Wednesday, February 3, 2016

True Limiters

“First learn stand, then learn fly. Nature rule, Daniel-san, not mine.” - Mr. Miyagi

I was watching the Karate Kid yesterday. It’s been a while since I watched that movie and I must say that viewing it this time through the filter of a coach was a little different experience – that Miyagi knows his stuff! 

I thought I’d open with one of his gems from the movie. So true. I’ve already written a number of blog posts along a similar line, i.e. you must first get fit before you get fast. I have outlined just how much time some of my mentors in the swimming world devote to building their swimmers aerobic engines before any thought of adding “speedwork” to the program.

As an aside, from my own experience, I recently had my best aerobic run test since coming back from my hip fracture last year (7:36/mi). Still, by no means a ‘rock star’ number, actually probably not even worthy of ‘band geek’ status, but for me, this is still a solid improvement - down from 10:00/mi in December. How did I improve 2.5mins/mile in 6 months? Speedwork? A 10% volume increase each week? Nope. I have been doing the exact same week, week after week for the past 6 months. A basic week consisting of 3.5hrs of aerobic running (~30mins a day) week in and week out. And, I might add, 6 months in, doing the same thing, the improvement keeps coming. It may not be exciting, but the Romans were spot on, when they drilled into their students Repetitia mater studitorum est (repetition is the mother of study).

But, the inspiration for this blog doesn’t come so much from my own training experience as it does from a conversation with elite triathlete and EC coach, Justin Daerr (pictured below) at one of our recent EC camps.

JD was pointing out to me how he felt that he was lacking top end horsepower based on some of the impressive numbers that some of his competitiors are able to throw down on Functional Threshold tests. The conversation was very familiar to me. Usually it is coming from a novice triathlete who has picked up one of the latest “8 weeks to an 8hr IM program” (I’m only slightly exaggerating) that asserts that intensity is the ticket to breaking through to the next level. I’ve heard it so many times that I pretty much go on auto-pilot with my standard response, i.e. if exclusive aerobic training is good enough for a nationally ranked Aussie swimmer (whose event is 1/100th the duration of yours), it is good enough for you. But, this time I was a little taken back. Surely there comes a point for the elite athlete in which it becomes prudent to push the top end. In a round about way, I got the impression that JD was interested in if he was at this point.

Those of you who are familiar with this blog will no doubt be aware of my penchant for aerobic training as the basis for fulfilling your potential as an endurance athlete. However, those of you who are able to read between the lines will also recognize that I have a strong preference for the development of balanced athletes. JD and I half-jokingly call it “Maffetone with a twist” When I talk balance, I’m not talking ‘Daniel-san standing one legged on a beach pillar’ balance, no, I’m talking about having balanced development across the aerobic spectrum and across all fiber types. So, from a physiological perspective, what does a balanced elite IM triathlete look like? What is the relative importance of things like VO2max, Functional Threshold Power, Maximal Fat Oxidation etc etc. From JD’s perspective, what sort of FT #’s are required in order to be a world class long course triathlete? Or, put another way, what physiological qualities are truly limiting the 8:30 to 9:00 athlete from becoming an 8:00-8:30 athlete?

Tim Noakes provides an interesting side bar in the latest edition of Lore of Running that outlines why an 8:xx IM is a ‘metabolic impossibility’. He points out that for Mark Allen to run a 2:40 marathon at the end of an Ironman would require Allen to oxidize fat at a rate of 1.15g/min (~10kcal/min). He also points out that the highest fat oxidation rates that they have observed in their laboratory (primarily studying elite distance runners) is 6.8kcal/min. In our own lab, the max we have seen is 8.1kcal/min. However, we haven’t tested someone with the IM pedigree of Mark Allen yet!!  Based on the numbers, at the 19kcal/min point (the energy expenditure required for a 155-160lb guy to run at 2:40 pace), Allen is getting more than 50% of his energy from fats!!

So, from a purely scientific perspective, what does it take?
- A 155-165lb chassis
- An onset of blood lactate accumulation beyond the 19kcal/min point (~300W on the bike, ~6:12/mi on the run based on average elite efficiency #’s from the lab)
- The ability to oxidize >50% of energy from fat up to the onset of blood lactate accumulation.

In practical terms, there are a couple of other considerations:

- Tactics: While supposedly an individual time trial, in the elite race there are times that it will be prudent to exceed the 50/50 point in order to bridge to/stay on a group on the swim or bike or make a tactical move on the run. For these reasons, a functional threshold in excess of the bare minimum may be desirable. Generally though, pacing the race in accordance with your own physiology will ultimately lead to the fastest time and the best race result.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s give our hypothetical Kona winner an extra 25W on the bike and 10s/mile on the run. Even with these buffers, this gives us a relatively pedestrian FT of 325W on the bike and 6:02 on the run. There are a good # of elite triathletes around the country who fit the bill and thousands of collegiate cyclists and runners who can put out these #’s in their sleep.


Based on the literature that I have read and the athletes that we have seen in our own lab, I could count on one hand the # of athletes in the world who can oxidize 10kcal/min of fat at any point along the performance curve, let alone at race pace.

Gordo’s latest curve is shown below:

Make no mistake about it, this is a ‘Rock Star’ curve. For most folks, even very good AG athletes, fat oxidation (in black) will completely shut down in the mod-hard zone. For G, you can see that his fat burning continues, not only into his ‘threshold’ zone, but beyond it. In other words, even when G is accumulating lactate quicker than he can get rid of it, he is still efficiently burning fat!!
The other very cool adaptation that we see on this curve is that in the Mod-Hard zone, his total efficiency kcal/watt actually improves, i.e. the energy expenditure flattens out. G is more efficient at 250-275W than he is at 225-250!!

Still, while ego inflation is not a bad bonus to doing a lab test with EC, most folks are more intererested in their weak points or limiters.

For G, his critical window at which he is oxidizing less than 10kcal/min CHO occurs at ~250W on the bike. Based on Noakes equations and based on other power data that I have from elite Kona competitors of similar weight, to be competitive in Hawaii, this point must move into the 280-300W range, or 19-20kcal/min. Doing the math, this necessitates an ability to oxidize fat at 9-10kcal/min (consistent with Noakes suggestions about this being the differentiating factor for world class IM athletes).

While, it would be nice to see G add another 25W to his FT, this isn’t the biggest physiological limiter at this point. Even for someone who puts A LOT of conscious effort into improving his ability to oxidize fat (both nutrition and training), this area still provides the greatest ‘upside’ for him. Imagine what a dedicated focus on this could do for the rest of us!

I may throw JD’s curve up there pending permission. I guess I take G’s implicit permission for granted as he pointed out in his last blog :-)

That’s it for now, I’m done with my low glycemic breakfast and am off for a fat-burning run 


US Property, May 2008

This week I will share some thoughts on US Property.

I'm enjoying my last afternoon in Southern Arizona. Tomorrow, Ben (from the February Snow Farm camp in NZ -- in photo above) and I will head north to Phoenix. Then on to Flagstaff and a repeat of the Canyon run. Monica warned me not to be a hero and JD's advice was to PB by "one second" so... I think my pals are telling me not to fry myself when we head to Phantom Ranch on Tuesday.

Next week, we follow the same route back to Boulder with one modification -- inserting a ride from Cuba, NM to Los Alamos, NM (the long way via Jemez). We drove that road to end our April trip and the climbing is too good to miss. Back-to-back centuries from Farmington to Los Alamos will put the final touch on my preparations for Epic Italy.

Dr. J was trying to figure out why the camps are so much fun and decided that the best aspect is the fact that we offer every camper an opportunity to challenge themselves on each day. You don't have to take the offer but it is there. Sharing those sorts of experiences with people is a lot of fun for us. We'll be running the Tucson camp again next spring as well as adding a mid-summer camp in Boulder. The camps tire us out but it is a "good tired" and provide me with a role to play as I age.

Come along next year and you can benchmark yourself against my Mount Lemmon time -- I do well on anything uphill over 20-miles...


US Property
I told Monica that I was thinking about giving myself the week off from the blog and she suggested that I write about property. Perhaps, she was hoping that if I write my thoughts down then I might not have to act on them.

Here's a summary of the key articles that made it through my media filter this past week. Given that I was training an average of five-hours-per-day with the campers... you probably heard even more than me...

***Declines in median prices of over 20% in Sunbelt and Southern Californian locales.
***Pundits talking about further declines over the next six years.
***Unsold inventories double normal levels (Nationally).
***Continued write-offs and rights issues in the financial services sector.

Looks to me that both Mood and Money are heading down. Financial historians note that the property market is like a giant aircraft carrier... slow to turn but, when it does, tending to overshoot fair value.

I suspect that everyone in America knows someone that has had their house repossessed in the last year -- that is going to color all of our judgment as we hear more of these stories.

Towards the end of last year, I recommended that aspiring homeowners get their Net Asset Statements and Revenue/Expense budgets in order. Have you done this? In order to position yourself to take advantage of potential buying opportunities you need to have your financing, and finances, in order.

We are thinking about buying an investment property (not second home). Here are my criteria:

***Climate opposite to Boulder, CO
***Would enjoy using during vacant periods
***Less than 1% annual holding costs
***Forecast net yield (after all expenses) 10% over treasuries
***50% capital upside over a ten-year view
***Entry price less than $200 per sq foot
***Superior location in a prime destination
***No leverage purchase -- don't reach financially

Sound like a good deal? It does to me -- perhaps a bit "too good" for this stage of the cycle. To hit those numbers I would need a vendor to accept 15-40% less than their current asking prices. However, having done my homework, my bid price is 10% less than the most recent deal that actually completed and therein lies a tip...

Figure out what an asset is worth to you, prior to anchoring with the price expectations of the vendor

This is important all the time but even more essential in a declining market with constant negative information. By figuring out a price at which you are "unlikely to be wrong" -- you have a much better shot at being right over the medium- to long-term.

What are the signs that a target market might be poised for a large correction?

In this environment, I would look at the mortgage service cost relative to the cost to rent. Even with the recent corrections, many markets have rental costs that are fractions of the cost to own. Given large inventories of unsold homes, rental increases are unlikely. Given weak mortgage markets, mortgage costs are unlikely to fall. That leaves the most likely adjustment mechanism to be capital depreciation.

Potential buyers are building in expected price declines -- no one in the nation is expecting prices to rise. Most owners are holding depreciating assets -- we all HATE holding depreciating assets. At some stage, vendors will sell to remove the pain of a thousand paper cuts.

If you rent with a view to buying then negotiate strongly on early termination provisions -- the more Blue Chip your profile, the more aggressive you should be on all terms.

The ability to complete quickly will be seen as highly attractive by sellers. Vendors are going to get increasingly keen.

On the corporate lending side, I have not yet seen credit contraction in line with the capital that has been written off by the financial sector. I suspect that the front line banks are current preparing strategies for how they will deploy, preserve and recover capital over the next 12-18 months. When we start to hear about rising corporate bankruptcies then we will know that we've moved into that phase of the credit crisis.

Here are three things that I keep hammering into myself when I'm thinking about making an investment:

#1 -- I don't "need" to do deals (doing nothing is OK)
#2 -- I desire to make good investments
#3 -- Above all else preserve capital (for me, the time for "betting big" was 10-20 years ago)

Be prepared, attractive buying opportunities will present themselves to educated investors.

Until next week,

Advisers and Leaders

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***What does the situation require?

***What does the client desire?

***What am I equipped to offer?

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

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

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


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

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

I love it down here.


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

Calling all STOTANS!!!

"You only ever grow as a person when you spend time outside your comfort zone"
- Percy Cerutty
The pic above is of one of my all time heroes, Aussie track coach Percy Cerutty, leading one of his charges, a young guy by the name of Herb Elliott (who went on to hold the world 800m record!!) up one of the sand dunes that made up Percy’s ‘international athletic center’, in reality a couple of shacks on a beach in Portsea, Victoria.

Percy’s athletics was backed up by a fundamental philosophy that resonates loudly with me. He even had a name for his philosophy and accompanying code of conduct. He called it the STOTAN code. The word stotan is a composite of two words:

Stoic: A philosophy based on deriving pleasure from virtue and being unmoved by necessary hardship.

Spartan: An ancient greek culture based on loyalty, discipline and acting for the greater good.

I have had some recent conversations with Gordo that have forced me to look at what motivates me both as a coach and an athlete and I keep coming back to these principles.

I recently had an athlete put in a breakthrough performance and qualify for Kona. Of course, I was eagerly watching the web on Sunday, checking out his performance and I knew he was on the verge of something special. When he finished the race, I was excited to know that he was on the cusp of a Kona slot, and even more excited the next day to hear the news that he had secured one. But the real ‘lump in the throat’ moment for me came when I read his race report and realized just how much tenacity he showed out there, how deep he had to dig and how far into himself he had to go to reach a level he had never reached before. A level of athletic achievement? Yes. But it’s more than that, to me, in a lot of ways, it is those moments of pushing your previous limits that personally define us.

When Gordo asked me why I was in the sport, my initial knee-jerk was “to get better, to improve my performance.” But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that, while I want to get better, in the end, the thing that keeps me going is, as Pierre De Coubertin suggested, not the triumph but the struggle. It’s a weird thing isn’t it? But it’s almost common for athletes, especially truly great athletes to have a penchant for “the hard way”. If my time in Aussie swim squads taught me nothing, it taught me that the smile that creeps over the coach on pool deck often has nothing to do with faster times for a set or the thought of a possible medal at the next meet, the smile is all about those principles that I mentioned above; an inspiring display of loyalty, discipline and athletes who are unmoved by the necessary hardship of athletics.

On the surface, there is obviously a certain joy that comes from knowing that you are doing something that others aren’t willing to do. On the deeper level, I think that this emotional satisfaction stems from something that the Eastern religions realized long ago, that to become an individual with a soul, a spiritual entity independent of our brain and material shell, occasionally we must act independently of them. We must do things that challenge our body, we must do things that challenge our rational thoughts, e.g. jump on our bikes and ride 5hrs up a mountain despite the fact that we know rationally that with a base of 2x1hr trainer rides a week, it’s probably not a smart thing to do :-), just to prove that “I” am more than my rational thoughts. For whatever reason, call it God, call it destiny, call it whatever, some cosmic force has determined that “I” am an athlete.

It is also probably fair that I let my athletes know that this is also what motivates me as a coach. Of course I want you to get better. I want you to achieve your athletic goals. I want you to get healthy. All of that. But I also want you to experience those moments where you bust through your own self concept. Those moments of self-control and fortitude that show you that you are so much stronger than your emotions and your whims. You are so much more. Every time you complete a basic week. Every time you get out of bed and get ready to train as soon as your alarm clock goes off. Every time that you hit the supermarket instead of hitting Mickey D’s not only makes me proud of you as an athlete, it also fulfils me to know that I am helping you discover a self that is independent of your thoughts, your whims, your cravings. I am helping you discover your true self. In answer to Gordo’s question…. THAT is why I am a coach.

In retrospect, the title isn’t totally apt, I’m not calling all Stotans, just one :-) I have one slot left for coaching over the next year. If what I have said strikes a chord, drop me an email.

Also, I just headed over to my buddy Chuckie V's website and he posted an awesome blog along a similar line. Talk about cosmic force!!

Looking Forward

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This brings me to...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just trying to figure out what.


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

See you out there,

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!


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.


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

Real World Periodization III: The Specific Prep Phase

As the snow thaws and spring approaches, I thought that it might be timely if I threw out a blog entry on the Specific Preparatory phase of training. For most folks who are targeting a late Summer race, they will probably be getting ready to enter this very important phase of training.

