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Contador framed

Creative Commons License photo credit: Arjan Almekinders
What type of rider will Contador turn out to be?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you’re a sports fan, you know that on Monday in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador assumed the yellow jersey after Andy Schleck had a mechanical where his chain fell off his derailleur. Even though Contador was behind Schleck and quite possibly saw the mechanical, he still chose to attack as did the other competitors. The net result is that Andy Schleck is now eight seconds behind Contador in second place.

One of the unique things about the Tour de France and the sport of cycling–when compared to many other modern day sports–is the prelevance of what people call chivalry or a code of conduct. In this case, typically the wearer of the yellow jersey is afforded a great deal of more respect and consideration than the average cyclist. When, for example, the leader has a mechanical issue, the competition will often not attack: it’s simply better to take victory as achieved with strength and their fitness, not by virtue of a mechanical issue.

There was most certainly some unhappy fans at the end of the day when Contador put on his yellow jersey. Contador brushed them aside at the time, but later on Monday night he published a video to YouTube where he apologized for his actions. And this leads to my point today: the power of conscience.

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys sport, you’ve probably had an opportunity in whatever race or event you participated in to take a shortcut or get a head start on someone. Not through sheer athleticism, but by finding an easier way. The split-second choices you make in that situation both define and reveal your character.

Whether or not Contador saw the chain, he could see that Andy Schleck had trouble. There were plenty of chances over the last 20k to hear what had happened…but he still didn’t ease up. The fact that he made the video later on Monday night tells me that regardless of what he knew at the time, Contador now knows what he did wasn’t right.

In today’s age of social media, it’s very easy to apologize. But I don’t think it really has the same effect as taking an action to fix what’s been done. When you’ve said something damaging in person or done something wrong, it’s very easy to get on Twitter and Youtube and set up a message saying hey, I’m sorry for what I did. But if you really fix what you’ve done, the most important thing to do is to take action.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions caused the issue. Your actions can fix it.

So, here is my proposed solution, assuming Contador and Schleck ride into the final time trial still in first and second place, respectively. When Contador is on the starting block, I say that he sits there for an additional 39 seconds. At the end of those 39 seconds, he begins riding.

I think that would be a huge demonstration of his commitment to making things right and to racing clean. More importantly it would really show personal growth, as a lot of people have doubted Contador’s emotional ability to handle the leadership of being the greatest cyclist in the world.

Like you, I’ll be curious to see what happens over the next few days of riding. I do believe that my proposed Start House Solution will be, perhaps, the most single powerful signal that Contador could send to the cycling world and to Andy Schleck that he made the wrong decision on Monday, that he knows he made the wrong decision, and that he’s going to race the race as it stood before the incident.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

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HLD Banner

There’s no doubt, friends, that we are all on a journey. Those of you who follow this blog are more of the endurance-minded kind. You are addicted to endorphins, long training miles, and huge personal tests of endurance. Together we work to bring that passion for living athletically in alignment with your other personal commitments; our lifestyle perspective means that we take a long-term view on success as opposed to looking at individual events. In our world, the longer we play the game, the more we win.

But there’s more to a fit lifestyle than just training.

Underlying all that we do is the need to create a ridiculously healthy foundation from which we can pursue all of our goals. As you can probably attest, pushing too much in any single area can lead to over training, deep fatigue, or injury. It can also mean you are neglecting some of the fundamentals of what makes you who you are. There are no shortcuts in this game.

Healthy living first, Fitness second.

This is why I am really excited to let you know about a great free resource my colleague Matt Gartland over at the Healthy Lifestyle Design blog just published: Fearless Health: How to Thrive In An Unhealthy World. Matt has broken down the building blocks of a modern healthy lifestyle and presented them in a simple, thoughtful manner.

To quote directly from Matt himself…

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So, What’s This Report All About?

Well, imagine a life where you…

* Are rarely, if ever, sick
* Have health care costs totaling only your preventative exams
* Embody the physical ability and energy to do whatever you wish
* Possess the mental courage and creativity to bring your dreams to life

This is not a dream world. This is the reality of those with unconventional and remarkable health. And it can be your reality too.

That’s the purpose of this manifesto – to inspire you to pursue and train you to achieve FEARLESS HEALTH.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

It’s a great read, and it’s FREE, so download it here and take it with you to review the next time you have a few minutes. You’ll be really glad you did!

Thanks again and have a great week!

Patrick

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Contador framed

Creative Commons License photo credit: Arjan Almekinders
What type of rider will Contador turn out to be?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you’re a sports fan, you know that on Monday in the Tour de France, Alberto Contador assumed the yellow jersey after Andy Schleck had a mechanical where his chain fell off his derailleur. Even though Contador was behind Schleck and quite possibly saw the mechanical, he still chose to attack as did the other competitors. The net result is that Andy Schleck is now eight seconds behind Contador in second place.

One of the unique things about the Tour de France and the sport of cycling–when compared to many other modern day sports–is the prelevance of what people call chivalry or a code of conduct. In this case, typically the wearer of the yellow jersey is afforded a great deal of more respect and consideration than the average cyclist. When, for example, the leader has a mechanical issue, the competition will often not attack: it’s simply better to take victory as achieved with strength and their fitness, not by virtue of a mechanical issue.

There was most certainly some unhappy fans at the end of the day when Contador put on his yellow jersey. Contador brushed them aside at the time, but later on Monday night he published a video to YouTube where he apologized for his actions. And this leads to my point today: the power of conscience.

Whether you are a professional athlete or simply someone who enjoys sport, you’ve probably had an opportunity in whatever race or event you participated in to take a shortcut or get a head start on someone. Not through sheer athleticism, but by finding an easier way. The split-second choices you make in that situation both define and reveal your character.

Whether or not Contador saw the chain, he could see that Andy Schleck had trouble. There were plenty of chances over the last 20k to hear what had happened…but he still didn’t ease up. The fact that he made the video later on Monday night tells me that regardless of what he knew at the time, Contador now knows what he did wasn’t right.

