Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winning and Healing

The first part of this letter will share some ideas on setting up a high performance mind-set. The techniques can also be used as a coping strategy when dealing with challenging people/situations.

The second part will be an update on how I'm settling back into the real world following my big trip across New Zealand. With a little over a week to regroup, I've had some insights that should be interesting for you.

We're going to start taking deposits for our Moab Camp shortly - (May 3rd to 9th) - if you are interested in signing up then drop me a line.

When I started out in finance, one of the senior partners taught me that every good deal dies at least once before you do it as well as always be willing to walk away from a situation. Both of these tips are extremely tough to implement on a consistent basis due to some unique quirks in our human psychology.

There is also a saying that some of the best deals you ever do are the ones that you don't fund. Over the last five years, the three best property deals that I 'did' fit this category. I saved myself a lot of grief (and lost capital) by NOT investing.

A bad deal consumes a huge amount of resources, emotions and time.

You can extend the above to Drucker's advice that learning, then maximizing, our strengths is the key to self-management.

Extending to athletics: illness, injury, travel, emotional breakdown, financial stress, excessive fatigue... all of these limiters can keep us from the fitness benefits of consistent moderate training.


One of the benefits of gaining more experience (AKA getting older) is that I am getting a grip on what motivates me. As I wrote during Epic, most of our motivations are driven by the avoidance of pain (fear) and the seeking of pleasure (love). Our motivations mix with our peer group and habits... to form actions.

Through better self-understanding, I have a framework for viewing the rest of the world. Even when we act unconsciously, we are viewing the world through our own filters. Now there are some exceptions, such as sociopathy, but they seem to be a small minority in most fields. Consider cheating/doping/performance in light of sociopathy.

Understanding motivation is important because it is an essential part of any negotiation. Many jobs require negotiation with others - athletics requires negotiation with one's self!

I've already won: to relax my mind and create the clarity required for performance, I cultivate a mindset that I've already won.

If you are reading this blog then I can assure you that you have won, in the largest sense of the word. We are the winners in our society. The fact that we have the time to worry about most of our "problems" says quite a bit about us.

If you can't convince yourself that you've won, then you can try gaining perspective with the fact that losing isn't going to change your life. Having experienced my 'worst' fears (at a few different times in my life) - it didn't really change that much. In fact, these 'bad' experiences are among the most useful in my life.

The goal of my winning mindset is to stay relaxed, endure, persist and do my best.

I evaluate my performance based on how I do relative to myself, rather than others. The other folks are there to help me test my personal resolve.

When I think back on my Tour of NZ in a few months, I am sure that I'll remember the difficulties that were overcome, rather than the easy bits. The tailwind on the last day was pretty sweet though!

Sometimes, I can chill myself out enough to gain insight into the motivations of others. In an important negotiation, this is time well spent. Understanding the motivation of difficult people makes it a lot easier for me to deal with them - until I can restructure them out of my life. I actively move difficult folks out of my life, quickly.

I find that I spend less energy trying to fix people these days -- that energy can be better spent figuring out how to spend more time with people that reinforce my strengths and good habits.

As much as possible, I define success based on a simple list of goals (generally three) that I directly control.

My complex successes have been the product of persistence to a simple schedule of daily actions.


There have been times in the last week where I felt like I had a mild case of PTSD. It's like everything has been dialed WAY up on my emotional responses. Here's the inventory:

  • I've felt like crying 4-5x in the last eight days. Even for a softie like me... that's out of the ordinary!
  • Really warm at night.
  • Hungry all the time - hungry even when I am not hungry! Eating out of habit, not hunger.
  • Flipping between motivated/unmotivated & calm/aggressive in short periods of time. Guess that's described as "moody".
  • Dissatisfaction with things that normally satisfy me.
  • Inability to focus on more than one thing at a time

The above might make it seem like I am flipping out. That is not the case as I'm fortunate to have the experience dealing with the symptoms on being overreached - I'm lucky that I can see myself from outside the stress response.

Bobby McGee would ask me to consider "who is the observer"? That observer guy is a pretty smart cookie - I should listen to him more!

Anyhow, I'll sketch out part of the reason for being overreached. It will give you ideas on a safe way to overload yourself.

Say that my base training load going into Epic was about 15-20 hours per week. I was in life stress balance (wife, nutrition, sleep, performance, work).

At Epic, I cranked my training load up to 45-50 hours per week. This had a few implications:

  • I was not in balance! :-)
  • I required incremental energy of about 20,000 calories per week
  • Everything else in my life (wife, work) started to slide AND I knew it
  • From Day 10 my sugar intake went up a lot
  • From Day 12 my body started to fall apart. I also caught my first psychological crack.
  • Despite being under a lot of stress, I had moments of extreme clarity. This is likely related to some form of endorphin high.

The big increase in stress, when mixed with sugar, RUINS my neurochemistry.

Coming out of Epic, my nutritional needs fall by at least 25,000 calories per week (perhaps more) and my brain receives a HUGE reduction in endorphins.

Consider that most ultra-endurance athletes have a heightened pleasurable response to exercise... and you have a recipe for feeling out-of-sorts.

There is a real endurance hangover from over-extending one's self.

Did I receive enough pleasure to balance the hangover?
Each of us has to ask, then answer, that question.


Something that I learned from Bob Bowman was the importance of tapering out of a training camp. I'm thankful that I didn't get too wrapped up in The Game to apply that advice.

The last 72 hours of Epic had a lot of easy training for me. This goes against basic human instinct which is to crank the stress at the end of camp by overeating; sustained fast training; drinking a stack of booze at the final dinner; and having a short night's sleep before a long journey home. Sounds like a typical Ironman race weekend! I've had a few.

The only thing that Monica asked me to do at Epic was come home healthy. In her own way, she made it easier for me to back off towards the end.

Last week I was able to stay active:

  • Swim every day with about 22,000 meters across the week
  • Bike once for 90 mins
  • Run 3x for 30 mins each time
  • Eccentric rehab for my anterior tibial tendon - sorted it out in four treatments - eccentric rehab works VERY well for over use injuries

I ate more than I needed but it was still a big reduction from the two weeks prior. The key thing for me is focusing on weaning myself back off sugar. I eat a low sugar diet most of the year.

This week will probably end up the same - we will see.


If I was doing training camps for my own performance then these seem to be the lessons for me:

  • Set things up so I can nap during the day - start early with split sessions
  • Insert low-volume recovery days mid-camp where you can catch up a little with life
  • Shoot for ~60% of what it takes to completely break you down - that will greatly reduce the recovery required... which means less endurance hangover, less chance of injury, and better reintegration into normal life.
  • If 60% of what it takes to wreck yourself sounds pretty conservative then run the numbers and compare to your normal training... for me it implies at least triple my average weekly load of cycling.

Probably the most important advice:

    If your mental well being appears to require daily exercise then avoid the people & situations that negatively impact your capacity to train every day.

I have seen many athletes get short-term greedy and lose focus on what truly makes them happy.

Two hours, daily, for the next 40 years would keep me perky!


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