Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sharpening the Tools.

I recently read a post on facebook from my coach.  He was not sure who to give proper attribution to so now neither am I. The post went something like this.  "Give me 3 hours to cut down a tree and I will spend 2 hours sharpening the axe."

For 9 years I spent the majority of my training time building a strong and hardened tool out of my body and my mind, by riding tons of miles hard and fast.  This was not exactly sharpening the axe, but more like laying on the layers of steel to prepare for the sharpening.  That is what endurance cycling requires if you wish to be a  top performer.   This method will take you to a plateau,  It's a beautiful place high up in the mountains with a great view,  but it's also a place from which you can see even higher goals.

Completing RAAM in 2012 brought me to this plateau.  Some might think it to be a pinnacle but for me it is high mountain plateau that has afforded me a view of all of the great things surrounding me.  

Since completing RAAM I have been spending more time honing my tools both literally and figuratively.   Literally, I have honed my body through my yoga practice,  a change in my attitude toward food, and more varied training techniques to maximize my return on investment.  Figuratively, I have been honing my body and mind through meditation and life style changes which provide a more balanced and fulfilling life.

After completing RAAM,  I took a month to travel to Costa Rica to become a certified yoga instructor.   One of my goals as a yoga instructor is to develop practices which help cyclists and runners strengthen their core and upper body, improve balance and mobility,  as well as stretching their legs, hips, and backs which get abused during workouts.   I do these Cyclasana workouts daily and they are the primary way that I have honed my body.

Yoga, in addition to its physical side, has many other facets.  Yoga asserts that we are all part of this planet and are responsible for what happens to it and its creatures.    It also postulates that you should be grateful for what you have and not long after something you don't have, which is the definition of suffering.    When you combine these, you can create a diet which is both healthy and rewarding because you will eat sensible portions of real food grown or raised without chemicals which you are grateful to have.  Bonus points if you grow them yourself!   My dietary strategy of:

is simple and conforms to the first principle above and its so completely open that it allows me to be grateful for what I can eat.  I also try to be gluten less (not quite gluten free) which, when you cut down on processed foods, isn't to hard to achieve except for the beer.    This has allowed me to maintain my weight this year at about a 3% decrease in body fat over 2012 and I have room left to knock off another 3%.

I've honed myself thru more varied training, focused training, meditation, and life style changes.  Since I did not have a bike for the month I was in Costa Rica, the training I did there was gravel road running and hill repeats.  During these hill repeats and running another part of my yoga training was brought into play.  Pranayama,  or breath work, allowed me to focus on my breath and not on my running.   When the breath came into alignment, running became faster and easier. 

Once I returned home from Costa Rica I kept a much more diverse training and racing schedule.  My training included swimming twice a week, doing both short and long runs, mountain biking,  time trialing and interval work on my road bike as well trying to get in 1 century ride a week so I don't completely lose my endurance base.

From my yoga training I also implemented a more balanced, ayurvedic based, life style which includes maintaining a normal sleep cycle and regular meditation. They have helped me hone my mind and work toward a more centered place.   This life style has inspired me to take on two new challenges in 2013.   The first, in August, is a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation Course to further hone my mind and the second, in September, is a 500 hour  Advanced Ayurveda and Yoga Certification.

The last step in sharpening the tool was working with Ben Stone of Sigma Human Performance.,  We worked together to focus my training and develop a plan that allowed me to reach the first of  my two athletic goals for the summer of 2013.   On July 7th, I competed in the Arkansas State Time Trial Championships.  I finished the 24.8 mile time trial course in 54:49 or 27.2 mph average for the fastest time of the day.  There was a time when I thought this goal was unachievable.  But if you believe and train you will manifest your destiny.   

My second goal seems even more pie in the sky.  On August 10th, 2013 I compete in the ITU Duathlon World Championships.  At this race I want to turn in a top 10 finish in my age group.  While I am confident that my bike time will be great, I'm racing against the worlds best runners in an event that is very much skewed toward the run, (10K run, 40K bike, 5K run),  and I'm still built more like a wrestler than a runner.

Over the next couple of months I will continue sharpening my tools and, when needed, I will bring them out and chop down the next obstacle that gets in the way.

For my RAAM friends:  I have been talking with my 2012 crew and 50% of them say they would be in for a run at the 50+ Record.  I have an invite to join a two person team to go after the 50+ record with a  top RAAM team rider who knows how to set records.   I have also been approached about doing a 4 person team in 2014.   I don't know what the future has in store for me, or just exactly why I am sharpening my tools, but I won't be committing to much of anything until I return from my great adventures in August and September.

If you are interested in talking about yoga or training you can email

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