CTB 33: Peaking Twice

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"After the race is before the race” – this is the motto of all endurance athletes, and it is especially valid now, in autumn, when everybody who is not racing in Kona, is running full and half-marathons or competing on trails and MTBs. Why? There are 3 main reasons:

1) If the "A" race of the season went fantastic, you want more of these happy feelings and more ROI on your fully deserved and hard trained on form.

2) If the "A" race went so-so or turned out to be even downright disappointing, you will want to prove otherwise and look for another challenge. (I would also suggest to honestly validate your ambition and ego level)

3) Maybe you just like racing, have friends doing a local competition or you feel that nice weather and nature are calling you to compete again.

Whatever the reason and motivation, the result will be the same – a late season race where you will want to be in a very good form. Reaching a very good form again is very possible indeed and you can achieve even higher returns on your form in form of a Personal Best and a lot of fun doing something different. So how do you train to peak twice?

The above chart shows a pretty much perfect picture of one of my athletes who was training for her first half-Ironman in July (A race) and then for a marathon in October (B race). You can see a progressive build up of the form till the highlight in July, then a recovery and summer holidays drop and then again an increase in form in time for the B race. This is how it should be: in your macro training cycle, you go from general to specific training in winter and spring months. In late spring and summer you build intensity and volume progressively and very intentionally, reaching highest training scores (TSS) circa 3 weeks before your main race. The longer the race, the more focus should be on volume close to the race, while keeping a decreasing amount of intensity. Some call this training approach “reverse periodisation”, since it focuses on intensity first, in 16-10 weeks before the A race, and develops volume later,  in weeks 10-2. Whatever model you use, the maximum training stress should be reached 3 weeks before the race – or, for very experienced and fit athletes who can recover fast, 2 weeks or even 10 days before the main race. Such a week could be well over 1000 TSS and thus one of the toughest of the year. The following gradual reduction in volume and intensity and tapering bring you to the perfect form on the race day: you are fit, ready and rested!

One or better two weeks of full recovery after your main race - and you can start the cycle for the 2nd peak. In this cycle of 8 weeks, you are basically going through same training periodisation as in 6 months before your main race, but in a compressed form.

You start with 2 weeks of mini-transition period (vs. 6-10 weeks in the main season). Then you have 3 weeks of increasing intensity, where in the 3rd week the volume is getting serious and 2 weeks of volume focus. Then 1 week of tapering and you are ready! With this compressed and very focused preparation cycle, you can truly be flying in your 2nd peak race! The main condition, however, is that you are fully recovered from your main "A" race – physically, emotionally and mentally.

With the 2nd peak in the pocket, you can then ease into the off-season. This 2nd peak, with the pressure of “A” race being off and the anticipation of the rest and "doing nothing" in the off-season, can be a very sweet experience. Withthe smart preparation, you can also set a Personal Best! 

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CTB 32: Transition season - or how to train till Christmas

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“Champions are made in winter” - we all know that. But they are also made in the off-season, which is maybe the most underestimated part of the training cycle. Why is it so important and how to best approach it is the subject of this article.

The end of the season and the “doing nothing” phase

Most athletes will finish the season with a significant race – Ironman Hawaii in October or a late fall marathon(e.g. Chicago, New York or something local), where many will chase a PB, trying to leverage on mileage and form accumulated and earned in summer. Hopefully the last race is an ace, so you can ease into some real time off and enjoy life as a normal human being, immune to endurance and multi-sport virus. Should the race not be up to your expectations, well, then you need this break even more – most probably you over-exhausted yourself during the long months of training and racing. In any case, everyone, pros and age-groupers alike, need a quality break from their most favorite addiction, 3-4 weeks in total.

The best recipe is 2 weeks of active recovery and 2 weeks of doing almost nothing.

It does not come easy to some athletes – we are, at the end, the creatures of habit – so they get restless and all too worried that they will lose the form, put too much weight on, get lazy, and so on. Losing some form is actually desirable in this phase – if you want to build a taller building, you need to strengthen the fundament! And to do so, you need to knock down a couple of levels. By “doing nothing” we want to give all systems quality time to relax, restore and replenish. Our joints and tendons need a break, as well as our nervous system. The mental recovery is very important too – it is time to do and think something else than “swim-bike-run” and stop controlling and monitoring your form, food, HR, TSS etc. We have to step back to expand our response capacity to positive adaptation triggers and take a larger step next season! “Doing nothing” does not, of course, mean being totally sedentary. We just don’t do anything specific to our sport and we do not follow a training plan – for just 4 weeks! We go with the flow, exercise when we feel like it and we also try to move our body in different ways: we walk, rollerblade, skateboard, climb, play volleyball or just go to the sauna and spa.

Off-season - pre-season - transition season

No matter how you call it (I think transition season is the best descriptor), this is the time after your time off following the last big race of the season. It can be visualized by this simple formula:

“Last race + 2 weeks active recovery + 2 weeks of “doing nothing” -> 6-10 weeks transition season”

Transition season is about preparing you for the specific training of the main season.  It lays the overall fitness foundation and has the following objectives:

1) Improve foundational strength and stability by general training

2) Sustain and improve cardiovascular endurance

3) Improve strength & conditioning of sport-specific moving muscles

4) Develop technical skills (focus on swim and bike) and range of motion.

The strategies to achieve the above 4 objectives are the following:

1. Transition season is the functional strength season

 I am a big supporter of functional training throughout the season and recommend approaching it as 4th discipline, if you are a triathlete. Meaning, there is a periodized yearly plan for strength and condition training – with transition period being the high volume part of it. We start with general conditioning training for all big muscles groups and work on general mobility. The number of repetition is high (15-20) and load is easy. We use predominantly drills with our own weight and over time add some additional weight to our exercises. After 3-4 weeks of doing this general training, we make functional training a bit more sport-specific: we engage specific moving muscles, reduce the number of reps and increase the weight. Result is progression in strength, increased mobility, motor control and balance. 2 sessions per week of ca 50min are ideal.

2. Transition season is swim season

Foundation for the good run in triathlon is the swim. We pay for a weakness in the 1st discipline by low energy on the run. So swim, swim, swim – this will build your endurance, power and fatigue resistance – all in a low impact, injury-free way. Start with “baby-swims” – mini-sprints of 10-15 meters, many reps, build it out to longer sprints, more “cruising” intervals, swimming with paddles, “sponge”, etc. If you have any deficits in your swimming technique and form, address them now, work with a coach, go to a swim camp. Transition time is swim time – and cold and darkness outside are quite conducive to warm, well-lit swimming pools. Swim at least 3 times per week if you can. If you can, swim more. Only good things come from swimming for endurance athletes.

3. Transition season is time to play around with other sports

To prevent mental fatigue and also to add some fun to our training, we use alternative sports to work on our endurance, motor skills, balance and strength. MTB is great for max power and bike-handling skills, indoor climbing will make your core, arms and shoulders stronger – perfect for the swim. Rollerblades and skateboards are great for balance, quads and core. And if you are lucky enough to live close to snow and mountains, then cross-country (Nordic) skiing is the best alternative sport ever. It is endurance, functional training, VO2max, balance and coordination training – all in one! Did your know that VO2max records for both genders are held by Nordic skiers? One longer session of alternative sport, like 2hrs of MTB or cross-country skiing, would be ideal.

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4. Transition season is time to save your running legs

Running sucks. It sucks because on average every runner has one running injury per year – from a minor tear to a serious overload injury. So we try to save our running legs for all the kms of training waiting for them in spring and summer time. Instead, we try to load running muscles by plyometric drills and to develop hip strength. It is in the hips where our true running engine is located and we need to learn how to engage it better to create propulsive running motion. We also do “dry running” in the gym, using light weights and cords to simulate running movement. And since you will be in the pool a lot, it is also a good idea to add 20mins of aqua jogging to your session. So, very little running, only short runs and progression via number of runs per week and a slight progression in their duration, with pretty much zero progression in intensity. Intensity is hidden in plyometric and functional training. You will it feel the benefits later, I guarantee it.