Many of you will be familiar with a chart similar to the one below that describes the general process of periodization, as outlined by Tudor Bompa in his landmark book, “Theory and methodology of training”.

As you can see, during the specific prep phase of training, the general trend is an increase in training intensity while volume of training is slightly increased or maintained. It is important to note, that for endurance athletes, it is not until the very end of the specific prep phase and the transition to the race prep phase that volume begins to take a ‘back seat’ to intensity. For ultra-endurance athletes, this is even more pronounced and for novice to intermediate ultra-endurance athletes it may never be appropriate to sacrifice your progressive volume development in order to emphasize intensity.

The training methods:
* More emphasis on overload through training intensity (for endurance athletes, this means more intensive endurance work – esp. moderately hard work in and around VT1)
* Maintenance or slight increase of training volume.

Here is where a lot of folks go wrong with the specific prep portion of their training year.

Too many “A” races.
I was fortunate to grow up in the world of elite swimming, where ‘shaving down’ for a race differentiated it big time from your regular weekly mid-season meets. This difference in focus often equated to a 5-7% difference in performance in the swimmer’s C event vs. their A event. Why do they do it this way? So that they don’t sacrifice training volume or intensity in the name of unimportant races. What does this mean for you? If you don’t have the kahunas to handle your training buddy Bill beating you by 10 minutes in a mid-season race, then you’re probably best not to race until it matters.

Too much intensity.
In my experience, the norm for most athletes from the snowy states is diminished volume during the winter due to weather constraints, followed by a period of sun-induced insanity when the weather clears that is characterized by long, hard group training rides with your training buddies and/or the obligatory functional threshold intervals to ‘get you ready’ for your over ambitious race schedule. In other words, many athletes go straight from a transition/off season phase to a pre-competitive phase and skip the 2 phases that are most essential to your long term development as an athlete: The general and specific preparation phases.

It is very easy for athletes in this pattern to develop a rationalization that they are time limited and therefore need to get the most ‘bang for their buck’ by focusing on intensity vs. volume. For some this is indeed the case. Most, however, when we really get down to it are energy limited, not time limited. And when a big withdrawal is made from the energy bank account with a long, intense weekend ride, it is very easy to rationalize skipping the Monday workout by finding something ‘more important’ to do.

It never ceases to amaze me how much training successful age group athletes manage to fit around their very successful working and family lives. However, a progressively growing bank of energy is a pre-requisite for this.

So, what is an appropriate volume and intensity for the specific prep phase of training for most AG athletes?

A simple rule of thumb is, don’t sacrifice volume for intensity until you are 10-12 weeks from a very important A-RACE. This means if you try and up the ante on one of your key sessions but wind up dropping volume from the week, the session was too hard. No rationales, no excuses, no “if I could have slept an extra hour I think I could handle it”, no “I think I felt a cold coming on this week, on a normal week I could handle it”. If you truly care about your long term development as an athlete, be very cautious and deliberate as to the times you choose to drop volume for intensity. For myself, these are the situations that I am willing to do that:

If my training data indicates I have a shot at a Kona slot
“ “ “ “ I have a shot at an AG podium at a major race
“ “ “ “ I have a shot at getting my elite card.
“ “ “ “ I have a shot at an elite podium.

That’s it. Other than that, it’s onward and upward. The “peak him here, peak him there, peak him everywhere” approach is no way to achieve your full potential in the sport.

To be fair, there is one other situation in which it may be appropriate to drop volume and increase intensity and that is when aerobic performance plateaus. I am reluctant to include this exception for two reasons:

Most athletes that I have worked with significantly underestimate how long they can improve from solely doing aerobic work. We are talking about a multi-year adaptation here. There is no need for speed until you are a very established athlete.

Most athletes simply don’t have the data to determine when a plateau is occurring. The “I feel flat so I think I need some speedwork” doesn’t cut it. Show me the numbers – a multi-month plateau in the aerobic numbers from your benchmark sets.

Other than that, keep doing more, keep doing it faster and you will become a better athlete. Simple as that.

On Break

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


Two tickets to the Gun Show

The video above is from one of my favourite movies, Anchorman. This week’s blog entry is about morphological characteristics of elite Ironman triathletes, or more specifically, how big are their guns? I guess in reality, I’m more interested in the correlation between things like thigh girth, muscle cross sectional area and performance, but I’ll take any excuse to throw a Will Ferrel reference in there J

One of my own personal struggles as a triathlete is with the issue of bodyweight. At various points in my athletic career, my pre-occupation with my bodyweight has bordered on dysfunctional. The issue is not helped by the obvious reinforcement that comes from running my fastest marathon ever, which was ~20 minutes faster than my next fastest marathon, at 158lbs. For my 6’4” frame, you can imagine I was pretty skinny. In fact, all of the times in my past that I would consider I was running relatively fast have been at a low bodyweight (158-165lbs). I always assumed this relationship to be causative. Now, I’m not so sure.

The crew (Mat, JD) and I just returned from Endurance Corner’s inaugural spring training camp in Tucson, AZ. The camp was a great experience all around, great training, great people, great environment. For myself, one of the highlights of camp was a discussion that I had with Jonas Colting (World Champion and 2x Ultraman Champion). Jonas was great to be around for a couple of reasons. Number 1, he is a great archetype for the sort of athlete I could become. He is a big, strong dude, and a great runner to boot (that’s him in the yellow crocs below)

#2: He is one of those athletes with a no-limits attitude. It can become easy for athletes with egocentric personalities to buy into the “I guess I was born to be a gifted athlete.” This is particularly true when anyone with a rudimentary understanding of exercise physiology is familiar with the work of Daniels, Yarbough & crew, who ultimately came to the conclusion that the gold standard of aerobic performance (VO2max) is largely genetically determined. In my mind, I am yet to see a study with sufficient duration that has led me to conclusively agree with this. Perhaps my own bias is coming into play here. If so, I’m fine with that I’d much rather adopt a self serving inaccurate belief than a self-defeating accurate belief any day of the week.

Anyhow, back to the convo with Big J….

It was Jonas’ take that muscular demand for O2, i.e. having bigger oxidative fibers, can be a potent stimulus for VO2max improvement. This was interesting to me for a couple of reasons - #1, I was re-reading Noakes ‘Lore of Running’ on the car trip down and he comes to a similar conclusion:

“The high rate of Oxygen delivery to those skeletal muscles, which is needed to sustain their function during maximal exercise is the result, not the cause of an athlete’s superior exercise capacity.”

#2 I had largely discounted those bigger athletes who do well at endurance sports as genetic freaks, e.g. Big Mig with his 7.04 L/min VO2max. Sure he goes up hill pretty quick, but for us mere mortals without his engine, if we want to go uphill quickly or we want to run quickly and we’re lacking a couple of L/min of absolute VO2max, the only way we are going to improve our relative VO2max is to shed some pounds. As Noakes’ perspective above suggests, this may not be the case.

The last VO2max test that I did resulted in a max oxygen uptake of 4.5 L/min. Decent, but certainly not elite by any stretch of the imagination. If we accept the traditional view on VO2max that claims that the best I can hope for is a 5-15% improvement in my ‘engine size’, it is pretty clear that I have a much better shot at long term improvement by making my modifying my chassis and making it more efficient than spending a lot of energy eeking out the last 5% from my engine. However, if we adopt the alternative approach that ST/FOG fiber demand for O2 is a potent stimulus for VO2max improvement, hypertrophy of these fibers becomes a viable objective.

This perspective does have some scientific support, particularly in the European Exercise Phys literature. Berbalk has done a number of studies looking at training load, fiber size and cardiac adaptations and has shown a definitive link between the 3 among endurance athletes. Is it causative? Maybe yes, maybe no, but at least in my mind it makes enough intuitive sense to be worthy of further exploration and I’m not going to wait around on the lab rats to do the exploration for me!!

So, what is the ideal endurance athlete muscle make-up?

a) ST/FT%: A number of studies have shown a higher % of slow twitch fiber area in endurance athletes vs. speed athletes vs. untrained. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 65-85% ST fibers for endurance trained athletes (Costill et al., 1976). While the ST/FT balance seems to have genetic determinants, deliberate atrophy of the FG fibers can affect the ST/FT balance.

b) ST/FT fiber size. Strength-endurance athletes, e.g. rowers, cyclists, swimmers typically have FOG fibers 1.3x the size of untrained individuals and 1.5x the size of pure endurance athletes, e.g. marathon runners (Pieper, Scharschmidt, 1981)

What does this look like in real world terms?


And the numbers? Gordo was kind enough to forward some recent anthropometric data from his Snowfarm stay in NZ. Compare the numbers below to some data that I have from elite Australian distance runners at the A.I.S (mean values, n=18) and my own measurements

A couple of observations jump out when comparing G with similarly elite distance runners:

1. He is heavier. Even when corrected for height, G is carrying an extra 1.1 grams for every cm of height.

2. While heavier, the extra weight is made up of fat-free mass (bone and muscle) as he is similarly lean to the elite distance runners.
3. He has a larger frame than the elite distance runners (at least if we take biepicondylar femur breadth to be representative of bone widths through the skeletal frame)
4. He has greater calf girth than the distance runners. As previously mentioned, this is largely independent of calf skinfolds and is primarily indicative of greater cross-sectional muscle fiber area in the lower leg musculature. A theoretical basis for why this might be the case is given in point b above.

When comparing G’s data with my own, the observations do more than jump out, they leap from the page and punch me square between the eyes. In fairness to Gordo, I must point out that the same conclusions that I am forced to draw from the data are exactly what he has been telling me for some time now. Ditto Matty Stein for that matter, but as Tidwell from Jerry Maguire sort of said, whenever I am confronted with an assertion made without empirical data my gut response is “show me the numbers!!” Well, there they are. It will be interesting to see what I do with them.

Happy As Stu

A little over ten years ago, my good friend Stuart was run over after a big night on the town. This past week, a friend of mine (Kristy Gough) was killed while enjoying a Sunday morning bike ride.

When I heard that Kristy had died, my thoughts turned to three people: my buddy Clas, my dead pal Stuart and my wife Monica. At some level, I realized that I ought to be thinking about Kristy but that didn’t happen. Instead, my first thought was for the survivors, most specifically, my friend Clas. Kristy was the first young person close to Clas that died unexpectedly. Stuart was the first young person close to me that died.

I was able to speak with Clas this week and he reminded me that it is wise to live _every_ day. Clas noted that it is often tempting to live for a future day (world championships, a key race, or even retirement). The death of someone close to us can be a trigger for considering a wider view of personal success.

I think about death a lot – some days when I am riding, I wonder about each truck that rolls up behind me. Out on my run last Tuesday, I reflected on Stuart’s death and asked if I had been wise with my extra time – 127 months and counting… I wondered if I had any obligation to Stuart, or Kristy, and what they would have wanted for me, for us. If anything good comes from a death then it is likely the fact that the survivors take a moment to consider the daily choices we make. Stuart’s death didn’t trigger any changes in my attitude (my divorce had a more powerful effect) but reflecting on his death (weekly/monthly) helps me focus on my limited time.

Ten years on, I am certain about two things: we got Stuart’s funeral right and my extra time was well spent.

As I ran in the rain last Tuesday, I said a prayer that Kristy’s spirit, and the people around her, find peace in the weeks to come. I tapped my prayer into the road and felt the vibration in my heart.

Thanks for the memories.


Gates Investing

Over the last few months, I have started asking myself the opposite of the answer I am seeking. Sample questions:

What do I know won’t work right now?

What options are clearly the wrong decisions?

What would I do if money was no object?

In my SnowFarm notes (published below a few weeks ago) – you will see that Renzie talks about a disaster cascade – to locate our self-defeating patterns write a list of every action required to turn a situation into a total disaster. Then search for the actions/patterns that you undertake within that list.

In these uncertain financial times, I ask myself the question, “What if capital wasn’t a constraint?” By removing financial return criteria, I find it easier to understand the underlying need that I am seeking to fulfill. Vacation homes, automobiles, property investments, share purchases, clothes… I spend time considering the “why” behind my motivations.

I often catch myself justifying purchases on the grounds that they are “investments”. If you look carefully inside most marketing pitches you will see the underlying message that you are “investing” in something. The rationalization of investment (in fitness, in health, in property, in stocks, in IRAs, in peace-of-mind…) can be alluring.

It is often a trap… the salesman nearly always enjoys more benefit than the purchaser.


Stepping Up

Various ideas on commitment from people that have helped others achieve success:

Joe Friel talks about athletic success arising from the smallest dose of the most specific training required to achieve the goal.

Dick Jochums reflects that people will do the minimum to achieve their goals.

My dad shared his personal investment strategy of the smallest investment required to maximize his personal return from a situation.

We share a common bias to underestimate our workload and overestimate our work capacity.

In private, many of my “successful” friends note that most people don’t seem to work very hard. While some may be lazy, I think that work-drive has a mix of generic and environmental influences. Probably the greatest thing that we can do is surround ourselves with people that are good at what we want to achieve – if we lack ability, or drive, then it will quickly become clear as our peers leave us behind. At this stage, many people will move into denial -- seeking a change in protocol, or coach.

With my aspiring clients, we spend significant time identifying patterns/habits that limit work capacity – it is not until the circle of success is established that we concern ourselves with the workload. In my view, this approach maximizes the achievement each client will achieve relative to themselves.

The other approach is to lay out the training required to be a champion and invite people to “step up”. Our sport is littered with coaches that ruined themselves, and others, with this philosophy.

I wonder if one champion is worth dozens of carcasses.


Shorting Europe

I’m bearish on Europe relative to the US. Having spent two weeks on the far side of the Atlantic, I can not see justification for the relative value differentials between the regions. London, in particular, strikes me as a place that will take a lot of pain as global liquidity unwinds.

I think that we are in the early stages of the liquidity effects that we are going to see over the next three years. The sectors that most benefited from leverage are still in denial.


How Companies Die

Within our property development business, we have not seen any distressed deal flow since the liquidity crisis began last summer. My business partner takes this as a sign of the strength of the prime sector. He could be right. However, I had the opportunity to bend the ear of a senior banker last week with this scenario…

Summer 2007 – Credit crisis hits and the weak companies run into trouble. However, hardly anybody realizes that they are in trouble – things have been too good for too long.

Winter 2007/Spring 2008 – Management can normally hide a poor portfolio for at least a year. They have a strong incentive (their jobs and equity investment) to keep the situation private for as long as possible. Lenders are concerned but the full extent of the trouble within their loan portfolios isn’t apparent to them. All their clients continue to report “business as usual”.

Spring/Summer 2008 – Smart lenders and savvy equity investors notice that they could be in trouble – stakeholders start internal investigations while praying for market conditions to improve.

Summer/Fall 2008 – Crunch time. Weak companies have security called, shareholders in negative equity positions are washed out.

Fall/Winter 2008 – Reality sinks in, prices shift downward to market clearing levels, transaction volume rises.

I am unlikely to have the timing right but that was the pattern that I witnessed in the early 90s.

Only hedge funds and investment banks die fast – in the real economy, companies die slowly.


Right now, I am looking out my window to fresh snow in Boulder, Colorado! Next week I will be writing you from (hopefully) sunny Tucson.

Our triathlon training camp runs March 22-30, we have one slot left and it could be you enjoying the sun alongside us! If you are interested then please drop me a line or send an email to mat @ endurancecorner dot com.

Battening down the financial hatches,

What it Takes

Alan Couzens, MS (Sport Science), CSCS, PES.

