Sunday, December 26, 2010

Why are you doing that workout?

Training is fun, but the higher your goals, the less your approach should be about fun, and more about purpose. What workout did you do today? What workouts do you have planned for tomorrow? For this week?

If there is no plan, then there is no purpose to your training. Though you may be having fun, will it be as much fun when you stop seeing improvement?

Why are you doing that workout today/tomorrow/etc? "Because I want to get better" is not a good answer. What aspects of your fitness and weaknesses are you addressing?

If you can't answer these questions from a planning and purpose perspective, then you're just having fun with hard exercise. Though some make call that training, it certainly can't be called preparing.

Prepare to accomplish your goals by training with purpose.

Coach Vance

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sometimes you have to fake it

No matter how much triathlon, or fitness is a part of your life, livelihood, or passion, there will be times when training is not convenient. There will be times when motivation lacks. This is true for the greatest athletes, and everyone else.

The athletes who achieve their goals are the ones who are able to weather these lulls, and find motivation and confidence to get the training done when they doubt they can or aren't sure they want to. If they can't find it, they fake it. Seems odd, but it works.

Sometimes you have to fake it. Your body doesn't know fake attitude in hard training. It only knows hard training. Your goals don't know fake attitude/motivation/confidence. It only knows do, or do not.

You might not want to go to work, but you smile at your boss and co-workers, despite knowing you'd rather be anywhere else. (Maybe even on your bike, or training in the cold!)

I know the weather sucks around the country right now, from So Cal to the Northeast, and your motivation lacks. Fake it. Get on that trainer, get out the door.

Coach Vance

Friday, December 17, 2010

Great Quote #3

Here's one I found myself saying...

"Your dreams get you up in the morning. Your goals get your butt out the door!" - Jim Vance

Coach Vance

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Your Best Triathlon - by Joe Friel

The author of the TrainingBible book series, Joe Friel, has a new book out which I recommend. The book is called Your Best Triathlon - Advanced Training for Serious Triathletes.

This book is more about application of theories into training, rather than just the theories and concepts.

If you liked the TrainingBible, and you want to get better, this book is one I recommend, whether you are self-coached or not.

Coach Vance

Monday, December 13, 2010


No matter who you are, elite, professional, top age-grouper, masters athlete, mid-packer or back-of-the-packer, if you have high goals then you will be nervous before a race.

So many athletes fear being nervous, as if it means something is wrong. Nothing is wrong. Being nervous simply means the goals you have matter to you, and the day has come to see if you can accomplish it. Many think the best athletes don't get nervous. Trust me, they do. They just tend to handle it better than most athletes.

Think back to your college days, and heading into a major exam. You were probably nervous a lot of the time, because there was a lot of the unknown, and you were likely paying for that class too! The cost of failing was not good. But in the end, you likely knew the material or didn't. You were prepared, or you weren't.

Don't fear your nerves. Embrace them, and use the arousal to get the adrenaline pumping and producing a great result. This graph illustrates how the right amount of nervousness and arousal can help your race performance:

If you're not nervous, then you have low energy level, and likely will have a poor performance. Think back to races where you really didn't care about them, or weren't excited. They likely were not your best performances.

If you let your nervousness overtake you, it's too high. You begin to doubt your preparation, your plan, your diet, anything and everything you make a stressful situation.

Understand and accept nervousness, not taking it as a negative sign, such as a lack of confidence or preparation. Trust in your preparation, and execute your race plan.

Coach Vance

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Not You?

We can learn a lot about ourselves and what we're capable of, by learning from others. This was a story which really touched me, and after hearing from my friends on the Navy Seal Teams that they worked with this guy, and he was talking about these goals when he was in Iraq, I had to share it. When I sent them this article, they were happy to read it, and hear he accomplished his goals.

I'm a Husker, so I'm biased, but I take a lot of pride in the experiences and things I learned at that great institution, and under the coaching staff, as well as my teammates. This gentleman's story helps solidify why the pursuit of greatness is important, and it's exactly what continues to drives me as a coach today, and what I look for in the athletes I work with.