Enjoy your well deserved vacations from a structured training for a month – and then get back on the horse with smart, versatile and progressive transition training to set a foundation for a successful 2018 season!

You can buy my Off-Season/Transition Season plan (10 weeks) on TrainingPeaks store. Thanks!

https://www.trainingpeaks.com/training-plans/triathlon/tp-124232/triathlon-transition-period-10-weeks

CTB 31: The Mountain Manifesto

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Here´s to the crazy ones.  

          The trail runners.

                     The ultra-endurance freaks.            

                               The human mountain goats.

The ones who can jump from stone to stone and accelerate on a steep downhill.

They don’t like asphalt. They despise city marathons. They love nature, running in forests, deserts, mountains and valleys.

They leave no traces and no trash behind. Animals come to greet them. They smell their soul mates.

You can say they are masochists. You can think they are self-destructing. You can envy their courage and wish you had the guts to run all night long. And then all day long.

They are seemingly indestructible fearless souls. Driven by passion and their endless will to test themselves, to push the limits, to walk on the edge.

They share the same physiology with the rest of the human race. But they have a different mentality. Some of them are converted flatlanders. All of them are normal people.

They change the idea of what is humanly possible.

Because only those who are crazy enough to imagine they run uphill all day, actually do it.

Run mountains – your life will never be the same!

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CTB 30: If your dream does not make you suffer, you don´t have one

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238km, 5500m of elevation, 4 cols, 66 switchbacks, 3769 male and 231 female finishers - this is Ötztaler cycling marathon, the toughest one-day challenge for passionate and complete cyclists. And maybe just slightly crazy ones - or as someone put it: "You really have to love cycling to do it". Yes, I do, I do love cycling - and I hope many people will fall in love with it too.

Why? Because nothing beats the pain-pleasure combination of reaching a high altitude mountain pass. You can climb several hours, one switchback after another, never seeing the end of the road. You never know what is behind the curve – and just hope that it gets flatter there, and  maybe – just maybe – there is a tiny descent…So you just keep pushing the pedals, trying to breath smoothly, doing your best to accelerate your bike by getting out of the saddle and cutting the curves. Just to get a second or two of recovery... and then push again. This is very meditative and very painful space to be in. And the only way to learn the ecstatic pleasure and relief of reaching the top by experiencing the pain of getting there. Like in real life.

Cycling mountains is dope. Official, legal, free dope. You get into cycling, you become fitter, you start cycling in mountains and you become addicted. You want more cols, more altitude meters, less fat on your body and more power in your legs. Power to weight is the magic formula in cycling. A perfect cyclist is like an ant - a tiny, light creature able to lift and carry huge weights. Uphill. 

This is what makes Ötztaler cycling marathon so extremely addictive - your get an overdose of pain and a fountain of joy. Overdose of pain comes in form of the biggest climb to Timmelsjoch (Passo del Rombo), 2505m altitude, 1821m and 29km positive uphill with average 8% and max 14%. And as if it were not enough - this giant hits you after 180km of riding over 3 cols and over 3000m of elevation already in your legs (Kühtai, Brenner and Jaufenpass). Bring it on, baby!

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The Timmelsjoch climb starts in the valley, in St Leonard, where it is normally very hot (32C last Sunday) and finishes close to the glacier, with temperatures 15-20C degrees lower. It can actually snow there in summer - and it rains a lot, like it was the case last Sunday, for all 10hrs+ finishers, who got into the pouring rain with temperatures around chilly 7-8C. Climbing in rain is one thing, descending back to 1300m of Sölden is another. Carbon wheels do not really break, so if you enjoy the feeling of a free fall, you are in for a treat.

Riding such a course, whether you win or finish last, is a truly exceptional achievement – you have to be fearless and you have to be a complete cyclist. You have to be able to go the distance (200km+). You have to be able to climb for hours: long moderate cols with 6-8%, steep ramps of over 12% and also long “faux plats” of 2-3%. In Ötztaler you have them all. Then you must ace fast descending – taking switchbacks curves, jumping over cattle grids and constantly watching for cows, who like to chill out in the middle of the road.

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You have to be able to ride in a group – and also push alone against the wind. You have to be extremely weather resistant and deal with all elements, as well as extreme temperatures jumps, as you change altitudes and cross weather divides in mountains. You also have to master nutrition and know when, what and how much to eat and drink to give you enough energy for a 8hrs+ ride – in a race like Ötztaler you burn between 5000 and 8000Kcal. And then you have to be a mental ninja  – you are all alone out there, totally exposed to your psyche and striped down to the very essence of your nature. Your true character shows only in extreme situations – and such a race is a perfect stage and opportunity for it.

The Latin root of word “passion” stems from passionem, which means “suffering, enduring” – and it says everything. You have to suffer for your passion. Especially, if your passion is cycling. Especially, if it is cycling cols.

If your dream does not make you suffer, you don’t have one. Maybe this is why Ötztaler´s motto is “I have a dream”. And this specific dream does make you suffer. On 66 switchbacks of cycling happiness.

 

 

CTB 29: Achilles, Porsche and Ironman Hamburg

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What Achilles (tendon), Porsche (car) and Ironman (race) have in common?

Yes, they are all sporty. Yes, they are very precious and pricey to repair, maintain and participate. They all can be healthy or broken or inflamed. And yes, you can get a chronic Achilles inflammation by either training for an Ironman race – or by driving an older Porsche model with a tricky pedal box. Never knew it? Well, me neither.

Until I found it out talking to my old university friend in Hamburg last week. I raced Ironman there, slow and painful due to my inflamed Achilles, which disliked cool weather conditions and also prevented proper running training. So I was complaining about it to my friend during a post-race dinner on Monday. He said he would understand me really well and how much it hurts and is annoying at the same time - because he had the same problem with Achilles as well – from driving his older Porsche and doing the toe to heel downshifting trick! WOW!

“It is all about choices”, I thought, “and sometimes different choices lead to the same result”. He had always been into car racing, my university friend.  And I had always (and increasingly so) been into endurance foot racing. The result – Achilles tendinitis for both of us  – but also quite different fitness and car possession levels.

Everyone has a different definition of fun indeed.  Like, when you take S-Bahn (tube) in Hamburg at 5am on the race morning on Sunday, or any Sunday night/morning for that matter, you see a lot of jolly people coming back from partying on Reeperbahn – the drinking, dancing and so on district. I studied in Hamburg, trust me, I know. Now, 20 years later, I am taking this tube to race an Ironman. With my Achilles hurting. Not very sensible – but DNS is no option in my definition of fun, as much as DNF.  And such a race is always worth it. Even if it is painful. Or maybe just because of it?

Racing in Hamburg is a lot of fun indeed – and it is more difficult that you might think. You swim in a lake, located smack in the middle of city centre. Better learn not to swallow too much water swimming, since this lake has no beaches or pubic swim areas, and I guess for a reason. And better you learn how to swim in caves – because this is how it feels to swim under two very low and very wide bridges dividing the lake into the “inside” and “outside” parts. The inside part is small, dark brownish-coloured and well protected by buildings around it. The outside part is big, light brownish-colored and totally exposed to the wind. So expect choppy waters and learn to breath on both sides of your stroke.

