind us of the need for personal ethical vigilance.

What I saw from watching and reading about Floyd this summer was the guy’s work ethic. The joy and satisfaction that he received from “working” struck me as unique – not winning bike races. The joy of work is a fundamental aspect of achievement and satisfaction.

Do I worry about doping in our sport? Not at all. However, I might if I was a true professional seeking a financial living from relative race performance. Being clean and just missing in a field that you didn’t trust – that would be tough. I can think of a number of ITU and IM athletes that have good reasons to wonder what might have been. At my level, it’s not a concern – it’s possible to beat pretty much every doper by out-training them. Even if you can’t beat them on the playing field, you’ve won a far greater victory within yourself.

There’s no deeper defeat than letting yourself down. If you want to punish someone then bringing that knowledge front and centre can be a lesson that’s hard to swallow. We can come up with all kinds of rationalizations but, ultimately, it comes down to a single event, a choice, a decision.

As for Floyd, I sure wish that the referees would stick to their own protocols. When the drugs police can’t be trusted to follow their own rules, it is bad for their own image and authority. Public credibility is tough to build and easily lost.

++++

There are a number of challenges that face most aspiring athletes. The two most common oppose each other and that’s why (I think) a lot of training discussions can become emotional. On one hand, most of us are training at a level that is less than optimal for overall performance. On the other hand, even at this lower level, the greatest challenge we face is recovering from our training, not stacking more onto ourselves.

This article isn’t directly about those topics – I’ll cover the physiological progression at some stage, perhaps when I am tapering for IM Canada in a couple of weeks. What I want to talk about here is something that I’ve noticed in the very best agegroup and elite athletes that I’ve coached, trained or simply watched from a far.

Here goes…

The most impressive guy that I’ve raced consistently over the last few years is Cameron Brown. To be honest, I haven’t really raced Cam (ever) but, perhaps… someday… you see, he started at a higher level than me and just kept improving. Cam’s been consistently improving, year-in year-out from a very high level. Taking an 8:20-guy and making him _even_ faster is a pretty challenging thing to do. In fact, simply staying in 8:20 shape for a series of seasons is a very challenging thing to do!

Scott knows Cam much better than me so I asked him… “what is the change that Cam made to his program over the last couple of years”. Scott told me that probably the biggest change was that when he “rests”, he really rests. Quite often, elite athletes will do easy training on their rest days – keeping the volume going. I imagine that Cam does this but, watching from a distance, I also see that he schedules decent periods of time where he takes deep recovery – whether he wants to or not.

Within my own training over the years, work and fatigue have “forced” periods on me where my training volume is far less than what I would like to be doing. In fact, whenever I am resting I get pretty restless, somewhat grumpy and a bit down on myself for slacking. The last two weeks have been hard at times because I’ve been traveling, working and (happily) agreeing to social commitments. I rarely have a social life outside of my personal Top Ten list as I find it incredibly fatiguing.

One of my social commitments was a talk that I (very happily) gave to a group of athletes here in Edinburgh. Public speaking is an area where I’m only “fair” and I like to practice whenever possible.

As well as talking… I was listening to myself…

“The key is to see if you are improving. If you are getting better then you are heading in the right direction. If you are on a plateau then things might need to change.”

“When I used to work, my #1 thing was simply to avoid taking a zero. If I could do that then I’d be OK.”

I used to be quite poor at listening while talking. Probably still am… if I am not the one talking! J

All this is interesting to me because I have been “forced” to rest much more this year than in previous years. Not surprisingly, the last time I was resting this much, was the last time I was working a lot in Scotland (summer of 2002). 2005 wasn’t so much resting as a complete lack of training!

When I’ve been on my training camps, I have hit the steady-state volume as hard as I could handle (that tolerance has been variable, but increasing). When I have been working here in Scotland, I have cut the volume to 25-50% of what I’d like. I suppose that it is natural to always wish that we could do more, go faster…

Something that I haven’t done for more than six years is that I have raced once a month and done that as fresh I could manage. “Fresh” being a relative term when you log 24+ hours of travel in the four days before a race (did that a few times, don’t recommend it). I tried to train through a couple of races but that didn’t really work so well for me – I don’t have the depth of fitness to quickly bounce back from hard training or racing.

Some things that I’d like to share…

My power/pace isn’t at lifetime best numbers (a year off will impair fitness, no surprise) but my ability to achieve relative intensity is much higher. In other words, my top-end isn’t great but I can get there much more easily.

There were long periods in my development (2000-2004) where I carried so much fatigue that I’d struggle to get much out of my mod-hard zone. For me, these were valuable times to my overall development but I may have pushed a bit too far at times – of course, that’s likely the only way that we learn how far is too far.

I’ve been using training camps that are followed with weekly recovery and training blocks – much smaller blocks of training than the typical 3-4 week cycles. Each cycle has my overall fitness improving.

I’m able to fit a few other things in my life. I’m less “one dimensional” than I used to be.

I find all this quite interesting because if I am going to be a long term athlete then I will probably want to cycle my intensity through the years; peaking at 40, 45, 50 and 55 years old (say). By “intensity” I don’t mean how hard I am going in training – I mean the sacrifice, focus and dedication required to be my very best.

My Top Ten goal is to be fit and healthy – not world athletic domination (wink). Because I am willing to compromise, it is easier to beat me most of the time. However, when (and if) I am on-my-game then it’s tough to beat me. The level of commitment required to go <8:30 style=""> I used to be haunted by that knowledge but I seem to have transcended my fear of never getting back there. I’m fortunate in that I simply like training and racing too much!

