What Happens In Vegas

In the book, Raising Cain, the authors note that many boys drink to shut down their capacity to think. As an athlete, being exhausted from exercise is quite similar to being loaded. There’s not a whole lot of quality thought happening!

Whether we’re focusing on parenting, adolescence or our current life situation, it can be tempting to numb ourselves and escape a gnawing sensation that we might not be heading the right direction.

The trouble with numbing ourselves with exercise, alcohol, sex, work, pastries, ice cream or toast… is we might not get anywhere worth going.

By the way, when I wonder about my life, I fall back to my personal mission (share love with Monica, help others with my writing and teach my kids how I experience the world). Have I done something on each point recently? If yes, then relax. If no, then change.

If you’re happy with your life situation then keep on rolling. If you want to make a change then consider the next couple paragraphs.


When you’re exhausted, loaded or unwatched… who are you?

If there was an invisible friend on your shoulder, what would he see?

Before I met my wife, I came to a realization that I needed to sort myself out, completely. I realized that substantial change needed to occur with my deepest desires. There were three principles that helped.

Be true – I spent twenty years being highly successful at goals that had little meaning to me. While capital generated from external success was, and remains, useful. It didn’t generate lasting satisfaction. The time I’ve spent on self-reflection has proven extremely valuable. Start by stoping what makes you unhappy to create space for more of what makes you happy. Pay attention to things, and people, that make you laugh out loud.

Live openly – I’ve been blogging for a decade and have been working on my skills to be more and more honest with the people in my life. It takes a lot of compassion, and trust, to have an open relationship but it’s deeply rewarding to have a marriage that works.

Avoidance – I have limited willpower so I’ve made a habit of avoidance. I rarely leave the house for social events, skip bachelor parties, don’t frequent bars, and ride my bicycle all day when I go on vacation. It’s been that way for a long, long while.

You might wonder… how the heck did this guy meet his wife?

Well, I spent five days a week training alongside her when I was trying to win an Ironman race. I spent many years living my life the way I wanted and improving my thought patterns. I did this to try and win an Ironman but the spin off benefit was attracting a woman that deeply shared the values that I built within myself.

I just “was” and she was there.

I’m sharing because many young people wonder how, and if, they will ever attract a mate. If you create the life you want to lead and the person you want to be… then you tilt the odds in your favor and your life, while single, is a lot of fun. People might not agree with your decisions but, when they are open and true, any criticism will flow through you more easily.

There is a lot of peer pressure, and sophisticated marketing, that tempts us to drop our standards when we are on holiday, when nobody is looking or when we think we’ve earned a break.

Secret eating, secret sexual relations, secret drinking, even small things like littering… eroded the image of the man that I wanted to be. By teaching myself to create good habits, I became the sort of person I wanted to marry.

What happens in Vegas shapes our lives.

Choose Wisely.

Nine Israelis and a Jet Pilot

Last week was the first time, in a very long while, that I’ve been able to remove any distractions, agenda or goals from an exercise-focused trip. Normally, I’m guiding and it was a lot of fun to be back on the athlete side of a camp. I’m going to do more of these trips as I missed the freedom they provide.

Earlier in the week, I gave a talk at a camp hosted by Tri-Dynamic. The talk was focused on Mental Skills for Racing and I shared how I train my mind to create my life situation. Daily, each of us lays down emotional imprints that create the way we perceive the world.

I built my mental skills for athletic performance by getting my head straight in daily living. Consistent performance requires:

  • Conditioning the mind – to the way training and racing feel. As we gain experience with the sensations of preparation and racing, the emotional content of pain and fatigue is removed.
  • Calming the mind – so we are able to see the way things are, maintain our technique and conserve energy for the relaxed concentration required to perform. 
  • Restoring the mind – regardless of our physical fitness, we will struggle to perform when emotionally exhausted. Exercise is a source of emotional energy but only up to a point. Be careful of feeding disfunction (via anger, stimulants or fear) to keep yourself going well past what’s required for emotional wellbeing. Disfunction might get you through a season (or a championship) but it’s effects will linger, and impact, your entire life.

As I wrote last week, exercise tires the mind and it’s interesting to see what comes out when we go beyond ordinary levels of fatigue. Extreme training can lay bare what many years of emotional choices have done to our minds.

When tired, I have little tricks that I use to keep myself in check. One technique is to pretend I have an imaginary friend following me around, watching my every move and analyzing how I’m doing. What would this person say about me?

After riding over 1,000 kms this week and climbing more than 50,000 vertical feet – I’m no closer to what drives me to exercise but I had the opportunity to practice emotional control when physically stretched (always good for a parent).

Fatigue strips away the filters that we use to manage ourselves. I spent a lot of this week riding with a group of Israelis and a fighter-jet pilot. They coped very well with fatigue and I contemplated what was different in their approach.

Acceptance – one of the Israelis confided in me that he didn’t enjoy descending at high speed in the rain. However, he wanted to race well. He acknowledged his fear, let it go and accepted what was required to achieve his goal.

Perspective – if you’re an ER doc, a naval aviator or a combat veteran then the implications of a “bad day” are serious. It’s taken me more than a decade but I’ve been able to greatly reduce my mind’s tendency to manufacture drama out of thin air. I credit my three-year old daughter with turbo charging this aspect of my emotional development!

Reality – I’ve seen emotional meltdowns where athletes are overwhelmed by their fears. These situations are emotionally charged and I feel a powerful desire to flee individuals with chaotic minds.  When there is no escape, remember that tiny gestures of assistance can have a calming effect and help someone re-establish their ability to think clearly. At a minimum, showing compassion will give you peace-of-mind that you’re not part of the problem!