From line of fire in Iraq to defensive lineman at Nebraska

By Tom Robinson The Virginian-Pilot © December 11, 2010

Tyrone Fahie, a two-tour Iraq veteran from Virginia Beach, is not on the campus of the University of Nebraska through a miracle, although his story does have that feel about it.

Fahie is imposing at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 255 pounds, but his voice lands softly on significant events of the past decade: his enlistment in the Navy at age 17, his rise to the rank of petty officer second class, his narrow escape from a rocket attack late one night in 2004 within Baghdad's Green Zone.

The 107 mm rocket launched across the bordering Tigris River landed 50 yards behind him and another man, but for some reason it didn't explode. Fahie (pronounced Foy) is mindful of that serendipity, pretty much every day. "It would've easily killed both of us," he says. "War became really personal to me at that point."

Gradually, Fahie's tale steers from that sober memory to the surreal. It's the part nobody really saw coming. The long-shot chapter in which a former Ocean Lakes High School drum major announces his nascent dream - to become a Division I college football player upon leaving the Navy - and then proceeds to live it.

What? How did Fahie become a backup defensive end - deep on the depth chart, but still - and a trusted voice within a traditional powerhouse that's ranked 17th nationally this week by The Associated Press?

Didn't Fahie quit football after his freshman season on the junior varsity to focus on the saxophone and the marching band? Well, that made sense to him at the time; Fahie was just 5-foot-7 then, and he loved his music, although, reflecting now, he concedes he wasn't motivated to take it very far.

So football became a casualty. Football was gone for good when Fahie gave it up.

Except, actually, it wasn't.

Music waned for Fahie, but not the lure of football. Even as he practiced his military trade in harm's way - an electronics specialist, Fahie helped SEAL team members communicate with each other - he nursed his goal, training a body that bloomed unexpectedly while he was in the Navy.

"My second tour in Iraq, my nickname was 'Nebraska,' " says Fahie, a 28-year-old graduate student due to earn his MBA in May. "I had a lot of support. Everyone just expected me to get accepted there and play football."

And so that part played out for him precisely as planned. Yet with one game - the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl - left in his career as the Cornhuskers' oldest walk-on ever, Fahie still marvels at his journey.

"You couldn't tell someone this story," he says. "A Navy guy, 23 years old, walks onto the Nebraska football team after not playing football for 10 years? Yeah, right. That really happened."

Oh, but it did. Very much so.

In fact, the directors of an exclusive service organization and foundation in Newport Beach, Calif., known as The Pacific Club were so moved upon learning about Fahie's story that they voted him an honorary version of their annual award.

The club issues its Lott IMPACT trophy, named for former football star Ronnie Lott, to a top college defensive player judged that season's best combination of athlete, student and citizen.

Two others have received honorary awards: the late Pat Tillman, who left an NFL career and died in service as an Army Ranger, and Boston College's Mark Herzlich, who returned to the field after a battle with cancer.

"Tyrone represents the best of student-athletes in this country, and we're delighted to honor him," says Pete Donovan, a Pacific Club spokesman. "He'll get a hell of an ovation when he comes up, trust me."

That will be tonight in Newport Beach at a $20,000-per-table black-tie gala, with retired Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, set to introduce Fahie to the gathering of 250 people.

"I'm honored, but I'm baffled," says Fahie, an honor-roll student who also runs a nonprofit business, reselling his school's used computer equipment online as part of his graduate program. "I don't think I'm in the conversation" with Tillman and Herzlich.

There is little to discuss regarding Fahie's statistics, that's true. He has played briefly in just two games at Nebraska.

Still, his story drew attention and admiration early this season for one proud act: Fahie carried the American flag into Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, filled with its usual 81,000 fans, before a game Sept. 11.

He had asked school officials how he could help mark the day's significance to the military and others who protect Americans. They in turn asked him to lead his teammates out of their tunnel, in uniform, along with four flag-bearing police officers and firefighters.

