Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mind Training & Investing

Our photo this week is Clas and me in 2004. We're on the boardwalk in Hilton Head Island, SC. Lots of good memories from that trip and I think about Clas quite a bit.

I wrote a short piece on my August training over at the Planet-X site. One error that I discovered this evening -- I ran an 11-23 cassette rather than a 12-27 // sometimes it's best not to know that you are overgeared for a TT. Amazing what we can do when we don' t realize it. I thought that I had a gearing advantage over the boys and that made the TT feel easier -- the edge was all in my head!

In a future article, or podcast, I'll be discussing "Going Pro" -- if you've got any questions that you'd like me to address then send them along via email -- I listed all our email addresses last time.

Sam's written another interesting piece for us on Alternative Perspectives -- it compares powermeters with flying an airplane.


If you are thinking about buying assets in the next few months -- I'd pause and consider three probabilities...

a -- that your purchase will cost more in February next year
b -- that it will cost the same to make the investment in February next year
c -- that it will cost less to make the investment in February next year

For what it's worth, in housing, I expect that the worst that you'll do is pay the same price next year -- with yields low (in most markets) that, effectively, means that you will have saved money.

In our Scottish business, we've done very well locking in deals across the winter when conditions are uncertain. We did that with the tailwind of a strong liquidity environment -- with tighter debt markets, there will be attractive deals to be had for fully funded buyers. Within our property development joint venture, margins have started to expand again (after contracting for the last two years).

The press appear to have latched onto the fact that we are in a credit crunch. I don't see that. [Ed Note: Whoops! ECB injects e100 billion into the debt markets.] What I see is that we've moved to more 'normal' debt conditions with borrowers having to demonstrate ability to pay and offer security -- the numbers don't look like a crunch to me. There is a clear overhang of poor credits and marginal developments in many markets -- still, fairly priced, quality product in prime locations continues to attract good pricing.

I think that there is a decent chance that we'll move through our current, benign, conditions through to a real credit crunch. The global liquidity picture should be a bit more clear by early spring.

Greed continues to dominate fear in the markets that I follow. I'm overweight on cash and biding my time.


Mind Training
I'm going to keep this as simple as possible because, I think, that we waaaay over-complicate mental skills training. Here's the way I see it...

First -- identify our habits and patterns
Second -- remove the "mind" from the playing field

Most of the literature that I real about sports psychology focuses on exercises and techniques to deal with Part One of the challenge. Create consciousness about what's going on upstairs. That is a powerful first step.

For me, what comes after that is shifting from being (unconsciously) controlled by our thoughts to (consciously) observing them. Personally, I don't hold much hope of being able to control my mind -- I merely want to observe it.

I think we all experience thoughts, patterns, habits that we'd like to change -- only a minority of folks seem to be able to pause (a fraction of a second) to gain control of the automatic response that our fears and habits generate within us.

That fraction of a second is the most valuable second in my life -- it is where I am able to achieve a handhold of control over my actions. That small element of control helps me with the many little decisions that, ultimately, form my reality.

It sounds 'new age' to state with certainty that I control my life, my reality. Is it really? Consider the opposite -- how many times have you experienced the complete lack of control over your destiny? Being controlled by automatic responses to people, situations, emotions -- having your mind click into autopilot leaving you unconsciously following along. I spent YEARS like that.

Coming back to athletics -- I found a great article in the archives to illustrate my point. Here is my 2001 Race Plan. I must have been pretty nervous because I considered just about everything! The Plan worked great but there's no way that I could have remembered all that stuff on race day.

Six years later, here's my race plan for August 26th...
Swim -- long strokes, peaceful mind
Bike -- smooth power, patience
Run -- hands up, ribs down, WIN

No prizes for guessing which race strategy is easier to remember. Six out of seven components are under my direct control for the duration of the event. The seventh is a reminder (to me) that racing is a test of will (at many levels).

More than being able to remember/execute. What I notice between 2001/2007 is that, over time, I have incorporated many of the "Phase One" lessons (of racing) into my life. I don't need to be reminded of them, they are part of my life. So when you are working through mental skills training; consider that the ultimate goal may be to get past the exercises.

In my life, the "not thinking" is often more valuable than the "thinking".


Daniels, Coaching, Camps, Clinics

Daniels Running Formula

Mat just posted Alan's article on Daniels Running Formula over on Alternative Perspectives. Alan had been asking me a lot of personal training questions over the past few days. Turns out, that he was using me for a Case Study. Alan's articles do an excellent job of explaining the technical side of our approach to coaching.

For more info you can contact Alan via email.
"alan" "at" ""


Getting into Coaching

I've had several emails seeking advice for getting into coaching. I've asked my friend, Mike Ricci, to do a podcast with me. We'll answer all the questions that we've received over the last month.

If you have any questions that you'd like us to cover then please send them along via email to:
"gordon" "at" ""



Jeff "Dr. J" Shilt is working on two Spring Camps. The camps will be based in Tucson, AZ. Pricing will be around $2,250 and will include everything but your airfare to/from Tucson.

Camp 1 -- March 22-30, 2008 -- this will be a balanced training camp with an emphasis on the bike. For athletes racing IM Arizona, we'll schedule an "honest" race sim ride on March 23rd and make sure the rest of the camp fits into your Peak Period.

Camp 2 -- April 19-27, 2008 -- this will be a bike-focused training camp and the stronger athletes will ride 400-500 miles across the camp.

Fitness -- as a guideline, you'll want to have sub-13 hour IM fitness and/or sub-6 hour Half IM fitness. I imagine that some of my speedy pals will turn up so we'll have two groups each day.

If you'd like more details then please send an email to:
"DrJ" "at" ""
Please include a little bit about your background and goals for the camp.

We're confirming a venue with a kitchen and meeting room // once that's done we'll be in a position to fix the price. We're capping the camp size at 14 athletes to ensure plenty of interaction between us.

There will be the opportunity to arrive early for the camps and receive supplemental consulting, season planning and physiological testing. If that interests then please include in your note to Jeff.

Jeff, Alan, Mat and I will attend both of these camps.


Personal Clinics

We've started to take September & October bookings for personal clinics. If you're interested in a Personal Clinic then drop Mat an email to discuss what we can offer you in terms of testing/consulting.

"mat" "at" ""

Daniels Running Formula

Part 1: Long Term Athletic Development

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

The most frequent quandary I have witnessed as a coach and an observer of elite coaches over the past 10 years relates to the fundamental questions of ‘how much?’ & ‘how hard?’. The best coaches that I have seen seem to have an innate sense of appropriate volume and appropriate pace based on the developmental level of the athletes that they work with. Still, this unique skill of determining appropriate workloads is something that seems to, as a best case scenario, take many years, many trials & many errors to develop. So, where does the committed athlete turn in an effort to determine some reasonable, concrete parameters in determining appropriate workloads for themselves? Certainly, hiring one of these accomplished coaches is a good starting point. Another option is to review some of the literature written by these great coaching minds. Frequently, however, it has been my experience that the very best coaches only understand their decision making processes on very abstract levels. They just have a “feel” for what their athletes should be doing. A notable exception to this can be found in the formulae of running coach and scientist, Jack Daniels. Jack is renowned in the running community as the “numbers guy”. He revolutionized the way that we determine appropriate running pacing with his V-DOT table and has left several implications on the table that have a direct impact on your long term planning as a triathlete.

1. If you want to train faster then prove it by racing faster.

The crux of the Daniel’s approach is that there is a narrow band of optimal training paces/intensities that train each physiological system. The clear implication for this is that while you may be able to do your intervals faster or harder than what your own respective VDOT recommends, if you do so, you will not be training the physiological mechanism that you are targeting for that workout. In short, the only way to move up a level in your pace recommendations is to prove that your VDOT has increased via race results.

2. If you want to train more, then prove it by racing faster.

In the second edition of Daniel’s Running Formula, Daniels takes a look at fitness programs for beginners, recreational athletes & sub-elite athletes. While he doesn’t directly relate these programs to VDOT, he does provide recommended mileage and time guidelines for each program. This approach to training, i.e. using fitness/competition level to determine training volume and intensity has also been epitomized in the New York Runners Club programs written by Bob and Shelly-Lynn Glover (Glover, 1998).

I find this method particularly applicable to long-course triathletes, who often take the complete reverse approach to this, i.e. I want to race faster therefore I have to train more. No, if you want to train more, you must prove it by racing faster. For every individual, there is an optimal volume (& speed) that will lead to improved racing performance. This optimal volume is related to their own specific limiters, their biomechanical idiosyncracies and their specific lifestyle constraints. However, within these factors, there exists a general range of optimal training volume for various performance levels.

So, what is this optimal volume? A few guidelines from Daniels and others to consider:

In Daniels’ Red (intermediate) plan, for runners who can complete a 20 mile training week under 3hrs (which, for the numerically obsessed out there, works out to a flat base pace of <9:00 per mile or a V-DOT of 47), he recommends building from 20-35 miles per week before racing anything up to half-marathon distance. This program has very limited training beyond tempo intensity. In other words, if you are not running 40-52mi p.w. at a base pace of 8:20 or better per mile, in Daniels opinion (and mine), you are not ready for focused speed work. Importantly, he also points out that runners of this ability level are not ready to target a marathon, which provides some pretty interesting implications for Novice triathletes who sign up for an Ironman with similar fitness numbers

In the Blue (advanced) plan (for runners with a base pace of ~8:20/mile or better/VDOT of 51), Daniels recommends 40-52 miles per week (over the course of 16+ weeks or ~2% increase per week). This phase of development represents more of a focus on speed work (interval training/VO2max sets). In my opinion, this may still be a little early for the use of VO2max sets if the athlete is concerned with developing to their ultimate potential. For instance, former Aussie National Swim Coach, Bill Sweetenham, did no focused VO2 max training for his swimmers until after they had reached National Qualifying level (In Daniels-speak, this would equate to a VDOT of ~64). Daniels also continues to point out that this level of training is not really optimal for Marathon preparation

In the Gold (sub elite) plan (for runners who can complete a 60 mile run week at or better than ~7:45/mile, representing a VDOT of >57), Daniels recommends 60-75 miles/wk of running and asserts that when a runner is of the calibre to handle this training program, they will be prepared for the specific training necessary to prepare for competition of any distance. This level of fitness ties in nicely with Sweetenham’s recommendations of attaining a VDOT of 60+ before engaging in ‘specialized’ training (i.e. race-specific speedwork).

After completing the Gold level of development, the athlete will be ready to undertake any of Daniels’ specialized elite training programs (ranging from 800m-Marathon), presumably in accordance with the personal strengths that they have discovered in the course of the general developmental programs. This form of long term athletic development, moving from a general to a specific focus over a long time period is reminiscent of the plans espoused by periodization guru Istvan Balyi (2005). It is Balyi’s contention that an athlete should be progressed very gradually over the course of 10 years (or 10,000 hours) if they are to achieve their full athletic potential.

Interestingly if we look at a case study of 1, based on Gordo’s rate of development in his July blog entry, his theoretical pattern of training development, based on Daniels programs, would have looked like this:

Based on the training data that I have from Gordo, these mileage numbers look pretty right. For instance, 60 miles @ 6:54/mi = 7hrs/week of running. Gordo’s current run volume is 5-8hrs per week, 5hrs for the easy weeks & 8 for the basic weeks, leading to an average of ~7 per week. If you look at Gordo’s basic week as a working athlete back in 2000, the numbers (4 runs for a total of ~5hrs) seem to line up with the above recommendations pretty well also.

So, pulling all of this together, here are a couple of key observations from the data that you can apply to your own long term plan:

1. It still takes a long time to get good.
That is, it takes a long-term commitment to appropriate, consistent, moderate training to even get close to approaching your potential. We are talking about net mileage increases of ~6-7 miles per year (not 10% per week)!! Setting up a basic week that changes slightly every 6-8 weeks is, in my opinion the best way to apply this progressive, gradual overload long-term.

2. You need to get fit before worrying about getting fast.
If 13 year old kids can swim 4:37 for a 400 with no speed-work, then you really need to question how appropriate speedwork is for you as a sub-elite long course athlete. As Gordo’s progression shows, the key to continual improvement in VDOT (& VO2max) is a consistent application of aerobic volume, not “bleed from the eyeballs” intervals. G’s fitness reached Sweetenham’s criteria for the inclusion of focused speedwork in 2003, when he was an 8:46 Ironman!

3. If you want to be a better runner, run.
If you want to become a faster runner, to a very large extent, you have to run. While the Daniels plan is specific to running, if you take a look at the VDOT values of triathletes, it becomes apparent that you don’t get to discount a whole lot of run mileage in the name of cross training!

One important caveat: That is not to say that the vast majority of Iron Distance athletes out there cannot significantly improve their running split with appropriate bike volume and race execution. However, there comes a point (AFTER these factors are maximized) that the only way to improve your run split is to become a faster runner.

The implications on long-term development for non-elite athletes are certainly something that struck a chord with me when reading the 2nd edition of Daniel’s running formula. As illustrated above, for the most part, the numbers tie in very well with both real life athletic development and proposed developmental plans from some other proven sporting coaches, including Bill Sweetenham and Istvan Balyi.

A couple of fascinating questions that arise from looking at talent identification and long-term athletic development are:

  1. Once the general developmental period is over, how does the athlete know what events suit their natural strengths?
  2. During the specific preparatory period, how does the athlete identify physiological weaknesses that need improvement?

Daniels sheds some interesting light on these 2 questions with his 2.2+6 seconds rule, as do David Martin and Peter Coe (coach and father of Sebastian Coe) in their landmark book, Better Training for Distance Runners. Stay tuned for an upcoming article that delves into what these authors have to say on these two very important questions.

On a related note, stay tuned to my Blog for an upcoming article on how to interpret a lactate curve and how to use the information to identify & address your own personal athletic limiters.

For comments and questions, please contact me at

References available upon request.

Real World Periodization: Loading Patterns

After hitting a wall on my maintenance ride today, after a pretty fatiguing weekend (6hrs Saturday w/2.5hrs steady-mod and 2:20 long run on Sunday with 1:30 steady), it got me thinking about how infrequently I have experienced this level of fatigue in this season versus my previous 10+ years in the sport. Feeling this level of fatigue has now become a rarity for me, as I have begun to fully embrace Gordo’s key principle that moderation (i.e. always leaving a little in the tank) leads to consistency.

An interesting # related to the above: I am at 17 zeroes (days without training) so far this year (8 months in). Last year I had a grand total of 87 for the 12 months. There’s something to this moderation thing!!!

It is my sense, based on my own experience as both a coach and athlete, that the level of fatigue that I am feeling right now is almost “the norm” for serious working athletes. This is a big mistake and in my opinion is one of the key factors that separate good age group athletes and neo-pros from the very best in the sport. As in most things, there is a time and a season to challenge yourself. However, doing it every week will seriously limit your development as an athlete. I thought it might be useful to self coached athletes out there if I outlined the approach I use with my own athletes in developing a sensible, progressive loading protocol.

Those of you familiar with Bompa’s traditional weekly loading pattern, will recognize the chart below:

The workload (volume or intensity) is increased progressively for 3 weeks followed by 1 unloading week.

In my opinion, for all but the most elite, consistent athletes, it is a mistake to use any loading protocol during the early preparatory period, as the cumulative fatigue of repeating the basic week is sufficient stimulus to elicit improvement in the early season. For this reason, I typically use a 2:1 or 3:1 flat loading protocol with my athletes in the early season:

AFTER the athlete has their basic week dialled in (and repeated several cycles, while not compromising their aerobic maintenance/test sessions during their recovery weeks), it is possible to include a more challenging session during the last loading week.

In the middle part of the season, these “challenge sessions” will be challenging from an endurance perspective, thus the volume pattern over the course of the mesocycle will look like:

In the latter part of the season, these sessions will be more challenging from an intensity perspective (with respect to the athlete’s race intensity). So, while the volume (and the weekly pattern) may stay constant, the addition of harder main sets to the key weekend session may result in a mesocyclic loading pattern that looks more like:

It is important to note that, while these sessions can be slightly more challenging than the hardest session of the current basic week, they are not so challenging that they compromise the recovery week. For the recovery week, I like to try a maintenance session midweek and a test session at the end of the week. If the maintenance session is completed without incident, I will consider making the ‘challenge session’ a regular ‘key session’ for the athlete’s basic week in the coming cycle. If the mid-week maintenance session is compromised (as it was for me this week), it provides clear feedback that the session was too much. In any event, it is imperative that the athlete is fresh enough for their test session at the end of the week.

This form of “real world periodization” does not require any complicated mathematical forecasting of what the athlete ‘should’ be able to tolerate by a given date. Rather, it meets the athlete where they are currently and asks them to try just a little more. I have found this to be a very reasonable, realistic approach that, most importantly works long term.

Comments or questions can be sent to

Performance -- Training the Body

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


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

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

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

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


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

Working backwards...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday -- off running; swim only

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

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

= 76 miles at ~7:36 per mile

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

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

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


Coming Soon -- Training the Mind & True Limiters

The Lydiard Method – A Scientific Perspective.

Part 2: Specific Preparation

Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science), CSCS, PES

The term ‘General Preparation’ is used ad nauseum in popular periodization and training methodology texts. However, when it comes to the application of a general preparatory phase, few coaches compare to the literal application of Sir Arthur Lydiard. Lydiard had all of his athletes, from 800m track stars to world class marathoners, performing essentially the same basic training routine through their base phase of training. As previously stated, the bulk of this basic training was performed at an intensity below marathon race-pace. Reasons for this approach were given in the previous article. However, to state that all training was performed at an easy effort would be an oversimplification. The reality is that, within his elite athlete’s ‘basic week’, training paces ranged from 70-100% of the athlete’s best aerobic effort (Lydiard, 1999).

In our language, this represents training intensities ranging from easy (or sub AeT) to hard (or Functional Threshold). While, in reality, this progressive increase in training intensity was still a part of the phase of general preparation for his athletes, in the context of long course triathlon, this second phase of training is much more similar to our specific preparatory phase.

The key to the Lydiard method is not so much in the inclusion of all fitness components – most coaches that I know use a variety of training intensities from sub AeT up to (and beyond) Functional Threshold. The key, and the thing that continues to distinguish Lydiard from other coaches, is in the slow and steady progressive inclusion of the fitness components in the athlete’s program over a long period of time.

From a perspective of practical application, the approach to General Preparation 1 is summed up by Arthur as follows:

“Start training by first running against time rather than timing the miles run. Get yourself running fit so that you are capable of running long distances continuously. Do this by running on out and back courses. By running out, say, 10 minutes, turning around and running back in about the same time. If it takes you longer to return then you should realize that you went too fast on the outward journey and so are forced to slow down upon the return journey. You will soon learn about your present capabilities and fitness and so adjust your efforts accordingly. Progressively, the running time daily should be increased so that you will find the training progressively easier and your possibilities of increasing the running time greater….”

As an aside, the ability to objectively monitor fatigue both within a session and over the week is one of the strengths of having a very simple basic week, as outlined by Lydiard. Arthur’s simple applications of this point above are reflective of some of the guiding principles I use in the athletes I work with:

• If you slow down markedly at the end of a session, the session was too long or too hard.
• If you slow down markedly at the end of a week then the week was too big or too hard.
And perhaps most applicable to long course athletes:
• If you slow down (or are unable to maintain your basic volume) over the course of a year, then the early phase of training was too much or too hard.

But, since the topic of this piece relates to the question of Specific Preparation for the IM athlete, let’s move on to Arthur’s take on phase II:

“Once you are sure that you are able to complete your weekly schedule & are able to run for 2hrs with no problem, start to watch your per mile pace as follows: Run over your measured courses for one week without any influencing factors such as a watch, per mile pace or another runner. Try to run evenly in effort and as strong as your condition allows. Start your watch at the start of the runs so as to be able to take the overall time of each run at the conclusion; this giving an estimate of your capability and condition at this stage of your training……”

“….the following week you should use these times for control and run the same course at comparable times by checking each mile as you pass the mile markers. For example, if you took one hour to run a ten mile course the trial week, then the next week you should set out to run 6 minutes for each mile, allowing for hills and hollows. After a week or so, you will find that the previous times used for control are becoming too slow for you, as your Oxygen uptake improves. So, it will be necessary to increase the average speed for the distance by lowering the average mile time down to 5:55 per mile or thereabouts. In this way, it is possible to keep running at your best aerobic effort rather than too fast or too slow and so to gain the best results for the time spent training.”(Lydiard, 1999)

In other words, your simple objective for phase 2 of training (after the phase 1 habit of establishing the basic week) is to raise your average training velocity over the course of the week. This can be where many athletes come undone. The key point here is to progressively increase the specific content of your key sessions without compromising the rest of your week, or put another way, average training velocity over the course of the week should increase, not decrease with the addition of your main sets during the specific preparation period. Note the word “preparation” in the description for this phase. We’re preparing for a best effort, not giving one every other day.