Wet and cold you jump on the bike, which takes you on two loops with 1000m of altitude. “How come?” you ask, “Hamburg is flat!” – yes it is, and yes, it is not. You will not climb in the pure sense of climbing proper Alpine cols, and you can (and should) do whole 182km (yes, 2km of bonus), on BCR - Big Chain Ring. But you will need quite some bike-specific power endurance for what French call “faux-plat”, or “fake flat”, a seemingly insignificant but omnipresent 1-2% of positive incline on most parts of the course – in addition to two spectacular bridges and frequent accelerations out of many unspectacular curves on the course. And then there is the wind: we are relatively close to Baltic and North seas and the wind is blowing mercilessly in huge open areas as we cross the port of Hamburg – the biggest in Europe. This course keeps you pushing all the time.

The run course is the highlight of the race: filled with cheering people, these apparently “cool Nordic characters” are crazy fans when it comes to sports events, and triathlon in particular. They know how to support and motivate you when you feel like you have a clear preference to instant death vs more running at km 25 of Ironman marathon. They are all out there, all dressed in très chic & cool Sunday style, with their cute blond babies and equally cute blond Labradors, happy and cheerful as a fan can be. They will totally share their energy and find encouraging words for you – just look at them and smile. If you don’t, they will still support you, so stay in your tunnel, if you wish. Running in Hamburg is a bliss, even if you are suffering like a dog and don’t look cute at all. You will pass by the finish line at each of 4 loops – and the finish line is an A-class party. Hamburg knows how to celebrate – they have Reeperbahn at the end of the day! And this party goes on till 23:00 when last finishers are crossing and crawling over the finish line. Goosebumps, strangers hugged and the whole world brought together in Hamburg! With all their different life choices. Let us respect and celebrate them!

So, the big question now is - will training for Ironman AND driving a Porsche at the same time give you an Achilles tendinitis on both legs – or will it actually equalise or even heal it? Worth exploring! Just need to convince my university friend to start training for an Ironman :-) 

CTB 28: The Art of Racing Ironman

Last weekend I attended Ironman Zurich to support my athletes and friends competing there. Ironman is tough per se, but Ironman Zurich is probably among the top 5 toughest races on Ironman circuit due to its bike course. It has 2 hilly loops which feature several long climbs, technical descents and longer flat stretches along Zurich lake which quietly seduce into pushing too hard and burning even more matches than on climbs. This course makes it difficult to find the right pace and to distribute energy evenly and strategically, so that many athletes get off the bike already totally exhausted. I spent ca. 30min at the entrance of T2, somewhere 7.5 to 8hrs into the race, and my estimate was that ca. 80% of all athletes arriving there were completely beaten up by the bike course, and only very few looked like they still had good legs for the run.

And then I watched the marathon. And again, the 80-20 principle could be observed: roughly 20% of the athletes were running, while 80% were struggling and suffering. Later into the afternoon, the “struggle & suffer” percentage was steadily increasing. The running form was falling apart, the control of the race was gone and it was all misery personified hundreds of times. I was suffering with athletes: it really hurts to see them like this, being low on energy and sometimes even in pain. So I did my best to cheer them up, using all my humour, compassion and languages – but I kept asking myself: Where is the joy in the effort? Where is the fun and appreciation of doing something that incredible? How can we race better? And what do we learn from racing Ironman for life?

So here come my ideas from my 15 years of Ironman racing and coaching. I reflect on them constantly, trying to get to the “golden nuggets” of Ironman racing, to conceptualise and strategise what turns out to be an art of racing Ironman.

1. Racing Ironman is an art.

Becoming an artist takes practice, so does racing Ironman. There are so many factors to consider, so many things that can go wrong and so much of it is based on feelings and emotions, that managing an Ironman skilfully becomes a true masterpiece. Having a great day racing Ironman does not come easy and it does not come often – since everything has to be and to work perfectly for it: your form and recovery, equipment, weather, mood, etc.  And yet still, you can find joy in every race, even in a not so perfect one or a downright bad day out there. You can use the power of your mind and your creativity to reframe what is happening to you, to gain perspective and to get out of your head. So you become an artist of your own race. Mental power helps to quiet your mind and tune down negative thoughts and emotions – or better even to switch them off. Creativity helps resolve problems that arise, like a forgotten piece of equipment or missing foods at the aid station. Discipline, a trait shared of all great artists, helps to execute your race plan flawlessly, because the best creative solution for a dropped bottle is to stop and to pick it up :-)  Practice, creativity, discipline – the art of racing Ironman.  

2. Racing Ironman is pacing Ironman.

Maybe the most difficult skill in Ironman is Pacing. It actually means going slow for almost the total duration of the race. Ironman is an ultra-endurance event, and it is aerobic by definition. You need to go slightly sub your best aerobic pace for 80% of the race, or even 90%, to hit the best aerobic pace towards its end. Ironman really starts at km 25 of the run.

Arriving at this point, you should still: i) Have enough energy (i.e. cardiac capacity) to keep the pace and eventually even increase it, in case you are fighting for podium or Kona slot (or your just want to show off with a negative split), ii) Keep your running form together, iii) Have enough fuel (i.e. glucose) and power reserves in your muscles to produce effective propulsion.

In Ironman the winner is always the one who slows down the least.

So you have to go slow and fully controlled almost all the time – and especially the first half of the bike. You need to go so slow that you are almost feeling bad about doing it in a race. If you have this feeling in the first half of the bike – you are on track to rock the course! If your heart rate is 40-50 beats below your maximum, or in Zone 2, which is around 120-135 bpm for most people – then you are riding towards a happy run!

The swim is a bit different though. Most athletes totally underestimate the energy they spent in the water and come to the race significantly under-prepared. Even having an “easy swim” which lasts 80 or 90min is very taxing to the body and if you are not enough swim-trained, you will be recovering from it for the rest of the race. You might actually pay for the swim on the run – you have overspent you cardiac capacity swimming and now you lack it for the run. So swimming is the true foundation of Ironman. You need to get out of water fresh, with low HR, so that you get on your bike in a relaxed state and continue the race, keeping your HR low – till km 25 of the run!

3. Your nutrition strategy is your race strategy.

You are what you think. You race how you eat. Figuring out right nutrition, its quantity and timing is absolutely crucial. This takes practice and needs to be intentional. Your nutrition training should start the same day you start your season training. The aim is to develop both lipid and glucose energy production mechanisms: you need to become both fat-adapted and glucose-consuming machine, which can run both systems simultaneously during the race. Your fat adaptation training teaches your body to use your lipid (fat) stores of energy and takes the form of fasted sessions, 1 or 2 times per week, when you perform training on low or zero carbohydrates nutrition. On the other hand, during long and intensive sessions, you should consume carbs and figure out what kind of products work best for you (maltodextrine or fructose, gels or chocolate, bread or pretzels, etc).

The well-known rule for endurance nutrition is 60 to 90 grams of carbs per hour, ideally taken in every 20 minutes, in liquid or solid form, together with hydration. So rehearsing this should be a part of training. And then comes the most difficult part – executing this strategy in the race. With so much adrenaline, excitement and distractions during a big event like an Ironman, it is too easy to get carried away and forget your “feeding” schedule. Big mistake! You will pay for it dearly. If it is just an energy low as a consequence – you can correct it by starting eating and drinking again (but you will lose quite some time in the process of recovering from this low). However, if your stomach is not cooperating, this is a much worse scenario. Still, the best sports drink ever - Coca-Cola - plus some salty pretzels, will normally rescue you. Try this in training too.

4. Pain is inevitable.

Unless you have the race of your life and the best day ever, it is practically guaranteed that at some point of the race you will feel quite horrible. In Ironman, it is a part of the game. So embrace it! And remember, that it will pass too. Mostly it is a short-term pain, low energy due to insufficient nutrition or over-pacing – or stiff back from cycling when you arrive in T2 or cramps on the run. None of it will kill you. And all of it will pass if you take some measures: slowing down, taking your nutrition in and waiting for glucose to arrive in your working muscles, using your mental power to quiet down your mind and negative thoughts, stretching, breathing – and smiling at your fellow competitors, volunteers and spectators. Yes, some pain in Ironman is inevitable – BUT

5. Suffering is optional.

Nobody can escape low moments in such a long race and some pain in inevitable. In such moments our limbic brain will shout for survival and quitting. It always does. But our mental power, intentional strategies of preparation and measures above will help us to overrule it. Humor helps too. Why don’t we laugh about ourselves, about us actually paying for this torture? Walking along the marathon course in Zurich, I was shouting to Athletes “You paid for it, so enjoy it now” – and everyone was smiling back.