In today’s age of social media, it’s very easy to apologize. But I don’t think it really has the same effect as taking an action to fix what’s been done. When you’ve said something damaging in person or done something wrong, it’s very easy to get on Twitter and Youtube and set up a message saying hey, I’m sorry for what I did. But if you really fix what you’ve done, the most important thing to do is to take action.

Actions speak louder than words. Your actions caused the issue. Your actions can fix it.

So, here is my proposed solution, assuming Contador and Schleck ride into the final time trial still in first and second place, respectively. When Contador is on the starting block, I say that he sits there for an additional 39 seconds. At the end of those 39 seconds, he begins riding.

I think that would be a huge demonstration of his commitment to making things right and to racing clean. More importantly it would really show personal growth, as a lot of people have doubted Contador’s emotional ability to handle the leadership of being the greatest cyclist in the world.

Like you, I’ll be curious to see what happens over the next few days of riding. I do believe that my proposed Start House Solution will be, perhaps, the most single powerful signal that Contador could send to the cycling world and to Andy Schleck that he made the wrong decision on Monday, that he knows he made the wrong decision, and that he’s going to race the race as it stood before the incident.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

———————
As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!

Become a Fan of Endurance Lifestyle Design on Facebook to join the conversation and check out my free Fit Life eBook for more insider tips!

Thank you so much!

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Getting Ready For A Hot Summer Day
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuzeytac

 

 

In the past I have written about reducing your training to the basics (Going Commando) and learning to focus on the basic week as a building block (here).

 

Setting massively audacious goals is fun, but not achieving them is, well, not fun. Sometimes even more granular detail is needed. Sometimes it’s necessary to begin with the fundamental building block of a single day.

 

Step One: Start Eight Hours Earlier

 

Summary: The best part of any great day is starting physically and mentally fresh. The best option for this is a great night’s sleep, not a really strong cup of coffee or some fancy supplement.

 

Advice:

 

  1. Focus on Closing: The only way you are going to get to bed at a reasonable hour is putting down the stuff you are watching/reading/doing and closing it out for the day. Nothing, including a race or some kind of final exam, will benefit from you staying up all night to think about it (especially if you have been preparing for some time!).
  2. Use A Ritual: This needs to be a physical one, as just saying you are going to chill out is way easier than doing it. My personal favorite is a shower. This helps me to relax, is a very simple yet soothing task and a place I can’t really bring anything else to do.
  3. Plug Into Another World: It’s hard to deny the power of a great book, one that takes you away from where you are and focuses your attention elsewhere. Studies have shown that the flashing lights and sounds of TV, and even the bright light and familiar face of your laptop can have a stimulating effect on your brain that will prevent easy sleeping.

 

Step Two: Identify & Frontload the Important

 

Summary: There are somethings each day that are more important than others. Some you’ll want to do, others you would prefer to never see again. But they need to be done regardless, and the best way to get them done is nice and early.

 

Advice:

  1. Keep A Weekly List: Forget trying to plan your work down to specific hours of the day. That works for meetings and appointments, but not for work. Add in all the typical interruptions and unexpected events that make up our daily lives and it’s clear to see your best laid plans are doomed. Instead, keep track of what needs to happen this week, and make it happen by Friday. Done.
  2. Keep Things Black & White: Apply very rigorous standards to what needs to be done. Either it’s critical or it can wait. Put 3-4 critical things on your list and get them done first thing.
  3. Know What Can Wait: While it’s tempting to check email and surf the web for the deal of the day, chances are there’s nothing there that you truly need to execute your most important tasks. This can be really hard to do since we are a culture of multi-taskers, but learning that the world won’t end if you don’t check your inbox every 5 minutes is an important first step.

 

Step Three: Build In Extra Time

 

Summary: The hardest part of and day, much less your ideal one, is the fact that it’s not your own. You have a boss, friends, family, competing commuters and forces of God to deal with. And some days it seems like they are all stacked against you.

 

Advice:

  1. The Rule of Fives: If you think something is going to take 20 minutes, add 5 minutes on the front and back. This goes for working out, work, travel, etc. Being slightly early means you are relaxed and *gasp* maybe even prepared. Plus it makes you look really good.
  2. Consistently Plan: A well-oiled machine is easy to operate. If you have a good cycle of planning and execution that you review monthly (macro-level stuff) and weekly (the work), you can avoid the need to plan and do at the same time. Ideally, Monday through Friday work hours are for work, not for planning and thinking big picture. I personally save my weekends for the big reviews.
  3. Avoid the Unnecessary: There are lots of things you can simply not do and still be okay. This goes from meaningless meetings at work to food shopping (think Peapod). If it’s not critical to your personal or professional bottom line, assert some authority. It’s hard to argue with someone who is trying to be more effective!

 

Conclusion: Review & Improve

 

Many of the things listed above are hard to do. Hard enough that you will most certainly run into difficulty, if not outright fail at your first attempt. If you can expect this from the outset, and plan for some resistance, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. After all, you’ve been operating a certain way for quite a while, and old habits die hard!

 

Note #1: If you are looking for more similarly scheduled goodness, consider downloading the FitLife eBook which will give you equal parts inspiration and opportunities for action. Get it here.

 

Note #2: This post was inspired by an article by Chris G over at the AONC blog. Thanks man!

 

———————

As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!

 

Become a Fan of Endurance Lifestyle Design on Facebook to join the conversation and check out my free Fit Life eBook for more insider tips. Thanks!

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The return
Creative Commons License photo credit: Vincepal
It’s a long road. Longer if you don’t know where you’re headed.

I have been consciously working on looking at the positive outcomes of my bicycle accident (now over 7 weeks ago!); lots of glass half full type stuff. This gets easier every day as my body continues to heal and bounce back at an amazing rate. It’s probably normal stuff — this isn’t some super-human tale! Since my initial expectations were so low after the accident, the fact that I can actually ride my bicycle again right now is just amazing to me.

