I’ve made a commitment to my Apple Watch: when it tells me to stand, I listen. I rarely worry about reaching my Standing goal for the day but discipline comes in the small things. The little victories and habits are what lead to momentum, and momentum leads to bigger wins.
It’s kind of like my parking spot – no one parks further away than me. I’m not trying to compete with anyone else. I’m just saying that I don’t take the easiest, closest spot. I’m training my mindset to always be willing to work hard, stay sharp.
TLDR; compete against yourself, there’s a better version of you inside you
My triathlon training this summer foreshadowed the latest ad for Apple Watch. It all started with my easiest 1500 meters everfollowed by building on the bike and continued all summer. My message was simple: this triathlon was not about fast or competitive, but rather becoming a better version of myself which was the whole point of passing people.
The Apple Watch ad simply states there’s a better you inside you. Always be in pursuit of a better you.
This is what’s next. Triathlon is the next season of training and competitions for me. I spent the summer of 2018 training for a couple sprint triathlons for the end of the season and even though Belleville was canceled, Devil’s Lake delivered – I’m hooked.
I had plenty of conditioning even though I’m very new to swimming and biking in a competitive situation. I had the endurance to get through the event without any problem. I crossed the finish line in 1:33, good enough for 16th out of 35 in my age group. But let me be clear: this wasn’t about ‘competing.’ It was about an introduction to a new sport, a sport I have viewed recently as the future of my training, health and fitness. As a trainer I’m thinking a lot about multi-sport and triathlon as a training philosophy. I’ve posted on social media all summer that my goal is simply to train for the event and finish well. Sure, I’m a competitive guy but I am also approaching this experience as an opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate that even though this is an ‘event’ it doesn’t always have to be a race.
Training philosophy explanation done. Now for a Sunday recap.
I drove up to Baraboo with my client Phil who is an experienced triathlete. Phil gave me some great pointers over the last couple weeks and really put my mind at ease in my first triathlon in five years, only my second triathlon ever. We pulled into the park at 7:15 and the place was packed – juices immediately started flowing and I was very excited to compete.
Looking back it was strange to feel like a newbie again. Phil has all the experience and gear and with the multi-sport aspect of the event; I felt constantly a little unprepared, like if something went wrong I wouldn’t be ready to respond. My experience with running only required shorts, shirt, shoes and a race bib. But now I needed everything for the swim (wetsuit, goggles, cap), bike (shoes, socks, glasses, helmet, race bib, nutrition, oh and get that wetsuit off!), and then run (take that helmet off! and get those legs moving!). But that’s exact what exhilarates me about this sport right now – the transition from one leg to the next to the next.
I set up my transition pretty quickly and this helped put me at ease. I thought through swim-to-bike and then bike-to-run and felt good about my preparation. As Phil was finishing his set up I walked around and slowly started to warm up. We exited the transition with our wetsuits half on (too early to zip the tops) and we were ready! We were the 11th and final wave to go, 45 minutes later! So the warm-up was extended which actually felt good. We both ended up getting in the water and swimming about 200 meters.
As our wave entered the beach, I looked at the two orange buoys I had to swim around and didn’t even question my training. I had the conditioning. My concern was the pace – how hard should I go? The first 150 yards I went out pretty fast. I kept pace with Phil but soon he was gone. I was thankful there weren’t a lot of other bodies crowding my space. The next concern was the turn – would there be congestion at the corner? There wasn’t. Then it was smooth sailing. I got into a nicer rhythm and even though I started getting fatigued, the second half felt way better than the first. I passed at least a few athletes from the previous wave so that was a small victory. Getting back to the beach felt great. Easy jog to transition as I unzipped my wetsuit, avoid a near slip turning a corner and I was at my towel getting my bike gear set.
Phil already had his wetsuit off (but hey, who’s counting?) so he was at least a minute in front of me -not bad. I put half of a banana down in one bite, couple swigs of water, and the biggest struggle was to put dry socks on my wet feet. I remember the run to my towel and even my seat at T1 having tunnel vision – I’m not embracing it yet as a good thing. That’s my body so stressed that it’s funneling out everything on the periphery. I look forward to the time when I’m a little more relaxed.
