As athletes, we are prone to excess. We awe at athletes training 25 hours a week just to finish the IRONMAAAAAAN and we justify every piece of compression-aero-drag-reducing-tweaked-modified-naca-profiled-tubing-minimalist-cushioned gear we don’t need. We are obsessive. We like excess.
I am guilty of this. I have to continuously clean out my closets as I hoard like a pro. I am doing my best to keep things to a minimum and at the moment, I am cleaning out my closet by using a service like Bikedeals.co.za to help me clear my unwanted goods.
A while ago, I tried to get down to 100 material things. I got pretty close and perhaps this is the way to approach it again. What would the minimum amount of material things be that I could get away with? What is my minimum for happiness, for success?
These are important questions to me. Perhaps some of you are going through the same questions and it makes for an interesting debate.
For a hoarder like me, it’s something I will consistently have to monitor my whole life. Just like being serious about my long term health – my family history suggests I am going to have to remain stress-free and healthy if I want to live as long as I envision my life to be – I need to be serious about minimum excess. We founded Pure Planet Racing based on this concept.
If I had to clear it down, I could likely get away with the following stuff, as a wardrobe, for example:
- 2 sets of jeans
- 3 warm jackets
- 5 t-shirts
- 3 sets casual shoes
- 3 sets running shoes
- 2 sets cycling shoes
- 2 shorts
- 2 formal shirts
- 1 suit
- 1 set formal shoes
- 5 sets of cycling kit (3 x summer, 2 x winter)
- 5 sets of running kit (3 x summer, 2 x winter)
- 8 pairs of socks
- 2 sets of pyjamas
That is 44 items in there. Doable? With careful approach, I believe I could get down to this.
So what is my minimum for success and what determines my happiness?
- Ageless athletic economy
- Maintenance of stable weight and mental, as well as physical health
- Riding with my mates.
- Being engaged at home.
- Having the emotional freedom to create, in order to play with the world as my playground
- Changing the world to be a better place through this, my platform and you, my audience
Repeated loading till breakdown is a pattern I want to remove from my life. The risk is huge and the rewards are not worth it, yet, as athletes – we strive for this pattern. Do not underestimate the risks of your pursuit of athletic prowess. Be aware of the minimums you need to adhere to in order to achieve those goals and stick to the minimums.
It’s also worth checking into the motivation behind your goals. These are items I have to consistently check and make sure that my goals include a large dollop of:
- Healthy competitiveness
If those are not there, then I don’t enter those races or don’t commit to those personal goals beyond sport.
Surely our biggest goal is long term athletic health? If there is no fun in that and the reasoning for your exercising every day is not based on an outcome that is integrity-based, what the hell are you doing flogging yourself out there among the injured, tired, unhappy masses?
Maybe I am just getting old and considering success beyond the result. Maybe it’s the current strife we are facing in our sports where every “result” is being scrutinized. That is the big hope for Privateer – we hope people will get back to having fun, doing it for the right reasons and forging healthy competitive behaviour. We hope that the beautiful reprobate athletes who make up our following will become the leaders for this new, minimum movement.
They are athletes who cut the excess better than 99% of the athletes I have spoken to in my life.
These are my minimums. I hope to keep trimming the excess in pursuit of these minimums.
This week, one of the athletes I guide (he gets the basics, just needs a reminder from time to time) reminded me of watershed moments. It made me wonder about my own watershed moments, as I had just given him a moment where it all made sense to him. He is a great athlete, an incredible guy and a monumental human being. He listens, absorbs and takes the best forward with him. Something we should all aspire towards, living a life like his.
Those moments where a mass of small decisions bring you to a moment where possibly it all comes together, or someone comes to you and gives you a piece of wisdom that ties up all the loose ends. It could be the smallest thing, because it’s so difficult to see behind that space where you are facing the rock, the hard place and the stubborn ego that doesn’t like to look behind the obvious.
Watershed moments are pivotal to change. Once you realise it, there is no turning back. These aren’t realisations that fluctuate like your belief that it’s ok to eat a slab of chocolate after a hard training session. These are crucial things that affect decisions for the rest of your life. To give you an idea, here are some of my watershed moments.
- While riding my bike along the coastal road, realising that economy and the zone around 75% of max HR would be the focal point of most of my improvement if I wanted to have a long sporting career.
