Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How to reach insane fitness levels in 2016


Disclaimer: If you are looking for a quick fix, this article is not for you.  The below strategies and ideas have been formulated from my own experiences training myself and hundreds of other people.

This article is not for the person who will set some half ass New Year’s resolution, only to follow through for a few weeks.  The tips and strategies below are only for the people who want to commit and take their fitness game to a very high level. 

First, a few initial parameters you must adhere to in order to reach your highest fitness level in 2016:

1.     You must WANT to be fit.  It's no secret that you get what you continually center your attention on.  You must focus on the things you desire to achieve, the direction you want to go, and who you want to become.  If you are not repeatedly thinking about your fitness goals, day in and day out, well you probably will not get there.  Your thoughts turn into action and if your thoughts support your goals, odds are, your daily action will follow.  Right now, make the decision to be aware of your thoughts and derail any non-supporting and self-rejecting thoughts.  Focus on the process and your daily rituals that are needed to achieve your goals.    
2.     You are willing to do what it takes to reach your fitness goals.  Many people will embark on some generic weight loss goal starting January 1st.  They will lethargically say, “I want to lose weight this year,” without truly recognizing the sacrifices and habits needed to reach that goal.  Once the year starts progressing, and March rolls around, the initial “New Year” motivation will wear off.  If you want to get in the best shape of your life and actually follow through, you need to fully commit to a lifestyle change; not some quick fix, “I’m in shape in 6-weeks” mindset.  Be willing to go through the process and have the patience to develop properly. 
3.     You understand that the journey is not easy.  If getting fit and reaching high performance levels were a cakewalk, wouldn’t you think more people would be in shape?  This is NOT EASY!  Reaching a high fitness level takes a tremendous amount of work, dedication, resilience, and effort.  You must accept the tough days, the days you may not feel like working out, the days you might not feel like eating healthy, or the days your body is rebelling.  What will you do then?    

Now that we are on the same page, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of reaching insane fitness levels.  Again, if you are just starting out, this advice may not be specifically for you.  Know that it takes time to reach high levels of performance.  And when I say time, I mean many months and ultimately years of consistent training and adherence to the program.

Strategy #1: Set a goal and create a game plan.  Knowing where you want to go will direct your path.  What do you want?  Faster 5k or marathon?  Reach 8% body fat?  Lose 50 pounds?  Sub 5 hours for a Half-Ironman triathlon?  Go back and read parameter #1.  If you do not know what you want, then you will aimlessly go in circles.  Focus on your objective.  Build the habits necessary to go after the goal.  Execute the plan.  Be consistent.  Adjust when needed.  Once the goal is set, you can now list the action steps that are needed for you to achieve the goal.  Once these action steps are written down, be obsessed with following through.  It’s the daily rituals completed that guide people to reaching insane fitness levels.  Plan your workouts.  Plan your meals.  Plan your rest days.  Being organized sets you up to be successful.    

Strategy #2: Workout!  Yeah, this is mandatory if you want to reach high fitness levels.  Looking back over the last two years of my training plan, I have logged over 710 hours of training!  I am not saying you need this much volume to get in shape; I am making a point that you must workout and understand that it takes time and patience to build fitness.  If you only workout 3 or 4 times a week, you can get in decent shape, but if you want to be one of the fittest people in the room, you need to train daily.  This DOES NOT mean you are taking your body to its maximum threshold everyday and never taking a day off.  Adding in lighter, active recovery sessions, movement routines and lower intensity training into your week will allow your body to recover faster so you can train harder during your more intense workouts.  When your body and mind are telling you to take a day off, go for it; but for insanely fit people, this day off is seldom.  Usually your body can handle two days in a row of hard and aggressive training.  Any more than that, and you risk overtraining and/or injury.  If programmed correctly, you can “train” daily, but you must be disciplined to listen to your body and be smart with your routine. 
Here is an example of a training cycle:
Day 1 and 2: Hard training
Day 3: Active recovery or Mobility work
Day 4: Medium intense day
Day 5 and 6: Hard training
Day 7: Active recovery or day off
Day 8: Medium intense day
Day 9 and 10: Hard training
Day 11: Complete day off

Strategy #3: Stay injury free.  Consistent training is mandatory to reach high fitness and performance levels.  Notice the word CONSISTENT.  If you are frequently getting hurt, progress will be halted and your development will be inconsistent.  Ultimately, you want to stay 100% pain free, but that’s easier said than done.  One of the biggest components to staying injury free is becoming a good manager when pain surfaces.    Be wise when your brain is telling you something hurts.  That’s a red flag.  Find remedies and solutions to mitigate the pain.  Talk to a qualified fitness specialist or physical therapist that can guide you to a proactive approach when dealing with pain.  Implement maintenance work: corrective exercises to improve imbalances in the body, tissue work with a foam roll or massage stick to improve muscle tissue, and mobility and movement sessions to stay loose and flexible.  Proper nutrition is also a vital component to helping you stay injury free.  Eat foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties (blueberries, dark greens, raw nuts, healthy oils, fish, etc), nutrient dense, and antioxidant rich.  These foods will promote recovery and help reduce your chances of injury.  See the next strategy for more nutrition tips. 