Jogging out of transition I got to our orange line to mount – biking! Through the parking lot, clipped it. Right hand turn out of the entry and onto our first road. Right hand turn (as I remember it) and BAM…. hill. A very long hill. Welcome to Devil’s Challenge bike course. I will not take you through any more details of the bike except I was told it was hilly but I was figuring lots of medium hills, not 3-4 giant hills. Remember, this is all new and novel to me. The three weeks preceding this race I had identified, after a hilly ride with Phil, that I have a lot of training to do on hills. Well that came to smack me in the face on Sunday. I never walked but on the first hill four people were. Of course in Wisconsin what goes up usually comes down, so we topped out at 44mph at one point. A couple times at the bottom we had some pretty significant turns and that was disaster averted. Very challenging bike, tons of room for improvement. At one point there’s a turn around so I was able figure I was about 7 minutes behind Phil. “What?! Eight minutes?! How did that happen?” Humbling, but never got me down. Coming back into the park (the way we drove it) was pretty cool to finish the next leg. Lots of people at the bottom as we came screaming down the hill (slower bikers to the right please!) and easy dismount. Let’s get rid of this bike and run.
Second half of that banana in one bite again, so there’s my PR for the day. This transition I had to think through a little more – it seemed too simple. Running shoes, more water, bib is still on, and I still don’t remember if I as wearing sunglasses. Go! Some guy was yelling “go out fast” and I took his advice. In training bricks I had worked on a nice transition of 8:45/mile to 8:15 to about 8:00 within three-quarters of a mile. By the time I was out of the parking lot I was at 7:45, alright! But it sure didn’t feel like 7:45s. To my surprise the run course goes right through the campground so it was odd being the morning entertainment for campers enjoying coffee and breakfast – but it was great to have their support. Lots of fans in chairs pulled up cheering us on! The hills there felt like nothing but I wasn’t gaining any ground on Phil. We passed each other at the halfway point. Fatigue was certainly setting in but I was running strong. Phil finished and worked his way back to the start of the park, about 1/4 mile from the finish. “How about that guy?” (Pointing to the guy in red in front of me.) “Can you catch that guy?!” Great motivation from a teammate – and yes, I easily caught that guy but not sure I would have gone for it if it hadn’t’ been for Phil. Excellent finish at the Devil’s Challenge Triathlon.
You are capable of so much more than you think. I’m not sure what you make of triathlon but swimming, biking and running in a week is a fantastic way to stay in shape. Multi-sport can be recreational or competitive, we experienced it all on Sunday. I hope you consider joining me for some races next season. You can check out my Instagram Story for a few more live details.
It was all that and then some. It’s been awhile since I experienced something so new and so fulfilling in sport. Sunday I swam for the first time in a wetsuit. I took Christian up to Baraboo for the afternoon, we played in the water and on the beach and then I did a little swimming from buoy to buoy. What a great feeling to not worry about water temperature or floating – you just go! The only thing I can imagine that would be better is to have a snorkel so I don’t even have to lift my head to breathe! That’s a thing in the triathlon world. But for now I’m still in neoprene nirvana.
The first couple laps were actually pretty difficult. The compression was so significant on my chest that it was a challenge to breath comfortably. Within a new minutes I acclimated and from then on my workout was fantastic.
Training with a wetsuit was the final preparation I need for the Devil’s Lake triathlon in two weeks.
Yesterday I almost went on a little rant about my training objective and race strategy in regards to passing people. Of course I’m naturally competitive and sometimes that trait gets the best of me. Even in workouts I sometimes start with one workload in the plan and end up doing more. That’s not a humble brag, it’s actually a demonstration that I too struggle with discipline.
But the topic for the day is ‘staying in your lane, sticking with the plan, having the right mindset.’
As a coach trying to push people to their personal best, it’s easy for them to compare themselves to others. The gym is a great place to train and it’s a great place to start that comparison game. The first is good, the second is usually a vulnerability to your progress. Here is why: you are not competing against anyone in that gym and you’re not even in the same game! I know, easier said than done but it’s just a reality. My mindset here isn’t to resist comparing to others but rather develop laser focus on what your best version of you can be. That’s the goal.
And that’s what I’m trying to keep in perspective this triathlon season. The goal is not to beat others but at the same time the goal isn’t to “just finish.” Quite simply I’m after my personal best. My personal best.
Now I fully reserve the right to change that approach in later seasons. I love working with athletes who are trying to win their age group. I look forward to the season when I can keep track of a leaderboard for the Wisconsin Tri Series and finish at the top. Until then I’m working towards my personal best. I strongly encourage you to do the same.
As I work towards my second ever triathlon (first was in 2013) I’m still learning a lot of the basics. My last longer bike workout revealed how bad I am at hills. I made a comment to Matt, our fitness director, and his suggestion was to shift once. We talked about the mentality plus the execution: right after the hill begins you need to determine what final gear you need/want to get to, shift there and be done with it. Riders in lower gears may pass you at first but as they start shifting you’ll pass them eventually. I’m not so sure about that last part and frankly passing people isn’t even my objective (more on that tomorrow). What I’m after is learning the best strategy to finish as fast as I can finish, climb those hills with experience and skill.