- A naturopath who told me to “learn to breathe and let go” at a pivotal moment in my life which changed the way I laughed, slept and lived every breath I would ever take from there onward.
- Making the food connection. Realising that my central energy system is being fuelled with molasses when it should be fuelled with jet fuel.
Those 3 moments (among others) have made me the person I am today. I spend 5-10 minutes a day exercising my breathing to make sure I am “clean”. I eat “clean” which is a moving target but a target which has meant that I now research where the meat comes from at restaurants I frequent, means I have stopped using deodorant (that sweat smell is from what you eat), stopped taking any vitamins and brought my average sugar consumption on a 4+ hour bicycle ride down by about 90%. Training in the right zone and being aware of economy has turned me around from an average age grouper to hitting it out with some of the pro guys. That is doable by anyone with enough time and plenty discipline.
Don’t be scared of these key moments – in fact; relish them and look for them. They come at the most unexpected times but there is a feeling of deep understanding when they do happen to us.
To the guys and girls doing 70.3 this weekend, I have a bunch of tips which I posted a year or two ago here: http://www.urban-ninja.co.za/index.php/2011/11/70-3-first-timer-tips/
Have a great race out there and really embrace the feeling going through your body as it does the work to get to your goals. It’s a beautiful thing.
This is going to be one of the greatest years mankind has ever seen. So best you lift your game. If the world fails to deliver on that, your game will be lifted among your peers and you will be a leader in your communities.
That is pretty cool.
So how do we lift the game best in 2013? How do we leap ahead and set the example for others to follow? What are the best ways to sneak ahead of the chasing pack? I come to you with one word for 2013:
It’s going to define your year. 2012 was hectique as a general consensus for others and this year looks to be no less busy or frenetic on all fronts. So here is how we cut back and give ourselves the space to do what we do best. We go moderate.
For a guy who hates mediocrity, we should not confuse the two words. When I say moderate, I am talking about refining your life by doing as little as possible in excess. Here are some examples:
- Live in walkable, commutable (by bike) communities. Ride your bike to work or walk to shops, restaurants or to the park to take your kids for a walk.
- Live in smaller spaces with less stuff in them. 1000m2 homes are a waste on every level.
- Do stuff that costs nothing or very little but has a big impact. Play in the park, go to the beach. Replace your lightbulbs and thermostats with energy-saving ones. Don’t wash half loads in the dishwasher. Skip the tumble drier entirely.
- Eat less meat. Yesterday, I read a meat manifesto that completely and utterly represents how I feel about meat. Click Click.
- Eat local, and seasonal. Skip the packaging where possible and visit a market, buy what looks amazing and smells amazing, not what’s packaged well.
- Kill the aircon. Open your windows or wear a sweater this year. Feel the freshness in your face and stop aiming for being “the perfect temperature”.
- Train as little as you have to in order to achieve your goals. This one counts especially to the Ironman and Cape Epic athletes out there. Learn to suffer a little more and spend the extra 5-10 hours a week with your loved ones.
- Trade, exchange and barter your way to better stuff. Skip the new assets whenever possible.
- Clear your cupboards of stuff. Clothes you don’t wear. Stuff you don’t use. Keep your guys’ stuff restricted to the Man Drawer.
My gran always said:
“Daar is net twee goeie te’s – te voet en te perd.”
Inspirational woman, she was. Those words will stick with me forever. I would like to imagine there isn’t a word in the English language that doesn’t have a negative connotation when we add the word “too” in front of it.
In 2013, I want to take moderation to the next level so that it clears head space for the awesome stuff in my life that may seem like excess to others, like 150km solo rides through the winelands. I want to make a bigger difference, explore more and never be restricted to achieving my dreams because there is no space in my life. I want more than wiggle-room for thought process, dreaming and achieving.
In closing, I want to urge you to comment below and let me know how else I could be practising moderation or how you have found moderation to have added to your life.
As the year is drawing to an end, I am excited to look back at the year that has changed a lot for me. It was a year that was positive in almost every single way possible. Yes, I stubbed my toes a few times and yes, I am sure I pissed a few people off, but as Winston Churchill said:
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
If I look back at my life, sure, I have left some scars and there are people who I have disappointed, but those are all lessons, mistakes, and things that I had to improve upon, or move away from. Life goes on we forgive and if you are still harbouring a grudge against something I may have done years ago, it was indeed time for us to part ways.
