Monday, February 1, 2016

Gordo Byrn

Fitness Attachment

Remember that the role of the coach can be to heal an athlete to the point where they don’t need sport any more.  – Bobby McGee

Recently, I was brainstorming with a buddy about a sabbatical planned to start a year from now. My initial thinking was I’d repeat past patterns and head to the Southern Hemisphere and train big. In the spring, I would emerge and rip the legs off my competition!

Coaching Lessons from this Year

by Gordo Byrn

Three things stand out from the last year.

The first is an example of what we’re up against in terms of our competition for Kona slots.

In May, one of the athletes that I coach, Ron Ottaway, broke his hip. Heading into surgery, he sent me an email asking my thoughts on how this might impact his chances for a slot at Ironman Arizona.

The injury was a tough one and Ron’s still not back to full function. He did, however, win his age group and qualified for Kona at Ironman Arizona.

More than winning, my buddy is an example of the best in sport –- there’s no quit in Ron Ottaway!

Ron is 74 years old.

Treadmill Quickness - Sustained Speed Training

Here’s a winter workout that will improve your quickness, give you a VO2max stimulus and enhance your running economy at all speeds.

Start with 15-30 minutes of easy aerobic to warm-up. When traveling I like to use 15 minutes LifeCycle then 15 minutes CrossTrainer. 

After my warm-up I hop on the treadmill and do a gradual pace ladder from walking up to FT pace with one- or two-minute steps.

Dealing with DNS

by Gordo Byrn

Two weeks ago, I hit a dog, at speed, while finishing off a ride in Tucson. I’ve had high-speed crashes before but this one was special, as a light tailwind had me flying north on Old Nogales Highway.

If you log a lot of bike miles then crashes are part of the territory. I do what I can to reduce/mitigate the risk:

My accident was the "normal" variety. Random dog ran out from the desert and under my front wheel. He didn’t stick around to check on me after I hit the highway.

Post accident, I consulted with our team doc. His advice was to wait 48-hours for my injuries to become apparent. I thought, "What the heck does that mean?" ...I would find out shortly! The injury to my rib cage appeared the next morning and grew for a 72-hour period.

Back in Boulder, we had a winter storm the second day (post-crash). Snowed in, blacked out and using my good arm to drag downed branches around my property... My mood was dark and I definitely do not recommend snow shoveling for rehab of an acute rib injury!

Despite my carefully managed online persona, I’m an up and down guy and I have a series of tactics that I use to manage the downs.

  • At least you can work at home.
  • Tomorrow will be better, just wait it out.
  • You can have a latte after you finish clearing the branches.

Creating Athletic Flow

Superior athletic performance requires getting your mind out of the way of your body.

One of the shortfalls of a classical approach to sports psychology (goal setting, visualization, self talk, arousal control) is the exercises actively engage the mind.

Athletes seldom have the problem of “thinking too little.” The challenge is our minds are constantly spinning.

How do we free ourselves?

All About Health

I have a keen interest in how I fool myself and one of my most common rationalizations for excessive exercise is personal health.

I asked our editor for a month focused on health. We tell you how to get fast, how to get ripped, how to manage your time, how to achieve your goals... but we rarely pause to consider the dramatic impact of an integrated approach to personal wellness (body, mind and spirit).

Rejuvenation and Recovery

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing on what-it-takes. To balance that writing, I want to share thoughts on rejuvenation and recovery.

A big part of coaching success is putting an athlete on a structured training plan and giving visibility to what actually gets done. It’s easy to make most athletes improve by applying those two actions – structure and visibility.

You don’t need to hire anyone to pull that off. Build a week, log what you do, apply the lessons from our site.

The tougher part for the self-coached athlete (and the self-coached coach!) is developing a recovery strategy. My No. 1 piece of advice to you in this regard is Schedule Your Recovery.

My Summer Vacation

This week’s photo was taken towards the end of a 44-hour training week. If you look closely then you may be able to see the signs of fatigue intoxication!

Within our endurance library, you will find an article on
Big Week Training
. That article will help you get the most out of your training camps. Print a copy of it and review it -- daily -- when training big.

Given that I have a wife, two kids, a triathlon business and am in my 40s... I want to revisit that article while my most recent camp experience is fresh in my mind.

Beast Yourself

The title of this week’s article comes from a quote inside Julie Diben's blog. I’ve been trying to get Julie to come and talk at one of our camps but have not (yet) been successful. I will keep trying because I have tremendous respect for her!

At our last Boulder Camp, I was successful with Rinny, Angela Neath and Bobby McGee. This is a summary of the best ideas that I picked up from them.

Sustained Athletic Performance

As I mentioned in my Chrissie piece, my personal mantra is be-the-brand.

What is our brand?

Fit Pregnancy - Revisited

Following the birth of my son, I thought I’d revisit the topic of our previous article and webinar on fit pregnancy.

The purpose of this article to present an option for athletic moms to consider with their approach to pregnancy. You are a unique population and we wanted to share our experience. Be sure to talk through any advice with your personal physician.

