Wednesday, February 3, 2016

personal planning

Couples Retreat

A tool that Monica and I use to strengthen our marriage is a monthly couples retreat.

We head off, just the two of us, and spend 48 hours together. I (try to) pull the plug on the internet and she gets to choose all our workouts. We get a heck of a lot done and it's a highly effective tool for our marriage.

M flew down to Tucson on Monday - which gave me 24 hours to clear my inbox before pulling the plug on the net for the next 48 hours.

Satisfaction

My personal outlook is influenced by two lessons that I have learned.

#1 - I'm responsible for my life, and my feelings, right now.

#2 - If something bothers me then consider if I am willing to change. If I am not willing to change then get over it.

I'm still working through my endurance "hangover" from the 100-odd hours of training I did over in New Zealand. One of the effects of endorphin withdrawal is that I can feel dissatisfied with things. It is a common post-camp, or post-race, experience to feel dissatisfaction with some aspect of our lives.

I didn't do myself any favors as I picked of a few bad habits both at the camp, and after. It all stems from getting "too tired" and "too stressed". I can fall into the trap of tell myself "it's OK" and giving myself "treats" that are the EXACT recipe for screwing myself up further.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Fatigue intoxication is showing through in this week's photo.

Robbie travels with a Sport Kilt so that he can INSTANTLY change out of his bike shorts once his ride is done.

I found the man-skirt pretty funny (it was 100F in the Valley of Fire) and wanted a photo to remember the moment...

Nothing like dehydration, afternoon lighting and a full body shave to make a guy look shredded. I know all the tricks...


It's been about a year since I watched the bottom fall out of my personal P&L and I consider myself very lucky to have gone through that experience.

In 2009, I have seen people fall into bankruptcy, lose their houses, their jobs... I'm blessed to be able to handle my challenges. In the end, I didn't need to implement my total-disaster-survival plan. I do have it on file though...

For what its worth, I expect that we will see a major shock in the next two years that's going to knock us back into recession. Goldman has never been representative of the financial sector (they are different, and smarter, than the rest). Dig a little deeper and you'll see a huge overhang of debts in all levels of our society. More on that in a future piece.

We've achieved a lot in the last year. Enough that I decided to take a vacation two weeks ago. Last winter, I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't take a vacation until this website was up and running. After I made that promise, my financial life continued to fall so quickly that a two month delay turned into a year of sustained effort to rebalance my family's financial health.

My vacations are different than most and (like it or not) provide a clear indication of my values as well as what truly motivates me. Similar to my personal workouts... I have two main types... me-vacations and monsy-vacations.

I'm not on vacation unless I can completely pull the plug on email -- taking a break from the world provides me with some benefits:

Questions & Actions

The last two weeks have looked backwards and FAR forwards. This week, I will outline my thoughts for what I want to get done over the next year.

When deciding priorities in my life, I ask myself... Will this change my life if it happens?

I also ask myself the opposite... Will this change my life if it doesn't happen?

There are very, very few things in life where the answer to both questions is "yes". The only Double-Yes I can think about is my marriage and the birth of my daughter.

What I Learned This Year

I'm happy to announce that multiple Ironman Champions, Chris and Marilyn McDonald, will be coaching at our St George Ironman Camp (Nov 12-15, $475 includes hotel/breakfast/dinner and 10 CEUs).

That's Chris in the photo - I did my first race in a year (!) last weekend and Chris dropped by (after riding 190K in the Rockies the day before). I took one look at his TT set-up and figured that he'd ride 17 minutes into me! Turned out that I was a bit more fit than I thought - you can read my race report here (click Summary for text). I will be sharing our internal analysis in my XTri column next week.


September is the month where I take the time to do a detailed personal inventory of my life. Before I look forward, I like to look back and see how I did over the last year.

Here is September's writing from last year.

First point... you might be able to predict the future but I am totally clueless!

Creating Your Day Job

The advice, "don't quit your day job" is a common refrain, this week I share ideas about creating the life you want to live.

The photos this week are from our most recent training camp. I'd like to get a few more sign ups for our St George Ironman Weekend in November.

If you know an athlete that might benefit then please have them contact me.

Three days of training, including hotel/breakfast/dinner for $475. That price includes hotel/meals.


A bit of advice on making-it-happen.

Know what you want, specifically.
I have heard many athletes say, I would like to have a job working at training camps.

First... Which camp? With whom? Be specific.

Second... Observe the people that are living the life you (think you) want to lead. What have they done over the last TEN years and are you will to make the changes required in your own life to replicate their long term work. Understand the long term habits of successful people.

The second point is one that Marilyn made at the camp. She was asked what the difference was between success and failure in athletes - I'll paraphrase - Successful people are the ones that are willing to change their approach to achieve their goals.

Greg Bennett made a similar point - When I realized that I was competing against athletes with superior genetics, I realized that I had to be willing to do the work that others find too hard.

These themes return to me in all areas of my life.

Revisting The Game

You will be able to find Part Four of my Understanding Intensity series over on the Training Peaks Blog from Tuesday.


This week saw a big event in the Byrn Household. I lifted my self-imposed travel ban. I had eliminated all travel that had a net negative cash impact on the family.

Banning my own travel didn't change the quality of my life but it did impair my cycling fitness! So... to get ready for Epic Camp New Zealand (sold out), Team MonGo will head down to Australia this winter.

Three camps that I'll be doing to prepare for Epic:

The first two camps are open to experienced athletes at all ability levels. The final camp (in Oz) will be pretty peppy in nature.

Contact me for more info.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

This past week I was re-visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future. I thought that I had shaken him years ago but he returned during a three-day visit to Aspen, Colorado.

By the way... if you get to Aspen then two things to check out... Independence Pass and Maroon Bells. You can drive, or bike, to both locations are they are really neat! Our photo this week is "Ultra G" after a long run spent chasing Mrs. Byrn uphill at 10,000 feet. I'll tell you more about the socks in a future article.

Ten years ago, I had a major change in my life. Over the course of 18 months, I resigned my job, ended my marriage, sold as many of my possessions as possible and left the country where I had lived for seven years. Thirty is a bit young to have a mid-life crisis but, I suppose, that's the best description of what happened.

The changes I made were triggered from an evening spent alone, in a beautiful house, surrounded by all the comforts available to a self-assured finance guy. When Monica reads that sentence she might never leave me alone again...

That night, I realized that I'd be sitting on that EXACT couch ten years later and the only thing that would have changed would be the size of my bank account.

When I left Hong Kong in 2000, nobody would buy the couch (!) so I've carted it around the world with me. Since my decision to leave ten years ago... I have: remarried, become a Dad, lived in five countries, started nine businesses, exited most my deals successfully, and watched a couple deals die.

If you'd asked me in my late 20s what I was working towards, I probably would have said residences in Phuket, London and San Francisco. I was very asset focused and liked the concept of being able to travel the world with a toothbrush. It wasn't until I travelled the world that I discovered that the reality of travel is quite different.

Personal Review, June 2009

Over the last couple of weeks, I made my way through my half-yearly review. Not quite as detailed as my full-blown annual review but useful none-the-less.

This week I will hit on a few topics that might prove useful.


Personal Review
From my point of view, the improvement in the quality of my sleep (from consistent wake-up); combined with moderately challenging training (rather than massive overload, rest, repeat) has done wonders for my productivity and outlook. I'm getting a ton done on all fronts. It's nice to have the extra energy to "step up" and help manage the house.

Similar to the markets, some times all it takes to feel better is for the situation to stop getting worse. There was a lot of negative shocks in 2008, these have stopped coming through as often so even if things merely stay the same... they appear to be improving.