Strategy #4: NUTRITION!  You NEED to dial in your nutrition in order to reach high fitness levels and change your body.  Your nutrition lifestyle must support your goals.  If you want a leaner physique and higher performance, it’s a MUST to focus on improving your nutrition.  This is not some quick fix idea or extreme diet.  In fact, I do not recommend following some excessive diet plan.  I encourage building a lifestyle around the goals you are aspiring to achieve.  Understand that nutrition is such a detailed subject and should be individualized based on your own specific requirements.  But here are some basic principles to follow:
·      Main foods: lean and low fat proteins (chicken, eggs, lean red meat, fish, whey protein), a variety of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (avocado, olive and coconut oil, raw nut butters, olives), low fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, cheese), whole grains in moderation (oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, breads), raw nuts and seeds and beans/legumes.  Fill your diet with these foods and you are destined to feel better, stronger and more fit.
·      Drink half your weight in ounces of water.  Water is the nucleus for fit individuals.  This is the first thing they think about when waking up in the morning, “I need a glass of water.” 
·      Limit empty calories like alcohol, sweets and processed sugars to no more than 4 servings a week.  If you want a lean physique and high fitness levels, these foods will disrupt your progress. 
·      Know your calorie demands.  Go to bmrcalculator.org and figure out your Metabolic Rate so you know an approximate amount of calories you need to take in to reach your goals.  An Ironman triathlete needs more calories than the stay at home mom looking to shed ten pounds.  Know your individual needs. 
·      Know your macronutrient ratios.  If the goal is more endurance focused like running a marathon or triathlon, you need higher amounts of quality carbohydrates to fuel your body so you are prepared for your training.  If the goal is more physique oriented, muscle building or fat loss, you need less of the carbohydrates and more focus on lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and small amounts of slow releasing carbohydrates like oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes. 
·      Be consistent.  Nutrition is all about consistency.  One healthy meal does not get you lean, just like one unhealthy meal does not make you fat.  Look at the big picture.  If you are looking for insane fitness levels in 2016, your nutrition needs to consistently support the goal. 

Strategy #5: Do the extra stuff.  Meal prep.  Extra workouts.  Log your foods.  Continue your education….  In addition to the normal training days and healthy eating, the fittest of the fit individuals do the additional work needed to reach high performance levels.  They do not cut corners or skip out on “an extra workout”.  They are reading to learn more about fitness and nutrition.  They are continually asking, “What else can I do to help me reach the next level of fitness?”  And then they follow through and execute.  No excuses!

Strategy #6: Be patient and accept the journey.  This is the final strategy but probably the most important.  The mainstream fitness industry puts a quick fix lens on fitness and this suggestion is totally false.  Following through on the above strategies for six months will build a solid foundation but at the end of the day if you want to reach high levels of performance and fitness, it takes years… massive hours of training, constant progress and development, learning about your body, adjusting your plan, eating the right foods most of the time, taking time off when needed, evolving as an athlete… the idea is that it’s a constant process.  The individuals that fully commit for the long haul will be the ones who reach these insane fitness levels. 

So where does that put you?  Do you have to be obsessed with fitness to reach high levels?  It’s a good question.  And the answer depends on where YOU want to go.  If you want to get in the best shape of your life in 2016 and reach insane fitness levels, there is a level of commitment that is needed to achieve that particular goal.  Ultimately, you must know your passions and what drives you in your daily life. 

If having high levels of health, performance and fitness is a priority, GO FOR IT! 
And Make it Happen!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Strategies for Limitless Living

(This blog will take you less than 4 minutes to read...)
Limitless living is my recipe to live life to the ultimate fullest.  This does not equate to some perfect and fairy tale life.  Living with a limitless mindset enables you to set and accomplish big goals, build strong relationships, battle obstacles, and ultimately live a passionate and happy life. It is very easy to get complacent and just "get by" everyday. Snap out of it! Complacency is for low-level performers.
See below for a few ideas and strategies that can help you live a Limitless Life.

  • Believe in yourself. Once you have a deep belief in your abilities and skills, basically anything becomes possible. Without self-belief, achieving goals is hard to come by because YOU always get in your own way. It's important to break down those self-limiting beliefs and build your personal conviction. Start with your morning rituals. What do you do? How do you start your day? Start by reading a positive story or book. Then eat a nutrient dense breakfast because without quality nutrition, it's hard to have the right mindset to believe in yourself. It's all connected. As you go through your day, be composed, patient and smile more. As you listen to your internal thinking, get rid of those non-supportive and self-destructing thoughts. Instead, replace with an encouraging thought, one that supports your goals. Continue this daily ritual until it is a habit. Once believing in yourself is cemented into your subconscious mind, the world is yours and big goals will be achieved. Just be consistent and fight through those tough times.

  • Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. The bigger the dream, the more important the team.   When I was running 300 miles in 100 hours, my team was the reason I achieved my goal. My team kept me safe and healthy, fed me, and was there for positive support. I could not have achieved this massive goal without my team. If you aspire to accomplish any goal, you need to be around like-minded individuals who will support you along the way. It was pretty spectacular when we arrived in Santa Monica, after running from Visalia, all celebrating our momentous achievement; I looked around and saw nothing but positive, supportive and inspiring people. I was grateful for everyone's support and knew that it wasn't possible without them. I encourage you to build a world-class team around you. The right people in your corner will change your game and assist you reach massive levels in your life.
  • Progressive Action. Either you want something bad enough and you are willing to put in the work or you make excuses and blame others for why things are not getting done. It is your choice. Plain and simple, without constant ACTION, forward movement does not happen. Many people want certain things but are not willing to put in consistent action, then they become frustrated and quit. What will you do today to move you closer to your goals? Are you busy being busy? Or are you laser focused and productive in moving closer to your ultimate self? Action might be the #1 component for high performers and elite athletes why they have reached world-class levels. The uber successful people are action takers that are willing to do what it takes, day in and day out, to reach their goals and dreams. Let's do the same!
No easy way to your goals,
just take one step at a time. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Life Balance and How to get Shit done

I am not speaking as the expert in this blog, rather as the experiencer.  The past 10 years of my life has been one crazy roller coaster.  I have ran 300 miles in 4 ½ days, completed an Ironman and 70 something other endurance events, started a business and expanded that business; got married, had 3 daughters but tragically we lost 1; started another business, lost it; and yes there is more.  But, I am not here to bore you into itemizing stories about my life; today I share my opinions on life balance and plain and simple, how I’ve been able to GET some SHIT DONE.  And ultimately, I want to fire you up to accomplish your goals and aspirations.    

Here is my take on a “balanced life”….It doesn’t happen.  When you think about it, who wants to live at balance?  I ask this question not necessarily knowing the answer but with my past experiences guiding my learning curve, I have realized that perfect life symmetry just does not happen.  For the split second that you feel you are perfectly in control, let’s say balanced, BOOM!  A blow comes down and smacks you in the face.  Then the teeter-totter heads back down; when you reach the “ground”, there is only one way to propel yourself back up…You push yourself off the ground.  You soar back up; enjoy the ride, only to hit the apex of the teeter-totter once again.  It’s an ongoing process.  How do you respond? 

So you want to get in shape?  But you have three kids between the ages of 4-8.  You have work pressure as your boss is on you to close two big accounts.  You haven’t gone on a date with your wife in 3 months.  You feel sluggish, lack energy and the body aches.  You are overwhelmed because of the three soccer games this weekend. Yeah, that’s a tough one. 

Here are a few things I recommend: (remember, I am speaking as the experiencer, not the expert)

First, get things GREAT with your wife.  Go on a date, like tonight!  Make her your priority.  Over work, over your kids, over your exercise, over everything, she is #1.  When you have long days and want to crash on the couch the minute you get home, don’t be selfish, she needs help.  Get up and go help!  A happy wife equates to a happy life!

Second, make two small changes to your diet.  Eat 4 servings of vegetables everyday and drink 65 ounces of water everyday.  These two strategies, when built into habits, will snowball into other positive and healthy habits.  Be consistent as it might take months, even years to form these habits.  Do not try and revamp your entire lifestyle.  This is a recipe to become even more overwhelmed and right now you need to destress, not add more.  Instead, work on no more than 2 various strategies at a time.  Do not move on until it is connected into your routine.  When you feel ready to move on, choose 1 or 2 more habits to work on and go with the same process. 

Third, find the time to exercise.  We all have at least 30 minutes every single day for movement and exercise.  Either wake up 45 minutes earlier in the morning or do it before you go to bed.  YOU HAVE THE TIME.  If you aspire to train for an event, like a triathlon or half-marathon, communicate your goals and time budget to your wife and family, then plan an efficient training schedule (or hire a coach), write in all of your workouts in your weekly calendar and go for it!  You do not have to be the fittest person in the world.  Just be the fittest YOU can be.  What makes you happy?  If running with your buddies makes you happy, go do it.  What drives you?  If looking good naked for your wife motivates you, then get to the gym.  What are you willing to sacrifice?  Late nights, social gatherings, sleeping in, processed foods… If you want to achieve big things in fitness, you have to make sacrifices. 

Lastly, you must take 100% responsibility for your life.  Eliminate excuses.  Read the books that will help you grow.  Exercise.  Eat healthy (but indulge once in awhile).  Build STRONG and positive relationships.  Remove negativity and things that send you south.  Keep going when SHIT gets hard.  Don’t blame; find solution.  Stay motivated!  Be happy in the moment. 

It is very easy to get complacent, lose productivity and ultimately lose motivation.  You sit down and end up watching 2-3 hours of television, when you should have been reading or exercising or working on a project.  We all can write a long list of excuses why SHIT is not getting done.  But do no be the excuse maker.  Be the ACTION taker. 