To improve is to change. To be perfect, is to change often.
With these things in mind I am looking toward the future with open arms as opportunity rises around every corner. For me, building stuff rocks. If I am not building, I am bored. If I am not challenging my own ideas, I am stagnant. I want to improve everything, to make sure we do less, and get more. To move easier, to go faster, to feel better, live longer, laugh more and where we are all practising more integrity with our words, our actions and our thoughts.
Practise is the operative word here. More. Practise. We cannot just do perfectly. It takes risk – risk for mistakes. Risk for adversity. Risk for failure. Practise.
I look back at the year, conventions challenged, adversities faced and there are a number that stand out:
- Getting on top of projects at work. We launched a ton of cool stuff at www.newmedialabs.com
- Having the perfect race. 70.3 SA went as good as it’s ever going to get. I relished every moment.
- Challenging food conventions. www.freefrom.co.za launched and it challenges many conventions. We ask you to eat fat, consider where your meat comes from and become conscious of every bite you take.
- Creating a project of pure love. www.privateer.co.za is pure love. Our vision is pure love for the sports of running and cycling. Our goals are simple: Get more awesome.
- Spreading knowledge. I was able to help about 300% more people this year because of things like Training Peaks.
- Building friendships that matter. They know who they are. Acquaintances who became close mates in 2012.
- Starting a movement. www.pureplanetracing.com really took off this year. Almost 400 Manifestos and a food garden later, we are looking towards the sky and admitting we could be jumping much higher.
In 2013, I am going to keep building. More things to make the world a better place. More ideas that challenge convention. More adventure. More running with my eyes closed and my arms wide down an open dusty road.
I am going to get back to blogging daily. We are going to expand topics to more interviews, more on building a life rather than a PB. There will be more writing about working the system for a quality life beyond retirement. There will be more writing on how to build things and how to keep building amazing things.
I am going to show you how I failed. I have failed many times and it’s time to share those mistakes.
Most people would be scared to tell you they made a mess of something. I have made a mess of relationships, friendships, work ventures, races, training sessions, fashion choices and yes, I have made a few messes which I look back on and totally cringe, but with a smile because here I am, a combination of all those things. Regardless of all those, I am surrounded by incredible people who buy into my vision of what the world could be.
This is me. This is how I build stuff. Thank you for believing.
Yes, it’s a real word.
So recently, we launched Privateer and one of the things which we champion is exploring. Our training can be 100% regimented, on target and hitting every metric, but we should still explore along the way. We should try the routes less travelled, and to coin the phrase, practise some Adventurisationeering. You’ll work out the details of what it stands for, but really, it’s about doing new things.
On Sunday, in the morning, I made some meals for our Free From clients while Dale was out at a course she has been doing all year. This meant I missed my long ride and it was something I wanted to get in with Double Century this week. By the time I got done with lunch, it was roughly 3:15pm and I still wanted to head out, but the weather was starting to turn and I thought it may be better to head out on the MTB for a bit of hiding from the open roads.
I packed the camera and got on the bike at 4pm. How long would I go? I had 3 hours in my mind, maybe 4 if the sun held out and the weather wasn’t too bad. It turned into a pretty radical adventure and I got some great pics until the sun set, by which time I was still 30km of tar riding from home with no lights. I had no route in mind when I started and let the paths take me to new areas and new roads.
I ended up through Table Mountain, Newlands Forest, Cecilia Forest, Tokai and into Silvermine before I knew it. I wanted to take the old Wagon Trail down to cut the ride short as I wanted to still get a pic or two on Chapmans Peak, but the fog was so dense in Silvermine that I missed the turn-off and ended up doing the big loop around the dam. When the fog cleared and the dam was visible, I had no idea where I was to be honest. I had to gather my bearings and make sure the next move was in the direction of home, so I opted for the safe route down the tar road I could just see and gave Dale a quick call once in Noordhoek to say I was going to be very late.
The ride in the dark was amazing. There was enough moon light on a route I know like the back of my hand. There was very little traffic and although I would never recommend it, I relished in the adventure that was unfolding in front of me.