On some level this recovery trajectory has really been one of the biggest reasons why keeping a positive outlook has become easier: it’s hard to be down when lots of things are pointing the way up.

 

Finding the Silver Linings


That’s not to say that all signs point to the easier, or higher road. It’s easy to walk through a day, week or even a life with gloom-filled glasses on, missing out on all the incredible things that go on around us. We’ve all woken up on the wrong side of the bed. And we know people who spend seemingly every day of their lives focusing on what hasn’t happened instead of what can.

 

I think that being able to focusing on what CAN happen is an incredibly powerful skill.

 

The Rebuilding Process


One of the really cool things about coming back has been the opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up as an endurance athlete. I’ve only been away from the game for about 7.5 weeks now, which is not a long time when you step back far enough. But in terms of where my fitness was at the time of the accident and where I am at right now, I’m still a long way away from that level.

 

Since my season is effectively over, this is an opportunity for me to re determine how I want to approach my fitness. There’s no schedule, there’s no pressure. I’ve been working with my physical therapist on some fundamental building blocks, such as core strength and flexibility, things that I’ve been ignoring for a long time.

 

But as I mentally sketch out a plan to get back to running, and become a better cyclist, there’s something missing. The who I am right now, after the crash, is fundamentally different that who I was before. The recovery process has given me the chance to reconnect with my family and friends, and to learn a great deal about who I am as a person, not just as an athlete. Simply going back to basic goals around physical fitness, as important as activity is to me, almost feels like an emotional step back on some level.

 

The Really Big Question


We all have the capacity to come back from our accidents. In fact, we all have the capacity to change who we are at any point in time. Accepting this, then it ultimately comes down to one….big…question: Who do you want to be?

 

In some ways, that exercise is more challenging than physical therapy, or re-learning how to walk. It requires patience to reflect, vision to project, and ultimately the focus and ability to connect that future vision with your daily reality.

 

I understand that stretching 30 minutes a day will get me back to being more flexible, and that’s great. But it begs the question: where else can I put 30 minutes a day to make something really great happen? Something that captures the changes I have experienced and makes them part of the new person that’s evolving?

 

I personally am starting to look beyond “what’s next” and am focused more on “what’s possible?” As Derek Sivers wrote last year: “No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.

 

The Real Challenge


While I’m reminded daily of the power of the human body to change I have also learned that the true challenge lies in the strength of your mind.

 

The power to envision a positive change, despite what fills your world, and to start working towards that outcome every day.

 

Some people call them silver linings, those hints of positivity that allow you to stare at that big cloud of doom without flinching. I think they are everywhere; it’s just that we look a whole lot harder in the bad times to find them.

 

The secret to finding them isn’t in some fancy set of glasses; it’s in realizing that each of us carries our own silver linings inside us. It typically takes a crisis or problem to make us reach for them for support, but I think we don’t need to wait that long. I think looking inwards to find our silver-lining-capacity and putting that to action today, and every day, will go a long way to making each of us into a better person.

 

 

Next Steps
So, the next time you think about losing 20 pounds or getting fitter or getting faster, I want you to think a little bit about what it is you’re creating. You are more than a project. You’re a piece of art. It’s up to you to determine what it is you want to be. Once you understand what it is you want to be, only then can you really begin to create a means of shaping your desired outcome.

 

Good luck to you in your next steps. I will keep you posted on mine.

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Student as Teacher

Posted by Patrick McCrann Jul 2, 2010

Kids in the classroom
Creative Commons License photo credit: chrissuderman

People have always wanted to learn; it’s part of human nature. Despite what you read about video games and adult website usage statistics, people still want to learn. In fact, now probably more than ever, as the web has effectively eliminated any barriers that used to exist in the traditional learning model: money, connections, experience, geography, etc.

But despite the spread of ideas and technology and increased access, learning is not one bit easier. Why? Because we don’t know who the teachers are anymore.

Think about it. Back in the day this used to be really easy. Teachers had their own schools. Wise men lived on mountain tops. There were apprenticeships and academies and road maps.

As the world gets flatter, information is more accessible. It moves faster and is potentially more unreliable. Those old school grand masters are drowned out by tech-savvy web masters, video logging junkies, and twitter-wielding tweens.

In the currency of today’s web world, it’s about who’s the most current, most popular, more vocal or most chosen. Some or all or none of which might have anything to do with the best. Or most interesting. Or most inspiring.

So, in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to identify who the teachers are, something else must assume even more importance: the individual. Think about it.

The web is like a TV with infinite channels full of everything that you always/never wanted to see or hear or learn that’s always on. If you can find any message or guru at any time, anywhere, for free, then the biggest deciding factor today is simple: does this message work for YOU?

We used to pick schools because they did the work of finding and organizing teachers and creating a “learning experience” for us. But today things are different. Now YOU are the administrator, the principal, the guidance counselor and the student all rolled into one. What teacher would you pick?

  • Do you need to be challenged?
  • Do you need to be made to laugh?
  • Do you want daily interactions or less frequent but higher impact contact?
  • Does it need to be an individual or can a community teach you?
  • Do you need to pay or are you involved enough on your own?

Technology is forcing us to rethink our filters: this person looks like a teacher, therefore she is a teacher. We need to throw away our expectations: I will sign up for this course and do 8 weeks of homework, take a test, get a certificate and become an expert.

Instead we need to focus on knowing ourselves better; on what will work and more importantly, why we want to engage this process. In an increasingly self-focused world, you have to take charge of charting your own course because no one else will do it as well as you can.

I see the teacher-centric model being crushed on a daily basis – and for the better – in my online interactions with others. I think this is one of the most powerful intellectual changes of the internet.