The pic above is of Ironman legend Peter Reid. Many of you will be familiar with the Ironman documentary that profiled Peter’s preparation for the 2005 Ironman World Championships, aptly titled “What it takes”. Movies like this, along with a lot of the old school books written by the big 4 (Molina, Allen, Scott and Tinley) do a good job of illustrating what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the sport. On the flip side, there are ump-teen books on the market today aimed at the absolute novice triathlete with the goal of completing his/her first triathlon. However, IMHO, there is a big gap in the information channel for the 50+% of athletes in the middle who are looking to move to the next performance level.
For a data-obsessed guy like myself, one of the best aspects of getting involved in the coaching game has been the mass exposure to the training and performance data from athletes of a wide range of abilities. I am certainly in a better position now than I was a couple of years ago to comment on ‘what it takes’ to achieve those stepping stone goals of, completing your first Ironman, running your first IM marathon, moving to the top of your age group or nailing that elusive Kona slot. Considering my own past ill-conceived notions of ‘what it takes’ it should come as no surprise to me that most folks have absolutely no idea of the actual long term training volume that it will take to achieve their goals. What is somewhat surprising, though, is the emotional attachment that some folks have to their chosen protocol, no matter how incongruent with their goals it may be. Some 11+ hr Ironfolks are desperately attached to the notion that if they don’t hit their 25hr training weeks, they’ll never breakthrough to the next level. Of course, there is no way an 11hr athlete has the fitness reserve (or, generally, the life circumstance) to make these 25hr weeks happen on a consistent basis and so the end result is nothing but inconsistent training mixed with a solid dose of frustration.
On the flip side, I have come across other athletes who significantly under-estimate the time commitment necessary to complete an Ironman. These busy “type A” professionals will typically only be able to consistently complete single digit hour training weeks and will, unsurprisingly, have a less than enjoyable experience on race day.
What is interesting to me as a coach is the emotional attachment that many athletes have to their training approach. Often, I can do my level best to explain to my athletes that their current training choices are not consistent with their current performance level or realistic performance goals, but frequently I have seen this fall on deaf ears. In retrospection, I’ve concluded that there are 2 reasons for this:
1. I am a far better “thinker” than I am a “talker” and sometimes I fail to accurately communicate the ‘why’ behind my training prescriptions to my athletes
2. My athletes don’t have the same ‘big picture view’ that I do, i.e. they only have access to their own training logs and the metrics that they choose to personally track and analyze. Meanwhile, I have access to a wide variety of athletes logs and I analyze EVERYTHING.
So, I thought it might be useful if in this blog, I throw out some quick numbers from a few of my athletes as to “what it takes” to achieve various performance levels.

First up, let me profile the 5 athletes that I’ll give data for:

1. Athlete 1 is a 35-39AG male competitor. He has an IM PR of 10:30 (on a challenging course) and a half PR of 4:33. He has a fairly flexible job, no wife or kids. He is targeting IMWI
2. Athlete 2 is a 40-44AG male with an IM PR of 10:55 (Half- 5:12). Steady job schedule, wife, kid. Target race is IMFL.
3. Athlete 3 is a 30-34AG male with an IM PR of 12:19 (Half-4:52). Part time, flexible job schedule, girlfriend, no kids. Target race is IMAZ in November.
4. Athlete 4 is a 45-49AG male with an IM PR of 12:19 (half PR 5:05). Also a busy career schedule that involves lots of travel and a wife and kids to throw in the mix. Target race: IMWI.
5. Athlete 5 is a 40-44AG male marathoner/ultramarathoner (PR:4:xx) training for his first IM.
Now the fun part….

We have 5 athletes spanning the gamut from first timer to top of the AG ranks. So here’s the big question, can you pick which training numbers belong to which athlete??

Believe it or not, athlete a corresponds with the first athlete profile, athlete b with the second, etc.

Note: These numbers aren’t presented as ‘targets’. That’s not how it works. You keep the training trending up and you get there when you get there. Phil Collins sang “you can’t hurry love”. Well, you can’t hurry training adaptations either (though it doesn’t carry a beat as well :-)

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post based on the concept of “if you want to train more, prove it by racing (and training) faster”. I often come back to that point. There is little value to be gained from adding 5hrs of training volume if you drop 20W in the process.

While the above is obviously a limited sample, it gives you some idea of the sort of volume that different levels of athlete are hitting right now. It also shows that there is a limited correlation between early season training volume and race performance. It seems that volume isn’t the final answer. So, what is?

If we look at the athletes at the top of the table, the distinguishing characteristics are as follows:

1. The guys at the top of the table exhibit a slow, steady consistent build up in volume and intensity over a long time period. Athlete A’s volume has progressively increased from 52-60hrs over the past 6 months, with a corresponding progressive increase in intensity. Athlete D’s monthly volume has varied from 40-93hrs with fluctuating intensity.
2. The guys at the top of the table have been involved in long course racing for a relatively long (unbroken) time. They have multiple Ironman races under their belt and many Half IM’s. Athlete A has been at the IM game since 2003. Or, in g-speak, “It takes a long time to get good”.
So, in this sense, when answering the question “what does it take?”, the final answer may be a protocol that allows you to progressively increase both volume and intensity of training over many seasons. This is an important question to come back to when deciding whether to radically change your training volume or intensity from one week or month to the next.

When it comes to fulfilling your potential as an Ironman athlete, patience is a virtue.

Getting schooled at the university of life.

Alan Couzens, MS (Sport Science), CSCS, PES.

Pic: Big A choosing to spend his break time during the VQ Solvang bike camp chatting rather than eating. In retrospect, not his best choice :-)

Before I get started, I want to apologize in advance for any lack of coherence that may present itself in this piece. When writing the bulk of this, I was 25 hours into a 30hr training week and at that point the body begins to shut down any functions not deemed necessary for survival. Thinking about the content of my latest triathlon blog may fall into that category J But, our team dinner finished early one night and I had some time on my hands, so I gave it a whirl.

The title of this blog comes largely from my Dad. Whenever a topic would come up that he had no formal training in, I would question him on where he got his information. His standard response was “the university of life.” I’d probably throw back some retort on the ease of admission to said school, but, when it comes down to it, I deeply respect the practical intelligence that my father prides himself on. As much as I respect it, my personal strength has always been traditional “book learning”. It’s a funny thing how one’s strengths find a way of manifesting themself in an individual’s profession. For instance, I love to coach, always have, but these days I do it remotely from a lab rather than face to face in the field with my athletes. Mat is a great communicator, I am not. I am a great analyst and, in that sense, I guess I’m filling the right seat on the EC coaching bus.

But, I digress, the thing that got me thinking about real world vs. lab world this week has been our team’s attendance at Robbie Ventura’s VisionQuest Cycling Camp in Solvang, CA. I came into this camp still on the slow and steady volume ramp up since my crash in ’06 (yes, it really does take that long to get your fitness back). Basically that meant 10hr bike weeks of primarily easy-steady intensity training. Despite my low volume, my lab numbers have been solid – MLSS of 280-300W, Peak power well into the 3’s. So, when I first got to thinking about what I might expect from the camp, my initial impression was that, I probably have the engine to hold onto some of these guys, but that, with my low volume, I would poop out early in the piece. Prior to Epic in 06 I had done a number of 30hr weeks in the preceding 6 months. This past year, my biggest weeks were in the low 20’s and they left me pretty rocked.

Surprisingly, here we are at day 5, the endurance is holding up. So far, I’m not feeling too rocked from consistent 6ish hour days and a 30hr week with 400mi of biking (with no drop in average intensity) looks like it’s going to happen. On the flip side, the power numbers, that I felt were my trump card here, aren’t holding up.

Day 1 was by far the most informative, educating 4 hours that I have ever spent learning about cycling. I wasn’t listening to a Robbie V talk or reading the Jeukendreup cycling book that I brought with me. No, I was getting schooled in a different way, on the bike.

So, we roll out nice and easy and warm up to get ready for our first challenge of the week, a 5mi uphill TT. No sweat. I love to climb and am looking forward to seeing what kind of watts I can throw down here at sea level on day 1….

Lesson #1: Size matters!!

I get to the top. 310W 20:xx minutes. Not great, but decent. I paced it pretty conservatively and finished over geared, but with some gas in the tank. I (cautiously) roll down the other side of the climb to regroup with the EC posse on the other side. I ask Mat “what were your numbers?” He fires back “1815”. Dude, I don’t want to know your kj expenditure, just give me the important number, the watts. “No, that’s my time for the climb, not my kj. Oh, I don’t know, 308W”. Pretty much what I expected. Mat and I have had a pretty similar load on the bike over the last little bit. I thought we’d be pretty close together on that one. Also, pretty close to dead on what the lab #’s would suggest.

Of course, the bigger point that I was missing is that despite equal watts, Mat got up the hill ~2 minutes faster than I did.. When going up a hill, absolute watts mean very little. Mat weighs in at ~67kgs, I weigh in at ~77kgs. Therefore, Mat’s W/kg were ~15% better than mine (4.6 vs. 4.0), as was his time up the climb. In order to throw down a similar time up the climb, I would need to put out ~356W at my current bodyweight. I’m not getting any leaner than I am already, so there is only one option: Get stronger and more powerful!!

Not paying too much attention to the time for the climb, I move on and line up with the “fast and long” group for the rest of today’s ride, “the A group”. Robbie says fast is going to be about another 40mi at 18-20mph, No prob. I used to do some group riding with team Florida in Gainesville (RED FLAG: Gainesville is flat!!) and we’d motor along nicely at 20-22mph without too much effort. 18-20 is perfect for an easy end to today’s ride.

So, we get started with a climb. Still feeling good, we’re holding 300-350W up this climb and I’m digging it. I’m actually thinking at that point, how much I miss riding with a group. Then, the descent starts…..

Lesson 2: Skills matter!!

I get dropped by the group on the small descent. Truth be told, I suck at descending. Call it a mix of flashbacks from my crash, my crappy flexibility, my height, my bike position, whatever. All I know is, guys go flying down a mountain past me as an unrecognizable blur. This was no exception. Ordinarily, I wait for the bottom and just TT back to the group, no sweat. But this is no ordinary group and this is no ordinary group ride. It’s first day of camp and everyone wants to mark their territory. The group hadn’t broken up at this point but the pace wasn’t pedestrian. Thankfully, Mat notices that I’m AWOL and sends, superstar, Gardie Jackson back for me. Gardie and the sag pace me back up to the group, but it’s probably a 5-10min bridge at 300+W. That’s gonna hurt a little later in the day. School bell rings, class is out, first lesson of the day complete: I need to either throw my FT up another 50W or man up and get some serious descending practice on the climbs around Boulder this summer if I hope to stay with riders of this calibre.

Notes: After chatting with Robbie and having a chance to practice the last couple of days during my tack-ons, here is what I’ve concluded about improving my personal ability to descend.

- Get in the drops: You increase your stopping power and bike stability ten-fold when you move from the hoods to the drops.
- Get your weight back on the saddle: Much more stable and prevents the possibility of an endo on steep descents.
- Get flexible (or get a custom bike): With my long legs and short torso, I always size down on my bikes. This presents a problem with the drop and I think is the primary reason I don’t use my drops as much as I should.
- Get 90% of your braking done before the turn
- Weight the outside leg

I catch back on and “ring-a-ding”, school’s back in. Still on the subject of skills, I discover that the other aspect of skills that really matters in this group riding thing are pack skills.

Lesson #3: Position matters!!

Position, in two senses of the word, really matters in group cycling.

I get back onto the back of the group and start riding along and chatting with Robbie (who was on my inside). I don’t know if this was a conscious choice of mine at the time, but I just felt more comfortable on the outside. It gives me that little bit of room to check my speed into the wind when needed and, truth be told, fear of the wheel in front of me, probably means I’m pushing into the wind more than I really need to. This preference leads to a lot of aero disadvantages, including those mentioned above and, for a bigger guy, it robs me of the opportunity to sit on the inside when the wind is coming from the left.

The other aspect of position that matters is bike position. After moving back into the group, I make the mistake of finding Matty Stein’s wheel. Now, Mat has two things going for him that makes him a really bad draft choice for a guy like me:

1. He’s almost a foot shorter than me
2. He has the flexibility to almost put his chin on the front wheel.

In real world terms, what does this mean?? At least 30W difference between him and me at the same speed. Mat’s power meter wasn’t working at the time, but JD was rolling along on the front of the group at 177W, while I was struggling to hold the same speed in the group at 205. Life in the peloton isn’t fair for us big, stiff, clumsy guys.

So, what do you get when you mix in:
* 2 threshold bridges at 280-320W (one via crappy descending skills, one via a flat)
* 30 extra watts on the flat than the rest of the group due to equally crappy pack skills and a less than optimal bike position
* A 300kcal deficit because you make the choice that your break time is better spent picking Robbie V’s brain than slamming a coke.

Answer: An ample slice of humble pie as, despite your best efforts, you watch the pack ride away from you.

You’re probably reading this blog thinking ‘duh’, all of these lessons are pretty elementary and are preached in every basic cycling book out there. And you’re right. There’s nothing complex about the lessons that a camp like the VQ camp teaches. Personally, for me, the real value to these sort of camps is in the massive application of these lessons. And the fact that the lessons are accompanied with enough of an emotional punch when you make it through days like the one mentioned above that they really inspire you to action.

This camp provided plenty of opportunities for me to discover my own personal limits and weak points. I have a love-hate relationship with that process. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations is never easy and often not fun in the moment, but it is the one essential action that will prevent you from stagnating as a person by forcing you to grow. When it comes down to it, in a lot of ways, to me, this is what life is all about.

Needless to say, I’ll be back for more.

Vision Questing

Our photo this week is Robbie Ventura, one of the most genuine people I have met. We were descending Figueroa on Day Two and he started taking pictures of me at over 30 mph -- suffice to say his bike skills are far, far superior to mine. Robbie is the founder of VisionQuest Coaching. You might have seen him on the Versus Tour coverage the last couple of summers.

Robbie has a really special gift -- when he talks to you, you feel like you are the most important person in the world. Sounds kind of irrational but all you want to do is agree and help him out. There is a special vibe around him (and the VQ Coaches) that leaves you happy. It is a powerful kind of charisma.

Robbie and his team at VisionQuest Coaching were hosting a Solvang Spring Camp and the Boulder team (Mat, Alan, Justin) came across for the experience. This week I will share ideas that flowed out of five days of hammering with the roadies.

First a few announcements:

Spring Employment -- I am doing a personal training camp from April 3rd to 14th (start Tucson, end Santa Fe). We'll drop by the Grand Canyon en route. I need a couple (or two pals) to run sag/support/logistics. Please drop me a line if you are interested in helping out. This is a working, rather than training, position. Pay based on experience -- more if one of the duo has a massage qualification.

eMail -- I am now officially buried. My hopes of taming my inbox faded this week. I'll keep chipping away. Thanks for your patience.
Tucson Camps -- one of our campers noticed that the first weekend of our March 22-30 camp is Easter. As a result, we have an opening for March. Drop me a line if you are interested in joining us. As a reminder, you'll want to be in 13-hour IM shape, or quicker. Both camps have a range of people signed up.
Solvang is beautiful! Great riding, a decent swimming pool at the local "Y" and nice country roads for running (there could be trails, I haven't gone exploring). A wide range of riding terrain from flats, to rollers, to 'beyond category' climbs.
More than the location, what makes the VQ camp special is the VQ team. Robbie has assembled a unique group of folks around himself -- (coaches, staff, mechanics, athletes). Most everyone has a positive, open vibe. Even the cagey, roadie-types are friendly -- they run you off the road with a smile (joking... kinda).
If you are interested in what we've been doing then you can have a look at Petro-World or JD's Blog. Both Mark and Justin have been writing daily updates. As you will see, there has been a period of all-out effort at some stage of EVERY day at the camp. As an athlete, I don't come to a roadie-focused camp and expect anything else.
One of the VQ-Vets (Jim Sauls) took us for a ride the day before the camp. Jim's legs were glowing (they were that white). Jim let me know that the Chicago-based athletes had been off-the-roads for weeks prior to the camp. Sitting on their trainers, waiting to be unleashed in Southern California. Similar to Epic, Robbie started the camp with a TT to enable the stronger athletes to blow off a little steam. See if you spot the difference...
VQ TT Day -- 10 mile warm-up; 5 mile TT with uphill finish then two hour (very) solid group ride // rest up to hammer the tri guys tomorrow.
Epic TT Day -- 50 min run; 3K swim includes 2K TT; ride 140K with 2 KOMs; 43K dead-flat TT with 10K upwind finish -- limp back to motel wondering about tomorrow.
The strong VQ riders had plenty left for Day Two -- a monster climb that felt a bit like a cyclocross course at times. We rode the back side of Figueroa. The road was washed out in sections and my front fork filled with mud. Felt like I had my brakes on! I have had my TT bike in some unique places; that climb makes the Top 10, for sure.