Two quotes I'll share with you:

    "Somewhere in my life something is always @#$%^&" - Brad Feld
    "Life is dealing with problems"

When I can hold these thoughts in my head as acceptance, rather than resistance, they help me maintain perspective. My goal being to deal with things, rather than arrive at a place where everything is "fixed".

Not that there is much screwed up in my life. However, if you look for it then there's pretty much always something you can find to get yourself worked up. If we can't get to relentless positivity then striving for consistent acceptance is reasonable alternative.

Two questions remain outstanding right now:

  • What new subject do I want to study and learn about over the next year?
  • Where, and how, will I fit in my personal retreat? Here I am thinking about making Epic Camp out-bound only for technology. Blogging daily (so I remember a special trip) but not pulling in any media/email/IT over the duration.

The Cure

Our lead off photo this week is Jan Hugo Svendsen - my latest viking buddy.

Jonas "Big J" Colting crowned him King-for-a-Day when he held off the entire camp to take line honors at a stage of the Tour of Sweden.

When the chase bunch contains Clas Bjorling and Bjorn Andersson... it's a huge achievement for an agegrouper to finish first!


Some of my athletes think that I am a mind reader because I have an uncanny knack of knowing what they are thinking. Truth is, I have a limited capacity to read people (just ask my wife)... however, I have built a decent capacity to see, then express what's going on inside my head.

To the extent that I have any wisdom, it is due to slowing my mind down enough to have brief periods of insight into my own patterns and though habits.

Why Wait

This week's title is short for "Why wait to be great" - a mantra from my elite racing days. For athletics, the mantra was a reminder to maintain my adventuresome spirit. While it is true that all we really need is a reasonable weekly structure, it takes so long to get decent (to achieve our own 'greatness') that compliance is increased if we maintain the adventure in our training.

In reality, athletics is no different than our wider lives. If you pursue sport for long enough then your approach (and often your successes) will bring out self-limiting patterns and habits. As adult athletes, it is far easier for us to maintain an open mind athletically than in the other areas of our lives (where we've been repeating patterns for years). Perhaps this is a good reason to change careers, or cultures, every decade, or so.

The photos mixed through this week's letter are from "Rich Camp 2009". I spent the last week training with a British triathlete - we checked out some classic routes in Colorado and Utah. It was a blast for me and I really appreciated the chance to share my ideas with Rich. Our trip, and Rich's story, reminded me of a few things that might interest.


Why Race?
Received some interesting feedback from last week's article.

Make Your Fate

Gordon Livingston writes, "only bad things happen quickly". Even with "bad" things, such as a rising uneployment, it takes many months to see the true impact of shocks to the system. The best analogy for large, complex systems is of a gigantic supertanker... it takes a long time to change course but, when it does, expect it to keep moving in that direction for a while.

This week I am going to write about "good" things that have been happening in my life. As I write this, there are a few bright spots in the economy but, unfortunately, I expect the economy to continue to deteriorate. Even when good policy decisions are made, the huge amount of leverage is going to take a long time to work through the system. Having lived through a few economic shocks, I'll share some ideas on the adjustment process in an future article.

An economic depression need not imply disaster on a personal level -- many good things have happened in my life during 2009.

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On Monday, Noon Denver Time, Monica is joining me for a free webinar on Nutrition and Fit Pregnancy. contact me for a slot. We have spaces available.

Desert Lessons - Part Two


At our recent camp in Tucson, I didn't assign myself any formal topic. I wanted to see how the camp played out and give myself a chance to address questions/topics that came up as we rolled through our training.

Part One of this article is over in our column at XTri. It covered questions raised by the athletes as well as what I learned from our coaches.

This week's article covers the key things that I learned from a decade of triathlon (most of which was spent with an evangelical focus on performance). These lessons are personal to me. They make sense "now" but I don't claim them to be universal truths.

I'll wrap up with some tips that I do believe to be quite universal in application. If I had kept these in my mind for the entire decade then I might have enjoyed a deeper level of success.

I float them out there because it would be great to see one of my close friends take the lessons of my success a little further than I was able to pull off. You know who you are and you know what I mean -- I'll keep the specifics to myself because I know what it's like to lay it on the line publicly!

Change Your World

When one listens to the news these days you can get the impression that there is nothing we can do the stem the decline of our collective position.

I wonder how far back we’re going to get knocked in terms of the size of our economies and asset values – ten, fifteen, twenty years? This week's article is not about fear, it is about living.

While it makes sense to be realistic, and work with a sense of purpose, unrelenting negativity can cloud our thinking and, more importantly, greatly reduce our quality of life.

To balance the negativity in the media, I recommend periods of silence and retreats to nature.

The reason the blog is a little late this week is because I was on a training retreat in Southern Arizona. The break did wonders for my perspective, as well as my motivation to keep moving forward.


A quick announcement, we are considering a number of different options for Summer Camp. All will be based in Colorado.

If you'd like to find out more details about what we are considering then drop me a line. I will send out a letter to everyone that expresses an interest in the coming days. Timeframe is July/August 2009. The event will be open to ALL experience levels as well as short/long course athletes.

New Realities

Our photo this week is your author sitting on the top of Africa. Before I was ever a competitive athlete, I used to collect mountains. Fortunately, my hobby didn't kill me!

Thriving in Recession

Through my athletic journey, I learned lessons that that made me a better man in the "real world".

Being a coach is an incredibly satisfying job because I can help people use athletic goals to break patterns/habits that have been limiting their success in other fields. There is no "magic" from the coach, rather, the desire of the athlete... to get to Kona, to win their agegroup, or to finish their race... provides that little extra motivation to keep going when they might have stopped in the past.

What are these fundamental lessons?

  • We consistently underestimate what is possible across a multiple year time horizon.
  • We rarely exceed the goals that we set for ourselves.
  • We achieve our expectations (both conscious and unconscious) more often than not.

More than getting what we deserve, we get what we expect.

Goals, Aspirations and Hubris

Over the last few years, I have prepared my annual "to do" list of goals and tactics. Being achievement oriented, I have found that stating my game plan helps me stick to getting it done.

Of course, one does need to be aware that publicly falling short can be painful... but nowhere near as painful as regret, or the haunting feeling when we know we let ourselves down.

Incentives

Our photo this week is Team MonGo 2008 -- you'll see that Monica bought the family matching pajamas. Check out the sleeves on Lex!
Today is my 40th birthday and I managed to hold my hair this far... that seemed so important to me when I was in my teens and twenties... while my priorities 20 years ago were normal, they weren't exactly ideal.
Lesson #1: having a high capacity to work overcomes a lot of personal shortcomings.

Facing Winter & Travel Thoughts

This week I am going to share some ideas on how my winter has been going.

Travel -- is the largest item in my business budget as well as a major expenditure in my personal budget. More than the financial cost, travel has a large hidden cost in terms of use of time and fatigue. If you choose a life where you move around a lot then it makes it much more challenging to achieve in areas that benefit from stability (relationships; athletic training... for example). In seeing the risk to relationships/training, I set my travel up in blocks and brought my girlfriend (now wife) with me as much as possible. While effective, this greatly increased the overall cost to the family.
Travel isn't all bad. A ten-day business trip removes a lot of distractions and long flights are excellent for extended periods of uninterrupted time. Both editions of Going Long had their final proofs reviewed on a long haul flight.

Reflections on Savings and Investment


This week we return to a more financial-oriented letter. Now that the US election is out of the way, it seems like the bad news has started rolling again. The bad news can seem relentless at times and, following my trip around the world, appears to be happening in the US, Europe as well as Asia.

With the mood (near universally) negative, I've been trying to figure out my long term strategy for savings and investment. As I mentioned a few weeks back, I'm currently projecting a cash flow deficit for 2009. I suspect that I'm not alone in being in that position! Frankly, being able to absorb an unexpected set back is why I've been conservative over the last twenty years. I have been reminding myself that the world isn't ending but human psychology can be tough to counter.