Learn from everything and every one. Be hungry, but selective. This is not an all-you-can-eat contest, but a what-you-have-eaten. It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s not about getting full, it’s about getting your fill.

It’s not about the outcomes, it’s about the process.

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Fear Naming

Posted by Patrick McCrann Jul 2, 2010

Moebius life
Creative Commons License photo credit: anguila40 / Alejandro Groenewold Very busy . Sorry

As many of you know by now, I recently had a serious bicycle accident that left me with a fractured pelvis and clavicle (learn more). This article is part of a series of reflections prompted by the experiences I have had in processing, dealing with, and recuperating from the accident. I have emerged a changed person, and hope that by sharing some of my insights I can help others.

Endurance sports, like any other large-scale personal undertaking, have multiple layers of purpose.  Athletes train to new levels of personal excellence to build strength, develop fitness and to  overcome their fears.

  • The drive to be our best is, at the same time, an effort to avoid failure.
  • For everyone who trains hard to get better, there are those who train out of fear of becoming unfit, or overweight.
  • For everyone who races for a personal best, there are those who race for approval from their training partners, friends, or family.
  • For everyone who upgrades their equipment, there are those desperately seeking an advantage that hard work and training alone can’t deliver.

Yet while we celebrate the accomplishments of milestones reached, there is little to no dialogue about the oppositional factors that drive us towards our accomplishments.

Discussing & The Racing Effect

I recently created a post inside Endurance Nation entitled “What is your (Secret) Fear?” To my surprise, more than 30 folks have responded in less than a few days — and over a weekend!
The answers ranged from the simple (going fast down hill!) to the more profound (being mindful of my safety because I am a mother/father) to the soul searching (out to conquer a demon from a previous DNF, etc.).

The funny thing is, most of us are head down training so hard we doing realize the power of these forces until we start to taper. In that last 14 days to your race, with more time on your hands and little training to do, your mind starts to wander.

  • You begin to doubt your training, wishing you could have done more.
  • You look at your gear and wish that you had upgraded.
  • You talk to your competitors and realize they are lighter, faster, stronger than last year.

Everything Is Fine
All of this is, of course, entirely natural.

A large part of striving for a big goal means taking risks. Leaving our comfort zones is part of this process. While your journey started with smaller changes like getting out of bed early to train, there are much larger forces at work here.

You might have been a little queasy riding down that busy highway, now you know that’s a visceral representation of your fear. You are on high alert riding on a busy road, fingers on the brakes and close to the shoulder. You think twice about sudden movements and plan a few steps ahead.

In other words, these little signals are a large part of what keep you safe.

Fear-Facing
But the macro-level fears, such as fear of failure, are often so big as to be intangible. This means we are largely unaware of them, even as they influence large parts of what we do.

A fear of failure could lead us to:

  • Not training with a faster group for fear of getting dropped.
  • Not trying to push ourselves when the going gets tough.
  • Not trying something new as you have’t mastered it yet.

While I don’t have an action plan or success story for you hear, I do think it’s really important that each of us take the time to start a dialogue that really engages our fears.  You can do this solo or with your spouse or your friends. It needs to be a safe space so you can say anything. It might take you several tries to get deep enough to see what’s really in those dark corners…so bring a flashlight and wear clothes you can get dirty!

Moving Forward
It’s one thing to say I want to be a good father for example, that sounds nice and vague and safe. But when you talk about the fear of  losing your children, well, that’s something you can feel. That’s something you can act on. And it’s something that will literally change your actions.

My bicycle accident forced me to face a lot of fears in quick order. My thoughts went to my family and my long-term health. I had to deal with being alone in a hospital in a new town (thanks friends!). I had grapple with my own self-image of being fit and active. I think that I have come out the other side a better person for this journey, and I think you can experience the same benefits without needing a crash to force the change.

If you want to share your fears, feel free to do so anonymously in the comments below.

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Into the sun
Creative Commons License photo credit: James Jordan

Despite my recent setback, I have had a very fortunate streak of athletic success. From three trips to the Ironman World Championships to multiple Boston qualifications and lots of solid racing in between, you might have a hard time believing I was the chubby kid picked last for kickball.

But it’s true.

I hear all the time how I have been lucky. How I have genes that are predisposed to endurance sports. I get the notes, all nice, explaining how the writer can’t be as good at triathlon or running as me.

It’s not offending at all, more so than it is revealing. I think that we all have a certain amount of inherent talent; without a doubt being born with a club foot, for example, could hinder your future running career. But significant challenges aside, the only thing standing between where I am now and where you are now is a lot of work.

I spent the better part of my adolescence a healthy kid, more than my fair share of activities. But my love of food was equal to, if not greater than, my love for exercise. I wasn’t obese by any means, but I still carry some of that chubbiness with me today (around the midsection!).

I was cut from my middle school soccer team, twice, and spend two years going to the track with my mom on weeknights and running laps around the field after everyone else went home. She counted by putting rocks in a pile so I couldn’t cheat — although I tried.

I attended pre-training sessions for the high school team, building critical relationships that allowed me to survive a disastrous try out. But on the last day of try outs, my appendix almost burst, and I missed all but the last game of the year (I was put in for 5′ and took a ball to the groin…seriously).

Things got better, as I worked hard and make JV as a sophomore, then varsity as a junior and captain as a senior. Unfortunately I suffered a stress fracture and missed most of the varsity year as well.

College got off to a bad start, where I was lost in the freshman fog and just lifted weights with no direction after years of organized sports. Fortunately, I was recruited to the crew team (I was tall) one day when swimming at the pool, and I feel in love with the sport instantly.

I was on the 2nd freshman boat (since I was a Soph), survived a car crash with some broken ribs, but mand an impression. In my Junior year got some varsity time and my senior year was Captain again. Tons of extra sessions and hours spent running, lifting, and rowing, all allowed me to become good at the sport.