In the early days of the camp, the roadies thought that we were nuts to place ourselves at such a disadvantage by using our TT bikes. By the end of the camp, some may have changed their minds -- more about that in the Petro-Blog.

Mental Fatigue -- an interesting thing that I noticed with the bike camp is that my desire to "go hard" was fading faster than my physical ability. All the cycling intensity seems to wear down my immune system and my drive -- much more than my body.

Average Workout Watts -- with the entire camp on power, we were able to compare wattage throughout the camp. It was a reminder that you can't tell much by averages (even normalised) -- there was huge variation in the people that rode around me as well as people that went out the back while holding the same average watts as me. Remember that power is most useful to track yourself against yourself.

Lab Testing -- Alan's most recent piece was about the difference between two lab tests. Camper-of-the-week would have to go to Mat Steinmetz (one of the tests analyzed). Mat's lab tests, background and pre-camp performance gave ZERO indication that he was about to ride out of his skin (literally on Day Five). The guy was drilling me on Mt Fig and took over Molina's normal role in my life. Mat's performance was a clear reminder that we only get a snapshot with physiological testing (and tests don't always track the most important aspects of performance).

Benchmarking -- the structure of the camp rides // 5M TT; 1Hr Uphill KOM; Century Ride; 45K Handicap Race // that gave each of us ample opportunity to benchmark our power (and pace) against a wide range of campers. My only regret was a malfunctioning SRM on Gardie Jackson's bike. Gardie is the most complete athlete (body, mind, spirit) that I have met in a long, long while. If you ask me what I aspire to in my athletics then it is the physical power resident in Gardie.

The guys say that a large element of bike racing is leadership -- when I am riding with athletes like Robbie and Gardie, I would gladly toss my entire week away to help them get the job done. True leaders and genuine guys -- very inspirational stuff. It was strange to be in a group of elite athletes that fostered a selfless feeling within myself (not something that anyone close to me would recognize).

As the camp progresses, and we all get tired, it is normal to wonder... "is it optimal to be smashing ourselves day-in day-out for a week?" The triathletes, especially, wonder if it is "OK" to be doing all of the threshold and VO2 efforts. My advice has been to have fun and train lots.

While you don't want to fill your entire program up with high intensity sessions, taking a week in March and really challenging yourself can be useful -- especially, when you've been chained to your trainer for the last few months.
When the campers get home, I recommended an easy week (to absorb/recover) the returning to their normal (sane) program -- hopefully you return at a higher level. The mental challenge that follows camps is not continuing to smash yourself. With the memories of all the hard training fresh in your mind, it can be tempting to pass-along some hurt to your training buddies. In my experience, that is a mistake and will leave you flat when you would rather be fast.
With my own fitness regime... I will be coasting for the next three weeks. I am working in Europe for a fortnight then returning to Boulder. This camp was very, very tough and I need to settle down for a while. Having coached a few athletes that consistently peak in March, I am choosing to lose a bit of fitness to protect myself from myself. I will start to ramp back up beginning with our first Tucson training camp.
One final thought, I think that a lot of triathletes give roadies a bad time because they don't like the way that strong cyclists deal out punishment on the bike. When the VQ-lads are laying down the hurt I remind myself that it is business, nothing personal. There is no way that I could this sort of bike training on my own and really appreciate how they have welcomed us into their world. I would like to offer a special word of thanks to my buddy, Mark Pietrofesa. Mark got the absolute best out of me this week.
Road cycling has a lots of lessons for life -- you can be having your best day and still get spat out the back. Acceptance and non-resistance are worth extra power in that environment -- the Zen of self-shelling.

Lately I have been giving thanks every morning for the chance to enjoy another day. Sitting here on Sunday afternoon, this has been a very special week in my life. Not just for the training -- the full story can wait for another day.

My Southern Retreat

I have been off-the-grid for the last two weeks and staying up at Snow Farm in New Zealand. I am happy to report that the world didn't end and I wasn't fired by my clients. In fact, everything seems exactly the same as when I left the world of connectivity. Makes me wonder how long I could pull the plug before something material happened. I bet one month.

Aside from the President, I can't think of many occupations where we have to be in constant contact. In fact, there are a few (banker, accountant, CFO, CEO) where best practice forces you to leave for two weeks in a row. A two week holiday reduces our ability to perpetrate a fraud on our employers.

This piece is a recollection of thoughts that I had across the retreat, when the stimuli of constant outside influences was removed.

The first thing that I noticed was my mind calmed very quickly. Within 24-hours I was grateful that I had made the fortnight's commitment to stay off-line. Monica offered to clean my email server but I was worried that she might see something and mention it to me. So we waited. The grand total of spam, and real, messages was 8,500 when I 'mailwashed' the server last Thursday. If you are waiting for a reply then I'll need a bit more time... I'm making good progress, should be back to you by the 1st of March.

The next thing that I noticed was my sleep improved in all areas. The speed that I fell asleep was faster, the number of times that I woke up during the night was reduced and my ability to wake up (refreshed) before my alarm increased. All this while living at altitude and undertaking challenging training with elite short course athletes.

Pretty much everything improved. So I wonder... does technology and the media serve us? Or do we serve it?


When I stop writing, I miss the release, and learning. Even on retreat, I kept my writing going. You will find my complete Snow Farm Daily Diary below, all 14 pages of it. Worth a read if you are interested in athletic performance -- we had excellent speakers.

So I miss writing but I don't miss TV, movies, newspapers, email... one of my goals for the next 12 months will be to do a better job at restricting my input (even more) and see if I can outsource a few more of the items that clutter my mind.

What about clients? Over the last three years, I have been shifting to a model that is based on high value interaction with my clients. I noticed that I am most effective when I work shoulder-to-shoulder with clients -- our Tucson Camps are an experiment with "doing more" of that work.

I am effective remotely but that sort of work doesn't appear to build me up. Instead, it clutters my inbox with low-value chatter than doesn't address the key issues facing the client. Email can be useful but, overall, it is low value communication.

To get to the core of performance requires trust -- and trust requires spending time with people. Another paradox is that a large impact, need not require a large amount of time. Spending a few days with John Hellemans reminded me of that. More than anyone I've met, his life is an example of the impact one man's high standards can have on the world around him. PodCast Here -- sound is mixed in terms of quality.

We were talking about Tibet and John noted that it was difficult for one man to make a difference. I shared an observation that one man can make a huge difference and that his work in NZ has made a massive difference in the lives of thousands of people. He started triathlon at the same age as I did (30). John's life shows what combining passion, talent and work ethic over 25 years can achieve -- a lot!

Up there at Snow Farm, I asked myself a few questions:

  • What am I good at?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • Where do I spend my time?

I do a decent job at spending my time at things that I am both good at, and enjoy doing. However, I have identified a few items where I am spending time, not enjoying it and not being particularly effective. I also sense that I've placed a few of my team members in situations where they aren't particularly good and aren't enjoying it. There could be a way to make those around me more effective. I'll need to ask them when we are together.


So that's the Big Picture items that came into my head. Here are a few detailed items from the specific of the camp, and my time with Hellemans.

Choices -- most of us will reach a point in our lives when performance deteriorates, or ceases to improve. At that stage, we have a choice to make: Quit, Change or Hang On. Most people Quit or grind themselves into the ground by Hanging On. Only the select few learn to manage themselves through continuous change.

Tightness -- tight muscles are weak muscles. Rehabilitate your personal weak spots by trigger point release, muscle activation and strengthening. If the muscles are small then they need small exercises, done gently.

Authenticity -- I read a book by the title of this bullet point. Perhaps that is the attraction of the South Island. It's weather, wind, people and topography are deeply authentic. Not always comfortable, but real and full of power.

Kiwi Real Estate -- With gross yields at 3% and mortgage finance at 10%, I'm bearish on the Kiwi property market. I don't see the room for yields to come up and I see speculative buying in many markets. However, given interest rates, the liquidity position of the local economy looks like it will stay buoyant (unlike most other markets). My personal rent-or-buy decision would be rent.

Wanaka vs. Queenstown -- Comparing these two towns, I can see why the internationals like QT but Wanaka has better weather, more sunlight and cheaper housing. Long term, I expect Wanaka to outperform.

PPP -- In US dollar terms, New Zealand real estate is 400% more expensive than seven years ago (22% p.a.). Petrol has shown a similar increase and food is up 17% p.a. in USD terms. New Zealand isn't expensive but it is not cheap any more. For what the visitor gets, it offers fair value. The days of US$110,000, five bedroom houses are long gone!

My final realization was that New Zealand is one of the few things in the world that I miss when it is not in my life. Monica was the first person that I ever placed on that list. Now I have two things.

By "New Zealand", I mean Molina, Hellemans, the wind, the mountains, the weather and the people.

  • Molina because he is a bit nuts, accepts himself and gets on with his life.
  • Hellemans because he is successful by putting others ahead of himself (keep hope alive).
  • The wind because it is so ridiculous that you just have to laugh.
  • The mountains because of their beauty.
  • The weather because you can get snow, hail, heat, cold, rain and wind... all in 24 hours.
  • The people because they work their butts off and have realistic expectations -- they are also loyal and friendly.

You Kiwis have a good thing going down there.

Hope to be back soon,


In case you are wondering, Marty and Ben are in a Kiwi Ice Bath in the photo. Chillin' at 5300 feet...

Word File of My SnowFarm Daily Diary

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!



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

The Inner Game

Some high quality thoughts from my buddy KP. I hope you enjoy.


My brother and I recently compared our experiences growing up. There are four siblings; three bothers and a sister. The three brothers shared a room. We had the same father and mother. Our parents were married until my dad died suddenly at age 49. At that time, we were 23, 21, 20 (me) and 16. All of us are married with children. How different could our experiences have been, right? My brother recalls family dynamic slightly differently than I do. He remembers subtle perceived preferences, advantages and opinion in ways that fit ‘his story’. I have my own story, as do my sis and other brother. We each have our own remembrances; each unique. If we asked my mom which one of us she loved most she would laugh at us like we were little kids who never grew up and answer something like “whichever one needed me most at that moment”.

While most of us consider ourselves free of prejudice and relatively open minded, it appears we are influenced by our individual view of the family and our efforts to be part of the unit. The truth, as we see it, affects the way we interact with people, events and even ourselves. My view of myself limits or supports my ability to act. It alters what I see and don’t see; what I question or fail to notice; what I am willing to risk in an effort to achieve, or what I settle for because “that’s out of my reach”. When I am made aware of my bias toward myself, I am given freedom of choice. Considering the laws of quantum physics that tell us much of who we are is what we choose to be, removing bias means that even our normal daily activities can result in a new paradigm when “who we are” is free.

So this begs the question, what’s your story? If four siblings from a well adjusted, loving family give four different views of the same or similar events, the stories must be shaded by the teller of the tale. What are you telling yourself? It can be difficult to separate your story from what is real. This applies to relationships and to careers. Is the deck stacked against you? Is life unfair? In sport, is there a little voice that is telling you I am not good enough, not fast enough, not smart enough or not tough enough? Some people do have legitimate complaints or handicaps, but continually using hardships as an excuse can become a limiting behavior.

In the book “The Inner Game of Tennis” W. Timothy Gallwey draws the distinction between fulfilling the ultimate human possibility and a simple way to develop certain inner skills that can be used to improve any outer game of your choice. It’s about learning to get out of your own way so that you can learn and perform closer to your potential. There is an internal conversation going on within all of us. He calls the talker, critic controlling voice Self 1 and the self that has to hit the ball (or run, bike, swim, work, socialize, romance) Self 2. Turns out, the less we hear from Self 1 the better Self 2 performs. The more we trust in Self 2 potential the better we execute and the quieter Self 1 conversation is. This “Inner Game” will never change as long as human beings are vulnerable to fears, doubts and distractions of the mind.

Individuals find meaning and derive pleasure from varied activities. Building successful businesses, building successful families, maintaining healthy bodies and service, come to mind.
In the forward to the book Gallwey pulls this quote:

What is the real game?
It is a game in which the heart is entertained
The game in which you are entertained
It is the game you will win

Of course winning isn’t everything. The oldest and best known surviving morality play is from circa 1485. Recalling the message from the play ==>

"Man can take with him from this world ...
nothing that he has received, only what he has given".

Everyman -- 15th Century

“In the play, the main character, Everyman, is stripped, one by one, of those apparent goods on which he has relied. First, he is deserted by his patently false friends: his casual companions, his kinsmen, and his wealth. Receiving some comfort from his enfeebled good deeds, he falls back on them and on his other resources -- his strength, his beauty, his intelligence, and his knowledge -- qualities which, when properly used help to make an integrated man. These assist him through the crisis in which he must make up his book of accounts, but in the end, when he must go to the grave, all desert him save his good deeds alone. The play makes it's effectively grim point that man can take with him from this world nothing that he has received, only what he has given.”

The Norton Anthology of English Literature


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.


The Ultimate Success Formula for Triathletes

Part 2: Keeping up with the Trends
Alan Couzens, MS (Sport Science), CSCS, PES

That’s me above in my new “McLovin” Shirt, an early Valentines day gift from Baby J. As you can probably tell by my clothing selection, keeping up with the latest fashion trends has never been much of a concern of mine. I typically wear what I want, irrespective of what the rest of society is wearing ‘these days’. It’s always been that way. Back in college you would probably have given me a wide berth, with my razor shaved skull, combat boots, cut off army issue pants and the obligatory angry band T-Shirt (Tool, Pantera or Ministry for those interested). Dressing like this did a wonderful job of feeding my social paranoia/anxiety disorder, but that’s a topic for another blog (or a therapist’s couch :-)) sometime in the future.

No, today’s blog is not about keeping up with the latest clothing trends or social norms. The ‘trends’ that I am referring to in the title are your training trends. As I mentioned in the last blog, what you actually get done in a training year provides significant information as to what you should do in the following year. I also suggested that there are 3 ‘trends’ that you definitely want to see in your annual training log:

1. An increase in training volume over the course of the training year.
2. An increase in training intensity over the course of the training year.
3. An increase in performance standards/fitness over the course of the training year.

I also promised in the last blog to throw out an example from my own log and some simple methods of assessing

a) Whether you fulfilled the above criteria for a successful training year in 07
b) Your current level of improvement in fitness and load tolerance so that you can begin to plan/forecast your training in 08.

So, here we go….

Let’s begin by taking a look at my fitness improvement on the bike in 2007. First thing to determine is whether or not there was an improvement. For this metric, I have been tracking my power output at a given aerobic heart rate.