So, we have established that we go harder than what we did in our first phase of training, or as Arthur puts it, we train at our “best aerobic effort” during this phase. From a % intensity perspective, as already mentioned, this may (eventually) vary from 70-100% of our best aerobic pace. But, before I go into how we go about determining the relative intensity for each day within the training week, it is important to acknowledge that at this point, or what I will call phase 3 in Arthur’s developmental model, we are getting into some pretty elite stuff. To vary the training intensity over the aerobic spectrum from day to day first assumes that the athlete has adequate fitness to fully recover their glycogen reserves within 24hrs of the preceding session. Development of this quality alone can take a good amount of time, as indicated, in the previous article by Bill Sweetenham’s multi-year emphasis on training at or below the Aerobic Threshold before even allowing any higher quality aerobic training in his young swimmers (Sweetenham, 2003)

So, assuming we are at the point that the athlete is able to perform a good quantity of steady aerobic training and fully recover for the next session, how do we determine when and where to schedule the 100% efforts v’s the 70% efforts. While Arthur points out that it is never the coaches job to tell an athlete how fast to go on a given day, basic recommendations, with regard to effort can be made. Since Lydiard lived in an era preceding heart rate monitors, power meters, lactate testers, etc. etc., he used a simple effort scale that ranged from ¼ effort to full effort to describe his training assignments. Typically, the 3 long days per week were of a lower effort level (1/4 effort) while the shorter days were faster (1/2-3/4 effort). However, the guiding principle for the afternoon sessions, was that the athlete is always to run as fast as their condition allows. Naturally, when fit, this meant that they would run a quicker pace per mile for the shorter sessions than they did for the long runs. However, and this is key, the overall objective of increasing the average training speed from week to week was always kept at the fore-front.

As stated in the previous article, there is a good amount of variability in the rate at which an athlete is able to replenish their muscle glycogen stores. Several factors come into play here including the intensity of effort, the type of muscle fibers used and the aerobic fitness of the individual. At sub-maximal efforts, some athletes will be able to replenish their glycogen reserves completely within 24 hours. Some will not. Lydiard’s progressive integration of the hard-easy approach to training into the weekly schedule of the athlete is a good, practical way of taking these physiological limitations into account.

For example, a young middle distance runner’s initial general preparatory week, following their introduction to the Lydiard system may look something like this:

Monday: 1hr @ 75% MHR
Tuesday: 1.5hrs @ 75% MHR
Wednesday: 1hr @ 75% MHR
Thursday: 1.5hrs @ 75% MHR
Friday: 1hr @ 75% MHR
Saturday: 2hrs @ 75% MHR.

In other words, through trial and error, the coach and athlete have established that a heart rate of 75% of the athlete’s maximum results in the fastest average overall speed for the week.

However, as the athlete develops in the specific preparatory period, and their improved aerobic fitness translates to faster glycogen resynthesis, the athlete may be able to use the shorter training days as higher intensity sessions rather than recovery sessions while, at the same time, increasing the average speed of the basic week.

The week at the end of the specific prep period may look something more like:

Monday: 1hr @ 80% MHR
Tuesday: 1.5hrs @ 75% MHR
Wednesday: 1hr, w/2x20 minutes @ 85% MHR (and the balance at 75%)
Thursday: 1.5hrs @ 75% MHR
Friday: 1hr @ 75% MHR
Saturday: 2hrs @ 75% MHR.

In this way, not only has the athlete improved his/her fitness and performance, but also their tolerance for training.

For an elite long course athlete in his specific preparatory period, specificity may dictate that the higher intensity efforts be placed on the longer days, e.g.:

Monday: 1hr @ 75%
Tuesday: 1.5hrs w/1hr @ main set @ 80%
Wednesday 1hr @ 75%

Slight difference in protocol, but the principle, and the net glycogen usage over the course of the week remain the same.

Lydiard concluded that, for his marathon runners, this was as far as the specific preparation needed to go. He found that if they could preserve their training volume (prior to taper) and average training speed, while including some submaximal speed sessions, there was no need to perform a devoted intensive speed phase (which he did with his 800m-10K athletes). (Lydiard, 1999)

It is the author’s opinion that if this is true for elite marathoners (whose event duration is in the 2hr range), then it is also true for triathletes of all distances. At the very elite level, moving into phase 3 of Arthur’s general development, where the program takes on a structure that preserves peripheral aerobic development while providing a greater stimulus to higher threshold aerobic motor units and central adaptations may be useful. In a tactical race, at the elite level, these can become limiters. In addition, at the very elite level, the cardiac reserve of the athlete can become limiting. However, as previously stated, we are at the very top of the pyramid when these factors become a real issue. For the vast majority of long course athletes, the race itself is nothing more than a steady-state time trial and therefore, as boring as it sounds, the sub-elite athlete’s year is all about Arthur’s first 2 phases of development:

1. General Preparation: Habituating their basic training week.
2. Specific Preparation: Increasing the average speed (and steady-state component) within that week.

The quickest way to get to the top of that pyramid (where other issues become limiting) is to first fully accomplish these two objectives.

References available upon request.

Consulting Business Models

Our photo this week is a shot of me dragging a tire after a 21-mile run at the Boulder Reservoir. My technique needs improvement for next time.

Why do I drag a tire around? I could give you reasons based on human physiology but the truth has to do with human psychology – I see value in doing things that other people aren’t willing to do.

I’ll probably be the only athlete on the Ironman Canada start line with ten weeks of tire pulls under his belt.

I love stuff like that.


We've got Baron Part Two over on Alternative Perspectives. Next week we will have Lydiard Part Two -- Alan's done a great follow-up article that I think is worth your time.

In the meantime, Alan wrote up his action plan from the USAT Coaches Clinic. If I remember then we'll follow-up with him in a few months on how implementation progressed. Personally, I find change implementation a greater challenge than issue identification.


On November 2nd and 3rd, I’ll be hosting a USAT Clinic on Building Your Coaching Business. We’ll start Friday (after lunch) and run through Saturday. The program will include case studies; practical tools for increasing revenues; financial planning tips/tools; branding/marketing tips/strategies as well as the opportunity to share ideas with each other.

Location will be the Olympic Training Centre in Colorado Springs. We have a great panel coming together and more details will follow once they are confirmed.


My most recent book is Ubiquity, Why Catastrophes Happen. It's a worthwhile read. If you pick up a copy then consider two elements of the author's hypothesis:

Fingers of instability -- when I think about the challenges of terrorism as well as the structure of the Middle East conflict; I see deep fingers of instability. The implications of a small further stress on (any one of) these fissures, is very difficult to predict. If you are a worrier, then this book will give you plenty of fodder. I spent a lot of time thinking about the likelihood of WMD being employed.

Critical State -- whether the subject matter is earthquakes, financial markets, human conflict or iron atoms, the author talks about the conditions where one small action is a trigger for further subsequent results. This had me wondering about the critical state within the human brain -- the ability of a single neuron to impact the entire brain.

Extending that neuron consideration to what (little) I know about quantum mechanics. The ability of a single neuron, within the observer, to change the reality of what's observed. At that point my head started to swim... the author did warn against taking physical science concepts into the social sciences.


In the last two weeks, three smart people have shared ideas with me about growing their businesses. While their current positions vary in terms of scale, the challenges that they face are similar. So here are some thoughts on coping with growth. The specifics pertain to the coaching/consulting industry but, I think, they are widely applicable.

Branding – in many consulting businesses the founder is the brand and your team is a reflection of you. When you are growing rapidly then, clearly, you are doing something “right”. It’s worth considering what that “thing” is. In a small consultancy practice, often the magic-ingredient is you. Your time, your knowledge, your personality, your efforts – this matters because…

…if you take on people to service your clients then it takes more time (initially) to train them. Do you have that time? Do you want that job? If not then you’ll need to recruit, then train, the trainer. After you've trained the trainers and coaches -- you've effectively trained your future competition.

…if you refer clients then there is an element of endorsement and you’ll want to ensure that your brand/reputation is protected. There are very few coaches that I’ll endorse via a referral.

Reputation takes years to build – protect it with everything that you do, everything you say, everything you write, everyone you endorse/employ… I take this to a an extreme and extend it right through to suppliers; clients; sponsors; coaches; mentors. There are companies/people that I would love to work with (and could teach me lots) but I’ve been unable to become comfortable with their ethics – so I’ve had to pass.

The theme of saying “no” to attractive opportunities is a recurring one. You need to be willing to turn down attractive offers in order to sustain your brand. Financial stability goes a long way towards building ethical integrity – more on that in a future letter on success factors.

Quality Control – I have considered building an international network of consultants (to the point of drafting a business plan). However, I wasn’t able to get comfortable that:

…remote coaches would be able to represent my brand appropriately. For this reason, everyone in our company (Alan, Mat, Monica, me) works “here” in Boulder. We spend a lot of time together.

…remote coaches would gain enough from “HQ” to justify a mutually beneficial long term relationship. We’d have to work extremely hard on retention for minimum return on our efforts.

Retention – How do you keep your best people? Even working with friends, I haven’t (yet) come up with a business model that is sticky enough to keep "remote" coaches/consultants together for the long term. The effort required at HQ is greater than the return that we could fairly charge the remote offices.

When I ran the numbers on the “take” that would be required for an attractive return on investment – it didn’t stack up (for the investors, the coaches, or me). My return on effort/capital was far greater by giving away our intellectual property, selling high value services and operating in a managerial capacity.

What keeps people in a network?

***Success – friendship is great but nothing builds teams like sustained, meaningful achievement. I want everyone around me (clients, athletes, friends and training buddies) to succeed. Talking about this with Jeff this morning, I noted my success obsession (to go with my controlling obsession).

***Fairness – there needs to be a fair exchange of efforts. What’s fair? I don’t think that there is a fixed answer and fairness changes over time.

***Value – if you take anything from someone (revenue, product, goods, time, thought…) then there needs to be adequate compensation to them. Personally, I work hard to make sure that everyone close to me receives a little bit more than I think is fair. That doesn’t always mean that they see it that way but it has been an effective strategy for me.

People within my circle that don’t operate in a similar manner tend to move away over time. It’s an interesting paradox that when everyone gives a little extra to another, there is more for all.

***Challenge – probably related to success. Challenge is the ability to actively participate in success; learn and apply that knowledge. “Winning” is fun but “meaning” derives from active participation in the daily process of success.

Where does all this leave me? Yet another list of goals!

Help people – I’ve set a target of 1 million athletes over the next thirty years – sounds like a lot but I estimate that I’m well on the way there (over 25,000 copies of Going Long have been sold).

High return per hour invested – “return” defined in terms of personal satisfaction, rather than dollars (but they do help).

Learn through teaching – our new lab will greatly improve my knowledge, that’s fun for me

Improve communication skills – more public speaking

Grow our reach – we will be launching podcasting (slowly) after IMC; vodcasting will, likely, follow that.

Build the brand – I lead my family’s financial leadership and my personal brand is our safety net.

Within our new business, Endurance Corner, we are building:

A central hub of excellence (coaching, training, testing, consulting, sports medicine, rehabilitation);

Knowledge sharing via camps, clinics and our on-line presence;

Single location to enhance mutual learning; maintain quality; enhance communication; build personal ties; and have fun together.


One specific question that I had – that triggered this article:

Q – What is a normal share of revenue for me to earn on a coaching referral?

A – Instead of thinking about the “take” – consider… the value that you add to the client (and coach); also consider if you have the time/desire to manage the relationship. If I refer an athlete outside of our network then that is a favor (to the athlete because I am careful where I point people // and // to the coach because it is a potential order). If I refer an athlete within our network then we need to ensure that our brand is protected and value is delivered to the client.

Overall compensation – within our business the basic package includes items that are important to us (health care; retirement savings; training; certification; education) – monetary compensation depends on a mixture of the value added (not merely revenue added) to the coach’s main client as well as the individual’s capacity to work effectively.

We provide infrastructure with opportunity.

Top 10 Action Items from the USAT Level 1 Coaching Clinic

Those of you who have seen my book collection will attest to the fact that I have a voracious appetite for the acquisition of knowledge. However, as Bruce Lee once said “Knowledge is nothing without action” and so, I have made a commitment to devote this decade of my life to transforming my core paradigm from the acquisition of information to the application of information. I went into the recent USAT Level 1 Coaching Clinic in Clermont, FL with this objective in mind and came away with some key 'action items' that I plan to apply to myself and the athletes that I work with. Hopefully, you will find some value in them too.

Before I get started, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the presenters at the clinic. I was surprised and impressed by the depth of information presented at a level 1 event. The following key points represent a mix of almost direct quotes from the presenters with a sprinkling of concepts that, while inspired by the topics presented may run almost counter to the presenter’s opinions. I want to make it clear that these conclusions are my own and do not necessarily represent the intent of the presenter. Either way, I wish to thank Tim Boruff and Linda Cleveland of the USAT and all of the attending presenters for the many ‘light-bulb moments’ that I experienced over the course of the weekend. My top 10 'action from the weekend are presented below:

1. Know the price of your athletic goals and if you can afford them (Psychological Aspects of Coaching – Dara Wittenburg)

Unfortunately, we live in a country where the majority of individuals commit to having what they want before deciding whether they can truly afford it. In my experience, this mentality also runs over to triathletic goals. Typical first conversation with a new client goes something like this:

“I want to race Hawaii”
“OK, my current athletes at that level are doing……..”
“Sounds good, sign me up”

In other words, much like Maverick in Top Gun, committed age-group athletes have a tendency to ‘write checks that their bodies can’t cash’. It is a ‘cart before the horse’ mistake to commit to a race, a time goal, and a training load before looking at your current training load and rate of improvement to this point. Rather than the car sales showroom paradigm, where you sign off on a Hummer with all the options when all you can really afford is the used Dodge Aries on the other side of the street, you should approach the goal setting process more like a kid taking his pocket money into the candy store “OK, this is how much I have (time available, training volume to date etc), what can I buy with this?” A coach can help greatly with determining the price (based on previous experience with other athletes and data from your own logs) and giving you a reality check on what you can afford & the time it will take you to save for what you really want.

2. Have clear, written goals & a session plan for every key session that you do

Know the purpose of each of your key sessions and write down a simple action plan of the 3-5 things that you are going to focus on out there in order to achieve your bigger goals. Rather than labelling all of your sessions “training sessions”, it is sometimes better to take on the paradigm of teams sports and consider some “practice sessions”, i.e. sessions in which you have an opportunity to drill the psychological, technical and tactical objectives of preparation in addition to the physical. A big part of this is having a written “race plan” for each of your key sessions. Creativity is your only limit in how far you go in simulating the demands of your event.

3. Think like a Body Builder when planning your strength training (in fact, all of your training).
(Strength Training – Dara Wittenburg).

Those of you who have spent a good amount of time in a gym know that the serious lifters are intently aware of both the quantitative and qualitative aspects of their training and their rate of progress in each. Serious lifters know not only how many sets they plan on doing for the week, but also what load they are going to use for each exercise and if (heaven forbid), they only get 6 reps at 350lbs instead of their usual 7, tears may be shed, questions will be asked and changes will be made. This obsession with monitoring all of the variables of performance, while common in some endurance sports like swimming and track has escaped the easy-going world of triathlon. To describe and evaluate your training in terms of volume alone is only giving you part of the picture. In the gym and on the road, pay attention to both the quality and quantity of your training and change one or the other if an extended plateau occurs.

4. Apply a written training diet to your basic week
(Nutrition for the Multisport Athlete - Jennifer Hutchison, RD, LD, CSCS)

Some simple applications that every athlete should apply to their weekly nutrition plan:
4-6 small meals/day
20-30g/ lean protein at each meal (1.2-2.0g/kg/day)
Emphasize a VARIETY of colorful fruits and vegetables to supply adequate nutrients and phytochemicals & 30g of fiber per day.
Add beans or legumes to evening meal 3 to 4 times each week (not within 24hrs of key sessions/races).
Moderate or no alcohol consumption
Limit refined carbohydrates and sugar (save the refined carbs for training).
Ensure sufficient daily water intake to maintain day-to-day bodyweight.

5. Apply a written nutritional and recovery plan to all key sessions
(Nutrition for the Multisport Athlete - Jennifer Hutchison, RD, LD, CSCS)

A part of the written ‘race plan’ for your key sessions should be a clear and concise nutritional plan. Below are some points to consider:
2hrs before: 500-700ml of Sports Drink or water + low-fiber meal
15mins before: 150-300ml of Sports Drink
During: 150-300ml of Sports Drink every 15-20 minutes (60-85g/L CHO concentration + 400-700mg Na/L)
o Get to know your sweat rate in different conditions by weighing before and after EVERY key session greater than 1hr)
o Make sure you keep optimal CHO concentration when taking Gels or Blocks by drinking ~300-500ml of pure water for each gel packet (~27g CHO)
o Note: Some athletes may require up to 1500mg/L of Sodium
· After: 1.3-1.5kg/L of bodyweight lost + 1g/kg of CHO in first 30 minutes (liquid form) and 1g/kg of CHO + 0.3g/kg of protein in solid meal within 2hrs.

6. Incorporate walk breaks in your key running sessions.
(Running Skills and Economy Training …. Lee Zohlman, B.S.)

First, a couple of key reasons to consider incorporating walk breaks in your long training runs and races.
* Nutrition & Hydration: You will get in a greater volume of fluid by not splashing it everywhere while your run. In addition, letting your heart rate drop 5-10 beats will greatly help in processing the calories. In my experience, in long runs and races, the faster finish that comes from proper nutrition and hydration more than makes up for any time lost in walk breaks
* Planned v’s necessitated walking: In the context of an Ironman and Half-Ironman/Marathon for novices-intermediate competitors, being realistic, some walking will be involved at some point in the race. The quality and speed of the walk period will be greatly enhanced if you take a proactive approach and evenly distribute them through the race, rather than dealing with the psychological blow of having to walk at the end.
* Neuromuscular re-set: Perhaps the most important reason for walk-breaks. Quick experiment for you: At the half way point in your next moderately long run take the time to do 20 deep squats and 20 lunges. I promise you, that as smooth as you were feeling in your running gait up to that point, you will notice some level of tightening of the muscles. While this tightening may not be sufficient to affect your gait in any dramatic way, the increased resistance in your stabilizers and antagonists can have a large effect on the energy cost required to maintain your desired stride length & rate, this is to say nothing of the increased risk of injury from the diminished elasticity in your antagonists and the diminished capacity of your stabilizers. In my experience, by incorporating walk breaks & even some basic drills/alternative movements during the course of your run, you will feel a noticeable difference in the ‘spring’ left in your gait at the end of a long run.

7. Get a proper bike fit w/ someone who knows bikes AND functional anatomy (and how the two work together)
(Cycling Skills and Economy - Adam Baskin, M.A.)

We are all anatomically individual in a number of ways that have direct implication on the way we pedal a bicycle. Not only are there structural variations that span the gamut, including femur length, torso length, shoulder width etc, there are also many functional differences that (should) come into play when we are looking at bike fit. Keeping in mind that a muscle is weakest when it is excessively lengthened or shortened, it is important from an efficiency perspective to maintain optimal length-tension relationships in your cycling muscles. Taken to extremes, you will even see situations where a muscle is stretched so far beyond its functional range of motion that other muscles begin to contribute in ways that they were not designed to. A prime example of this is when an athlete goes for so much drop at the front-end that they close the hip angle up so much that the lumbar extensors, instead of the hip extensors begin initiating the pedal stroke. This has all kinds of nasty implications from back strains to degeneration of the facet joints of the spine. It is also not an efficient way to pedal a bicycle, i.e. it is slower.
When it comes to an effective bike fit, adjust the bike position to preserve:
* Optimal hip angle (greatest angle of hip flexion without lumbar compensation minus a few degrees)
* Optimal knee angle (greatest angle of knee extension w/hip flexed and no lumbar/hip compensation minus a few degrees)
* Optimal ankle angle (greatest angle of ankle dorsi-flexion with no knee compensation minus a few degrees)
* Roll this position as far forward as possible within constraints of geometry and comfort.
If you don’t know what I mean by the terms listed above, go to someone who does!!

8. Incorporate swim drills for ALL 3 R’s in your weekly program.
- Rhythm
- Range
- Relaxation
(Triathlon Swimming - Bill Kuminka, MS)

Don’t become obsessed with range drills (e.g. T.I. drills) to the exclusion of rhythm and relaxation drills. Use what you need. For example, many T.I. swimmers could benefit from periodic use of rhythm and relaxation drills such as:
- Straight arm (kayak) swimming (including drills with a broomstick)
- Freestyle & Backstroke with a butterfly kick
- Head up (polo) freestyle.
- Supra-rate swimming with stretch cordz or fins.
Also don’t become exclusively obsessed with what happens in the “front quadrant”, the other quadrants count too!!
Note: Stay tuned for an upcoming article that will further explore the 3 concepts listed above.

9. Set a training program that allows you to complete 90%+ of the workouts & monitor and modify accordingly.
(Periodization Methods for Triathlon - Lee Zohlman)
Whatever training program format you choose to follow, an important metric to track is the % completed v’s planned. It is no good putting together an elaborate, periodized model with macro-this and micro-that if your predicted training volume is merely an ambitious guess. For this reason, I find it useful to build the training program from ‘the ground up’ beginning with a basic week that reflects the athlete’s current fitness and progressively building in accordance with the athlete’s individual rate of improvement from there.

10. Test yourself regularly to see what works for you and when you need to change.
(Exercise Physiology - Adam Baskin, M.A.)

In other words, it is important to know your key limiters, key objectives for improvement and specific metrics for each objective and it is important to test regularly to see if what you are doing is working. Remember that each individual is an experiment of one and the only way that you will truly know if your current training program is appropriate is to identify valid tests and use them on a regular basis (even if it means putting off getting your new disc wheel so that you can get yourself to an exercise physiology lab and get some controlled, objective data).