92km later, at 8:42pm, I walked in the door a little frazzled but with a giant smile that stretched from my helmet to my cleats. I knew there were some cool pics on the camera and that I had not only got a great workout in, but also managed to try a new route, experience new sensations and feed my soul after a long week.
The urge to head out, adventurisationeer and explore should be nurtured. Trail running over winter taught me that there is no such thing as the wrong route. Sometimes, its just the route less travelled. Here are some of the pics I got on the route. It was a super, emotional evening out and I urge you to play outside the comfort zone.
Here is the Strava Detail:
It has been a while now that I have been thinking about what the next level means. You always hear people saying “take it to the next level” – that american drawl, possibly a fighter, or a sportman. Its a universally accepted tune and we sing it’s praise all around the world.
I have wanted to start a web store for Urban Ninja for over a year now. The challenge was to do it without diluting the content here, and without pushing product your way – which is not what Urban Ninja is about.
So how do I take it to the next level here, when e-commerce seems a part of the next level?
I friend and I sat pondering this a while ago. We were discussing our love for cycling and the beautiful images and stories that it presents to us. We discussed some of the amazing magazines, products and events that we wanted to race someday. The brands that personified that experience of cycling, at a time when positive tests, scandal and general lack of greatness was abound in Pro cycling.
I wanted to offer Urban Ninja kit, products and accessories in an easy way and the combination seemed to make sense. So we sat down and came up with a plan to talk about cycling and to talk about adventure and to do it in the simplest way. We also wanted to add a shop that sold some cool stuff.
We dubbed it “The Artisan Athlete” and we thought we best create a ride to make it legit. So one day, while out adventurisationing (it’s a real word) we came upon a superb piece of road that could possibly be ridden on a road bike. We are not 100% sure, but we reckon it’s possible. So tomorrow, we are hosting a ride up the hill.
The details are here.
We also got some other people to write us some stories about why they enjoyed running, or cycling. I have enough trouble keeping Urban Ninja fresh with content, so on Privateer you will not find much of my writing there. We are hoping to grow the list of features writers and we are also creating some superb “projects” whereby key athletes, privateer athletes, will use the platform to chronicle their journey for a specific event or experience.
We hope you enjoy the new site and look out for Urban Ninja gear in the near future. I am secretly undergoing a major change here in terms of look and feel and the gear reflects that, so I can’t show it just yet.
Have a great weekend and perhaps we’ll see one or two of you out there tomorrow. Congregation point is Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants at 11:15ish
It has been a few weeks of being quiet and getting the grunt work done, I tell you. I have not been writing as much, but have been back in the pool, writing 2013 proposals and getting the next phase of life set up. It is the time of the year when people are stressed out and wishing for December, when there are a full 50 days to go until we have holidays.
50 days is a life time for some people, never forget that. I just saw a tweet that made me realise I wanted to write something about it, so here we are, and here is the tweet:
The quiet hound is my favorite and I assume Chad is talking about a dog here. Mom is in love with Bullmastiff hounds and I truly adore them for their quiet, graceful nature. They make me realise exactly what Chad is talking about here, and there is a big lesson in the short sentence he posted there.
The graceful, content hound chasing butterflies, ie having a ball of fun while being true to his nature, is the example I am trying to achieve in my life.
- Stick to the basics
- Pursue the most fun options
- Ignore the annoying little dogs who bark at you
- Be content/graceful
- Practice kindness
This time of the year reflects quiet nicely on that for me, and damnit, it’s come with hard work over winter after being very frazzled after racing season 2012.
Our best work is done when a great foundation is laid before we build the house on top. I preach 3 years, or 3000 hours of serious training to new athletes before talking about being fast. Fast is relative.
Injury free, healthy mind, healthy body and being conscious of the environment and people around you comes with a great foundation. The choice to commit to the foundation comes in quiet time. It’s too much to think about when it’s crazy.
So I urge you to seek out the quiet time.
Last week, I spent a week hunting switchbacks with friends. It was unusual and superb fun. My favorite few images are as follows:
My quiet time is coming to an end as the end of the year racing season kicks off next weekend with Wines2Whales, then Double Century and lastly, a little half ironman distance race in Namibia.
It’s been great. Thank you for your patience. From here on out, it’s full steam ahead.