After college I was off to the Peace Corps for two years, where I could run and do core, but little else. I tried training for a marathon, but kept overdoing it. On a trip home for a wedding, I jumped in a local triathlon with my brother and had a blast. I returned to Uzbekistan on a mission to train, adding some swimming (with 6-yr olds) to my regime.

But instead of returning home, I transitioned to Azerbajian for 15 months, where I did community development work. Again I could run, but no longer than an hour (too many bad dogs and kids with rocks). I bought an ergometer to row indoors, and enjoyed some good hard training. I was able to do the Valencia Marathon on a long run of 13 miles, and suffered horribly but loved it.

When I finally came back to the US (left in 97, back in 2000), I had been only marginally active. In grad school, however, I was able to focus more on the training, doing Eagleman and then Ironman Florida, both in 2001.

  • I did one or two Ironmans a year between then and 2007, a full five seasons later, when I was finally able to qualify.
  • I quit my job and started my own company.
  • I got married and went to watch the Ironman for our honeymoon in Hawaii (M is a triathlete).
  • We started a family.
  • I tried training 25 hours a week until it nearly killed me.
  • I missed a Kona slot by less than 5 seconds.
  • We bought a house.
  • Then, 5+ years later, I qualified at Ironman USA.

Five years after my first Ironman (8th IM overall). Seven years after my first marathon. Eight years after my first triathlon. Almost twenty years after being cut from the middle school soccer team, where I learned that I could go out on my own to train, and get better, and come back stronger than the competition.

My point is this: the only thing separating you from me is work. And an inflection point. I had my epiphany at age 13, and it fundamentally changed the way I have approached almost every single challenge or obstacle since. It took a supportive parent, hard work and a dash of good fortune. And lots of repetition — no one gets it right the first time.

So before you go blaming genes, or putting limits on your own potential, understand that it’s not the shape of your foot, or length of your legs, that determine your ability. It’s your capacity to work, and ability to understand why you are working that will set you apart.

Are you ready to outwork the competition?

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Student as Teacher

Posted by Patrick McCrann Jun 18, 2010

Kids in the classroom
Creative Commons License photo credit: chrissuderman

People have always wanted to learn; it’s part of human nature. Despite what you read about video games and adult website usage statistics, people still want to learn. In fact, now probably more than ever, as the web has effectively eliminated any barriers that used to exist in the traditional learning model: money, connections, experience, geography, etc.

But despite the spread of ideas and technology and increased access, learning is not one bit easier. Why? Because we don’t know who the teachers are anymore.

Think about it. Back in the day this used to be really easy. Teachers had their own schools. Wise men lived on mountain tops. There were apprenticeships and academies and road maps.

As the world gets flatter, information is more accessible. It moves faster and is potentially more unreliable. Those old school grand masters are drowned out by tech-savvy web masters, video logging junkies, and twitter-wielding tweens.

In the currency of today’s web world, it’s about who’s the most current, most popular, more vocal or most chosen. Some or all or none of which might have anything to do with the best. Or most interesting. Or most inspiring.

So, in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to identify who the teachers are, something else must assume even more importance: the individual. Think about it.

The web is like a TV with infinite channels full of everything that you always/never wanted to see or hear or learn that’s always on. If you can find any message or guru at any time, anywhere, for free, then the biggest deciding factor today is simple: does this message work for YOU?

We used to pick schools because they did the work of finding and organizing teachers and creating a “learning experience” for us. But today things are different. Now YOU are the administrator, the principal, the guidance counselor and the student all rolled into one. What teacher would you pick?

  • Do you need to be challenged?
  • Do you need to be made to laugh?
  • Do you want daily interactions or less frequent but higher impact contact?
  • Does it need to be an individual or can a community teach you?
  • Do you need to pay or are you involved enough on your own?

Technology is forcing us to rethink our filters: this person looks like a teacher, therefore she is a teacher. We need to throw away our expectations: I will sign up for this course and do 8 weeks of homework, take a test, get a certificate and become an expert.

Instead we need to focus on knowing ourselves better; on what will work and more importantly, why we want to engage this process. In an increasingly self-focused world, you have to take charge of charting your own course because no one else will do it as well as you can.

I see the teacher-centric model being crushed on a daily basis – and for the better – in my online interactions with others. I think this is one of the most powerful intellectual changes of the internet.

Learn from everything and every one. Be hungry, but selective. This is not an all-you-can-eat contest, but a what-you-have-eaten. It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s not about getting full, it’s about getting your fill.

It’s not about the outcomes, it’s about the process.

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As the popular saying goes, to truly know someone else you must walk a mile in their shoes. My recent bicycle accident has given me the opportunity to experience a totally alternative lifestyle, one that has dramatically changed the way I perceive and interact with the people and places that surround me.

I have written before about turning adversity into opportunity. My recent bicycle accident has forced a reality check on my typical laid back approach to dealing with challenges. It’s one thing to take a day or two off from training, it’s another to have to stand down for weeks…in a wheelchair…on pain-killers.

I am not complaining, but I am still processing. Every day presents some form of new challenge, but I am seriously blessed to have amazing friends and family who have stepped up to take care of me and allow me to focus entirely on the process of recovery.

Having this type of support network is incredible. Regardless of the challenge around the corner, I can go forward knowing that whatever is out there I can conquer it. That confidence is a direct result of the support of so many people, and I can’t thank you enough for that gift.

But enough of the sappy stuff…what have I learned over the last two weeks?

On Short-Term vs Long-Term Challenges…
I think on some level it’s “easy” for me to remain positive because my prognosis is that I will recover just fine. No bones were displaced in the three fractures, things were just shaken up. Yes, 6 weeks of recovery is a long time, but that beats the pants off of, say, 6 months or crashing and becoming paralyzed.

Daily goal setting has become incredibly important. If I have targets, I will work towards them. Early on, others had to set those goals for me: “You are just going to take a step and it’s going to hurt and that’s okay.” (You know who you are!) Now I am getting better at doing this myself, and it really makes a difference.

