Monday, February 1, 2016

Gordo Byrn

Tight Body Secrets

by Gordo Byrn

Given that October is Nutrition and Body Composition Month on EC, I thought that I’d revisit the key areas to remember as we head into the holiday season.

For all of us, nutrition starts before we are born. Our current body is the product of decades of choices with a strong influence from the habits that were passed along by our parents. Given the inertia we face, lasting change must be incremental and simple.

Living Undercover

by Gordo Byrn

This past weekend, several thousand people gathered in Hawaii -- to race, to dream, to visit Albert’s floating espresso bar... my hat’s off to them. They heard the calling and followed their hearts.

September was my brother’s birthday and he pinged Facebook with the observation that he was a bit sad that Chuck Month had come to a close. I commented, “why stop at a month,” and a friend of our’s replied that I’d been enjoying Birthday Month for 40 years.

My buddy blew my cover!

Gettin' Some

by Gordo Byrn

I enjoyed Marilyn’s article last week. On the face of it, Marilyn was writing about training venues. However, there are nuggets in there about creating a successful athletic life, as well as insights into what makes Team Sexy tick.

Having spent last week with a group of over-achievers at our Utah Camp, I’ve been thinking about satisfaction. Where we live, what we do, with whom we do it -- over the short term, it can feel like we have little control. However, over long time horizons we have a huge impact on our lives.

Each of us will create our own lives. You might as well do it right, in your own style.

Five Tips For Financial Health

by Gordo Byrn

Late-summer is the time of year when I take stock of my life in the largest sense.

A few weeks ago we had an EC Team coaches meeting -- the crew elected me Meeting Secretary. My job is to write up notes from what we discussed. Rather than spend time re-recording what we chatted about, I figured I’d try to offer some value to you, as well as the team.

Throwing Down in Sweden

by Gordo Byrn

Last Monday, my workout was 21 islands, 40 transitions, 10K of swimming and 55K of running. A good friend and I raced down the Swedish archipelago as part of Ö TILL Ö.

It was one of the best days of my life. Here’s the story.

The Honeymoon is Over

by Gordo Byrn

“The trouble with many marriages is people forget to stay in touch with their honeymoon.”

M dropped that quote on me during our trip to Bora Bora and, to be honest, I scoffed at it. However, she’s right and her observation contains insight into long-term performance.

With the goals in your life: work, family, marriage, sport... do you remember your honeymoon?

South Pacific

by Gordo Byrn

A doctor buddy of mine shared that if he had terminal cancer he’d head to the South Pacific, secure a large bag of weed (for pain relief), and chill on the beach.

So last week, Monica and I went on holiday in the Pacific. There were a lot of reasons not to go (cost, time away from Lex, distraction from work, difficulty training) but I’m glad that I went anyhow. It turns out the world didn’t end during my travel days and they have high-speed Internet in the middle of the Pacific (who knew?).

The trip was a first step in reclaiming my personal freedom and it made my wife feel special. A win-win!

500 Miles

by Gordo Byrn

Three years ago, a wealthy friend of mine noted, “While I live better than you, you seem to enjoy the way you live more than me.”

In reviewing my personal business plan, I realized that I had been knocked off my path. I’m smart enough to rationalize to myself the “why” of my historical choices but I also know that I am the only one that can get myself back on track.

Let’s start with the key points that have helped me over the last decade.

Man Camp

by Gordo Byrn

Far and away, the best times that I’ve had in sport have been at training camps. Camps are where I’ve met most of my adult friends. There is something about doing big miles with a good group of people that brings everyone together.

Ride More

by Gordo Byrn

For most of June and July, I was experiencing a persistent calling to “ride more.” The strange thing is that my training load has been far above what I need to be healthy/happy.

I shared this feeling with Monica and she asked me what “more” was. I replied, “five rides a week, 5/4/3/2/1 by hours.” She smiled, noted that was an elite triathlete training plan and suggested that I ride long the following day.

So I headed out and ripped 65 miles at a solid pace -- about halfway through that ride, I found myself wondering if I really wanted to do 15 hours of that sort of riding every single week, for the rest of my life...

When “more” doesn’t seem to be the answer that I thought it would be, I look deeper at my true motivations.

Going Fast

by Gordo Byrn

Reading between the lines last week, you might have picked up my point that you’ve got what you’ve got when it comes to training time. In a limited time situation there will always be the temptation to do every session as fast as you can.

The trouble with this strategy is understanding the specific speed requirements for our event

Fast At Forty

by Gordo Byrn

I was extremely fortunate to spend the last week in Aspen with three very speedy guys (pictured right after an epic run). They've all managed to qualify for Kona this October and will be dueling in the Mens 40-44.

