Lessons from Ultrarunning

Corbet’s Couloir & the Jackson Hole Tram, last week

My Thread on Jason’s book, Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, got some traction.

So, similar to Steve’s book, I thought I’d share my personal take on the topic.

Before triathlon, I was an ultra hiker and mountaineer. It was a great way to prepare my body for the demands of running.


Frequency is the Foundation

If we want to improve at something then we need to do it often.

Often, like, most every day.

Whatever protocol you choose, it needs to allow enjoyment most every day.

What this implies, for my return to running, is getting my body to a point where I can run 5k most days.


Choose Goals where you have an Emotional Attachment

This helps in expected, and unexpected, ways.

Expected – helping us show grit, getting us past inevitable setbacks, helping us endure the challenges of the process.

Unexpected… when we care about outcome, REALLY CARE, then we might be able to overcome our habits of self-sabotage.

I love amateur sport for driving positive personal change.

Why?

Because our habits are not as ingrained as elsewhere in our lives.

I’m currently rolling a daily mobility streak that’s the longest of the last decade. My desire to improve my fitness motivated positive change.

++

Consistency via Removal

Pay attention to every choice that screws up tomorrow (‘s training). In my early days it was late-nights and alcohol.

As you build a habit of removing these minor obstacles, you might find larger issues to work with. Triggers that lead to “freak outs” (see Do Hard Things by Steve Magness, and my article).

The stress of racing, the grind of training… quite often these will surface other patterns we can work with.

I discovered a lot about myself on my endurance journey. I’m free to change the habits that hold me back.


Don’t let Goals cover Poor Choices

I write about sugar consumption sitting on the frontier between “training for health” vs “training for performance”.

That’s true but it’s only part of the story.

We often use “performance” to justify our choices.

It could be performance but it might also be something else.

Many times, high-performance has been an excuse for a disordered relationship with food and exercise.

Whatever I have going on…

Better to own it.


Gain a Technical Understanding of:

  • Personal sweat rate
  • Sodium needs
  • Gastric emptying

Many athletes have well-earned pride in their mental toughness.

Do not be in a rush to get to the difficult bits!

Understanding the points above, and training your personal “solution”, will avoid many unforced errors.

By the way… most my unforced errors track back to choosing a pace that’s not appropriate to the session, or conditions.

Put another way… nutrition problems are usually pacing errors in disguise.

Sunday Summary 7 August 2022

Top Threads

  1. Book: The Art of the Sprint
  2. 14 Weeks Along – lessons so far & July Training Summary
  3. Pace Change 125s – a favorite swim for all levels
    1. Link to my 2022 posted swims
  4. I’ll write up HRV experience next week
    1. Biofeedback HRV vs Morning
    2. Oura Overnight Trends vs Morning
  5. Authors – consider owning your rights

Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Developing Athletic Talent in Your Kids

First Duathlon

Last month I was invited to sit in on a call with Texas Children’s about long term athletic development.

It’s a fun project that lets me share my experience and work with friends.

Previous post on Raising Young Olympians.


I want to highlight three things “missing” from the LTAD literature.

All three are a focus for me.


EARLY positive athletic experiences

I’m on board with late-specialization.

Find, then stick with, something long enough to have a positive experience.

A positive experience matters more than the skill development.

In the kid’s mind, you want a link “effort with satisfaction”.


First Sled Trip – more riding than hauling for the little guy

Relaxation at MAXIMUM heart rate

The look on my kids faces the first time I brought them to treeline still makes me laugh!

It was a literal fear of death.

High-performance requires the athlete to move through their fear of death.

Like water, the earlier you get your kids feeling comfortable with “race effort” the better.

They don’t need to be throwing down weekly!

We stick with summer racing until middle-school age.


RACING is a skill

In the development profile you’re building for your kids…

…race experience is important.

  • Field Strength
  • Crowds
  • Noise
  • Arousal Control
  • Grace in Defeat
  • Grace in Victory
  • Learning different ways to win
  • Learning to persist and achieve secondary goals

Deep dive on performance in Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness recent books (link is my Twitter reviews).


1st Winter 14er

Bonus tip – not for everyone!

If you read Training for the Uphill Athlete (my review on Twitter) then you’ll learn that Kilian Jornet had an ultra-childhood.

If you happen to have a kid that’s into going long…

…let them!

My son has been building his endurance physiology since 3 years old.

His progression is WAY faster than I’d recommend for anyone else’s kid, or even his siblings.

However, it’s not my job to define his dreams…

…and he’s a really good training partner!

Sunday Summary 31 July 2022

Top Five Threads

  1. Doing Hard Things based on Steve’s Book
  2. Jason’s Book: Training Essentials – lots of tips (for all) in thread
  3. Steady State LT1 Treadmill Test (3.4mph @ 15%) – sample tips
  4. Mark asks, “Do you let yourself feel superb?”
  5. 8 year build showing gains for my son

Workouts & Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Sunday Summary 24 July 2022

Top Threads

  1. Book Thread: Do Hard Things by Steve Magness
  2. Inflation & Real Estate: Ben’s Article & Mine
  3. Swedish Coffee Challenge – my sleep back to normal after a month
  4. Dealing with DNS, #1 Nutrition Error & Bike Interval Sets
  5. Exercise loading, specifically after COVID with AC

Workouts & Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Swedish Coffee Challenge

Coach Monsy tradition is swim your age in 200s – if you look in the lower left corner then you can read a fun note from our son, “good luck swimming 16,000 when you’re 80!”

