On Wednesday evening, after my wife made five days of calls, I was sitting at my desk with Andy’s phone. On a whim, I opened his Strava App to see what he’d been doing over the last little while.
Strava is a web-based application that lets athletes share their training. You can upload from any GPS-enabled device. I use my watch, and my Peloton bike, to automatically share my stuff with anyone who’s interested.
As soon as I opened the app, I saw that Andy had been recording a workout when he fell. Quickly realizing what I had in my hand, I saved the workout and notified the Sheriff’s Office.
I pulled the workout up on Strava and opened satellite view. I saw Andy’s day start at the parking lot, head up the Flatirons Freeway and end up at the morgue. Ugh.
I think the Deputy must have closed Strava when he took possession of Andy’s phone, which didn’t have a passcode on it. Strava only records when you’re moving so this saved the battery life.
Seeing Andy’s day, visually, really hit me. I’m feeling it as I share with you.
Why am I sharing with you?
I am going to tell you why.
Since turning 30, I’ve been gradually whittling away at my acute risk exposure.
Technical rock climbing
Small propellor-driven aircraft in mountainous terrain
I lost very little by eliminating these items from my life.
Because I was able to look deeply at the reasons I wanted to hang onto things that could ruin my life.
What’s the source of your risk-seeking behaviors?
For me it was a combination of factors: a lack of impulse control, a short-term high and a desire to do things other people couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do.
Elite sport forced me to address my impulse control issues.
I replaced short-term highs with the serenity that comes from having good judgement.
I refocused my desire to do difficult things… I focus on being a better person over time and have a set of habits that nudge me in this direction => my wife/son are my backcountry partners and I wake up very early each day.
If you are not ready to make a change then I understand. I’ve been working at this for 20 years.
I’ve kept areas of risk in my life.
Traveling alone in the backcountry
Winter driving on highways
Riding bikes on open roads
Skiing the toughest downhill terrain I can manage
Here’s what I’d like you to do.
Minimize the impact of your choices on the people around you.
Pay attention when friends and associates die doing what you do. I haven’t had a friend die from bike racing but I can put a named-deceased on each of the other lines in my list.
Run a GPS-track in the backcountry and have it automatically ping to a satellite. Every ten minutes my location bounces off a satellite to a web page. Your family is going to want your body when you’re done with it.
Outside the backcountry? How about a Road-ID bracelet and a Garmin Watch.
Share your definition of late. Andy made this crystal clear and it saved us a lot of worry over the years. It also let us know immediately when he was in trouble.
Sure, it’s tough to watch his Strava file on Google Earth, but it’s a lot better than wondering what happened for the rest of our lives.
Those are the big three.
At the micro-level, I mitigate risk with fitness, snow tires, a big vehicle, knowledge, avoiding risk-seeking peers, not calling audibles, turning around and carrying everything I need for running into someone else’s emergency (because it’s never going to happen to me, right?). 😉
Risk works both ways. Lots of little risks become material, yes.
But also, chopping your tail risk and combining with mitigating factors… can reduce your likely penalty over a lifetime of repeating the same choices.
And, just in case you get chopped, remember the Big Three => Pay Attention, Run GPS to a Satellite and Define Late for those who love you.
One last thing.
Here’s how I make key decisions in my life.
September of 2000: I was sitting in a very nice townhome in Hong Kong. At 31 years old, I had arrived at the top of socio-economic pyramid, exceeding my wildest childhood dreams.
I was doing work that I was good at, and I was well paid for that work. Outside of work, I was a top athlete in the local amateur community and had a great group of friends. Yet…
I felt empty when I looked ten years out. All I could see was an older, wealthier version of myself.
That’s not the life I wanted.
The filter I used…
You’re 50 years old and sitting in a doctor’s office. He tells you the tests came back and you have pancreatic cancer.
How do you feel?
Balance that against something I told my friend KP after he ticked past the age his father died…
Despite an irregular year, my fitness followed a typical pattern with a clear peak around the end of August.