This is a journey.  And not to sound too philosophical, but life is a wild ride.  You are going to win some and lose some.  Some days will be harder than others.  Some days you will want to stay in bed all day, but can’t because SHIT needs to get done.  So GET UP!  Rise today.  Don’t worry about tomorrow just yet.  Yesterday is gone, so move on.  If you can dig deep and find your strongest self, this thing we call LIFE can be pretty amazing.  Do not accept a mediocre life.  Challenge and push yourself to your limits.  Realize that it will be uncomfortable if you want to get SHIT done. 

Do not search for a balanced life.  Instead, be in pursuit of your ultimate self.

Remember, I got your back.  Peace Out!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Life changing learning lessons

Not going to lie, it's been a whirlwind last 4 weeks.  Emotional highs and lows have knocked me around a bit.  Without boring you with all the details, I do want to express the learning lessons that have been life changing...

Learning Lesson #1:
Four weeks ago I made a big decision to close down the CFA Playground.  This was a business I started one year ago and plain and simple, it just didn't work out.  The excitement I had 365 days ago when opening this facility was marred by the complexity of running two entirely different businesses.  I was spread thin, became overwhelmed and stressed and ultimately could not physically run both facilities.  We loved the Playground and everything it symbolized but the business model did not work in our community and I came to that tough decision to cease operations.  Hence, the BIG learning lesson....MORE IS NOT BETTER.  Better is better.  Quality is the key.  Quickly, I turned a negative emotion into positive.  Instead of sulking in my sorrow, I quickly found new motivation.  This attitude adjustment reinvigorated my enthusiasm to continue building the mother lode, California Fitness Academy (our main facility).  What a learning lesson!  In life, you must be willing to take risks when reaching for your goals.  Sometimes these risks can lead to failure, but failure is not necessarily a negative thing.  Failure can supply some of the biggest learning lessons in life, if you are willing to respond and grow.  

Learning Lesson #2:
"RAISE YOUR STANDARDS" has been the main philosophy going around our facility.  What do you desire to achieve?  How bad do you want it?  Are you willing to put in the action?  Will you be consistent?  These are valuable questions to ask yourself.  When raising your standards or aiming for specific goals you must create a game plan, with actionable steps, to be successful.  Anyone can have big goals; the question is, are you ready to put in the necessary work?  What habits and daily actions are needed for you to move forward?  Do not try and revamp your entire lifestyle.  Look for a few realistic action steps that you can take immediately.  Once you take ACTION, then it is about being consistent.  Short-term results is not what we are after.  We are in this for the long haul so you must be willing to do the work for months, even years.  This builds a solid foundation.  The stronger the foundation, the higher you can go.  Go out and raise your standards today!  Don’t wait.  This is something that you can do right now. 

Learning Lesson #3:
Relationships are such a key to how you want to live.  “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  This quote from Jim Rohn says it all.  I encourage you to eliminate energy vampires, negative people and any relationships that suck you dry.  Instead, surround yourself with people who love life, are motivated to grow and learn and that will support your healthy endeavors.  If you want to get in shape, you need to hang out with like-minded healthy people.  If you want to build and grow a business, you need to find mentors who have already been through the journey.  If you want happiness, you need to surround yourself with happy and cheerful people.  When it’s all said and done, your relationships might be the KEY to this crazy life. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Life.... My Perform Better Review

My Perform Better Summit Review
By: Justin Levine, CEO California Fitness Academy

I don't know all the answers, but what I do know, is that a big part of life is really nurturing your truest relationships, valuing the time we get each day and truly loving life.

There are going to be major hardships in life, it's just a matter of time. But what I've come to realize is that life happens in that uncomfortable zone. That is where the magic takes place.  You feel pain, you respond, you start to expand, then you grow and you get stronger. As long as you are willing to battle for your dreams and goals, take quitting off the table and be resilient, you will come out ahead.

This was my big takeaway from this year’s Perform Better Summit in Long Beach.  Kind of odd that this became a life seminar, more than a fitness or exercise lesson.   The first few years I attended Perform Better Summits, I was the young trainer who wanted to learn the new and innovative exercise technique.  I wanted to fill my bag with “tricks” so I can come home and share with my clients.  I walked around like a chicken with his head cut off, entrenched in the industry leading educators.  As I still yearn to better my training system and fine-tune my program design skills, it has become farther down on the priority list.

Number 1, I am a husband and a father.  If I lose my ability to do those two jobs at an ultimate level, I start failing quickly.  So my family is my priority and foundation and I work so hard and sacrifice time away so I can provide for them.  Being an entrepreneur/fitness business owner has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Constantly, I am living in an uncomfortable zone.   And constantly, I am battling.  Battling inside my own head.  If you are a business owner, you understand. 