Clas "The Baron" Bjorling -- Part Two

My Triathlon Career, From The Beginning Until Now

So, the first article told you a little how I grew up and it ended when I during my military service, just had learned how to swim freestyle, and I had meet a running coach who had brought me out to some running races where I did pretty well. This happened 1998 when I was 20 years old.

So with this article I will finished up writing about my personal story so I in the next coming articles can write more about things that I have learned from the sport or special moments from the sport. Some topics I have thought of is to write a little more about Epic Camp, how to run a 2.42 marathon, Gordo Byrns and mine cost to cost ride and how to avoid overtraining and lessons I have learned from my experience. And then I will come up with some more along the way.

So, time to move back to March 1999.

Now I was done with my 15 month in the military and its was time to move back in civilian clothing again, but I was very grateful what the military had given me, I had grown up both mentally and physically and was ready to take on life whatever it now had to offer. I kept working with my running coach also outside the military and I kept working on my swimming and cycling even if I during the summer did mostly running races. I did some triathlon and duathlon races and I finished 2nd
at the Swedish national championship in duathlon which was big for me.

Later in the summer I got my biggest victory until then as a runner when I won the junior race in Sweden’s biggest cross country running race, called Lidingöloppet. It is a 15 K race with a lot of up and downs. I still remember how easy it felt and I got so surprised every time I looked back and someone had dropped off. The last 4-5 K it just me running along in the front together with a skinny, tall Estonian guy. Must have looked pretty funny with us running together, he skinny and tall, and I pretty short and muscular from all the weightlifting. This got to be my first experience how it feels when you are in the “flow” in a race where you are in great shape. You can just push harder and harder and your body just keeps smiling and continues to do the work without protests. But it wasn’t until I picked up the pace for real the last 200 m where I got a few meter gap that grow up to a second or so at the finish line.

Sometimes when you watch the great runners from Kenya and Ethiopia cross the finish line in the final at the big championships you can be amazed how they have been running world record pace for 5 or 10 K, and then when they cross the line and take a deep breath they just look like they have been out for Sunday walked. That is how I felt after I had crossed the line at this race, and this is how it is when you are in great shape. You can push your body so far beyond what you thought was possible and when you stop your body doesn’t feel tired at all. But, the thing I have learned is that it’s very hard to peak your performance so you get to experience this very often, because this is nothing you can force to happened, it not that easy.

Okay, enough about that, maybe I will come more into that topic when I write about my 2.42 IM marathon, back to the subject for this article.

The only thing I really remember from the year 2000 is that I set my personal best that stand still today over the ½ marathon distance. 1.07.15. They had built a bridge from Denmark to Sweden and to celebrate the opening they had a running race that started in Denmark, went over the bridge and ended in Sweden. It was a big race with 20 000 or so competitors. I never found the “flow” at this race but I was in good shape and was able to run a solid PB. Other then this race I’m sure I did a lot of running races and some triathlon and duathlon as well.

I Think it was this year where I got half time job as a sport teacher at the local school, I didn’t make any money from the sport yet so it was great to get this job so close so I could get some money but still have a lot of time to train and race.

2001 got to be the year when moved up to the longer triathlon distances. First in the spring I did my first ½ IM which went well, after a slow swim I moved up through the field during the bike and was able to run up to the front of the race in the end of the run to take a surprising victory. Because this race went so well I decide to try an even longer distance, the “Nice distance” which is 4 K swim, 120 K bike and 30 K run. The Swedish Championship over that distance was run that summer in the famous Swedish triathlon city Säter. All the big names in Ironman racing from the 80's and 90's like Scott Tinely, Scott Molina, Mark Allen and Dave Scott have raced in Säter, and Säter still today arrange long distance events some years like the ITU World’s and European Championships. Säter is just 45 K from where I live so if you ever go there to race so please let me know and we might be able to meet up for a chat.

Just as in the ½ IM, I moved up through the field during the bike after a slow swim. Think I came off the bike in 5th or 6th place. And now I got to experience for the first time how it is to run of the bike on very tired legs. I don’t remember having that much problem running of the bike at the ½ IM I did, but at this race it had been raining during the bike so the leg muscles was pretty cold which didn’t help. But the run course was a 3 laps out and back course so I got to see that even if I thought I was running well I still gained some time on the people in front of me.
To make a long story shorter I was able to pass a few people during the rest of the run to finish on the last podium spot. What I didn’t really know then was that I had just finished behind the other great long distance triathletes Björn Anderson and Jonas Colting and I was just about to start my international triathlon carrier. This was how I first got to meet Björn and Jonas, and since this day in Säter 6 years ago we all have spent a lot of time training and racing around the world.

I hadn’t more then just finished and cried out my happy tears when the head coach for the Swedish triathlon team Tomas Wiker walked up to me and asked if I wanted to be part of the Swedish team at the ITU long course championship that was run over the Ironman distance for the first (and probably the last) time in Denmark 5 weeks later. This came as a big surprise to me, should little Clas, the weightlifted, wood chopper, from the little town Mockfjärd join the other “real” triathletes in a World Champs. And not just that, I had also just by far just finished my longest triathlon race ever (and it wasn’t without pain) and now decide if I just 5 weeks later race wanted to race an Ironman. Phuuuu, I still remember that it was a lot of things moving around in my head when Tomas asked me about this so I told him that I needed to think about it for a few days so he would get back to me later.

When he a few days later called me I had forgotten a little about the pain from the long race and I was up for a new challenge. I also told him that I didn’t know anything how to train for a long race ( As far as I was concerned )so I got some last minute training tips from him and also from Colting who I by now had made a first contact with.

I remember being really nervous the last week leading up the Ironman distance race. It was so many things that were new but very excited at the same time. The elite race was on a Sunday, and the age grouper race was the day before, and I knew some people that raced the age grouper race so I went out on the run course to see cheer them on. I don’t know if this was good, it didn’t look pretty out there, it was late PM and people were out there shuffling, walking…… and it looked like it was painful to. I was up for a big the challenge the following day, I knew that.

It was 50 or so competitors in the elite field and I came out as one of the last one in 69 min, 20 min up to the leaders but I didn’t care too much about that, I just stayed focused on my race and to make it to the finish line. I took it out pretty easy I thought but was able to pass a few people. It was an out and back bike course so every now and then I got to meet the people in front of me and that gave me some new energy. We where 4 guys in the elite field and I was the last one of us up from the water but ½ way through the bike I moved up to be the 3rd Swede which felt great.

After a riding time of 4.57 it was time to get of the bike and start the marathon. It had been raining the last couple hours on the bike so I was pretty happy to get of the bike and start to run so I could get warm again. If I thought it had been hard to run off the bike in Säter but that was nothing compare to what I now experienced, I have some pictures that are taken on me from the first 500 m on the run and my face looks completely empty, you can just see that all my mental energy was just to handle the chock from the tired legs and to keep on moving. What I didn’t know then was that it was going to be better after 5-6 K of running when the legs get into the running rhythm.

I slowly warmed up and was able to start running pretty good and ½ way through the run I ran up to be the 2nd place Swede. It is the first 3 finishers from each country that take part in the team competition so one of my goals for the race other then to finish was to finish top 3 among the Swedes so with my 2nd place have way through the run I felt comfortable that I would hold that place to the finish so I just tried to hold on as best as I could and pass other competitors that was slowing down.

With a marathon time of 2.59 I was able to finish my first Ironman in a total time of 9.05. I finished 22nd overall and 2nd Swede. Jonas Colting had made a breakthrough in his racing and placed 3rd overall and if I don’t remember wrong we took 3rd place in the team competition which was good for the Swedish triathlon federation, so I had done my job.

Now I was really hooked to triathlon and specially the longer distances. If I could do these results with no experience about long distance training and racing with a swim time of 69 min, what should I be able to do if I put some real effort in to be the best I could. I was just 24 years old and hadn’t been training seriously for more then a few years. So when Colting later that year asked me if I wanted to come with him to train in New Zealand for 2.5 month and end the camp with Ironman there to try to qualify for Ironman Hawaii he didn’t need to wait long for my answer. So in the middle of January 2002 I was on a plane together with Colting flying towards the other side of the planet. The 3rd time I was flying and the first time outside Europe. Colting had arranged everything around the travelling. He had met someone named Scott Molina when he raced Ironman Brazil the year before and Molina had put Colting in touch with someone named Gordo and Gordo had just bought a house in Christchurch and had some rooms empty in the house that we could rent. I didn’t know who these people where, and I didn’t care either. I was just happy to know that I was going to spend 2.5 month training full time.

Martin Flinta who flew to NZ ahead of us to do some adventure racing joined us in ChCh and we ended up to be a good team training together. Gordo joined us on some sessions but my English back then was very bad so I wasn’t able to speak much to him, just said some phrases that we still laugh at today( so even if you have a hard time understanding things that I write today you can just imagine how it was for Gordo back then). I have never been very into learning different languishes when I was younger, we speak Swedish in Sweden and I had no plans when I was younger to travel anywhere. But on this trip I had Colting who loves to speak and take care of things so I was able to get be part of the group anyway.

One night after a month or so Gordo had Molina over for dinner with us. And I didn’t know who Molina was, what had this guys done that was so special so we had to put on jeans and a shirt?

So this was my first meeting with one of the legend in the sport of triathlon, Scott Molina who I later was going to spend a lot of time with on different Epic Camps around the world, base training in ChCh with for the next 4 years or be having a read bull and vodka with on same party after an IM. Make me laugh to think how life is; you never know what will happen to you the next minute or what people you met will bring you.

I will probably end up to write a lot about Gordo and who we ended up to spend more time together then what Gordo did with his first wife when I write about ours trip across the US 2004, so I leave him out for now, but I promise that it will be a great story, that is at least how the times have been when we have been together. I spent a whole NZ summer in the same bedroom as Gordo when he had made his bedroom to an altitude room(we did not share bed), or how about when we rode cross the states, for 10 weeks we slept in a trailer, and when we didn’t sleep we was running, riding or swimming together.

Anyway, now I lost track on the subject again, got a little bit too excited. I will cut the last part of this subject short, I can start to feel how you start to lose focus and just reading every second word to get this over with so you can go back and read Gordo forum, but not just yet, give me another 5 minutes of your time and you will get the full story.

The rest of my time in NZ went well, and the race in beautiful Taupo where Ironman NZ is located went well to. On a tougher course then in Denmark and after been running the entire marathon with cramps in my lower back I ended up to finish in a time of 9.05, win my age group, finish 12th overall and qualify for Ironman Hawaii.

Before Colting, Flinta and I flew to Hawaii 5 or 6 weeks before the race to train on the course and acclimatise I had raced duathlons Ironman Hawaii, The Powerman long distance duathlon race named in Switzerland, Zofingen( 10 K run, 150 K bike and 30 K run, and it’s all in the hills). I finished 7th overall there and had gotten my first price cheque. Maybe that will be another subject I will write about, Zofingen and other duathlon I have raced and how duathlons can be a perfect race if you feel like don’t putting on a wetsuit before a race starts. I just want to say that duathlon races are much harder then you think, specially the Zofingen race.

Back to Hawaii again, I was amazed when I got of the plane and got hit right in the face with a warm sticking air and I just started to sweat like a pig. This was to be a real challenge, how would I be able to race in something like this when I was freaking out just by standing still. But as the weeks went on I got more and more used to the humidity and didn’t seems to suffer as much.

After nearly a month and a half on the Island it was finally time for the race. The Mecca of Ironman racing, it was here where all the great Ironman stories came from, at least that was what people had told me. My English hadn’t improved much since the camp in NZ and when Colting and Flinta was freaking out one day at the local pool in Kona when they saw Dave Scott there swimming I just said, Scott who ???

The race in Hawaii went well, or at least I was able to win my age group even if I was suffering badly from the humidity during the ran. I had reached the highest goal as an amateur Ironman triathlete. To win your age group in Hawaii, specially the younger ones like the 18-24 that I won is a good sign that it’s time to move on and start to race in the elite/professional category.

So the following year, 2003, when I went back to ChCh to train for Ironman there I had made my move up to the professional category which was a good move, I finished 4th overall and got a nice price cheque. In this race I beat names Like Chris Lieto and Steve Larsen which I had heard were “fast” guys in triathlon. This was to be my only Ironman this year because the rest of the year I decided to focus 100 % to try to win Zofingen that was going to be in September.

I took 4 month off swimming and was training hard with Gordo in Boulder, Colorado, during the summer, probably to hard, because when the race came up I was very fit for the double run but had lost some power on the bike and was struggling on the 150 K bike leg but was able have a very strong 2nd ran and I finished 5th overall.

From 2002 to 2004 I also raced some duathlon races in Europe. Did some races in the Powerman serie and the ITU's World Champs where I finished 14th overall.

I have won the national championship in duathlon 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2006.

My real breakthrough in international racing came 2004 when I finished 2nd at IM NZ, just 5 min behind great athlete Cameron Brown, and 3rd at IM Brazil. I set a new run course record in both races; I ran a 2.42 marathon in NZ and a 2.44 in Brazil.

In IM NZ 2005 I had my first real setback in racing. I was in really good shape but I got my nutrition wrong and I ended up with really bad stomach cramps which forced me to walked the 2nd half of the marathon. To drop out has never been an option for me in triathlon, I have always raced from behind and that has given me the mentality to never drop out, anything can happen in the front of the race and as long as I can keep going I might catch people. Everyone is struggling in the end of an Ironman and it’s normally not until the last 10-15 K of the marathon where I run into the top 3 or top 5 in races. So if I should have dropped out as soon as I felt like I had no chance on a good overall position I wouldn’t have finished many races.

Of course I wasn't going to catch anyone this day in NZ, but if I had come this far I thought I might was well finish. It wasn't a pleasant experience but it forced me to learn more about my body and how important the right nutrition is during a long race as an Ironman. And as long as we learn something it wasn't a total failure.

Already the same year I got revenge from my bad finish in NZ when I finished the Ironman distance race in Roth, Germany Quelle Challenge in a Swedish record fast time of 8.21. The old record was 8.26, held by Jonas Colting and was from 2002.

I finished up my 2005 season with a solid 4th place finish in IM Wisconsin.

Coming into the 2006 season I was training harder then ever. This ended up in a broken down immune system and shingles during the spring so I had to cancel my plans to race IM Arizona in the beginning of April.

But the same thing happened now as it did the year before. I got a nice revenge when I once again had a good race in Roth, Germany; I broke my own Swedish record over the Ironman distance when I finished in a solid time of 8.15.

Before my race in Roth I also won my 4th gold at the Swedish national championship in duathlon. After my 3 straight win in the national championship in duathlon 2001-2003 I wasn't able to take part in the championship 2004-2005 because I raced some Ironman race, so it was a nice come back to get the gold 2006.

I was able to finish up 2006 with a 2nd place at Ironman UK in august before my body shut down and I had to change my racing plans and focus 100% on getting my health back.

So that was the story about that, ended up to be a little long but I cut it a little short towards the end at least.

Now I hope I will be able to write a similar report 10 year from now that include a lot of great racing stories from around the world that I have been part of, but I know that 2007 will be named the build up year that forced me to learn things about myself so I could reach my full potential in long distance racing.

Until next time, have a great summer.

Clas Björling
June 4: Th 2007

What I Wish I Knew 6 Years Ago

Sam Doolittle

In a little under two months, I will be competing in my 7th Ironman Canada. I plan on taking a break this year meaning I won’t be signing up for next year the day after the event. It is not that I don’t enjoy this any more. Quite the contrary. I still love the training and seeing its effects on my body. However, I have found that six years of giving up (and, more importantly, my family giving up) things because of choices I have to make about my schedule has gotten to the point where I need to take a break. This is actually a little scary to me. Preparing for and making my annual trek to Penticton has become part of what defines me as an individual. Giving that up is scary. The specter of an Ironman each year has kept me in great shape. Will I get soft? I think I’ve escaped a lot of aging from 31 to 38 years old. Will I catch up now? Will I ever do another Ironman again?

I think I probably will. In the meantime, I was reflecting on what I would tell myself if I could go back in time seven years – when I had signed up for my first Ironman in Canada.

Like Curly from City Slickers, the secret to successfully training for an Ironman takes just one thing. Except here, I am going to tell you that one thing.

Train as much as you can consistently train.

That’s it. Before you stop reading and think that I am just pointing out the obvious, let me provide some examples. Now, I am a pretty smart guy, but I didn’t always get this right. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • I inserted huge training days that I wasn’t ready for. I was very proud that I got through them but then I’d miss subsequent workouts.
  • I ate poorly. This made me tired and I skipped workouts.
  • I didn’t get enough rest. This includes scheduled recovery.
  • I didn’t eat and hydrate properly before/during/after training. This ran me down and I missed workouts. It also made my workouts stink and lowered my moral. Nothing like a little dehydration to help convince me that I can’t ride a bike worth crap!
  • I didn’t get my family on board with my plan. They weren’t happy. I would skip workouts to spend more time with them.
  • I was too optimistic about my availability and thought I could train more than I could. This led to missed workouts. It’s a lot easier to miss a workout if you’ve already missed some.
  • I went too hard on workouts, ignoring all my expensive gadgets, and most of all myself. This would lead to missed workouts.
  • I’d get sick from any and all of the factors above and miss workouts.

In fact, pretty much every training mistake I made was a result of forgetting that my primary goal was to train as much as I could consistently train.

So, how do you know how much you can consistently train? Well, to be honest, I am seven years into IM training, and I still don’t know for sure. The downside of my optimistic tendencies is that I still think I can do more than I can. What would I tell myself? Make the easiest plan you can think of. Execute it flawlessly for 12 weeks. Then, re-evaluate your training log and take something out of the basic week for each missed workout. Go another 12 weeks and repeat.

I will tell you this, though. The key to the question of how much you can consistently train is to be able to answer it yourself. I see a lot of folks seeking the answer on the internet and it’s just not there. Even with coaching, unless you see your coach face to face at least weekly, you need to be able to answer this question for yourself. And really, isn’t the reason we do Ironman to see how far we can really take ourselves? Then why do we keep asking other people?

How about race day execution? Well, call it “training” day execution and you have your answer. Race your Ironman like your long training days – why should you do anything different?

Mark Twain once wrote an essay about the origins of man. It was meant to poke fun at a contemporary of his who posited that all prior species were here to serve the coming of man. At any rate, Twain pointed out that if the timeline of the universe was the height of the Eiffel Tower, man’s existence is represented by the skin of the paint on top of the ball on top of the tower.

I will go so far as to say that for the overwhelming majority of Ironman athletes, anything regarding training that is not encompassed in Train as much as you can consistently train represents the paint on top of the Eiffel Tower. This includes:

  • Powercranks
  • Newton Shoes
  • Altitude tents
  • Snorkels, fins, paddles, bands, water wings and endless pools
  • Differences between training protocols
  • Most everything to do with bike equipment
  • Etc, etc

Happy training,



Sam was asked about Power Meters. His take...

I considered them and decided to exclude them from the list. Here's is my take on power meters. To over generalize, power meters have two main uses:

1) to provide feedback during training on level of effort

2) to provide information for past-training analysis (trends over time, improvement, etc)

Item #2, above, would go on the list I put together in the article.

Now, I do happen to think the use of a power meter can be important when used as item #1. Different people have different limiters. Some folks seem to be able to instinctively know how to set their pacing. Others (like me) have to learn this skill. A power meter can be very helpful in working this out in two main areas: early bike pacing when you feel great and avoiding power spikes. I've had plenty of workouts where I shelled myself by focusing on outcomes (chasing speed, time, etc) instead of focusing on the effort (power) I was creating. As a result, I've cut workouts short or missed workouts. In this vein, I think a power meter can be helpful in developing consistency.

One final note, using a power meter to set effort is a skill in itself. I wrote something up on this for Gordo that he may be putting in AP. It compares using a power meter and hrm with the instruments a pilot uses to fly a plane.

Personal Planning, July 2007

This week I'll write about a few techniques that I use to enhance my personal effectiveness. Should make a change from the training discussion of the last few posts.

I've written before about longer term Personal Planning (see 5 September 2006) -- that is the template that I use for a 1-5 year time horizon. Looking over the medium term is a useful exercise for setting strategic direction. However, it is merely an initial step because it lacks immediacy as well as a concrete plan for daily action.

Personal excellence (for me) is driven by the creation of habitual (daily) actions towards ethical & challenging goals.

The photo this week is my white board. Up until a few weeks ago, I was using it for a To Do list for Alan, Mat and myself. However, it struck me that my greatest value added to the team isn't keeping lists for the Lads! In fact, if team members can't self-manage and meet their own deadlines then the team will be stronger without them. So my "management" was holding us back.

I considered how best to use the board to remind myself, and my team, the key elements of my personal game plan.


Left Column -- winning Ironman Canada is a near-term, achievable, highly challenging goal. Two years ago, that item was raise equity & debt funding for our Scottish property venture. Four years agao, that item may have been "run a sub-3 hour marathon off-the-bike". The exact nature of the item isn't all that important (in a larger sense) but having a near-term, challenging goal that requires daily focus... that helps me manage my time, focus and daily actions. You could call it the short-term expression of my Ultimate Vision.

Not To Do -- below that item (in red) are the three items that I've identified that tend to create disharmony. However, I've rephrased them into positive statements.

Don't seek to control the world becomes... Assist Without Owning
Avoid over-scheduling becomes... Limit New Commitments & Keep Schedule Simple

Those two points are my #1 self-sustained stress factors.