Some more things that I’ve noticed and I could be wrong here on the guys that I don’t directly advise. But, quite often, an unexpected set-back can set the tone for an athlete to breakthrough…

***Norman won Hawaii the year he had an early season injury, DNF’d Ironman New Zealand and was “behind” the whole way.

***My good buddy, Kevin Purcell, won his agegroup in Brazil, following a year with significant downtime due to foot surgery.

***I took close to a year off and got myself back into 8:36 shape within six months.

***When he was 65, supervet Ron Ottaway became one of only three men 65+ to go under 12-hours in Kona. That race performance followed a winter where he was forced by injury to keep volume low for close to three months.

***In July, Clas Bjorling went 8:15 in Roth following a month off (April) due to shingles.

Of course, perhaps what all these guys have in common is that they pushed themselves right to the limit over a long time. There needs to have been some pretty serious training, to get adaptations from a month of zeroes.

As an aside, Ron would want the record to show that he is 10+ years without a zero.

OK, those guys are rock stars. What does that have to do with the average athlete? Here’s another consideration…

Something that I notice in many endurance athletes is an active desire to hammer themselves silly. There must be an element of the endurance mind-set (or our culture, or our personal programming) that leads us towards self-damage in the search for fitness.

Fatigue is part of the training process and deep, deep fatigue is an essential part of ultraendurance training. But here are some things to consider from time to time…

Do you have a good feel for exactly how tired you are? How deep have you dug the hole? The highly motivated athletes that I know, generally, underestimate the fatigue they are carrying around and overestimate their ability sustain hard training. I include myself in this category. It is only when I rest that I realise just how fatigued I was.

How many times have you heard someone (perhaps yourself) say… “I don’t like to rest, I feel sluggish when I rest”. Personally, I believe that there are a lot of Top Ten agegroupers that could be Top Ten overall if they only freshened up from time-to-time. It is also a shame to watch some of my elite pals train their asses off then underperform at their key races. If you are doing it right and not getting the results that your training indicates then consider if “more” is really going to get you there.

Nobody really knows who trains and who doesn’t – I believe that most people can be out-worked if you have enough drive and time. When our results are deviating from our commitment – we are often trying too hard. It’s a tough message to believe but I’ve been beating some folks for a few years and I think that they’ve been out-training me. Of course, several thousand aerobic hours over the last six years must count for something.

Back to you…

What are your goals for sport?

Why do you participate?

Why are these questions important to everyone?

If your goal is performance then is your program making you better? Are you improving on the program that you’ve been following for the last one, two, three, four… years?

It’s very difficult to change ourselves – but we can change our advisers and, through them, our approach.

Some programs can make you get more tired than good. I have pals with programs that work great for them but I wouldn’t last two months on their protocol. Remember that there is no one answer and there is a lot of grey out there.

That’s why I like to look at the impact of the program, the coach, the approach… over a number of seasons. I gain a lot of satisfaction with helping athletes head in the right direction over time. I make plenty of mistakes and there are some folks that I can’t help. However, there are some athletes where my guidance has made a difference and that “difference” is what coaching is about for me.

Now you might be simply sitting on a plateau (that happens) but… if you’ve been consistently training for a couple of years with limited progress then you’re likely being hampered either from excess training stress or a lack of recovery. I’ll cover this more in an up-coming piece (Good, Better, Best – that will lay out my case for the physiological progression that I seek with ultra endurance training).

Realistically, the vast majority of athletes (in any sport) are in it more for personal satisfaction, than relative performance and this includes the most successful elites if you dig deep enough into their motivation. The best athletes have an internal satisfaction that comes from working towards and achieving various goals. If that’s the case then consider if being shelled most of your year is actually improving the quality of your life.

But you say you “need your training”… I know all about that but our training can also be a crutch behind which we fail to deal with other issues (emotional, nutritional…).

That brings me to the most important consideration of all…

“My People”

Scott started talking about “my people” a few years ago in something I read of his on the internet. I’ll let him talk about “his” people in his own words – he is part of “my people”, though.

Who are “my people”? For me, they are the people that I’ve met along my journey with whom I could deeply relate and share a laugh. I’ve found them in finance, on beaches in Greece, in the hills, on the trails, in triathlon and at Epic Camp. On the surface they might look pretty well-adjusted. However, inside they are prone to evangelical devotion to their passion (work, booze, running, triathlon, mountaineering, whatever).

My tri-people… we are in triathlon as a lifestyle choice. That’s a cliché and doesn’t quite capture what I mean… more bluntly… training for triathlon is a socially acceptable addiction versus what we would certainly be doing if we were forced to stop (over-eating, booze, drugs, chasing ladies…).

Here’s where a good mentor comes in… constantly choosing a path that runs the risk of losing the exercise drug is pretty darn risky. The more you rely on your training for sanity, the more you’d do well to heed that tip.

Thing is… people like me, people like “my people” are prone to ignoring well meaning advice until it has been learned directly, repeatedly and painfully. I spend a lot of time assuring my crew that preventative rest is essential as well as performance enhancing.

When we are reaching for the highest level and smoke ourselves – a shattered immune system can feel like living in a very deep, very dark cave. Learning how best to schedule recovery is something that many (including the author) struggle with.

Of course, you could also say that it isn’t until you’ve pushed yourself over the edge that you really breakthrough. I think that there is something in that as well.

gordo

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09 July 2006

Epic France 2006

Epic France 2006

I am in a hotel room in Pau, France after a dozen days of training across the French Pyrenees. Over the last few days, I had a chance to run through various thoughts on the camp as well as training in general. Nothing too earth shattering, for me, but perhaps some of you might find them of interest.