Channeling Chrissie Wellington

by Gordo Byrn

Listening to Chrissie speak at our Boulder camp, my initial reaction was a powerful desire to train more and seek to be my absolute athletic best. It was the perfect talk for the day before a race -- except I was so jacked that I couldn’t fall asleep that night!

When listening to a charismatic figure, it’s tempting to think that her life is the message.

With a couple of days to reflect, the value of the talk lay more in her themes, than the specifics of her personal journey, which are fascinating.

What’s Your Message?
Chrissie had us write down a personal goal to start the talk. Mine was “Sub-9 at Arizona.”

Chrissie noted that she wasn’t in sport for times, titles or victories. Rather, her talk focused on over-coming adversity, joy in self-expression, exceeding one’s expectations, sharing love and an observation that the public focuses on the warrior, rather than the woman.

So the deeper question is, what are we saying with our daily choices?

The warrior in me wants to have a crack at going top-10 at Arizona but how does that sit with the husband, father, coach, brother and friend in me?

Something Larger Than Yourself
There’s a quote in Lawrence of Arabia (my favorite movie) about pain tolerance: ”The secret is not to mind.”

Chrissie has surprising humility and insisted that she’s a normal woman. Now clearly, any woman that goes 8:19 isn’t normal according to the dictionary. However, what she might mean is she experiences pain, fear, discomfort, loss, emotional distress just like the rest of us. What’s different is her reaction to adversity.

To have strength in the face of adversity, one must work towards something larger than one’s self. Chrissie races for ALS and works for women’s education.

Learning from Success

In 2003, I had a chance to hear Jack Daniels speak at a swimming clinic (my notes, slide down the page). Daniels is a favorite of the coaches here at Endurance Corner and we model much of our physiological approach based on what we’ve learned from him.

My two favorite Daniels tips are:

  • Trust success; question defeat.
  • If you want to train faster then prove it by racing faster.

At the Boise 70.3 I went far faster than I thought possible and I’ve been trying to figure out the lessons to help me as an athlete and coach.

But first a reality check...

Learning to Swim Fast

I started swim training at 30-years old and couldn’t break 2:00 for a 100.

By living what I share with you, I’ve swum 50-minutes for ironman; 20-minutes for 1,500 meters and won the 6.2 mile swim at Ultraman Hawaii.

You can learn how to swim fast.

Beating Better Athletes

Part of being a teacher is enjoying the process of repeating the fundamentals. Two articles that set the scene for this piece are: The Path to Excellence and Nine Ways to Live Like A Pro.

With the race season in full swing, I’ve been hearing a lot of:

  • I need more
  • I need a plan
  • I need to suffer

Are you sure?

Fast Isn't First

Consider these match ups:

  • Dave Scott and Mark Allen
  • Chrissie Wellington and Julie Dibens
  • Peter Reid and Chris McCormack
  • Paula Newby-Fraser and Erin Baker

Who’s the faster athlete?

"No Pacing" Pacing

by Gordo Byrn

A few years back, I listened to Lisa Bentley explain how she paced a half ironman. Basically, her approach was, “Go as fast as I can until the finish line.” I always thought that was a bit nuts until I started racing age-group and working with a wider range of speedy triathletes, especially female athletes.

After Cali, a very quick pal of mine mentioned that he rides 70.3 as fast as he can. He really means as fast as he can go! After that best-effort bike, he hops off the bike and, usually, puts up the fastest run in his AG.

Perhaps I need to re-evaluate!

AC’s done some excellent work with energy pacing for ironman. His advice has proven extremely valuable for our team. That said, I have noticed some optimal results (AG podiums) from theoretically sub-optimal pacing.

Maybe we’d be even quicker if we raced according to “the textbook.” With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about conditions where opening up the bike throttle can make sense.

I’ve come up with this list:

  • Athlete is not fuel constrained for event duration: This doesn’t mean you’re not going to eat! It means if you fuel appropriately then you will have plenty of energy for your race.
  • Athlete is not explosive: This is similar to the fueling point. In half IM racing, athletes with limited explosive bike power can ride much closer to functional threshold without blowing themselves up. What’s likely happening is the power spikes are not as high.
  • Event duration is shorter than the athlete’s longest training day: ...on a weekly basis. So specific stamina is well established.
  • Athlete consistently runs at the very top of his or her division: There is room to make a strategic gamble with bike pacing.

Fast Age Group Racing

To kick off April, I raced Cali 70.3. Given that this is “Early Season Racing” month at EC, I thought I’d update my thoughts on fast age-group racing.

Are You Wasting Money?

I was in Mississippi last weekend (this week’s photo) and we ended our camp with a session on coaching. My talks are always geared about three points that the audience can apply on Monday morning.

Here’s my take on triathlon coaching!

You Have a Choice

Recently, the New York Times published an article about the hearts of long term endurance athletes.

When I read the article, I was nodding my head in agreement. I believe, athletes at the top of our sport (myself included) are at a much greater risk for exercise-induced health problems. It makes sense, we are doing a lot more exercise.

Fit for Spring

Given the depth of the winter this year, many athletes are feeling behind. Behind last year, behind where they’d like to be, behind their competition…

…with that in mind, I’d like to share some observations to help you set up your season.