As some of you know, this weekend just passed, I ran the Otter Trail, a 42km, 2700m vertical gain explorers adventure that should not be confused with a run at all. I left Ironman SA behind in May to play around on the trails through winter and get back to basics, back to the 4 pillars that I speak of so often:
- Aerobic Capacity
The Otter is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I can see why experience on the trail counts. My rookie attitude was great for what I wanted out of the race, but if I want to go back and race, I have learned that there is nothing like specific preparation for an event like this. First, I wanted to get a quick overview of the race out the way before the important stuff – what you can take with you on your journeys.
The prologue was great the day before and looking at the depth of the field, I was hoping to make the top 24, called the Abangeni, so that I could avoid the 4 minute delay near the start, and well, because I am a competitive lad. The field, however, was stacked and on getting to the prologue venue I was astounded at the names just hanging around. In my mind, I had 23min as the cut-off to make the Abangeni. I had my work cut out for me.
I forgot to hit the start button on the Garmin at the gate and ran the flats and downhills as hard as I could, but holding back on the hills. The route was tricky, hilly and slippery to say the least and I crossed in 22:41 and thought I had just done enough. Turned out 23:20 was the last guy, I had managed to sneak in the top 20 in 19th and was happy. Time to rest up and get ready for the long day out.
I opted to run the race on home made rice cakes and Rehidrat only as this had worked well throughout winter training. It was superb and a choice I am going to keep making in longer races.
The race kicked off at 6:30 and it wasn’t long before we were off onto the beach and heading for the first trail marking. The front guys meant business and I opted to hang back and try make a push in the last 2 hours of the day as I didn’t want to finish in pieces. The first climb was over quite quickly and before I knew it, we had ticked off an hour and I was running with Jock Green, feeling great. The bloukrans swim is great and that is where the associated picture for this post comes from.
In the 2nd hour I really found a comfortable groove as the trail was more open and I felt really good as I was starting to pull back the front group of guys one by one. I was bang on track for the time I wanted to run and was coping with the ups, downs and technical sections well.
The trail is 100% single track and 100% technical by most peoples standards. I ran almost exclusively on trail for the last 3 months, but as technical as I thought I could run was a long way off what we experienced. In years to come, when I go back to run in a few years, I will include weekly rock scrambling, platteklip trips and far more single track running. I cannot describe how technical the trail is, and the mental aspect of remaining focused for that long is something I could pay more attention to, as an Ironman athlete who zones out and just plods on.
Around 2 hours I caught Bruce Arnett and another guy, and ran with them comfortably and we were making great progress through the rivers where cold water was a welcome sight.
As we crossed under a canopy of trees I felt 3 distinctive stings on my head (hornet I figured) and the ensuing headache and wooziness that followed between hour 3 and 4 were my only downfall for the day. I lost contact with the group I was in, and a few more groups as I struggled with focus and the poison worked its way through my system. It was not ideal but it was what it was and I opted to head for the finish as fast as I could, but without making a silly mistake like falling off a cliffside. This meant going a little slower, but I was content.
Around 4 hours I was picked up by a chap who was going well and my head was coming back around so I opted to dig a little and stick with him. I yo-yo’d off the back of him for about 30min and then found a nice rhythm. I figured 5 hours may still be on the cards if I motored and we were starting to pick up some big names on the trails. For a moment I thought of what could be, with the time I lost (I counted about 10min lost in my head) but it was just a moment – I was here for the experience.
I figured if I hit the only tar section with 6minutes to go I could make it, and at 4:58 we hit the tar. That little dream was over and I took a slow jog to the end, finishing in 5:04. I was happy to have come through the dark patch where I felt woozy and had to slow down, but managed to get through it and finish strong. This is a course you come to scout your first run unless you`re an overall contender. I need another year of technical running to be able to move down the hills with the front guys and in the end, I would still have been 25min off without the interruption in the middle, so I have plenty to learn. But here is what I did learn this winter, while running trail:
- The feet follow the head. If you believe you can run something, you can. The brain learns by hope, trust and chance/failure.
- I need to run more specifically towards events. Nothing prepares quite like it. For IMSA – flat, form focused runs. 3 hours max. For Otter – hilly, rock scrambling runs. 5 hours max (I only managed a handful of 3 hour runs).