A good number of you will, by now, have access to regular power measurement of some description, be it a power meter on your own bike or a comptrainer. For those, without power, your best bet for biking is to eliminate the variables in the power equation over which you have limited control, i.e. wind. Pick a steady climb that is steep enough to slow you down enough that wind resistance becomes a minimal factor, i.e. less than 10mph and long enough that your HR will stabilize (i.e. 3+minutes) and repeat 5-10 hill repeats regularly (weekly, ideally on a relatively calm day) throughout the year to get an assessment of your performance in time for the climb at a given (small HR range).

The key with this metric and all of the metrics that we’ll discuss is obtaining enough data points throughout the year to assess whether the trend is significant. This is IMPORTANT. From my experience, even the most diligent and serious athletes will get lab tested 2-3 times per year. The reality is, 2-3 data points don’t make for a very reliable trend. Lab testing is a necessity for other reasons (setting training zones and assessing strengths/weaknesses), but as a measure of day to day or week to week progress, I will take a simple, less controlled field test repeated 50 times throughout the year over 2 or 3 meticulously controlled lab tests any day of the week.

OK, so back to the graph. X axis in the number of months since I started back training (after my big bike crash). Y axis is my power output at a heart rate of 140bpm. This is pretty close to my best IM heart rate to date and is smack bang in the middle of my steady zone on the bike.

So, in answer to the first question that establishes whether 2007 was a successful year, Did I get better? The answer is yes. Looking at the graph, I went from pushing (a pitiful) 124 watts at a heart rate of 140 in January, to a max of 201 watts at a heart rate of 140 during my specific prep period in August. Now, it should be said that these power measurements were obtained from a variety of sources (Polar PM, Velotron, Saris Spin Bike,SRM). However, I do have a LOT of data points from each of these means.

I guess a logical follow up question is “if I improved by 80 watts in 2007, what can I expect out of 08? 280watts at my IM heart rate?” Unfortunately, no, my performance trend is not linear but is best represented (for the math geeks out there) as a logarithmic curve, or for my more pessimistic readers, a curve of diminishing returns. If I stay on the trend curve, by my key race of next year (ironman Arizona) in November, I should be pushing 216W at a heart rate of 140. I am hopeful that, with a bout of higher intensity work during my specific prep period, I will once again be able to jump a little above the curve but, a realistic goal for Nov (providing I keep with the current training trend) would have my IM power output somewhere in the 220’s. While not much of a jump over the course of the year, a power output of 220 would put me at the pointy end of the AG field and would go a long way toward helping me achieve my greater goals.

Whenever, I look at a trend curve like this, it’s always fun to play it out to the nth degree. If I continue on the same performance (and training) trend for the next 5 years, what can I expect? The answer: 242W at 140bpm. I may not be challenging Stadler with those #’s but it’s certainly motivating to picture myself at that level of performance with a period of sensible, progressive, consistent training over, what is in the grand scheme of things, a relatively short period of time.

But, there is always a flip side. What will the likely cost be for me to get to this performance level based on my current training trends? First, let’s look at the bike training trends of 07 that resulted in my 80 watt gain over the course of 12 months. Specifically, let’s look at: Did I increase my training volume over the course of the year? Did I increase (or at the very least, maintain) my training intensity over the course of the year?

So, the nice slope of that trend line indicates, yes indeed, I am training more now than I was last January, which is a good thing, considering I was a month out of a wheelchair at that time, but irrespective of the reason, I’m on the up and up, I’ll take it.

Once again, I can’t look at a trendline without wondering what lies a little to the right of the graph, so it begs the question, if the trends continue, what level of biking volume will I be doing in the lead up to my key IM in order to keep pace with my improvement trend? Extrapolating from the curve, we come up with 49hrs/mth or approximately 12hrs of biking for each week of my specific prep phase next year for a 220W IM performance. Definitely seems doable from a distance. Most things do. Of course, this doesn’t include swimming or running. Factor those in and we’re probably in the ball park of a 20hrs/wk average over the course of 12 weeks. Factor in the fact that, either in the name of recovery, sickness, injury or just life, I’ll probably wind up playing catch up for 3 or 4 of those weeks, necessitating closer to a 25hr week, it becomes clear that this level of training load and consistency is no cake walk and the only way to prepare for August, September and October of next year, is to continue to keep up with the trends, today, tomorrow and the day after that.

Let’s throw intensity onto the chart and see how I did on that front.

First, the big question, did I manage to complete the golden trilogy of an effective training plan:
- Increased fitness
- Increased volume
- Increased intensity

Yep. Intensity increased from an average heart rate of 129bpm in January to 136bpm in December. This may not sound like a whole lot, but in real world terms is indicative of an increase in steady (Zone 2) training from 15% to 25% and an increase in sub threshold (Zn 3-4) training from 5% to 14%.

So, overall, not a bad year in the world of Big A. The best thing about starting over after a major accident is that you get to re-experience the joy of the novice, where improvement comes thick and fast. Of course, this joy is tempered somewhat when you think back to old PRs from ‘back in the day’. But, coming back to retrospective analyses like this really helps me to foster the faith that I will be back where I once was and then some. The numbers don’t lie.

Also, performing analyses like this can give the astute athlete some clues on strengths, weaknesses and how your body responds to different training methods. I won’t subject you to the same metrics from my 2007 run volume. Partly because this article is running long and partly because I’m embarassed to do so. Suffice to say that the rate of improvement of my run curve is substantially flatter than my bike curve. You may have noticed a slight drop in my bike volume over the past couple of months. This is a conscious decision to bring my bike:run ratio more into balance and the effects so far have been good. I have dropped 53s per mile from my 2mile aerobic run test. Lesson for 2008: Run more.

The other trend that is obvious from the charts is that, for me, higher fitness levels in 2007 were much better correlated with increased intensity than increased volume. Now, of course tolerance to intensity is strongly related to the base developed and that is why increasing intensity with no regard to volume is a bad idea. However, it is important to keep in mind that the function of base training is to enable you to tolerate more of the specific training that you need to improve your race specific fitness. Base is important but not an end in itself.

So, how will these observations alter my plans for 08. Answer – not dramatically. My #1 priority is to keep surfing my trend wave. Because, if the pattern holds, that is my best route to (long term) getting where I want to be. However, when energy permits and I am feeling good enough to play around on the lip of the wave, I will be doing this with increased run volume and a slight increase in intensity. For example, at the moment, my trend wave has me at about 12hrs/wk of training. However, for the past 4 months, I have stayed ahead of the wave and averaged 15+hrs/wk by progressively pushing up my run volume. While doing this, however, I am conscious that relative to my past performance (and a large number of data points), at 15hrs/wk I am pushing the long term limits. I am also aware that as a 'one-off', I could easily exceed 15hrs of training. Last year I hit a number of 20-25hr weeks. But the point is, for whatever reason, I was not able to keep up with this level of volume long term (this is an important question, perhaps THE important question, to ask yourself). Now, If I’m able to hang on to my 15hr weeks, the wave will eventually catch up, but there is a fine line between hanging on and 'wiping out' that I am (from previous experience) verrrry aware of.

The most important thing is for me to stay on my wave, irrespective of all the distractions, the other over ambitious surfers around me, the many rocks scattered throughout my course and the kids on their boogie boards fighting to get my attention. As another one of my favorite bands (Soundgarden) used to sing, “keep it off my wave. It’s my wave!”

Self Awareness and Facilitation

Our photo this week is Monica’s Buddy Andrea (MBA). MBA has an M.B.A. from Harvard. She came over to Australia to visit us and I have been receiving free personal consulting.

When we discussed my piece on Start-Ups, Andrea noted that hardly anyone takes the first step of creating self-awareness. At HBS, they had an entire course on the subject. Most of us can’t go to Harvard but we can review the article and consider its best points.

Here goes!

Drucker’s article notes that it is extremely tough for us to figure out ‘where we belong’. He suggests that we should start by noting where we don’t belong as well as the situations that don’t suit our strengths.

He counsels that we enhance our strengths while working to eliminate our bad habits (rather than our weaknesses). There is much greater return from supporting top performers than “fixing” mediocre players.

Focus on being polite, trim the bad habits and place ourselves in situations where we can use our strengths.

He points out that we all have intellectual arrogance that limits our success. I spent two hours thinking about the areas where I am intellectually arrogant. I really had to think. I am far from perfect but everyone else’s limiters came to me first!

Probably my #1 arrogance is advisers that have never “done it” – I place a huge emphasis on learning-by-doing. When I see a man promoting himself as “the world’s greatest” adviser on a subject that he has never personally experienced, I have to work (very hard) to give any credibility to his experience. That’s a shame because some of these advisers have spent countless years studying the best performers. They probably know a thing, or two!

To know, but not to do, is not to know.

I surround myself with do’ers. There is an important role for the academics – those of us that have “done” are biased by our experience – combine us with people that are biased by their textbooks and we might breakthrough together.

If you look closely at the Endurance Corner consulting team then you will see my efforts at diversity. Still, we are a bit young and too male. We are working on it.

In my youth, my greatest limiter was a core belief that tact was a sign of weakness. In my 20s, all that mattered was performance. Now, if you are a high performer then you can get away with that for a while. However, we pay a high price in terms of ultimate success and effectiveness. I was fortunate that my first boss was a lot like me and found my flaws entertaining.


Values – we tend to think of values and ethics as being crystal clear – black/white or right/wrong. Drucker makes the point that, in life, we can find ourselves in a situation where conflicting values are both “right”. I will give you an example with a list of my business values.

This is what Gordo Incorporated stands for:

  • Low leverage
  • Full disclosure
  • Focused, specialized personal excellence
  • Clear instructions
  • Return on capital employed focus
  • Long term achievement trumps short term gains

Consider the opposite of the above points – Snazzy Company Limited values:

  • Maximum leverage
  • Necessary disclosure
  • General, personal excellence
  • Accepts that life is imperfect with changing information
  • Growth focus
  • Consistent short term gains

In one job, I would be happy – in the other… a disaster. It is important for me to remember that the other company isn’t a “bad” company, just different.

Armed with your strengths and personal values you can decide if an opportunity makes sense for you. Before signing on, use your self-awareness to lay out what is required for you to succeed.


The other interesting part of the article is a description of the different ways that people communicate, learn and work. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I work/learn by writing. At McGill, my class notes were the Gold Standard. The “listeners” used to photocopy them for subsequent review.

I have had two successful business relationships with extreme examples of listeners/talkers. Until I figured these guys out, I used to bang my head because they “never read what I write”. The way to crack the code is to call them on the telephone – I used to call these guys from 30 feet away!

If you are working with people with a different style then acknowledge it. We are paid to be effective, not right. Andrea's tip here is to remember that, more than changing your style, respect and adapt to the styles of our co-workers.

More in the article – with great examples.


Feedback analysis – Drucker’s feedback tips are HIGHLY valuable. Each time you make a key decision – write down what you think is going to happen and revisit it 9-12 months later. I have eight years of personal business plans and learn a lot from them.

Some things that I noticed:

  • When I get nervous about a situation there is usually a reason
  • My goals are challenging, I (mostly) achieve them but rarely exceed by a large margin
  • Other people are better at judging character than me
  • I need people with excellent people skills around me
  • I would benefit from pausing after my greatest successes
  • Painful personal feedback from the people closest to me is normally correct – I listen but, typically, at least two years after I am told. This could indicate that I am stubborn…
  • I could be far more effective by taking a greater personal interest in the people around me.

There is much more in the article. It’s only ten pages. A small investment of time to get an edge on ourselves!


Phew, running long again! I will be short on facilitation.

The best thing that Andrea pointed out to me was that in any situation there is the person acting and the person facilitating.

As an adviser, many clients come to me for the professional OK to continue with their bad habits. At one level they want success but, at another level, they want acceptance/love and the OK to keep rolling just as they are. So we start by acknowledging what is working and good in their lives.

Without a basis of trust, we can get fired when we refuse to facilitate. When we fail to surround these difficult conversations with manners and tact, they often fall on deaf ears. With my inner circle, I often have to wait a year, or more, for an opening to share feedback. As a bonus, waiting saves me when a rush-to-action is inappropriate.

My second thought was to consider the people, and firms, that I facilitate. Whether we like it or not, our actions have a multitude of direct/indirect impacts. Questions that I considered:

  • Do the companies that I support back the best people?
  • Do the websites that I visit share my values?
  • Would I be friends with a person that had a personality like my favorite sites?
  • Do the blogs that I read bring out my best emotions? Do they lift me up?
  • With the people/firms that don’t share my ethics, how are they linked to me? Am I facilitating them?
  • Would direct action strengthen, or weaken, my adversaries?

Andrea’s final tip was “Stay on message and stay positive” – with that in mind, I won’t share my answers. One of the things that I am working on is my need to “be right” all the time.

Until next week,


Financial Start-Ups

Our photo this week is from our first Epic Camp in January 2003. Many speedy people in that shot -- some of them didn't even know it at the time!

Endurance Corner is accepting applications for 2 to 4 month internships. For more details contact mat at endurancecorner dot com. Prior experience is useful but not necessary.

Endurance Corner is looking for an MD, PA or Nurse Practitioner for its medical consultancy practice. The position would, initially, be part-time and ideal for a parent looking to re-enter the workforce. Please contact gordon at endurancecorner dot com if interested.

Endurance Corner is based in Boulder, CO.

We start this week with some feedback from Europe.
D.D. Observes:
A couple of things that come to mind regarding your recent piece on "motivation":

Interesting how "achievers" are usually - not always - driven by primarily selfish goals. No judging here, just observing.

CAREFUL! I know a lot of people who place themselves amongst (relative) "losers" just to look good. Those guys ARE NOT the top achievers. "You are as good as the expectations of your peer group." At least in the long run. IMHO

Selfish Goals -- I am not so sure that high achievers in 'self-less' vocations are more purely motivated than high achievers that work for themselves. As well, there may be a lot of selfish people that don't achieve -- it may not be a defining characteristic.

Peer Group -- this is a very good observation and why I advised 'periods' of out-performance. My podcast with Chris McDonald was interesting in this regard. Chris moves between towns where he is 'normal' and a 'star'. He stays in Boulder until he can't handle it anymore then heads back to Aussie and pounds his mates. Like I tell Mat, Fast in Indiana isn't always fast.

One last point, most people are not working towards maximizing their personal achievement. Their daily choices and actions are inconsistent with achievement -- the true goal is something else.

We can have very fulfilling lives while being clueless. I have enjoyed my periods of unconscious incompetence! High achievers are some of the most tortured people I know.

Alan wrote an outstanding article on what limits achievement. Understanding the process he outlines is a requirement for breakthrough performance.

And now... this week's letter.

I received an interesting email. If this letter triggers any ideas then please send them in. This topic is one of my favorites and I have been considering a few start-up opportunities myself.

A.R. writes:
I come from an entrepreneurial background and started with my current mentor and boss in real estate development XX years ago. With the current market and industry conditions my mentor has decided that 2008 will be a very safe year where we will not be looking to acquire or develop any more properties but just finish out the few condo conversions that we are doing and manage the apartment buildings currently in the portfolio...

I will be in the position to either find a new job in RE development or take the plunge (sooner than expected) of going on my own.

As I do some job searches I find positions that are interesting but that would be developing, raising capital, or acquiring properties for another organization and my thought is why do that for another company when I could be doing that on my own. The thought of going on my own excites me and what I want to do, however I only have about a 2 months capital reserve currently in the bank without liquidating anything and so I would be looking at going into some sort of debt.