Sitting here, typing this out, I realized that I'm missing something on listening. So I just added... Hear People Clearly. When I get excited, I can spend more time thinking about what I will say next -- than listening.

My "not to do's" are essential because they are habits that I have developed that bring stress to me and limit my effectiveness. I love my flaws as much as I love my strengths, even productive change is challenging.


Central Column -- these are the items that I need to action daily in order to rapidly and effectively move towards my goals. I'll walk you through them because (for me) there is a powerful simplicity.

Love Monica -- concrete daily actions that demonstrate that M's important to me. These actions (in themselves) may not be all that important but their effect is the most powerful collective action that I can take each day. Some examples: garbage, composting, heavy lifting, empty the dishwasher, charge iPod, watering flowers, sit on couch, eat baking and chat.

Elite performance comes from the cumulative effect of many small decisions -- my marriage seems to mirror my sport. This is a radical shift in perspective for me. I have a blind spot for the connection between actions and love. Seems pretty clear when I type it out, though!

Train Daily -- this week's Alternative Perspectives is written by my good buddy, Sam Doolittle. He says it far better than me.

Wake-up Early -- the most important thing that I do each day is get out of bed. Sounds simple? Watch what happens when you don't "have" to get up in the morning. Personal productivity plummets -- when you have all the time in the world to achieve something, it often fails to get done. Deadlines & forced daily commitments are essential for "novice" achievers to get moving.

No Booze -- one hangover every 7-14 days knocks 10-15% off my annual productivity. In the fields that I seek to compete (triathlon/finance), I can't afford to give that kind of edge to my competition.

Media-Lite -- the amount of "signal" contained in the Western media is tiny compared to the noise and bias. In order to think clearly, I've greatly reduced my access to media. I still get a ton and am constantly tempted to return to my old ways. Here's the stuff that currently gets through my filter...

Slate.Com -- politics: I could easily do without
Economist.Com -- main source of media info: I read 30-50% of the on-line edition
CNN.Com, WSJ.Com and FT.Com (headlines)
Doonesbury.Com -- daily cartoon
CoachKP.Com -- help my buddy and find out what he's _really_ doing
XTri.Com & Ironman.Com -- keep an eye on my coaching & athletic competition
Weather.Com -- don't want to get caught at 10,000 feet in a hail storm!
Athlete Blogs -- find out how the Lads are doing through a different filter

That's a lot of stuff to review and I could easily pare it down a further 75% with zero impact on my ability to achieve my goals.

Email Mondays -- This is an on-going experiment for me. I've greatly increased personal energy and chopped my email traffic by 65% in one month. We'll see if once a week will work for the long term.

In order to maintain my client contacts, this new policy had an unintended consequences... in the early days, one of the clients asked how to get in touch with Monica if I died! He may have been trying to tell me something...

I took the hint and now work the telephone with my clients. Telephone is draining for me because it is my least effective medium of communication. Next year, I will shift to video conferencing and that should help a bit. The telephone cuts through a ton of the back-and-forth that results over the Internet and that makes it worth the effort.

Quick email messages may seem convenient but their existence provides disruption and interrupts the flow and quality of thought. Ultimately, my greatest value added flows through the quality of my thought.

I've asked Mat and Alan to check emails at Noon and 4pm when they are working. My gut feel was that we would get the greatest benefit from going off-the-grid on "office days" but I decided to try a more moderate trial.


Below my daily action points are my weekly action points: write this blog (weekly) and read good books. These come back to quality of thought -- practice expressing myself in writing and let good ideas flow into my head.


The right column contains short hand for key projects within my business life. In a sense, each item is a "client" of mine. I tend to view any business-related activity/person/project as a client. I keep a mix of established, venture and development "clients" within my personal portfolio.


I combine my white board with a single-sheet of paper for each week. Each Sunday, I write out my schedule for the entire week as well as my key "to do" items and telephone calls.

Since leaving Hong Kong in 2000, I've seen my (relative) personal productivity plummet. However, my global reach, personal freedom and direct effectiveness have soared. From the outside, I've been told that I do a tremendous amount. It doesn't feel that way to me. I used to "do" far, far more working 60-hour weeks while training for triathlon. The difference now is that _what_ I do is much more powerful and reaches many more people -- I've traded efficiency for effectiveness.

We all create clutter and dead time in our lives -- I am the same.

I work on building the habit of identifying (then removing) people, projects and opportunities that distract me. It is often unpleasant at the front end to clear away "clutter" -- I can find myself wondering about getting rid of old clothing!

To be clear, the most challenging items to clear away are those that are attractive. I say "no" to a tremendous amount to things that would be an effective (and fun) use of my time. Learning to do that with compassion is a focus for me.


My main point is that planning is most useful when combined with a system of daily action. Above are a couple of systems that I use to help keep myself rolling.

Hope this helps,

Clas "The Baron" Bjorling -- Part One

About My Life Before I Started With Triathlon

This is the first of a series of articles I’m going to write, the articles will be mainly about my life and different things I have learned over the years both in and outside the sport. I will try to come out with a new article every month with different topics.

The first article will be about my life before I came into triathlon, just so you get a better idea who I am. I’m just about to be able to come back to some easy training again after have been suffering from overtraining and a Epstein-Barr virus since August 2006, so I though is a good time to look back on my life and share the things I have learned.

So, my name is Clas Björling, I’m born June 13, 1978. I grew up in Mockfjärd; it’s a small village in the middle of Sweden. I still live in this town and call it home even if I end up travelling around the world for 6-7 month of the year, my girlfriend Kristy is American so I end up spending a lot of time in the state with her of course, but she have been in Sweden a few summers to. Kristy is also a professional triathlete.

I live in a big house in Mockfjärd that I share with my father and his girlfriend.
My parents got divorce 15 years ago but my mom live just a short walk from where I live so I see her a lot to. I have a 3 year older brother and an 8 year younger sister. My sister lives with my mom and my brother lives in a town 30 K from here and has a 3 year old daughter.

I have a very close relationship to my family so it can be hard sometimes when I’m away for long periods of time, but I often get restless when I’m at home for very long to. A nice thing to be travelling is that I appreciate all the things more that I have at home in Mockfjärd. After a few months on the road is nice to come home to relax and spend time with my family and friends. And I like to have the woods and all the lakes close by to train in, make me feel more alive then to train in some big city and doing laps in some pool that stink chlorine.

That was a little about my family situation. This article was supposed to be about me life before I came into triathlon so I better get started on that subject then. It is just hard to know what to begin with. I don’t remember so much from when I was very young so it will be more an “overlook” how I remember it.

I was lucky enough to grow up without computers or TV games, so I learned early how to play “active” games with my friends and to be outdoor. When I grew up we just had 2 channels on the TV so it wasn’t much to watch on there either.

My mom worked from home until I was 10 so I grow up in a relaxing home where I didn’t need to be driven back and force to some day care and have to play with kids I didn’t like. I feel very lucky to be able to grow up with my parents and not having other people taking care of me all day.

What I remember I played a lot with my brother and his friends, and then I played a lot of card with my grandfather. My family also spent a lot of time out in the woods at a lake where we had a cabin without any electricity, running water and a “real” bathroom. In the summer time at the lake we went on long walks or spent the day fishing or just relaxing. In the winter we did ice fishing, went on snowmobile rides or climbed to the top of some hill just so we could glide fast back downhill in a big plastic bag or some other slippery material.

I have a lot of good memories from being a kid up at the lake. To have the opportunity to be outside all day in a stress free, relaxing environment is something I still appreciate today. Of course back then I didn’t think about it so much, but today I can see how lucky I have been to be able to grow up this way.

When I was 4 years old my parents also put me on my first dirt bike, don’t think I was doing any 360 back then (not that I’m doing that today either) but I believe a lot of the endurance and strength I have in triathlon today I have got from riding the dirt bike from when I was very young.

Another thing I did as a kid that has helped me to build the right mind and strength for long distance training and racing was to work in the woods. We heat up the house with wood and have always done, so every weekend in the fall I was out working in the woods with my parents. That’s the time when we cut down and bring home the woods so we have enough for another year. Back then my brother and dad was working with the chain saw and my mom and I was the ones that pulled it all together so we easily could pick it up with the tractor. As I grew older I was allowed to do some work with the chain saw as well which was a nice change from been pulling trees together all day.

I never saw the work in the woods as hard work. I just loved it out there so much, and still do. That is the best way to get my body and mind going again after an Ironman or some other time of the year when I have been taking a break from regular training.

My nutrition hasn’t always been as good as it is today. When I grow up my dad worked as baker so I grew up eating cinnamon rolls and donuts for breakfast, then my mom liked to cook with a lot of cream and butter. So I’m glad I had an active life as a kid to, otherwise I might have been as unhealthy as most kids are today, this just shows that it is not today’s diet that are the big problem for people, the problem is to much stress with an inactive lifestyle they, both kids and adults.

That is a little about my childhood. Let’s tell you a little about how I came into more organised exercise.

It was when I was about 15 years old and had just got a moped. When you turn 15 here in Sweden you are allowed to drive a moped that can run 30 km/h. Of course what I didn’t realize and what many kids/ or parents doesn’t realize is that when you start driving a moped instead of your bike you cut away a lot of daily activity for the teenagers. Of course when you are at that age you don’t see that the riding you do to school or to friends as training, you are just happy that you don’t have to pedal when you have to go somewhere.

Anyway, around this age one of my best friends who had been lifting weights at a local gym for about a year asked me if I wanted to come and train with him. I didn’t know why I should go and spend time lifting weights and train but I gave it a try and I really liked it. Maybe I didn’t get hooked to the training it self right away but it was nice to have something to do and I was pretty natural strong from all the other work I had done in the woods so it was fun. Then they had a sauna there as well where we spent some time after the session to talk about everything.

On the weekends we had a lot of pre parties in the sauna. After a good training session, some beers in the sauna, then we were ready to move on to the big party. I was parting almost every weekend from I was 15 to 18-19. We always had some reason to party, but I’m very happy that it stayed with beer and vodka. I’m proud to say that I have never used illegal/heavier drugs in parting, training or racing which could have been pretty easy to do the way I grew up. Not that I had the age to drink alcohol when I was 15 but that is another story.

Around this time was also the time when my parents got divorce so it was nice to leave home and get all the anger and stress out by lifting the weights. Think it helped me to come through the whole divorce thing easier. So from the first day I walked in to the gym I never really left.

One thing that I forgot to mention is that in the last 3 years in ground school (the first 9 year of school we call ground school) we had a 10 K running race every year. So that was when I was 13, 14 and 15. The first year I hadn’t been running at all before the race and ended up running 44.28 min. The 2: nd year I had been doing a few runs on the local trails and ran 40.30. The 3: rd and last year I had been running around a few times a week for the last month before the race and did 37.21 min.

Another activity I did when I was around 10-12 years old was that a played some soccer. But I have never been very good to handle any equipment when I’m moving so I stopped doing that after a few years.

When I was 16 and moved on to high school (think that is what they call it in USA, the school you go to when you are done with the first 9 years in “ground school”) I started in a new school in a town named Borlänge that is located 30 K from Mockfjärd, I travelled there every day by buss. Here I meet some new friends and one guy in my class was in the Swedish team in canoeing. A big part of his training was done in the gym so we got pretty close and were lifting a lot of weights together. Some days I lifted weights with him at a gym in Borlänge before the school started, then after school I went back to the gym in Mockfjärd to join my other friends in theirs session. So already back then it ended up to be a lot of training, but because I was training in the gym so much without and special diet or enough recovery I never got very big or very strong. But I have to say that I got very fit.

When I was 17 years old I went to see my brother finish a 90 K cross country ski race named “Vasaloppet” here in Sweden. When I saw him at the finish line and saw how tired but happy he was I decided to do that race the following year. Even if I grow up in Sweden I never did much cross country skiing as a kid. So my skiing skills weren’t the best when I signed up for “Vasaloppet”, but I learned pretty quick and got some good hours of ski training done so the race went pretty well.

When I now was done with that race I decided to keep doing some long distance races here in Sweden that together are included in what we call “En Svensk Klassiker” (The Swedish Classic). The Swedish Classic include “Vasaloppet”, “Vättern rundan” which is a 300 K cycling race, “Vansbro simningen” which is a 3 K open water swim race and the 4: Th event is a 30 K cross country ski race called “Lidingöloppet”. If you finish these 4 races in 1 year you have done “The Swedish Classic” and get a diploma. A lot of people use this Classic to get motivation to train and stay fit and healthy all year around.

So after the 90 K skiing race I bought a road bike and started doing some riding to train for the 300 K bike race which was run in June, 3 month after the ski race. I started to ride the bike to school in Borlänge a few times a week, sometimes I rode there, lifted weights, went to school all day, rode home to Mockfjärd after school, lifted weights again with my friends here, did home work and then straight to bed. So I had some long training days pretty early in life.

When June came and it was time for the bike race I was pretty fit and the bike race went okay; I finished, but had experienced a new level if tiredness, fatigue, which I really liked. A month after the bike race was the swim race. In Sweden we just learn breast stroke as kids so it took me a good 1.5 hour to finish the 3 K, but the goal was just to finish which I also did. Then in October it was time for the 30 K cross country running race, the last event for me to get the Diploma for “En Svensk Klassiker”. The running race went pretty well; think I did 2.02 hours on a pretty tough course and I had made En Svensk Klassiker. What I didn’t know then was that by training for these events I had slowly started to build a interest for endurance training and racing.

This summer I also got in touch with triathlon when I first joined a team in a short triathlon relay as the runner, and a few months later I also did my first triathlon when the Swedish Championship over the sprint distance was organised in a town close by and they had a triathlon for fun race outside the Championship that I could do. I had read an article about Ironman Hawaii in some Swedish magazine a few years earlier and had since that day thought that it would be fun to try triathlon. I didn’t know much about triathlon back then but I did ok in this race. I wasn’t fast during the swim as I swam breast stroke and the transitions was very slow and chaotic , but I moved up through the field during the bike and the run and I finished 3: rd, and I really liked what I just had put myself through.

The year after I made the Swedish Classis, so 1998, I joined the Swedish Army to do 15 month military service. In Sweden all 18-20 year old men have to do 7.5 to 15 month of military service, then after that you are placed in the army reserve until you are 45-50 something.
So I moved to another town named Falun where I did my military service. I really liked the structured and simple life in the military. Kind of fit my personality, everyone knows what needs to be done and it gets done without anyone complaining or need to discuss things over and over again, and you get clothes, food and a bed. I learned a lot of good things in the military that I will have with me for the rest of my life, just simple things as how to work as a group, to take and give order. And of course we had a lot of time to train, which I did. One officer who did some run coaching saw pretty early that I had some talent for running, so he helped me with some training ideas and he brought me to my first real running races. Pretty soon I found out that longer cross country races and ½ marathons suited me best.

So now I slowly started to spend less time in the gym and more time running and cycling. Even if I was focusing on running it was hard for me to let the bike training go away, I really liked the long hours I could put in on the bike that wasn’t really possible with the running.

Still back in my head I remember the great feeling from when I did the triathlon race the previous year, so I joined a triathlon team in Falun to try to learn how to swim freestyle. This was to be a big challenge for me. All the years in the woods and the gym had really made my upper body tight, and from not being introduced at all to freestyle for 20 years didn’t make things easier and I kind of had a fear for putting my head under water. But my personality also back then was to never give up, so I kept working and working and one day many months later I was able to swim my first 25 m freestyle. I’m sure it didn’t look pretty or that it was a new world record time but it just showed me that everything is possible to achieve if you just want it badly enough.

I think this is a good way to end this first article that was suppose to be a little about how my life was before I started with triathlon. Now you have got an idea how I grew up and how I first came into the sport.

As you can see I wasn’t a kid that grew up dreaming about gold medals. I think I came into the sport for the right reason, because I like to push my body and mind behind the limits, and I think that is all what Ironman is all about. Of course by doing this for many years and not listening to my body when it have told me to rest I’m now paying the price with over training.
It’s a very fine line from pushing hard and long enough to be the best you can, and be pushing too much. I have now pushed to far but I’m very confident (most days) that if I just stick with this recovery plan that I’m on I will be able to come back to high level of training and racing even stronger and smarter then what I have ever been.

Until next time, train safe!!
//Clas Björling

Dr. Jeff Shilt

My interest in endurance sports came relatively late in life. As most of us who have traveled the medicine path, my successes in life to this juncture have been academic and the result of consistent work over a prolonged period of time, a common theme you hear in the pursuit of most worthy goals.

My athletic success follows that same pathway. Since joining the faculty at Wake Forest upon completion my fellowship in 1999, I started doing triathlons casually in 2000. My first Ironman was in Brazil in 2003, finishing in 11:29. That day challenged me to approach triathlon more seriously...4 years, 6 ironman, and 3 epic camps later I finished IM Brazil 2006 in 9:54, qualifying for a spot at the world championship in Kona.

My experience in training and coaching has been influenced by the coaches I’ve worked with the past few years, including Gordo Byrn, and Scott Molina. A great deal of my training philosophy draws from the significant time I've spent with Gordo. I believe in the "basic week" training philosophy and creating a program that will provide your best results within a healthy life-long plan. My particular expertise is helping successful professionals balance the demands of training with work/life demands. Given my background, I like helping those with biomechanical or medical issues as well.

Over the past 2 years, I have worked with a wide range of ability levels, from elite age group to recreational athletes.

My educational background consists:

  • Undergraduate & Medical degree: University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Residency: Ochsner Clinic
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship: St. Louis University
  • Pediatric Spine & Orthopaedic Fellowship: Vanderbilt University

***I’m currently an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Wake Forest University

The Science Behind Race Day Nutrition

Tips to Help Prevent Gastrointestinal Breakdown

Jeff Shilt, M.D.

After months of training your heart, body and mind for 140.6 miles of swim/bike/run, GI shutdown is the last thing you want to end your day. That said, a disappointing number of race experiences are summarized as “sick and on the side of the road.”

This is a remarkably common problem among athletes who experience difficulties at the ironman distance. After extensive preparation and the enormous expense to compete at the event, we are derailed by the one system we likely have given little thought to during the time leading up to the event. Yet a significant number of athletes are unable to race to their potential because of nutritional or gastrointestinal issues on game day.

In order to fully understand the problem, I think it is helpful to discuss the physiology of nutrition during endurance events.

Most people maintain normal gastric emptying and intestinal motility by remaining below a heart rate which corresponds to less than 70% VO2 max effort. If you don’t use physiologic testing to facilitate training, this corresponds to approximately 80% of your maximum heart rate or the effort commonly referred to as “steady”.

Both science and personal experience suggest that intermittent high periods of exertion (surges) slow your gastric absorption and intestinal motility more than a higher average constant heart rate without surges. In other words, an average hr of 140 that includes several periods of 170, will shut your gut down more than a steady average hr of 145.

de Castella & July

Our picture this week is Brandon and Scott post-run at Epic Camp New Zealand. We are accepting applications for our 2008 camps (New Zealand and Italy). If you are interested then head over to the Epic Web Site and send your details to Johno. As of today, we have spaces left in both camps.


These individuals have riches just as we say that we "have a fever," when really the fever has us. -- Seneca

I pulled the above quote from The 4-Hour Workweek, which I've now finished. You can substitute different words for "riches" -- fitness; knowledge; beauty; success...


Jeff "Dr. J" Shilt has written our next article over on Alternative Perspectives. Jeff's taken the time to medically interpret the dreaded "GI-Shutdown" that occurs to many athletes during competition.

One of the characteristics of an effective coach is the ability to share knowledge in different formats. Technical discussions are not my forte -- Jeff points out that while I get the "gist" correct, my terminology can often "need improvement".

He's kindly agreed to share his technical knowledge on a range of subjects and I'll be posting his articles in the future.

You'll also find an article by my good friend, Clas Bjorling. Clas has agreed to write a series of articles that take us from his high school years to an 8:15 Ironman time (and beyond). This is certainly an Alternative Perspective because (as you'll read) Clas and I achieved Ironman success from very different backgrounds.

Like me, Clas believes that the best remains to come!


Finally, if you are looking for Alternative Perspectives of what it is like to train directly with me then head to John Shilt's Blog -- he's documenting his summer as one of The Lads. If you scroll down then you'll find a listing of all The Lads as well as their Blog links.

Before you feel too sorry for John's self-detonation yesterday I'll share a quote following the "nothing special ride" that we had scheduled on Tuesday (after his track session)...

"G, you would have been proud of me I was really disciplined there, kept the heart rate to 162 bpm".

As an ultra-endurance athlete, the most dangerous aspect of "letting" yourself do hard training is that it resets your internal perception of effort. Very few athletes have a limiter of going "too easy" in their races.

At the time that John felt that we were being controlled we were going 30-40 miles per hour.

I was sitting on 145 bpm and knew that I was engaged in some impromptu tempo! I'd also done a track session and was amazed at how "easy" it felt. This is likely the mechanism that screws up our early bike perception (when we swim too fast).


de Castella on Running

I am in a BIG training week right now so I'm going to hit this in point form. Hopefully, you'll be able to pull some useful info out of here.

#1 -- the most interesting thing to me (as a high-volume guy) is the author's ability to maximize his genetic potential with a training program that was 11-15 hours of training per week. This was in a deep, highly competitive sport. For a period of time, he was the best marathoner in the world.