It helps that I am able to do new things every day, such as lift my leg to get in and out of the shower or use my abs a bit more. Heck, the PT guy put me on a recumbent bike for 5 minutes yesterday (don’t tell my wife!)! I have yet to be able to roll over on my side or stomach at night…and that truly sucks…but it’s a really big target out there and I am aiming for it.

At the end of the day, the concepts of short and long time frames are entirely subjective. Six weeks seems long if you look at it in terms of days or hours, but if you consider it as part of your year, or the time I have been doing triathlons…then it’s just a mere blip.

On Being Treated Differently…
I knew the moment I hit the ground that my year–as I had planned it–was effectively over. I didn’t know how much my life would change as a result, and this has been the source of my highest and lowest points of the recovery process.

Without a doubt, being frisked at the airport on the way home was a serious low point. Since I was in a wheelchair, I couldn’t be wanded, and that meant a full body pat down. Sure, he used the back of his hand for the sensitive areas, but overall a not-fun experience (surely he didn’t enjoy it either!). Can’t imagine having to do that on a regular basis.

On the plus side, I have an entirely new set of friends. People over 65 admire my fancy four-legged cane, and I have had more conversations with new senior friends in two weeks than I have had in the last decade. They are awesome, funny, highly opinionated, and chock full of some of the funniest stories I have heard in a long time. If you don’t have someone over 65 or 70 in your life (parents don’t count!) you are missing out big time.

The most interesting thing has been the response of my friends. Some folks have stepped up making serious sacrifices to support me, beyond the call of duty. There are the people I consider close friends who haven’t spoken to me at all about what’s happened. Then there are remote contacts and total strangers sending me letters, emails and text messages of support.

This has been a really healthy reminder of just how differently people respond to adversity (myself included!), and also a great opportunity for me to reflect on exactly where I stand on my relationships. You get what you give, and it’s clear to me that I have some serious giving to do to some of my close friends. To have support from anyone other than my immediate family is a blessing I am thankful for every single day.

On Venturing Outside…
From driving to shopping to going to therapy, no activity can take place without a plan. Everything we try to do as a family isn’t about do we want to do something, but can Daddy get there? Is there a ramp for the wheelchair? How accessible is the bathroom? Is it going to rain?

It’s a whole new host of things to consider, and makes just being an active family pretty tough. Hard for sure, but knowing there’s an end in sight makes it manageable. While standing off to the side of the playground watching my kids play is hard, I am lucky to be able to do just that.

I have also learned to look at things in a new way. Handicap bathroom stalls are awesome, but most bathroom doors are not handicap-friendly (they are heavy and shut quickly). Having lower sinks is a nice touch, but a person with a broken collarbone in a wheelchair can’t use the soap dispenser with a long nozzle (so as not to get the soap on the countertop). I push down here, soap comes out over there.

My journey is far from over, but I am positive and soaking up every day I get. If you have any advice or similar experiences, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, thanks!

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She left the Door open


Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

One of the biggest challenges of recovering from my bicycle accident has been learning a new set of skills to do the same old things I did every day. Walking. Showering. Typing. Driving. Talking on the phone. As anyone who’s been in a similar situation can attest, this is not fun. Stepping back, however, this situation has shown me that my real challenge isn’t with the accident or its repercussions, but with learning how to learn (again).

On one hand the accident has really forced me to realize just how much unconscious mental and physical energy goes into simply being. Forget racing or riding a bicycle for second…I mean just being. Many of the things that we take entirely for granted are pretty complicated.

Did you know that taking a shower, from the moment you walk in all smelly to the moment you walk out all squeaky clean, has something like 80 steps involved? From taking off each piece of clothing to getting into the shower to reaching all those hard to reach places to drying off, etc. Of course taking a shower isn’t hard; but having to think about taking a shower while you take a shower really drives home all that we take for granted.

On a macro level, situations like these have really helped me to develop a newfound respect, not only for people who are challenged, or experiencing challenges, but also for anyone who’s learning something new. Here’s why.

I had forgotten what “new” feels like because I’ve been away from the game for so long. I have spent the better part of my adult life living inside an imaginary “box” where I only did things that I was good at.  My world had become so narrow to the point where I had created a safe space where I could succeed and be important.

My accident threw a monkey wrench into those elaborate plans. It has really shown me while that kind of comfy space (the one where I get to be the hero or in first place–by default!) is an easy place to be…it’s not the best place for me. I had become complacent, forgetting how to learn new things because I wasn’t doing new things. I had lost touch with what it felt like to do something new.

Being in a new space means more than doing new stuff, it means being receptive to it. The power of my accident is that I _have to_ do the walking / showering / driving stuff so I can get back to life as I knew it. The opportunity I have is to somehow apply that same process and experience to other aspects of my life.

It’s not enough to tell someone something so they can learn it: Patrick, just put your foot here to walk. They have to feel it to learn it. I need to feel what walking is like to my body now so I can figure out how to do it. I need to feel that liberating rush of moving my legs freely in the water, as it will inspire me to keep striving. I am reminded daily of the importance of “new” just by virtue of the recovery process.

The emails and messages and notes I receive daily, sharing stories of challenging journeys and experiences, are a reminder that I can in a new live space as well — that is, if I want to learn how. Fortunately I am surrounded by amazing family and friends (and folks like you!) who are there to show me, through your love and support, that it’s possible to learn my way into a new way of living.

I respond best to challenges, and this is a big one for sure. While I’m told my body will heal up just fine, no one can tell me what leading a challenging life will bring. Both will take a lot of work, but the path ahead appears filled with equal parts opportunity and uncertainty. I am happy to take on those kind of odds…and I hope to see you on the other side.