I used to think that my peer group was unique but as I get to know more uber-vets I have realized that there are a lot of triathletes going big! Spending time with the guys reminded me how hard the top athletes in our sport are working towards their goals.

There are lessons that we can learn from watching how the best amateurs organize their lives. Before I get into that, here’s a summary of what we did.

Learning From Champions

All the elites have a basic week. Total in-season volume (regardless of race distance) was 28-35 hours per week. This was interesting to hear from the athletes with shorter race durations.

Here are some key sessions that I picked up:

  • Bike 200K Version #1 - Hill Loop which includes 90 min Big Gear (uphill) in first half - the big gear is sustained (high torque, good power, lower cardiac stress)
  • Bike 200K Version #2 - Tempo Hill Climb then Tempo Flat Ride - 50/50 terrain split
  • Bike 90K Hills - TT up (60-75 mins); TT down (30 mins) - strong, even, effort uphill (Threshold zone) - followed by a fast descent (high cadence, mixed power ranges)
  • Two Hour Run #1 - easy hills at 8500 feet - reported by one of the fastest runners in the sport - this workout is run "slow" as it is his second long run of the week
  • Two Hour Run #2 - include (2x) 20/5/25/5 - as goal pace/steady/goal pace/steady - note that is 90 minutes of goal pace running inside a two hour run (high quality)

Interestingly, most of the elites train alone, or in small groups, to resist the urge to race in training. That said, I was left with the impression that the speedy elites do a lot of work in their Threshold Zone on the bike.

This is because...


"Race Pace"
I've often wondered just how "hard" the male and female winners of Ironman Hawaii are riding/racing. Having Chrissie and Craig over, we had a chance to listen to how they train, what they eat on race day, and how they approach Game Day on the Big Island.

They are surprisingly open (nothing was off-limits). A few times Craig mentioned that the secret comes from his preparation, not his workouts. He also said that his training performance (how fast he goes and how much he does) is a source of mental strength.

Mental Conditioning

by Gordo Byrn

Nominally, the last two weeks were about Pacing and Nutrition. However, if you look deeper then those articles are about where psychology meets performance. Put simply, some people can handle pacing/nutrition and others can't. Remember, just because you "can't" doesn't mean you "won't" -- I wrote the articles to explain tactics for personal improvement.

I was reading Inside Triathlon and noted an article by Matt Fitzgerald about the nature of fatigue. The premise of Matt's piece is that our minds quit before our bodies. I agree with Matt. Where I think many of us go "wrong" is our interpretation of what it takes to appropriately train our minds. Most people train capacity to absorb pain and "be hard" -- in fact, performance is about being fluid, rather than being hard.

Are you training the mental skills required to perform... or spending mental mojo on pain tolerance... or simply adding stress/fatigue to your life?

Let me share a couple of quotes:

  • "You need to get used to operating at a higher level." - Mark Allen
  • "It's not pain, it is managed discomfort." - Dave Scott
  • "When I feel like I want to quit -- I know that that I'm at the right effort." - John Hellemans
  • "Feelings are a choice." - Scott Molina

Each of the champion athletes above were talking to me about a different aspect of racing (and different distances). I'm passing the quotes along because they've been helpful to reframe sensations that I experience when training and racing.

Fundamental Principles of Pace

by Gordo Byrn

When people start working with me, they are often confused by my lack of interest in high intensity benchmarking. In fact, they are absolutely itching to blast 5- and 20-minute best effort benchmarks. While high intensity efforts have a role in exercise physiology, the information they offer isn't all that useful in assessing your aerobic stamina -- triathlon performance is dominated by your aerobic stamina.

Big Jobs

by Gordo Byrn

Triathletes, as a demographic, share an attraction to Big Jobs. I can remember the first time I ever heard about an Olympic distance race... "You swim a mile, then ride twenty five miles then run 10K. That's insane!" My work colleague that was telling me about the race said that he had a buddy that was training for a triathlon who would do three sports in a day and train for more than two hours on the weekend! Clearly a nutter...

Authentic Living

by Gordo Byrn

Next week, I am going to write about Big Jobs. If you get the chance then read the source article that started me down my train of thought.

As I mentioned last week, I'm prone to a mental trap of telling myself that I deserve to stray from what's required for me to achieve my goals. I used a series of small examples to illustrate (missed training, eating dessert, sleeping in, and manners). These little things are risky (for me) because they reinforce a way of thinking that can lead to big errors and misjudgments.

Most of the criminals that I've encountered in my life -- particularly people that have stolen from me -- started small and felt they deserved to bend the rules a bit. In fact, they will tell you "nobody was hurt," "you made them do it," "everybody else was doing it," "they had no choice," "they did it for someone other than themselves" ...all typical post-fact rationalizations (each one avoiding taking direct personal responsibility).