#2 -- there was total commitment of his inner circle to HIS success. His inner circle consisted of his wife; his training buddies and his work. His consistency was amazing with up to 1,000 day running streaks.

As an aside, last week a friend asked me how he could get a person to care more about their career (the underlying point, possibly, being that if this person improved their career then he could focus more on his non-career goals).

Some points...

a -- if I could only get my wife to support me more... // consider if you are worthy of support! If you want someone to support you then they need to believe in you and deeply desire to help you. In other words, the support that we receive from our inner circle is directly proportional to the support we give back. True leadership is earned and must be personified/renewed daily. If you are seeking leadership so that you can kick back and cruise on the efforts of others -- your team will see through you, immediately.

b -- placing the burden of our achievement on another person -- these are fear-based excuses. True leadership comes from creating our own circumstances for success.

c -- Every morning ask yourself, what are the actions that I can take (today) that will directly impact my ability to achieve my goals? Most people spend their time on items that have ZERO bearing on what they are seeking to achieve. Does constantly surfing the internet directly support the most important items in your life? These habits are tough to break -- I know because I'm working on it too!

#3 -- "I kept believing that I could win" -- one of the secrets of success is deeply knowing that you can win. That doesn't mean that it is certain -- it simply means that if you keep doing your absolute best then you have a shot. Many of the self-sabotaging actions that I witness in athletics result from the athlete lacking self belief.

#4 -- "Train below your threshold." -- Training is a method to achieve "fitness". Fitness being the components necessary for effective competition. (paraphrase...) "I had to make compromises because I knew that I had to train the next day." By threshold, de Castella refers to our maximum limit, not a physiological point of intensity.

***Most athletes train until they can train no more. Early in his career, de Castella did this as well. However, he learned from that and rarely repeated his mistakes. In my own program, my training partners very, very, very rarely see my best.

#5 -- "Strength" -- the capacity to muster speed when exhausted. His program was built around the creation of race strength. If this works for a "short" event like a marathon then consider how appropriate it is for a "long" event like most triathlons.

#6 -- Pace merely provides feedback -- training is based on effort.

#7 -- The fastest time comes from building effort. Run evenly, finish strong.

While, de Castella writes that he doesn't "believe in" periodization. He did believe in phasing his year to build the various components of race performance (fitness). My "working athlete" approach fits very well into his Basic Week with variation based on the competitive and natural seasons.


I thought that I'd share my most common summer training mistakes with you. By writing them down here, I hope to avoid them over the next seven weeks.

These warnings apply to all sports and are most appropriate as your fitness grows. The closer you get to maximum fitness, the closer you get to blowing it all.

No doubt, some of you will think that I am writing directly to you... as I told the Lads last week. If you feel something when you read my writing then consider who is doing the feeling!

#1 -- PB Training -- when things are going very well in training, slow down and pat yourself on the back. As you experience life best training performance, relax and accept the increased fitness. Resist the urge to "go hard" on every session. Learn to operate slightly below your limits.

#2 -- Nutrition -- as your key sessions become more demanding, you will need to increase your focus on nutrition. There is no faster way to end your season than long/intense training that is done in a depleted state. Depletion and dehydration training will not bring success.

#3 -- Weight -- you can improve your body composition // or // you can pursue life best training. You can't do both. Nutritional stress must be low when training stress is high. This point will make a lot more sense after you've blown it, believe me!

#4 -- Bonus Intensity -- nearly all the decent athletes that I train with will use their increased fitness to train "one-level-up" on all their sessions. Know your physiological zones and stick to your plan. Most athletes are unable to execute their plans in a group situation. There is huge race day upside from training yourself to execute on your own terms.

#5 -- Group Training -- you never know how hard your training partners are working. The guys that are dropping you on Tuesday may be taking most of the week off. Let your training partners be strong -- it will make it more fun when you crush them at your next A-race.

#6 -- Benchmarking -- Don't benchmark yourself off anyone that fails to do every _meter_ of your weekly program (especially your running). Be wary of keying off athletes that consistently race below their training performances -- use them but don't emulate them.

#7 -- Recovery -- nearly all highly motivated athletes will not recover until they are physically unable to train. The bulk of your competition are completely unable to sort their recovery... you can give yourself a huge advantage by planning (then executing) your unloading periods.

#8 -- Specific Preparation -- no matter what you try to tell yourself -- riding the wattage roller coaster on the wheel of a fast ironman guy is not an express ticket to success. Use the "crazy" aspects of the group for your fast training, and use it sparingly.

#9 -- Big Dog Riding -- if you are one of the stronger guys in your group then try this... ride 20 meters off the back of the group for the first 90-120 minutes of the ride (a strategic early ride pee is good for this). You'll get gapped for a bit. Once you roll back up to the group (first dip in team motivation) -- pull the lads for 30-60 minutes. Each time someone comes around you -- let the gap open up to 10 meters and wait until they come back. Pull for some more until another guy takes off.

In June, the lads never came back to me (!). It was lonely but great training! As my fitness increases, I'm able to hang in for longer. Of course, now that The Lads are reading this... I fully expect a concerted effort to work me.


Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary. After an eight-hour training day, we headed out to dinner at a local restaurant. After a bit of prodding, I managed to get Mrs. Byrn to offer up my key point for Year Three -- asking how she is doing more often.

From the beginning of our relationship, my #1 goal has been to help Monica feel love(d). In fact, that's been top of my list for a while now.

With that in place everything else falls into line.


The Lydiard Method: A Scientific Perspective

Part 1: The 100 mile week

Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science), CSCS, PES

So often, in the quest for peak athletic performance, ground-breaking discoveries are made by coaches long before sports science is able to ‘validate’ their effectiveness. The great Arthur Lydiard, perhaps epitomizes this better than any other modern coach. Arthur’s core precepts such as the 100 mile week, the hard-easy principle, periodization, multi-speed training and the benefits of Aerobic and Anaerobic Threshold training have been re-affirmed by numerous elite coaches and athletes over the 50 years since his first experiments to discover, through trial and error, the best training method. Names such as Bill Bowerman, coach of champion runner, Steve Prefontaine, Pat Clohessy, coach of 2:08 marathoners Rob DeCastella and Steve Monaghetti, and even the great Ron Clarke have all touted Arthur’s programs as a primary inspiration for their own world record smashing schedules. And yet, even to this day, his approach is not widely accepted or validated in the sports science community. In a world where a 12 week study is par for the course, there is unsurprisingly, very little literature that supports Arthur’s long-term approach to athletic training. What I hope to show here, and in the coming articles, is some of the scientific reasoning behind, what are, in my humble opinion some of the most important (and neglected) training principles required to reach your peak potential in endurance sports.

The 100 mile week
“I discovered years ago that the best results in this respect could be gained by running 100 miles weekly at my near best aerobic efforts and that, supplementary to this, running as many easy miles as I could”-Arthur Lydiard

After trialing various weekly training distances, ranging from 50 miles per week to 200 miles per week, Arthur settled on 100 miles per week at the runners “best aerobic pace” as the optimal training volume. This has been backed up over following years by practically every elite marathoner in the world, from Steve Jones to Rob De Castella to Derek Clayton (Noakes, 2003) and even today to runners like Paul Tergat (Wurz, 2005), who all run in the range of 100-130miles per week at an average pace that is @~70-75% of their vVO2, somewhat less than their Marathon race pace. There is good physiological reasoning behind this optimal training volume & intensity. But first, a quick recap of muscle physiology.

At the practical level, muscles within the body are composed of differing fiber types. These can be classified as slow twitch (or Type I) fibers, fast twitch oxidative (Type IIa) fibers and fast twitch glycolytic (Type IIb fibers). These fiber types have quantifiable differences in a number of aspects. For the endurance athlete, particularly marathoners and long-course triathletes, two of the most important distinctions are:

Glycogen Usage

Time required for Glycogen replenishment.

Studies have shown that Type I fibers deplete their glycogen stores at a slower rate than Type II fibers (Saltin & Karlsson, 1971). The practical implication here is that if an athlete is to stay below the recruitment threshold for Type IIa fibers, they will be able to accomplish substantially more training in a given week. This recruitment threshold has been physiologically defined as the “Aerobic Threshold” (Skinner and McLellan 1980). In popular literature, coaches such as Gordo Byrn and Joe Friel have defined this as Zone 2 or “Steady” training. Interestingly, all of the fore-mentioned coaches have concluded that, during the preparatory phase, this is the most important training intensity. Yes all of this is very interesting, you may say, but how does this relate to the 100 mile week? Read on.

The other important factor that distinguishes fiber types for an endurance athlete is the time required to replenish muscle glycogen stores after a long or hard workout. This is one of the prime determinants of recovery in an endurance athlete (Terjung et al., 1985) and consequently, if the endurance athlete can utilize fibers that recover more quickly during the bulk of their training, they will simply be able to train more and accumulate more of a training stimulus. Studies have shown that slow twitch fibers, when fully depleted can be replenished in as short a time frame as 10-22 hours. In contrast, fast oxidative glycolytic fibers, when maximally depleted can take 24-48 hours to replenish, even with a high carbohydrate diet (Piehl, 1974, Casey et al. 1995 ). So, the simple implication for the endurance athlete is that, if they want to maintain a solid training load from day to day, most training should be at or below the recruitment threshold for FOG fibers or, as Friel and others call it, the Aerobic Threshold.

The other constraining variable here is that, if the athlete wants to fully replenish their slowtwitch glycogen stores in preparation for the next session (generally 12-24 hours away), they are limited to ~2 hours of training per 12-24hrs at or around the AeT (to allow for the 10-22 hour recovery time). To make a long story short, this 2-4 hours of training at “your best aerobic effort” is precisely what Arthur Lydiard recommends for his athletes during their base phase of training. Incidentally, it is also echoed by one of the most successful swimming coaches in the world – Bill Sweetenham, who explains optimal volume for base training as “The most training volume that can be completed at 40-50 beats below maximum while still allowing the athlete to be fully recovered for the next training session - generally 12-24 hours away.” (Sweetenham, 2003)

At 2 hours of steady running per day, this equates to ~100-130 miles of training. For sports such as swimming and cycling, which do not exhibit the eccentric loading of running, recovery is quicker (O’Reilly et al., 1987, Sven et al., 1998) and, at the elite level 4 hours per day of training at the aerobic threshold is frequently accomplished. (Sweetenham, 2003, Lucia et al., 2003).

The potential for improving the work rate at the Aerobic Threshold is greater than perhaps any other physiological intensity, and in reality is the only level of training that one can expect to see improve over the course of a decade or more. Anecdotally, Mark Allen reported improving his pace for his 155bpm test progressively over the course of 10 years. While, no studies of elite athletes have been sufficiently long to quantify this improvement, Dr. Timothy Noakes in Lore of Running calculated that Allen’s aerobic threshold effort equated to a fat oxidation rate 50% higher than what had been seen in young national class athletes in the laboratory (Noakes, 2003). The protocol for such improvement was simple. For at least 3 months each year, Allen capped his HR at what he defined as his “aerobic maximum”, 155bpm. In addition, Bill Sweetenham, former national swim coach for Australia, devotes two full years to Aerobic Threshold training in the development of his junior elite swimmers (Sweetenham, 2003).

So, what does all of this mean to me, as a competitive Iron-distance triathlete looking to fulfil my athletic potential? It is the author’s opinion that one of the negative effects of the ‘trickle-down’ of advanced periodization concepts to the general masses is that, while annual periodization is an effective way to change the program of an elite athlete to prevent plateaus, rarely does an age-group athlete get anywhere close to a plateau of their foundational systems before (for the sake of variety), they decide to add more advanced training to their program. If 2 years of training, with the bulk of it below a heart rate of 150, is good enough for young elite swimmers, whose event typically lasts 50 seconds – 2 minutes, surely it is good enough for you as a sub-elite long course athlete (whose event may last 10-12 hours).

So, in practical terms for a long-course triathlete, Lydiard’s 100 mile training week equates to 2-4 hours of “steady” training per day (every day!!) until you witness a distinct plateau in your training volume and training pace. At that point, it may be time to make your shorter sessions faster and introduce training that approaches your Anaerobic Threshold. Stay tuned to Gordo’s blog for a link to the coming article on the role of Anaerobic Threshold training and supplementary endurance training as they relate to the Lydiard method & achieving your peak performance.

Casey, A., Short, A.H., Hultman, E., and Greenhaff, P.L. (1995) Glycogen resynthesis in human muscle fiber types following exercise-induced glycogen depletion. Journal of Physiology, 483(1): 265-271

Lucia, A., Hoyos, J. and Chicharro, J. (2003) Physiology of professional road cycling. In High-Tech Cycling 2nd Ed., (ed. E. Burke) pp. 265-288. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

Noakes, Timothy. (2003) Lore of Running, 2nd ed., Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

O’Reilly, K.P., Warhol, M.J., Fielding, R.A., Frontera, W.R., Meredith, C.N., and Evans, W.J. (1987) Exercise-induced muscle damage impairs muscle glycogen repletion. Journal of Applied Physiology, 63(1): 252-256.

Piehl, K. (1974) Time course for refilling of glycogen stores in human muscle fibers following exercise induced glycogen depletion. Acta Physiol. Scand. 90: 297-302.

Saltin, B. & Karlson, J. (1971). Muscle glycogen utilization during work of different intensities. In Muscle Metabolism During Exercise, (Eds. B. Purnow & B. Saltin) pp. 289-299. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Skinner, J.S. & McLellan, T.H. (1980). The transition from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. Res. Q. Ex. Sport. 51: 234-248

Sweetenham, W. and Atkinson, J. (2003) Championship Swim Training, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Sven Asp, Jens R. Daugaard, Søren Kristiansen, Bente Kiens, Erik A. Richter (1998)
Exercise metabolism in human skeletal muscle exposed to prior eccentric exercise
The Journal of Physiology 509: 305–313.

Terjung, R., Dudley, L. & Meyer, R. (1985). Metabolic and Circulatory Limitations to Muscular Performance at the Organ Level. Journal of Experiemental Biology, 115: 307-308.

Wurz, Jurg (2005) Paul Tergat: Running to the Limit, Aachen, Germany: Meyer and Meyer Sport.

Altitude -- Part One

Our photo this week is the Three Amigos (g, BDC and Denny) at 11,000 feet on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. I mentioned to Brandon that we sure look better than I felt. I had progressed beyond seeing stars to seeing blotches.

It was likely the hypoxia but when Brandon asked me for the location of the nearest water fountain (at 11K) I laughed so hard that I triggered a massive coughing fit. Perhaps you had to be there...

Thursday afternoon here in Boulder and I have just finished the toughest three days of my current training block -- nine days of high volume start on Saturday. In the last 48 hours I managed 30 miles of running (avg elevation ~8,500 feet), ten hours of cycling and 10K of swimming. My final workout was a team time trial session where the lads took me to the point where I "lost interest". Currently, I am moving pretty slowly, especially up stairs.

Hands down, I have the most dedicated crew of homeboys anyone could ask for. Denny, in particular, has total dedication to getting the absolute best out of me on every bike session. I do get a little grumpy when he gives it an extra 30 watts as he pulls through but, hey, that's what I need.

Every coach that I've ever had has told me that it's important to place myself in situations where I'm not in control. Grumpiness is a sign of resistence -- I'm committed to riding more "clearly" next time. To ensure that the lads have an adequate incentive to ignore my pleas for mercy, I shall be offering a $5 cash bonus for anyone that beats me to the KOM point (TBA) in three week's time. They'd probably smash me for free but a little money always make it's more interesting.


Ghost Wars is finished -- read about your tax dollar at work! Given the popular mandate after 9/11, I can only imagine what the CIA have been up to over the last few years. What was most fascinating to me is the unintended consequences and changing dynamic of US foreign policy. A sure-fire policy ten years ago can seem totally boneheaded later. Stockdale's advice about the nature of military action is well taken -- clearly defined while being publicly supported by all of our leaders. Secret wars are far too easy to leave people swinging once the going gets tough.

I also read, "Where are the customers yachts?" An easy, and entertaining, read. Given my focus on personal excellence for Ironman Canada on August 26th, I've shut down new deal flow -- so this didn't hold quite as much interest as when I considering new deals in 2006. Made me smile though.

Right now, I am reading "The 4-Hour Work Week". This book comes the closest to how I make choices on a daily basis. The title, and promo, are a bit chessy and nearly put me off the purchase. I probably bought it because I wanted to see how I stacked up against the author -- I still tend to compete on multiple fronts.

So far, there are two key things that I've pulled out:

The Role of Management -- educating the team to effectively serve the goals of the company. Empowering employees to become effective, rather than efficient.

Dead Time -- I consider myself highly effective but it is amazing how much dead-space remains in my life. The author's point about relentlessly cutting out; "Not to do" lists; learning to say "no"; and relentless simplification are excellent reminders of the value that can be achieved from considering habits that hold us back. He's down to 60 minutes of email once per week. I'm bringing in a few new strategies to free more time for myself.


We're launching Alternative Perspectives this week (thanks to Brian Johnson). The first installment is Alan writing about Lydiard and the 100-Mile Run Week. When you read the article, remember that his athletes were likely running at an average of 10 mph. So the base program was ten-hours of max steady-state work per week (for the rest of your life). Interestingly, as a decent age-group ultrarunner, that duration was close to the max that I could handle. Back then we used to budget ten kilometers per hour and my big weeks were likely close to 100km.


I raced last weekend. Fortunately, my good buddy (Justin Daerr) wrote my race report for me. Just substitute "bike" for "swim" and you have my story. I signed up for a low-key local race and Hunter Kemper turned up! It ain't easy going short when you're a long course guy...


When I prepare for Canada, I like to include a lot of altitude training into my June program. My personal experience is that there is a big reduction in late-race fatigue that accrues to an athlete that has patiently assembled 10+ weeks at altitude.

For this discussion I'll define altitude in five categories. If I was writing to a mountaineering audience then I would change my definitions. When I was climbing high mountains, altitude was pretty much "why bother" until you were over 12K and didn't really start to dig in until over 17K.

Low altitude is less than 4,500 feet
Moderate altitude is 4,500 to 6,500 feet
Mod-High altitude is 6,500 to 8,500 feet
High altitude is 8,500 to 10,500 feet
Very High altitude is over 10,500 feet

Those are rough guidelines based on my personal experience. You could probably go +/- 500 feet at any end.

To give you an idea on how altitude impacts my running...
***Ten (flat-ish) miles at 10,300 was 7:14 per mile pace at 149 bpm (small HR variation)
***Fifteen (hilly) miles at ~8,500 feet was 6:48 per mile pace at 146 bpm (large HR variation)
***Three (flat) miles at sea-level was 5:59 per miles pace at 148 bpm (no HR variation)

I've found that the shortest "altitude" camp that makes sense is seven weeks -- two weeks easy; two weeks solid; one week easy; two weeks solid. The best duration (for me) is ten, or more, weeks.

Most visitors to altitude training locations try to cram too much, too quickly into their programs. The literature talks about low- and high-responding athletes. In my experience, it would be more accurate to classify them as impatient and patient athletes. Athletes that like to do a lot of tough training; tend to make themselves very tired, very quickly by rushing their adaptive periods. Altitude doesn't "work" for them because they are totally shagged when they leave.

I've found real altitude to be far better than artificial. On the artificial side, I've used IHT, low-O2 tents, and low-O2 rooms.

My expereince is that the "sweet spot" for an endurance athlete appears to be in the range of 7,500 to 8,500 feet. That's where I can get my pace rolling (when acclimatized) _and_ enjoy the hypoxic "benefits". At all levels of altitude, I use downhill running to get my cadence and speed up without red-lining my heart rate.

I believe that real altitude works best because, for endurance sports, the most effective adaptive mechanism appears to flow through desaturation that occurs while training at moderate and mod-high altitudes. The interuption to sleep, and slowing of recovery, that occurs from the low-O2 systems seems (to me) to be counterproductive. The delay in recovery that happens from artificial altitude was not outweighed by performance improvement.

I've also noticed that following an extended period of altitude training (say June) -- I am able to maintain my acclimatization with 2-3 weekly sessions at mod-high altitude -- these sessions need not be challenging, merely include 30-60 minutes of steady-state aerobic training. This frees me to do all my key specific prep sessions (July/August) at moderate altitude.

For my "speed" cycles I head down to sea-level. This past Spring, I used two camps (Nevada and California) that fit very well with my desire to boost my top-end performance as well as my Phase Two training (race cycle).

For recovery (including nightly sleep), I like to get as low as possible. It's tempting for athletes, especially those with access to artificial altitude, to crank up altitude stress when training stress is low. My own experience is that this is counterproductive.

Impact on all three sports -- I'm often asked by altitude-trained athletes how they should adjust their efforts for a triathlon at sea level. My own experience (Oly Distance, Half IM Distance, IM Distance) is that you don't change anything, you simply go faster at your 'normal' efforts. For races under two hours, I have found that I can generate (and sustain) higher heart rates, especially on the run.

So that's Part One -- if you have specific questions about altitude then send them along and I'll include them in Part Two. I only check emails on Monday so replies could take up to 14-days.

In order to give myself every opportunity to win Ironman Canada on August 26th, you may find my replies to questions to be a bit brief.


Specific Prep -- June 2007

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions to ask yourself following the workout:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Alan Couzens: Endurance Corner Coach

My coaching background is in elite swim coaching at the National and International level with various Australian swim programs. I have, at various points in my coaching career, worked with & studied under:

  • Doug Frost (former coach of Ian Thorpe)
  • Bill Sweetenham (former head coach of the Australian National Team)
  • Gennadi Touretski (coach of former 100m world record holder, Alex Popov).