(Don’t worry; I bring it all back down below…)

I came to the Long Beach event on Friday morning with a tranquil mindset, a complete turnaround from past years.  I know my business, I have my training system and I have experience.  Like I said above, I am always looking to better every aspect of my life and business.  But, I was not coming to this year’s Summit to learn the new exercise; I was coming to network with great people, fill my mind with intellectual and optimistic thoughts and have fun!  What I came out with became, once again, life changing. 

I know it can get monotonous if you have read my reviews the past few years but Todd Durkin once again hit the nail on the head.  He always has a “punch to the gut” presentation.  Listening to him speak on the mistakes he has made in his career was so good to hear.  No, I am not being an ass hole saying that I’m happy he goes through tough times, but knowing that I am not the only one, that helps.  Todd is a mentor to the entire industry and his transparency gave us business owners a sense that “it happens”.  And yes it happens, but more importantly, how do we respond?  How do we get better?  What did we learn? 

At one point, Todd became so emotionally entrenched as he was talking about “fear”.  I could feel his emotion and his words resonated into my heart.  

He went on to say:
“Life is hard.  I was SCARED when I got married.  I was SCARED when I had kids.  I was SCARED when I opened up my business.  I was SCARED when we expanded.  But at those most fearful times, that is when we start doing big things.  That is where we grow.  That is how we achieve greatness.” 

All I can say is WOW!  See how this was more than just about exercise?  See how being around high-level people and big thinkers can help you expand your mindset and aspirations? 

Another example…

I was listening to Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle.  To me, these are two of the smartest guys in the industry.  I thought in my head, what standards to these guys have in their life and business’?  When they walk into their facilities, they demand greatness, perfect movement, engagement, learning, motivation, EVERYTHING to be world class.  I have always set a high standard for my business and myself but as I thought more about these business mentors and how they run their facilities, at that moment, I told myself, “I need to raise my standards in every facet of my life and business.”

This is hard for people to do.  Ego, pride and lack of maturity get in the way.  Through personal growth, good mentors and consistency, now growth…BIG GROWTH will happen. 

My last major lesson was from Thom Plummer.  I was lucky to hang out socially with Thom on Friday night.  Thom basically kicked my ass and told me straight up, “If you aren’t pissed off enough to grow your business, you will not get there.”  And instead of disagreeing with him and getting on the defensive, I said, “I know, what do I need to do.”  I asked for help.  If you are not willing to ask for help, you will get lost.  This industry is full of awesome and helpful people who are willing to guide and support you to your goals.  Don’t do what I did and wait years to ask for help.  Go ask right now if you are stuck.  If you do not like something or you feel you may not know the answer, ASK someone who has been through the situation.  They may not know the exact answer for your situation but they will give you advice.  Then it is up to you to smartly implement that advice based on your situation.  (FYI, Saturday night I emailed Thom’s assistant, set up a phone consultation Monday, talked to Thom on Tuesday and now implementing – ACTION IS REQUIRED!)

So there you go, my Perform Better Review.  If I had to choose one “exercise idea” that struck a nerve, it’s BREATHING.  Teach your clients to breath correctly and their fitness, strength, movement and way of life will improve.  Many people have poor breathing dysfunction and this faulty pattern sets up a weak foundation.  Nobody wants a weak foundation.  So teach your clients to breath!

Thank you to Chris Poirier and his crew for always putting on a life-changing event.  Thank you to all the presenters and coaches who supplied awesome information. 

Life….let’s keep living!  And NEVER, EVER accept the average road.  

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Coming off a strong performance at Hawaii 70.3, I really took the time to fully recover so I could put together a strong five-week block of training leading up to Vineman 70.3.  I start with this because many athletes rush back into training after a big race.  Either they are coming off of a good performance and are excited to keep the ball rolling or they had a poor race experience and think getting back into a structured training regimen is the answer.  To me, neither of these two options should be the plan.  A laser focus on recovery after a big race is critical to continued performance gains.  I spent 10 days after Hawaii doing nothing but easy and light training.  It's key to move and get the blood flowing, but it's also imperative not to do hard training.

The past 5 weeks of training, my Coach (Jim Lubinski), set out on a rampage to basically shred me to pieces.  The idea was to push as hard as possible leading into Vineman, and then allow adequate recovery time to really soak up the hard training...

Here are a few workouts 2 weeks before Vineman that I completed:

Tuesday, June 30th
Bike: 4 x 10 min at race pace on trainer....

Off bike right into this run workout:
4 x 1 mile at mile pace, HARD
My times: 6:12, 6:02, 5:58, 6:02
After the mile repeats I followed them up with a 2.5 mile tempo run at half marathon-6:30/mi pace. 

Thursday, July 2nd
Bike: 4 x 15 min at race pace on the road

Off bike right into this run workout:
4x(3min @ half pace(6:30/mi), 2 min @ 10K pace(Sub 6/mile)
No rest between intervals, the half marathon effort was my recovery.  This was a great run session that taught me to settle down after running fast but not to the point where my pace was suffering.

