I have been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s a challenging book that has me nicely distracted from the world and asking good questions of myself. Most recently I read a part of the book around a speech about The Church of Reason. I`ll put it here for your reference:
The real University, he said, has no specific location. It owns no property, pays no salaries and receives no material dues. The real University is a state of mind. It is that great heritage of rational thought that has been brought down to us through the centuries and which does not exist at any specific location. It’s a state of mind which is regenerated throughout the centuries by a body of people who traditionally carry the title of professor, but even that title is not part of the real University. The real University is nothing less than the continuing body of reason itself.
In addition to this state of mind, “reason,” there’s a legal entity which is unfortunately called by the same name but which is quite another thing. This is a nonprofit corporation, a branch of the state with a specific address. It owns property, is capable of paying salaries, of receiving money and of responding to legislative pressures in the process.
But this second university, the legal corporation, cannot teach, does not generate new knowledge or evaluate ideas. It is not the real University at all. It is just a church building, the setting, the location at which conditions have been made favorable for the real church to exist.
It got me thinking about Ironman (yes, that topic that is so hot right now with 4 weeks till race day). For those who are tired about my Ironman rambles, replace it with your own race and relax a little while you`re at it. eg; It got me thinking about Two Oceans / Xterra / The Argus. Now breathe deep. Aaah.
With the on-going competition for real estate between the WTC and Everybody Else, our own bricks and mortar space i.e. races, have become more of a physical presence, rather than the essence of the sport. For a sport which demands so much of us, we used to have these huge races that fulfilled so much and were the biggest show, run by a family who cared for the soul of this sport. As the corporate side of our sport grows and it becomes more apparent that it is a company running the show and no longer a family, I feel more and more committed to my training and the journey that is represents. I feel more aware that every ride I undertake is a special one, that life without those magical trail runs would be worse than just racing Ironman every season and winning it. I choose 10 solo rides over a win at Ironman every single time.
So if I had to compare to the passage above, The University Building is WTC / Ironman races, but the real Ironman has no specific location. It runs no races, takes no finishers photos and doesn’t give you a medal and a free slice of pizza for moving across a line in the road. No, the real Ironman, the one I am after, the one which leaves me quiet and perceptive, tired but happy instead of obsessed and needing compression garments for my neck, is a state of mind.
Once you stop racing everyone else and start enjoying the journey you are undertaking you will find what the original idea behind this sport was all about. It’s real idea behind this beautiful sport lies in the moving energy of the group ride, the smooth long strokes out in Silvermine dam before anybody else has hit the water and can be found along that quiet stretch of road you overcame not so long ago.
As we have four weeks to go, it’s important to realise this and know that your journey towards that line in the road that rewards you with a medal will never satiate your appetite for adventure. It will never be so amazing that you will feel your cup is running over with awesome.
Find your state of mind, your University of Adventure – the real one, not the legal entity or the bricks and mortar version.
Be outside, doing sports, for yourself. Be a part of the movement, the soul what the founders of your chosen sport intended it to be. Be a part of that continuing body of reason. If you want to make a real difference, support our Pure Planet Racing initiative or get involved with the Songo.info Charity. Both are striving to make huge changes to environments that need change.
On Saturday I went out to Grabouw with 3 friends to run a new route for a new trail running guide in South Africa. We covered parts of the Xterra Route, parts of our own route and managed to cover sand, rock, beach, jeep track, single track, river crossings and the views were insane. The routes out at MTO Forest next to the Grabouw Country Club are insanely good, as you will see in these pics. The first image is sign-in, a 20 ZAR fee and off you go on various marked routes. A full report coming soon.
All photos taken with the GoPro Camera. The full route details are here:
Dr Alan Couzens is a ridiculously smart bro. I love reading anything he puts out and this series on Performance Limiters for us Endurance Freaks is filled with pearls of wisdom. Originally from the Endurance Corner Blog, you can read it here:
by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)
In this final article in the Basic Limiters series I want to talk about the most overlooked of the three: mobility.