Because of COVID it’s going to be tempting to change things up this winter. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The earliest I can see a return to racing (other than super-spreader events in soon-to-be-personal-freedom-loving-hotspots) is Q3-2021.
You want to be thinking about multiple base cycles. This season, more than ever, early base is really early… …we’re way out from when you’re going to want to perform.
Here’s some ideas that might help you avoid common pitfalls.
Drop your zones – I spent the last 7 weeks pushing one-rep maxes and climbing mountains. I was either sore or exhausted, and had many days where all I could manage was easy spinning.
The reduced bike load had the effect of drawing down my aerobic bank account. I got my money’s worth and am satisfied with my COVID-summer. Coming back to “real” bike training…
1/ I put in place a 130 bpm HR cap – for this first cycle of the 2021 season. This is just under the top of my “steady” HR zone when I’m fit.
2/ Tested my low-end aerobic fitness (around 120 bpm for me), saw my power had fallen by ~40 watts so pulled 40w out of my FTP estimate and re-calculated my zones.
I could train much more intensely but what would the extra effort buy me?
1/ Know when you want to be fit and the type of fitness you require. My required fitness is sustained endurance, with pack, to guide my family on trails and snow.
At 51, my true goal is pushing out the start of old-age, which implies a large functional strength reserve at 60 years old, and a body in orthopedic shape to use it.
The best choice I made in my athletic career was to avoid choices that would jeopardize this overriding goal for my future self.
2/ Closing out 2020, building mojo gets you more than building fitness. We are going to need a lot of mojo to get ourselves from January to Easter.
The lower zones are a wonderful break from having to get psyched for sustained tempo and generating KJs when tired. If ever there was a good time to let go of chronic endurance then now is that time!
3/ Leave space for COVID disruptions. It could be a hectic winter with random quarantines due to positives at my kids schools.
I’m a lot more patient with my kids, my spouse and the reality of my COVID-life… when I’m a little under-done with my training.
Freshness is a good trade for an improved life experience.
At the back of my mind, I’m remembering that my first “COVID winter” started on March 13th. That’s 20 weeks from now!
Waking up with a foot of snow on the ground (October 26th) I think caution with pacing my season is warranted.
Hope this helps,
Two big 1RM achievements for me in 2020. 135# overhead and 200# bench.
Earlier in the block, I had missed on 205# and found myself pinned under the bar, in my basement, solo, at 5:30am. Eventually, I rolled out and was fine.
Training for an event, or striving towards a specific goal, is straightforward. Select goal, seek expert advice, simply your life and execute, while paying attention to how you get in your own way.
But what if the events are cancelled? What if the whole concept of “an event” has been put on hold?
Three key principles I keep in mind…
1/ Remember why you started in the first place. What was your core motivation before you got wrapped up in seeking external success/validation? Remind yourself of your core values.
2/ What’s your personal superpower? Where do you have the capacity to build, and demonstrate, mastery? This helps you sustain motivation in challenging times.
3/ Where do you want to be in 5 or, even, 10 years time? I laugh at myself with this one because my answer is nearly always… “the same as today, just a little bit better.” This is despite _knowing_ my life undergoes big changes all the time.
While kicking those ideas around, I also like to consider different benefits of an active lifestyle…
Physical Health // By mixing in some housework, I can rack up 12,500 steps a day and not leave my property. So I have this one covered.
Mental Health // For many of my athletic friends, this is the true driver of their program, even more so for my pals with family trees, or personal histories, of addiction. Here’s what works for me => split sessions AM/PM with a goal of never getting so tired you can’t make tomorrow’s split sessions.
Make the goal tomorrow, while having the energy to meet your non-training obligations today.
Long-term Functional Strength // If you’re under 40 then this might not be on your radar. Watching my grandmother age, then die, put it on mine. I maintain a large reserve of functional strength. Today, it’s useful in the mountains. In the future, I hope it will help me maintain independent living.
Vanity & Sexual Function // These goals can work together, or be opposed to each other. For example, a well-constructed anabolic phase, will build muscle, increase my energy and boost my naturally occurring recovery hormones. All good.