Oh yeah, my site’s been acting up with various viruses/Trojans. I’ve decided to pull the plug on the board. Seems a shame as the board exists as a vehicle to help people, perhaps it was time for a change.

This was our sixth attempt at Epic. At our fifth camp last January, I’d had a lot of struggle with fatigue/injury and only managed to complete about 80% of the schedule. This time around, I wanted to complete the entire camp as drafted.

When Scott put together the initial program for this camp, I was a bit concerned that he’d built a camp that was impossible for anyone to complete as drafted. Running a few numbers on the distances/average speeds I calculated that the second group would need to ride 90+ hours (over 11 days!) to complete the cycling, let alone being able to swim/run every day.

So we trimmed things down a bit to bring the camp into a range that would be feasible for the top guys to complete. The camps are always a massive stretch for the agegroup athletes to complete as drafted. Placing stubborn, highly motivated athletes into a position where personal compromise is highly likely is part of what we seek to achieve on the camps.

It’s also interesting to watch how the ride dynamics change. On day one, Monica rode with one athlete and I rode with nine. On day eleven, Monica finished with nine athletes and I finished with one… The process of personal compromise is often painful for the guys – generally, these are guys that resist getting dropped, seeing it as a form of personal failure. Personally, I think that the transformation is an essential lesson from the camp.

First… the goal is not to overcome (or survive) the efforts of others – rather – the goal is to place one in an environment where we are able to overcome the limits that we impose on ourselves. By (repeatedly) overcoming self-imposed limits we learn a few things. Quite often, I heard athletes saying that they “couldn’t do” something that we had scheduled. More accurately, they might be reflecting a fear that we might not be able to do something and that could “force” us to view ourselves as a failure. That brings the second point…

…failure isn’t fatal – over the course of the camp, we all “failed” in various ways. In fact, that is a part of the structure of the camp. To place people in a position where they might not make it (whatever “it” happens to be). Certainly, if an athlete arrived with a goal to ride at the front of every single ride then they would probably be forced to compromise at some stage (as Monica’s Day Eleven ride buddies might attest).

There is a form of freedom that comes from the realization that our performance is independent from ourselves. Some great athletes never manage to achieve that distinction – we were talking about that at our celebration dinner last night. Fear of failure stalking them throughout their careers and following them throughout their lives. Lives that are often filled with a lingering dissatisfaction with themselves (despite outward success). This cycle drives a number of high achievers that I know – you can get a lot done by tapping this source. However, it won’t really be all that satisfying and (I think) that, to truly breakthrough, one must free one’s self from the tension and distraction that comes from fear.

So the camps are designed in a way that at least half the folks won’t be able to do the whole thing. We have optional sessions, open days and the ability to tack on. This really bothers some people because no matter how much an athlete does… there’s likely someone doing more. Learning to choose how much is enough and learning what constitutes too much – that’s a valuable skill for an athlete.

The combination of our non-athletic commitments (work, family, other) impose constraints on us that limit both our training and our ultimate performance. Most people take comfort in these limits because they obscure the fact that most athletes are not doing everything that they can to achieve athletic success. That’s not a value statement – that’s a statement of fact. Most people make daily choices that result in limits being placed on their performance in all areas.

If you want to beat someone then you have to be willing to out-train them – consistently and for a long time. Sitting around telling yourself that you are doing “everything you can” won’t achieve that ultimate result. Results come from a relentless drive to remove anything that isn’t connected to your ultimate goal. Of course, few people have an idea on their ultimate goal either.

Epic removes all the distractions, all the excuses and lets the athletes experience what we often say we’d like – wouldn’t it be great to train all day, with support, with the best athletes… many are surprised to find that, actually, it would be pretty darn tiring! Now elites don’t train like we did every day – nobody can do that. However, the best athletes do front up for many years when tired, sick, injured – take a group of outstanding athletes, support them as best as possible and still… it’s darn tough to swim/bike/run every day for twelve days. The distractions of “superior” performances (am I measuring up); weather (its OK not to train today); fatigue (I did enough yesterday); and personal mental noise… these all add up.

But for each athlete that realises that elite athletics might not be the joy that they had envisioned – there are a few that have an “a-ha” moment on what it really takes. At least, they come to an understanding about what the journey of athletic discovery is really about. Being able to play a role in that discovery is a big part of what makes the camps fun for me.

During the camp, my total contact with the outside world consisted of a couple of secondhand email conversations and a telephone call from the side of the Tourmalet. The increase in personal energy that resulted from a total focus was amazing Eliminating all sharing of thought with the outside world. Even writing this article, Monica has noted a change in me.

The camps are intended to be very hard. We provide the athletes with an environment where they can nuke themselves or lift their fitness to new heights. There was quite a bit of talk during the camp about things being a bit too hard. I don’t really have an answer for that. Looking at my own performance, I had life best absolute bike performance on Day Eight of the camp (311w for 90 minutes through Andorra).

***this followed a week of 50+ hours, where I was smashing myself most days

***that followed two weeks where I trained less than ten hours per week

***that followed two weeks completely off

***that followed Ironman Brazil

Conventional wisdom says that I shouldn’t have been able to do that. Mine wasn’t the only example – all the guys were consistently doing things that amazed themselves. Much of what we seek in the camps is to demonstrate to ourselves (and the campers) that conventional wisdom doesn’t always apply. I’d go further and note that most of the people setting the conventional wisdom are (by definition) pretty average in terms of personal achievement. There is a lot that can be learned from studying and participating with outlier performers – for me, bring a group of “outliers” together provides a very interesting case study.

Personal lessons from epic camp…what did I learn this time?