Sunday, July 5th
Bike: yo-yo pacing (meaning I was moving from one intensity right into another)
3x through:
10min 70%max HR/POWER-140-150bpm

10min 80%max HR/POWER-150-160bpm

Off bike right into this run workout:
3 x 2 miles at half-marathon pace(6:30/mi)
Times: 13:02, 12:45, 12:35

As you can see, there was a big focus to run fast off the bike.  If I was able to build bike durability, which I did, I could really harness my strength, which is a fast run.  As you will see, these type of training sessions paid off big time!

Race morning came fast.  We had a group of guys all staying together and we planned on getting to the swim start early enough for the guys in the early waves.  Unfortunately for me, I was in the 4th to last wave so I just sat around for 2 hours anticipating my race.  At 7:45 am, I started my pre-race warm up, which includes a complete dynamic warm up, and running drills to get the body firing and ready for the day ahead.  After warm up, I checked my transition area and made sure everything was ready to go..... "Shit", I literally said out loud.  I forgot my water bottle at the hotel that was loaded with 6 gels and diluted Gatorade.  I laughed out loud and adjusted.  I was lucky, because I had extra gels in my bag and on my bike.  I quickly put those into my other water bottle and I was good to go.

Ten minutes until my swim start and I headed down to the water.  "Shit", again I said out loud.  My rubber piece on one of my goggle sprockets came off.  As I was standing, waiting for my wave to enter the water, I was trying to put the rubber piece back on, but was having no luck.  I adjusted, took both of the rubber pieces off the sprockets and now had bare goggles with just the hard plastic exposed.  "Hopefully it works, I said to a guy next to me."  I swam around with my new, modified goggles and they seemed to do the trick, no water was entering.

The gun went off and I went out hard and fast.  This was the first time I had my wetsuit on all year and I was streaming through the water.  I love wearing my wetsuit for swims because it keeps you buoyant in the water.  Swimming feels effortlessly.  And my pace was controlled but strong.  Since I am not the fastest swimmer, the goal is to swim hard but conserve energy, as it's a long day.  That's exactly what I did.  Anytime I could, I would draft off another swimmer infront of me; doing this saves a ton of energy and maintains your swim speed.  Before you knew it, I looked up and the finish was in sight.  I kicked my legs, kept my strong stroke and made my way to the exit.
1.2 mile swim: 32:59

Transition 1 can be chaotic with thousands of athletes roaming around but since we were such a late wave, it wasn't bad.  I ran fast to my transition set up, ripped off my wetsuit, put it in my swim bag, put on my sunglasses, helmet and bike shoes and ran fast to the bike start.  It was time to bike.
Transition 1: 1 minute 51 seconds

My biking has improved greatly over the past 7 months.  And I was ready to execute the plan.  If I wanted to really run fast off the bike, making sure to pace smartly on the bike would be critical to my success.  From the get go, I looked at heart rate the entire time.  Very rarely did I look at miles per hour; the goal was to keep the heart rate between 140-150; anything over that and I risk blowing up and have nothing left for the run.  It's a fine line.  I stayed true to the plan and executed to a "T".  In fact, over the last 6 miles, I was averaging between 23-28 mph because I paced correctly, kept my nutrition consistent and had reserves in the tank to push that final 10k giving me confidence leading into the run.  As I was about to dismount my bike, I consumed 150 calories of gel to make sure that I had energy for the start of the run.
56 mile bike: 2:36:54, 21.4 average

Transition 2 was a very long run to the transition area.  But I ran fast, not allowing any wasted seconds to happen.  I was already out of my bike shoes so my transition was quick.  I put on my run socks and shoes and grabbed my hat, my gels and my race belt and took off.
Transition 2: 2 minutes 52 seconds

Immediately into the run, I knew I felt strong.  At this point, it's easy to get carried away and unload and blow up 6 miles in, so I needed patience.  The goal was to settle at 155 beats per minute.  I did exactly that.  At this heart rate, I was running between 6:30-7:00 min/mile pace.  Mile 3 came around and I was still feeling strong.  I stayed patient but allowed my heart rate to rise 3-5 beats, so now I was holding 158-160.  I took a gel every mile, drank water at the aide stations and kept my head down and focused.  There were some tough rolling hills to manage but I knew I had strength, so I kept my form, kept my run cadence up and would let my legs go fast on the downhill.   Many people struggle up the hill and then have nothing left for the downhill and this is where you can gain major speed.

At the half way point, I reassessed and noticed that my stomach started to feel a bit slushy, due to the gels and electrolytes consumed earlier.  When you feel this, that means you are holding on to the sugar in your gut and need water immediately to help with the digestion of the calories.  I did just that and that feeling went away.  Another big learning lesson because I have had days where I do not read that sign and end up suffering due to poor management.