Family Finances & Bear Market Psychology


Investment strategy is the topic for this week. I am not going to tell you what I think you should do. Rather, I am going to share ideas about how I approach my family's investment strategy and outline some observations from the last few weeks. An interesting article where the author does offer some "to do's".

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Personal Freedom

A good friend sent me a link to an interview with Andrew Bacevich.  The interview provides interesting points of view on patriotism, foreign policy, projection of power and the central values of American society.  It takes an hour to get through and it was a useful way to spend a Sunday morning. 
The interview is, nominally, with reference to Bacevich's book, The Limits of Power. The author is described as a conservative historian but many of his points are often made (far less effectively) by my liberal friends.  The link was sent to me by a veteran who said that he watched with tears in his eyes because someone had finally put into words what he had felt for years.
An example is his position on "not war" as opposed to peace -- my quote, not his.  It's the first time, I have heard someone talk about the Iraq war in a more nuanced point of view.  Generally, we are presented with binary choices (in/out; win/lose; victory/defeat).  Bacevich goes deeper and examines the impact of a full commitment in one area which limits our ability to commit in other areas.  
As an investor, I look at the opportunity cost of a position.  As a historian, Bacevich does the same thing with respect to the projection of power and the allocation of national capital.  Like many strengths, wealth/force/power/fitness may be most useful when applied sparingly.

2008 Review, Part Two


This week’s letter is about taking the time to consider the long term implications of our current choices as well as offering some insight into how I approach my personal planning.

The photo above has me thinking about some additional adjustments to my TT position - I will be tinkering this winter!

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If you haven’t been to the Alternative Perspectives page in a while then you might enjoy two articles from Coach Kevin Purcell. The most recent was a thought provoker for me and very enjoyable.

2009 Boulder Camp – I am very happy to confirm Joe Friel and Bobby McGee as guest coaches at our Summer Triathlon Camp. Joe and Bobby have been instrumental in my athletic career and share more than fifty years of collective coaching experience.

As a reminder, the camp will run from July 20 to 25, 2009. By letting you handle your accommodation and morning meals, we have been able to set the cost at a very affordable $1,250. This camp is open to all abilities, all-distances and will have a balanced focus between skills development, triathlon training and athlete education. To confirm a slot, please drop me an email.

Two book recommendations for you: FIASCO is a great read about structured products and investment banking – it fits with my observations from a career inside the financial services industry.

Website Optimization is a good read for anyone that runs a web driven business, or brand. The book made me realize how little I know -- lots of easy ways to improve the reach of my writing. I read the book with pen, paper and a high speed internet connection. I approached the read like a "workbook" taking notes and making changes to my website outline.

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I was walking around Edinburgh this week and noticed that it is impossible to see a credit crunch. The buildings don’t know who owns them, or the prices that we place on them. That realization settled me down at the start of a very busy week. The UK faces challenging economic times.

My trip to Scotland confirmed suspicions on the state of my personal NAV. Long time readers may remember that I sold my UK property exposure in 2005/2006 and used a portion of the proceeds to help establish a Scottish residential property developer. While the development business is stable, the market outlook for sector is weak.

I’ve seen a big reduction in the upside component of my personal portfolio and a stack of paper profits went up in smoke. My marked-to-market net worth went down significatly in 2008. No wonder investment banks are looking for a way to avoid reporting the true market value of their illiquid securities. It was a (very) good thing that I am not personally leveraged -- I would be toast if I was a hedge fund.

Interestingly, prime residential rents are way up in Scotland. We have seen a 50% increase in our portfolio yields over the last three years and, I suspect, there are more rental increases to come. The upward yield shift gives comfort to our bankers (in a time when they aren’t hearing a whole lot of good news).

We haven’t seen any evidence of forced selling by developers. This could change if the main lenders take a hard line but, to date, all the key participants seem content to sit-it-out until market conditions improve.

Times like this are potentially volatile because if everyone is doing nothing then there is substantial downside risk if assets (at the margin) are forced through the market. Prices always move at the margin and, in a thin market, the actions of a few can impact the balance sheets of the many.

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The Tri Biz
While there isn’t much that I can (or want to) do with my personal balance sheet, I have taken a hard look at my personal profit and loss account.

Over the last three years, my largest single expense category has been “triathlon”. In 2005, I downsized my sources of triathlon revenue to create space for a big increase in my financial consulting business. The net cost of doing that was probably on the order of $100,000. I suspect that is a much smaller cost than many athletes bear when they downsize work commitments to focus on qualifying for World Champs. A single year off as a doctor, investment banker or CEO can cost a multiple of my figure.

I’m fond of saying that the easiest way to increase net income is to reduce personal expenditure. I remind myself of this because the consumption treadmill is a seductive trap, constantly marketed to us through the media.

In my annual review, I look at my expenses (current, projected, core and surplus) as well as my revenues (current, projected, downside, potential). I would encourage you to do the same.

Why? Because we always underestimate the large effect that small changes have over the time lines of our lives.

$33K per annum, for seventeen years, at 4% is $782,000.

By taking action to eliminate my net triathlon cost (today), I can finance my unborn daughter’s college education (tomorrow). Of course, all this is contingent on not spending the money elsewhere, or being miserable with the change. We can take cost control too far.

For me, starting a business helps spending discipline. My accountant tells me that the IRS will "help" further by disallowing losses if we lose money for three consecutive years. As well, I have considered bringing in a financial partner to create social, and profit, pressure. There are a lot of benefits to 100% ownership (see Raising the Bar) but I also benefit from having obligations to people I respect.

My game plan for personal expenditure control:

***Focus on the training camps that I am hosting Tucson (April); Epic France (June); and Boulder (July). Last year, I attended nine training camps and only one made a positive contribution to Gordo Incorporated.

***Consolidate the best of my writings into a single location for you (the reader) to access easily. The best marketing lesson from my triathlon experience is “give away good information for free”. Helping people is fun and creates massive goodwill. I have a stack of content spread between five websites. My content is underutilized and tough to access.

***Place my library within a website where I will be able to combine: (a) my coaching skills; (b) my writing skills; and (c) my enjoyment of helping people learn from athletics.

My financial consulting business has (effectively) total concentration with a single client. I am a big believer in the value of concentration (and the illusion of diversification). However, small things matter over long timeframes… one, or two, additional relationships will make a difference.

The benefit of my business model is it fits with my desire to main freedom of location and schedule. Commitments given to clients limit my freedom of occupation (somewhat), but I love working and there is a fair exchange.

An up-coming letter will discuss (in detail) my current personal portfolio strategy. While my outlook hasn’t changed, my portfolio structure changed (due to those paper profits evaporating).

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The Truly Precious
Because time is far more precious than money, I also do a time inventory. I have become provicient at considering my happiness return per hour. Still, it takes constant pruning to maintain a high quality life.

There are clear requirements to a long term focus on elite athletics. These requirements have associated costs that can increase over time.

Financial – outlined above.

Structural – to run well in triathlon, I need to maintain a high level of annual run volume. Having spent most of 2007 walking around my house in fluffy slippers (to comfort bruised feet), I know that the required level of volume is wearing my feet out.

Emotional – I don’t know about you… but I am not a whole lot of fun from three to eleven weeks out from a key competition. I used to get around this by living alone in the spare room of a fellow endurance athlete, or hibernating upstairs at my house in Christchurch. The IronMonk-gig worked for athletic performance but lacked in terms of emotional well-being. I have increasingly found that I can’t be the husband I want be while spending 20 weeks a year on the knife edge of human endurance.

