Maybe we shouldn’t call it training, because training implies a goal and a plan. Let’s just call it what it is: running. It was supposed to be my easy day so the running consisted of 5′ running and 2′ walking repeated over 4 miles. And because my heart rate stayed below 144 bpm, I can justify calling it an easy run. At least I think my HR stayed below 144 bpm.
A Good Training Device
The smart watch on my wrist is nice. It has GPS, SMS, and TWC. It tells time, weather, location, calendar, altitude. It plays music, makes phone calls, and sends email. It even measures heart rate, but I don’t trust it. Do all smart watches and sport watches these days use sensors to measure heart rate from the wrist? The wrist? I thought we made huge strides in technology when we measured heart rate with a chest strap. After all that’s closer to the heart that the wrist.
Accuracy vs. Precision
Accuracy is what I want and accuracy is what I expect. Let’s not confuse the term accuracy with precision, because that’s a lecture I don’t have time to give right now. I used to use a Garmin Forerunner 305. It was reliable, precise and accurate and it measured heart rate with a chest strap. Then one day it stopped working, so I tried to replace the battery.
To tell the truth, I know my current smart watch is very inaccurate for measuring heart rate because it likes to tell me my heart is pumping at 185 bpm when a finger on my neck tells me it’s only pumping 140 or 150 bpm. It also goes the other way. Sometimes it’s close, but those occurrences seem random.
Needless to say, I’m in the market for a good heart rate monitor. If you have any advice, let me know what you like or dislike about yours. Thanks.
I use to listen to the recordings of Earl Nightingale, Zig Ziglar, Steven Covey and other self improvement gurus. Almost all of them repeated a similar mantra:
You have to plan to succeed, because no plan at all is a plan to fail.
That’s the kind of quote you might see on a cheesy motivational poster in the hallway or breakroom of a corporate office accompanied by a picture that has almost no relevance to the quote. For example:
My Training Plan
Today’s training consisted of a 4 mile run with a few intervals thrown in. I just made up that workout on the spot. Mr. Improv; that’s me. Tomorrow will be an easy 4 mile run with Marty and maybe a super easy bike ride after. As of right now, I don’t have a plan to succeed at IM703Chatty, but I’m on the hunt.
In the 13 years I’ve been living the triathlon lifestyle, I’ve had several training methods/plans:
Team In Training. This was my introduction to triathlon and triathletes.
Tri Club. I met some really great people that I still race with now and then. The coaching aspect was general to fit all athletes, but I did benefit from the group swims, runs and rides.
Online Coaching. During the early days of the Endurance Nation training community, I learned a lot about training and racing with power. I’ve used bits and pieces of the first plan I purchased from them 11 years ago.
Live Coaching. Expensive. But I loved my coach, Coach Sami.
Self Coaching. I have many pages dogeared of Joe Friel’s book, The Triathlete’s Training Bible. It’s a great resource if you want to train with purpose and understand the science behind the workouts.
I haven’t yet decided how to go from where I am today to where I want to be on May 17, 2020, but I do want to do it right. I need a plan that will account for my weaknesses, and my age. I need a plan to allow plenty of recovery. I need accountability and encouragement.
I guess I’m just very needy.
The Clock Is Ticking
There are 24 weeks between now and race day, so I have a bit of time to decide, but not too much time. When I do decide, you’ll be the first to know. Stay tuned.
Just this morning I was writing about falling into a pit of despair. Not two hours after publishing that post, I hit a pit of da spare… tire that is.
I was riding on the indoor trainer and listening to none other than the best podcaster around, Babbittville Radio. Twelve minutes into the workout, I heard a loud snap. Not a pop. A snap. You guessed it: a spoke broke, that ain’t no joke.
Not all is lost. I do have another wheel. Maybe if it warms up today I’ll go out on the road. In my case, the road is usually very safe. However, today is Thanksgiving day in the US and that means hunting: lots of hunting all around me. I’m not sure I want to get hit by stray bullets or run over by frantic wildlife.
Before I start working out the details of my IM70.3Chatty training plan, I need a ladder. Not a step ladder or an extension ladder. I need a ladder to climb out of those negative, energy sucking, life draining emotional pits of despair.
Surely you know what I’m talking about. This isn’t just a triathlon thing, it’s an everybody thing. When you start something new, you get the excited, I-can-do-anything feeling. After a few weeks of hard work and fun, that feeling slowly turns into the why-the-hell-did-I-commit-to-such-a-stupid-idea thought. That’s a pit of despair and it’s just the first one on the road to crossing the finish line. Another one is the I-can’t-do-this-I’m-not-good-enough-self-doubt feeling. If they catch you by surprise, you might hang up your IRONMAN dreams and just do the local sprint next weekend.
On the other hand, if you’re ready for the pits and potholes along your journey, you’ll know exactly what to do to keep you going. My ladders are simple.
Ladder Number 1
Even if you’ve never heard of Bob Babbitt, you’ve probably heard Bob Babbitt. His podcasts are the best in our sport. He knows everyone: the pros, the challenged, the innovators, the old guard, the new guard, the mainstream, the offbeat, the unbeaten, the rookies, the comebacks, the famous, the infamous. All of them.
Remember the movie that I promoted in Wilmington (August, 2018), We Are Triathletes? Bob was executive producer of that film. But that’s beside the point.