Mobility is kind of a catch-all phrase that incorporates all aspects of functional flexibility — the factors that may restrict an athlete’s range of motion in their chosen sport and general functional tasks. As such it incorporates:
It is a very important quality to the endurance athlete for two big reasons:
Endurance sports are, more or less, whole body activities. On the positive, this fact enables the athlete to put sufficient demand on the body that they get a true systemic training response. All of the systems of the body from circulatory to metabolic to endocrine get a “workout” and, providing appropriate loading and recovery patterns are adhered to, the general health of these systems is enhanced.
The downsides of whole body activities are that:
Take running for example, say Joe Middleage arises from his slumber on January 1 one year resolved to begin running for fitness. He takes his first few loping strides and his body realizes (unconsciously) that he no longer has the ankle flexibility to drop his heel to the ground at the completion of each stride.
“No problem,” says the body, “I’ll just turn Joe’s feet out a little so the lever length of the foot is effectively decreased and he can manage the movement.”
Of course to do this, Joe is now pronating significantly more at the ankle, his knee is now doing a weird sideways kick instead of hinging backward and forward and because his hip is perpetually externally rotated, he’s swinging his leg back not from the hip but from the lumbar spine. To make matters worse, the faulty movement patterns that Joe is ingraining in these first steps back are becoming ingrained to an extra-strong degree and even if Joe finds the muscular flexibility later down the road, these newly formed motor patterns will be hard to break. In short, Joe is in trouble!
This situation is certainly not limited to the ankle joint in runners. Given the number of movement patterns involved in triathlon. Most joints are used and consequently, a deficiency in mobility in any one of these joints can lead to injury problems. Other common examples:
Paraphrasing Mike Clark from his great book “Advances in Functional Training” — when a joint is immobile in a complex movement, a joint above or below is forced to take up the slack and this mechanism leads to muscles being overworked or working in purposes that they’re not really suited for.
There is nothing more frustrating to both athlete and coach to be unable to access the fitness that you’ve worked so hard for on a given date because of a lingering injury. This is an all too common true limiter in the world of endurance sports.
The obvious solution to Joe’s (and an unacceptably large portion of endurance athletes’) dilemma is to correct flexibility discrepancies in his chosen movement before piling on the miles in said movement!
If you’re a young, generally healthy, performance obsessed athlete, I may not have sold you on the importance of supplementary mobility work with the above example but perhaps this will…
Several studies on effective running biomechanics have found a distinct interplay between mobility, stability and running economy. For example, Godges et al (1989) found a significant improvement in running economy at all paces with improved hip flexion and extension. In contrast, the same author found improvement in economy with decreasedmobility — improved stability of the hip and trunk rotators. In other words, we want some joints to be very mobile and others very stable and capable of holding lots of elastic energy! Indeed, other researchers have come to a similar conclusion that there is a distinct and consistent pattern to joint mobility/stability in extremely economical distance runners (such as Craib et al., 1996, Gleim et al., 1990, Kyrolainen et al, 2001). In general, muscles of the frontal and transverse plane are relatively tight — “springy” may be a better term — while muscles of the sagittal plane are mobile & capable of force production over a long range.
This is not only true in running, but also in swimming, where mobility may be even more important to economy. For example, Jagomagi and Juramiae (2005) found that flexibility parameters alone explained 28% of the performance variance in breaststroke swimmers. Similarly, Silva et al. (2007) found that two of the most predictive variables to 200 IM performance were ankle and trunk flexibility (r=0.73 & 0.55 resp). To put this in perspective, swimming fitness (measured as speed at 4mmol/L of lactate) was less well correlated to 200 IM performance than ankle flexibility!