Monica is so completely loyal that she’d back me for another five years of relentless focus. She respects me too much to offer the soft option of backing off to please-the-wife. I didn’t truly understand the brilliance of doing that for your husband until this year. If you are married to somebody like me, it is the best way to ensure peace of mind in your man. I’ve got a couple buddies that have managed the freedom but haven’t (yet) found their peace. Don’t think that I’ve necessarily found any!

Addicts come up with all sorts of ways to justify their actions. Generally, I am only able to fool myself for five to fifteen years at a given vocation. Increasingly, I find better and better things to focus on. Fatherhood represents another opportunity for self-knowledge.

I have been truly fortunate to have the opportunity to spend much of the last decade living as an elite athlete. It has been a tremendous experience and worth all the overtraining, financial costs and other occupational hazards. I rarely regret the past, even my mistakes and “hard times”.

One of the main hazards of objective decision making is caused by a combination of consistency bias, overvaluing what we own and overweighing sunk costs. “I have given up too much to change course” is a common thought pattern that can skew clear judgment. There are also tremendous social pressures that we place on each other to remain consistent in approach. We have an in-built bias against “flip-floppers”. This is a bit odd in a world where most of our key decisions are made against a background of incomplete, and changing, information.

I have always enjoyed “doing what it takes” and, I suspect, that most obsessed folks are excellent at getting the job done. Seeing this trait, could be why Monica likes me to have a project. Too much idle time leaves me short on endorphins.

It’s an interesting time for me. With my sport, increasing costs are reducing my enjoyment from doing what it takes. Frankly, I’d rather be a world class person than a world class athlete. I am fortunate to have been exposed to role models that manage to do both.

Since 2004, I hoped that winning Ironman Canada would give me a fairy tale ending. Just like Monica, Life doesn’t appear to have offered me an easy way out.

Back next week,
gordo

2008 Year In Review, Part One, Athletics


This week's photo was taken while I was competing in the speedo division of Ironman Canada 2008. I am going to write up my race report for the Planet-X website. Additionally, my pals at XTri.Com have published a recent Q&A.

Long time readers will know that I like to spend September reflecting on how things went over the last year. This year, I am a bit ahead of schedule and will share some ideas that I have been considering throughout August.

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Why Compete?
It may surprise you to learn that I don't really enjoy the "competing" part of athletic competition. While it is fun to win, how many of us are consistently dominating? Not me. Even when I win (or my clients win), I have concerns that the pleasure that I experience is just my ego being inflated. Humility does not come naturally to me and requires constant vigilance.

For short course racing, John Hellemans says that if you feel like quitting then you are going the correct effort. He is a multiple agegroup world champion and Olympic coach, so I remember his words. For much of this summer, I had that sensation in training -- I noted those feelings and reminded myself that, for Ironman, they were a clear indication that I was on edge and needed to be careful. I counted down my sessions, and the days, until Ironman Canada.

So why compete?

I have been getting slower for my last three years of Ironman racing. Similar to dying... we all know that slowing down is coming but it is a bit of a surprise when it actually arrives!

Why compete? Many valuable experiences are not pleasurable. The main personal benefits that I receive from racing all seem to come with "coping". We are all going to get knocked around a bit in life. Racing gives us a safe environment to train our coping skills. More specifically:

Coping with Public Success and Failure -- IMC 2007 was a public failure of a clearly stated goal. The failure caused me a lot of personal pain. However, trying our absolute best then failing... is liberating once we get past the pain. I am, mostly, free from concern over public performances. When I faced challenges in 2008, I looked inward... how do I want to respond to this decision, not... what will others think of this decision.

Pain results when Expectations (not performance) diverge from Results. Crisis comes from our expectations -- an athlete preferring to quit, rather than face the reality of their performance. Quiting stifles personal growth and, speaking from experience, it is far better to fail than quit. Getting across the finish line creates closure -- a DNF (that doesn't involve an ambulance ride) often remains an open wound.

Learning to cope with success is also challenging. People that like us for no reason aren't much different than people that hate us for no reason. It takes considerable self-esteem to remain ethically centered in the face of consistent positive feedback (social, financial, athletic...).

Dealing with a Lack of Control -- Control and stability are illusions, just ask any 68-minute Ironman swimmer! Racing drives that home to me, again, in a safe environment. Learning to manage our emotions, and decisions, while under extreme duress is a HIGHLY valuable skill that we take back into our daily lives.

Reaching Beyond Ourselves -- I have never made the lead swim pack in an international level triathlon. But... I don't rule it out! Racing provides us with an environment where we can achieve things that we thought were impossible. I've had a couple of disappointing Ironman races but... if I do happen to RIP one in the future... wouldn't it be great. Athletics have consistently shown me that I am capable of much more than I can imagine.

For me, the lessons of competition revolve primarily around self-awareness and self-control. Which leads nicely to...

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Race Status, Elite versus Amateur
While I was counting down the days to Ironman Canada, I was also counting down the end of my elite career. There are elements of elite ironman training (high run mileage and risk of immuno-destruction) that don't fit with my personal plan for the next 30 years. On reflection, I also wanted to experience the (hoax) joy of winning without having to cope with the extreme duress and health risks that come from elite level training.

To explain my current thinking, I need to set the stage with a couple of stories...

A -- I have a few good friends that are former military officers. I have always been drawn to "something" that all good officers share -- the calling to be an exemplar. Charlie Munger uses the term with respect to CEOs but it applies to any person in a position of leadership (teachers, parents, coaches...). An exemplar is a leader that consistently holds themselves to a higher standard than their students.

B -- Within my own athletic career, the highlights aren't the times that I won races. The real highlights came when I performed close to the level of a great athlete (Tom Evans, Steve Larsen, Peter Reid). Not so often with Peter and not any more with Tom & Steve... but I hope you get my point... it is extremely motivating to have the opportunity to race alongside athletes that played a role in our entering sport in the first place.

C -- The quickest way to learn that external success is an illusion is to "win". Even then, "victory" is a powerful drug and highly addictive. There are many ways to keep score. In athletics, we use a clock. In other fields, they may count mistresses, dollars, clients, page views, sales transactions... external success can become a trap.

A long introduction to say that I have decided to race elite for another year. Slowing down with style will make me a better man, at a minimum a more humble man!

Racing beside Simon Lessing, and the traveling Aussies, at Boulder Peak 2009 should provide me with a solid stress management opportunity. As well, there are athletes out there that will enjoy taking me down. Why deny them that pleasure? Scott jokes that our Epic Camp clients enjoy taking down "the Ultraman".

Outside of Worlds, I'm not quite slow enough to make it a fair fight in the agegroup ranks (it could get a lot more fair during an up-coming break). In business, I have tried to be willing to sacrifice success to remain true to my values. So, you guys in the 40-44 next year will be safe from me... but I will be benchmarking against you. When you track me, remember that I have a 10 meter draft zone and, likely, had to swim alone, often without a wetsuit!

The Canadian federation makes it a bit challenging for non-resident nationals to receive their elite cards. As a result, I am going to seek a US Elite Card (once my Green Card comes through). To my friends north of the border, know that I love Canada and am a proud Canuck.

Next week, I will publish Part Two. That letter will cover the intersection of Business, Athletics and my Personal Plan. I have things sorted for my 40s but have discovered a few areas that need to be addressed to prepare for my 50s and 60s.

I play a long game.
gordo

Add It Up

Our photo this week is Team Bennett (Greg & Laura).

As I type this, Laura is heading to Beijing in order to represent the US in the Olympics (pretty cool). I have been fortunate to get to know the Bennetts over the last little while.

When I compare Laura to myself, what stands out is her true attitude. By "true attitude" I mean the way she is. She is not working on having a positive attitude -- she "is" positive in a very peaceful sense.

Over the last eight years, I have made a consistent, conscious effort to reprogram a habit of relentless positivity. I also work on seeking to view situations from the opposite perspective. My attitude is a habit, Laura's attitude is a trait. Give me another 20 years and I might get there!