Related to the above, our hotel’s owner made the observation that she liked taking care of athletes because we are about more than overindulging. Inside, I smiled because I’m not so sure.

When the filters come off, what do you see?

Are you sure?


PS – the best part of Italy is the Italians! They have a unique capacity for unreasonable optimism as well as taking joy in being nice to whomever is in front of them. As a guy that tends to detach from people, they are a good influence on me!


Running and Meditation

One of the benefits of shifting my life away from chasing race results, and money, has been increased time for reading great books. The three themes I’ve been enjoying are biography, philosophy (Old Path White Clouds; Beyond Religion) and behavioral psychology (Thinking, Fast and Slow).

When I attended the class on contemplative parenting, the teacher mentioned a book on running and meditation. I’ve often felt that exercise is the closest that I get to prayer – so I bought a copy of the book to see what I could learn.

The book makes an interesting observation that exercise doesn’t settle the mind; it merely exhausts the mind. Specifically, the author notes that exercise is episodic in the nature of the assistance it provides, while meditation is cumulative in the benefits it provides (each session building upon previous work). All the explanations, tips and stories are shared in the context of athletic training, which made it easy for me to relate.

I’ve noticed that my daughter tends to copy me and, at three, the #1 issue she’s facing is learning to direct her energy into feelings other than anxiety. When she gets excited, she is frequently overwhelmed. Given that she likes to copy me, and is educated by folks that meditate daily, I figured that learning about mediation might benefit us both. At a minimum, meditation could become a useful back-up plan in case circumstances limit my ability to exhaust my mind!

I’m approaching it like I was coaching myself to my first ever 10K; daily short-duration sessions with very modest expectations.

If you’re an athlete searching for serenity then the book (Running with the Mind of Meditation) may interest.


Survivor Strategies

A few months ago, I asked Monica her game plan if something happened to me unexpectedly. Despite thinking that I’d laid everything out, she didn’t have one!

So I wrote out a plan that would take care of her and the kids. The plan seemed like a good idea, so I decided to execute it immediately, rather than waiting for something unpleasant to happen to me, or the family’s financial position forcing us to make changes when we weren’t in a position of strength. 


When my grandmother moved into assisted care, she was amazed (and a little depressed) at how little value was placed on her possessions. Having downsized a number of times, I could relate. While I’m downsizing for myself, an added bonus for my family is not having to worry about sorting through all my gear. I’ve had relatives that end their lives with multiple 40-foot containers of stuff, which places a burden on their spouses who have to sort through everything.

If we are fortunate to live long and prosper then, gradually, everything is striped away from us. As an athlete, I suspect that physical decline will prove challenging (but I’m coping so far). Keeping my world as large as possible, for as long as possible, is a big motivator for me to exercise and stay strong. Assuming that I keep at it for 40 years, I’m hoping to be in decent shape in my 80s. In Boulder, we have many active role models in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

The risk, to my family and young wife, is my mind leaves before I do.To help the survivors, I’ve chosen to insure my “living dead” risk via a long-term care policy. My policy is indexed to inflation and set at 120% of the current cost for me to go into long-term care. This benefits my family, if I live a very long time, and benefits me, if I’m incapacitated. It seemed like very good value as the expected payout for the insurance company is low but the potential liability for me could be very large.

The other thing I did was create a living trust that holds most of my assets. This simplifies the management of my affairs for the survivors. You don’t need to be a 1%’er for this structure to make sense. I linked up an FAQ to provide you with additional info. Combined with the living trust, my will dumps any remainder of my estate into the trust.

There are benefits available to your family from the above structure – so worth a review with an estate planner that understands your situation.

So I insured the main risk that could wipe out my family’s financial position and set up an efficient legal structure for my estate. The next step was to provide my wife with a copy of the family’s balance sheet with contact details and account numbers. In the event that I was incapacitated, my wife has a power of attorney so she can manage everything on our behalf. A similar power of attorney comes back to me, from her. As a side note, be very careful with granting power of attorneys as they are very powerful legal documents and I have seen them misused on multiple occasions.

Now, when I ask the question, Monica says she will pull out “the paper” (a single sheet) and follow along. With a couple more years to chip away, I hope to make my life structure even more straightforward for her.





Life After Death

When I was born, my paternal grandparents were 44 years old. 2012 marks my 44th year and my grandparents are nearing the end of their lives. For them, life is coming full circle and I’ve been helping with their end of life care.

Last month, I visited my grandfather. In advance, I’d been told that his memory wasn’t great – probably due to a combination of age, a recent injury and either Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Facing a reduction in our mental capacity carries all sorts of biases and stigmas. Even writing about it, I’m cautious, as I don’t want to create needless suffering for other family members. 

If we live long enough then we’re likely to be impacted by a gradual, but steady, reduction in our capacity to concentrate and retain the information that we use to make sense of the world. There’s value in sharing what I experienced as it was different than I expected.

My grandfather’s short-term memory is shot but a warm spirit continues to live inside. His capacity to feel happiness runs strongly through him. He surprised me with the strength of his handshake and the radiance he’d periodically direct towards me. Turns out you don’t need much memory to feel very, very happy at seeing your grandson.

Before I met with him, I primed myself by reflecting on favorite memories. You’ll come across this pshycological technique in everything from spiritual texts to manuals on how-to-sell anything. If you are with someone that’s truly suffering then sharing pleasant memories is a way to ease their pain. 

When we were together, I focused on his warmth rather than the conversation, which was circular. I was surprised that he retained a good sense of humor, despite his condition.

What most surprised me was how his warmth has lived on within me. Since my visit, I continue to feel happiness and can recall the touch of his hand in mine. The visit gave a very, very strong imprint from him to me.

His time is nearly done but I continue to carry the love he showed me into the world.

Worth remembering as we move through our brief lives.