At the end of May, Johan asked if I’ve ever tried 1-2-4 with coffee.

1-2-4 is the pattern I came across with regard to alcohol, or anything really, that reduces the chance of over-doing-it.

  • One an hour
  • Two a day
  • Four a week

Johan’s timing was perfect.

A month earlier, I was talking with Dr. Jeff Shilt. I had a concern that sustained, high intensity training might be bad for my health. Jeff was succinct…

If you really want to do something for your health, consider drinking less coffee

I knocked out alcohol a few years ago. Coffee, however, has been a 20-year habit. I’ve metabolized a heck of a lot of caffeine in my life.

I told Doc J that I wasn’t interested in that adjustment, and we left it.

However…

I pride myself on being a model-patient and I remembered what he said

…and, behind the scenes, I noticed it was taking more and more intake to get a coffee buzz

…and, then Johan came along and said pretty much the same thing


I found myself in the position of ignoring a doctor, an Olympian, two goal-medal coaches, and a long-term friend… all rolled up into two people.

I decided to give it a shot.

I stopped the morning after Johan’s question. Johan’s on a break as well.

3.5 weeks so far.

  • No headaches
  • Drinking more water
  • Overall hydration better (assess via urine color) – likely means my recovery is better

The one drawback has been waking up _really_ early (3am) and, for the first two weeks, I couldn’t fall back asleep.

Cravings, perhaps.


The Stories We Tell Ourselves

One of my fears of stopping coffee was I wouldn’t be able to wake up. The autobrew was my alarm clock.

FALSE – if anything it’s too easy to wake up!

Another fear, I’d have less energy.

FALSE – no change in energy

Two things this experiment have proved to me, yet again.

#1 // when you get to a place were more ceases to work, try less

#2 // every so often, call your bluff on the stories you are telling yourself

My inner narrative on coffee proved false.

Not the first time, I’d been fooling myself.


Related Post is The 30-Day Test // binary choices are easier for me than moderation, less cognitive burden

Sunday Summary 17 July 2022

Top Threads

  1. Conor Harris’ active release thread for hip region tightness
  2. Additional Tips on the SART (original blog on dynamic loading)
  3. Coaching people (like me) who already know how to train
  4. My current loading hierarchy
  5. Progressive incline treadmill test with lactate

Workouts & Working Out

High-Performance Habits

Coaching Elite Performers

Rolling strong at the swim meet

A coach is someone who can offer correction without causing resentment

– John wooden

When I notice someone has been triggered, I stop.

My life goals do not require me to change other people.

Inverting, being prickly reduces the world’s ability to help us out.


If you struggle to learn from experience then ASK…

  • What is it going to take for me to trust the process?
  • What is it going to take for me to trust the coach?

For me, It was watching Nils & Johan take everything I learned about sport and make it better. I wanted to take my knowledge to the next level.

In February, one small choice by Johan, set off of positive chain that brought us together.



What’s it going to take for you?

If you have no idea then that’s OK!

Think back, who gets through to me, without resentment?

Combine with goals & VALUES alignment, and you have the ingredients for a valuable long-term relationship.

  • My marriage
  • My investment committee
  • My close friends
  • My board

All contain people who are able to get through to me. I am surrounded by elite coaches.

In our lives, we will come across people who have the capacity to make us want to improve, and the vision to make incremental suggestions that we can implement.

Pay attention when you feel their positive influence.


Johan’s 2022 Scorecard

Each adjustment, I had been unable to implement previously.

Inside, I feel like I volunteered for all of them.

And I did.

But someone was the catalyst.

Share your story => someone needs to hear it.

Raising Young Olympians

Great chat with Johan this week.

Long term athletic development => LTAD


Kid Johan – where it all started

Let’s start with Johan’s background

  • 1981 born
  • 1994 watches the Olympics and wants to get there!
  • Starts to specialize for Speed Skating (13 yo)
  • 2000 Jr World Champion
  • 2001 Defends 5000m Jr World Title
  • 2002 / 2006 / 2010 Three Consecutive Swedish Olympic Teams

There are themes that repeat in the LTAD literature.

  • From 7-10 yo the local parents set up a “sports school.” One day a week, they’d have a couple hours and try different activities
  • Very active childhood, but no early specialization, Johan’s skate focus started ~13 yo
  • Continued to play organized soccer/tennis, and lots of spontaneous ball sports, through his mid-teens. His skating coach supported all general training and encouraged him to continue
  • Ran, cycled, raced Swedish Nationals (road race)
  • Grew up in a small city, 125,000 population at present

Surprising to me, Johan didn’t come from a Skate Family.