The irony of that special walk isn't lost on Fahie: It was his longest on-field appearance as a Cornhusker. Fahie, in the language of the game, is a scout-team player. He has spent his idyllic career imitating opposing defensive ends to help prepare Nebraska's offensive starters for that week's game.

The nickname is incongruous to the Navy, but "Sarge," as Fahie is known to his teammates, has never gotten to run down the field to cover a kickoff or a punt. He's rarely traveled to road games. He has played only two snaps from scrimmage - one this year, the other two years ago - and made no tackles.

But his name on the roster - Fahie, No. 92, defensive end - and his credibility as a survivor of a cattle-call student tryout barely eight months after he left the Navy are all the validation he needs.

"It's pretty much amazing someone so young has done so many of the things he wanted to do in his life," says his mother, Dafney, who lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, Floyd. "I really think Tyrone is an awesome young man."

Dafney Fahie, who, like her husband, is a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, knows better than anyone the making of her son's plan.

It was born in boot camp after Tyrone Fahie, whose father spent 24 years in the Navy, enlisted the summer he graduated from Ocean Lakes. Fahie befriended a fellow enlistee, a native Nebraskan who talked endlessly of Cornhusker football, and he found himself intrigued by his new friend's passion.

Later, when they were stationed in San Diego, the men traveled to Lincoln to sample the spectacle of a game day, Husker-style. The intensity blew Fahie away.

"I mean, if you say something to someone out here about the Huskers, they can list the roster in alphabetical order," Fahie says. "They know every detail about the team. I was kind of impressed by that."

So impressed that Fahie, with his parents' can-do encouragement in his ears, began to talk openly of trying football again when he left the Navy in August 2006. Sure, it was illogical. But Fahie kept asking himself and friends two questions: "Why not me?" and "Why not Nebraska?"

The school, he'd learned, had a long tradition of accepting walk-ons. And he'd already decided Nebraska was the place for him, although he knew no one at the university.

"I'd always wondered, what if I had picked football instead of band, where would I have been?" Fahie says.

His shot to find out in front of Nebraska's coaching staff came in the spring of 2007, the second semester of his freshman year.

The coaches, who Fahie says did not yet know of his military background, put 85 hopefuls through various running and jumping drills to test their athleticism.

Fahie recalls being upset with his performance, even before he lost a shoe during his 40-yard dash.

"I was like, 'Awesome. That's exactly what I needed,' " he says with a laugh. "I beat myself up that night. But the next day I got a call to come to the coach's office.

"They said, 'We'd like you to be part of our team.' "

"Team" isn't a word Fahie takes lightly. To him, it is charged with meaning from military lessons ingrained by relying on others as they relied on him.

"The consequences there obviously are a lot more dire," he says. "If I messed up and got myself killed or shot, that's fine. But I didn't want to be the guy who got someone else killed or shot."

That attitude is why, according to Nebraska teammate Joe Broekemeier, a receiver, Fahie's "respect level is crazy around here. What Sarge says has merit, and people listen to him."

Broekemeier, though, notes that Fahie rarely references his Navy days unless asked. But he did volunteer to address the Cornhuskers during a rough patch last season, when he called on his military maturity to lend perspective and guidance.

We need to know we can trust each other, he told his struggling, younger teammates. No, our lives aren't on the line here. Rockets aren't falling around us. But we need to know we're all doing our jobs for each other, every day, on the field and in class, to better this team.

"I'm very competitive. I want to win," says Fahie, who estimates he's among 15 open-tryout players on Nebraska's 156-man roster. "So if takes me just being a scout-team player for us to win, I'm completely fine with that. I'm not the best athlete. But there are things I do that still help this team."

Nothing Fahie brings to the locker room, the weight room or the practice field, says Nebraska's defensive ends coach John Papuchis, is more important than his full effort and his presence as someone who's seen a side of life most of his teammates never will.

Says Papuchis, "Tyrone's maturity and discipline have a positive effect on the rest of our defensive line and people throughout our football program."