Why I Say G’Day


At some stage every elite athlete needs to make a choice that will impact the rest of his or her career...

...should I wave, or not wave, off the bike!

I’m not kidding.

I’ve sat in on long conversations with world-class athletes that agonize with this decision.

The way we treat strangers gives an insight into how we see ourselves. There’s a lot of data mining (on our psychological profile) that can be done by linking up our blogs, social networks and forum posts. That’s why I follow my team!

For me, waving off the bike is a small gift. I am sending little bits of happiness, and acknowledgement, into the world. When I send “the wave,” I have done my part to make the world a better place.

It’s worth thinking about why you wave.

Regardless of the reaction, my world is a little better -- because I’ve been riding my bike and was happy enough to give a shout out.

If I don’t get a wave back, and hold that inside me until I get home to write about it...

...then I have a habit of holding negativity inside me. That habit can limit performance, and slow recovery.

If you are prone to carrying slights around with you then you likely spend a lot of energy thinking about the people that disagree with you. If that’s the case then you can improve your life by avoiding public forums, turning the comments off on your blog and operating a one-strike policy for blocking on social networks.

It’s just a wave, or forum post, right? I’m not so sure.

Energy that we spend on imagined slights is not available for other uses -- such as recovering from training, helping our star performers or creating flow during our key sessions.

If you were going to transcend “the way you are” then you probably would have pulled that off in the last 20 to 50 years. It might be more effective to accept the way you are and structure your life so you can be highly effective within your circle.

Training Isn't Hard

I’ve been extremely fortunate to live and train alongside champion athletes. While they may say that training is “hard” -- when I watch them in action, it sure looks like a lot of fun.

I’ve observed that athletes that get the most performance from a given amount of potential are not particularly hard. They are committed and really, really like working.

The Win in Winter

Our February theme is “winter’s still here.” I’m going to share some ideas on what you can get done to set yourself up for a solid 2011.

As you’d expect from a large team of athletes, the EC crew had a wide range of performances in January. I’m in the fortunate position of watching how successful people deal with the ups and downs of life.

Beyond Talent and Motivation

Having worked with hundreds of good athletes, I’ve been thinking about the characteristics that appear unique to the handful of great athletes that have come into my life.

What separates the great from the good?

A Question of Attitude

Retraining our minds is the single greatest thing that we can do for self-improvement. However, it can be challenging to rewire decades of neural pathways and habits.

Mark Allen shared with me the observation that, before we can get our race together, we must get our lives together. Here how I go about it.

Mind Lessons From the Far East

Recently, I read a book by Haruki Marakami called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The book is great and I recommend it. In fact, he has inspired me to change my life to create more space for writing. (As an aside, writing well requires frequent blocks of uninterrupted time.)

Spinning the title around, and considering Marakami-san’s introduction, I came up with: What I think about when I talk about myself.

Race with Honor

by Gordo Byrn

Last November I wrote a piece on cheating . As I gain more experience in sport, I become more familiar with the way people cut corners. Sport mirrors life -- the folks that cheat in life are often the one’s that cheat in sport.

Going into Clearwater, a number of fast athletes told me that I would have to cheat. I was advised to draft all day, as that was the only way to ride. I wasn’t sure what I would do but I spent race week reviewing Marcus Aurelius. A strong dose of stoicism is useful in race week (I certainly could have done with more at Mile 10 of the run!).

I’ve been in races where I could not escape from drafters (Ironman New Zealand) but I’ve never been in a situation where I was forced to draft off another athlete. The athletes that claim they were forced to draft – those claims ring hollow to me. Far better to admit that you decided to draft because you thought you could get away with it, or your insecurities got the better of you.

The first thing that surprised me at Clearwater was race management did a great job at splitting the field up with wave starts. The waves were assembled with the men split up as much as possible. If race directors read this then please don’t start the Byrn’s first every year. Let me chase the Zuk's half the time!

The conditions on race day were favorable to clean racing. There was swell at the far end of the swim course, crosswinds and an uphill bike start. I’d listened to Julie Dibens talk about her win in 2009 and she said that she had drilled it for the first 25 miles of the bike. When I came out of the water in third spot that seemed like a good way to play it. Thanks J-Dib!

I saw a fair amount of drafting but I was able to ride through the bunches. A few athletes were intent on blatant cheating but these men and women were few. It’s easy to figure out the offenders by looking at arrival times at T2.

Performing at Ironman Hawaii

by Gordo Byrn

One of the most popular articles I’ve written was a piece from 2000 where I explained what I did to qualify for Ironman Hawaii. It’s somewhere in the archives of At the time, I thought that I’d done pretty well. As it turned out, I was only scratching the surface of my potential.

With the results of our team fresh in my mind, and my inbox humming with the Kona Dreams of top triathletes, I thought I’d revisit the topic but focus on what it takes to perform on the Big Island.

Lessons From Coaching Your Competition

by Gordo Byrn

One of the most interesting things about being inside Endurance Corner is access to the case studies from our highest performing amateurs.

I’ve been paying attention to our best athletes and a few counterintuitive things have stood out. I thought that I’d share them with you.