So get out of your head and take some perspective on the situation. It is just now, just short-term discomfort. “Pain is temporary, glory is forever”. As a friend of my once said: “Why should I ever quit? I have nothing else to do today – just to finish this race”. Really, what else do you have to do other  than to finish? And to enjoy this incredible effort? And to learn some humility along the way? Nothing reveals a character more than extreme situations, so racing Ironman is a character test too. How you will act in difficult parts of it says a lot about who you are. Your ability to reframe, to find joy, humility and gratitude during the race will have the most direct impact on its outcome and quality.

So truly, while some pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Just like in life.  

CTB 27: Going extreme - Training for Xtri

The popularity and number of extreme triathlons is growing fast. Norseman, CeltMan, Swissman, Evergreen, Double Brutal Wales, Enduroman Arch to Arc, and so on. There is also a new Xtri World Tour, which includes Norseman, Celtman, Swissman, CanadaMan/Woman, Alaskaman and Janosek Slovak xtri. Each race has a rigid selection process or a lottery to enter, the waiting lists are long and number of participants is limited (for example, both Norseman and Swissman accept only 250 athletes). Given this high demand, we can expect further growth of extreme races.

So what makes a triathlon an extreme one  – an Xtri?  It can be its elevation profile, terrain or weather conditions. Even one of these factors can double the duration of an average «city» Ironman and triple the suffer score. Especially the elevation adds to the finish time: my estimate is that each 1000m of elevation can add between 30 and 60min to your overall time. Steep inclines mean more gravity, more fatigue and lead to significant slowing down of race pace: you can run up a 4-5% hill at 10-11km/h, but you definitely have to walk 15-20% hill at sometimes as slow as 2.5-3 km/hr, which is and feels like crawling, especially if it is on a technically challenging mountain trail.

One of the most popular and sought after extreme triathlons is SWISSMAN, which I finished on Jun 24th and which truly deserves its extreme label. It takes you over three major mountain passes (two of them are “hors catégory”) with total elevation of +3500m (11483 ft) and crosses south-north weather divide in the Alps to finish marathon at 2061m (6762 ft) altitude with a total elevation of +1800m (5905 ft) on the run. This race takes you from almost tropical southern, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland to highest Swiss mountains, covered with snow and glaciers, and weather-wise you can truly experience all 4 seasons during one day.

In addition, most Xtris are self-supported races and each athlete is required to have a supporter, or a whole crew, who will feed her and drive behind her with spare bike parts and several changes of clothes, food and drink. On the last 10-20km of the run, which typically take you away from civilization and roads, the supporter is required to run/walk with the athlete to the finish. So the whole thing is not only physical, but also a logistical challenge.

So, how one can train for an extreme triathlon? Here are 5 most important skills – or What Counts Factors for Going Extreme:

1) Fatigue resistance: It takes a very strong athlete to complete an iron-distance Xtri: physically strong, emotionally resilient and mentally focused. All this can be trained. The main method is hard interval training with a very high number of short and intensive reps to be completed under a pressure of a fixed time. Example sessions:

Swim: 50x100m with paddles & pullbouy on 1:45

Bike:  1hr of 3min max power hill repeats with 1min rest

Run:   50x200m on 1min

The idea it to keep the pace and not to slow down: the winner in all extreme and ultra-endurance races is the one who slows down the least. Fatigue resistance is also trained in multiple short sessions per day, where we train without being fully recovered (but recovered enough to avoid injury) and in all variations of bricks: bike-swim-bike, bike-run, swim-run-bike or even bike-office work-bike.

What is key it to become aware of your inner voice and internal dialog during hard sessions and being able to train it too to become your internal motivation coach – and maybe a drill sergeant sometimes!

2) Power endurance: Racing in mountains requires a consistently high power output to create enough propulsion to go uphill fast (or just go uphill) – against increased gravity and resistance. That is why all endurance training for an extreme event absolutely has to have a power component to it in order to develop specific muscle strength. Here are some examples of how to do it: 

Swim: up to 60-70% of the swim training is done with paddles to develop swim strength and get out of water fresh.

Bike:  We push big gear when we ride on flat roads and on up to 5% hills. At least once per week we do hill repeats and we also do max power turbo train sessions once or twice a week: short but very effective training to develop power.

Run: At least once per week we do hill repeats – many reps of 15 to 90sec of uphill sprints with high but not max intensity. We also try to do our long runs in hilly area – or run on treadmill to simulate race profile.

3) Weather resistance: This is rather an individual skill, since people have different sensitivity to hot/cold weather conditions. Although Norseman is always won by Norwegians, who are well adapted to cold and wet weather, everyone can become better adapted with specific training and nutrition.  Training in bad weather conditions and learning how to dress strategically, is something everyone can do – but it takes overcoming a lot of mental resistance. However, when you do train in what your qualify as “bad weather”, you will most probably notice that is not that bad at the end and there is a lot in your head that prevents you from going out when it is rainy, cold or windy. ("Get out of your head, or you are dead!"). That is why weather resistance is also a mental skill – your mental strength can take you through the most horrible weather. Nutrition plays an important part too: fat adapted athletes with well develop fat metabolism and consuming higher % of good fats in their diets seem to handle cold weather better. They kind of go in “winter mode” and switch to lipid energy production which keeps them warm, like a bear in his winter sleep.

4) Nutrition and Fat adaptation: As mentioned, fat adapted athletes have an advantage in ultra long races and this advantage can be a critical one. After 10+ hours of racing in harsh conditions, your stomach will not be able any more to digest the 60-80grs of carbs per hour that you are trying to get in. It will need a break, during which you might bonk if you are not fat adapted, or it may simply shut down because all your blood and physical and cardiac capacity will go into the working muscles and maintenance of brain function. Extreme race is 100% aerobic and you need to develop a mixed metabolism to provide your body with enough energy: you will need to be able to oxidize both carbs and fat during the race, so that you eat less but still can perform using your fat reserves as fuel. This takes dedicated training (a lot of fasted runs and rides) and nutrition with high fat % in your race preparation, and even the race itself. (Please see, CTB 26 on "Cream diet"). Also, knowing what, when and how much to eat is absolutely critical in an extreme or ultra race. It has to be meticulously planned and trained – and even more important – you have to have enough focus and concentration to be able to execute your nutrition strategy during the race.

5) Supporter collaboration: You cannot finish an extreme triathlon without a supporter! First, it is a mandatory requirement from race organizers – you fully rely on your supporter to provide you with food and drink and several changes of clothing. It is your Sherpa and your mule for the day:  hesets up and dismantles your transition zones, carries your stuff, pushes you over the last hill and helps you if there is a technical problem. But more important, your supporter is your mental and emotional bond, your positive charge and your motivator when going gets really tough. These selfless heroes might actually have a harder job that you – so be thankful forever! Racing an extreme event is an unforgettable experience, which is best when it is shared with other humans.

 

CTB 26: Cream Diet

I have to confess - I am really not into diets. I actually truly hate them. I believe in balanced nutrition and listening to your body´s needs. I have also been a (not so dogmatic) vegan for three years and was very happy with it. Being vegan brought a lot of new food discoveries and made me feel lighter and younger. So no complains at all.