I swam competitively in my younger days and am now applying that same passion to triathlon, both as a coach and athlete.

Since moving into triathlon coaching, I have worked with a wide range of ability levels, from professional to recreational athletes. I have had the most success with “regular folks” who are looking for a plan to move to the ‘next level’ that is both enjoyable & maintainable in the context of their everyday lives.

My educational background consists of 6 years of school for a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology with a double major in Sport Psychology. I also have Australian certifications for swim coaching (Level 2), tri coaching (Level 1) and strength and conditioning coaching (Level 1). In addition, I have U.S. certifications as an NSCA strength and conditioning coach, an NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist and I am a Certified Nutritionist.

So, that's the low down on where I came from. I am now working with Gordo on our Boulder-based coaching business and I feel that with Gordo's athletic experience and my educational background we make a formidable team for the athletes we coach.

My athletes receive a completely customized workout plan that is tailored to their abilities, goals and lifestyle. I provide regular (weekly) contact to discuss and amend your plan as needed and indirect access/advice from our mastermind team here in Boulder.

More On Personal Planning

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Personal Planning -- Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lessons as I see them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mid Year Reality Check & Long Rides

I lifted the expression "reality check" from Mark -- it's one that he uses in a range of situations. We could get into a discussion on the definition of reality but I'll save that for a later date. The two usages that I recall from Mark are: (a) making sure our race selection matches our life situation; and (b) pausing to consider things. I'm not going to talk about either of these today but I thought that I'd cite the source of my title!

I'm typing on Monica's computer right now. I've placed my machine on "break" for the weekend to free my mind to get through a challenging two days of training (six to seven hours of SBR each day this weekend).

I was out with the "lads" yesterday and they gave me exactly what I was looking for. I'd set my heart rate monitor to beep at 149 bpm -- I find that the alarm going off makes it easier for me to stick with my pre-defined workout. Just like the first day of an Epic Camp, I was out the back pretty consistently the entire workout. The longest that I lasted with the group was 35 minutes worth of uphill big gear work in the first 90 minutes.

Mark and I worked out an "Ironman Canada" simulation route that's designed to lift the elements of bike fitness that are required for Penticton success. It will be interesting to see how my fitness develops across the summer -- the Lads are very fit right now and provide clear benchmarks.

In 2004, my strong training buddies helped bring me to a whole new level of performance. Hopefully, we'll do that again.


Whether we are talking about weight loss, financial health, race fitness, or education -- we all overestimate what we can achieve in the short-term and underestimate what we can achieve in the long-term.

For the topics that matter to me (my Top Ten list), I've found that six months is a good period of time to see some progress. I check my personal business plan quarterly but I don't always see much progress -- even across 13 weeks. On my trip to Scotland last month, I reviewed my personal business plan. The last serious revision was eight months ago. While the components of my life strategy change over time -- the core elements have been stable for years.

When we look back across a longer period of time, we can consider the feedback that we have received on each item.

Many wonder about the right path to choose, the correct decision to make, whether it is "all worthwhile", and if we are getting anywhere at all. When I am relaxed and conscious -- say, in a good "listening mood" -- I find that I have a better chance to review my life rationally.


Clear Feedback
I have a saying in my head that I use to note important observations -- Clear Feedback. In my personal review I considered the following bits of Clear Feedback as they related to my goal of winning Ironman Canada:

***Personal Bests
***Greater than 10% underperformance at a race, or race component
***Number of days lost due to unexpected fatigue, illness or injury
***Injuries that require extended time off and/or medical treatment
***Immune system warning signals
***Greater than 5% movement in body weight

When I think through the above, the feedback that I received over the last eight months is that I am heading the right direction and that my key risk areas remain the same. I sense that I've made all these big changes -- but -- my core essence has stayed exactly the same. Still, the pattern of Clear Feedback is encouraging. My answers...

***Yes, quite a few
***Yes, bike leg in Desert Triathlon after run camp
***Since end of September, about 50% of 'normal' -- still want to improve consistency -- all fatigue related except for a two day break due to a sprained ankle -- interestingly, I have the reputation for monster training -- if I smooth my average weekly training volume across my overtrained periods then I could have done the same "lifetime" training with a lot less immune stress on myself. de Castella makes this point -- it's probably even more important as a runner due to the pounding that sports places on our bodies.
***I've had stable weight for the longest period of my adult life (over two years -- while training and while resting). Stable, rather than lean, seems to be the goal that works well for me. When I target "lean" I end up too light then rebound 10-20% following competition. Losing the last 2-3 pounds is highly costly!

Items #4 and #5 can offer an athlete Clear Feedback that the pathway to deeper success is less, rather than more. The massive level of commitment for high-level success can leave us blind during the periods where we can benefit from a more relaxed approach.

Remember that our minds will always search for an EXTERNAL cause of the challenges that we face. Individuals that are able to make continual progress adjust their INTERNAL responses to external variables.

When I ask questions of my self/athletes/friends that are designed to help consider this point... the most common reply is absolute silence. There are very few times when we are open to considering change. Even when I have "known" that change was required, I have always tended towards trying "harder" within my existing patterns.

So far, the best method that I've found for rapid learning/change is to find mentors that excel in the areas where I am weak and follow their advice.. verbatim -- I'm not exactly transcending my limiters but it is effective in generating results.


Long Rides
The Lads were asking me what I shoot for on my long rides.

What's are my goals? Here's a list:

***Start the ride with a solid long course (50m) swim -- 4,500m, building to 5,500m by the end of the summer
***Total ride duration slightly over bike split duration in Canada
***Minimal stops, flat course
***Main sets designed to address key success areas (TT ability on the flats)
***Build towards 60% of ride duration being greater than IM bike effort -- 2:15 to 2:30 of Half IM effort
***Run 10K easy off the bike then back it up with 20M long run the day after
***Do the entire thing without heart rate crossing 150 bpm -- this is the catch!

That's the Ironman Champion Weekend.

Lots of fast folks get through this weekend but their relative intensity is too high -- or they do it while drafting, telling themselves that they are doing what it takes because they are training "fast".

That's not it.

The goal is to build towards this weekend -- I have only "hit" it really well a few times in my career. I nearly always end up going easier than I outlined above. Still, I can live with my race results -- I'd rather race above my training performance!

One other point, completion of this workout is NOT what it takes to do well. The weekend is simply something that I work towards. In 2006, 8:36 in Brazil (5th) and 8:5x (3rd) in Canada -- I didn't manage to "hit" the weekend that entire year! The best that I managed were "steady" main sets -- as a result, I adjusted my IM bike pacing to match my training performance, ran great and placed well.

So 2006 was preparation for... 2007's base training... and the first five weeks of my specific prep block... so that I can absorb two blazing weekends in late July. 75+ weeks of prep for 15-16 hours of training.

Kind of a long way to say... when you are well up the road on the only sub-8:30 guy on the ride then you might want to ask yourself "why". Of course, I'm totally fine with getting dropped... ;-)

There was a fair amount of self-talk this past weekend!

Take care,

PS -- think about the best long ride that you ever had... ...Ironman doesn't feel like that.

Personal Investment Strategy

A.C. Writes:

I live in XXXX and bought my first property 14 months ago. I have done well in the 14 months that I have owned it. It has appreciated in value somewhere between 20 and 35% if the comparables are to be believed. It may have even increased by more. I am looking to move and I wonder whether I should remove equity from the property and purchase a second home and rent out the first all be it at a loss, or sell the first and purchase a substantially more expensive property and only own one. The XXXX market is difficult to read and I suppose if enough people / journalists / commentators tell us the market is over valued and will crash it will eventually become a self fullfilling prophecy but what would you do? Stay put for 12 months and see what the market does, remove equity and purchase a second home or sell and purchase?

What I'll do here is share the questions that I ask myself as well as the information that I prepare for myself when evaluating a property investment decision.

This should not be taken as investment advice or any recommendation on what to do with your own money. My goal here is to highlight some concepts that, I believe, are essential for making smart investment decisions.


First up, what is the expected yield on the investment -- there are a lot of different ways to look at yield.

Gross -- when people are selling to you, they will quote Gross Yield and they will define that as Total Annual Rent divided by Purchase Price. As an example, if you are paying $550,000 for a property with a $2,500 per month rent then your estate agent might quote a prospective yield of (12 x 2,500 / 550,000) = 5.5% per annum.

Now that might sound pretty good, 5.5% per annum plus the potential for capital growth. However, Gross Yield on Purchase Price isn't what you really get as a landlord. What I like to consider is my net yield.

Net -- when I buy, I want to calulate my Net Yield and I define that as Net Annual Income divided by Gross Acquisition Cost.

To calculate Net Income you need to factor in... insurance; advertising; letting agents fees; maintenance; accounting; void periods; and all other costs. You also need to consider the time commitment that you will make, which can be material if you try to self-manage.

To calculate Gross Acquisition Cost you need to factor in... purchase price; acquisition costs (legal, valuation, bank fees, finders commissions, stamp duty); renovation costs (we redo most of our flats before letting); and furniture.

If you are running things as a business then you also need to consider an allocation of your central overheads. We have a team of 15 that works full-time in Edinburgh and that _excludes_ our development partner's group (contractors, sub-contractors, site management) as well as our lettings agent's group (letting, cleaners, accountants). There is a considerable amount of effort that goes into managing a residential portfolio. It's no wonder that most groups prefer to focus on commercial property.

When you start to factor all these points in... that 5.5% per annum that you were promised starts to look much less -- in some cases you'll 'lose' up to 50% of your Gross Yield. For this reason, many residential portfolios operate with a net yield lower than their cost of debt.

When we started investing in the mid-90s, it was the other way around, our net yield was 2-4% above our cost of finance. It was a great time to be investing. 20% down and our net yield serviced the mortgage with a little extra left over.


With the yield you are in a position to calculate the total return (IRR) on the equity component of your investment -- explaining my views on capital structures as well as equity IRR calculations will have to wait for a future edition.

A quick scan on google turned up some options to help you if you want to read more -- this one looked interesting. Remember that, when we forecast growth, we will have a bias towards what's happened over the last three years.

With my investing, I want to consider a range of outcomes (likely and unlikely) and weight their likelihood. If I am comfortable with the implications of each outcome then I'll invest.

There are investments that have a great expected rate of return that I have passed on because I was concerned about the "implications" of a highly remote event. In finance, "implications" can include personal bankruptcy or a material reduction in standard of living. Our photo this week is Monica in Paris, being able to visit France is a luxury that we want to be able to keep in our lives.


Now that you have a grip on the yield/total return -- you need to consider your alternative uses for the capital. I'll illustrate some examples...

Credit Card Debt -- this could be clocking up at 15-25% per annum. Your greatest investment is often paying down your most costly debt -- then cutting your cards into pieces. Credit cards are the bane of financial prudence -- Monica started a company in Colorado and we get 2-3 credit offers per WEEK.

Money Market Funds and Bank Deposits -- depending on your currency, you can earn 4-6% per annum for short term deposits. I never search for the last 0.1% and only invest with the largest banking groups. Seeing as I don't have any capital upside with this investment, I want the lowest possible capital downside.

Business Ventures -- I keep an allocation of my portfolio reserved for "exceptional deals" -- things that pop-up at short notice that have the potential for a large capital gain. When a great opportunity presents itself, you want to be able to take advantage of it.

***When you are paying off a large mortgage, car payments and/or credit cards then you will have to pass on opportunites that have the potential to give you the financial freedom to do what really matters to you -- generally, the things that we truly like cost very little.

For many of us, the true cost of leverage lies in opportunity cost as well as the emotional burdens. The interest rate is often the least of our worries!

Phew, a bit of a long winded way to say... Consider what else you can do with the money and consider the time/energy/emotions that each of those investment opportunities requires from you. Residential letting can be an intensive investment on many fronts.

Kicking back with a low risk portfolio is "boring" but over a 15-45 year time horizon boring starts to look pretty good!

Maybe I should have been an actuary...


Now let's touch on some of your specific questions...

Q -- Should I rent at a loss? Double my exposure? Move into a massive house?

A -- Can you support three-years of your projected financial loss? Can you support one year of zero rental income? How long will your family remain financially solvent if you (or your partner) lose your job? Have you looked at your likely "total return" (equity IRR) across a variety of capital growth scenarios?

It's only been the last few years that investors (and bankers) decided that they would tolerate property deals that didn't cover their cost of finance. This is a relatively new phenomenon (outside of start-up VC) and should provide you with an insight into where current valuations are relative to historical norms (super high).

In 2005, I had more than 100% of my net worth invested in property -- at that level, I was seriously uncomfortable. So, I took actions to reduce my exposure to a level that I felt comfortable with. I think it was JP Morgan that advised a worried young investor to "sell to the sleeping point".

I sleep a lot better in 2007.

So... I was comfortable with the nature of my investment (prime Scottish residential) but I was uncomfortable with the quantum of my exposure (>100% of Net Worth).

What would I do?
I would likely purchase a house in the best neighbourhood that I could afford that had a price well _under_ the maximum that I could afford. With my personal investment, I need to stay well under the "sleeping point".

What should you do?
I have no idea but bear in mind that certain elements of the property market appeal directly to the way our minds are programmed. More concepts...

Envy -- in a rising market there are plenty of transactions that lead us to feel good about holding property. In a declining market, there are less transactions and we tend to fool ourselves about the true value of what we are holding.

Stories -- people love stories -- the property market abounds with stories of folks making money -- as well as characters that are experts at taking advantage of our desire to dream about easy money. We only hear about the good deals -- people don't brag about their dud investments.

Nominal returns -- NOBODY talks about the true cost of investing. We bought a condo in Boulder in 2004 for $360,000 and sold it for $409,000 this year (~5% return across the period).

Sounds like a good deal?
When you factor in cost of ownership, transaction costs (massive in the USA) and alternative uses for the capital -- it was my single worst investment across that period and Monica's family took a lot of the management hassle off our hands!

Still, it was a good deal "for me" -- there's more to consider that just the pure financial return.

Cycles -- if you are in your 20s, or even if you are in your late-30s like me, then we have no REAL memory of a truly crappy property market. 1989-1992 was poor in the UK and the 70s were a disaster all over (I am told). Going further back (see Irrational Exuberance, 2nd Edition) you'll see that property markets (like all markets) have periods were they snap back to trend.

Within my own investing, I want to make sure that I'll be OK if the target market/asset class snaps back to trend and overshoots way under trend. I have missed a lot of great deals because of my financial prudence. However, I've done enough decent deals to outperform my goals.

Security & Guarantees -- when markets turn down, I want to make sure that I'm not the first port-of-call when the banks start calling their security. In the early 90s, many US banks decided to exit the UK market -- remembering this lesson, we pay more to bank with people that are unable to leave our markets, providing money is not a commodity business and we choose our partners carefully.

Not exactly black and white, eh? For me it is a lot like athletic training -- best guesses based on imperfect and changing information. As well, there are exceptions for most of the "rules". Still, the rules have served me well.

Bottom line -- at this stage of the cycle, I wouldn't leverage past my ability to comfortably service the debt in an economic downturn.

Be patient -- you'll be saving and investing for the rest of your life. At some time over the next 10-15 years, there will be great deals that nobody wants to buy. When that happens, you will want to have the capital to take advantage of those opportunities.

As an investor, one of our greatest fears is missing out -- it's tough to sit on cash when everyone is leveraging up to the eyeballs.


The Future of On-line Coaching

Our photo this week is my friend Sandi on her way to a personal best in the Edinburgh Marathon. A PB and a big smile! I also want to give a shout out to my pal (Miss A) in Sydney, she's going through chemo right now and good thoughts come in handy. The Byrn Family sends you a healing vibe...

Alan and I started a "book club" here at GordoWorld HQ. The first one that he offered me was "de Castella on Running". I will give you a chance to read it before I offer up my book review -- well worth the time to read. My book for him was "The Richest Man in Babylon". Mat has joined us for the summer so, perhaps, he'll throw in a good title.

I had a quote sent to me from Vern Gambetta's Blog -- I surfed the blog and found a great post on success that he linked up from three articles -- Really Good Stuff.

More than being smart, what's helped me is the ability to learn from smart people. Thank you to all the readers that share their "good stuff" with me.


My buddy Ken is doing his MBA at Berkeley. He is kind enough to keep me in the loop on the latest developments in entrepreneurship as well as what's happening in the Bay Area. I've been developing a business plan for a new company and we have been sharing ideas covering technology, coaching, on-line communities and what's 'happening' on the internet. Much of what follows is a reflection of various ideas that Ken's shared with me -- perhaps there's value outside of Harvard after all... ;-)

This could be a bit choppy as I'm still working through my ideas . Writing is, part of, how I think and develop concepts/strategy. In addition to Ken's tips, Alan has been surveying the wider coaching, community and training applications market -- he's put together some surprising briefing papers that have been really helpful to my Advisory Board. When it comes to fact-finding and analysis, he does a far better job than I could. I tend to "rush to judgement" -- Alan's the other way, he'd still be doing research if I hadn't put a deadline on him...

...we're a good fit.

On-line coaching (triathlon) is a bit unique on the internet in that clients pay for content. Other successful content models that spring to mind are WSJ-online and The Economist. In those cases, I pay for timely, specialist content, written by smart people. The content (for now) is superior to what's available on the free sites.

But perhaps triathletes aren't paying for 'content' -- perhaps they are accessing an application for peace-of-mind and to make contact (on some level) with the founder/creator/moderators of the site. Perhaps they _want_ to pay to feel like they are doing something positive for their athletics -- I know that this is a big driver for the urge to "get a coach" or "join a club".

With web technology, it is tempting to over-invest at the front end to increase the "gee whiz" factor with clients and, therefore, justify the subsciption fees that are charged. Personally, I'd want to attract people with a reasonable, free beta version -- let them debug and help me design my vision.

Another approach is to be a follower of technology and focus on creating a simple, effective application. A low overhead front end where you plow a decent chunk of revenues into direct marketing to your clients -- late summer/early fall advertising, free articles and booths at key expo locations.

Both of these models are operating successfully in the triathlon marketplace. What struck Alan and me was that in other sports 'coaching' applications are given away for free -- equipment manufacturers develop them to build their brands; shift product; and attract traffic.

If you are shifting millions of dollars of merchandising, then fifty thousand (per annum) on programming is merely a portion of your marketing budget. Fifty grand per annum across five years would wipe out (the technical edge) of all the existing players.

I've had two smart companies approach me to build a coaching business for them but they wanted me to do it, essentially, for free. Why would a coach:entrepreneur build a brand for free? Within a branded goods business, it is straightforward to calculate the increase in equity value that can be created from a successful web-marketing strategy. I'm sure that many people see the opportunity -- however -- we are all busy folks. Someone will need to get on with it.

When I think about what matters in an on-line training program -- Basic Week Generator; Log; Season Planner; Reference Articles -- these components manage themselves once built. The founding team can sit back. I don't see sustainable advantage from a content, or application, driven business model.

The structure of athletic success // consistent, variable overload across time // that doesn't require constant revision of reference material and application drivers. It's a lot like coaching -- once you've "taught" your athletes your protocol then client retention is down to: (a) whether they like hanging out with you; (b) whether they are proud to be associated with you; (c) non-athletic value addition (life skills, career management); and (d) the team/community aspect that you create within your business. There could be more -- that was off the top of my head.

So I've been thinking how all the above will impact the new business. Four things that I've come across and have been thinking about for the new business:

A -- Good brands market themselves
B -- Build it for yourself
C -- "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses" -- Henry Ford
D -- A business exists to serve the goals of its owner

When those components mix in my head I get the urge to strip away the endless complexity that is conjured up to market products & services. Complexity in goods to make you pay for more gizmos. Complexity in services to make you pay to look inside the Black Box.

Why not offer a simple program and spend time supporting clients in a manner that enhances success?

Some people just want a plan -- give that for free. Others may want interaction, personal advice, a deeper understanding (the complexity behind the simplicty) -- they can purchase consulting services or join an on-line community. This level of interaction requires: judgement; share of mind; and experience. Specialist advice that requires human capital -- providing sustainable advantage within the advisory team.

A key question -- "How would you respond to a new entrant offering your application for free -- what is your sustainable advantage?"


Looking ahead on the technology, I expect that we'll see "coach-in-a-phone" shortly -- PT On The Net as well as Dave Scott's site are laying the foundations for this next step.

Mark asked me my thoughts on the best video feed; I thought about that for a bit and advised him to wait until the market sorted it out. Just like podcasting gave all of us the ability to become radio broadcasters; I'm sure that vod-casting (or its equivalent) will be worked out in 12-24 months.

Similar to PT On The Net -- I expect that we'll get PT-down-the-wire with workouts coming directly down the internet into plasma TVs -- there are people doing this already via DVD. I don't think that their current pricing models are sustainable as new entrants will enter the market and give it all away for (close to) free. If a company has a subscriber base of several thousand readers then you can pump the workout down the line for 25c, or give it away for free by selling an advertising header/footer.

The personal training market is going to split into low-end (cheap and cheerful) and high-end (relationship/high value added) -- the people in the middle that are charging $50-80 per hour to hang out with clients -- they will get squeezed.

