Setting Goals

Everyone sets goals in their life. It takes time and deliberate effort to reach those goals. I have set some new goals for the upcoming season.  I feel like I'm starting at ground zero in my training, but I know what it will take to reach the goals I seek to achieve. 

The support of family and friends is one component to goal achievement that cannot be overlooked. Share your goals with those close to you. Allow those individuals to help keep you accountable.  

Taking the first step of deciding what it is you want to achieve will help you take the literal first step.  

Passion is driven by action. Work everyday and passion will follow. 


Life, love, and triathlon.

Well, as I write this post, there are about 10 days until I "get hitched", "attached to the old ball and chain," "promise to spend my life with another," and so on and so forth. Needless to say, that is on my mind. 

Triathlon is what brought Kenna and I together. We met while I was coaching a cycling class. We trained together in the pool too at the Monday night swim class.   Before we started dating I drove an extra 30 minutes each night to pick her up for swim practice, then drop her off afterwards.  

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We have raced dozens of races together in the past few years and shared many training experiences from flooding pouring rain (in the water and on the bike), endless 135 mile rides, and countless early mornings. She tends to think that I'm continuously trying to 'off her.' In a way she might be right. Some of those experiences might have been tests, and she's passed. Kenna's as tough as she is beautiful. 

Now we are sharing the experience of planning a wedding. This is another journey we've shared together. Today was a trying day. There were highs and lows just like race day. In the end we got a lot accomplished, and are happy with the result. As we reflected on the day Kenna shared some words of wisdom.

"I'd do an Ironman any day over planning a wedding. The Ironman involves endless days of fun for one day of pain. The wedding involves endless days of pain, for one day of fun." 

I can't wait for that day to come. It will be worth it and it's a good thing we're only going to do this once. I was also reminded that those times of tension and stress will come, best thing is to go back to what we know and love. Go hit the trails, the open road, or the water. There's no better place to let the stress melt away. It's clear what happens if we both haven't gotten our fix of fresh air, or sweated out the bad stuff. 

Kenna an I will be married on October 25th and we have a lifetime ahead of us. It will be filled with many more experiences that will test our limits and I can't wait to share those with her.  

 

It's Kona week...

The time of the year has come, and the Ironman World Championships is this Saturday. I as many others, was first introduced to the sport of triathlon through the iconic race in Kona, on TV.  It is a special race and marks the same weekend every year. It means that fall is here, and most of the racing is winding down. There may be a few key races left on your schedule, or it may be a transition into a running focus, or simply transition training. That might mean just riding for coffee. I love for one love the fall weather.  

It also means a time to look back over the season, and there are a lot of great highlights. Personally, I didn't race as much as I have in the past, but I was able to step back up to the half-ironman distance. My friend Thomas and I tackled two of the hardest and very different half-ironmans this season in Eagleman (flat, fast and hot) and Savageman (anything but flat, and air temperature under 40 degrees at the start! Victoria can vouch for that!). I also had the privilege to compete with an awesome team in the Keswick-BrynMawr Triathlon team. I am very excited for next season being surrounded by these outstanding teammates, as I will race in my first Ironman at Lake Placid. I am ready to be back in form to compete at a high level. Lake Placid is a special place for more than one reason. I proposed to my fiancĂ© Kenna, on the top of Mt. Marcy (in March-- snow), and she completed her first Ironman there this year. We are getting married at the end of the month (Yikes!). 

There were many exceptional races by my athletes this year, and I am very lucky to be a part of them. All of my athletes become a part of the DRiVEN family, and this year there were some great new additions. Legally, Kenna will become part of the family and the LP Ironman was just another test to make sure she would fit in. My Mom and her husband Tim completed their 2nd and third Ironman respectively in Wisconsin this year.  In Wisconsin completing their first Ironman were the parents of my best childhood friend, John and Ellen Becker. They all did incredible. To add to the rewarding experience as a coach is to see these couples take the journey together.  Mike and Sue competed at Lake Placid as well.  At one point one of Mike's most important goals that he shared with me, was for Sue to finish! Being able to share experiences with my athletes is why I coach. 

There's no doubt that when Kenna and my Mom are out on course there's a little more nervous anxiety that comes up while sitting on the sideline. For the most part I don't get too nervous when my athletes are racing. I know the work that they have done, and what they are capable of. We work together to reach the goals that are set forth.  It is somewhat more nerve wracking tracking athletes online though at races around the country (Keziah, Patrick, Scott, Andrea). Especially when splits stop coming. And if they are out of the country, it's hard to get other forms of updates! That can bring a pit to a coaches stomach. 

