Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mindset. Your Best Training Attitude for Success

"I had once had a pro athlete who had a bad race in Kona and so was walking the marathon. Some spectators offered him a beer. He drank it. Someone reported it. He was banned for 1 year. We never knew that was a rule. After that we did. Doubt that very many would know this." J. Friel 

We all know some triathletes who are work out fiends.  You might even be one yourself. Possibly even to the point of excess and your own detriment.  Couple folks around here sure fit that description.  But for the rest of us, dragging your sorry self out of bed in the pre-dawn darkness can really be a chore.  Especially in my neighborhood where there's a bear who raids the bird feeders and garbage cans regularly.  (It goes something like, "You know, the bear might be back in the neighborhood.  I'd best stay right here, for my own safety and as bread winner for the family of course.  Yep, right between these soft, warm sheets and this pillow just the way I like it.  Uh, yep, right, for my own safety!")  But somehow you overcome this silly argument with yourself, lace on your Adidas, and out the door you go. But you do look behind trees for you know who. 

It's the practice, the repetition, the honing of tri skills that gets us the reward we seek on random summer Sundays.  The payoff so to speak.  Although many of your friends might not understand the sentiment, the feeling you have, when you cross the race finish line in PR style.  Even if it's only a small improvement, you're better.  Faster!  A podium finish is immaterial.  That little voice inside your head goes "Yes!" After you catch your breath....maybe even before you catch your breath, this stepping stone to personal greatness has been mounted and you're planning the next one.  It's human nature.

You may be familiar with author Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code, The Secret Race about Tyler Hamilton (which if you haven't read gives you a well-written different perspective on Tour de France doping.  Recommended) or Lance Armstrong's War.  Coyle is fascinated with the Patriot's Bill Belichick coaching style.  He writes:

"The main problem with practice is that we all have a powerful instinct to avoid it.
There’s a perfectly good reason for this: your unconscious brain. Practice involves spending lots of energy struggling for an uncertain payoff, and your unconscious brain really, really dislikes spending energy for uncertain payoffs.

After all, evolution built your brain to behave like an ultra-conservative banker — investing energy only when there’s a clear, tangible benefit. As a result, we’re all natural-born geniuses at coming up with excuses not to practice, or to cut corners, or to skip it and hope things work out."

Coach Friel would point out that training time spent in race simulation goes a long way.  So do frequent shorter races to build not only your endurance but your confidence when things aren't going according to plan.  Regardless of your situation, practice and race simulation give you the proper state of mind.  Like the old poem goes:

All in the State of Mind

If you think you are beaten you;
If you think you dare not, you don't;
If you would like to win and don't think you can,
It's almost a cinch you won't.

If you think you'll lose, you're lost;
For out in the world you'll find
Success begins with a fellow's will;
It's all in a state of mind.

Full many a race is lost;
Ere even a step is run.
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work is done.

Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you'll fall behind;
Think that you can and you will-
It's all in the state of mind.

If you think you're outclassed, you are;
You've got to think high to rise.
You've got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life's battles don't always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But, sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.

For those of you who are WSJ subscribers, and want a little more on Belichick, try http://on.wsj.com/1dwsY1H .

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Don't Tug On Superman's Cape. Or Ironman Head Ref Jimmy Riccitello

Jimmy Riccitello, Ironman Head Referee

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim*

*If you happen to be in an Ironman triathlete that is!

Before the blog, first this about the enormous good done by Jimmy's team. 
2014 Race Across America Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes

 From Intrepid Fallen Heroes web site:  June 27, 2015, Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes won their division in the Race Across America- a 3000 mile competitive endurance bike race- this year as a 4-person mixed team. Riding from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD in 6 days, 13 hours and 49 minutes raising $640,000 to support American military personnel suffering the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their families.  

In June 2014, Team Intrepid Fallen Heroes participated in the Race Across America winning the 8-person team division and raising $650,000 to support our wounded military heroes suffering from traumatic brain injury. The team races again this year with a goal of once more achieving victory and raising even more funds for our wounded troops. Please join us in this great challenge.  http://www.fallenheroesfund.org


Refereeing an Ironman

Several years ago, while on a rolling section of the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway portion of the IMH bike course, one of the motor scooter bound bike refs was just itchin' to get someone. They sat off to my left rear. Lurking. Waiting. Like a mosquito on a hot summer day. There was a sizable group of athletes whose positions relative to the other bikes were totally dictated by the terrain. A spreading out occurred going downhill with the inevitable bunching up come the next short up hill. And that's when the ref struck nabbing a slew of folks allowing them a short "unplanned rest" in the penalty tent. I sent a note to the race office describing what I felt was just not the standard I'd
expect of an Ironman referee, unfair really, and the following year I saw no ref behavior of this kind. Thanks guys.