When I was working with Dave Scott in 2004, I was amazed at his grasp of the competitive dynamic of Ironman racing. Dave's toughness and physical skills are legendary but, I think, what really gave him an edge was understanding the competitive dynamic of a race and knowing how to "win".

The only person that I've met with a similar level understanding of mixing terrain, skills and tactics is Greg Bennett (the other "GB"). Seeing as I am an older, long course guy... (i.e. no threat!) ...Greg speaks freely around me. Like listening to Molina, I kick back and soak up the knowledge. Every single time I sit down with Greg, I learn something new. What's unique to Greg is his capacity to create, then execute, a winning strategy. There are a lot of strategic coaches out there but they rarely have the physical goods to deliver their own plans. He's formulating, visualizing, then executing his own victories.

With a bit of luck, we will be able to schedule the Bennetts as part of our evening speakers series at our Boulder Camp next July.

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Toby (from Art of Tri) has offered a 20% discount to all gBlog readers. What you do is enter the discount code at check-out. The code is GORDO-99 and the website is HERE. Monica and I like the hoodies.

One of Art of Tri's taglines is "One Passion...Endless Training". That can mean a lot of different things. Five years ago, I might have interpreted that as making sure that I met my daily target of Five-A-Day.

Five hours of training, rather than five servings of fruits and veggies!

More and more, "Endless Training" is about maximizing my athletic enjoyment across a lifetime. Taking care of my body and making sure that I'm still able to do interesting things into my 60s and 70s.

The first time I rode up the Tourmalet (pictured below), there were two guys well into their 60s (perhaps 70s) grinding their way towards the summit. Totally soaked in sweat -- suffering in silence. Frankly, they looked a lot like Montgomery, Newsom and me -- just older!

I want to be those guys. I want to be on the Tourmalet in 2030 (hopefully with Molina.


Endless Training.

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Add It Up
Most of the discussion about endurance sports is prescriptive in nature. Athletes create goals and ask friends/experts/coaches to comment on what-it-takes. Coaches opine about optimal protocols required for "success". Success being defined in terms of beating all-comers, personal bests or qualifying for World Champs.

Rarely do we invert the question.

Instead of stating "What it takes", I start by asking my clients "What have you got?"

In order to figure that out you need to Add It Up and I like a time inventory/log to get a hold on that. Consider in a week, time spent...

Training
Working
Shopping
Cooking
Cleaning
Spouse
Friends
Kids
Pets
Family
Education
Reading
Personal Admin
House Maintenance
Internet
TV
Movies
Relaxation
Other...

Don't waste time scheduling your perfect week -- rather, observe, and log, what you are really doing. You will learn a lot.

There are no sacrifices required for success, merely choices. Most people will resist the above exercise because they don't want to be faced with the information that would result.

One of the choices I make is to sub-contract as many non-core items as possible. Paradoxically, I also retain a number of items that might appear to be low value added:

***Cooking red meat
***Trash, recycling and pet poop
***(Moderately) heavy lifting -- I need assistance for the truly heavy
***Rose garden watering
***Breakfast

I could probably sub-contract these items but I find them relaxing and happen to be very good with pet poop.

My point is we can only "create time" by reducing our commitments. In my podcast with Chris McDonald, his advice to the aspiring athlete was "sell everything". Extreme simplicity is another way to reduce commitments -- if you don't have a house, car, consulting practice, spouse, job, garden, pet... then there is nothing to spend time on. Remember that elimination of many of these items will have a negative impact on our ability to have a life with meaning.

OK... once you've added-it-up. Reflect on the following levels of endurance commitment...

Nine hours of training per week -- at this level, you will be able to achieve personal health and enjoy the wellbeing that comes from endorphin release. Remember that the greatest benefit you receive from an active lifestyle comes from the first hour in your daily routine. At this level, you are unlikely to maximize your potential as an "athlete" and a lot of people are curious about how far they can go.

Fifteen hours of training per week -- at this level of long term commitment, you have a very good shot at achieving the bulk of your athletic potential. I think that it represents an achievable target for an athlete that wants to make endurance sport a fundamental aspect of their life.

Now the kicker... endurance sport attracts a lot of extreme people, such as myself. After a taste of early success... we convince ourselves that "achieving the bulk of our personal potential" is selling ourselves short. So we target...

Twenty-One hours of training per week -- if you want to squeeze the last few percentages (and we are talking small percentages) from your performance then you're looking at a 1,000 hour annual commitment for an extended period of your athletic development.

Thing is... even if you can handle it physically (many can't)... as you shift ever upward on the endurance commitment scale... you will notice that, eventually, you also need to annually commit an extra 700 hours of sleep and spend an extra 350 hours on athletic admin (massage, stretching, changing, showering, travel).

For many, what was once an enjoyable 450 hour annual commitment, gradually becomes an all-encompassing obsession sucking upwards of 2,000 hours a year.

So in addition to adding up your available time, also consider what level of athletic commitment makes the most sense in terms of the life that you are seeking to create for yourself.

Financially...
Ten years
1,550 hours per year
$15 per hour (say, $25 less 40% in taxes/costs)
5% return on savings
= $292,000

Sit on that nest egg for 20 years at 5%
= $775,000

Choose wisely,
gordo

Athletic Inversion & Living The Dream


October 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of Scott Molina's victory at the Hawaii Ironman. Part of Scott's motivation for returning is the desire to get-it-right in terms of preparation, and race day performance. If an athlete as successful as Scott feels that he hasn't quite got it right -- after 30 (!) years of racing -- then there must be structural limitations in the human condition.

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One of the key things that Charlie Munger repeats in his Almanack is the advice to "always invert". I have been reading that advice for three years but only recently started to grasp the meaning. I think what he is trying to tell me...

...to improve your chances of being successful, make sure you figure out what can kill you.

Munger believes that a solid track record of success can be created by sticking to what you know, working hard and limiting your poor choices. Inversion is a method of bringing potentially poor choices, or situations, to the front of your mind.

The books that I recommended in the last few weeks do a great job when it comes to applying this advice in the real world. However, I spent yesterday considering what derails athletic success.

According to Daniels, the two key aspects of athletic success are inherent ability and motivation.

However, our ability to achieve athletic success is a mixture of what we choose to do and what we choose to avoid. Nothing impacts choices as directly as your peer group -- choose associates wisely.

Across an athletic lifetime, there are ample opportunities for self-sabotage. World Champions (like Molina) have interesting stories about personal triumphs. They have hilarious stories about their mistakes. Unknowingly, I have been studying oral autobiographies of great champions/investors/coaches over the last eighteen years.

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How we defeat ourselves in racing


The image above is a histogram of an ironman-distance power file. Don't get too caught up in the details, the picture helps me explain a couple of concepts for endurance success.

The Dead Zone -- the dead zone starts at the average wattage (and heart rate) for a Half Ironman race where you ran well. What is "running well"? I like to define it as within 7% of a fresh half marathon split. Within my own racing, I can come within 5%.

Why do I call it the dead zone? Because if you spend too much time above your average Half IM power (or heart rate)... your hopes of a decent marathon will DIE. The more time you spend there, the greater the likelihood of marathon difficulties.

We shouldn't blame the molecular structure of our nutritional choices, the issue lies with our selected race effort.

In racing, the #1 thing that can kill you is choosing a race pace that exceeds: (a) your fitness; or (b) your capacity to fuel to the finish line.

The likelihood of a superior performance increases the more easily you start the day. Consider:

Swim -- once you are swimming an easy to steady effort, you will find that you need to massively increase effort for a tiny increase in pace. You won't believe the scale of this relationship until you actually try it for yourself. In fact, a number of athletes strongly resist learning this knowledge.