Ben Franklin said that an empty sack cannot stand upright. When I first read that quote, I believe it was inside Poor Charlie's Almanac and it was probably shaded to point out that it's easier for a financially secure individual to be morally strong. While I think the opposite is true (it's tougher for an insecure person to be strong), I am not convinced that financial security leads to improved moral strength.

One Last Ride - Longevity & Wellness

by Gordo Byrn

In case you haven't noticed, our theme this month is personal potential and athletic excellence. I hope that you've been enjoying our increased editorial. I know that it's been a heck of a lot of fun for our team to realize the depth of the people on our squad.

I've had a few enquiries about joining our team without having us prepare your training plan. I'm going to open that up for 10 athletes. If that interests then drop me a line. Cost will be $10 per week and I'll look for a one year commitment. You'll be able to upgrade at any time to full membership and I'll offer a money back guarantee if you decide to pull out within the first two weeks. Please include the answers to the questions at the end of this article when writing me.

Having been around the sport for over a decade, I have had the opportunity to watch athletes, friends and coaches navigate (or not) the transition from athletic excellence to personal wellness. Quite often the most "successful" athletes are forced to endure a forced retirement (due to ruining their bodies) or quit because they are haunted by their expert knowledge about how to "train right." I've been navigating this transition myself so, this week, I wanted to offer you a couple principles that guide my current athletic life. I have a hunch that if I follow them for 80% of my life, the other 20% will be more than enough to be "athletically excellent" when I feel like it.

Low Standard Deviation Training

Goals and Potential

One of the benefits of (largely) living in public is reducing the grip that fear has over my goals. When we set a challenging goal, there's often a little voice that says, "What if you don't achieve it?" As well, some folks will use your goals "against you" to try to perk themselves up.

Expressing Your Potential

I want to share ideas on the role of genetics in sport. Clearly genetics, and inherent ability, play a role in all areas of our lives. However, the way I was taught genetics doesn't fit the reality of what I observe in my peers. When the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map (may be) wrong.

The Gambler - Overtraining

Soon the most dangerous time of the year will be upon us. Why is spring so dangerous? Because winter and a lack of daylight prevent us from doing anything really stupid! I think a big reason why Canadians and Northern Europeans have long careers is they are forced to back off at least once a year.

First up, who's at risk from over-doing it? You could take an alcohol addiction quiz and substitute "training" each time you see "drink." Having interacted with hundreds of athletes, I know many of us are "at risk" in terms of temperament. The quiz talks about topics such as missing work, remorse, medical treatment, home life stress, decrease in motivation, reduced personal productivity... sounds a bit like high level athletic training to me!

For what it's worth, I'm not saying that you need to change or that sport is inherently unhealthy. My point is people (like me) with a certain personality type need to be careful. Part of what enables us to get-stuff-done is a passion for work -- the greater the work, the greater the achievement. There is a direct correlation between work and performance. To a point... beyond that point, more work leads to less performance.

What are some other characteristics that you'll want to watch:

Time: To make yourself sick from training, you need quite a bit of time. Elites and full-time age-groupers are most at risk -- they have the time and, often, they have nothing to fall back on when athletics becomes non-viable.

Fit: To fry your adrenals, and break down your immune system, you need to do challenging training. The men that I have watched smoke themselves all have very good anaerobic endurance as well as the psychological capacity to completely deplete themselves (we've all thrown up from training). Also remember that "challenging" is relative to yourself, not what you read in the magazines!

Big Man, Little Man, Old Man, Woman

This week I am going to write about body composition, age and gender. Should be something to offend everyone...

Before getting to my point, let's define terms. Specifically, what is "big" and what is "old"? There are several way to look at this and each method impacts the risk/return profile of different training approaches.

  • Absolute weight: Step on a scale - big starts around 165 lbs (75 kg)
  • Lean body mass: Get yourself DEXA scanned -- big starts around 155 lbs (70 kg) of lean body mass
  • Check your height: Big starts around six feet tall (1.8m)
  • Consider your aerobic engine: Where does your absolute and relative aerobic power stack up - big starts around 5L of VO2

Live Free or Die

by Gordo Byrn

One of my earliest mentors warned me about the dangers of being a one-legged stool -- the three legs being work-family-self. It's very unfashionable to talk about family/self in certain financial firms and the other partners joked that he'd been listening to his life coach too much.

Divorce, burn out, injury, illness... all stem from imbalances in our lives and, ironically, often flow from the commitment necessary to be externally successful.

As an athlete, perhaps your stool is built on... Sport, Friends, Finances.
As a parent, perhaps your stool is built on... Kids, Marriage, Self.