Monday, February 1, 2016

Good to Be Back By Gordo Byrn

Good to Be Back
By Gordo Byrn

Last Monday, I was fortunate to be back on stage at the awards dinner in Penticton. It was my fifth trip up there. After a few more years, I'll need to check where that stands on the all-time list. When I am on stage, I spend my time checking out the men's trophy. This year I spotted two new names on it (Scott Tinley and Ken Glah). Picking names off the trophy is a hobby of mine - I can name ten past winners off the top of my head sitting here.

Jasper gave a great speech that we all found pretty entertaining. I also learned a bit more about how to approach the race from the way he described his day. Another few nuggets about the course logged away for future reference.

After we walked off stage with our plaques (and cheques - I came close to earning the national minimum wage for this race), they handed out our supplemental awards. I received a set of socks and a watch. Something about the socks made me laugh. I suppose it was the irony - training six to seven hundred hours for a set of socks.

More than wanting to win Ironman Canada, what I've always wanted to do is get the chance to speak to a few thousand high achievers at the Awards Dinner. You don't get many opportunities to make a lasting impression with those kinds of people.

Each of the last three times I've raced in Penticton (2003, 2004 & 2006), I've written some thoughts to share. I call them my "Big Room Speech" (the "Big Room" for short). The Big Room motivates me - I saved my notes from 2004, might dig them out next August 20th to remind myself of a few things.

Anyhow, rather than another race report, here's the Coles Notes version of the Gordo Big Room 2006. I hope that you find them useful.

On Potential
In 1999, I turned up in Penticton to race my first Ironman and was sitting in the crowd listening to Chuckie V give a speech about how he got started in triathlon. That year I went 11:06 and was rapt about getting in before dark.

I often wonder how many of us lose that joy from our early races by getting caught up in relative performance. The reason that I caution my athletes about expectations is that they have a direct influence on the satisfaction that we will receive from any experience. There is a paradox in our sport that the folks with the highest expectations (and performance) are often the least satisfied.

Victory is reported in the press as one man overcoming others. However, what makes Ironman truly satisfying is the opportunity to overcome ourselves. Our relative position in a race passes instantly but the lessons of spending weeks, months and years working towards a goal endure.

When I sat there listening to Chuck, I was a 30-year-old finance guy that just finished 303rd overall. I knew very little about training, pacing, nutrition, equipment, physiology… all of the things that we think are important for success.

What I did know was that I REALLY loved to train.

On Protocol
With that love of training, I set out to learn everything possible about the different ways to train. I tried most of them out on myself and a few on my athletes. While different approaches work for different people, one thing that I've noticed is that protocol is not the decisive factor for most people's athletic success.

Protocol impacts the amount of "work" that we can absorb and, ultimately, "work absorbed" is what determines performance. So the plan (or person) that enhances our ability to absorb training is what proves optimal over the long run. That is probably why discussions over training protocol are a lot like discussions over nutrition. At a deep level, we know that our own choices are what determine results. It is also why the best coaches are the people the figure out how to get their athletes to absorb the most training, not the guys with the best scientific knowledge.

Many coaches allude to the fact that they have a superior method. I'd be wary of those people. The best coaches that I've met are the ones that admit that they get nearly as much wrong as they get right. However, they take a lot of pride in being able to help a few athletes get further than they ever thought possible. I happen to be one of those athletes.

After a year off, it was great to be back in Penticton. I've saved the socks and might start marking them off year by year. If I work my butt off then one of these summers I just might get to give my Big Room instead.

Why do I keep coming back?
To know, but not to do, is not to know.

See you at the races,