After taking more than a year off triathlon and just focusing on running last year, I did my first triathlon in about 16 months, the Sprint Distance Turkey Tri and followed that up with a half ironman (HITS) the next weekend in December. What a kick to the balls! It was good to have a break from tri and the two races allowed me to see where I was at after the end of a big year of running. It also allowed me (forced me) to adapt a new training and racing strategy. Long story short, the 1.2 mile swim just about killed me and I was falling apart on the bike or at least not able push on the bike but for the first time found myself running people down and getting the fastest run split at the half. For the first time in a long time I was excited to start the process and try to smash some triathlon PB’s in 2013.
Getting back into ironman training allowed me to take a new perspective and approach. After just a couple months into it I can say that I have never felt this strong and confident. My process, like my training has become super simple and allowed me to stay fresh and motivated. This may not produce PB’s right away but I am in it for the long run.
As I sit on a plane to Panama, my first Triathlon of 2013 I am trying to outline the subtile changes I did to prepare and setup this year of dream crushing 2.0. Much like changing what I eat, I dont believe in drastic diets so much as small refinements that you keep for the rest of your life. Anyways, here are a few thoughts on my prep so far.
– The Process –We all have a unique proces that helps us learn, prepare, improve and provide our own personal “formula for success”. I know this is going to be a long road and I wanted to make sure I was committed to and enjoying the journey as I developed my blueprint to achieve goals inside and out of sport. Taking another go let me refine my process, open it up to change and has enabled me to be responsible in sticking to my intent because the process itself is part of the goal. Here are some highlights
-Commitment to CI- My process started with a very clear CI (Commanders Intent). This is the bottom line, the single drive that allows for dynamic changes along the way. This has to be the start because it drives the bus. I am very aware of what I am getting myself into and I am willing to sacrifice in order to commit to that goal. Following this CI is easy when you have clearly defined it and allows for daily or even minute by minute changes without loosing focus. Should I do X or Y? Does this support my CI? Stuff like that. It makes decisions easy but not always easy to follow. That is where the commitment and responsibility comes in.
-Responsible Change- This sounds odd to link together but they go hand and hand as a big step in my process. After racing with a new strategy in December I was open to a full host of changes. Change or learning again for the first time makes the process fun and I already know what doing the same thing will bring. Discovery in changing is the process! We all know that you dont have to be Einstein to undertand that he labeled “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results“
Can I afford to take a year off to just_run and see if that changes my run split? Can I afford to change my race dynamics and potentially throw away a race to see if pacing the bike differently changes my outcome? Can I train in half the time as I have in the past? What do I have to loose? My process was opened to changes and I made sure I stuck with these adjustments long enough to see what fruit I was getting from them. That is part of where responsibility comes in.
If I had one word to contrast my focus for triathlon now from when I was training before I would have to use the word “responsible”. To be honest, it is humbling to add responsibility but I lacked it before. I do not have the same time to train as I have in the past and most of that is because I love my job and want to give time to other things in my life outside of just training. I know…shocker for some tri geeks. Each session is also approached very different than I have in the past. For example, I no longer just go out and ride for seven hours “because I can” or hop on a flight to do a race in some remote country and come back shelled for a week. The truth is that I have always had the best training when I am busy balancing life and work. Crunched time makes for ruthless efficiency and responsibly forces a good change to stick. Did I mention that I love my job? It allows me to be responsible and creates an environment for autonomy, mastery and making a contribution. All of which I hope to take outside of just my day job.
-No Travel –I love adventure and getting out to a new place every weekend to explore trials, see friends and smash myself at some remote training camp. While the occasional trip offers a break for the mind and from the routine, for me, it had become routine itself. Last year, when we were in Bend, closing in on a long summer (late Sept), I was staring down at the single track between my feet and listening to our group giggle and ride up behind me. I honestly didn’t know for a moment if I was in Tahoe, on a trail up in Washington, in the forest of Cuyamaca or on some trail in Big Bear. I suppose it did not really matter but it was the end of a 12 week “tour” that Monique and I were completing and the effective load of traveling was taking its toll. I have since changed my mind on traveling and come to realize that all travel or time away from home is stressful…even if it becomes the norm and you feel you are efficient with it the quality of food, sleep, training and lifestyle is just compromised.