Then I learned about the cream diet - yes, 10 days of whipped cream and crème fraiche/sour crème - from a very lean former professional triathlete. He was quite convincing and claimed that it was by far the best way to stimulate fat metabolism and to get to your racing weight (he promised up to 1kg of weight loss per day, provided one kept serious training load). I thought he was nuts, the diet was disgusting, anti-vegan and over the top extreme – but it made me think.

Fact is, highly trained endurance athletes are using both carbohydrate and fat metabolism to fuel their performance, both in racing and in training. They have highly developed fat burning capacity and trained their body to use stored fat effectively, even at race conditions. This is a huge advantage in endurance sports, since glycogen reserves get depleted fast and food intake capacity is limited: your digestive system cannot absorb more than, at the very high end, 80-90grams of carbs per hour, which is 320-360 Kcal, while you might be burning up to 1000 Kcal/per hour, thus accumulating energy deficit over time. If you don’t take any nutrition and if your body does not know how to use fat as fuel, the game (i.e the race) is over for you in two hours.

In order to go long, you need all the extra energy you can get and if you can access your fat depots, you can perform for a very long time without significant performance deterioration - we all, even the leanest among us, have enough fat to run several hundred miles on it. 

Now back to the cream diet. Its logic is therefore very simple: you feed your system only fat, so it has no choice but to learn how to effectively use it as fuel! It will burn the fat you eat and it will burn the fat you so carefully stored, just in case you need to survive a winter in Siberian forest… One condition: you have to stay active, so that your body learns to burn fat also under stress, with elevated heart rates, and it learns to use it efficiently too.

For a more scientific explanation, we will have to revert to Krebs cycle.  It is the system of energy metabolism in our bodies, a series of chemical reactions to produce energy molecules ATP - adenosine triphosphate, by oxidising carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Simply put, everything you eat gets broken down to glucose (and amino-acids, vitamins, etc). Glucose is our fuel and it means survival. The straightforward way to derive glucose is to oxidise carbohydrates. This explains why simple sugars contained abundantly in such things as Coca-Cola “get into your blood” right away and you feel a surge of energy immediately – it is a short cut for the body to make glucose out of simple sugar. And it gets truly addicted to it too. Whereas using fat for glucose metabolism takes longer and is a much less energy efficient process for the body. Unless it learns how to do it. 

This learning takes some time, so you will most likely suffer a bit for the first two days on the cream diet. You will experience sugar cravings and feel low on energy – well, a bit like a (sugar) junkie. This is normal - your body wants a shortcut in form of sugar. You will have to deprive it from getting it – go on sugar rehab - so that your body has to get to stored fat to fuel your life.

On day 3 or 4 you will feel better – you will most probably have lost around 2kg and a cm or two around your waist. Do measure your waist, chest, thigh and arm circumferences – these are the fat depot areas and they will start melting, like polar ice caps…  Provided you train like you did before – but now you take only water with you on your rides and runs (and maybe one emergency gel) – you will be surprised how long you can actually go without eating, snacking or drinking sugary drinks. Four hours on the bike with some 2000 altitude meters or 2 hours run – no problem! You will actually notice that it is easier to climb and to run hills now (recall, it is all about “power to weight” ratio when we go vertical…). This was also my experience.  By day 9 or 10 you will probably be 4 to 5kgs (or more) lighter and your body will be way more energy efficient.

You will become fat-adapted. A lean, mean racing machine!

Getting off this diet is easy – have a cake with a lot of cream! And keep several “low carb” training days a week to maintain your newly acquired fat burning capacity. Train fasted in the morning – no breakfast and no or a small protein & fat dinner the night before. This works also if you don’t exercise – skip dinner and breakfast and you will have fasted (and burned fat) for almost 24hrs – this is how monks and ballerinas do it. 

Enjoy your cream!

(Note for vegans: Cream is dairy. Not vegan. BUT - if you secretly like cream but did not have it in three years, I guess this diet will be a bit easier for you. It becomes almost a decadent experience to have a bowl of cream for breakfast... lunch... and dinner..).

CTB 25: Sochi: from Olympics to IronStar

Three years ago, Sochi hosted Winter Olympic Games, first time in Russia and first time in a sub-tropical climate, which Sochi is. I travelled many times to Sochi, working for the IOC, and also could witness the Games live: "Hot, cool, yours" - Sochi Games were an unforgettable experience (despite of me getting really sick there...).

But now what to do with all the venues, hotels and infrastructure built for the mega-event? The eternal legacy question of Olympic Games... Russian answer: 1) Stimulate tourism, 2) Direct conferences and conventions to Sochi, 3) Build a F1 circuit in the Olympic park - and the best of all 4) Organize an Iron distance triathlon in Sochi! And IronStar is in charge. 

Ironstar  is Russian triathlon! The epic series of events include sprint, Olympic, Half- Ironman and full Ironman distances across Russian cities. The Grand Finale - IronStar 226 - the Ironman distance, will take place on Sept 23rd in Olympic Sochi and partly on F1 circuit - how cool is that? My brave athlete Darren Ho #mentalchampion from Singapore will fly over half of the world to race there! I will help him with my personal coaching and all other participants with my training plans! It will be unforgettable again!

 #IronStar #ironman #ironmantraining #coachtatjana

http://iron-star.com/en/news/let-s-train-to-iron-triathlon-in-sochi-with-darren-ho-from-singapore/

 

 

 

 

 

CTB 24: Form follows fatigue

November-December-January-February-early March... If you live in a climate with all 4 seasons and above 40N, these are the toughest and maybe the most disliked (or even hated) months of training. It is cold and dark outside, the days are short and you are super busy at work and with your family commitments. The gyms and pools are full with people and their New Year resolutions – damn these winter holidays! And you might even yourself have put on some weight, so you are really feeling heavy, tired and de-motivated... Every workout is a mini-torture and it takes all your will to drag yourself out - and sometimes the will is just not strong enough..

Sounds familiar? Well, you are not alone in this. I guess all "active endurance lifestyle" people feel the same, in varying degrees. Please do not despair! “Build it and it will come”! If you stayed on course in winter, even with some deviations, and completed at least 70-80% of your training plan (or of what you intended to do), I guarantee you, that the form will find you one day. This one magic day, seemingly same as any other, you will go out for your usual run and suddenly feel light and fit and strong. You will tear apart all your splits of last 3 months and will do it with a lower heart rate. Bingo and congratulations: You have just made a qualitative leap in your form. 

What does it mean in terms of physiology? Well, it means that your lactate threshold levels expanded and your lactate curve shifted right and downwards. The longer and flatter your lactate curve is, like the "marathoner" one on this graphic, the longer & faster you can perform in the aerobic state. You can run same or more distance faster and at a lower heart rate. This adaptation is the holy grail of endurance training – and it takes time, like all good things in life.

In order to induce this adaptation we need to train consistently. We need to exercise regularly and with built-in progression. We need to have quality recovery times – because adaptation happens when we rest. My Russian track coach used to say: “When it hurts, it grows”.  Now we know better. “It” grows when we rest (after we loaded “it”).

Yes, form follows fatigue – so it needs to get worse before it gets better. We need to get tired, sometimes even exhausted. But not every workout has to be an exhaustive one – this is the recipe for injury and burn-out. We need to have easy days and hard days, in perfect balance. And even a hard training day should not be a killer one. Yes, from time to time, something really hard – but mostly “just” intense, so that we can recover after a good clean meal and 8-9 hours of sleep. If two days after the training, “it” still hurts than “it” does not grow. You earned kudos for mental toughness, but your muscles are really unhappy and you definitely burned some form matches.

And here is the good news: if you followed a consistent, reasonably intensive and gently progressive training routine in winter months, now you should be feeling “IT”. This famous sensation of being “in form”:  fit, strong, light and lean, a happy state when a 2hrs run or 4-5km swim is not a challenge anymore, neither physically, not mentally. This means that have fought well in the “months of fatigue” and than now ready for the spring training, the most important period, when your training gets specific and targeted to your priority A race.