+++++++++++ Personal Update +++++++++++

Things are getting better daily. I rode the recumbent bike for 20 minutes on Monday and Tuesday was actually in the therapy pool doing something that remotely resembled a workout. I am working hard to lose the cane soon enough and hope to be back in my own house…with my own family, as soon as I am able to walk stairs.  As always, there are more challenges that lie ahead. But the bigger they are, the stronger they’ll make me. I’m excited.

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IMG_8361 copy_5x5
Creative Commons License photo credit: Nongbri Family Pix

I recently wrote an article on the benefits of standing at work. I subsequently received quite a few emails and twitter messages about standing at work, and thought another post would be the best way to address the challenges people raised. Please read the original post here and feel free to send me feedback via the comments section or by posting to Twitter with @pmccrann.

#1 – I Can’t Afford A Standing Work Station…

Money shouldn’t come between you and standing. There are plenty of ways to hack your own workstation, such as here and here. Of course, they might not look as professional as one of the high-dollar options, but then again you are standing out for standing at work.

Remember that your early stage goals include finding out exactly what works for you. Some people like a full desk surface to be elevated, while others can do with just a “tower” set up for their computing and/or phone needs. Once you have figured out your standing style you can confidently proceed to making it more permanent.

#2 – Regulations / Office Protocol Prevent Me from Reconfiguring My Desk…

I suggest you check first with your supervisor on this one. Most of the time here are no regulations in place regarding standing, it’s more of a peer pressure situation. If necessary you might need to reference my previous post [link] to make a persuasive case for the standing.

Don’t get psyched out. This is your chance to get your supervisor / co-workers on board with your attempt at standing. At the very least, formulating your convincing argument will come in handy in the future when you’ll be explaining standing to other folks you work with! Besides you might come to an understanding that allows others to explore creating more functional workspaces.

#3 – All My Standing is Making My Co-Workers Nervous…

Unless you are photocopying manifestos and making your own soap [link], I think it’s okay. More seriously, having someone standing behind / next to / in front of you all day can be a little unsettling.

Do your best to make the transition to a new work style as easy as possible for the rest of your team. This could mean anything from taking the time to explain why you are making the change to making sure your new set up doesn’t “loom” over any one person. What you are doing is going against the grain, you don’t have to make it into a fight — everyone deserves to be comfortable at work.

What other tips do you have for fighting for your right to stand?

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As the popular saying goes, to truly know someone else you must walk a mile in their shoes. My recent bicycle accident has given me the opportunity to experience a totally alternative lifestyle, one that has dramatically changed the way I perceive and interact with the people and places that surround me.

I have written before about turning adversity into opportunity. My recent bicycle accident has forced a reality check on my typical laid back approach to dealing with challenges. It’s one thing to take a day or two off from training, it’s another to have to stand down for weeks…in a wheelchair…on pain-killers.

I am not complaining, but I am still processing. Every day presents some form of new challenge, but I am seriously blessed to have amazing friends and family who have stepped up to take care of me and allow me to focus entirely on the process of recovery.

Having this type of support network is incredible. Regardless of the challenge around the corner, I can go forward knowing that whatever is out there I can conquer it. That confidence is a direct result of the support of so many people, and I can’t thank you enough for that gift.

But enough of the sappy stuff…what have I learned over the last two weeks?

On Short-Term vs Long-Term Challenges…
I think on some level it’s “easy” for me to remain positive because my prognosis is that I will recover just fine. No bones were displaced in the three fractures, things were just shaken up. Yes, 6 weeks of recovery is a long time, but that beats the pants off of, say, 6 months or crashing and becoming paralyzed.

Daily goal setting has become incredibly important. If I have targets, I will work towards them. Early on, others had to set those goals for me: “You are just going to take a step and it’s going to hurt and that’s okay.” (You know who you are!) Now I am getting better at doing this myself, and it really makes a difference.

It helps that I am able to do new things every day, such as lift my leg to get in and out of the shower or use my abs a bit more. Heck, the PT guy put me on a recumbent bike for 5 minutes yesterday (don’t tell my wife!)! I have yet to be able to roll over on my side or stomach at night…and that truly sucks…but it’s a really big target out there and I am aiming for it.

At the end of the day, the concepts of short and long time frames are entirely subjective. Six weeks seems long if you look at it in terms of days or hours, but if you consider it as part of your year, or the time I have been doing triathlons…then it’s just a mere blip.

On Being Treated Differently…
I knew the moment I hit the ground that my year–as I had planned it–was effectively over. I didn’t know how much my life would change as a result, and this has been the source of my highest and lowest points of the recovery process.

Without a doubt, being frisked at the airport on the way home was a serious low point. Since I was in a wheelchair, I couldn’t be wanded, and that meant a full body pat down. Sure, he used the back of his hand for the sensitive areas, but overall a not-fun experience (surely he didn’t enjoy it either!). Can’t imagine having to do that on a regular basis.

On the plus side, I have an entirely new set of friends. People over 65 admire my fancy four-legged cane, and I have had more conversations with new senior friends in two weeks than I have had in the last decade. They are awesome, funny, highly opinionated, and chock full of some of the funniest stories I have heard in a long time. If you don’t have someone over 65 or 70 in your life (parents don’t count!) you are missing out big time.

The most interesting thing has been the response of my friends. Some folks have stepped up making serious sacrifices to support me, beyond the call of duty. There are the people I consider close friends who haven’t spoken to me at all about what’s happened. Then there are remote contacts and total strangers sending me letters, emails and text messages of support.

This has been a really healthy reminder of just how differently people respond to adversity (myself included!), and also a great opportunity for me to reflect on exactly where I stand on my relationships. You get what you give, and it’s clear to me that I have some serious giving to do to some of my close friends. To have support from anyone other than my immediate family is a blessing I am thankful for every single day.

On Venturing Outside…
From driving to shopping to going to therapy, no activity can take place without a plan. Everything we try to do as a family isn’t about do we want to do something, but can Daddy get there? Is there a ramp for the wheelchair? How accessible is the bathroom? Is it going to rain?