If I go to another company I feel like it will be demoralizing and that I will not have the passion and work ethic that I would if I was on my own; however it would give me more time to gain experience and save more equity for a better time to go solo. I do have a couple projects that would provide a strong foundation if I go solo- raising capital for a distressed homebuilders fund, multiple client kitchen/bath renovations, development of 10-20 single family lots that a partner of mine owns which we are planning to develop, and 1 or 2 other opportunities but will not bring in cash flow for at least a few months. I also feel that I would miss out on these opportunities if I join another company as in that case I will not be able to commit the necessary time for these independent projects.

When I receive these emails, I get a little bit nervous because I fear that you might actually take my advice! So the first thing to remember is that there are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers. Odds are, you are going to be just fine going down any path.

That said, "trust your heart" can prove to be expensive when leverage is involved.

I would spend time on your Personal Plan before shifting to your Start-Up Business Plan (which you should write out in full and share with a respected adviser). Our society has romantic ideas about entrepreneurship that are far removed from the reality of owning your own business.

The first thing to do is read The E-Myth. That book helped me understand the roles required for entrepreneurial success as well as what often kills a business. Step back from the 'franchise' discussion and consider the broad strategic issues of simply achieving your business goals. Remember that a business exists to serve the aims of its owner. Do you know your aims?

That will help you frame the second thing... Do you know what you are good at? (Drucker summary and full article as well as more resources) Then consider if you enjoy doing what you are good at.

My Answer: I work as a consultant because I am good at project management, financial analysis, deal execution and strategic planning. My best skill is taking all of those components and expressing them in a clear written plan that is attractive to key decision makers. I spent the 90's doing that 50-80 hours per week.

Working solely on work was slowly killing me. I completely lost touch with my physical self (weak nutrition, no fitness, plenty of booze) and was disconnected to my spiritual side (never close to nature).

The solution was a position where I can alternate very intense periods of effort with recharging phases. However, this means that (absent change) I cannot be the CEO of a new company.

If you are talking about setting up a business then you are looking at a sustained, full-time total commitment. It is no different than what I write about elite athletics. The best CEOs that I know have tiny off-seasons and build their lives completely around the success of their businesses. World champion obsession.


In Private Equity, we break the business into three pieces: Deals; People; and Money.

Deals -- do you have access to attractive investment opportunities? Many markets are characterized by a magic circle of established players that have access to proprietary deal flow. The property market is characterized by incomplete information and many conflicts of interest. Good deals often succeed by using superior information. How good is your information?

People -- do you have the skills to capitalize on the investment opportunities? I was fortunate to have been taught by one of the best Private Equity teams in the world. Even today, I haven't met a group of people that comes close to the team that trained me. I was the lowest paid person (in the building!) when I joined but it was one of the happiest and fulfilling periods of my life. Being part of a winning team can be more fun than struggling in your own business.

Money -- do you have access to capital? On what terms? How do those terms compare to your competition? Established players have a big advantage here -- it is tough to be the new guy.

With the investment business that I co-founded, it took us five years before we were successful raising institutional equity -- we relied on individual equity. Over that five year period, I was cash flow negative every single year. All the while, we were ahead of our business plan.


Further thoughts to consider...

For more than a decade, investors would have had to do something stupid not to make a great return on any property investment. A sustained bull run leaves all players convinced of their deal selection 'skill'. We can't help but be influenced by this bias. As markets revert to the mean, most of us will find out that asset inflation, rather than investment smarts, drove our returns.

Do you know how to manage the capital that you have? Look at your personal track record with your own capital -- a two month personal reserve seems small at your age (but is not uncommon). People with the skills to be long term managers of funds demonstrate those skills (first) with their own capital. A great story from Asia...

Investment Banker Pitching Rich Local Man:
'So Mr. Lee, I think that this fund is an excellent opportunity for you.'

Mr. Lee to IB:
'Tell me, how much are you worth?'

IB: 'I'm worth over a million dollars.'

Mr. Lee: 'I'm worth over a hundred million. Why don't you give me your money and I'll see if I can do better for you.'

The best investors take care of their own money -- and -- treat their investors' money as if it was their own.

Market Timing -- most the reports that I am reading these days are talking about property inventory being clogged through to early 2009. These are huge generalizations and you need to consider your local situation. It is very tough for a small scale developer to make money in a flat market. Our early development deals only made money from asset appreciation -- frankly, we probably lost money on the development while we learned the ropes. Even today, we aren't experts. What we do is team up with experts and align our financial interests. There are a lot of ways to be ripped off in construction.

Against the current market background, building personal capital; broadening your skills base and studying under a smart investor -- could be time well-spent.

Family Capital -- if you can't raise start-up capital from sophisticated third parties then my advice would be don't do the deal. People will cite exceptions to this rule -- they exist but are exceedingly rare. If the market won't back you then there is information in their refusal. We have always been able to get our best ventures funded.

Missing Out -- Don't worry about that. This market will get cheaper, inventory will build and deal flow will increase. Your worst case scenario is that pricing will stay the same. Always be willing to lose a deal.

Cash Flow -- Make sure your can hold for at least a three years. One of my strategic goals for this year is to arrange funding through 2012 for my main client. Being able to hold through the bottom of the cycle is fundamental for long term returns.

Liquidating -- Twice in my career I have "sold everything" to invest in a new venture. It was good discipline to consider the new 'position' relative to my existing holding.

If you decide to go for a position with an existing team then consider people that are strongest in your weakest area -- when we go into business, we often partner with people that we've worked with before.

Hope this helps,

The Ultimate Success Formula for Triathletes

Part 1: The Theory
Alan Couzens MS (Sport Science), CSCS, PES

“The only secret of those of us training at Caulfield and Ferny Creek was the consistency of our training. None of us ever missed a day. As a result, all of us were improving. Although each of our sessions would physically stretch us, we never finished a day so exhausted that we were unable to train to the same standard the following day.”
- Ron Clarke (18 time World Record Holder in Distance Running)

I just got back from a trip to Australia to visit the folks and see my sister get married. It really is a long, awful flight and even now, 4 days back I am still feeling the effects. On the positive side of things, I did get a lot of reading done on the long flight. One of the books that I re-read was Jack Canfield’s Success Principles. I am a big fan of the personal development genre and within this genre, Canfield’s book has to be one of my favourites. When reading one of the chapters on “paying the price” it got my mind thinking about the similarities between Canfield’s message and that of another of my favourite authors in this field, Tony Robbins.

Tony Robbins has to be one of the most well-known success gurus of this century. I am a big fan of his in general, but one of my favourite Tony Robbins’ principles is something that he calls the “Ultimate Success Formula”. The thing that I really love about this formula is it’s simplicity. Basically (paraphrasing), it goes something like; there are 4 key steps to success in any endeavour:

1. Define your outcome
2. Model the behaviour of those who have achieved your outcome
4. Develop the sensory acuity to know the results you are getting and modify your actions accordingly.

In my opinion, this formula can just as appropriately be applied to the field of triathlon as it can to anything else, business, relationships etc. As a coach, the thing that is striking to me is the rarity that most athletes actually follow through with the most important step - #4. Just about every semi-serious triathlete out there has a goal of some description. Many of them have also sought out a mentor, in the form of a book or a coach, to help give them some clues of how to go about achieving their goal. The serious ones also don’t have a problem taking ‘massive action’. Some also do a fantastic job of obsessively logging the details of their workouts. However, the air is starting to get pretty thin when we look at the peak triathletes who actually analyse and use this data that they collect to determine the future direction of their training.

For many of us, the process of devising a training plan is analogous to the following scenario: You decide that you want to take a trip from Orlando, FL to the tiny mountain town of Nederland, CO. So, being a relative novice traveller, you go to the map store and buy a large scale map of the continental US. You set off from Orlando and follow the interstates on your way to Colorado, but when you reach the border, you are shocked that you can’t find Nederland anywhere on your map. So, rather than taking stock of where you are and pulling into a gas station to refine your search with a smaller scale map, you decide that Rand McNally doesn’t know what he’s talking about & you go searching for a different map of the continental US from a different publisher. Of course, this map doesn’t have your final destination on it either. End result, you jump from one guys large scale map to the next without ever paying attention to where your current route has landed you or refining your search to determine your future direction and you never make it to your destination.

The best athletes around get this. I first met Gordo at Epic Camp 2006. I was coming off a couple of pretty solid months of training, including 2 x 30hr weeks and I was feeling pretty good about my ability to keep working with a high volume approach. At the first opportunity I had, I spoke with Gordo about my recent training and where I should go from here. His first question and one which, to a large extent, inspired this blog, was “is it working for you?” It shocked me, but I really didn’t have a solid answer to the question. Sure, I was obsessively monitoring the details of every workout, but I wasn’t, at least in any measurable way, taking the time to analyse the data to determine what training stimuli yielded the greatest improvement and, whatsmore, my plan for the future was based strictly on my assumption that more volume = more results. I was following 2 of the 3 steps in the Training Peaks ‘monitor, analyse, plan’ credo, but my plans, in no way, shape or form were influenced by all of the data that I was monitoring.

Even now, the tendency is always to believe that I could do more than I currently am, if only....

For a good portion of the past 12 months my basic goal has been 3 hours a day of training. Did I base this on my average volume for 2006? Nope. Did I take into account that I was little more than a month out of a wheelchair after my hip surgery when I set these lofty goals? Nope. My plan was based solely on the volume that I believed I would need in order to be competitive in my age group over the Iron Distance in 2007 and 2008. This is one of the most common and harmful mistakes that I come across as a coach on a daily basis. Type-A age group athletes typically let their goals for the season dictate their rate of improvement rather than letting their rate of improvement dictate their seasonal goals. This is one of the reasons that it is so difficult to develop over the long term as a self-coached athlete. It is true that, as a society, we have a tendency to greatly overestimate what we can accomplish in a year, while grossly underestimating what we can achieve in a decade purely by applying unrelenting patience and persistence.

Hopefully by now, I have convinced you that in order to ‘train smart’ in ’08 and beyond, it is important to determine the efficacy of your training plan to this point. In order to do this a couple of questions need to be answered:

1. What was your training methodology in ’07?
Pay attention to the word methodology, as opposed to plan. What you intended to do at the start of the year is far less important than what actually got done.

Note: With improved sensory acuity the gap between what you intend to do and what you do will shorten. This can make a big difference to your confidence and your belief in yourself as an athlete.

2. Did your training methodology bring about the desired results?
The 2 results that I definitely want to achieve for each and every athlete, each and every year are:
a) A rise in the athlete’s ability to tolerate work, measured by an increase in volume AND intensity from year to year.
b) An improvement in the athlete’s performance standards from one year to the next.

Stay tuned for part II of this article, where I will outline some of the specific numbers that you can track in your log on a daily basis in order to effectively answer these questions and how to track these metrics over time to determine what is working for you.

Beyond Achievement

We have a family tradition of buying pajamas for Christmas. This year, I modified it by purchasing Monica a red bikini. However, my editorial board has instituted a new policy regarding bikini photos --"Clavicle Up". I managed to get this one past my publisher, it is one of my favorites.

Alternative Perspectives has an new piece by Clas on Damage Control. The photo he sent is a keeper. Bike skills work, Swedish Style.


What are you going to do after you win IMC?
-- Monica, October 2007

In the Northern Hemisphere the mixture of long nights, weak December nutrition and overall holiday stress can leave us with the need to “take action”. Armed with a burning desire “to do something” we often sit down and write out our New Year’s Resolutions.

I consider my life on a quarterly basis. Monica, jokes that if she doesn’t like my personal plan then she only needs to wait a week and we will have another one. She’s quite patient and doesn’t voice objections until it looks like I might actually do something.

This week’s letter isn’t about the right action to take – I’ll leave that to you. What I am going to do is share my experience on what has driven me towards the actions that I have taken in the past.

Scott wrote a great piece about how he motivates himself. This letter is about what is motivating me.

Did you get the distinction there?

There are tricks, tactics, habits and strategies that we can employ to do the work necessary to achieve our goals. That’s Molina’s piece.

There is the psychological profile that underlies the selection of our goals in the first place. That’s this piece.

Some common goals:

  • Lose X pounds by Y date
  • Walk X minutes Y times per week
  • Save $X per Y
  • Qualify for X
  • Break X hours for Y event
  • Get my NAV to $X

Various goals of mine:

  • Finish an Ironman
  • Train at least 25 hours per week as many weeks as possible
  • Win Keauhou Kona Triathlon, Ultraman Hawaii, IM Canada or IM New Zealand
  • Qualify for Ironman Hawaii
  • Swim the English Channel or Rottnest Channel.
  • Swim sub-6 400 IM or sub-20 1500 LCM free
  • Swim, bike, run across America
  • Reach one person, one thousand people, or one million people
  • NAV equal to five/ten/twenty years of personal expenses (indexed/not indexed)
  • Own a house/flat/cottage anywhere, in Boulder, in New Zealand, in San Francisco, in Arizona, in the mountains, in Noosa, in Paris or in Scotland
  • Raise $5 million, $50 million, $250 million, or $1 billion for a client
  • Write a book about Ironman Training, Personal Excellence or my life
  • Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Denali, Mt Cook, Mont Blanc, Mt Tasman, Cho Oyu, Mt Vinson or Aconcagua
  • Run the Leadville 100, Run Boulder to Vail, Run the Hong Kong Trailwalker
  • Sail to France, to Antigua or around the World

Goals are items that we are actively working towards – everything else is dreams or personal legends.

When we combine moderate talent with extreme work ethic then we will achieve results in most areas. If we stumble into a field where we have some real aptitude then results can be amazing -- especially with the tailwind of favorable conditions (and a bit of luck).

Do you notice a theme across my list?


One of the greatest motivators in my life has been the pursuit of “things other people don't do”.

My friend, Kevin Purcell, once marveled at my ability to leave a goal after I achieve it. Finish one job and move along to my next task. It was an honest complement on non-attachment. However, I was deeply attached to my true motivator – self-affirmation through relative performance.

If you share this trait then be wary of placing yourself in a position where you are surrounded by people that are superior achievers of your goals. For personal satisfaction, you will need to spend time in an environment where you are able to exhibit relative out-performance.

“In a team, it is important for everyone to get a chance to be strong”. That’s a tip from Scott Molina – a guy that seems to get along with just about everyone.

“Envy, not greed, makes the world go ‘round”. That one is Warren Buffet, a man with a lot of first hand experience on what motivates people.


Six years ago I can remember feeling the absolute healthiest of my life. I have memories of lying in bed and enjoying breath after breath of cool, calm air. I had completed 12 weeks of intensive yoga and freed many restrictions.

This “health” memory came to me in early December when I realized that I was, once again, lying in bed felling very good. For the first time in six years I was free of soreness and deep fatigue. There are two constants in the life of an elite athlete – fatigue and soreness. Learning to cope with this fact is a large part of the mental game of ultra endurance sport.

In December 2001, a sport psychologist asked me “why do you want to do triathlon”? I answered without doubt, “because it is what I was born to do”.

What I meant was triathlon is work and I was born to work – therefore – I was born for triathlon.

That is the second great motivating force in my life. Some people have a high capacity to complete/absorb/enjoy work. When you mix excellent process management skills, moderate talent and inherent work ethic – you get results.

The purest form of motivation is an enjoyment of work. People, situations, habits and choices that impair our work ethic are extremely hazardous to a life with meaning.

The back-story is that having got my health back, I am not sure if I want to spend another year really tired and sore!


Remember five years ago and consider the events that stand out in your mind.

When I think back to 2002 the key aspects are:

  • Totally frying myself in an attempt to win KKT
  • Taking two months off as a result of being grossly overtrained
  • Co-founding a property investment company
  • Training four weeks for IMC then repeating my time from the previous year
  • Winning Ultraman Hawaii

Which of these are “good” and which are “bad”? That depends on your point of view.