I approached the 10 mile mark and still felt strong, tired and drained yes, but knew that I had a big finish saved up.  I took a gel, drank some water and allowed my heart rate to get up to 165-170.  I was running fast.  I looked down at my watch and was happy to see that I was going to crush my former best time of 5 hours.  I just needed to stay focused, take in 1 or 2 more gels and finish strong.  And that I did.  With one mile to go, I took one more gel, just to top things off, and started to push hard.  I looked down at my watch and saw that I was running 6:10 min/mile pace heading down the last mile.  My heart rate climbed to 175-178 but I knew the finish line was near, so I continued to push the limit.  I've done this in training many times, so I wanted the same thing in racing.  I ran through the finish chute, pressed stop on my watch and saw 4:45:44!  It was a 15 minute PR.
13.1 mile run: 1:31:08, 6:58 min/mile
14th place in my age group out of 237
119th place out of 2500 athletes

Confidence and belief in yourself are keys to achieving the goals you set out for.  With this race performance, my confidence and belief in my triathlon fitness have raised to a new level.  I am going to celebrate this performance but I am very excited to get back to work and continue the climb to my ultimate level.

I want to give a big shout out to Coach Jim Lubinski who has mentored me this past year.  His guidance and direction has been key to my development.  I encourage anyone looking for a specific goal, to hire a coach.  Even coaches need coaches.  Having a set of eyes looking at you with an objective view is very important to reaching specific goals.  You just have to do the work and follow through on the plan.

Thank you for reading this far and thank you for supporting my journey; it means the world to me to have awesome people supporting my adventures. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hawaii 70.3 Race Report

Hawaii 70.3, May 30th 2015

“Every time I finish an event, I meet my goals.  I push, sacrifice, endure, and cross the finish line.  I then celebrate the achievement; reassess the performance and set new and more ambitious endeavors to strive for.  It’s life for me!”

This is my response to a friend’s text when he asked me if I met my goals during my recent Half Ironman event in Hawaii.  Yes, there is a big part of me that does this sport for the competitive and athletic nature it brings.  I want to compete and do well in my age group.  I have even built my fitness to where I believe I can win my age group.  But the bigger part of me takes on this endurance lifestyle to grow closer to my ultimate self.  I am always striving.  Determined to reach new heights.  Always pushing my comfort zone.  It’s the metaphor I use relating to how life should be lived.  Whether you do triathlon or boxing or own a business or care for your family, this is the philosophy.  You create a lifestyle that is always pushing the envelope.  You design a plan for success.  You learn to battle obstacles.  I use this viewpoint continuously, almost in an obsessive manner, so I am constantly growing.

Onto the race report….

I am going to start a couple days before the event because with racing triathlon (or any endurance sport or athletic event) it’s the things you do leading up to the race that maximizes performance. 

My workouts the week of the event consisted of low volume (under 45 minutes) that kept my legs explosive and ready for game day.  Too much training and you risk fatigue, too little and you risk a stale and flat body.  There is a fine line of what to do and how much.  I take that seriously as I taper for my A race. 

Race week training:
Monday: tissue work/mobility warm up/core work
Tuesday: mobility warm up and golf
Wednesday: 10 minute easy shake out run/15 minutes swim with pick ups/40 minute bike with 4x1 minute hard pick ups
Thursday: 40 minute run with pick ups of 1, 2, and 3 minutes hard efforts
Friday: 20 minute bike with 3x1 minute hard pick ups

I started “carbo” loading Thursday at lunch.  This is not some generic idea where I load absurdly amounts of breads and bagels into my body.  I am strategically adding high glycemic carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pretzels, chips, etc) into my system to fully top my glycogen stores.  Nothing too scientific, just 3-5 more servings than a normal day. 

I continued this carbo-loading through Friday evening.  I like to eat around 5:30 pm the night before a race to make sure my food has plenty of time to digest.  Except for a kale, beet, cucumber, melon, and carrot juice (a normal routine of mine), I did not eat many high fiber foods on Friday.  Something new this race (due to the hot and humid conditions) was my salt load starting on Friday.  Starting at noon, every hour I took 1 salt capsule.  I also ate a small jar of pickle slices throughout the day to really load up on the sodium.  Many athletes suffer from dehydration but also a big percentage reach a hyponatremic state (low sodium concentration).  I wanted to make sure I had plenty of sodium and electrolytes in my system before the race started.  

Friday was the day to check in at the race.  My good friend Adrian Reyes and Faron Reed came and picked me up and we made our way to the race venue.  It was great talking to these guys as they gave me lots of great course tips, since they have both raced it before.  

Saturday morning, I woke up at 3:58 am, took a quick shower, ate breakfast (bagel with jam, banana and Gatorade) did a mobility and core warm up and packed up any last minute items. 

My swim wave was the first, at 6:44 am.  After a 2-3 minute warm up in the ocean, I was ready to go.  I have not done any open water swimming in training but I have done enough in the past that I was confident about the swim.  I wasn’t going to break any personal records but I knew that my swim stamina was good.  My main goal: “exit the water with lots of energy”. 

The cannon went off and I went out hard, but controlled.  After about 300 meters, I settled into a consistent rhythm.  Anytime I saw some feet in front of me, I drafted.  Drafting in swimming can save an athlete energy so I did this as much as possible.  I was swimming smooth, probably too smooth and I know I can swim faster but my main goal: “exit the water with lots of energy”.  The swim was pretty calm.  Though the current was pushing us around a bit, it wasn’t too bad. 