As the saying goes...
...you can bring athletes to the lake but you can't make them negative split with a heart rate monitor attached...

The test workout is 5x800 meters (each one faster than the one before) -- best done open water or in a 50-meter pool. Check your average/max HR per lap against your pace per lap. Compare your workout average pace/HR with the average pace/HR for the final two laps.

Bike -- providing you choose humble gearing (a BIG assumption), you have the option to moderate and totally control your effort. If a former World Ironman Champion like Scott Molina can ride with a 30/27 then you should be able to suck-it-up and be realistic about your gearing needs.

Run -- if you blow on the run then the time penalty is MASSIVE, the cost of a marathon meltdown is disproportionately high. At Ultraman, I have pulled back 10-minutes per MILE, off athletes that run into trouble.

Does your prior race record show that you have the experience, fitness and competence to "race" to what you think is the limit of your fitness? I put "race" in quotes because very few people ever race an Ironman.

So what is a realistic effort for you to aim for on the bike? Here is a test workout... 3x40 mile loops, no long climbs, no drafting, with less than 90 seconds of stopping between each loop. Do each loop faster than the one before -- if you pull that off (and aren't wrecked) then Lap 2 is a good guideline. If you can't descend the laps, or if you are totally worked at the end, then even your slowest lap is too fast.

Download your data from this workout and look at your actual heart rate and power profiles. That is your benchmark for IM -- given that you are swimming 2.4 miles and running a marathon as well... you are likely to need to step _down_ from that actual training data. Similar to the swim test set... you will feel a lot of mental resistance when faced with this information. Many don't want to know.

No doubt some of you think that I am nuts to recommend a 200KM race simulation ride -- does your prior racing track record show that you have the knowledge to determine appropriate pacing?

I did a series of race simulation rides in 2001 -- they were extremely tough and the lessons are still with me! For some reason, lessons learned alone, in training, tend to stick with me longer than repeated errors made in the heat of competition.

A word on averages, fast triathlon cycling is about learning to optimize your speed on the LOWEST possible wattage. An athlete that can go the same speed as you on 80-90% of your power has a huge advantage once the run begins. We all tend to focus on the big numbers, however, the athletes that are most impressive are the ones that go quick on low power. Learning how they do that can give you and edge -- some ideas... aerodynamics, fast in the slow bits, avoiding spikes, bike skills, relaxed at high speed.

Even armed with the above knowledge, it is near impossible to apply it when stressed and surrounded by people making poor decisions. Socially, it is far safer to fail conventionally than 'risk' success in an unconventional manner. I have numerous podium finishes that result from (what others call) cycling 'weakness'.

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Q. What is the #1 killer of athletic success in training?
A. Fatigue.

I have been working with athletes for ten years now and the greatest challenge that we face is managing fatigue. Athletes that successfully manage fatigue are more consistent with their training (and happier) thereby increasing their ultimate athletic success.

Here are some tips for improving how you manage fatigue.

Chasing Fitness -- Chasing fitness happens when you sit down and calculate the "fitness" required to meet an athletic goal. You then train at your goal fitness level, rather than your current fitness level. We do this in a lot of different ways -- solo athletes, do this by chasing Personal Bests in workouts; group training athletes, do this by seeking to "win" workouts with "faster" athletes.

My experience is the best training partners are slightly weaker physically, stronger mentally and very fun to be around. You then let the group dynamics lift your fitness.

As for the effect on your training partner... remember that most of your competition isn't consciously seeking their personal best, they are controlled by moment-to-moment emotions.

Chasing Averages -- I've nuked myself a few times with this approach, most recently last week. Here is how it works... you sit down with a recent lab test, or race result. The data is "real" so you have confidence that it will provide a reasonable benchmark to what you should do. You then pull out the exercise physiology textbooks and calculate the precise intensity that you should hold for the workout. Then, for an unexplained reason, you add 5-10% to the intensity and 10-20% to the duration! Fortunately, I cracked fairly early in that workout!

Another word on why averages are misleading. Have another look at the chart above. The average of that ride was 253w. About 6% of that ride was less than 100w but less than 2% of the ride was greater than 400w. With heart rates/power/pace, there are always more very low values than very high values. The longer, and more variable, the workout the greater this effect. As well, my brain always seems to "normalize high". If you ask me to guess the average power of an effort that I just completed (when I watched the screen a lot), I am nearly always 5-10% too high.

What does this mean?

A - If your goal effort is 180-190w then you'll probably average ~175w if you execute correctly.

B - If you set your powermeter on "average watts" and try to hit a number then the majority of your ride will be well over that number and you'll fail to notice (highly costly) power spikes.

No Man's Land Training -- A fit athlete will have the capacity to train every session a little bit "too hard". Taking the three main physiological markers, AeT/LT/FT, the mid points between each of these, should be avoided, with particular attention being paid to the mid-point between AeT and LT. There is a big increase in recovery requirement (and hardly any training benefit) from training slightly over these points, as opposed to slightly under. See the attachment from last week for more info.

NOTE -- intensity moderation is easier to apply to others than ourselves! Having a coach review workout files (post fact) can help you stay sane.

The final three points are sleep, life stress and nutrition (including drug/alcohol use). These are huge in terms of their impact on the amount of fatigue we carry around in our lives.

Sleep -- an extra hour of sleep, every night.

Life Stress -- consciously choosing to do less, in order to achieve more.

Nutrition -- eat real food.

The more simple you can make your life, the greater the chance that you will be able to execute successfully.

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Living The Dream

Q. My description of a dream job would be: one that involved endurance sports, is active, flexible, challenging, and has a good potential for return on my investment of time and money. Very, very, very difficult to find something that meets those requirements, I think. I've contemplated becoming a race director, opening a gym/training facility for endurance athletes, going to school for ex. science, or getting a job with a company in the industry. All have their appeal. But its a huge set of steps between considering these possibilities while still in school and taking the plunge and leaving a steady job and income to try some venture of my own devising.

I've been reading your blog for a while and you seem pretty qualified to answer my question, which I am getting to. I've asked enough questions to realize that asking "how do I get that dream job" has just as many answers as there are people to answer; that is, everyone has a different story, and while they do help, they won't help me figure out my own plan. So my question is this: what is the most important skill/trait I can cultivate now and while working in engineering to help prepare me for the kind of profession I am contemplating?

Because of the high value we place on personal freedom, jobs with large degrees of freedom, rarely come with a high return on capital (human or financial). That said, when I look at the things that are most important to me (freedom, fitness, health, nature, love), these items do not cost much to acquire. They did, however, require years of preparation in terms of planning, positioning and effort.

The opportunity to build personal capital in your 20s is valuable. However, when I look back, even more valuable was: (a) being surrounded by a group of highly intelligent people that enhanced my desire to work; (b) the acquisition of a wide range of skills and the opportunity to apply these skills in a range of situations; (c) instruction (by example) of the level of commitment/effort/perseverance required to achieve challenging goals.

When I look for people to associate with, I ask myself, "does this person have a track record of achievement backed by work ethic and strong personal values?" Spending your 20s focused on the creation of that sort of person would be time very well spent.

More specifically for your goal, my advice is to focus on building your expert credentials, as perceived by your target market. Share your knowledge freely as it has little value if hoarded. The market will let you know if your experience has value and relevance.

Sharing your experiences, also improves your communication skills. In the field you are considering, effective communication is important.

Within your expert credentials, three things to consider:

Image -- always present yourself the way you wish to be seen by your target market. Be aware that most people will quickly see through a lack of authenticity. Remember that what takes decades to build can be pulled down very quickly. Respond slowly, and thoughtfully, in environments you don't control (such as other people's internet forums).