Fast forward to 2010 when I first met the Ironman Head Referee, Jimmy Riccitello, the man does indeed set the standard. Multiple times I saw him help out an athlete or aid in race conduct at that years event, never drawing attention to himself. On the Friday afternoon before the race, during bike check in, one woman's race wheels didn't make it to Kona and here's Jimmy, butt on the pier, stretching out some sew ups, which he helped this woman mount. All real casual like this happens every day. (Maybe it does.)

12 hours later, the transition area is a madhouse with 2100 nervous, fidgiting athletes, volunteers providing assistance, and bike mechs making last minute fixes. And where's Jimmy?  Helping an age group woman trying to figure out if her speed suit was legal for the swim. Sure you might say why would someone wait until an hour before arguably the most important athletic event of her life to figure this out. But he didn't. He researched the
question and determined that a short run of this particular suit was not legal, unfortunate for her - this was one of them - but she was able to follow the letter of the law with a clear conscience.

I have three kids, and, at the heat of action during the race, I asked Jimmy how many he had. "Two," was the answer. I told him I hope they married my kids if they were anything like their dad.  He just smiled.  Later, when recounting this interaction to an IM employee, she added, "I feel honored to have gotten to know him and work with him the last several years. I have also been with him and his children outside of our work worlds and can validate that he is a wonderful father…a better parent than many. He’s not just the good time dad."

There are other examples but these three illustrate the point. In 2017, where the national pastime is complaining, we are so fortunate to have this gentleman help us both follow the rules and have a successful day doing so.  Maybe he thinks of the athletes as his 2100 children. Who knows. Thanks, Jimmy. Thanks, Dad. But if you plan to stretch the rules, watch out, Jimmy's right around the corner behind you.

Images 1, 4 from Team Intrepid Heroes web site.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Being Afraid. The Injured Triathlete, Possibly You?

Climbing Mountains, Being Afraid

The finish line, you can stop, your day is a success and it's not even 10am! Woot, woot!

    Although we as triathletes push pretty hard sometimes, we’re rarely outside our comfort zone in other than a physical sense.  In a previous blog, I briefly described hiking the John Muir Trail with my son Ben a couple years ago.  

This was a six day journey through wooded areas, over many creeks and streams, as well as some fairly steep mountain trails culminating in standing atop Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, with it’s seeming 100 mile view.  It's hard to imagine doing something better with one of your kids.  On the third day, our longest, after traversing some pretty difficult to navigate terrain (since we were so early in the season and didn’t have the benefit of hikers before us marking the correct trail), we crossed one particular river and unbeknownst to us, were off the trail.  Way off the trail. We tried to back track to a known point, but we were lost.  Lost in billions of acres of land…with no GPS…no cell service…no plan “B”, no nothing.  The only way out of this was to think our way out.

    It’s times like this that occasionally you don’t think terribly rationally.  Like during the run in a 70.3 or 140.6 mile race.  In the former, although you have a tent and food for a week, you don’t know where you are.  And, the in latter, you’ve trained for this for an awfully long time but are rapidly running out of energy and ideas at the same time.  You may have to…oh, don’t even think it…walk!  And walk a lot.

   But for me and Ben in Sequoia National Park, it was one of those times that, with no other option, no chance for help from any outside source, that with a little luck, you “just do it” as Nike would have you think.  You take the information you do have, think the problem through such as you might have done in a college course, and you’ll likely find your way back to the trail. With great relief I might add!

   Injuries to the triathlete can follow a similar path.  One can have a physical problem, seek help from a friend, an internet forum or local medical professional.  But in the end, you know vastly more about yourself athletically than any physician.  This would include the specific training load your body has seen including any recent overload situations, one of the most common sources of injury in my experience.  With just a little help pointing you in the right direction you can frequently come up with your own right diagnosis. 