Today’s training ride consisted of two laps around Lake Monona plus a 3.45-mile run around the State Capitol (starting from my parking spot on John Nolan). What a great brick! My first loop on the bike was rather conservative so I’m glad I was able to increase the pace on the second, finishing almost eight minutes faster than the first. On the run as I made my way around the Capitol Square I had fatigue start to sink in. I thought to myself that I am falling in love with the process of training. That’s the name of the game: process, progress. As a trainer I see this holding so many people back. So I put it on myself to help coach this mentality that the process is the name of the game.
Within that process we are constantly changing. We get better, challenge goes up, we get proficient, we get our butt kicked, we respond but we always keep going. Today’s learning to “shift once” was good on two levels. First tactically it’s an experienced technique that I worked on and felt challenged but also felt myself getting better right away. Second, the bigger picture of “assess the situation and plan accordingly and execute” is also very valuable. I think of this in terms of letting injuries heal and I think of this in terms of choosing the appropriate intensity for a given workout as example of “shift once and make it work.”
The pinnacle workout in triathlon training is the brick. A brick is a workout where you do two of the disciplines of swim/bike/run back-to-back. Usually this is the bike/run combo, but there’s certainly value in doing the swim-to-bike and even a full race simulation.
A triathlete client and another triathlete friend of mine told me that usually the run part of the brick is only 1-1.5 miles long, just enough to catch and train that transition part of the run. Still fairly new to triathlon I heard what they said and I think I understand the thinking but I also prefer to do as much of the run as I think my body can take. First of all of the three disciplines, running is my strongest. Secondly I know where my fitness level is and how much any given workout should be to get me ready for the two spring triathlons I’m doing this fall.
Who knows, maybe next year I see training completely differently. But right now I’m trying not to overthink the brick. Exercise science is a beautiful thing but exercise art is under appreciated. In fact just today I was talking with a client about deciding between a beginner plan and an intermediate plan. I suggested it’s better to decrease the intermediate plan (which is pretty advanced) rather than add to the beginner plan. But in reality he’s skilled enough to do either. The point is to know right were you’re at, where you’re going, and confirm with a team or a coach if your plan makes sense. Sometimes it isn’t the plan that you stick to, it’s whether or not you stuck to the plan.
Listen to your body and your mind and good things will happen. Coaches really help, too.
Don’t compare. You have no idea where that other person is at. You have no idea how far you can go. You and I have enough to worry about just dealing with our own stories. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
When I am coaching clients I often use this equation: your goals + my plan + your execution is our recipe for success. Don’t waste your time with anyone else’s goals. What do you want to accomplish? What will it take to get there? What will you do when you experience an injury or a set-back? Do you have an expert plan in place? And then can you execute that plan? That’s where a coach and/or a team come into play.
Before you retire for the day, get a notecard and a pen and write down your goal for the end of the year. Of course you know I preach long-term pursuit, but we need to start with a short term goal to build momentum. My goal is to finish two triathlons and finish the year with a new understanding, appreciation, and pursuit of nutrition and strength training. So far, so good.
At the finish of my workout today I was feeling very accomplished, challenged, and progressing nicely for my two triathlons coming up in a couple weeks. The brick was a 12.13 mile bike followed by a 2.5 mile run. The reason for the extra energy after the workout was that I was pushed by Phil, an experienced triathlete who just competed an Olympic distance triathlon so his cardio and power is pretty dialed in right now.
I’m still learning a lot about triathlon. I know how important the brick workout is (two disciples in one workouts, mostly the bike-run combo) but I’m still working through what distances to train at and how to manage the transition. So you can imagine it’s nice to have an experience athlete like Phil to train with.
Today we talked about how typical bricks include a long bike and only 1.25-2.0 on the run. I’m sure that might be a typical brick but as a beginner I want to feel as much of that run after a long bike as possible. Today’s bike was at race pace and even though it was a couple miles less that race distance, I want to feel the challenge of running at race pace after that push on the bike. And like I said, my accomplishment after the workout came because I was pushed and responded well.
I am much more efficient in the water than I’ve ever been. And yet in the middle of my workout yesterday I was reminded how much anxiety I have in one aspect of the swim: opposite side breathing.
Triathletes need to be able to breathe on both sides of their body in case there’s waves, sun, or competitors on the strong side. For me this is a challenge for two reasons. First my form is terrible when I breathe on my left. I’m actually kind of shocked at how hard it is to replicate the breathing on my right side. But more critical to my training is the fact that breathing on my left side is often filled with lots of anxiety; since my form is so bad, I always worry that my poor form will lead to me subluxing my shoulder. Both of my shoulders are loose and when I pull so much in the water, that’s a lot of stress on the joint. Additionally if I start pulling too soon (with my body rotated), I put myself at increased risk for subluxation. It’s a mind game. I’m winning the game but it’s a big battle.