Now, while it may be true that these complex relationships of mobile and stable joints occur somewhat naturally when a young “blank slate” begins training, in my experience an older more “well written” slate will need to correct a number of dysfunctional patterns that have crept in through a lack of, or an imbalance of, functional movements (for instance, sitting at a desk for eight or more hours per day). The general preparation period of training is the time to do so.
In general, the economical- and injury-resistant triathlete will want to establish:
Incorporating the above into your general strength/mobility circuits in the general prep phase of training will go a long way towards attaining some of the movement economy benefits discussed, and perhaps more importantly it will significantly mitigate the chance of a chronic injury limiting the expression of the fitness that you’re worked so hard for in 2012.
Yesterday, a thousand of us raced in Grabouw. By applying years of hard work and knowledge, I came out 8th best on the day. It was a day where I felt rushed on the bike, all day. After a bit of a rush around day on Saturday (completely self inflicted) and a messy T1, it took me almost 18km of the 27km on the ride to settle down to a mild roar.
The pause that I love, that I pursue, that clear mind, the one that was omnipresent at 70.3, totally left me yesterday out there. A week ago I rode that course hard, with no hassles, faster than I did yesterday. I didn’t put my foot down once and yesterday, I must have put my feet down 15 times during the ride, costing me minutes on a day when minutes meant a few places up front.
It’s a great reflection, the way we race.
When the pause is not there, that ability to be clear and think and power our way through the day rather than force it, we make mistakes. Mistakes create frustration, which makes the pause seem even further away, which makes our motivation to hurt less and so forth. The pause is the success factor on race day, and yesterday, I lacked it.
It was a beautiful day out in Grabouw and I had an absolute blast, despite this. I had the best swim of my life in triathlon, had an incredibly fun ride chattering away with Raynard Tissink, a very rare opportunity for me, as we gingerly made our way around the course with a few laughs and a few frustrated moments for both of us, and I had an ok run, nothing spectacular, nursing a blister the size of a R5 coin on my left heel which I picked up somewhere in the week before the race.
Xterra is, for me, a great chance to mix it up with mates in a sport which isn’t my primary focus. I love the organisation, the vibe, the history and the energy around Xterra and will be racing it for many years to come. As a “roadie” it’s fun to improve a little each year, sticking it to the purists a little as my mountain bike skills improve, despite days like yesterday where I felt like a rookie.
I qualified for another world championship which is a huge achievement, and the second qualification of the year for me. I am feeling hugely blessed and very energetic for my 3rd qualification opportunity in April at IMSA. In the interim there is much work to be done and quite a bit of time in the Pain Cave where the fire is burning bright and the opportunities lie all around me.
Then there is the hunt for The Pause. Just typing it brings a wry smile to my face. I love this hunt…
A special thank you to BoE Private Clients, Velocity Sports Labs, Rehidrat Sport, Puma, Oakley and Pure Planet Racing for making this all possible. A huge congrats to Conrad and Carla for their wins.
What a simple, amazing video. As simple as striding out, we all know and understand the simple beauty of putting together any run. At times, running can be the cruel mistress, but really, it’s one of the most addictive things out there. The simple joy of running.
It’s beauty when its effortless is rivaled by very little out there.
If you are reading this looking for inspiration to get out there and try running, I urge you to try the tested 30 for 30 rule. Get out there and run for 30 minutes per day, for 30 days in a row. There are many lessons in those 30 days and you will come out an addict to your new kick, your reason to get outside and the reason you are smiling all day.
Having listened to countless stories from 70.3 about “what could have been” I realised again how many people get it wrong on race day.
I wonder how their training went and why they completely mucked it up in not 1, but all 3 disciplines on the day. It got me thinking about all the little things in training that count towards a superb race day performance, which is the benchmark for most athletes. Train all they want, without a race day effort to show the work, they aren’t happy.