Hardly a day goes by that I don't get some tri related medical question from an athlete.  I try to put myself in their position, likely one of simple lack of knowledge.  Sean Connery, in the movie finding Forrester asks, "You know what people are most afraid of?  That which they don't understand."  I believe he's correct.  Local triathlete Emily told me once that for her, one of the worst things about an injury is not knowing when it will resolve.  "Will I have this a week or six months?  It seems like you just don't know when you'll get back to regular training.  And your regular approach to each day.  Family. Job. Sport."  It's a pebble in your shoe, an alteration to your routine.  In my mind, both of these rather astute opinions are correct and descriptive of the injured triathlete.

 So how do we get to the next step?  Like being lost in the woods, you think the problem through.  Do what you need to accurately diagnose your problem, and from this diagnosis, the route though the woods back to your training path is revealed like the yellow brick road.
So, next time you find yourself injured, think it through.  Use your available resources, especially your own brain, and sometimes you’ll surprise yourself.  I’ve seen it happen. Sean and Emily would agree.

Good luck, Dorothy! 

Local triathlete finishes her first sprint triathlon.  Yea!!

Monday, May 8, 2017

All Triathlon Careers End Some Day. Is Today Your Day?

Maybe it's time to think that you may have packed your last special needs bag.  Put a different spin on your future.  But then, to one degree or another, don't we all think about the future?  Some of us more than others?

 There comes a time when we need to move on.  Triathlon becomes a less significant factor in life, less of a priority, and training becomes more an obligation than a challenge.  That early morning swim is a burden, not an opportunity to work on a race limiter. Drudgery sneaks in to your lexicon.  We don't intend to give up sport altogether but perhaps revert to predominantly being a cyclist or runner.  Get more sleep.  Spend more quality time with the family, the work mates.  Not be afraid tonight to watch the 4th quarter as Clemson and Alabama play for the National Football Championship because you're supposed to be at the pool at 5:30 am the following day. 

 The sword of time will piece our skin,

It doesn't hurt when it begins,

But as it works its way on in,

The pain grows stronger, watch it grin.   

                                           Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel. M*A*S*H, the movie

 I know a number of people who were in triathlon for a short while and out.  On to something else.  It was a fling, an accomplishment, but not a lifestyle.  They didn't own a power meter, never found out the answer to a question on Slowtwitch. They weren't certain of the date of the World Championship in Hawaii. (It is in Honolulu, right?)  In fact, they had more on their plates than triathlon. Work, family, hobbies, other passions, etc. were all part of the game and while important, tri didn't take front and center stage in their lives.

 Not so for the woman I met in Kona last year on Friday,16 hours before race start in Kona last year. This was bike check-in, on the pier, for what would be her 40th, that's right, fortieth Ironman distance race.  I'm no Psychiatrist but in discussing the importance of triathlon in her life, the word addiction would have to have entered the conversation somewhere. I got a very pleasant note a while back from an athlete who'd done her 91st IM.

 However, eventually the luster grows dull for the rest of us and we want to, or have to in many cases, secondary to chronic or recurrent injury, pass the torch.  Doesn't matter if you do more than the local spring tri or iron distance racing,  And you know what, it's OK when that day comes.  Really, it's OK.

 "Cal" is one of the best triathletes in our area.  Like a fool, I let him talk me into a workout at the pool a couple years ago, something different he said, just for fun (Cal's kind of fun obviously.) We'd swim 100 yards, jump out on to the pool deck and do ten push ups, and be back in our lane to push off for the next 100.  Can we do it on 2:00? Yes.   Can we do it 1:55?  And the 1:50?  Etc., you get my drift.  Yes, Cal we can.  I think we needed a funeral home consult after that work out.

 But, Cal's life has gotten more complex lately as his kids have gotten older and entered wrestling, travel wrestling, you name it.  Cal's moved away from tri despite having the ability to run a half IM sub 4:30 in the very competitive 45-49 year old age group.  (I'm certain that some of you read this as discarding a gift that you, or I for that matter, will never have.  I feel your pain!) In short, your day to step back from the sport will come.  When it does, it'll be just fine.  Honestly. I saw that day a while back, and it's just fine.

The race is run, how did you fare? How about those other pesky people in your age group?

Image 1, Google Images