The real point is that during my training, I’m going to get into a bad wave of negativity and self doubt which will tempt me to hang it all up and just do a 5k instead. There’s simply no way to avoid it. After 13 years of training and racing, I know this will happen and that’s when I turn to the long list of podcasts on Babbittville Radio.
Just the other day, Bob was interviewing Charley French about his life and his involvement in triathlon. I’m not going to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to listen for yourself about this 93 year old who invented the aero bars that all triathletes and time trialers use. Spoiler alert: he still races! Talk about inspiring. And if that doesn’t do it for you, throw away the heart rate monitor because YOU’RE DEAD. Just kidding. Read on.
Ladder Number 2
If the podcasts don’t do it for me, I have a backup ladder: my father. He’s been dead since 2010, so he won’t mind if I talk about him here.
There were two people I idolized when I was growing up. One was Will Rogers and the other was Don LaFontaine. Not really. Will Rogers yes. Don LaFontaine no. That was just a jab in the ribs of my father who’s been dead 9 years. If you want to know about the jab, you’ll have to ask, but you should always be careful about jabbing dead people: yuck. Of course, the other role model of mine was, and still is, dad.
Dad, Hal as he was called, was in a comfortable position in a major Southern California university. One day, he looked down the hallway and saw his own funeral. Either he was hallucinating or he was speaking metaphorically, but either way it had a tremendous impact on him. He resigned and became Rhoda’s father and Betty White’s boyfriend among other roles. More importantly, he was living his dream.
These days when I think of him, I’m reminded that hard work and a dream can and will yield fantastic results if you get out of your own way. For that reason I carry a picture of him on my basebars.
That’s really all there is to it for me. The key is to know that there will be bad days ahead and to prepare for them. The best ladder is one that I didn’t even mention above: a group, a club, training buddies. In other words, a support network that knows what you are going through. They don’t have to counsel you. They just need to be there, because after all we are social creatures. You get the idea.
If you live in the States, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. If you don’t live in the states, I wish a very happy Thursday.
So it’s been about 18 hours since I registered for IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga and I’m still excited: still motivated. That’s a good sign.
By the way, IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga is a lot to write and if I’m going to keep blogging about my journey there, I need something shorter. Some people call it “Chatty“. That might work. How’s IM703Chatty? (Don’t answer that. I’m not really asking you).
What’s In A Story?
Artists and marketers make a big deal about stories. Artists are interested in the human aspects of stories and what we can learn from them. Marketers are interested in telling stories so you’ll feel good about spending money. Good leaders also tell stories. Either way, it’s a good idea to know your triathlon story. If you’ve ever signed up for an IRONMAN race, you’ve been asked to provide a short “story.” In fact, it’s a requirement for registration (along with the waivers and insurance stuff). They are looking for marketable stories to inspire other would be athletes.
Even if you are never asked for your story, I encourage you to write down why you take the journey you do. It provides motivation in times of self doubt. And it reminds you of that “one thing” that will carry you through the toughest days.
Triathlon is an amazing journey and I often say that it is a microcosm of life itself. If that sounds like hyperbole, then consider the first noble truth of Buddhism:
“To live you must suffer.”
I’m no Buddhist. But I do know that a right amount of suffering is needed to grow in all aspects of life. Grass grows thicker when you mow it, muscles get bigger when you stress them and people learn things after failures. Triathlon embodies all of that, yet my story is simple. I have no debilitating diseases. I am not a challenged athlete. I have not overcome obesity. I am not a celebrity.
Outside of family, there are two passions I follow. The first is training and racing in triathlon and the second is telling stories of triathlon through video. The seed of both those passions came from my father which is interesting, because he never participated in a triathlon. He did, however, tell stories of running down the Pacific Coast Highway on quiet mornings or running up the hills of Pacific Palisades. Dad could tell a story like no one else and, even though I hated running at the time, I loved his stories. At his memorial I confessed that he could outrun me when I was 16 and he was 56.
I raced my second IRONMAN on the first anniversary of Dad’s death and although he never saw me race when he was alive, it made him so happy that I got out there and did it. He knew the transformative power of the sport. He knew the temporary suffering on the field of athletics would ease the greater suffering of one’s own inner deamons.
Suffering the loss of a loved one is never easy. It’s not pretty. It’s not newsworthy. Yet every one of us will suffer that loss. Triathlon keeps alive in me, the dream that one day I might look in the mirror and see the person I saw in my father.
The road to Chattanooga, TN begins with a single step.
Sorry. That’s a bit cliché. Today, November 25, 2019, the 2020 triathlon season begins: at least, for me it does. I signed up for the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 Chattanooga. I have no idea what to expect of this race except that the swim is in a river which means there will be a current which hopefully means a fast swim.
There’s a strange feeling about signing up for the first A race in a season. In my case, there was nothing on the calendar but work and family.
I went through that familiar registration process on Active.com. The 50 questions. The waivers and disclaimers. The marketing garbage where they try to sell you things you don’t need like registration insurance and personalized medal engraving. What a racket. So I paid for the registration… the insurance and the engraving too (those poor IRONMAN folks need the money). Now I am registered and seriously thinking about my upcoming training.
This is truly exciting. The last time I raced a big race was over three years ago. I’m sure there will be times that I wonder why I put down a good chunk of money to torture myself, but right now I’m enjoying the feeling of being a triathlete again.