This, for me, is problem number 1 anyway. So let’s run through some of my favorite lessons out there:
1. Smell the Roses
This weekend, I had the joy of riding with the 2 guys who have put me in the pain cave more often than anyone on the bike, for the first time in roughly 5 years. Sure, the ride was tough, but for me, it was a byproduct of riding with my “brothers” through the winelands, on a route that has given us all so much happyscared during IM base weeks.
Stop and smell the roses while training. The athletes I train have to train on Sundays but its always their favorite routes at their preferred intensity, so that they will stop and have a look around them.
2. Overload Kings
The athletes I fear the most have the biggest capacity for work. It’s not that they are fast, its that they are fast AND train like madmen.
You should read THIS article if you don’t believe me. It’s the guys with the biggest capacity for work and the highest concentration towards eating ethically and sleeping meticulously that scare me the most. Natural talent goes only a part of the way. Show me the guy who is out nailing Basic Weeks every week and I’ll show you a man I fear on the back end of the run.
3. I am, therefor I am.
What does AeT feel like? How do you pedal at the right cadence when the little computer breaks on race day? How do I know that I`m about to get sick?
So many athletes have no idea of the constant 2 way conversation that is going on between body and mind. For them, its a one way from mind to body, willing it forward. With a bit of finesse and a bit of intuition, you will learn that the body will tell you everything you need to know. When they get sick they are surprised and yet, the body would have given signals for days and days ahead of getting sick.
Injuries don’t occur overnight and over-training takes months to achieve. Wake up and listen to your body.
4. Patience is Rewarded
Every single time. We cannot help ourselves and we attack early. When we get caught within sight of the line, legs totally gone, mind utterly blown, we regret not waiting a little. I have spoken enough of quiet power, of the quiet mind. Without the ability to be patient and make the move when it counts the most, you will fall short.
In training, don’t follow every move your mates make. Listen to your body and stick to the plan. The bottom line, is the finish line and often the guys hitting the summit first on morning rides are not the guys taking line honors on race day. When the moment hits, use it wisely.
Use these simple lessons in your training and you`ll see performance rise, health be stable and injuries disappear.
There is this series of emotions that occurs when you`re preparing for an event that pushes your limits. Whether it’s your first half ironman and you are aiming to make the cut-offs, a 5 day 250km trail run through the Sahara or going sub 9 at your local Ironman, the series of emotions / events is always the same.
I picked it up yesterday again for the first time in a while. In the morning, we had our usual group ride but being the only guy prepping for Ironman South Africa, I had specific low cadence, low HR work to do, which meant letting the guys go up the road every time it went up. For the past few months, I have been happy to attack with them. It took a lot of patience and it rattled me a little to watch them fly, seemingly effortlessly, away from me as I ground out a 40-50 cadence whilst attempting to remain aerobic, up the mountainside.
It takes a special kind of patience to hold back when you know you have the strength to go. I am yet to perfect the art, my boyish competitiveness often getting the better of me.
That was the rattle.
The legs hurt after a solid ride and in the afternoon I was less than excited to head out the door to run an hour including some Strides after a long day at work.
Within 5 minutes, the hum was there. Effortless, easy plodding and a removal from all of the world. I was unaware of other people, of the scenery and had totally forgotten about my entire life. The hum of my body eclipsed everything else in that moment. There was breathing, muscles moving in harmony and a completely clear mind and very, very little else going on. I ticked off the kilometers and intervals without really processing how easily they were going. I didn’t need to hold back, I didn’t need to push and there was only this easy, comfortable, quiet power left behind.
That was the hum.
While training for these events, I find that we go through this Rattle & Hum process often, sometimes daily for a few weeks on end. It’s an emotional roller coaster as we overcome in training to be great on race day. Rattle and Hum, Rattle and Hum as we go forth on this journey towards a better version of ourselves.
Some video inspiration for your training…
This weekend I got my first big weekend in for Ironman South Africa in April. It involved multiple sessions and many kilometers. The weekend went well, but weekends only get bigger from here on out until the end of March.