Every item in that list is a requirement to get to the end, winning Ultraman Hawaii. At the time, winning Ultraman was a great event for me. As a result of winning in 2002, I went back in 2003… …and nearly died.

Not so great!

But then again… the forced rest may have been the difference between success and failure in 2004.


Pulling it all together…

  • In setting goals, consider the motivating factors behind your list.
  • If you are motivated by relative performance then schedule periods where you can shine.
  • For goals that require sustained effort over time: focus on areas that you deeply enjoy; and remove people/attitudes/perceptions/habits that are barriers to the work necessary to achieve.

If you are fortunate enough to experience high level achievement then your vocation will likely become your identity. I have experienced this in a few fields. Examples:

  • Scott Tinley was Triathlon -- solid article
  • Tom Dolan was Swimming -- that guy could train
  • Key founders are their businesses -- remember this when you negotiate
  • Great champions are their sports
  • World-class achievers are their goals
  • Addicts are their habits

If a recession, divorce, injury, or the passage of time removes an expression of identity then it is painful. Alternative interests are personal insurance policies, even Lance had his foundation.

The Tinley interview discusses a champion coming to terms with his sport. My personal experience is life-transitions (divorce, illness, injury, career change) force me to come to terms with myself. Specifically, I am forced to cope with the death of an identity.

Die a few times and it becomes easier to cope.


What lies beyond achievement?


Peace has a lot of different names and levels of experience. Some other names... The Zone, Flow, Exhaustion, Satisfaction, The Pump, Whole Body Experience, Zen, Endorphins, Open, Harmony, Relaxation, Well Being, Health...

The chemical signature of achievement feels a lot like peace.

Rather than sloth, peace is my counterbalance to work. The quest for peace driving my 'pure' motivation. Seems a bit crazy to spend one's life chasing peace... I don't know. If that's what is really driving me then it takes a lot of the burden off -- the list above is daunting.

I have often confused silence (or nothing) with peace. Many of my self-destructive habits/patterns stem from this confusion. Anger, fear, intoxication -- the far side of each of these feel close to peace, but isn't. I suspect that Big Pharma uses this pathway to create a perception of well being in its users. I lump all these 'nothings' into the category of False Gods -- the list changes over time -- perhaps because the truest addiction is to that peaceful vibe.

Artists, comedians, writers, CEOs, investment bankers, endurance athletes -- peace is where we get to. Part of the process of "getting there" is the drive to "get it out" of us. At times our gifts can feel like curses.

That's enough for today. Running a bit long!


Here’s my January 2008 list:

  • Successful marriage based on kindness and respect
  • Peaceful Listening
  • Retreats with Nature
  • Wake-up Early
  • Ethical life with meaning

Where is the relative achievement? Could be lurking in #5, not sure.

To know others, intelligence
To know yourself, wisdom
-- Lao Tsu

Effective communication is about getting a person to listen (first) then think (second). Monica is a very effective communicator.

Still searching,

The Baron On Damage Control

Clas shares some practical tips on coping with unplanned lay-offs.  

Above is how modern Vikings take-it-easy over the winter.  Clas claims that motorsports enhance bike handling skills.
Even if you have read my previous articles 5 or more times and happen to get injured, over trained or sick, don’t freak out. Getting worked up will not help your situation at all. The best thing you can do to speed up your recovery is to accept it, stay positive and spend more time on other things in your life that make you feel good.

No matter the degree of your over training, injury, or illness, in my experience there are a few things you can do to help speed your recovery. Of course you can use these things even if you do not have an injury or illness that forces you to take a break. I think that most of us would be even better athletes if we could be a little more “human” in our living for a few months every year. If we want to perform 100% at a few races every year, then I believe that we must also let ourselves perform at 50% at least for a few month every year. If not, then I feel you may risk having your body perform at 90% all year round.

Take a break after the season, do some other fun things for a few months. Keep your running, swimming and stretching going, but keep it light. Then when you start training again your body and mind will be ready to push for another 9-10 months.

I've brought up a few of these things in my previous articles, but I bring them up again because they are very important for your recovery.

I will mix up some concrete ideas with some basic writing in regards to having an illness or injury. I know the subject is what to do if you already have a illness or injury, but I hope most of you are injury free and want to share some ideas so you can stay that way.

First of all, when an injury or illness occurs, see a good sports physiologist, doctor, or literature on your problem so you can get started on a good recovery program. The sooner you get professional help the sooner you will be back on the road. Ask your friends if they have someone they would recommend.

The above advice also includes minor injuries that you deal with during daily training. If you know you have a weak spot, work on it daily, or at least weekly. Some of us, like myself, are not yoga gurus that can make a knot of our own bodies. So, if you know you are tight, don’t wait until you get injured before you stretch. Make it a daily routine to stretch for at least an hour on your days off from training.

If you keep a training journal, also include the hours you spend stretching. These hours can be more valuable than some of the hours you spend out on the road.

Once you have more information about your illness/injury and have started your recovery program you should have a good idea how long it will take until you will be back on the road. Even if your break is a few months to a year, try to make something good out of it. This is a good time to focus on all the items that get neglected during your regular periods of training.

If you happen to develop some chronic fatigue your energy will be VERY, VERY limited and you must be careful with not doing too much. Spend your energy finding a good doctor that has experience with treating illnesses like this. I doubt that you will get the right treatment from a regular doctor because this illness is so complex and you have to treat your body on many different levels which most doctors don’t have experience doing. This is the illness that I have the most experience with and because your energy is so limited it’s even more important to spend the energy on the right things and with the right people. Your life doesn’t stop because you are ill or injured, so, you might as well do something productive with your time.

Here is a list of some random ideas for you if you have/want to take a break from training.

1. Learn to speak a new language or to play an instrument…….

2. Spend more time with your family and friends. (Choose the ones that bring you energy and make you laugh)

3. Spend more energy on your job (If this makes you feel good and brings you more energy, otherwise leave it out)

If you are a professional athlete like myself who doesn’t have a “real” job, then try to get one. When my energy got better, I found it very useful for my mind to get a part-time job to have something else then just training to think about. This can also provide financial stability when prize money is not an option.

4. Learn more about items that will be useful when you resume training and racing. For example, learning more about nutrition or overall training philosophy (this is okay as long as it doesn’t make you feel stressed because you can’t train as you want)

5. If you can still do a little bit of activity but have to stay away from your particular sport, why not try learning some other sport that doesn’t affect your injury or illness. This could be anything from motor sports to yoga. Learning new things can be very fun and bring you a lot of energy.

6. Take a vacation or go on a retreat. Go alone or with a few of your favorite people. This is a great time to get to know others better or if alone, rediscover yourself. Some of us have been so busy for so many years that we barely know ourselves.

Take some time to reflect on your life and what you want to achieve in the future. Evaluating yourself can be a little bit depressing at first because it can be the first time that you've ever experienced something that took you out of your normal routine. It may also be the first time you've realized that the things you are doing might not go on for ages. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you are doing, but if you at least know it won’t go on for ever, then you might put some more effort into enjoying it as much as possible while it lasts.

These are the sort of things that I have done over the last year that have helped me in my recovery. It’s very easy to get depressed, sad, or angry when you get a long lasting illness or injury, but it’s okay if life sucks sometimes (as a good friend of mine told me) and it’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. However, it won’t help your recovery if this happens too often.

Many people have told me, and I've slowly started to believe them, that it’s often after a injury or illness that forces you to learn new things that will help you grow as an athlete and come back even stronger than before.

Instead of freaking out, get the best professional help you can, enjoy your break and you will be back stronger then ever.

Best regards
Clas Björling

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.

Risks and Returns

That's Monica on Sunshine Beach, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. That's the real name of the place! While I'm not much of a beach guy, the scenery has been worthwhile.

This week I'm talking about finance and company valuation. If you would prefer a solid endurance article then Coach KP writes about Ironman Pacing on Alternative Perspectives.

This week's announcements run a bit long. I'll update on our Tucson camp next week -- we still have a couple of spaces.


Brad Kearns has a project called Running School (aka Running's Cool). The idea is to educate elementary and middle school kids/teachers/parents about nutrition and exercise. The program touches on a lot of things that we believe in. Brad started at his kids' school and is planning on branching out to other schools. You can clickthrough to find out how to help him with the worthwhile cause. We are sponsoring a school in 2008.

A reader sent in this speech by the former Chairman of Bankers Trust (good stuff, thanks for thinking of me). The fourth paradox (about moderation and extremism) rang most true. It is worth a read.

There are other speeches by Sanford on that site -- his defense of Financial Services puts forward a good case. Reality lies between Business School speeches and books like The Game, Liars Poker, Barbarians at the Gate and The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I'm surprised this didn't get more comment... getting paid tens of millions to run a business which writes $10 billion off then walking with $162 million for failing to see it coming. This is not an isolated incident -- only the scale makes it noteworthy.

In hedge funds, trading and investment banking, there is a massive incentive to game the system. Given the amount of leverage available to these companies, there should be clear disclosure and firm regulation. When it really hits the fan, taxpayers are the ones that ultimately foot the bill.


This past weekend, I read a book on the Enron collapse, The Smartest Guys In The Room. When I arrived at the end of the book I was left with two impressions. First, it is terrifying how fast a highly leveraged vehicle can unwind. Second, I have read that story before.

The problems, and financial techniques, that are part of the Enron story aren’t unique. They have been used, and abused, prior to Enron (computer leasing, software maintenance) and after Enron (sub-prime crisis).



In addition to giving me the advice to “save 10% of what you earn”, my Dad also told me to “never have more than 10% of your net worth in a company you don’t directly control”. The people most hurt by the Enron collapse violated this key tenet of investment strategy.

Even if you are an insider, be wary of monster bets. There have been stages in my investment career where I had more than 100% of my net worth riding on a single company (but it was "my" company). While this ensures “focus”, I feel that I am more effective with a significant, rather than total financial commitment.


The Deal You Don't Do

If you are in a leadership position then you must foster a culture where it is OK to make a little less money. This helps maintain business, and personal, ethics. Senior management must empower, and support, team leaders that walk, rather than compromise company values. This is _extremely_ hard to do when large amounts of money are on the table. I have seen private equity partners eat hundreds of thousands of dollars in dead deal costs.


Return on Capital Employed (ROCE)

Towards the end of the Enron book, the topic of the company’s return on investment comes up. A figure of 7% per annum is quoted. The basis of measurement isn’t clear from the text. Here’s how I define it…

Cash Flow Before Interest and Taxes


Capital Investment Required to Sustain That Cash Flow

Take that and divide by “Net Debt Plus Shareholders Funds”

Tracking this figure back ten years for a business, and its peer group, can tell you quite a bit. Can’t go back ten years? Then place a discount on the quality of those earnings.

A lot of people use “Depreciation & Amortization” instead of “Capital Investment Required…”. If you choose that method then know that your number can be skewed by the recent capital investment history of the firm (and industry) you are evaluating. Age, and capacity, of capital employed should be considered.

Other folks like to use “Earnings” rather than “Cash Flow”. I prefer cash flow because generating cash is the financial purpose of business.

Attractive businesses have a high ROCE and good management teams know their ROCE.

If you meet a company without a clear focus on ROCE then a red flag should go up. It isn’t the only metric but (for businesses with more than just human capital) it is an important figure to track.


Profit Recognition and Asset Valuation

Inside the book, there is a clear explanation of Mark-to-Market vs. Historical Cost accounting. They are two different methods used to achieve the same goal – a true and fair picture of a company’s financial position. Enron went wrong in its application of its valuation methods as well as its employee rewards structure.

The questions to ask:

Does the business have any contracts/transactions/projects that extend greater than one year? What is the recognition basis for revenue, income and capital uplift on these projects? Describe the nature of historical revenue/cost/value revisions on these contracts. What are the key assumptions that underpin profit recognition and project valuation?

How does employee compensation relate to the assumptions used on the above transactions? Specifically, who benefits and how do they benefit?

Rapidly growing businesses with a material part of their income statement (or balance sheet) linked to management judgment are risky with lower quality earnings. They can still make good investment targets.

If management fails to give clear, immediate answers on the above questions – red flag should go up.


Off-Balance Sheet Financing

This one often gets companies (and people) into trouble. The main reason to use off-balance sheet financing is to raise debt over-and-above a prudent level. There can be times when these techniques make economic sense.

These structures bite when a company (or person) hits hard times. In particular, financial and performance guarantees can create large, and sudden, liabilities. A business with weak internal controls can have large hidden contingent liabilities.

Some questions to consider:

Have you used any of the company’s shares, assets, or guarantees to support (formally, or informally) projects outside of the company’s balance sheet? Has any outside entity guaranteed (formally, or informally) any aspect of the company’s operations?

Have any members of the management team issued personal guarantees (for any reason) to any financial institution connected to, or separate from, the company? If yes then please supply the specifics.

In the mid-90s, we would go as far as having key management warranty their NAV statements. You can learn a lot about a senior management team by the way they manage their personal finances. In the recent era of covenant-lite financing and non-doc loans, I expect this practice may have fallen away.

If there is a lot going on, or if you can’t figure out why things are going on, then don’t touch the business, or the manager. It’s not worth it.


Bottom Line

The senior person leading the transaction should ask the CEO these questions. As well, ask employees in accounts, sales/origination and operations/fulfillment. Remember that large frauds start as small frauds – always be willing to walk away.

People want to do the right thing but often feel trapped by their situations. For this reason, you need to ask the questions, a lot of questions. You will save capital (and time) by talking to management before investing.

As personal investors, we rarely have the ability to check these questions with large companies. That is why I don’t invest in the stock market. If you feel that you must have stock market exposure then I recommend a low-cost, broad index fund.

Good luck,


Racing Long

Kevin knows more than most about converting fitness to performance. Not only can he write about this topic, he has lived it, repeatedly.

I hope you enjoy this article.

When I guide clients toward their IM goals, I like to use Power, PE and HR. Used together, those three data points can give the clearest picture of real time efforts on the bike, cardiovascular stress on the body, fueling and hydration issues. As a coach who reviews power files of athletes seeking to race to potential, I often uncover key nuggets of data that are critical to unlocking the ability to execute a superior race plan; a plan that gives them the opportunity to run 26.2 miles _well_ off the bike. That race plan should include pre-race fueling (breakfast), correct swim, bike, run efforts and specific, individual hydration and fueling strategies. This is a good time to pause and say that not everybody needs a power meter to race well. Some athletes crack the code without using power or monitoring HR. If you feel you are one of those guys or gals, rock on!

If you find yourself under performing at your AAA race, listen up, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not many athletes nail their first IM. When it happens you’ll find somebody who did more than get fit; they also studied. Interestingly, many in this fraternity struggle in subsequent IMs. Given the fact that nearly everyone shows up to IM fit, and that much of the field underperforms relative to training markers, we can assume that important questions that focus on race execution are going unanswered or ignored. Our personal 'best races' will happen when we feel no fear and have the confidence that we are well prepared. Having race ‘experience’ implies that we have had the opportunity to answer questions that relate to execution. What type of experience you bring to the table is dependant on whether you learn from your success and/or failure. It is imperative that an athlete be honest with self about past performance and racing/training efforts; identifying what needs to happen to catapult to the next level. Beyond fitness, what needs to happen? (1) often it is finding the focus to complete and execute your race plan within specific efforts levels more than a specific time goal. (2) I think it wise to begin by focusing on personal excellence; which results in your fastest finish time. (3) for many athletes struggling to get it right, training and race experiences highlight this truth – there is a need to reduce efforts over the early part of the race. (4) many athletes fail to understand that to perform, we need to structure our preparation so that IM becomes routine as possible. With those thoughts in mind, I have some suggestions.