It's rewarding though to see those athletes cross the finish line and talk to them afterwards. Christopher at Lake Placid, sharing his highs and lows on the day.  Watching Kenna cross that finish line (I'm fairly certain no one has ever run around through all the spectators around the oval as fast as I did). My Mom smiling the ENTIRE day at IM Moo! Tim always wanting to chat during the race! John B crushing his expected time, which I had a hunch that he would. Ellen persevering until the very end and gutting out the dreaded stomach issues  to cross that finish line. It's all worth it and why I do, what I do. 

Whether someone is finishing their first sprint triathlon, just getting out the door to change their lifestyle, or winning the Ironman; it is rewarding, and an honor to help them reach that goal. 

I'm in transition mode for next season. I have a pretty important weekend coming up (my wedding) and then I am looking forward to my first Ironman journey. I already have a few athletes that I will share that journey with in Lake Placid next year, teammates and friends.  One in particular that I'll be coaching for that race, my brother Chris, will also be doing his first Ironman. I can't wait to share the journey with him and everyone else in the DRiVEN family, and triathlon community. Join us! Thank you to all my athletes this season and many more to come!

 

Mooseman Triathlon Weekend

This past weekend I was up in New Hampshire and for the second consecutive year competing at the Mooseman Triathlon.  There are two races on this weekend, an International (Olympic) distance on Saturday and a 70.3 on Sunday.  I traveled up with my girlfriend and support crew for Saturday, Kenna, and starting Saturday afternoon, she turns into my star athlete and I take the role of coach.  It is a long drive up to NH, but we took our time at a couple stops, and made it just at the check in time for our lodge.   It is a great place to stay, and I'd tell you what it is, but I'm not sure I want to share.

From there it was on to race check in and a pre-race ride and swim. It was a beautiful day when we arrived and the lake was perfect glass for the swim.  It was significantly warmer than last year, when it hurt to put your face in the water. This year after a few minutes I was quite comfortable in my wetsuit. The swim and ride were good to stretch out and open up the muscles after a long car ride and I felt pretty good for the race the next day.

On the way back to the lodge, the skies started to cloud up and foreshadowed the day to come.  It was a nice relaxing night at the lodge and one of my other athletes and his family arrived that would be racing on Sunday. I met Scott here last year, and I have been coaching him for the past year through his first Ironman at Lake Placid and his return assault this year. Through coaching and the time spent at the lodge it feels good to have Scott and his family there and share the experience with good friends. That is part of what racing triathlon is all about.  Others staying at the lodge doing the triathlon or just there hiking are always nice to talk to. After dinner, it was time for the finishing pre-race prep and off to bed.

I got up Saturday and didn't have to look out the window.  The forecasted 100% chance of rain was here. To me that is OK, I can deal with the conditions and I can use them to my advantage. Once I made it to transition the rain was really coming down. I set up my gear and proceeded down to the swim start. All of my stuff was already soaked at this point and I noticed a hole right near my bike marked with an orange cone.  The perfect place for water to build up.  I got a good swim warm up and was ready for the race to start.

Off we went and I felt pretty good. The day before my wet-suit had opened up in my warm up swim and it felt like I was swimming with a wet T-shirt on. Before the swim started we made sure that it was zipped up and it felt good in the swim warm up. However, part-way through the swim it felt like the same thing was happening during the race. What do I do now.  I can't stop, I can't reach the zipper. I don't even know if it is really open, maybe it's just in my head. So, I kept going. It definitely felt like there was extra water in my suit, and when I came out of the water my arms were filled up like water balloons. There was one guy out of the water ahead of me, and I had no idea who he was or how he rode, so I was a bit nervous.

Headed out on the bike and the rain was coming down. Pouring. Once I got up to speed it stung as it would when you're going downhill over 30mph. I wore my glasses, and only had my dark lenses with me so it had the effect of looking even more sinister out. I was riding hard and I really wanted to catch that guy. The first few miles of the course have a lot of turns and I couldn't see the rider ahead. I just kept pushing keeping the cadence high up the hills and using the downhill to gain speed. Finally around a corner we came to the first big steep uphill of the race and I could see the lead car flashing up ahead. Now I could see them and it was time to go. I played that game around a number of corners and hills for next 5 miles. Finally on probably the longest, but not steepest hill of the race I made up the final ground. He was just ahead as I crested the hill, and I hammered the downhill to make the pass stick. From that point the adrenaline from the pass and the rain stinging like nails kept me riding hard.  A few of the down hills were a little sketchy in the rain, but I stayed hard on the pace and kept it right on my limits. As I came to the last few miles the time was creeping up and I remembered that the ride is a little long here 27.2 instead of the normal 24.85 miles.  The last few miles the cold of the rain and wind started to set in and it got hard to hold the brakes and shift my gears.  As I came into transition I reached down to take of my shoes but couldn't feel my feet, and my hands didn't want to work to get my shoes out. I had to slow way down to give myself time to get out of my shoes.

My awesome transition spot.