Last night I got thinking about the familiar emotions and feelings I had as I sat, shattered, attempting to pay attention to my lovely mrs.
Over the next 8 weeks or so, those of us hoping to go well at Ironman South Africa will be displaying the following symptoms. If you come into contact with any of us, please be patient, understanding and kind.
Your hopeful Ironman will be:
- Displaying what is known as the 1000 yard stare. Especially if its a weekend afternoon.
- Wearing compression socks under his/her jeans (hopefully not with shorts)
- Speaking strangely. When you ask “How are you?” – they may answer “Ironman fine thank you very much”
- Attempting to engage you in conversation about watts, aerodynamic benefits of dimples on lycra and how best to consume calories while running.
- Eating non-stop, while talking about food all the time, despite the fact that they look hungry.
- Stressed about the race. Even though its February. I know, it’s stupid.
Expect to encounter combinations of the above, like talking about lycra while eating a protein bar, having a protein shake at the same time, whilst wearing compression socks with shorts, in the middle of a restaurant, whilst staring straight through you.
These are big days for a lot of people. Their undertaking monstrous and their minds simply not able to compute just yet that they will be perfectly OK if they get the mileage in and arrive without an injury.
Heart rate is a tough one. I have trained with heart rate, power, a combination and most importantly, found that no combination if perfect and that the best route to take is to learn to feel intensities and workloads.
I wanted to share some info I recently discovered around running with Heart Rates that was exciting for me for Ironman this year. I have always tried to run with a steady HR at Ironman and perhaps this was not the best route to take. It seems I need to be starting a little slower and increasing the heart rate as I go. In Kona in 2010, I opted to not run with a HR monitor as I wanted to hold a pace, rather than a heart rate – seems I was on the right track then, had I not lost my special needs back and completely destroyed every toilet on the Queen K on the way home due to a stomach that had simply stopped processing calories.
I make my athletes start their runs slow and finish them strong and this is a great habit to learn.
Although some of the information is a bit technical, understanding these factors will allow you to use your heart rate monitor more effectively to optimize your training.
Heart rates tend to be lower in the morning. The difference in heart rate between running in the morning and afternoon is typically about 5 to 6 beats per minute, but can be as great as 10 beats per minute. Your maximal heart rate is also several beats per minute lower in the morning. This means that if you set your heart rate zones based on your morning heart rates, and train in the afternoon, then you will train a bit less intensely than planned. Similarly, if you use afternoon or evening heart rates to determine your training zones, and then train in the morning, you will train somewhat harder than planned.
Heart rate increases at high temperatures. Your heart rate is higher when running on a hot day. As the temperature increases from 15 degrees to 24 degrees, a runner’s heart rate at a given speed increases by about 2 to 4 beats per minute. When the temperature increases from 24 degrees to 33 degrees, you can expect your heart rate running at a given speed to increase by approximately 10 beats per minute. High humidity magnifies the effect of high temperatures on heart rate.
To gain the same benefits as on a cool day, you should increase your heart rate zones by 2 to 4 beats per minute when the temperature is in the 20’s and the humidity is low. On a high humidity day in the 20’s or a low humidity day in the high 20’s, you should increase your zones by approximately 5 to 8 beats per minute to correct for the heat factor. In more extreme conditions, such as a high humidity day over 30 degrees, you cannot accurately adjust your heart rate zones for the conditions. On the most brutal summer days, it is wise to adjust your training schedule to avoid high intensity training.
Dehydration causes an increase in heart rate. When you become dehydrated, your blood volume decreases and less blood is pumped with each heartbeat. Your heart rate at a given running speed, therefore, increases. A 1992 study by S. J. Montain and Ed Coyle, PhD, found that heart rate increases approximately 7 beats per minute for each 1% loss in bodyweight due to dehydration. For example, if you weigh 75 pounds, when you lose 800g due to dehydration your heart rate at a given running speed would increase by about 7 beats per minute. Water loss of this magnitude occurs after an hour of running on a mildly warm day. On a hot day, runners typically lose over 1kg of water per hour. If you set heart rate training zones when properly hydrated and then become dehydrated during training, your pace will decrease as you become progressively more dehydrated.