Congratulations to you – and happy training! Spring is in the air!

Next time you get tired – remember, it is all for good – FORM FOLLOWS FATIGUE.

CTB 23: Season 2017 - What Will You Do Differently?

February 2017 – high time to wake up from winter hibernation and get active. Oh, you started training already? Bravo to you! If not, well, there is still plenty of time to get into a good form for your summer races. In any case, by this time of the year, you should definitely know your A priority race for 2017 season - your sporting highlight of the year!  Of course, everyone has a different priority and a different objective. Here is what my Athletes (and myself) have on our lists for 2017: 

1) First Olympic triathlon, 2) First Ironman70.3, 3) Improve Ironman time, 4) Two ultra trails,   5) Set marathon PB, 6) Run first marathon, 7) Finish Swissman, 8) Qualify for Kona, 9) Raid Dolomites: 9 days and 40 cols, 10) Finish double Ironman!

An impressive list indeed! Chapeau for such motivating and challenging goals. I can confirm, everyone in my squad has started a very intentional and dedicated training. Because no matter which race, challenge or what kind of distance or altitude you choose, we all need to be prepared and motivated when we stand on the starting line – and we need to respect and love the race too!

If this is not your first season training, I have a question to you - what will you do differently this time?

I have some ideas for you. Most of them are inspired by my conversations with two greats of triathlon training: Joe Friel, the author of legendary “Training Bible” and Brett Sutton, the most successful triathlon coach and maker of Olympic and multiple Ironman champions. Plus my coaching experience and some crazy personal experimenting in 15 years of racing – with a added spin of creative learning from everywhere - you get the origin story for these ideas!

Here we go, this that we will do differently in my squad in 2017 - and some crazier things that I urge you to try out:

1. We will do shorter and more intensive sessions – we have busy lives and we want highest quality of training with max impact on our fitness and performance. Being fully present and concentrated during these sessions will be key.

2. We will do a lot of “whoosh-whoosh” power swimming with paddles and pullbouys. Thank you, Brett, for the “science of a paddle” and the mantra: “place, press, push – make my swimming go whoosh!”

3. Stomp, stomp, stomp! If you are not a professionally trained cyclist, then maybe a high Lance-like cadence is not your thing. Developing full circle, “round” and powerful pedalling over "dead zones" takes years of practice and loads of track sprint training. This technique uses a lot of leg power – also fatiguing the muscles triathletes need for running after the bike. So why not trying “stomping”? Meaning focus on downstroke pedalling and letting your leg come in the upstroke almost without any effort.  Low cadence - big power output. Stomp, stomp, stomp!

4. The only way is up! We will run and bike uphill a lot. Short and sweet, long and tiring - hills win!

5. TUF running: Let us be realistic – your graceful 100m running style will not cut it for the marathon.. so we need to adopt the most efficient technique you can maintain for hours – we call it “technique under fatigue”. And we will train our core muscles (a lot) to ensure solid "frame" support for our running.

6. Double bubble – how about a double run, double swim or double bike per day? Just from time to time, to trigger faster adaptations in our form.

7. Triple crown – Or even better – ever tried 3 swims or runs per day? Sounds like a lot – but will you manage to do 3x45min running per day? Of course! Actually, almost everyone will - but there is a huge ROI on such training. Again, let us surprise our system and get a kick out of it!

8. Fasted – sorry, boys and girls, but we need to fire our lipid energy production to go long… So we will need to teach our body to use fat as an energy source more efficiently. Hence, fasted run and bike sessions before the breakfast.. As the 1st session of 2 or 3 :-) 

9. Indoors vs outdoors – Everyone seems to prefer training outdoors, but turbo bike and treadmill will need to become our dear friends. They help us train very precisely and very efficiently (see Nr 1). They are also safe options to take advantage of the educational value of exercise (see Nr 13).

10. Harmony – maybe this is me being obsessed with numbers… but I do like harmony in workouts very much, where it makes sense of course. For example: harmony is when your swim warm-up is exactly the same as your cool-down and you have an even number of sets as a main set to make it a perfect “sandwich training”. Or your brick is “ride 100km – run 10km”. Or you run 20km on each 20th of the month and swim 5km on each 5th of the month – you get the idea... Yes, it makes it look better on paper and your TrainingPeaks, but it also creates a feeling of completeness and thus an additional stimulus not to cut short any part of it.

11. Belly dancing – Well, triathletes do not really have bellies.. But still, I believe in borrowing ideas from everywhere and this one might surprise you – but belly dancing has some absolutely unique moves for engaging and working your deep core muscles and improving mobility of your spine. Just try to make an “eight” – or infinity sign – with your hips and then with your chest – in both directions... Tip: start practicing at home before you do it in public  -  and yes, boys should/can do it too.

12. Classical music – Music is the only legal and official performance enhancer. Some running races even allow wearing headphones in a race. Well, many athletes exercise with music, even swim with it (aka Swimbot). Rock, pop, maybe jazz…. But ever tried classical music? Truly magical for long and steady workouts. Just don’t cry because of its beauty (happened to me actually ..)

13. Books, books, books – the Educational value of training ultra long – I like listening to books and podcasts when I ran – or ride indoors or on lonely roads (with one earphone only!). If you go for a really long training, like several hours, you can actually listen to a whole book. Just to give you an idea of the duration for some of the audiobooks in my library which make my runs and rides both academic and entertaining: One unit of Japanese is 30-35 minutes,  “Animal Farm” is 3hrs 13 min, “Great Gatsby” is 4hr 50min., “Happiness Hypothesis” is 12hrs, “Born to Run” is 13hrs, “Thinking: Fast and Slow” is 20hrs, “Capital in the 21st century” is 1 day and “Infinite Jest” is 2.5 days… Who is training for a triple Ironman? J

Happy training 2017!!!

 

 

 

CTB 22: Golden nuggets of triathlon training - what I learned from Brett Sutton

4 Olympic Medals, 16 ITU World Champions, 78 Ironman 70.3 champions, 80 Ironman Champions 

This is the impressive résumé of Brett Sutton, the world´s most successful triathlon coach. He does many things differently and follows unconventional paths in his coaching.  I had the privilege to learn from Brett as participant of TriSutto Academy, to "shadow" him during the training of professional athletes and to get insights into his methodology - "the process produces the results", as Brett says. And more important, I could learn about his art of coaching, which is all about understanding the human and the unique personality behind each athlete. 

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So being over-inspired, I collected some "golden nuggets" into this video. Really, just a few things that TriSutto squad does differently. My notebook is full of ideas, insights, thoughts... My coaching will never be the same! Thank you, Brett!

CTB 21: Bravehearts´ Update 2nd half 2016

It is almost Christmas and it is time for an update on the epic achievements of my Bravehearts athletes in the second half of 2016. 

We welcome Darren into our Ironman family! He finished his first (but not the last!) Ironman in Busselton, Western Australia, on December 4th, in 13:29:35. Super well done, Darren, congratulations! The first Ironman is a life-changing and absolutely unforgettable experience, I always say: race to enjoy it! And remember, that Ironman really starts at km 20 of marathon - everything before is a warm-up :-) You are an Ironman, Darren! Onward! 

James successfully fought the terrestrial rain and cold conditions at Ironman Mallorca on September 24th. Thunderstorm hit around 10am and the rain never stopped since... what a memorable, nasty race! Many gave up - James did not! (ever tried to run a marathon in wet-wet-wet shoes? start counting the blisters!). Wet, cold but happy he finished strong in 12:50:56! Chapeau, James, really, chapeau!! We are reminded again that triathlon is an OUTdoor sport!

