At Any Given Time

Andy’s family was able to learn more about his accident this morning.

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.

  • Mountaineering
  • Technical rock climbing
  • Bike racing
  • Avalanche terrain
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Small propellor-driven aircraft in mountainous terrain

I lost very little by eliminating these items from my life.

Why?

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
  • Skiing trees

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…

What if you don’t die young?

Choose Wisely.

2021 Season Planning


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.


My 2021 season-opener zones. Best 20-minutes this past season was 265w.

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!


Yesterday afternoon at the Casa del Gordo

Waking up with a foot of snow on the ground (October 26th) I think caution with pacing my season is warranted.

Hope this helps,

G


PS:

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.

For the 200# attempt, I brought in a spotter.


COVID Training

An example of what we can do => Outdoor Ed with Mom and Dad.

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.


What’s your definition of normal?

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.

Where things can get derailed is disordered eating, chronic endurance and body-image goals that incentivize self-harm. In that case, you need to get your head straight (mental health) before you’ll be in a place to make progress in other areas.

My favorite quote here is from an elite running coach… “sometimes my role is to build the athlete’s confidence to the point where they can leave competitive sport.”

Every single time you make a change to support your health… write down your reasons.

Once you’re healthy, you’ll forget why you needed to make a change.


Indian Peaks Wilderness. My wife took the pic. As I have a policy to immediately get a tree between me and any moose, I was heading back into the forest!

My first COVID-season is wrapping up in September and I’m planning for (at least!) another six month block.

I spent my 20s, 30s and 40s focused exclusively on my own achievement. It’s a challenging habit to shake!

COVID blew up all my plans for personal achievement. To demonstrate leadership within my house, I’ve been focused on what’s best for the team.

Within that constraint, there’s fun to be had. I simply had to get creative and use my project management skills for something other than winning races, making money or doing deals.

This is where Principle #3 comes in. It’s not simply “what do I want to be doing” in five years.

It is… “With whom do I want to be living in five years?

Up-skill your team.

If you can’t plan your season then plan your life!

Athletes in the time of COVID


My current strength coach has a saying that goes like this, “I don’t train individuals. I lay out what is required to achieve the goal.”

I used to say something similar about the World Ironman Champs, “Kona doesn’t care about your schedule.”

As an under-40 athlete, the recipe for success was clear => large doses of specific training load with recovery enhanced by life simplification.

Eat, sleep, train, repeat.

While we do that, we pay attention to the unforced errors and weed those habits out of your life.


Years ago this was our set up => 9-week camp => SwimBikeRun the USA, every_single_meter! That’s my buddy, Clas, on the VasaTrainer. There was a perfectly acceptable lake just out of the frame. He was put off by the dead trees sticking up out of the water and the nuclear power plant just around the corner…

Well, the events are gone, and going to stay gone, for a while.

Your status quo => of preparing for your next big thing => is gone.

The removal of the end-goal, provides an opportunity to think in terms of years, rather than months and seasons.

Getting yourself really fit to cyber-race a stranger with a hacked powermeter… might not be the best use of your time.

Two things for you…



You can’t train a muscle fibre you don’t have.

For the next year (at least), there is ZERO penalty for putting on size, boosting immune function and getting strong.

If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere then I doubt you’ll need to do much race specific training until the Spring of 2021. There aren’t going to be any races.

Back in the day, I’d be tempted to avoid my Max Strength phases because they would screw up my sport-specific numbers and leave my legs feeling flat.

These days my heavy days are a lot of fun. My endurance load is reduced due to COVID and it’s nice to work my way through a long session with decent rest.

The anaerobic stimulation, combined with reduced chronic-aerobic beatdown, has my hormonal profile (expressed through mood and sex drive) feeling great.

A small increase in lean body mass can result in a large improvement in the way you feel inside your body. I’m up ~4% and feel gigantic!


Universal gyms have come a long way since the 80s. The gear in this photo was 2/3rds the price of solar panels, and a similar monthly savings when my wife dropped her pilates membership. I’m told it’s called a Megaformer.

Be wary of becoming a single-plane athlete.

I’ve set a lifetime annual record for indoor training and I’m 18 weeks into this journey.

You need to be thinking forward to this winter, when flu season returns. If you spend your days bouncing between a treadmill and an indoor trainer then you’re going to lose athleticism.

This loss of multi-plane function will leave you exposed to injury – as you age… as you return to normal training.

So consider… how best to develop my agility?

Answering that question, in a way that challenges your neuromuscular system, will be time well spent. It’s also going to give you something where you can experience improvement.

Getting better at something will perk you up.

We could all use a perk up!

Better Sleep

I started waking up earlier, kept my mouth shut and watched a cascade of positive effects roll through my house.

I got the idea after calling myself out about my self-prescribed sleep “aids” and from Jocko’s book.

The hook in Jocko’s book was his observation that 4:55am is more than ten minutes better than 5:05am.

I began to wake up in the “4s” in February. After two weeks my body adjusted and I don’t need an alarm to do it.

Monica asked me “why” => “All I was doing was scrolling social media for 90 minutes after the kids went to sleep.”

I was wasting a key advantage => I need less sleep than my kids.

+++

The game is “do whatever before 5am then one useful task.”

As the family wakes up… it’s on and I’m drawn back to the family (sometimes from the middle of a workout).

Jocko’s point –predawn is the only time we truly own.

Other tips…

If you want to go to sleep then wake up – same time every_single_day – with travel, I stay on my home time zone.

I always have a cushion of sleep available by going to sleep at the same time as my kids and waking up at the same time as usual.