A bit of an aside... I've never been able to figure out tech-valuations -- given the rapid change; the tendancy for competitors to give away applications for free; the near-zero site loyalty... why the large valuations? I'm sure there is an army of investment banker writing reports on "why" but I don't see sustainable, long term cash generation. I'm a long term cash-flow kind of investor.

Video coaching -- I was riding yesterday and thinking that it must be possible to combine GPS, key workout structure, and coach video into a handbar mounted device. You could have Coach Gordo along for your ride -- in my dream, I had Dave Scott telling me not to slack off with my twenty minutes standing on the flats!

Some of the more nimble triathlon entrepreneurs are starting this process with Computrainer's group training product -- Mark joked that it was the perfect combination for overtraining... twelve triathletes; loud music; head-to-head video monitors and sixty minutes on your lunch hour... you don't even get a chance to "sit-in" -- hammer down the whole way!!! :-)

Video consulting and conferencing -- watch the weekly or daily briefing where the expert panel discuss questions that were sent in by their clients. Personalise the concept with high quality "face-to-face" interaction with the smartest minds in your sport, or industry.

If we look to the hourly rates in law, taxation, accounting, finance then the best of the best will be able to greatly leverage their knowledge. The challenge faced by many highly skilled people is that they are tied to their office and local geography -- that's going to change. You'll have the world on a plasma screen in a few years, if you want it. I see it starting with live video feeds into "success conferences".

The question, "How do we position our team, and create the reach, so that we'll be able to access the clients that will want these services?"



From my own point of view...

>>>front end costs should be incurred to leverage personal human capital

>>>a model focused on traffic / reach generates a return via an increased premium earned on personal human capital

>>>follow technology via the widest, established channels -- let MS, IBM, Yahoo, Apple and Google battle it out. Sit under the technology umbrella of the market leader(s).

>>>consider how to address the 'entertainment' factor -- 'gee whiz' is how a lot of people have fun // very important in coaching as it is recreation for the target market (as well as distraction at the office!)

>>>focus on increasing specialist knowledge and experience -- entire team must be dedicated to continual study // human capital, connections, networks and real relationships. While the basics remain the same, the ability to appear at the cutting edge is good marketing. Looking at it another way -- race results attract clients; delivering success keeps them.

>>>share expert information/experience constantly and as broadly as possible.

>>>invest assuming that your application can be wiped out in 12 months. The established players are better funded (essentially "free" equity) and have the ability to crush you whenever they feel like it.

That's a tough way to end it -- good thing we sit on the fringe of a niche sport.

Still thinking,

Working Athlete Periodization & Prime Property

I've been on the road for a few days so our photo is another shot from the archives. I am missing Monica!

I've been a little jet lagged this week and took the opportunity to write up some thoughts on an alternative periodization approach. It's what I've been using for myself, and my crew, over the last few years. I'll explain the approach more fully in the Second Edition of Going Long. Joe and I will be working on the update this Fall and it should hit the stores in 2008. While the core of the book will stay the same, we have enough new information to merit a re-write. The second edition will be supplemental to the first -- an extension, rather than a replacement.

I read in The Economist that viagra could help reduce jetlag when flying East (no joke). Don't think I'll try it but it did make me smile.

The top end of the UK housing market is cranking along -- no signs of the slowdown that I was reading about this week in the US market (Toll Brothers). I've been thinking about the main drivers of the persistent boom in top end pricing -- declining long term interest rates, plenty of global liquidity and strong executive salaries in the financial - legal - accounting - insurance industries. The banks are offering very large mortgages to the right sort of buyers - up to 10x pre-tax income. On my trip, I've heard of multi-million, 100% loan:value mortages.

Edinburgh is seeing multiple pre-qualifed buyers competing on houses worth in excess of $3 million. This is a completely new situation. Five years ago, one of our companies was the first buyer to pay over $2 million for a townhouse -- today that same property is worth over $4 million ($6 million post-renovation). Too bad we sold that one! If you want to read about some seriously large housing appreciation then research the performance of the top end London market. In dollar terms, the last three years have been truly amazing.

Interestingly, the top end yields are reasonable in London, better than Edinburgh. I expect that we'll see significant rental growth in our key Scottish markets. For our highest quality product, we have seen rents move by 20-40% over the last 12 months. That's a big move for a sector that saw flat rents from 1998-2004 and isn't the experience of the broader market.

At a micro level, the market is being driven by an increasing number of top end buyers/renters. These clients are looking for high quality in locations that (by their nature) will always be cramped for supply. Combine that with a (well placed) reluctance to undertake their own refurbishment projects and you have a situation were the best properties earn a premium return.

By "best", I'm referring to the top 0.1% of the market. We stick to the most desirable properties to ensure full occupancy and high liquidity. We want to able to rent and/or sell in any market situation because an illiquid portfolio with empty properties can kill you in a downturn.

It's been a very interesting trip for me.


One of the challenges of using a traditional periodization model is that the cycles of volume don’t always fit with the realities of your life. Put another way, when you use a table to determine your training schedule, you are typically doing either too little, or too much. Of these two situations, “too much” is the most risky.

What follows is an approach that I’ve been using with my athletes for the last few years. The traditional approach to periodization that we used in my book (Going Long) is both proven and effective. This letter seeks to provide you with alternative ideas that have helped many of my athletes achieve greater consistency and satisfaction with their training.

Here are the key concepts:

1 – the Basic Week approach maximizes training consistency over multiple months and seasons. By aiming for a “little less” each week, you will achieve more over the long run.

2 – your Weekday training is determined by the reality of your life situation, primarily your obligations to work and family.

3 – your Weekend training is split between an Endurance Day (typically Saturday) and a Family Day (typically Sunday).

4 – The training on your Endurance Day shifts based on your experience, fitness, goal event and the time of the year. You progress the nature of this day gradually and in harmony with daylight, climate and your fitness. Early season the purpose of this session is to build “endurance”, the ability to complete your desired race duration. As the season progresses, you shift your focus towards “fitness”, the ability to perform across your desired race duration.

It is typical for novice athletes to focus on “endurance” for multiple season. I spent many years with endurance as my main (nearly, sole) focus. An endurance athlete never graduates from focusing on steady-state stamina – it is the fundamental component of athletic performance.

5 – On your Family Day, place the people that support your athletic goals first. This increases your emotional harmony and gives you a break from athletics. It also has a positive athletic benefit because you arrive at work fresh on Monday – keeping you employed (!) and increasing the quality of your Weekday sessions.

6 – By agreeing a training schedule with all key players in your life, you remove the constant struggle to “squeeze in” and “juggle” training sessions. You have an agreed structure that you’ll repeat for the rest of your life. This is a holistic approach that fits your training into the larger goal of a successful lifestyle.

When you set-up your Basic Week keep the following tips in mind:

1 – aim for a Basic Week structure that you can complete “no sweat” forty weeks per year. You want to have a structure that enables you to outperform on a weekly basis. This is an important part of building credibility with yourself.

2 – while the timing structure of your week should remain the same, ensure that you vary your training protocol (what you do in each session) every six to eight weeks. Your fitness will progresses from variable overload applied consistently across many years.

3 – twice a year, insert a period of unstructured training. At the end of your season take 2-8 weeks of unstructured training and in the middle of each year at 1-2 weeks of unstructured training. The closer you move to your maximum potential and the greater your athletic success, the more recovery you will need to insert into your year.

4 – every three weeks back off on the training load, even (and especially) when you think that you don’t “need” it. You are playing a long-term game where athletic fatigue creeps into the body very gradually.

5 – use benchmark testing to track your progress. Remember that multiple month plateaus are common; the rapid progression of the novice athlete is not the typical experience of a veteran to our sport.

Your ultimate athletic development is determined by your athletic consistency, not the nature of your toughest sessions. Protect your consistency and your fitness foundation; these are the keys to reaching your fullest potential.

Hope this helps,


Grip Tips

This week’s photo is one of my favorites from the archives. One year ago this week, Team MonGo on the beach in Brazil. Sitting here on a plane to the United Kingdom, I can remember the warm sun on that morning. I’m far from Brazil right now but it seems very close. Good memories.

One announcement before I kick off, I’ll be speaking at a USAT Coaching Clinic on November 2nd & 3rd – location is the Olympic Training Centre at Colorado Springs. This is the same weekend as last season. This year we will focus on the “business” part of coaching. The clinic is open to coaches/athletes of all sports. More details as I work them out with Tim Boruff of USAT.

I promised that I’d share a few of the ideas that Mark passed along to me – I’ve been bumping into Mark off-and-on for a few years. I’ve taken every single opportunity to speak to him over the years. Some of what I’ll share below I picked up before we formally started working together – some of it may have nothing to do _directly_ with Mark but he was a catalyst for change.

To kick off, I went back to my notes from the Fit Body, Fit Soul clinic in September last year. It’s been eight months already! So much has happened, and yet, I feel as if I’m exactly the same person… …but I’m not.

In reviewing my notes, I see that I had four “fears” and one “desire” that I wanted to send on their way. When I met with Mark in January, he told me not to worry about them because they were already gone. Similar to writing something down in a blog; the identification and sharing of a fear greatly reduces its power.

At the clinic, I wrote down quite a bit about sleep and healing. My sleep patterns have always provided a direct insight into my personal productivity.

My four key tips for improved sleep are:

***Wake-up at the same time every day

***Moderate use of stimulants (mine are coffee, training stress, intensity and evening speaking)

***No email or business after dinner

***Simplify week structure and number of commitments

I also wanted to reduce overall stressors on my body. The four things that I wanted to achieve where: eliminating alcohol; improving nutrition; reducing travel; and limiting internet.

Sitting here on British Airways, I have to admit that I didn’t reduce my travel much – I’ve been all over the place! However, my internet surfing is way, way down and that helped in many areas. Avoiding chat forums and most media, eliminates a source of external noise that saps productivity.

One of the quickest ways to increase productivity is reduce the mental junk food that you consume. Are your media choices consistent with excellence? Are you making the same excuses for media outlets that you used to apply to your nutrition?

I asked these questions to myself and the answers were informative. So I write to you here instead of joining in the chorus of disharmony elsewhere.


The booze and the nutrition were straightforward to sort out. I’m very lucky that Monica creates a wide range of fantastic meals. We’re eating extremely healthy meals that change daily. Previously, we ate “chicken and salad” for dinner every night (very healthy but lacking in variety). The shift to a wide range of organic ingredients added materially to our grocery bill but, for us, it is a price worth paying. Nutrition offers me a sustainable advantage over my competition and will enhance my family’s long term quality of life.

One of the last notes that I made at the clinic was that we achieve balance by living in harmony and peace with our environment. Are Monica and I a “sustainable family”? Not yet, the amount of garbage that I generate still bothers me (not enough to do much about it though). We are re-doing our garage and basement and generating a ton of trash. Garbage, and my direct impact on the environment, is a topic that I’ve been thinking about since 2004 (when the only thing I left on my trip across America was trash).

My brother gave me a nudge on composting, so we’ve got that happening now. I planted a dogwood tree near my compost pile and it seems to be enjoying my initiative.

If you’ve read a simple book on sustainability then send me the title. I’d welcome some ideas.


Overall, as you can gather, things are going well and I am enjoying the challenge of making changes to my approach.

One of the interesting effects of Mark’s protocol…

I am enjoying success with sensible training…

the success enables me to be ever more sensible…

and generate ever more success.

Flip it around… an elite cycling buddy of mine once shared this circle with me…

he didn’t achieve the results he wanted early in the year…

so he skipped his mid-season break where he re-establishes his base…

so he kept racing and didn’t achieve the results he wanted.

Lest you think that I’ve gone soft… I still overload myself quite a bit. The main change that I’ve made is much more structured recovery.

My four week rolling volume has ranged from 47 hours (post-Epic in January) to 99 hours (the block that followed Epic Recovery). To put that in context, in the Spring of 2004, I peaked at just over 140 hours in a single four week block.


OK, what did Mark say?

Well, prior to my last trip we discussed very little in terms of specifics. Our discussions were more about training philosophy (pacing a year, pacing a season, pacing a workout, background) as well as settling my mind down (doing enough, keep the cap, be patient). I enjoy talking to Mark – the guy relaxes me. Breakfast in Santa Cruz is the slowest that you’ll ever see me eat.

What I’ve written in this blog contains more detail than what we discussed – I went to his site for supplemental information. I’ll outline the few areas where I received clear tips. You’ve heard some of this before!

Heart Rate Cap – the “cap” that Mark likes is a real cap. Elites don’t get any special dispensations – perhaps someone can ask Macca about his program and drop me an email! I need to know if there is an alternative protocol for the sub-8:10 Kona plan…

I stuck to that cap as best as I could. Within the cap, there are pace/power/speed peaks but there is no sustained hammering. When you go hard, you have a reason and you go really hard.

In the interests of full disclosure I did have two days where I drilled it “off plan” – one at each of the training camps that I did. These were hard sessions that were done a day, or two, before I had them officially scheduled. Group training is tough even for an experienced guy like me! Mark told that would probably happen and I should remember that blowing it didn’t need to become a habit.

The cap has a neat implication – looking for more information, I went to Mark’s site and read his tip to try to keep things over 120 bpm when doing an endurance session. That is an absolutely brilliant tip!


This completely removes any pressure during an endurance session. When I go out, my mission is to get over 120 bpm and not cross 148 bpm. I can use all my knowledge, my zones, my power meter, my lab results – however, too much complexity will leave you feeling less than satisfied. Why? Because you will ALWAYS find a metric that you aren’t meeting – your knowledge will beat you down! Mark’s system removes that.

If you get out the door then you are pretty much guaranteed a successful workout.

That’s a recipe for consistency and consistency is what really matters.


Another clear piece of advice that Mark gave was not to let my weight go under 160 lbs (I’m 6-1, post-yoga). Imagine that (!), an ultraendurance coach telling me not to get too light – sacrilege!

When he told me, I was disappointed – if figured that 157 was possible if I ate super light this summer... like many of us, I enjoy driving my weight down for races – yes, I have a deep seeded desire to control things.

Not only did Mark set the weight floor, but he followed up on it (twice) with me. Clearly, this wasn’t a passing comment. His rationale is: (a) for IM we need maximum power; and (b) to go really fast we need maximum ‘reserves” (physical, mental, spiritual). Power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.

Worth repeating – power and reserves are not maximized when weight is minimized.

So the floor relaxes me and I start to focus on eating super healthy because “if I only get 160 lbs then I better make sure that they are the fittest 160 lbs in Penticton”. It got to the point where I even skipped weighing myself for a few weeks because “making weight” ceased to be an issue for me. I checked in this past week… doing fine.

Our “technical knowledge” may take issue with caps and floors – however, if the goal is getting the athlete to focus on what truly matters then, for me, they are extremely powerful tools… …and I knew what I was doing before I started working with Mark!


The first time I heard Mark speak about winning in 1989 he shared his experience with “giving up” during the race. He didn’t quit, rather he completely accepted his situation and acknowledged that he would continue to the best of his ability.

I had a similar experience with my running test. I was kicking out that same result for SIX months while training 20-40% less than normal. I can assure you that it was testing! It wasn’t until I totally accepted that I was going to race Canada with a 4 min per K max aerobic pace that I broke through.

Of course, it might have been all that training…

I take your point but remember that, at my level, the training is taken for granted. Everybody in the Top Ten trains to the best of their ability. The differences are not due to lack of effort – the differences are due to the combined effects of little things over an extended period of time.


The final point is Mark’s tip that when I “go fast”; I should go as fast as I can. Of all the tips, this is the clearest change from my previous approach because to “go fast” I need to rest up and really rip it. I freshened-up for every fast session and race that I did this year. Previously, I’d only freshen a few times a season.

Training up at my maximum heart rate is new. Coming from an ultra background, I expect that my top-end has never been fully trained (going back to school days). That is a change that Mark brought to my program – the limited application of maximum effort training. In the past, I’ve tried to go “really fast” but I’ve carried too much fatigue to achieve the levels that I’ve seen in 2007.

How much tough stuff? Looking at my calendar, 16-18 days (Sept 2006 to May 2007) where I let my heart rate go over 150 bpm for a sustained period of time. Of those days, I hit maximum heart rate on less than ten. Of the ten, I hit life highest heart rates on five or six.

I was under 150 bpm for the first 14-15 weeks of this season – my longest endurance phase in the last seven years (even while overtrained – yes, I am the type to test myself when nuked).


It’s a good thing that I’ve been pacing myself because last week we ran through Mark’s view on specific preparation for an elite athlete. We didn’t talk main sets or highly structured workouts, I already know how to structure a bike ride.

We discussed weeks, and days, of race specific overload:

***Big weeks (SBR, Bike and Run);

***Big Day Training (see my tips page);

***Back-to-back Long Rides;

***Double run days.

It’s essentially the same structure that I’ve been using in the past. The training is the SAME as what I’ve been doing in the past. It is nearly identical to the program that Scott Molina has been teaching me since 2000, and not far from what I learned from Dave Scott in 2004.

So what’s different? The mind craves differences!

***I’ll start the final block completely fresh – after two weeks of maintenance training, I will do less than five hours this week – half of my weekly volume will be on this coming Sunday. The only other time that I was this fresh in May, I raced Ironman Brazil, took two weeks off then did Epic Camp France. I won’t be repeating that pattern this year!

***My initial run fitness is much higher with my max aerobic, FT and VO2 paces at life best levels. I completed a 20-miler on Magnolia Road last Sunday and combined my fastest split with lowest average heart rate. I’m in great marathon shape;

***I’ll do more long bike rides (than the year I rode across America for base training);

***I’ll do less fast running and start it later in the summer – when I run fast, I will run very fast;

***My long runs will stay under 150 bpm – previously, my longest runs would also be some of my fastest. I’ve done some tough 20-milers in the past;

***Including this week (and race week), I will have five unloading periods (two more than normal) and each period is about double the duration of normal;

The differences relate to ensuring that I absorb the training required to go very fast in Penticton on August 26th. I’ve created a situation where I am “ahead of plan” – this gives me the confidence to insert extra recovery and greatly increases the probably of success. It also removes the pressure to hit homeruns – I don’t need to prove anything in training (listen to Faris on Competitors Radio for his take on AG-training in San Diego).

When I started reaching the podium at International races, I asked Scott what I should change to go faster. His advice was: (a) remember to keep what made you fast in the first place; (b) make your tough days tougher; and (c) keep your easy days easy.

There is very little change in my training protocol. The adjustments come mainly in my recovery protocol. As my tough days increased their load, we found that I needed easy periods, as opposed to easy days.

It all looks so simple sitting on my excel spreadsheet…

Should be an interesting summer!


Never Follow, Averages and Overtraining

This week I am going to expand my thoughts on both overtraining and effective investment. I'll also explain a little something about averages in training and racing.

Our photo is the "Dixie Chicks", three great ladies that came to Mitch's desert camp and made it fun for me. Their passion for the sport was contagious and they added a lot to the week.

An offer to gLetter readers from Albert at Coffees of Hawaii. From May 21-28, you'll be able to get 20% off everything on the website by using the code "gordo2007". Choose your order, then enter the code at checkout. My favourite product is the Hawaiian Espresso.


Never Follow
A reader asked for some more information on my advice to never follow poor investment decisions (in people, in shares, in companies, in ourselves).

Read Hedgehogging by Barton Biggs. Tons of good stuff in there -- written by a man's who's world contains people where a net worth of $25 million is a reasonable starting point. The insight into the mind-set of the financial elite is interesting but the real value, for me, came from his reminders on investment strategies that work.

For example, in his firm they have a policy that they review every deal that falls X%. If they still believe that it is a good deal then they must double their position. If they can't convince themselves of that point then they sell immediately. You can apply this point to any situation in life -- I use it on people, discipline with human capital is more important than financial capital.

Tip Two -- Common mistakes that we make are: (a) giving more value to things that we already own (bad deals) ; and (b) over-estimating our ability to influence a situation (save an investment, improve an employee). These concepts are laid out quite well in Mauldin's book, Just One Thing.

Another issue that we face with our Bad Deals is that they distract us from doing what we are really good at. Put another way, we gain very little from turning a poor employee into an average employee. However, the star members of our teams (and portfolios) can impact total performance in a meaningful manner. The mere fact that we tolerate dead wood can hold back the star performers (See Collins, Good to Great).

Put simply, whenyo u think that you can fix the situation... you probably can't and, even if you can, you'll make more money backing your winners and investing in your strengths.

Finally, don't fool yourself into thinking that markets are transparent. My investment portfolio consists of:
>>>Money Market Funds (low fee, very low risk);
>>>CDs from very highly rated organizations;
>>>Ventures in which I play a positive role in enhancing equity value;
>>>My house.

That's it.

In the past, I have had the opportunity to invest in collective investment schemes that were managed by the partners of my old investment fund. That was a great deal, quite profitable and my role was limited. I also benefitted from the extended bull market in prime UK housing (that is continuing) -- I can't take much credit for that.

The partners' investment scheme and the housing boom succeeded by giving me leveraged upside, with limited downside -- they were options on future outcomes. Create, and take, options whenever possible. Consider where you can create options in your own life. I tend to keep a number of opportunities rolling at any one time. This gives me flexibility and exposure to a range of situations.

Another good lesson from Venture Capital is that if you invest long enough then you'll nearly always hit a home-run eventually. One homerun, when combined with fiscal discipline, creates many options for how you will spend your time.