Sofia finished her 3rd (or 4th?) Sierre-Zinal, uphill-downhill mountain race in Switzerland, 31km, 2200m up, 800m down (outch!). With a PB! Our official Swiss mountain goat :-) Bravo! And it gets even better - she and Anne-Sophie are now training for their first Ironman 70.3 in 2017! More Iron Girls into the family!

Galina and Matthias participated in their first ever triathlon, at Cologne Triathlon on September 3rd, as a relay team (with me cycling). New to running and swimming respectively, they both kicked ass and looked just pro! And we even took a cherished 3rd place at the very fierce Carglass, the event title sponsor, company competition. First race and podium - bring it on! 

My sister Lisa ran her first marathon, and not just your average city flatlander one - the epic Jungfrau marathon in the Swiss Alps, on September 10th! We did it together and it was a fun sister act on a sunny day, running, climbing and walking surrounded by the amazing grace and beauty of highest Swiss mountains - money can´t buy! Plus a twin look and a lot of smiles :-) Super well done, my brave sister heart!! 

 

Truly yours worked on collecting cols on the bike in three epic cycling marathons: Engadin Radmarathon and AlpenChallenge in Switzerland and Ötztaler Radmarathon in Austria, the ultimate beast, with 238km and 5500m of altitude, finishing with a 29km never-ending climb to Timmelsjoch at 2509m. Gotta love climbing for this one :-).

So, chapeau and bravissimo to all BraveHearts! Racing is nice and rewarding, but the proof of the pudding is in the daily training - which is the real greatness, when nobody is looking. This is the true essence of all bravehearts: the deliberate practice day by day, for many days, months and years..  Keep it on and never stop inspiring us!  

Onward to 2017!! 

Race, train, live with passion and gratitude!

 

 

 

CTB 20: What I learned from Tony Robbins "Date with Destiny"

From Dec 8th to Dec 13th I attended the 39th yearly and sold-out “Date with Destiny” seminar of Tony Robbins, the best-selling author and motivational guru (yes, I think he can be called so, in spite of  “I am not your guru” recent Netflix movie about Tony and this seminar). It was a gruelling 6 days marathon with 14-16hrs spent in the dark and cold conference room. Even more than 3000 people attending (!) could not warm it up, or only temporarily by the frequent fun dancing, which was an important and fun “anchoring” activity.

To put it short, it was a heart- and mind-opening experience. I went there being a bit sceptical but hoping that this seminar would help me to get back my energy and mojo, which I felt I had lost to a number of unexpected and tragic events in my life this year. What I got back was much more than this! The event did not only over-deliver on my expectations, no, it gave me much more and much deeper things, a kind of deep “soul cleanse”. Funnily, at the very beginning of the event, Tony literally said: “You are coming here to get what you want, and I promise, you will get it. Plus, I promise, you will get something different – you will get what you really NEED”. Quite a big claim, isn´t it? But it was not an over-promise - Tony worked his magic. Absolutely mind-blowing! Everyone I talked to confirmed it. So I wanted to share some learnings with you, those which I think can be of benefit, and should be actionable even without the experience of a live Tony Robbins event. And I only would like to add, that I cried, laughed and danced during these 6 days more than I did in the last couple of years of my life.

So, here come my golden nuggets from “Date with Destiny”, which might trigger somewhat different thoughts during the reflective holiday season about your own ultimate destiny_

 

1. What else could this mean? This is a great question to ask, especially for “negative” events in your life. Engage your higher consciousness to judge such events, from the perspective that “Life happens for us, not to us”. What is the message that is being sent to you? What are the new doors that open, opportunities that arise? What else could this mean? If you control the meaning you give to events/people/things in your life, you control your emotions and therefore the quality of your life! Better emotions – better quality of life!

2. Problems are life´s assignments. People get really addicted to their problems, it is the strongest drug on the planet! All pain comes from having stressful thoughts. And the biggest problem at all is that people think that they should not have any problems! You cannot avoid problems – you can only go through them by growing personally. Grow or die! Key is to have better quality problems.

3. Get into your head and you are dead! – one of Tony´s favourites mantras. What he means is not our brain, but our primitive, conditioned, survival-driven and biased “THE mind”, which dictates our behaviours and automatic responses and which is disconnected from our true essence, our soul and from deep desires coming from our hearts. Most people just live their conditioning, not their life… So if you face an important decision, decide with your heart!

4. Everyone is innocent. This is a very powerful concept for a peaceful and loving life. People act stupidly sometimes, we act egoistically, we do not honour others, we hurt them, etc. Why not assume, that in such cases, we are just driven by our best knowledge, our “mind” and our level of spiritual development at this time? We have to have the courage to forgive – to yourself, to your loved ones and to everyone who matters to you - and strive to grow spiritually!

5. Change your blueprint, change your life. The secret of happiness is: “your life conditions equal your blueprint”. The recipe for suffering is: “your life conditions do not equal your blueprint and you feel helpless to change”. Your blueprint is basically how you define yourself, your identity, your primary question in life, your unconscious focus and the kind of meaning you tend to give to event, things, people in your life. We are driven by 1 or 2 of our 6 key needs: certainty, variety, significance, love & connection, growth or contribution. Sometimes our blueprint serves us and sometimes not. Apparently, every 5-7 years we have an “identity crisis”, as we move through different stage of life and our maturity. Updating your blueprint means reviewing your primary needs, your focus, meaning and also your physiology – “mind-body connection”.  “We don’t live what we can, we live what we believe we are”.

6. If you can – you should. If you can not – you must. I don’t think I need to comment this one J

7. Your needs are my needs. It is the secret to a lasting relationship, when you will not stop until you meet your partner´s needs. Another key to a lasting and passionate relationship is “polarity”, the interplay of masculine and feminine energies, which is so critical. What turns passion off are 3U´s and 3Cs. The 3 feminine U´s are when women feel Unseen, not Understood and Unsafe/lack of trust. The 3 masculine C´s are when they are being Critisized, Controlled and feel their woman is being Closed (as opposed to being open and playful). So figure out, what women and men really want :-)

8. True Values, simple Rules. We all live by our core values and also by rules we create to experience these values. Experiencing our values makes us happy and there are many different ways how we can experience them. We create (mostly unconsciously, via our conditioning and blueprint) our “rules” for experiencing For example, both Person 1 and Person 2 value “success” as their top value. To experience success, Person 1 has a menu of rules: anytime, he is feeling grateful for being alive OR achieving an outcome OR being able to challenge himself beyond a present limit. Person 2 needs a promotion to experience success. Who is happier? Person 1 of course! He has simple, self-controlled rules, and he has a menu of such rules. So it is pretty easy for him to experience success. So what we learn, is that we should make our goals challenging, values aspirational but rules simple to experience! This is another secret of happiness!

Live with passion!

Active Endurance Lifestyle

There are many different lifestyles: city, young, quiet, noisy, outgoing, lazy, family, etc. Nowadays, with an amazing growth of outdoor sports participation, endurance and ultra-endurance events and races of all different styles, and all kinds of industries and brands playing in the outdoor and sport participation market, there is also a trend to active endurance lifestyle. 

This lifestyle is practiced by people of all ages who love being outdoors, who like to be active and who want to explore nature and places in different ways. They travel to participate in races and events, sometimes worldwide, they build their holidays and free-time around such events and also trainings camps, their social life evolves around their sports clubs and cycling/running groups. 

What I love about it? Everything! (with a small exception of travelling with a huge bike box :-)). You stay fit, connected, focused and curios, you bring adventure into your life (as much as you tolerate :-)) If you are on your bike, it is a slower, greener and much more authentic way to explore places then going by car. If you run or hike, you kind of become a local in all these places. And I would always recommend (and I always do) to take off your cycling/running outfit from time to time and go see local museums and events. It makes the whole trip a truly diverse and unforgettable experience. 