Last December, I was wondering if I’d ever get fit again – there’s a blog entry on that somewhere below. At the time, I had three types tendonitis going on in my knees, my feet were shot and I got _really_ tired with 2-4 hours of training per day. Seven months later, there’s been a massive transformation in my fitness. It’s tempting to call it miraculous but I know how many hours went into my body from 2000 to 2004.

The questions that I’d been wondering since last summer have now been answered and replaced with new ones.

Will I ever get back to elite-level training? Well, I answered that with this camp. It was the first time since February 2005 that I’ve been able to train “properly”. Properly means long and high quality main sets – 60 to 120 minute steady-state pulls mixed with 45 to 90 minutes of mod-hard to hard climbing. I melted everyone at the camp except Mike (one of the toughest guys that I’ve ever trained with) and myself.

The six months of base training that I did for Brazil Ironman enabled me to tolerate a surprising amount of hard training – long periods of mod-hard to hard intensity (most days) on the bike.

I did very little between Brazil and Epic – favouring recovery over preparation. That turned out to be an excellent choice for me as well as Dr. J (who had a great camp following Brazil).

Coming off a successful training camp, it is tempting to keep-it-rolling with very challenging main sets and “race focus” training blocks. However, I’ve made that mistake before and won’t be repeating it. My goal remains to be speedy in August 2007 so I’ll keep doing the base preparation to absorb the training required to lift myself next year.

There’s a good article about training in Outside Magazine – read the Floyd Landis piece. Much of what I’ve been talking about above is in there.

At one level, I kept waiting to collapse during Epic. I figured that I’d wake up one morning completely nuked, or sick, or unmotivated. That kinda happened on Day Nine when I had a two hour nap in the morning. However, I was fine by lunch and strong for the following 48 hours. The lack of distractions and large amount of fun that I was having must have helped my happy mind overcome my fatigued body.

So I’ve seen that I can tolerate “proper” training again. More importantly, I learned that by trimming (eliminating?) my exposure to distractions, I enjoy that training immensely. Athletic “greatness” is there for the taking. The question is whether I will make the choices and commitments required to achieve my personal potential. My immune system; my non-athletic commitments; my wife… none are going to provide me with an easy out. I’m faced with a healthy body, supportive wife, and understanding business partner. If I don’t take this opportunity then it will be 100% down to my choice.

The realization that I have the ability (and opportunity) to again be a great IMer is a bit surprising. I am eight months ahead of where I expected to be.

I’ve been skipping around a bit. Hopefully, you’ve gotten something out of my thoughts. One last concept that I want to pass along.

Athletic Leadership

Who is the leader in a training group? What is the role of a coach or leader within a training group?

For me, athletic leadership comes from helping others get the most out of themselves. It doesn’t imply being able to shell the entire camp at will. This camp we started the Green Jersey award for the athlete that most exemplified “epic values” for the day. For the camp, we awarded the jersey to Jeff Shilt. Jeff earned it by helping the entire camp get more out of their experience as well as demonstrating (daily) what we seek to achieve at Epic – a combo of JFT & Back-It-Up. He did it with a smile on his face, mostly.

Off to Paris for a combo wedding anniversary and birthday party.

Cheers,

gordo

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29 April 2006

Advice to a Young Elite

I am currently on the World’s Favourite airline heading to London and onwards to Miami.

It was a very useful week in Scotland and the JV keeps rolling along. We had an open board meeting and ran through a lot of the items that I wrote about in my finance oriented pieces. The BOS lads are very switched on. When they are being tough on us, they know it! We had an honest chat about why they are being tough on us. By sitting down and talking about everything openly, we realised the logic behind their positions – all of which seemed far more reasonable than what we were dreaming up in the absence of communication.

Some of you had follow-up questions, tips and advice stemming from my last few entries. Responding is a bit down my list as I want to finish off sharing my Kona ideas.

On to our topic…

Over the last six years, I’ve helped a few elite athletes through a mixture of coaching, training and financial support. It hasn’t been charity (not even close) as I benefited through training partners, technical instruction and companionship. Helping people can be a tricky business but I’d say that it’s worked about 70% of the timen (my batting average is improving since I last wrote about this!). That’s a pretty good hit rate in my view.

I’ve also learned a few things about how best for me to play it: (a) clear expectations; (b) high standards; (c) open communication; (d) my way or the highway (if you are living under my roof); and (e) mutual respect. When I’ve tried to “be nice”, or compromise my expectations then it hasn’t worked as well.

Spring is here and summer will follow soon. Most elites (most people for that matter) will follow the same pattern in 2006 that they have created over the last few years. They can be beaten!

What follows is some advice having watched the progress (but mainly the lack of progress) of various elite athletes and neo-pros over the last six years.

Training
For ten months of the year, your #1 priority is your training and everything that enables you to do your training. You will not improve without consistent, focused training. A lot of athletes are great at being “hard” in public – that’s NOT what it is about. Where the great athletes move ahead is by being consistent and focused in private.

Your natural talent will get you to a point – to move beyond that, to breakthrough, you need a consistent, focused total athlete approach – when nobody is watching.

The role of an athlete is not to travel the world chasing races depleting limited financial resources. Until you can crush everyone at all your local events, stay in one place and train consistently. Otherwise you are fooling yourself and merely living a triathlon vacation. Seasonal migration is useful but only to improve the quality of your training – seeing young pros drop three months spending money to DNF or detonate in Kona strikes me as ridiculous. Get out there and win a hot weather Ironman first.

With your training, search for a training partner that shares your approach to fitness. These people are invaluable. Also ensure that this person has an attitude and character that you respect – you will spend a lot of time with them. As a result, they will impact the way you think, so choose wisely.