- Trail makes you strong and powerful if you keep the intensity down and focus the intensity on running downhill.
- A decent gym routine does wonders for your trail running.
- Lunch runs in winter are the best thing in the world. A quick 40min out on the Table Mountain trails twice a week was superb.
- The endorphins high that comes from trail can result in more “training hangovers” than I thought. A reason to run every day then…
- Winter is the time to play. That was my biggest lesson. Trail was a massive adaptation and I looked at it like a new sport, a new challenge and a new adventure. Every session was an adventure and I came out of winter relaxed and refreshed, in a space that I entered a tired and broken man in May.
And so, for the first time in 5.5 months, I wrote myself a training program yesterday and it’s time to get the focus and plan back after a winter of running when I felt like it and how I felt like it. I hope the take the playful attitude into the next phase and keep the spirits high. Someday, I will be back to play at the Otter with the big boys, with more specific preparation and more strategy. This time around, I was the tourist, which was absolutely perfect for me.
The following words come from a very wise man I know:
It takes a long time to work out that life is this simple. It takes focus and discipline to keep it simple. By sharing stories from inspiring people, beautiful images and my experiences, I hope to inspire others.
It matters not who he is, because he longs not for the approval or the recognition by calling his name here. Aloha!
I find myself caring less and less about races and more about the path, the journey, the experience. Yes, I am competitive. Very. This year I achieved more than any year before. It was harder than I imagined, the goal of winning 70.3, Xterra & Ironman age group titles in the same year and qualifying for 3 sets of world championships. In this arena, it doesn’t get higher than that for a guy like me.
But here are the experiences that stood out for me, this year:
- Duelling with an animal for 9hrs32minutes. The animal was my ego and the vacillating that occurred between giving into the legend/friend/competitor chasing me and being 100% in my own bubble.
- Conquering 2500m of vertical gain in one run. Oh, it snowed during the run and my senses are still raw from the experience.
- Completing massive, technical, troublesome projects despite the circumstances. It was a true team effort, not something a solo endurance junkie gets his hands dirty in a lot. I have people around me I can trust implicitly. I know VERY few people who can claim this.
- Failing, over and over. I joined a powerlifting/crossfit gym this winter. I sucked. I failed multiple times every session. It has instilled a humility in me I wish I could put a finger on, but failing is a good thing and has taught me a lot this winter.
The harder than you think motto applies to all of us. Our possible is just that – possible. It’s this moving, morphing thing that relates to how hard we push. Most of us only push until just before failure. If, like me, your central governor is a little rubber band, pushing to failure means going pretty far. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. I learned that a progressive fail is possible this year. You could shoot out the blocks and fail within 3minutes or push more gently, fail at 20, as the watch stops. But fail you should.
Stick your neck out, admit it’s harder than you want to go, but that’s why you should go. I see so many athletes who play it safe, being content with results instead of throwing the boundaries out the window and being ecstatic with the journey, littered with failures and successes.
Who wants to be content? I think Calvin sums it up perfectly for me:
When you watched Meet the Superheroes earlier in the week, did those athletes strive you as content or as people who wanted euphoria? How much harder is their hard? Harder than you think?
There is always the excuse factor. That “If only” thing. If your goal is pure winning, a tangible like that has a never-ending list of excuses. If you are shooting for excellence or your goal is the journey, suddenly you’ll find this a superb exercise to see how deep your excuse goes. Add a “then what” after your excuse, for example:
Excuse: If I had a lighter bike….
Then: I would climb faster.
Now take it down another level:
If I climbed faster…
If you goal is simply to hit a time or beat someone, you’ll find those are two never-ending lists. There will always be lighter bikes, faster guys and bigger hills to conquer.
Get into the process of moving your body, not the bike. Of getting into the moment of being out there, pushing your body up that hill, pushing and willing your mind to get there against yourself, not the other guy.
Approach the questions in your life this way, the excuses for non-progression.
You’ll quickly work out if your goals are excellence based, ie a never-moving journey where you’ll find constant joy in every session, or if you are setting yourself up for disappointing finish line after disappointing finish line.
The time when I moved goals to experience, to excellence and to learning was the time when my life switched fully, when I awoke to the process and the days when Urban Ninja was born.
Here are some great articles to think about this weekend.
Have a superb weekend.