Before you knew it, we hit the last buoy, I kicked my legs hard to wake them up and my energy was high, goal achieved.  38 minutes total swim time.  Slow time but that didn’t matter to me; time to go bike fast!
2100 athletes and I am 407th place at this point.

Transition 1 was uphill 100-200 yards to my bike.  I ran that hard and passed many athletes walking.  I decided to put my bike shoes on since it was a long run in transition area; I am glad I did this because the mount line was uphill and I was ready to go.  

Getting on the bike, I knew that my fitness was strong.  I had a plan to pace wisely on the bike and I started that plan immediately.  From the get go, I took my nutrition (Powerbar gel every 15-20 minutes), drank my fluids and used water to soak my body to stay cool.  The first 10 miles went by fast (averaged 24 mph) and probably could have been faster but I stayed conservative because I knew tougher riding was coming. 

Miles 26-29 was a slow ascent up to Hawi and the turnaround.  I was rolling at 12-15 mph during this stretch of road.  This is where you felt the wind and humidity.  I was looking forward to the turn around, as I knew it would be fast and fun coming back.  I was right.  I turned around and immediately got into my aero position and got my legs going.  I wasn’t overdoing it though; “save your legs for the run”.  I kept repeating to myself.  I continued getting in my calories, drinking fluids and soaking my head and body with cold water.  I took 9 gels (900 calories) during the 56-mile bike and 3 bottles of Gatorade (225 caloreis, total: 1125 calories = 400 cals/hour).  Sub 2:40 was the goal and I rode 2:38.  I was feeling fine coming off the bike; no major issues and I was ready to run. 
132nd place at this point

Transition 2 was quick and smooth, only 1 minute 49 seconds. 

My goal was to run this half marathon at 6:45 minute/mile pace but this humidity was tough.  Off the bike it was 80 degrees with 75-80% humidity.  I still wanted to run well but immediately I knew that a sub 1:30 half marathon was going to take an absolutely perfect day.  My first 2 miles were right at 7:00 min/mile pace, right where I wanted to be.  My next 1.5-mile was at 6:55 pace; getting better.  In my training this is where I get into my groove and build my pace throughout, of course in cooler weather conditions.  But instead, my leg turnover got slower and my pace decreased.  My sweat rate was very high, and I am not a heavy sweater.  The run course was challenging with short steep hills to climb, grass to run on and hot roads that radiated heat; it made for tough running.  My average pace over the next 3-5 miles grew to 8:15.  But I didn’t panic.  Instead I continued to take in my calories and fluids to best mitigate the humid conditions.  At every aide station I was pouring cold water all over my body, putting ice down my jersey and shorts, and utilizing the cold sponges on my uniform.  By mile 9, my body was in overdrive and this is where the mind starts to fatigue. But again, I stayed calm, kept my running form and stayed with my plan.  My pace was now starting to improve.  When I registered for this event back in January, my initial goal was sub 5 hours 15 minutes.  Due to the best 6-month training block I have ever done (thanks Coach Jim Lubinski), my goal moved to sub 5 hours.  I even believed that I could dip into the 4:45 range with a perfect race. 

With 2 miles to go, I needed to run this last stretch in under 14 minutes to go under 5 hours.  That’s 7:00 min/mile pace.  Very possible!  But will be tough.  I was pretty spent at this point.  After walking through the aide station at mile 11, I gave myself a pep talk and picked up my pace.  My heart rate was hitting the mid-170s and I was pushing hard.  I continued as fast as I could go.  I turned the last corner and had 200 yards to go and the timer turned to 5 hours.  I came in at 5 hours and 41 seconds…
Run time: 1:38

After a few minutes to regain myself and a bottle of Gatorade, I started to analyze the past 5 hours.  “What could have I done different?”  “Man, only 42 seconds away.”  These were some of my thoughts.  That is how my brain works; I immediately look for the improvement.  But after a few more minutes went by and seeing my family there cheering for me, elation and euphoria quickly started. 

Later I found out that I took 11th in my age group (223 athletes) and 60th place overall (2100 athletes).  I looked around at the results from various top performers and I was literally right in the mix of the competition.  Starting at 407th place out of the water and ending up 60th, I am stoked to see that.  And I know there is more.  It wasn’t a perfect race and I know that there is much more improvement to come. 

I just want to say a special thank you to my wife Stephanie for always supporting me and being my #1 fan.  Thank you to my daughters for putting up with daddy’s craziness.  Thank you to my family, friends and support that took time to comment on my Facebook photos.  Those truly mean the world to me and I am grateful to have such a great support system.  And finally, thank you to Coach Jim Lubinski from Red Performance multisport who has coached me this year.  Big things are happening with his coaching and direction. 

Next race: Vineman 70.3 on July 12th and the goal is 4:45! 

More to come baby…. 


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