With your coaches and mentors – look beyond results, look to the life that they actually lead outside of their sport. Is this the life that you want for yourself? This is a fundamental consideration because what you actually learn from mentors (consciously or unconsciously) is the life skills that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Choose wisely.

If you happen to make it to the top, what next? At some stage, you will have to consider life beyond actively competing. This is where the best coaches/mentors will provide real assistance.

Finance
As they say: ‘There is a leisure class at both ends of the socioeconomic ladder”.

The alternative employment choice for most of your competition is retail sales, massage therapy, bike maintenance or personal training. Training all day is an attractive alternative.

Bear in mind that civilians work for a living. You are incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to give-it-a-shot. It amazes me when I listen/read to athletes (and their supporters) talking about “how hard it is” for Dude to make ends meet as a triathlete. No kidding! Dude is typically a 9:08 IMer and about 125th in the world. Society doesn’t owe him the right to go on vacation. Entitlement mentalities leave me shaking my head.

Your #1 medium term goal is to achieve cash flow breakeven. Give yourself three years to figure out: (a) are you well suited to elite athletics; and (b) are you going to be able to have a decent quality of life. Assuming that you start as a top agegroup athlete, then after three years of living-the-dream you should have an idea about what further progress is going to entail.

What is breakeven? Supporting yourself completely from your own efforts. I’d strip out cash used from: spouse; parents, personal savings; sugar daddy (or mommy); and other unearned sources.

Now if you happen to have three years worth of cash flow in the bank then that is a clear advantage but you’d better be sure you want to use it because triathlon is a low pay vocation!

Financial stress is like any other – it distracts, reduces energy levels and makes you less effective at achieving your goals. However… it can be a great motivator when used appropriately.

Summing Up
You might notice that I didn’t talk about winning races, getting fast, hammering yourself or any of the other things that a young elite might consider being important. That’s because I don’t think that they really matter all that much.

Where I would spend my time is…

*** building my aerobic engine, improving skills, enhancing flexibility and learning personal limiters;
*** associating with people that use sport to create a satisfying life; and
*** improving my ability to support myself over the long haul.

Ultimately those are the items that will lead to success (or prevent roadblocks) over the ten years that it will take for you to achieve your athletic potential.

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09 February 2006

Coaches & Athletes

A few ideas that have been rolling through my head this week.

All coaches have biases, insecurities and blind spots. When your needs as an athlete bump up against one (or more) of these; that’s when errors of judgment occur.

The toughest and most important part of athletic success is getting out of bed every morning, on time, for many years. When we take actions that risk our ability to back-it-up (even if physiologically beneficial) we are gambling with the big picture of what it takes to succeed.

Be wary of coaches living out their athletic dreams (and managing personal insecurities) through pushing their athletes over the edge.

Is the coach seeking to control the program or the athlete? My most effective coaching relationships are more like conversations than prophesies.

Having had the opportunity of five years of world class coaching – where I went wrong is when I took advice and added to it. The most counterproductive (and common) change was going harder, for longer, than instructed – I’ve completely ended my season twice.

Don’t spend any time with a coach with weak ethics. Life is about a lot more than athletic results. Repeated exposure to a man of weak character can impair you for years.

The best training partner is one that gets you out the door, supplies a few laughs and keeps you from inadvertently nuking yourself. A lot of great athletes have benefited from a training partnership with “weaker” athletes.

The key benefit of athletics is providing us with a forum through which we can overcome ourselves. Ultimately, that is the only thing that a race, or a competitor can offer us.

Athletes that miss this point spend their entire lives chasing a finish line that never satisfies.

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23 January 2006

Epic NZ, Epilogue

So I am at the airport in Christchurch now. About to start a long journey to Scotland via Auckland, Sydney, Singapore and London. Not the most direct way to get there but the most comfortable & productive that I could schedule.

Had a great swim this morning. At the start of Epic Camp, I swam 2000m in 29:10 at max effort drafting like the dickens. This morning, I did a 2000m main set leaving on 1:30 base, holding 1:27.5 down to 1:22.5 per 100 (effort was steady to mod-hard).

Bumped into Scott and told him about it (I get excited by improvement). I said that it was great that Epic Camp helped me out so much. Scott pointed out that the several million meters that I swam from 2001-2004 might have helped me a bit more than 25K of swimming over the two weeks of Epic Camp.

He might have a point.

Because of my work commitments, I won't be able to train as consistently as I might like. However, a bit of forced rest is probably a good idea to keep me on track. When I get to Scotland, I am going to join a health club that has a 25m indoor pool. My game plan is to aim for five swims and five runs per week -- 20K swimming and 80K running. Cycling will probably be slim to nil. Still, I plan on getting an indoor trainer. Having it staring at me over the weekend could result in a few bonus hours of training.

My real European training mission is to make progress towards my 400 IM goal -- that makes short course more fun for me. Miss M says that I need to rip a 2:45 200IM (LCM) to have a shot at six minutes for the 400. She says that builds in a "buffer" for me. I figure that the number is closer to 2:52 or 2:53. I ended my workout today with a 3:02 so I have about 10 seconds to come out. I'm planning a TT for February 14th (three weeks time). Not sure if I'll go for the 400 or the 200. I'll let my coach decide.

The Achilles is perking up more and more. My massage guy was a little concerned that it might puff up due to all the flying. So... I am back on the anti-inflams for the journey to Scotland. I’m not the ideal traveler because I enjoy the freedom of being able to mix wine and coffee with my meals (a bad idea when I need to sleep).