Travelling on business? Just add your running/swim/gym kit to your luggage, and your business trip will never be the same! And if you have enough miles and a couple of days to add to your trip, then why not bringing your bike along? Hopefully, your CEO is an Ironman or cyclist too and will understand :-)

Good luck and happy holiday travels in an active endurance lifestyle way!  

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CTB 17: Overcoming a low point

"Be prepared to handle a low point" - this is what I tell to my endurance athletes before every race. Because even if you are über-fit and mega-prepared, it is practically certain that at some point in a race you will hit a low point: drop in energy, onset of fatique, lack of focus, etc.  How to deal with it effectively? Painful situation - but truly the essence of endurance racing and being an unbeatable mind!

The navy SEALs would say: "When you are going through hell - keep going!". Tough, brutal - but wise? I say: "Race smart" - and help yourself overcome a low point. Two decades of endurance racing did teach me many lessons, especially how to get to the finish line over (sometimes painfully low) low points. I actually have an algorithm for you - which I had "the pleasure" to test one more time this weekend during the 238km/5500 altitude meters cycling marathon in Austria.

For some unclear reason, actually at the easiest part of the course, the only more or less flat 20km at ça. Km 80, I suddenly felt horrible, my heart rate jumped to over 200, lactate shot into my legs like a waterfall, my power went down the drain and my speed dropped to quite literally zero - I actually had to stop. I guess it was a kind of heat shock after a fast descend from a cold mountain pass into a hot industrialized valley of Innsbruck. "No panic" I said to myself watching hundreds of cyclists passing by.... I fueled and hydrated - and continued pedalling at a seemingly crawling pace for quite some time, enjoying the scenery and trying to think happy and motivating thoughts. What else can you do? And then it happened - I felt better, my propulsion force retuned to me and I got back to attacking the cols. The strategy and the algorithm worked again!

This magic algorithm is actually very simple: When you are not ok, i.e.  suddenly super low on energy, power, focus, when you feel fatiqued beyond normal racing fatique, or when you start cramping, this is what you do:

1. Slow down (to your base endurance Zone 2 pace) - or stop.

2. Eat and drink (sensibly - not too much and not too little, and only your normal race nutrition. By the way: Coca-Cola can do magic almost always!)

3. Wait untill you feel better - Engage in positive self-talk to manage your mental state. Use your mantras, visualize and motivate yourself. Connect with your purpose and with your "best self" - are you a person who complains and whines, when going gets hard? Are you someone who gives up? DNF is no option! Pain is temporary - glory is forever! You are alone out there and only you decide how you feel and what thoughts you think at this very moment!

4. Get back to your race pace.

You can use it in racing - or in daily life. When you "hit a wall" or get stuck - slow down, or stop if needed, recharge by eating and hydrating, engage in positive self-talk to alter your mental state,  connect with your purpose and your best self, wait and get back on track!

Have a great ride!

 

 

CTB 16: Cycling cols and life...

What cycling in mountains and over high altitude cols (mountain passes) can teach you about life? Well, many things!

1. Cycling uphill is difficult - but no col lasts forever. Same in life, sometimes you have a difficult period, but it will not last forever. Yes, it is difficult and maybe event painful right now - but you have to trust that it will be over one day. 

2. Cycling uphill gets easier when you train it - the fitter you are, the more fun it is. So in life, the fitter and more prepared you are: physically, mentally and emotionally, the easier it gets to overcome obstacles - and it is more fun too! 

3. When you reach the col summit, a new horizon opens. The challenges we face teach us new insights, new skills and new perspectives. When we struggle, we grow! 

4. There is always a downhill after a col and you can enjoy the ride. Life is like a Zebra - one black stripe, one white, one black, one white... In black stripes we struggle and grow, in white ones we relax and enjoy. 

5. Cycling in mountains is better with buddies. Cycling is social as our lives are. We need to get out of our personal bubble and to unite with other people to be able to conquer highest mountains - for achievement, safety and fun!

6. You need good fuel for your long ride in mountains. No cyclist will leave without hydration and nutrition - no fuel, no performance. For top performances in life, we also need to ensure best fuel possible. And science confirms - our best fuel comes from plants!

7. You have to be prepared for weather changes - take an extra jacket with you. You also never know how your day turns out - be prepared for "weather changes". Have your "survival kit" with you at any time: money, phone, some fuel, swiss knife, rain jacket, etc. Be prepared! 

8. Compared to mountains, flat riding is boring. Once you experienced the beauty of mountains, glaciers, water falls, fast descends, gruelling uphills and adrenaline of Alpine air, you will find flat roads just boring. So by bringing adventure, thrill and challenge in your life, you will enrich it so much, that you will never want to go back to a "flatlander" normality. 

9. Taking stupid risks is stupid. Period. Mountains can be dangerous, we need to respect them, be sensible and never take stupid risks, especially on fast descends. Taking stupid risks is stupid, in cycling and in life. 

Enjoy your ride! 

CTB 15: It´s OK to finish last! (if you have fought well)

 

Last week we did our traditional Lac Leman crossing, on Aug 1st, Swiss National Day. A distance between 4.1 and 4.5km, depending on how straight you can swim in the open water.  It was a nice swim with the sun rising above the lake and our neoprene-clad bodies. After the swim, during the ritual après-swim breakfast, our friendly event organisers did the "award ceremony", also a tradition with humorous presents for diverse "achievements". Of course, the first man and woman were awarded with something like a bottle of wine or shampoo  - and the last ones were to get a pair of fluffy white hotel slippers, as recognition for their relaxed attitude.

The last woman out of water identified herself quickly and took the prize, laughing with everyone else. Then we called for the last man out of water - but there was only silence. Called again - silence. And one more time - no one moved. Fluffy hotel slippers remained unclaimed. Funny. And not. 

We should really not forget that what counts is, first, to show up! Second, to finish! And third, to fight well, even if you finish last! Pierre de Coubertin said it right (but he is unfortunately  frequently misquoted):

"The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

So, bring it on, show up, fight and finish! And if you finish last, be proud, because you have fought well!

CTB 14: First half of 2016: Bravehearts´update!

I feel so humble writing this post... I was reflecting about the amazing achievements of my athletes in the first 6 months of the year - and their big & scary goals for the rest of the year, and I felt like tears were coming to my eyes... Happy tears and feelings of humility, respect, joy and just adoration! What a privilege to be able to help you achieve your goals, guys and girls! Here is the list of pure awesomeness: 

Anne-Sophie and Sofia finished London Marathon in April  - as part of their "Marathon Majors" series mission, started 3 years ago from zero running.. They pushed through cold winter training, heavy global biz travel and apparently crazy London crowds :-) Chapeau - the journey goes on!

Frederic finished his first Ironman with fantastic 12:02 time in spite of ankle injury (and Brexit)! What a discipline in training and what a mental toughness - warrior Fred! Amazing!

Lynn ran a half-marathon just 6 months after giving birth to her baby - and set her Personal Best! Moms do rock! 

Darren did several triathlons in Asia and keep inspiring the world by his transformation and dedication! Try training for an Ironman in Singapur, folks! Hot, humid and only a few roads to bike.. Onward, Darren! 

Galina started running, preparing for her first ever triathlon in fall. Walk, run, fly, my friend!!

James biked from sunrise to sundown, 300km at "Chase the Sun" event, in spite of aching ribs and everything else after a bad cycling crush... When you are going through hell - keep going!

Truly and humble yours, I did an Ironman Lanzarote, a windy and hilly beast and cycled 210km over 4 cols in Engadin - do what scares you!

What to expect in the 2nd half? More epic staff, of course, for all the bravehearts! 2 Ironmans, 1-2 half-Ironmans, ultra trail running events mountain marathon in Swiss Alps and a lake Geneva crossing - and a lot of inspiration for the world! 

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