IM requires that we have a plan. Then, you need the ability to discern whether the plan was executed effectively. Often, athletes use ‘end of race’ power averages as a way to help answer that question. Good stuff, because a well executed IM bike will show quite specific power averages. However, averages don’t readily acknowledge tactical errors, power spikes, fading watts, rising HRs and declining power. Averages may hide events that render a plan obsolete. You can have great looking ‘entire ride’ averages and blow yourself to bits. Those who study successfully executed IMs will tell you that vast majority of the races they examine have _very_ similar characteristics. In fact, many of us believe that even those athletes that do not use a power meter would produce power files similar to successful athletes who do ride with meters. In other words, while it is not necessary to ride with a power meter to execute well, using one can benefit athletes that struggle while relying on PE and HR.

What should entire ride averages look like? I have heard some suggest that the range for correct power over a flat IM bike might be from an average of 65% of FTP for the less fit, to above 75% of FTP for the very fit (Functional Threshold Power being defined by Andrew Coggan as a well executed, best effort, avg power over a 60min TT). In my practice, I have found a smaller range signals success // more like 70-73% FTP. Averages in the 74-75% range may be successfully used by the very fittest athletes riding 4:30 and running sub3 marathons because their race day is abbreviated relative to most of the field. Even for the elite of the elite, riding above avg 75% FTP for an IM ride while hoping to have a lifetime best run attached appears optimistic. If it has worked that way for you, and you are riding 5-6hr bike splits you might consider that identified FTP was low // or that you may still have a better run in you over 26.2 miles off the bike. Very few athletes will purposely choose to ride harder, knowing they are hurting their run, hoping that it upsets their competition’s race plan in a significant way.

An important point -- I think very wide ranges of % FTP used in IM (correctly or incorrectly) are associated with a foggy notion of what FTP really was to begin with (high or low) prior to race, and those foggy numbers become even less clear when early pacing errors and poor fueling tactics begin to skew data beyond usability. As we move away from relative elite fitness or the very strong AGer, we generally move toward the less experienced athlete. The less experienced athlete is typically less able to identify FTP in a way that accurately translates to a 5.5 to 6.5 hour ride + fueling + successful marathon. However, in my experience, if/when the less experienced, moderately fit athlete does ID correct power ranges, either alone or with an advisor, the average percentage of FTP used over an IM is still in the 70% range, as long as they find a real FTP number.

Again and again and I see athletes over estimating FTP through a 20min test, or by sitting up the last 5min to boost numbers or by focusing too much of training on swelling threshold power numbers without confirming execution of correct IM efforts over 5-6hrs of biking as it fits into 9-12hrs of racing. Not only do I think a 20min TT is too short as a test, it doesn't seem to translate well to a 5-6 hour ride. I have found the 30min best effort TT (-5%) to be a relatively good proxy for the 60min test. Still, the 60min TT is better, and past successful HIM and IM performance with excellent runs attached the best.

An athlete’s threshold and correct IM power ranges are initially located through the relatively short but tough test mentioned above and then can be tracked over time. The second, more difficult and confirming test (say, race simulation ride or a Big Day Brick) is used more sparingly over the last 10-12 weeks in specific prep, prior to your AAA race. It is a reality check. The best predictors of IM performance are the KEY workouts in specific prep and the library an athlete builds of past IM performances; the races with good runs attached // not the 30-60min TT for threshold power. The short tests are quit helpful, but not enough. Athletes who depend on short test FTP numbers alone, often use about 5-10w too much over the first half of the course; just enough to cause digestive disturbance, significant dehydration and a sub-optimal run.

CyclePeaks gives your power file a Variability Index: VI is normalized power divided by average power. Does a tight VI mean you raced optimally? If an athlete incorrectly names his/her race efforts via power, a tight VI does not represent optimal race execution, only good execution of a faulty plan. Further, because an athlete's optimal plan should show quite a bit of variable power on courses with terrain changes, an overview of execution should include the athlete's approach to flats, rollers, extended climbs and descents. Correctly identifying the %FTP to be used over variable terrain and riding tactically will result in a tight VI. In my experience, VI has less to do with the actual power used and everything to do with how the power is applied. A larger VI reflects power spikes (the way power is applied or removed suddenly // it is tactical). Tactics in IM, where we successfully run a marathon off the bike, are different that those used in bike only races.

Over the course of an IM, an athlete can shift from seconds of threshold watts (100% of FTP) while cresting a climb, to moderately hard power used on extended climbs (80-86% FTP) to steady flat efforts (70-73% FTP) to soft pedaling descents (say 50-65% FTP or less) and still ride with a tight VI. In fact, if done correctly, averages will fall in that 70-73% range. It is the transition from one power to the next that can damage your ability to run well. Your strongest race via power will have a tight VI if you obey power caps and shift efforts purposefully. Power spikes are what make VI large. Example: at IM Hawaii, a ride with steady efforts on flats, moderately hard efforts on rollers and extended climbs, seconds of well placed threshold efforts and soft pedaling the descents, will give a VI near 1.04 if shifting efforts is done carefully. I think anything over 1.05 for IM is failure to execute optimally with regards to running your best for 26.2 off the bike.

My must do’s prior and during an IM Race == >

1) correctly identify FTP with 95% of 30min TT power (minimum) or 60min TT for some. Use these numbers in conjunction with PE and HR and *note if and when power can be tactically misleading (heat, dehydration, calories intake, etc).

2) corroborate findings above as correct IM efforts over 5-6hr race simulation ride // or better yet, as part of Big Day Brick where ride and run-off follows race breakfast and tough 4-5k swim (very helpful).

3) in specific prep, marry results from #1 and #2 with correct HR caps, experienced PE and proper fueling

4) use varied power that fits specific parts of the course (climbs, rollers, flats, descents). Use established threshold and VO2 watts as max caps to be used rarely or numbers never to be seen.

5) *apply variable power changes while avoiding power spikes* (resulting in VI at or below 1.05)

6) fuel the bike as part of your determination of race execution – they are intimately connected. If you cannot eat and stay aero at a given effort, and then run well, you better seriously consider a new bike position and/or your named FTP. Give yourself a chance to run to potential!

*For best pre-race preparation I'd like to see a greater emphasis placed on field tested FTP (not indoors) melded with well executed long race simulation workouts (breakfast, swim, bike + run-off.

In addition to Power, I pay close attention to HR guidelines as heart rate is an objective measure of cardiovascular strain. You might have a very accurate idea of threshold power and power guidelines for your IM, but if you don’t fuel and hydrate well, your performance will suffer early, perhaps even ending your race should you fail to slow down and correct the errors to that point. In IM, I strongly suggest you monitor heart rate over riding by power alone. Beware of thinking those numbers are redundant; the two markers tell different tales. I always track Power, HR and PE. In problem situations, if things get funny (as they sometimes do) I may have to go with PE, lower HRs and alter my plan until my body returns to a recognizable working order. Ironman is a long day. Acceptance can be difficult. One of the great lessons of IM is found in the frustration that comes from poorly executed races. They force the athlete who is listening to accept reality. There is always a reason things go right – and there is always a reason things deteriorate. We all know someone who at times can race very well on PE alone. If that isn’t you, hang in there; it’s possible for everyone to figure this IM puzzle out.


How To Avoid Over Training--Part Two

So what have I learned from my experience and other ideas I have to avoid over training in general??

***Listen to your body and mind. I know it’s hard because we are so used to being able to push trough everything which works most of the time allowing us to bounce back pretty quickly. However, there comes a time when you have been pushing and pushing for so long that your body and mind are starting to act against you. When things don't feel right and this feeling persists, please take a step back and look at your whole situation before you run yourself down.

***Set goals and build a race/training schedule that makes you perform at your best but that you can manage without counting on a miracle.

***Rest before you are totally wiped out. It’s better to take an extra easy day or a complete day off every week then having to take a year off due illness.

***Training breaks you down; resting/ recovery builds you up. Build your training around your easy days/days off and not the other way around.

***If you get extra stress from things outside of training, don’t try counter this stress with even more training. Train a little less when you are busy with other things, and train more when your schedule is less full. Our bodies can only handle a certain amount of stress. Sometimes we can train 40 hours a week and still recover and get stronger, but sometimes we get rundown in a 15 hour week. Be a little flexible!!

***It can be a good idea to have other things in life that are important to you other then training and racing. We need a balanced life and with a balanced life we get harmony in our bodies and when we have harmony in our bodies then they respond much better to all the things we want them to do--like recover better from training.

When only one thing in your life is important then you can get yourself in trouble because one day you may have to stay away from that thing. I that thing gets taken away, your life can get pretty tough and boring and that can let you down. Keep in mind that we need to be balanced.

***During the times when you put extra stress on your body try to give your body the best fuel possible and try and get a lot of sleep.

***If you happen to put yourself over the edge, don’t freak out. Look at your schedule and cut out all the things that are not VERY IMPORTANT. You need to minimize the stress on your body, both physically and mentally. Do things that make you relax and happy.

***Our minds are the most incredible things that are on this planet. With our minds we can climb Mount Everest, finish an Ironman (and fast if you want it badly enough), be able to survive deadly illnesses, it’s just a question how badly we want to achieve things.

With our minds we can also set ourselves back. We can focus on the wrong things, start thinking negative, we can get in our own way prohibiting recovery and happiness. It’s okay if life sucks sometimes, that’s just how life is. When day after day, week after week, you are feeling like life just has negative and dark things to offer you. Then I think you are not trying your best and you need to try to see things in a different way.

It’s up to you how you want to see life. If you are always being negative and seeing everything in black, life will probably just bring you negative things, but if you can start to see the positive and bright things in life then life will bring you more positive.

In the beginning, it can be hard to find these positives, but as soon as you find them you can probably start to see them everywhere.

***Be patient, both to achieve things in sport and with things in life. It’s like my over training. I didn’t get myself in this situation by doing a long run a little bit too hard or skipped a rest day one. I have pushed myself over the edge slowly over the last couple of years and even when I passed the edge I kept pushing. It will probably take me about the same time to come back to 100 % health.

***Focus on things in life that bring you energy. If they don’t, try to see things you are doing from another view and if they still don't give you energy, you should probably let go of these things and do something else. This can be sport, jobs, friends, relationships.

These are the things I can think of when it comes to trying to stay healthy and injury free. I’m sure I have forgotten a few important things, but if you come up with something that I missed, please send me an email clasbjorling "at" hotmail "dot" com It could help me and others improve our energy and health.

Remember to stay balanced. I think that’s one of the most important components if you want to live a long and happy life.

Best regards

Health & Athletic Longevity

“If I don’t race for the rest of my life then I might be able to repair the damage that I did to myself”
-- Mark Allen, 6-time Ironman World Champion

There have been times where I have lost sight of the long term health benefits from physical activity. As a result, I have fried myself (over doing it) or not bothered to do anything at all (not doing it). These two errors arise from a mental disconnect between fitness and health.


Alan’s blog has a good piece on early season training. He lays out the choices that face an athlete. Stepping back to the larger issue of personal health, they represent phases of our athletic lives.

Phase One – one hour of activity per day
For most people this would consist of walking for an hour (five days a week) and strength training (two days a week). This is achievable by nearly everyone and will maximize longevity when applied on a lifetime basis.

Invest a single hour a day to extend, and enhance, the quality of your life. Our photo this week is me and "my rock". From our condo in Noosa, I takes me 35 minutes to get to the rock. No matter how tired/sore I am feeling... I gotta make it to the rock.

Choosing _not_ to apply this level of activity will impair your quality of life, the only question is when.

Most people wait until heart disease, cancer or death of their parents spurs them to action.

If you find that an hour of daily activity isn’t “enough” to manage your body composition then you are using exercise to continue dysfunctional eating habits. I have spent years using exercise to avoid adjusting my eating patterns.

Phase Two – Standard Basic Week
An outline for triathlon is included below – this program represents achievable athletic excellence within a life that includes family; friends; and business success.

The program is an outline for the athletic component required for (one definition of) personal excellence. It is well above the minimum for personal health.

Only a minority will choose this level of commitment. As a result, you can perform better than most your peers when you use it consistently. Relative to the general population, athletes at this level are very high achievers – many will not think so because they fixate on Phase Three athletes.

You need some genetic gifts to support this level of training across a lifetime – it involves a lot of mileage! The gifts are not in terms of VO2max (maximum aerobic capacity) rather, they are gifts of superior immune system function; excellent biomechanics and above average connective tissue durability.

Phase Three – Advanced Basic Week
If you want to achieve the absolute maximum out of your body then trying this phase makes sense. However, not everyone improves at this level of training, some people get slower and will optimize their athletic performance by sticking at Phase Two.

That last point is worth repeating. For every athlete, there is a point where additional training load will lead to reduced athletic performance. I know a number of excellent athletes that have failed to sustain early success when they “got serious” and upped training stress.

I also know a (very) few gifted freaks that can soak up training stress far, far above the normal population. These athletes do very well at ultradistance events.

The success of the training freaks skews what you think is reasonable.

Only a small minority of the population (perhaps only the gifted freaks) handle this level of training over the long term. Even the people that appear to handle the training… check back with them twenty years after their athletic peaks, there are a lot of knee surgeries and hip replacements that don’t make the headlines.

What we handle over the short term and what we handle over the long term are often different.

I used to believe that anyone could handle this level of training with enough rest, nutrition and recovery. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that capacity to absorb training is as personal as VO2max.

Most people can’t train like you think I train – even me.

Phase Management
Given the choice between maximizing annual fitness (short term) and quality/length of life (long term); it is natural to gravitate towards short-term payoffs.

By definition, it takes a long time to see a long term payoff. Over an eighteen-year career in finance, I have had two years of “harvest”. All the rest were “investment”. This doesn’t come naturally. Interestingly, in my two harvest years, people thought I was nuts.

Even if an athlete can handle a ton of Phase Three training, lifetime athletic performance will be optimized by mixing the three approaches. For most of my elite career, my mixing has been forced due to overtraining – likely not an optimal strategy!

Overtraining is what happens when an athlete’s quest for fitness strays too far from personal health. On Alternative Perspectives this week, we have Part Two of Clas’ experience with overtraining. Very few athletes take the time to write out their experience. It takes courage to share our self-destructive tendencies. As an 8:15 Ironman athlete, Clas has lived more athletic achievement than most of us will ever experience.

Dr. John Hellemans has been speedy in his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. I am going to be spending a fortnight with him (and the Kiwi elite team) in February. I have my mobile podcasting equipment with me and will be recording interviews for Endurance Corner Radio.

Rapid Progress
A desire for rapid progress is a by-product of our consumer culture.
Advertising and traditional media feed discontent with our self-image.
Acknowledging these influences is important.

When you are starting out, focus on what you can do – get moving for an hour every day. You are doing what it takes. That is enough.

If your athletics are flattening you with illness; stress fractures; secret binging; disrupted sleep; night sweats; persistent muscle soreness; mood swings; low energy; extended sleeps… then you are moving away from athletic performance and personal health. You are not on a path of personal excellence.

From within a cycle of over-reaching and fatigue – it is very difficult to see the pattern that we have created for ourselves. Beware of coaches, mentors and colleagues that stoke your self-destructive tendencies.

Beware of survivor bias – chronically injured and overtrained athletes disappear from our collective consciousness. Many highly motivated athletes fry themselves by focusing on what the surviving minority do.

I chose the quote above because Mark is one of the few older World Champions that I know who hasn’t had orthopedic surgery.

The quality of our lives (today) has very little to do with the achievements of yesterday.

Choose wisely,


Basic Week Document