So that's my news post Epic. To close out the Epic Reports, here are a few bonus ideas that I was mulling over the course of the camp.

What Price Leisure?
Friday morning, I woke up with plenty of time to get ready before heading off for the last day of the camp. It was a very pleasant morning, warm and clear. I made my coffee, chopped my fruit and sat down for a solo breakfast overlooking the estuary.

Realising that the view is just as relaxing from a rented house as one that I own myself.

Realising that breakfast is just as tasty when prepared by myself as opposed to live-in help.

I sat there trying to figure out the price of my relaxation, my moment of peace looking out at the Southern Alps and the water. What would I pay for this view? What would I give up for this view?

It is quite difficult for me to price the tranquility that comes from the combination of big training and nature. That's probably the best lesson for me from Epic. The fact that there are things that we can't price -- shared experiences with friends; time away from noise close to nature in beautiful surroundings. These experiences are very uplifting -- especially when combined with 70 hours of endurance training endorphins.

The Curse of Talent
Given the choice, would you choose to be a great talent or a great worker? We get both kinds of people at Epic Camp -- talented and hard working. Generally, most of us tend more towards one than the other.

For me, I'd want to learn how to be a great worker. Being able to achieve satisfaction from working towards a goal is a fundamental attribute of achieving both success and satisfaction.

Most the talented people that I've met (by this I mean genetics) -- by an large, they do the minimum required to get by and it's no surprise that they are often merely surviving. The workers on the other hand, they know that they have to constantly strive towards achievement. Gaining satisfaction from their daily effort, independent of the result at the end of the day.

Clas is one of the most dedicated worker-athletes that I've ever met. It's no accident that I have spent so much time shoulder-to-shoulder with him over the years.

A few hours later now, I’m on a flight from Sydney to Singapore and I’ve just finished the book Fooled By Randomness. Great read that had me looking at a number of things from a fresh angle. I might write about those ideas a bit later. Made me view myself in a new light.

Always More, Always More
I was driving the crew in one of the Epic Vans that Jonas claims to love so much (a classic story that he’ll tell you after a few Red Bull & Vodkas some time). So I was in the van and Clas and I were chatting about our ride across the USA – NINE (!) weeks of averaging 100K per day.

We get to the Lodge and Molina points out that he had three YEARS in the 80s where he averaged 100K per day. With riding like that I asked him why he didn’t win the Tour de France. He pointed out that he won a hundred races instead.

Point taken.

Later he would confide that with five to six hundred 200K plus days (literally) in his back, he might have overdone it a bit. I can’t win either way!

The next day Miss M points out that my two swim PBs were on par with the average nine year old girl. Love your ladies, challenge your men.

I’ll show you two!

Tap the Hate
When all else fails go to hate.

That’s what I kept advising the crew on Epic. I come across an ability to manufacture and access the power of anger/hate in many of the best athletes that I know – Baron gets pissed off a lot but you need to know him to see it. As for me, I can’t hide anything from Monica. We both do it and that’s why it’s tough to do real training together. You don’t want to “bring the hate” when your sweetie is nearby.

Plenty of good books cover that observation better than me. Just wanted to let you know that you aren’t the only one using that technique. Lots of people feel a bit “bad” for using it as training tool.

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17 January 2006

Epic NZ, Week Two

Phew, what a few days. What does a guy think about when he’s pulling for eight hours? Not a whole lot really but here are some ideas. I could probably make this a pretty decent piece but I’ve only got just over an hour until dinner.

Have you been reading KP’s blog? It’s being able to spend time with guys like him that makes these camps special for me. Always outnumbers, always outgunned, always moving forward.

Today at the base of Arthur’s Pass he asked me for my recommendation on whether he should continue. Earlier, he was completely screwed and Darryl (uber-support dude) asked me if KP was going to continue… my reply – that is up to Kevin, not me.

Anyhow, by the time we got to the base of the climb – we were all soaked, KP had his Northern Cali wet weather gear on (he thinks he bundles up, he has no clue – not his fault, he grew up there). KP’s back is history, he can’t even stand when off the bike.

So he asks me what to do – I told him the truth – with that back, there is no way you can make the climb, it is the hardest climb that I’ve ever done. I also knew that if he ceased up then there was a good chance that he might die of exposure before we could get him off the mountain. He let me ride away.

Riding up the mountain, there are massive waterfalls all over the place –Jurassic Park stuff. My Achilles tendon has been acting up a bit – due to loose pedal and my Week One pacing strategy (more about that later). I’m trying to get up on minimal wattage but as the guy with powermeters are sure to report, there was no easy way up that climb. Most of us learned that it really is possible to keep a bike vertical with a cadence <20 rpm.

I saw a second support vehicle heading down so that gave me some comfort that the lads weren’t going to expire on the climb. It really was that kind of day. If they post a photo of my riding kit you’ll see that I was quite well prepared.

Brandon rode up to me and was singing! I wasn’t sure if he’d truly lost it or was simply happy. It was the sort of day where we were all training well past ridiculous.

Still, we’re all safe now and that is a relief to me. Having Monica and many of my best pals on the road means that I get concerned when the conditions get dicey.

Oh yeah, we had an aquathon this morning. Monica took down the Terminator! It was the best that I’ve ever seen her run. She looked fantastic. Later she crashed due to a series of events and some wet train tracks – she’s OK now and resting beside me in bed.

Life can change very quickly. Up or down.

That was one of the things I was thinking about on the way up the climb – cold, wet and very happy.

You know, the ride is going to end soon – better savour it.