Within my own life, I have found it much easier to eliminate choices that don't fit my desired image than create something that doesn't exist. If you chip away at the items that don't fit then you will find that, over time, you end up with a "self" that is in pretty good shape. Over the last few years, I have taken a hard look at the aspects of my life that run counter to honesty, kindness and health. I work daily at the elimination of small things that are inconsistent with these values.

Put yourself in the right peer group, learn to enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done and gain control over the little things that are inconsistent with the person you want to become.

Perception -- there is the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us. From a business point of view, an understanding of how others see us is very useful. What aspects of your story resonate with your target client base? What special, or interesting, knowledge do you have to share? Sharing genuine experiences of an interesting life is probably the most popular form of soft-marketing you can do. We share a love of interesting stories.

Knowledge -- do you know what you don't know? Do you know what you need to know? Do you have multiple approaches available to help your clients? At the beginning of our athletic journey we know so little. Start by figuring out how the different approaches work, and don't work, for you. Work with the best people you have access to. Solidify your knowledge by sharing, and teaching, it.

Most of us get into trouble when we stray into areas where our knowledge is limited. Even as you achieve expert status (whatever that means) resist the urge to opine on all range of subjects. Focus on sharing experience in the areas where you have specific, and relevant knowledge. One of the nice things about being part of a smart team is that you have the ability to bring in support when clients ask questions outside of your core competency.

The ability to ask for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. One needs to be self-confident to admit one's limitations.

If you put yourself "out there" then there will be people waiting to sling arrows, or anonymous comments, at you. By sticking to what you know, it will make it easier to handle it when people seek to bring you down. Remember that our critics exist to criticize, no matter what they say, they have little interest in helping us.

While you are building the above be aware that the more successful you become the greater you are at risk for being hurt by various forms of cognitive bias. One of the reasons that I study under different teachers is to keep my "toolbox" filled with more than one approach for each problem.

Many experts become so immersed in their own dogma that they lose their intellectual freedom. I have had some very intelligent people agree with me in private, but note that they can't change their opinion because of the weight of their past public record. We share an irrational bias against people that change their opinion. Always give yourself the freedom to change your mind in light of new information.

I didn't answer your question directly because people that create world-class financial returns from triathlon are more scarce than World Champion triathletes. However, there are many examples of people that create an enviable lifestyle in our sport, and I believe you will find that much more rewarding than outsize financial returns.

Hope this helps,
gordo

Lifelong Athletics


The picture above is from 2004 -- that is Tom Evans without the shirt. Tom had a great race that day and, an even better day, last weekend when he won (with style) in Idaho. Now that Peter is flying float planes, Tom has to be the fastest Canadian Ironman. Outstanding for a married guy with a full-time job. When I have a tough day, or start to doubt myself, I think about Tom. He is a big inspiration to me.

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A book recommendation for you that I have been enjoying is Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger. When I have read Charlie Munger's writing, he often talks about his checklists -- trouble is, I couldn't find them anywhere. Until I bought this book -- they are a great appendix that the author assembled.

This week I am going to share ideas on a reader question.

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If you have a moment can you address training as a way to maintain a lifetime of fitness and how to manage your training with a long term view? I ask because for myself partly but mostly for my father who is 63 and a fit runner. After watching me at the Eagleman 70.3 he has decided to switch from marathons/ casual cycling to triathlon (I am supportive and think the focused cross training is likely more sustainable as he gets older). Do you have any recommendations for older athletes? Are younger athletes able to maintain their fitness as they age or does the volume over the years result in overuse injuries that surface later in life?

I wrote a blog on The Aging Athlete last November. That is a good starting point.

Long time readers will notice that my advice appears consistent across sex, age, experience and and goals. That is a conscious decision -- my experience is that consistent application of the Four Pillars applies very well across populations. For training protocol, I think that we should all research the lessons of Arthur Lydiard and translate to our sport, ability level and athletic age.

NOTE -- Lydiard is well known for his 100-mile per week base phase, I like to translate that into time for triathletes -- in Lydiard's population a 100-mile run week was about 11-12 hours of training. For sustainable results, keep those hours in your head, sticking with a hard distance target can be counterproductive.

Every athlete, that seeks long term success, should remember the essential nature of non-training factors. Put another way, new athletes can appear to "get away"with poor nutrition, never stretching, muscle imbalances, and weak recovery strategies. If you want to perform across ten, twenty, fifty years then these risk factors become key personal limiters.

A phased approach can work well. Phases within each week, month, year, four year cycle and decade. Consider the weak points in your current athletic inventory. What can derail you? Greatly improve these "consistency risk factors" in your transition period and early season. Then... maintain across your season. It takes far less energy to maintain a level of strength/flexibility/nutrition/immune function than it does to improve, or heal, when it goes off track.

As an example, even today, I feel that I continue to benefit from strength training done over a decade ago, yoga done eight years ago and two years of aerobic overload (2003/2004).

There are only a few (usually Olympic level) coaches that have the vision to nurture talent across a 6-12 year time horizon. Most people go-for-broke in 6-18 months and only the biomechanically gifted freaks survive.

Our reader closes with a great point -- lifetime volume and wearing out. Hardly anyone (other than former elite marathoners and ironman champions) discusses this with me. I suppose it is human nature to avoid focusing on the fact that we wear-out and die.

Listen to my interview with Dr. John Hellemans.

John is very good at respecting an individual's 'right' to make their own mistakes. However, he has been telling me for YEARS that the high level pursuit of ultradistance sports is unhealthy because of the training load IMers place on our bodies. I never had a real position on his point until this year (he's right). It's a lot like death -- it simply doesn't make sense until someone young, close to us, dies. Even then, our brains aren't wired to focus on our own mortality.

My buddy, Jeff (Dr. J) Shilt explains it this way... think of yourself as a car. You can use the best fuel, have a perfect service record and drive carefully. Still, no matter what you do, things will wear out eventually. 1200 hour training years don't exactly fit with "careful driving"!

Coming back to Hellemans, he is one of the best 50-somethings in the world at standard distance triathlon (8 world AG titles, I think). He's been in triathlon since it was founded and is still ripping today. He shoots for 12-15 hours per week of training load and that enables him to be a highly competitive and happy guy.

Tom Evans is my role-model for Ironman and John Hellemans is my role-model for life.

So in terms of life long athletics -- thinking through my own experience as well as my training partners left in the sport and long gone...

You can likely hit it pretty solid through to 25 years old. Athletically young athletes can also be very aggressive for 1, or 2, years when they are under 40. I have seen many athletes jumpstart their endurance by taking a sabbatical from work to focus on their cycling. However, hitting-it-hard for more than 18 months tends to fry athletes at all levels and compromises long-term consistency.

Remember that long term consistency is the best indicator of being able to approach our ultimate athletic performance. Far more than protocol, consistency is the universal characteristic that appears at the top.

High performing endurance athletes that come from non-impact sports (swimming, cycling) need to be VERY VERY careful when they start running. If you strap an elite swimming engine to a novice runner body then you nearly always ruin the athlete -- don't fall into the trap of fooling yourself with exceptions. There is a TON of silent evidence.

So my advice... if you have potential for triathlon then you will know within two years from starting the sport. Folks with high athletic potential improve very rapidly. With that rapid improvement comes the temptation for more, and more, and more... a good coach is valuable to protect you from the natural enthusiasm that comes from success. Know your coach's limiters and remember that we tend to be attracted to people that share our biases.

For whatever reason, we seem to think that there is more merit in ruining our bodies if we happen to be be "good" -- my rapid, and continuous, improvement hindered my capacity for an objective review of my athletic path. It wasn't until I approached my athletic peak, for a second time, that I was able to consider what the heck I was doing. Like so many things, most of us keep rolling until something breaks. Even then, how often do we chase the illusive "high" of past experience.