It’s a whole new host of things to consider, and makes just being an active family pretty tough. Hard for sure, but knowing there’s an end in sight makes it manageable. While standing off to the side of the playground watching my kids play is hard, I am lucky to be able to do just that.

I have also learned to look at things in a new way. Handicap bathroom stalls are awesome, but most bathroom doors are not handicap-friendly (they are heavy and shut quickly). Having lower sinks is a nice touch, but a person with a broken collarbone in a wheelchair can’t use the soap dispenser with a long nozzle (so as not to get the soap on the countertop). I push down here, soap comes out over there.

My journey is far from over, but I am positive and soaking up every day I get. If you have any advice or similar experiences, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below, thanks!

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Re-Starting: What To Do When Your Luck Runs Out

[If you can't see the video above, please click here to watch it online.]

On Tuesday May 18th, right about 11:30am PST, my bicycle and I decided to part ways at about 20 mph coming down a hill outside of La Honda, CA. When all was said and done, I ended up with a fractured pelvis and clavicle, a 3 day hospital stay, and a serious detour from my planned 2010 agenda. Despite the pain and new daily challenges, the experience has started an incredible personal journey that has really affected who I am.

Post Crash
My first thoughts were with my family. Crashing and getting injured is a risk we all take as cyclists, but nothing makes it hit home more than finding yourself spread eagle on the pavement. I was happy to be coherent, but knew something was up with my hip as standing and transferring to the van with my teammates was seriously painful. Having a doctor in the camp (thanks KB!) was a boon as she was able to rule out most of the serious stuff and keep me focused until the hospital team could care for me.

The Hospital
After a battery of xrays and cat scans, they were able to determine the fractures. Thankfully nothing is displaced — so while it’s painful there’s really nothing they can do. I try walking in the ER and earn an overnight stay in the hospital because I pass out when I try to stand.

The passing out continues for Wednesday, and my body is still in shock. Visits from some local Endurance Nation teammates keep my spirits high, but the reality of my injuries (and lots of swelling!) is setting in: this is serious.

Thursday is spent trying to get out of bed and sitting up a lot. I get a head Cat Scan to rule out a concussion. I eat a lot more hospital food and begin plotting my escape. No walking yet, but I have learned that they won’t keep me either.

Friday comes and I have a frantic PT and OT session to prepare me for my departure. Carrie C comes to pick me up and after taking 20 minutes to get me from the wheelchair to the front seat of the car, I am a free man. Unfit to leave the hospital but unable to stay, Carrie takes me home for what turns out to be a five day stay.

Miracle Turnaround
Within a day of being at Carrie’s house, I am up and walking. Buoyed by her tough PT love and the support of a local army of triathlete friends who watch me 24/7, I quickly learn where I can be self-sufficient and where I need to rely upon others.

Soon I am taking (seated) showers by myself and even cooking breakfast. I can reconnect with folks online and continue to bond with my newly adopted extended NorCal family. Before I can even blink, we’ve booked tickets for Maura to fly out and escort me back home.

My last day is a blur of reconnecting with Maura, saying goodbye to the NorCal crew and getting pumped up for a red-eye flight to Boston from SFO. The flight was pretty uneventful, and by Wednesday midday, I am home in Boston watching my girls take rides in my wheelchair.

A Wake Up Call
The most amazing part of this whole ordeal — all the ups and downs — is the chance I have had to connect with people in my world in an entirely new way. What was initially an inconvenience has turned into an incredible opportunity. I had no choice but to get off the runaway train that is my life as a dad/husband/entrepreneur/triathlete/coach and rely upon others for physical and emotional support.

Man, do I have some kick *** friends and family members.

While other people mourned the loss of my season for me, I was just psyched to relax and hang out with some really cool people. I am not fired up to get running again; I just wanted to get home to my family.

I am simply not scared of the path to recovery, as I know I am not alone.

Next Steps
I am home on the Cape, with PT sessions lined up until the end of the summer. I have exercise homework and a pile of real work. But I am not stressed. It’s good to be back with the family, and as the accident has shown, the core elements of my life are in excellent condition.

While I plan to heal and make a full recovery so I can return to the active lifestyle and sports I love, I also know that I will never be the same person again. The new awareness I have about the importance of family and friends; the significance of caring / giving to those in need (and of accepting that care); even the perspective of understanding what really matters at the end of the day — all of these things have fundamentally changed in me.

While I can never repay all of you for the support and love you have given me — whether in person, over the phone, or via text message — know that I can (and will) pay it forward.

 

Please click on the below link to watch the video

 

http://www.viddler.com/explore/CoachP/videos/188/


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Tomorrow brings the first day of my annual epic cycling trip courtesy of the Tour of California. I have written extensively about the value of a Basic Week plus an intermittent volume pop to build quality endurance fitness. Done properly, you can get fitter and faster without compromising your daily life and meet some of those bigger picture lifestyle goals.

Over the next few days I’ll be outlining the basics of building the ‘right’ type of volume experience, but today I can quickly touch on the history of this trip to give you some perspective.

This is the fourth consecutive year i’ve made this trek, and every year it’s gotten better. Here’s how we fast tracked it:

# We found an annual event (the Tour) to follow so routes were established and proven;

# We recruited a core group of 5 folks so we could fit in one van with bikes, food, etc;

# We split the days into business in the AM (get out the door and get riding ASAP) and fun in the PM (food and wine, etc). This is vacation after all!

# We did the research – and purchased – the right gear for exercising, supporting/fixing the gear, and lots of food.

More coming soon…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What’s your annual pilgramage? How do you schedule your travel with your goals?

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Patrick McCrann

Patrick McCrann

Member since: Jan 18, 2008

Marathon training information and insights from elite coach Patrick McCrann. Find your ultimate Marathon Training Schedule online here: http://www.marathonnation.us/

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