His Dad was a Regional Class soccer player. As the family grew, his father’s focus shifted from his own sports to being a soccer and bandy coach for kids. He continued to run and race 1-2x per year. Johan’s mom was artistic and both parents worked full-time through this childhood.

His entry to the sport of speed skating was via a local club that handled training, talent development and races.

VERY independent in approach – the local club organized bus trips to race in the Netherlands and Germany in his Tweens, without parents, staying with locals.

Johan was the key driver in getting himself to a very high level. The Swedish Club system and local coaching infrastructure gave him the opportunity to train himself to a world class level.

Johan on Twitter and his coaching page on Facebook.


Johan today

Johan, and I, are very interested in helping our kids excel at sport. It was the #1 topic for our call. 

0-2 years old: we are a swim family, our babies all started out very comfortable in the water. If you want your kids to swim then, ideally, continue their natural-born comfort via positive experiences in the water, from birth.


2-6 years old

  • Movement skills via gymnastics – we didn’t progress into pre-team, very basic balance, agility and movement for all our kids
  • Swimming – a swim lesson, once a week, every week – from a coach, who wasn’t us.
  • Soccer Tots – from preschool age, coordination, bit of running, general play
  • Preschool – three years, play-based preschool where they learned skills to get along with other kids – early socialization in a play-based environment

7-12 years old

  • Just like Johan, lots of different sports: Thai Boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Indoor Climbing, Swimming, Soccer, Hiking, Running, Downhill Skiing, Uphill Skiing, Water Polo, Indoor Skiing
  • Some sports come-and-go, continue at least once per week swimming lesson.
  • Family policy is “do something” – we are willing to change what they do each season.
  • Lots of activity – competition mostly absent

In this phase, build self-confidence. 

Two examples are indoor climbing and skiing. Both sports involve: movement skills, problem solving, fear management and young kids can be better than many adults. Huge confidence boosters for our crew.

No judges, no scoring, we SHARE athletic experiences with our kids.


Little Johan in full flight

Race Experience

Something a little different. 

Summer Swim League from a very early age (5 yo) for each of our kids.

  • Intense 10 week summer season where they swim M-F and have a dual meet on Saturday
  • Touch the water ~80 days across their summer holiday
  • Finals event with 100s of kids, gives them big venue experience
  • Positive early race experience by winning ribbons at the dual meets, and eventually medals at the Finals event

Teen Years – like Johan, specialize if THEY want. 

Our only policy is that everyone does something, including us.

Our oldest is a swim specialist and soon-to-be 14 yo. She still does extracurricular cross-country running, track and skiing. Her summer swim focus, continues since 5 yo.


We only have negative-control

In other words, we can screw things up, but we cannot make it happen.

What makes it happen?

  • Positive experiences
  • Wide range of movement skills
  • An environment to excel – access to skilled coaches and motivated teammates
  • The child’s, and eventually the teen’s, inherent drive

It’s a long road to the top!


Final questions => be brutally honest with yourself…

What do I want for my kids, and why do I want it? 

A lifelong enjoyment of daily exercise NOT a self-identity wrapped up in winning!

Am I seeking to compete, or win, through them?

I want to enjoy nature alongside them. Many parents care far too much about results.

Understand my values & biases

We try to keep our kids, and ourselves, grounded by exposure to a WIDE range of field strengths. There is a benefit from getting our butts kicked every so often.

As parents, we are mostly positively reinforcing.

We offer immediate, negative feedback (and event venue removal) when we witness poor sportsmanship. We’ve left sports when we didn’t like the peers.

Keep Small Promises

July in Boulder

I did the Rich Roll Podcast this past week (not out yet, I’ll let you know).

We started the podcast with…

My story is proof we all have hidden skills, paths we never see, never take.

I wasn’t setting Summer Swim League records as a kid, I didn’t walk-on to the Stanford Swim Team. I thought I was an average athlete. Turned out, I was an Ultraman Champion.

Every single one of us has a skill, a path, that can dramatically improve our lives.

But we have to start.

That was followed by two-and-a-half hours of chatting!

To wrap up, Rich asked me to give him one last tip. I thought a bit and came up with…

Keep small promises to yourself.

Everything I’ve achieved comes from the credibility I’ve established with myself.

When I started my journey, I had no idea where it would take me.


My elite athletic career dates back to a single choice in 1993 (24 yo).

I was living in London and decided to go for a walk.

One walk led to two.

Soon I was bike commuting to work.

Eventually, I was hiking longer on the weekends.

Years later, I made the decision to do “something everyday.”

Many choices, many years.


Roll forward, ~30 years, I have two promises I’m working on:

  1. Try to help someone online via Twitter
  2. Give it my best shot to get back in outstanding aerobic shape

Both done daily, on a 1,000-day time horizon.

I have no destination in mind.

I’m going to do the work, pace myself, and see what happens.


#1 came from calling my bluff with some feelings of envy I had.

#2 came because my life is more enjoyable with superior aerobic fitness.


Where do you need to face your fears and go for it?

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

Start small, give it 1,000 days.