Once you have been doing endurance sport seriously for five years, and certainly by ten, you will have a clear idea of your potential, what you enjoy and (if you pause to think) should be able to figure out the "why" behind your participation. At that stage, it is worth considering how you are going to maximize your "athletic why" across the rest of your lifetime. If you read this blog weekly then you'll know that I've been mulling my "why" for a few years... ...and I am still training!

Off to the Rockies with Molina. Back online after the 4th of July.

Chose wisely,
gordo

The Back 40


The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
-- Richard Feynman

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Our picture this week is Scott Molina (looking buff at 48) competing in the Epic Italy, 4.5K uphill race. For me, his expression sums it up. Note that he is holding excellent form despite being totally worked. True running technique is what you are left with when you're wrecked. Here's a shot of Johno's run form... hills are a great way to improve running economy...


Scott is in town on Friday and, starting Saturday, we'll be hitting the Rockies for a week of altitude training. I was up on Magnolia Road this morning for a little high altitude prep. It will be interesting to see how Scott copes -- hopefully, he will have some of the Stelvio left in his bloodstream.

I'd show you a picture of my running form but... it left a bit to be desired when put alongside my fellow Epic coaches! We'll finish with a veranda shot at the Hotel des Alpes in Cortina. An outstanding hotel based in the heart of the Dolomites. A great base for the bulk of your vacation in the Italian Alps.


That is Randy from New York with Scott/me. I get a big kick out of hanging with guys from the East Coast. They live in a different world and that helps me maintain perspective.

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Back to the quote that started this piece off. If a man as clever as Feynman says that he needs to be careful about fooling himself then, I figure, there are a number of areas in my own life where I am currently fooling myself. So the last two weeks have been spent investigating how I am fooling myself.

Use of Capital -- I need to exercise consistent fiscal discipline across all areas of my life.

Athletic Achievement -- athletic triumphs are most satisfying when novel and unexpected. Across a lifetime, one may find greater satisfaction from success in a variety of fields. The joy of beginner's mind is exceedingly tough to maintain as one becomes more and more experienced (in reality, more and more biased!) in a field.

Athletics and Satisfaction -- satisfaction comes from living in harmony with my body and the sensations of personal health. These feelings are most prevalent when I am training for a competition. However, I think that I am linking competition to the feelings rather than seeing the link between lifestyle and personal satisfaction.

Relative Achievement and Competition -- the most peaceful moments of my adult life have been moving in harmony with nature, not defeating strangers in athletic combat.

Benefits of Financial Wealth -- the two greatest benefits of financial wealth are independence and freedom. Using our wealth for its most obvious use (goods and services) reduces it ability to provide us with what truly matters.

All of the above feed into my personal values and ethics that I have built up over the last ten years.

Successful Marriage based on kindness and respect
Peaceful Listening
Retreats with Nature
Wake-up Early
Ethical Life with Meaning
To explore and share new experiences
To read good books and learn
To write and teach
Temperate weather with ample sunshine
Maintain expense/income balance

The title of this article refers to years 40 to 80 of my life. My goal with my current review is to establish a frame of reference against which I can make decisions of varying duration and expected outcome.

I thought that I was going to have to re-write "everything" then discovered that my values were fairly well documented within my existing business plan.

I will finish this week with a shot of my nephew sporting the GordoWorld team colors at a local swim meet...


I've got a few spare jerseys in the basement -- if your kids are interested then drop me a line with your address. [Update -- they all went in 24 hours]

Still thinking,
gordo

Poor Charlie's Almanack

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I am going to change gears from the tri-writing of the last few weeks and write about some personal and financial ideas.

Before we get into that a few announcements.

Planning and Being Hard


This week, I will shift gears from property investing and discuss two topics that preoccupy the minds of athletes -- The Plan and Being Hard. My thoughts will be slated towards athletics but the concepts apply just as strongly in our daily lives.

Before we roll into the letter, I was back in the Grand Canyon last Tuesday. This time I was running solo and applying the lessons from my first trip. It is amazing how quickly the body can adapt to stress. While I wasn't much faster on the round trip -- the damage that the run did to my body was a fraction of the first time. This time four weeks ago, I could barely walk and my legs were absolutely trashed. With respect to Ironman marathoning, durability is an essential fitness component that is near impossible to measure quantitatively. My average heart rate for the "run" was 117 bpm and it is one of the toughest sessions that I will do all year.

Alan's latest blog piece provides a window into my lab-fitness and a discussion of performance limiters. Something that JD pointed out at the April camp was that each of the Endurance Corner coaches has a different take on the same topic. That is part of what makes us a good team, and also a source of creative friction.

When I test myself I remember the following:

***Testing is three dimensional, performance is four dimensional. The test measures my ability to perform a specific task over a period of time. Performance, in sport and life, requires the ability to execute over multiple years. Life is about coping with the unexpected. By definition, our capacity to manage change cannot be measured in a controlled environment

***X-Factor // At our April camp, Robbie Ventura gave an excellent talk on fast time-trialling. The bottom line of his talk (for me) is some athletes go fast on race day for a range of "little things" that they are able to put together. Robbie calls these little things the X-Factors of racing. Successful people have the capacity to execute a series of little things, consistently, over time. For me, this skill is habit based. Our X-Factor capacity cannot be measured in the lab.

If you review my bike chart over on AC's blog then remember that it is the result of more than 20,000 hours of endurance exercise. We get a lot of question about how athletes can make changes to improve their charts in 6-8 weeks.

In your training do not be in a hurry, for it takes a minimum of ten years to master the basics and advance to the first rung. Never think of yourself as an all-knowing, perfected master; you must continue to train daily with your friends and students and progress together in the Art of Peace.
-- Morihei Ueshiba

I have been fortunate to study under a few masters of triathlon -- even they admit that their main skill is guessing better than average.

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Planning
I play a good "long game" -- by that, I mean my performance over multi-year time horizon is strong. As a result, people are interested in the specifics of my plan.

The power of my plan lies in the general, not the specific. Here's what I mean -- when I get it right (and I make a ton of mistakes)...

***A simple plan that I can remember and execute every day

***Periods of specific overload that address key limiters

***Scheduled recovery, and downtime, before I need it

***No one session, day, week, month compromises the period that follows

***Finish strong

***Enjoyable, relaxing and satisfying

The above factors lead to outstanding execution over the long term. That, in turn, leads to performance.

99% of the noise in our heads (mine is no different) is a distraction from the above, makes very little positive impact on performance and reduces energy available for recovery.

Which brings me to...

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Being Hard
Most people are surprised when I tell them that I am (nearly) completely soft. My close friends laugh when I say that I am 99% negotiable and 1% firm. I accept that the world could appear differently looking out, than looking in!

Given the impossible task of seeking to control the world around us AND our limited willpower, influence, energy... I tend to focus my true efforts on a very, very, very limited set of circumstances. I figure that I can be "hard" for a couple of hours per week, MAX. If I am "hard" more often then my overall performance will, ultimately, be compromised.

One of my past mentors taught me that we live with a six-shooter and no extra ammo. If we are thinking of using a "bullet" then we'd better make sure that it is a key point. That analogy has stuck with me and 95% (or more) of my training builds me up (mentally, physically). I only do a little bit that breaks me down.

I could be a little soft from a sport performance point-of-view // and // that is likely why HTFU gets my attention. However, after thinking about it for over a month, I don't know a single long term high achiever that is "hard".

In racking my brain, I only considered people that I knew. There are hard personalities that we hear about but I suspect that they are fabrications.

The toughest competitors that I know are soft in real life (though they try to hide it in public). Our fears and emotional weak points are powerful motivators when channeled towards performance.

When you reach a point where you can't handle any more... relax and soften up.

RASU -- maybe I'll get some hats printed up...

Cheers from New Mexico,
gordo