It all sounds so easy, doesn't it. Well, there are probably a thousand qualified people for each seat at the elite finance table -- so you need to be smart; work your ass off; enjoy working and a bit lucky. From the outside, opportunity may appear to be what holds you back (the entertainment industry may appear like this to some). From what I've observed, most people lack the combination of work ethic and work enjoyment. I've given (and continue to give) people the opprtunity to learn/succeed. Even when you offer a hand up, most folks are content to stay in their current situation -- out of fear, inertia or some other driver.

Final thoughts... when you take the return of the financial services industry (as a whole), you'll see the participants strip out the excess return for themselves. It's a highly efficient market for the participants of "the game". That's my final book recommendation for today, The Game, by Adam Smith.


What follows is a chat about simple averages -- not normalized, not weighted. Unless I specifically write otherwise, I always mean the simple average when I write.

E.M. wrote... I just heard your talk on power on Ironman talk podcasts and found it quite interesting... I am actually glad I did not look at the watts during the race because (from training) my expectations were to bike in the 240-250 range vs the 225-235 range.

A buddy that worked at Nasa once explained to me why we spend nearly all of our time above the average pace/watts/hr for a session. It has something to do with the fact that sometimes we go _really_ slow but we never go _really_ fast. He had a nifty equation that explained it all.
The above athlete's experience is what happens in the real world when we pace correctly... our actual average is lower than our training average for that goal effort. Specific to that example, sitting on 240-250w for the bulk of the race will result in an average 10-20w lower. Many athletes get caught in the trap of chasing average watts -- you can get a bit depressed, or very tired (!), with that strategy on race day. Dial in your sustainable effort and accept the power/pace/speed that results. Honest race simulation workouts help avoid surprises.

It is similar with running. For me to average 4 minute per K pace in a race, I need to be able to sit in the 3:50-3:55 per K range for the bulk of the race.

By the way, this discussion isn't meant to say that one needs to train faster -- rather, I'm pointing out that on race day, most of us find that our "steady" pace over 8-18 hours is slower than our steady pace over 20-60 minutes. I spend a lot of time helping athletes learn this point.

What feels "easy" for the first five hours of racing... just might be your sustainable pace/power/effort for the entire race. It certainly is for the first three hours of your day -- no need to open up by swimming at Half Marathon heart rates. You are killing yourself.

A final thing to watch for in training -- let's say you want to hold 128-135 bpm on a workout. Early in the day that might result in an average of 127-129 bpm. After you are warmed-up, say, 133 bpm. If you are seeing averages close to 135 bpm then you've been training above your target zone most of the main set.


Coach KP and Dr. J were swapping ideas about overtraining, reaching for excellence and other ideas. It's always nice to "listen in" (via email) when a couple of smart guys share their experiences. Anyhow, after reading their thread, I talked it through with Mark Allen (I was in Santa Cruz this week). What follows is a mix of Mark, the guys and my own thoughts.

The lessons and benefits of being overtrained ALL accrue the FIRST time you go through that process and (if you are lucky) learn the nature of "bad fatigue". You will also see that fatigue is a state, not an emotion. The highest performing ultraendurance athletes have a low (to nil) emotional attachment to fatigue. I expect that the shorter the duration of the event, the more important a low emotional attachment to pain becomes.

Guys like Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Molina, Peter Reid -- I imagine that they have low attachment to both fatigue and pain. I have no idea what _really_ happens in their heads but I know that my experiences meant that I was open to completely frying myself. My early warning signals sound "faint", or are ignored. My buddy Clas is even stronger than me -- therefore, his overtraining experience was, ultimately, deeper than mine.

In hindsight, I received all the overtraining "benefits" when I took myself to an over-reached state (see Going Long for an explanation of the difference). Basically, over-reaching is using race specific overload to create race specific fatigue in a desire to generate physiological and mental benefits. Over-reaching is an essential part of ultraendurance performance.

My lack of experience with "appropriate overload" led me to choose to go "too far" resulting in overtraining. It is really tough to see that you've gone "too far" until you get there.

Similar to learning how to differentiate pain, some people learn how to differentiate between types of fatigue. Good fatigue, silly fatigue, dangerous fatigue, fatigue that can be ignored and fatigue that shouldn't be ignored. Thing is... we are constantly changing and challenging ourselves to make decisions on uncertain information.

Many athletes relive, recreate, actively seek... highly stressful experiences such as overtraining -- they crave the chemical buzz associated with high stress. This pattern is a poor strategy for success but can produce high level results. A deeper level of success is available if we are conscious enough to learn from our mistakes.

Mark shared... picture a horizontal line -- at the left side is "out of shape"... at the right side is "maximum potential" -- one hundredth of an inch to the right of maximum potential is completely overtrained. Athletes that come closest to their maximum potential have the greatest risk of overtraining. I see this in my own athletes.

Here's the kicker... most people are so far from their maximum potential; so stressed out from their life choices; that to pile on the additional stress of "training right"; "physiologically optimal"; "true build training"; "going hard"; and/or "training like a pro". Achieves only two things...

#1 they get sick/injured; and
#2 they get very tired.

You are left with a person that faces simple exhaustion, rather than being overtrained. So they get nuked AND fail to get the benefits from pushing their limits. It takes many years of preparation to gain value in screwing up... a paradox of endurance training, I suppose.

To an athlete with an experience of being deeply overtrained -- effective training feels like being constantly undertrained. I've felt completely undertrained for the last thirty weeks, while using Mark's protocol. However when I think back, I can remember thinking very clearly that I was at my maximum limit for what I could absorb. It is just like looking back at a well paced Ironman race, at any given point could have gone "harder" however at the finish you know that you gave it your all.

I did an aerobic run test Tuesday morning before I met Mark. 5:59 average across three miles with last two miles at 6:00.36. The last three benchmark runs that I have done have all been life best performances across the distance (6 miles off the bike, 33-flat; Half Marathon off the bike, 1:16; Aerobic Test, 5:59). Everything that I am doing is contained in this blog -- there's no secret training happening. I'm doing less than previous years but (I suppose) absorbing more.

Most people fail by never giving themselves a chance to perform. Too much effort, too short a timetable, and a lack of preparation. Short bursts of mis-directed passion -- one night stands with "effort" rather than an extended courtship of "excellence".

That's all for this week,

May Q & A

Still on the road this week so a few thoughts on: priorities; realistic protocol choices; and externals.


S.T. writes…
“Important things tend to receive great criticism from ourselves. At least this is what my market research shows, which was done among my friends. We always think that our priority list is not correct. For example, we always ask “why this is #1?” and why this is #8? (in a top-10 list)…

“Anyway, when you have free time and you’re in good mood, pls write a post on this very subject “deciding what is really important to you”. I think that this decision is very short-lived and it’s like making a tattoo. You like it now (in our case you consider it important now), but are you going to like it after 5 or 15 years? In my humble opinion, decide what is important now and is rated #1 now, it’s not something that can last for too long, maybe that was the case in the 90s, not in the 2k years. It can even become counterproductive in our fast changing world. Everything goes, turns and moves fast and our “important things” (probably) follow."


Some general points on goals and priorities.

Within my life, my goals are signposts (or waypoints). They are not a destination in themselves, rather they help me be the sort of man that I want to be. They support a desired lifestyle and ethical framework for me. With that in mind, I’m always free to change my goals (or my approach) with new information.

Some of my pals (and readers) often appear to take my goals more seriously than I do. What I strive for is total commitment with limited attachment -- some days go better than others on that front! I think that we need to be wary of sticking to stated goals when changing circumstances show that another makes more sense. That's why I advise careful thought before making public statements -- they often come back to bite when we are least equiped to deal with them!

That said, what I’ve found in my own life is that my true goals are timeless in nature. They span cultures as well as trends/fashions. These are the values which lie beneath the items that I may place on my Top Ten list. See my Personal Planning post (September 5th, 2006) – the key things for me are:

Big Picture
>>>Successful marriage combined with personal satisfaction
>>>Open communication based on kindness and respect
>>>Practice listening skills
>>>Observe and reflect

Key Likes
>>>Like to train and write
>>>Like to achieve
>>>Enjoy temperate weather with ample sunshine
>>>Maintain expense/income balance

All of the above are available to me on a daily basis and, with the exception of my marriage (and the weather), only require action on my part. I have complete control over them.

Within my life, I see very little link between “balance” (in the Western sense) and personal satisfaction. It often feels that I have to work at keeping my life focused (and a bit out of balance), in order to achieve a deeper level of success.

However, there is a strong link between “harmony” and personal satisfaction. Harmony flowing most easily when I am living up to my commitments to myself – everything that I appear to do for “others” is undertaken as a result of a desire to maintain my personal view of self. To think otherwise can generate a lot of resentment – there are a lot of highly successful “self-less” people living lives of background anger due to failing to realize this point.


D.M. writes…
“My main constraint (as for a lot of us!) is time.... …I'm able to manage 10 hours of training per week while keeping my life balanced. As a result, my training consists of a mix of intervals, time trial efforts ( e.g. 5k run or 60min bike TT) and longer sessions (e.g. 90min steady run or 3 hour ride). So far I am improving and my body absorbs the intensity well.

“I know you prefer a lower intensity approach and it clearly works very well for you and many others. My question is, simply, with a 10h per week time constraint, do you feel that a higher intensity approach is warranted, or is there a better alternative?”


I think you answered your own question – your life is stable, you are improving and you feel like you are absorbing the training. Those three items describe an athletic approach that is successful in terms of our life.

What I’ve seen in my own training as well as the training of my athletes is that for an athlete to get close to their “ultimate athletic potential” (whatever that may be) requires a level of time commitment that most people don’t want to make. The time required simply doesn’t fit into their overall life goals. It sounds like you’re in that position right now. So I’d stick with what’s working for you.

What you may find is that using the occasional “Big Day” (see my Coaching Long Course Athletes article) in your training provides a different sort of training stimulus for you. Consistent, variable overload, absorbed over time. That goal can be achieved by a multitude of methods & protocols.


S.B. writes…
“… there are performance plateaus that people reach fairly quickly (within a few years), are very difficult to get past, and very wildly between different people. For example, I'm skeptical that I'll ever get my LT up or over 300w - my physiology doesn't seem to lend itself to that, and that's fine, I'm 155lbs. In a bike racing context, I can train up my short term sprint wattages much faster and higher than most other people are able to (which is perfect for Ironman, right?). I train with guys who have easily exceeded my strenght/weight ratios.

“So, are you putting a subtlety on the "absorbed" work versus the "completed" work - e.g. we all go out and do training that we might not be absorbing, even if we think we are?

“Now, for IM I feel like I agree with you more since the parameters are a little different - I know I can physically do all the things required to do very well at IM - it's a matter of building endurance and durability to do them over longer terms. But at the end of the day, aren't there still simple genetic/physiological aspects that play a major role, given we may not *really* know where those limits are?"


You will maximize your “speed” when you maximize your “stamina” – that is why I place such a fundamental emphasis on the long term, consistent application of steady-state aerobic training.

You are correct with the subtle emphasis that I’ve started to place on “absorbing”, rather than completing. There is an over-emphasis on the completion aspect of training – there are a lot of simple (but not easy) ways for us to enhance our absorption of training (sleep, nutrition, massage, flexibility, time management, financial stability, emotional stability). The items that I share within this blog are what, I believe, drive a deeper level of performance.

Well before I was racing elite, I learned (through Joe Friel) that my limiter was the ability to recover, not the ability to train. Most the athletes that I work with start their first year with me doing a lot “less” in their eyes – yet at the end of the year, they have done “more” because they didn’t nuke themselves, stayed healthy and had greater consistency.

Finally, genetics are the ultimate “external”. There is zero that can do about them. Time spent worrying about them is 100% wasted energy.

Focus on what you control. Ideally, what you control right now.

Desert Thoughts

This week, I'm going to share some thoughts that we have been discussing at Mitch's Desert Camp. These topics come up quite frequently, so I thought that I'd offer my take on them.

First though, from last week, I asked Monica what she thought my key blindspots were. Her observation was that I actively create more obligations than my athletic competition -- I'll be seeking simplification as I head into IMC. As for my own introspection, I came up with my desire to attempt to control the world around me (control, of anything external, being an illusion).

The camp was a great experience and I learned quite a bit from the athletes and other coaches. Alan and Jeff came up with excellent ideas for a series of articles. I hope to share their work with you in the weeks to come (they are writing, not me).

Alan has joined our new business and has two spots for athletes, if you're looking for a coach then drop me a line and we will discuss if we are a good fit for you. Aside from Monica, Alan spends the most time with me each week.

I shared some of Monica's swim workouts with the campers and emphasized a few things about triathlon swimming for them to consider...

>>>Tri swimming is not a competition in maximal oxygen consumption. I see a lot of inefficient swimmers working on their "engines", rather than improving their efficiency. I shared my favourite tool for rapid improvement in economy (three stroke breathing) -- not everyone is willing to "slow down" to speed up. If you've been plateaued using two stroke then perhaps your limiter is effciency, not effort.

>>>Swim pacing -- if triathlons started with a run then pacing mistakes would be much more evident. I know many, many athletes that start their long course racing at heart rates that aren't far off open half marathon levels. In other words, they kick off their day with a 30-75 minute max effort swim.

>>>Digestion -- Jeff shared his observation that max effort swimming shuts down the GI system -- in his IM racing, he has had to wait over an hour for it to restart after the swim. He's working on swimming more relaxed, until he learns how to do that... he needs to wait a long time before starting his energy/fluid intake. His view is that many people with his swim effort profile, run into trouble from eating/drinking too quickly after the swim. 2-2.5 hours without food or fluid intake is quite a deficit to overcome.

>>>Improvement -- I believe very strongly that swim training is similar to bike/run training. The key fitness component being steady state stamina -- this comes from sustained, moderate main sets of 30-60 minutes duration. Three stroke breathing being a great reality check during main sets to keep us in our endurance zones.

The approach above requires a level of dedication that many athletes will never manage. If you step-up then you can achieve an edge relative to the vast majority of your competition.

I started swimming at 30-years of age and trained myself down to a low-50s Ironman swim. I've been fortunate to study under a number of the best swim coaches in our sport. In my last three races I came out of the water with, or ahead, of the race winner. It can be done!

Useful Pots
The Chinese have a saying that the most useful part of a pot is the space inside. In other words, the "spaces" in our lives are as essential as the events. At the camp, I found that I was most able to help people during the "spaces" in the camp, rather than during the training sessions.

When laying out the schedule for a training camp, it is tempting to keep things action packed. However, what I most enjoyed was a moderate training week with time for massage, yoga and interaction with the campers. There was plenty of informal interaction and that's what's most interesting for me.

If you are looking to learn, to grow, to change direction... then the first step is creating the space in your life for the "new" to come it.

Training Protocols
Mitch shared some ideas on his personal training protocols with us and, hopefully, this is an accurate reflection of what he meant. In Mitch's own training, there are two kinds of sessions -- fun sessions (the bulk) and race-prep sessions (the key ones).

Fun sessions are what excite him, keep him training and reflect the way he wants to live. They may, or may not, be specific to his needs as an athlete. By keeping plenty of fun in his program -- he keeps his enjoyment and consistency high across the year. This is important because consistency is the #1 thing in a training program.

Race-prep sessions are his key workouts that he does to prepare his body (and mind) for the demands of his goal races. These are done much less frequently. They take a lot of discipline on his part. On Saturday, I rode with Mitch during one of his race-prep rides. I had NEVER seen him ride like that... dead even pacing, smooth power transitions on the hills... a complete eye-opener and learning experience for me.

Jeff noted that if you get ten successful people together in a room, most people will want to discuss their differences. However, the REAL information comes from learning their similarities -- what are the common elements of success?

Watching Mitch, I realized that he is a guy that deeply understands long course race pacing -- when he's "having a little fun" on a group ride -- that's just for kicks. When it comes time for a key session he's all business, as you'd expect from a Marine officer!

A good reminder that we rarely see the entire picture of an athlete's (or coach's) program.


The Boulder swim clinic has been postponed due to a scheduling issue, I'll let you know new dates when announced.

I raced on April 21st and will be writing that one up, as well as my up-coming race, in one week's time. You'll be able to read that on the Planet-X website in ten days or so. I'll post the link when it is live.

With a bit of luck, Mitch will "feature" me at one (or two) of his camps in 2008. I think that it would be fun to repeat a camp like this one (race then training) as well as a BIG bike camp.

Back in a few days,

Approaching Information & Intellectual Arrogance

This week, I'll share some thoughts on how we can best deal with information as well as ponder the concept of Intellectual Arrogance. As you see in our photo, the Easter Bunny was very good to me! Bob-the-Bunny is on my lap and the book at my side is Raising The Bar (Clif strikes me as one of a few nutrition companies that have our best interests at heart).

Tomorrow, I am off to the high desert to attend a clinic that is being hosted by Mitch Gold's Counterpart Coaching. Mitch is a great guy and I'm looking forward to spending a week with him and the campers. You can follow along on Mitch's Board. We had two lads from Ireland cancel on us at short notice so there are a couple of last minute slots open -- click through the camp link above to get details and Mitch's email.

I'm back in Boulder in early May and have been invited to a swim technique clinic at Boulder Elks Pool on May 12th (2-5pm). We'll work on swimming for the first two hours then have open Q&A (any subject) for the final hour. Cost is $45 for non-members and $20 for Elks Members. If you are interested then drop me an email and I'll send you registration details. For the Q&A discussion, Siri Lindley and, my wife, Monica have agreed to share thoughts with us.


Approaching Information

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when faced with clear feedback about your current situation (be it fitness, financial, family or social)? The areas that make us feel most uncomfortable are, often, the areas for greatest personal growth.

When I get uncomfortable information (tight cash flow, high overheads, shortfalls against projections, illness, injury), I look past the "data" and search for the cause. What can I change in my approach so that the externals (that might appear to be at fault) will no longer impact my performance?

Sitting here on Thursday afternoon, I'm nursing a niggle in my left soleus. It likely happened because I ran 100+ miles last week -- not Mark's idea, he suggested a cap at 90M (max). So, the injury provides me with a learning experience. A clear reminder about the importance of being able to "consistently do" and the risks of "over doing".

The North American Ironman season opened up this past weekend and, I imagine, that many athletes found themselves nursing injuries, illnesses, anxiety and infections that occurred just as they began to "rest". There is typically only one cause when rest is followed by stress bubbling to the surface -- you over-did-it.

When you look for a person that's likely to improve, look for self-evaluations that focus on what will be changed to improve.

Be wary of the temptation to focus on the (uncontrollable) externals that prevented a successful outcome. This pattern of thinking creates blockages to learning -- successful outcomes derive from doing our best despite external challenges. It is these challenges that offer us opportunity for meaning and learning. It's normal to be a bit scared, what you do about it is what matters.

Under performance in competition (relative to training) is most often due to the combination of over-preparation and under-execution. You tried too hard. You may have lost your opportunity for a great race, but you can still grasp the opportunity for learning. In this situation, I like Joe Friel's advice that the only difference between a good race and a poor race is that we can learn more from a poor race.

I've certainly been there myself.
...I've blown whole seasons trying to get "fast" for a single competition...
...I've started ultramarathons at Half Marathon race pace...
...I've ignored sixty minutes of flashing heart rates at the start of a TT...
...I've convinced myself that "I'm different" only to be (forcefully) reminded that, actually, good advice seems to work pretty well for me.

A good advisor helps us see the difference between what we think we should do and what we can absorb. Mark's key (physiological) advice to me centers around maximizing what I absorb, rather than what I complete. That is a fundamental shift in my approach.

The focus on absorbing (with specific overload periods) requires a lot of discipline. In the coming weeks I'll share ideas on how this concept impacts Working Athlete Periodization as well as "Grip Tips" (the few areas where Mark has given me specific guidance).


Intellectual Arrogance

One of the neat things about having worked with so many great athlete-coaches is that I get to hear each of them describe the other. Of course, I am hearing all of this through my personal filters, dogmas and biases!

Scott likes to point out that there can be a large variation between "what I hear" and "what he said". If you work with remote advisers (or clients) then count on half the message going missing each time. I'm working more and more with a combination of written with verbal follow-up, especially with my clients/co-workers that don't like to read!

While, my mentors share a deep respect for each other, there is often a current of "...but MY way is RIGHT" lurking beneath the surface. I see this as an element of effective leadership (or sales). Acknowledgement that other methods can be effective but a total commitment to the chosen protocol. Early in my finance and athletic careers, I lacked the experience to see any merit in alternative approaches. I had commitment without tolerance -- I was intellectually arrogant. This blindness slowed my learning and reduced my success. Fortunately, I was assisted by first-class mentors that demonstrated that change was essential for development.

Drucker's paragraph, about believing that being bright substitutes for knowledge, described me perfectly at the start of my first career (see link in last week). In 1990, a very good friend even warned me that I wasn't as smart as I thought that I was. It took five years (!) of hubris to learn that lesson -- it still pops up in my personal life!

I can remember emphatically explaining to someone that "being nice was lame" and "ultimately, all that matters is results". You can still hear that talk in elite athletics as well as international finance. When we are batting 1.000 that may be the case. However, we all take a few lumps and that's when compassionate co-workers (or family) can help. Nothing like a set-back to make one appreciate friends.

I'm still working on identifying my current intellectual biases -- they're so much easier to see (then share...) in others! Perhaps I'll ask Monica once I have overcome my reluctance for clear feedback on my current situation...

Back next week,