Heart rate during running varies by a few beats from day-to-day. Several studies have found that heart rate during running at a given pace varies by a few beats per minute from day-to-day. It is not clear why this occurs, but most physiological variables exhibit similar amounts of day-to-day variation. This means that if you monitor your heart rate religiously, you will find that some days it appears you are getting slightly fitter and other days it appears you are getting out of shape, when in fact, your fitness level may not be changing. You should be cautious, therefore, in interpreting the results of any one session of heart rate monitoring. Do not put too much emphasis on small changes of 2 to 3 beats per minute in heart rate found during one run. When you find a systematic reduction in heart rate at a given pace, however, you can be confident that your fitness has improved. Similarly, if you find that your heart rate is consistently higher than expected, you can confidently conclude that something is wrong; i.e. you may be losing fitness or (more likely for most runners) over trained.
Training heart rate does not predict racing heart rate. During competition, your heart rate does not increase logically with your running speed. So many other factors affect your heart rate while racing, that it is not a good indication of how fast/hard you are running. If you measure your heart rate at your desired race pace during training, and use that heart rate to determine how fast to run during a race, then you will run quite a bit slower than planned, because with the excitement of the race, your heart rate will be elevated. You could account for the increase and still use your heart rate to accurately select your race pace if the increase in heart rate due to racing was consistent. Unfortunately, how much higher heart rates are at a given pace during racing compared to training has been found to vary greatly from person to person and from race to race.
I recently had 2 weeks of racing. One week was an out of this world feeling where I put only a few steps incorrectly all day. The next weekend I had to pull the plug from a race for the first time ever due to a nagging calf strain after receiving a punch in the leg in the opening 50m of 70.3. These things happen.
I was aware of the pain all week and was pretty sure I would be able to run so it was worth the risk of taking a flight and the drive to race in Buffelspoort, where Rehidrat Sports is a huge part of the puzzle for Stillwater Sports and Xterra. Representing the brand on a national level gives me immense pride as the word on the street/trail/pool is out that Rehidrat Sport is the real deal when it comes to simple, reliable sports nutrition.
I would take the race completely on feel. If the calf was out of control, I would have to pull the pin. I had a decent swim at altitude, exiting the water with Dan & Conrad. A year ago I was 30sec down. For the first time in ages, I truly felt the control in the water. When I was swimming full time, I took it for granted and now, it’s like an ellipsis I am hunting for in the pool every time I swim, that pause where there is control, timing and feel in the water.
Onto the ride and I felt great on the flats, but the legs were, without a doubt, undone by the effort at 70.3 every time the road went up. My concentration was not quite there on the technical things either and the bike felt strange underneath me as I had not ridden the mountain bike since EUT11, something I promised to correct before Grabouw. I got off the ride in 7th, struggled with badly laced elastic laces in T2 and was out onto the run, finding my pace, feeling good, but not great.
The calf twitched and tightened to the point of walking on the very first downhill I ran. In previous years, I would undoubtedly have pushed on. Had I raced badly the week before, I cannot say that I would have made the same choice, but the choice was easy to pull out at that point, knowing I had the 70.3 result in the bag.
As a lightie, I would have been hell bent on finishing. Now, as a slightly wiser early 30′s guy, who has a long term athletic vision, I have learned that sometimes, it’s ok to ease up. Every result doesn’t count and I will be back for more soon. As I walked back to the transition area, I was smiling, knowing that growing up sure isn’t easy and that is surely does not come with a manual. Only through experience have I learned to say No. Only through burning my fingers have I learned where the limits are.
See you in Grabouw. I will be ready, rolling faster and with more focus.