+++

The last two days (not today), I instituted a change of tactics. I wanted to see how fast I could get my mini-group from A to B without blowing anyone up. Some of the lads on the gTrain thought that I was doing them a favour. Like I told M, I wasn’t doing anyone a favour, I was showing off to my wife!

Molina tried to teach me something a couple or three years ago – we were on a four day bike tour and heading downhill. A couple of guys that had arrived that morning (Weekenders) went to the front and starting DRILLING it on the way down. I was like… what-the-heck? Scott smiled at me and said, “hey, don’t worry about it, let them be strong.”

Let them be strong.

Here at Epic Camp we have a stack of people that are used to always being strong. Probably always being the strongest in their training groups.

Well, part of what we do on these camps is take everyone to the point where they aren’t strong. We’ve all cracked on this camp – well, maybe not The Baron, but I’ve seen him crack other times!

Anyhow, the flip side is that we’ve all hard our strong moments. Part of what being a good training buddy, coach or friend is about is letting people be strong. Not giving in, rather giving people a chance to show that they are strong.

Once you look at athletes through that lens, well, a lot of their actions seem more reasonable. The guy just wants his shot of being strong – let’s give it to him. Probably took me a week to work that out – a week of getting drilled, an injury and two years since Scott made the point. I get there eventually!

Scott and Stephen are really impressive and I am glad that the lads had a chance to seem them in action. I’m also glad that Stephen had a chance to see how Clas approaches training. I suppose that part of what I might have offered the lads on my wheel was an insight that they wouldn’t seen with Clas (because they are out the back when he does that kind of training).

In a unit, if you build the trust of the weaker riders that you aren’t trying to kill them then they feel secure. When folks feel safe they focus on what they need to do – heads are clear – just ride as best you can – no man behind – the stronger will do a bit more work. It’s a different kind of strength and when you contrast it with a group that’s constantly attacking itself – it is amazingly efficient.

Besides showing off, I wanted to make that point to the people in my group. Set an even pace, keep everyone together and you can go a pretty decent speed. It doesn’t take a lot of strength to shatter a group – you merely need to choose your moment. However, to keep a group together and deliver that group with everyone (even me) knowing that they couldn’t have done the ride faster – that takes a mixture of strength and patience that you don’t see a lot. Clas has it – he’s an 8:21 guy – if you play nice then he’ll show it to you – if you play silly then you’ll likely ride alone. He won’t tell you though; you’ll simply find yourself with a bunch of crazies attacking each other.

Some days I can see it more clearly than others. Fatigue, injuries and long pulls – they clear my mind.

+++

I can’t remember what kind of shape I said I was in at the beginning of the camp. Suppose that I could check. I do know that I am in far better shape now and I haven’t (yet) received the physical benefit from the training. When we come back from a lay-off (or injury) there is always a bit of confidence in our bodies that needs to be restored – I told Mark the other day that he was my insurance policy when I was pulling the crew. I didn’t know if that was possible and felt better knowing that he was there in case I detonated.

I really love this stuff. It’s a relief to find out that my immune system is up to the challenge. I think the main thing that was holding me back was life stress and I’ve taken steps to sort that out.

Not sure when I’ll write next, perhaps on the plane heading to the UK after the camp.

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30 December 2005

December

If I get myself rock-star-fit again then I hope I come back to this post so I can appreciate the turnaround.

Had a look through my log for December and did a few calculations -- I'll end up with a decent kick-off month -- given the previous nine months...

Depends on what I get up to tomorrow -- which won't be much because the cold isn't really budging -- so I estimate... Swim 11 hours; Bike 52 hours; Run 17 hours; and Strength/Core/Balance 5 hours. Grand total 85 hours and 3 zeros (zeros are killers at lower volume).

FWIW -- 85 hours was my total from Epic Oz last January (12 days worth). I've also got a piece in my head about what my 'real' strategy is for getting back into shape. I might save that for an Epic NZ entry or perhaps crank it out this coming week -- I'm not good at waiting once something is in my head.

If you look at the SBR allocation then there will be no prizes for guessing what I think is important for getting my endurance back.

As for the Four Pillars... I managed to swim 4000m (LCM) three times this month -- average time was 68 minutes. On the bike, I managed one five hour, fairly continuous ride (the rest had plenty of breaks). On the run, I managed a few 1:40 runs -- probably 20K each.

I had three overuse injuries and one illness. Plantar Faciitis, Popliteus Tendinitis and a general knee tendinitis that I haven't quite diagnosed. All three of stem from moving my bike volume from 5 hours in November (last four days) to 50+ hours in December (probably more fair to report that I went from 0 to 55). I've dealt with them all before and (thanks to M's massage) managed to get them reasonably under control.

I was getting a bit on myself about my month, I was well short of target. I figured that might happen and that's why I didn't publish any targets.

To perk myself up, I pulled out my 2000 training log (God Bless it) and selected two months at random Feb/Mar when I was training for IMOz (10:0x was the outcome, I think). Neither was over 80 hours -- only two zeros for both months combined and one of those was during a USA/UK/India trip and might have been caused by the date line. Pretty consistent, a lot of frequency and a few races.

OK, no need to panic just yet.

Still, I can't help but think how far I need to travel from where I am today -- I suppose that's the real challange. Keeping my will and plugging away. It seems pretty daunting given how easily I get totally shagged these days. Epic will be a lesson in pain!

M suggested an indoor bike trainer for Scotland -- I'd already planned on a pool/gym membership. She's been pretty spot on with her 'suggestions' and is the newest member to my coaching team.

She didn't know that she'd been appointed.

Guess she does now.