Ah, but in the end, there is another question to ask of Fahie: Which has served the other better, the man or the team? He is confident of the answer, and here's a clue to it: Fahie, who's engaged to be married in July, says he plans to coach football - at any level, even as a volunteer - and for a long time, to repay what he says he owes to the sport, his university and his teammates.

"I needed this team more than they needed me," Fahie says. "I need that structure in my life. I don't do well without it. And for me, being accountable to other people really pushes me further than I would probably ever push myself."

Coach Vance

Saturday, December 11, 2010

If you needed anymore convincing...

...that triathlon can help your running, and make you a fitter, better athlete overall, than look no further than today's Footlocker Cross Country Championships at Morley Field!

Lukas Verzbicas - 1st, 14:59 (5K)
Tony Smoragiewicz - 3rd, 15:16

These are two of the top Junior Triathletes for the US, and both are juniors in high school still!

Impressive, given the list of names who have been top 3 at this event in years past, and what they've been able to accomplish just in distance running alone. This includes:

Adam Goucher
Meb Kflezighi
Alan Webb
Ryan Hall
Dathan Ritzenhein
Bob Kennedy
Ruben Reina
Marc Davis
Louie Quintanna
Bryan Dameworth

This is just the men's side, the women have had similar success.

A great sign of the future for the US in the sport! And a great motivation for the rest of us!

Coach Vance

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twitter Answers #2

Each week I ask over Twitter if people have training topics they are interested in learning about. I get a number of responses and questions, and 140 characters doesn't provide good opportunity to answer them all. So I hope every few weeks to post some of the questions and my responses here.

From: @ironchiro

"the value of training the core muscles? Yes/No? Why? Performance benefit? Technique benefit? Relation with injury prevention?"

Core strength being important isn't the question, because it is. The real question is it the MOST important? It depends on how weak or strong your core is, compared to your ability to swim, bike and run. Specificity is most important, (swimming, biking and running), but there comes a point where you can't improve those if the weakest link in the chain is your core strength. Also, how much training time do you have available? That's one of the best parts about triathlon, that there are so many different avenues for improving performance, that choosing which ones you focus on and how well you do with that is the challenge.

So does it have a benefit on the things you list? Yes, most certainly. Is it worth pursuing more? Perhaps, but see if it is the really the weakness you need to address. With all this said, I do like to see my athletes address core strength mostly in the off-season, then maintain that strength thru the year, but just enough to maintain.

From: @djdirtykurty

"have u blogged about if & How much warmup you should do the morning of the race & How long before race time should u do it"

Warm-up in general has a few rules I like to follow and advise of athletes. First, the shorter the race, the more intense it is, and therefore the more warm-up that is required. For example, a sprint or Olympic requires much more warm-up than an Ironman. As an example, I like to see an athlete do at least a 2 mile jog before a half-ironman, and then get in the water for at least 20 mins, with some surges in both the run and the swim, to race intensity. This would be the minimum for a half. Always better to start your warm-up too soon than too late.

From: @AlexBaron85

"how bout approach to offseason? need to incorporate weights to gain strength. how much sbr do we need not to lose form? Thanks!"
The first part of approach to the off-season is to recharge mentally. If you don't rest the mind, you'll be fading by the middle of the following season. I believe strength training is best addressed in the off-season, with a focus on stabilizing muscles, and core work. Don't fall for the idea that a loss of strength will mean poor technique, as that is just not the case. Plenty of weak athletes have excellent technique.

The best approach to the off-season is one which represents the glaring weaknesses that kept you from reaching your goals in the prior season. Do a review of the season, and find out what happened. If it was injuries, perhaps a strength training routine could prevent that. Maybe speed is what you need too, and that needs to be the focus. Consider all variables, then prioritize. Consider weight and diet too!

From: @NerdyRocker

"What type of strength training do you recommend for marathoners?"

Wow, strength training is a popular topic! Seems like many athletes haven't addressed it much, and that may be why it seems to be a big weakness. Because a runner only has to run, they tend to be more able to hit the weight room, so strength training comes into play. Core work, stabilizing muscles, and dynamic movement strength work, (ie lunges), are the things I recommend.

Thanks guys!

Coach Vance