The biggest change for me in the start of 2013 is no travel. Besides two nights in Santa Barbara two weekends ago (but we rode there and back), I have slept in my bed and trained out of my own front door now for over 10 weeks in a row – my longest continuous block of time at home in the last 5 years!. That was one of the hardest decisions for me…The words of Gordo telling me, “stay put and train” was ringing in my head and I started to realize how smart athletes like James never get out of Encinitas (not that I want to encourage that James!). Once I put down a couple weeks of training out of my front door I realized just how much stress is involved in the travel. After missing our connection plane and having to get a hotel in Miami last night I had all of the reminder that I needed!
All of the things that supported my process like teammates, high quality foods, and FUN are located in my neighborhood…I was just never home long enough to embrace it. And to be clear about what is most essential – the training is good but the quality of life and recovery is EPIC! Of course, before I could stay home and train, I had to “learn to say no to myself and others“. These two lessons are some of the hardest behavior changes for me to make in the last few years but also the most rewarding. I could go on and on but the fact is that this single change has supported the list below, the best three quarters of performance at my job, a lifestyle that has Monique and I thriving and some of the best quality training I have ever backed up. Sometimes less is more.
-Focus on Frequency & Freshness –Running my training camp from home was a big help on staying fresh for all of life rigors but it was also my focus on frequency rather than volume that has me itching to race long into the future. A few simple changes like putting a cap on my biggest days for the last few months or not running off the bike when I do go longer have proven huge returns. I am pretty sure when I do another Ironman I will remember how to run if I skip a few run sessions on my build into it. This was a change, the frequency was not. This was due to a focus on recovery like keeping my zero days _ZERO_ and I have spaced out key sessions more to allow for recovery and do not sweat the stuff between. Plenty of time and know I can go to the well when needed. So what do I focus on? Frequency! Its one of the many nerd graphs I like to plot out and track because “what gets measured gets done” and if your a nerd like me the graphs are fun!
Aug 2008 to Dec 2012
Here are a few thoughts about why I focus on this also. Training hard is hard enough and getting the work done requires a lifestyle change to accommodate it – frequency lets you adjust, build a habit and keep the sessions easy and short enough so you can back it up. Its not easy but I believe it is the fastest way to fast. Running 4-5x a week is hard. Keeping it short enough to roll for 6-8 weeks is hard…and very effective. Smashing out a 20 mile run until you drain the tank and need to take days off to recover is not hard…its called racing in training. When you have proven you can do the work and it is time to get specific as you move closer to a key race there is time for deviation from frequency but until then its best to save the racing for race day. Frequency first. When you need a sport specific or limit focused block you can jump right back in and be able to back it up and deliver consistently. Focusing on frequency is not only is a safe way to build efficiency, durability but it develops the habits that will also help control your race day.
-The practice of Yoga-I started practicing yoga in 2010, so it is not something new to me, however, my frequency and depth of practice has increased over this last two months. Add in the start of some recent Pilates sessions (core strength secret sauce) and this is one of my top 3 biggest gains for this block. I knew about the benefits of yoga practice long ago since my introduction from the Yoga Wolf herself. Things like tuning into body awareness (finding and firing muscles I didn’t know I had), the power of proper alignment and increased flexibility but this is the first time I really started taking this “practice” to my swim, bike and run workouts.
Take for example learning to breath the yogie way…. Our minds are often flipping back and forth, calculating living between the past and the present and can be sent into overdrive in situations like race day when your heart in your throat. In the constant negotiation of push your limits, this chatter can take away from the work output (and experience) itself. Focusing on your breath gives your busy mind a task and keeps it focused on the task at hand – in the present! Lengthening in flexibility with each exhale and growing in strength with each inhalation. Deep ujjayi breathing promotes positive, consistent flow that you control even in the direst of physical or mental stress. Tune into that and you get more than clean oxygen to fuel a focused effort. When I find myself hearing that inner voice, “don’t crack, don’t crack” in a Nova swim set or pushing a big gear on the bike I don’t think about the top of the climb or end of the set. I dial into my breathing, embrace the present, lighten my load and remember to not make tings harder than they need to be.
So with that here is my triathlon schedule for 2013 up to June and the only time I should be leaving Home Camp. I have some pretty specific goals (a new post in itself) but this is part of a multi-year plan for me so I have plenty of time to confirm the process. As always, I hope this helps and truly desire that the best in me bring out the best in you. See you out on the race course my friends.
Ironman Panama 70.3 February 2nd (South American Pro Championships)
Desert Triathlon- Olympic March 3rd
Ironman Los Cabos March 16th
Leadman 125 Tempe April 14th
Ironman St. George 70.3 May 5th (North American Pro Championships)
OC Triathlon May 19th
Ironman Coeur d’Alene June 23rd