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18 December 2005

Epic Prologue

Where the heck do all these ideas come from? I've no idea but they just keep rolling. My only escape is to write them down. Typically, I publish about 10% of what I write (and actually write down about 10-30% of what I dream up). With this blog, I've been writing a lot more. Perhaps I'll settle down in a bit.
I've been thinking about this piece during all my runs for the last week.

Johno wanted to know if I wanted to give a talk at the start of Epic. I passed on that as I figured that Scott would be well placed to cover it. Perhaps it was a bit of fear on my part given that I am not going to be the best prepared athlete at Epic. So I've been mulling over "what's epic" or "what's epic for me".

Typically, for my first piece of Epic I write something for the outside world. Well this time I think we are going to have 32 people on the trip including the support crew. We're also going to have four ladies along -- we've never had more than one. It will be interesting to see how that changes the dynamic, if at all. Three couples too, another experiment.

Often when I dream stuff up during training, it makes perfect sense on the road. Everything seems so clear on the bike! Then I get home, settle down, the endorphins wear off and I wonder what the heck was I thinking. So if this doesn't make sense -- no worries -- it might make sense one day when you are training...

So we've invited you along to Epic. You probably think that what's coming up is a big physical test. Actually, you'll find that the true test isn't physical. We wouldn't have invited you along if you didn't have what it takes to finish. The true test is one of character.

It's like John Collins says about Ironman -- you can quit at any time, if you don't then you win.

No excuses -- what do you think when you hear that?

I tend to take it two ways.

The most typical way is a "hard" interpretation. No excuses -- I'm going to make the toughest plan possible and stick with it come hell or high water. That works for some but, generally, we can only be truly hard for a portion of our lives. It varies for each of us but a consistently "hard" strategy normally ends with physical burnout (injury/illness) or mental staleness.

The second way is softer in one sense but the self-knowledge isn't always sugar coated. What if someone took away all our excuses. They sorted our meals, accommodation, support... and the responsibilities of our typical lives were removed for twelve days.

What could we achieve?

Well, when you remove all the excuses you can achieve quite a bit! What makes it a bit complicated is that at the same time, we get ourselves so shagged that quitting is the easy option. We'll even have a sag wagon filled with cold beverages (beers for Molina!) and friendly staff. You can quit at any time... but if you don't then you'll win.

Anyhow, it's not always a DNF that signifies quitting, we can fold mentaly and keep on moving forward. I know that I've been so tired that I'd long given up and simply accepted the situation. That's a great place to become familiar with if you are an Ultraendurance athlete because removing the emotional content of fatigue leaves us free to get on with finishing our event!

I didn't realise it fully but over the last few years I'd had a few experiments with excuse removal -- for myself and for others. With others I'm probably batting about .300 in terms of whether people really wanted their excuses removed (most don't). Either they are comfortable being "prevented" from achieving their stated goals; or their intent (what really matters to them) isn't what they tell you at all. Slackness is can be appealing at times -- appealing yes, rewarding, no.

When evaluating folks I try to focus on what I see them do, rather than what they say about themselves or other folks say about them. I'll be watching myself closely over the camp!

So we will be removing all the excuses; surrounding ourselves with a bunch of people that hate to quit and we will see what happens.

We will get so shelled that the raw reality of our characters starts to show. Hopefully, we'll all enjoy what we see!

If we don't quit -- then we'll win.

Don't let yourself down.

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10 December 2005

Choose Wisely

Here's an interesting post I wrote six years ago.

What makes me smile is that I was thinking six years back when I wrote it. And now... we are six years ahead.

...and I had absolutely NO clue what was possible back then, as a "speedy" 10.5 hour guy.

...and I realize that, even as a 8.5 hour guy, I was merely decent. For me, now, speed doesn't really start until you are a low 8-hour guy and even that seems reasonable on certain courses.

We don't need a whole lot of single sport talent to manage a 20-minute 1,500, hold 250w for the bike and hold 3:50 min Ks for a marathon. In fact, as a single sporter, you'd simply be "good for a working athlete". Hardly international class.

Molina once told me that was the great thing about triathlon -- you truly can out work your competition. My experience is that it's the way in most things, providing we define success correctly.

I was reading an article the other day when the writer basically said... "I wish that it was different but due to my lack of **** I'll never..."

Three reactions when I read a person writing that about themselves (and I read it a lot, maybe I look for it).

First is compassion, dude you really need a hug when you've settled once-and-for-all in your life.

Second is a strong reaction to grab the guy through the screen and shake some sense into him. Amigo, don't fold before you've even started! Don't you see that it's not about world domination, rather simply a quest to do a little better than you thought possible. Becoming a bit more than you thought you could be!

I react a bit violently because I don't accept (fear?) the implication of this kind of attitude. If I'd accepted my internally/externally defined limits then there are many, many things that I'd never have achieved.

No fate, no fate but what we make. So much good material in the Terminator series!

Finally, after I've settled down, there is a certain acceptance that some folks want to define their limits. I wonder about that... Why could that be? Perhaps to relieve themselves of any obligation to try and the personal responsibility that comes along with accepting that we create our own life situations.

Often, a smile then spreads across my face as I am reminded that herein lies the opportunity for ethical competition. Explain exactly what you are going to do, explain why you are going to do it, then out work the competition while enjoying yourself.

Years later, some will shake their heads and describe why they wouldn't have been able to do it, and overlook ten thousand hours of dedicated effort.

At least that's what I read the other day. The lads were talking about me but seeing as I don't know them, I can only assume that they were talking about themselves.

I do seem to get a big charge out of negative motivation at times. There is an deep (not so saintly) glow that appears when the work and persistence pay off. Leaving some to wonder about the road not taken.

I wonder where I'll be in six years?

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