Into transition and time to put on my running shoes. Same issue in transition. It's hard to get your hands and feet to cooperate when you can't feel them. Not to mention the pond that I was now putting my shoes on in. Finally in and now off on the run. My legs, minus my feet felt pretty good and my turn over was high. I went to work now on the run. Within the first few miles my legs were tight and had a slight hint of cramping but that went away as they loosened up.  I hit the turn around and came back. Timed myself to the next athlete and had a good lead, but I was going uphill when I saw him and him coming down, so he clearly seemed to be going faster. There was no room to let up and I drove to the finish. By this point I was regaining feeling in my feet and just pushing as hard as I could. Finally made it with less than a mile to go and was restraining myself from looking back. Just before I turned into the park for the finishing straight I looked back just to see, and couldn't see anyone close. I still pushed hard across the line.  I was happy with the result, and glad to be done racing in the rain.  I bettered my time from last year by about 3 minutes with worse conditions across all three disciplines. A good day and I brought home another maple syrup trophy, which is still a dilemma.  Do I crack it open for some victory pancakes or save it for the cool trophy that it is?


Start of the 70.3!

The next day was even better. The weather cleared and rain held of for the 70.3. We all rode down in the morning together (Kenna, Scott, and I) and I got to coach. Kenna had a great swim and was off on the bike well ahead of her competitors even swimming through many of the pro women who had started 6 minutes ahead of her. Scott came out looking strong a few minutes behind in his wave and they were off on the bike. I calculated times for both coming off the bike of where I thought they should be and both came in just ahead of my 'fast' predictions, so I was thrilled.  Kenna was still in first place amateur off the bike.  All the work she put in over the winter is paying off. Scott came out of T2 like a man on fire showing that his running legs are here to stay.  I did the same calculating where I'd hoped they'd be on their first of two laps by on the run and both were right on looking strong. Kenna continued on and just barely got beat out by a flying fast runner in the last lap of the run, finishing second place amateur overall for the second time in two weeks!  Scott crushed the run averaging 6:35 his fastest 13.1 ever. It was a great result for my athletes and a good end to a great weekend!

Watching the 70.3 made me think about racing long again, and I'll be there to compete in the 70.3 someday. I continue to work on my speed and I know I'll be able to drive the legs just 'a little bit farther.'

Finishers.

Thanks to my coach Brett Petersen, as I maintain consistent in my training I see consistent results. Congrats to my two athletes who competed this weekend Kenna and Scott. You both make a very proud coach.  I'm looking forward to seeing all of my athletes race in the coming weeks! More Ironman's 70.3's and PR's to come.

Train smart, train hard, and have fun! 



Greg

Ride Your Bike

With gas prices surpassing $4.00 again and the weather is perfect, there is no better time to ride your bike. I commute as often as I can and went through the bank drive through and the pharmacy drive through on the way home from coaching a swim practice last night!


Escaping the Howling Wind

Well the wind here this past weekend made me stop and reflect. What do you do when the wind is gusting up to 40 mph and it's 40 degrees or lower?

I think I have the perfect solution out my back door. I am very lucky to have the Wissahichon park, part of Fairmount Park, the largest city park system in the country right out my front door. There are 50 miles of trails within a 5 min walk, and a cinder road running along a beautiful creek for 6-7 miles.

When the wind is howling I can duck down into the valley and into the woods and hide from harsh bite of the frigid winds. There are times when I am stripping layers and carrying more than I am wearing. Especially when the sun is beaming in between the trees. Then I'll need every layer as a I run across the meadow at the top of the hill on the way back to my house.

Running out on the trails is one of my favorite training sessions too because of the variety that it provides. I've lived here in Philadelphia and have been running the trails for nearly 3 years, and I'm still finding new trails. Taking a different turn out there can bring you to a new view or a completely different type of habitat.

It also helps me escape from the city. You would never know that you are in the 5th most populous city in the US when you are looking at the waterfall rolling into devils pool on a crisp early morning.

The trails also give my body some new adaptations as well. It keeps me off balance and strengthens my core and stabilizing muscles in my legs. A favorite workout I have been doing lately is a long run pushing the hills on the trails. This can really tear you apart back there, because there are some good hills.

So the next time the wind is howling, don't let it chase you inside. Go to your local trail system and go exploring. You just might find your new favorite place.

Train smart, train hard, and have fun!

Greg

The Real Talent: Effort and Consistency

I have been discovering the same message in many different places lately. The key to performing to the best of your abilities, becoming an elite level athlete, or simply achieving your goals is not a pure gift of talent, rather it is the amount of effort and consistency that you put forth in your pursuits.

The first direct quote that made me think about this message was from my father. He sent me this quote from a book that he is reading:

"You'd be surprised at how many people don't associate effort with results. Remember, we live in an age of lotteries, casinos, and instant YouTube fame. A lot of folks think it's all about luck. That's why we stress purpose and perseverance . . ."

~ From The Elder, by Marc Cooper

This is an interesting take on the concept. We live in this society that does not always see perseverance, effort, or consistency as positive traits, but they are wrongly considered to be traits that encourage suffering or sacrifice. Two words that do not need to have such negative connotations. Sacrifice can be a very positive thing when it is in pursuit of a greater sense of satisfaction. An athlete who wins an olympic medal has not enjoyed every second of the training to reach that point, but I bet there are not many who would exchange that medal for an extra day off or second helpings of ice cream.

Another place where the level of fortitude and effort in competition was prevalent was the coverage of the Australian Open Tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia. The athletes competing at the top level of sport stress the routine and specificity even during the match. Rafael Nadal must have his water bottles a certain way, and he must be in control of every detail. After playing 5 hours of grueling tennis the players must maintain a focus and concentration that Novak Djokovic (current world #1 in tennis) explained comes from consistency and effort in training. When you get that far into a match, the one who has worked the hardest will be the best prepared, not the one with the most talent.

Nicholas Lidstrom is another example of excellence in his given field. He is the captain of the Detroit RedWings, winner of four Stanley Cups, and 7 Norris Trophies (best defenseman in the NHL). He is one of the most respected players in the league, by his peers. This is for his humbleness, constancy, and level of professionalism in the sport. There was a special on recently where he was highlighted. Every home game he has the same routine. He trains a certain way, eats the right things, and mentally prepares himself for the game ahead. Lidstrom logs the most ice time of any member on his team at the 'old age' of 41. He is still playing some of his best hockey through his pursuit and dedication to the game.

The last source that I'll mention today comes from Lance Armstrong. Love him or hate him he is the greatest cyclist of all time. Even Lance, or I should say, especially Lance, knows that you cannot rely on talent alone. In his 2003 book, Every Second Counts, he is explaining the concept of being a professional to a young professional (ironically), Floyd Landis. He said, "You aren't born a professional. You have to turn yourself into one. You have to do the right things. You have to eat right. You have to sleep right.... (when talking about his 1999 Tour de France Victory) It was a matter of better training, better technique, and a willingness to make sacrifices. If you want to do something great, you need a strong will and attention to detail... The common denominator to successful people in this world (in any field) is that they're all capable of sustained, focused attention.

To achieve the greatest performances effort and consistency are the ingredients. That is true on all scales. It does not matter if you are trying to win a world championship, or complete your first 5k. Giving your best effort and maintaining consistency in your pursuit will allow you to reach your own top step of the podium.

Train smart, train hard, and have fun!

Greg

Cold Hands, Wet Shoes, and Dirty Bikes

Winter is upon us here in Philadelphia now. I was wondering wether it would come this year. Being my third year in the city of brotherly love, after two previous years of record snowfall, and no snow up to the middle of January (save an inch in October) this winter has been an odd one. It has been great for training. Being able to head outside without the extra consideration that ice and snow brings is somewhat of a treat.

Don't get me wrong, I am not opposed to a good steady snowfall over the winter season. However, this is not what we are experiencing. With a steady snowfall we can get into a rhythm and embrace winter training activities such as XC Skiing, snow shoeing, and many others. Two inches of snow over the weekend is sure to turn to slush tomorrow when temperatures reach the mid 50's. That creates a cold wet mess that at first blush is not very inviting. Your shoes get wet and muddy, hands are cold as ice, and any bike ride turns your bike into a 30 min project of washing unless you want it to turn into a pile of rust. My bike comes back covered in road grime, ice, and worst road salt that is the enemy of clean shifting.

Then once you get home where does your gear go? My bike gets to go on a landing pad of laid out towels to drip and get cleaned before it begins to get eaten away. Running shoes get stuffed with newspaper and set out to dry over the hot air blowing vents. All of the clothing goes straight to the wash, or the floor by the washing machine at least. Then I get to take a warm shower and rinse the dirt from behind my ears and in my teeth.

That shower though is one of the most rewarding parts. I did my work. The elements may not have made it easy, but I gained a little bit extra by doing battle in the damp cold. There are times when it is just best to embrace the elements and use them for what they are. Maybe you will gain some strength from the experience.

This type of weather may be another blessing in disguise giving you the time to focus on some more time in the pool, technique on the trainer, strength in the gym, or speed work on the treadmill. Training through the wishy washy winter may not be ideal but can be used to great advantage. It is just best to identify what works for you. Sometimes that may mean going out of your comfort zone, or finding a different aspect of your training to focus on.

A key to training is to always keep it fresh. Changes in weather may seem like an inconvenience, but they can sometimes provide the subtle changes that we all need in our training. While we all may not be lucky enough to train in sunny 70 degrees year round, it is easy enough to make the best of your training environment.

Train smart, train hard, and have fun!

Greg