Friday, November 08, 2013

Seb on the Ukulele

Seb's only been learning the Ukulele for a few weeks so I'm blown away by this. No t from my genes for sure.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Seb & Sid get a mention for the Singapore Triathlon

Seb and Sid got a mention in the school online newspaper for their exploits in the recent Singapore International Triathlon. Whoever said being a parent was difficult? They are awesomely awesome.





Thursday, October 10, 2013

Inter-schools Cross Country - Sid and Seb in action

Sid and Seb made me incredibly proud again last weekend. They both took part in the annual inter-schools cross country race over 1.5km. They were racing against 7, 8 and 9 year olds (they're 7) so we didn't expect too much and especially as we hadn't trained for it and it was their first ever standalone running race.




















The gun went off and 148 kids bolted down the field, Sid and Seb on the other hand were in another world and didn't move until they almost got knocked over. Focus wasn't their strong point at the start of the race haha.


They were soon into their stride though and soon enough I saw them come whizzing past albeit in the middle of the field, oh well I thought, it's all good experience and we genuinely didn't expect too much.




















I made my way over to the finishing chute and before long the front runners were appearing around the corner, boy they were moving, I very much doubt that I could have beaten them. Needless to say they were all the older kids, my boys weren't there but I was so excited about seeing these awesome athletes. There was a wicked sprint battle going on for fourth and fifth miles down the ground, wow, it even looked a bit like Sid from a distance, although he was way too far back to be this high up in the field...OMG...IT WAS SID!...how he picked up so many places just blows my mind.

As it happened he finished 5th and the highest placed boy in his year - what a massive result.





















Seb was having his own amazing battle (check out the "look"), coming through the field and although was disappointed not to feature in the top ten medal placings he ran a very credible race especially as running is not his strongest discipline (yet).

Their school won the event last year by just one point, this year they smashed it with a margin of 50 points - OUTSTANDING!

Well done Alice Smith! Well done Sid and Seb.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Scary? It would be if you were there!

(Courtesy of Ezer)

The best thing I've ever seen on the Internet other than "The Death Star Canteen" - Brilliant!

Why You Should Fill Your Company With 'Athletes'

(Courtesy of Forbes.com)

At our company, we work to fill our roster with “athletes.” I don’t mean this necessarily in the physical sense, although it turns out that quite a few of our members are literal athletes – we have a national-class triathlete, I have a personal interest in competitive and recreational bodybuilding, and there are multiple marathoners, bikers, soccer, and basketball players, CrossFit enthusiasts, etc. on staff. We also have a companywide interest in health and fitness, which we call “Fishbowl FIT.” But when I advise people to seek and hire athletes, what I am really referring to is the athlete traits (akin to leadership traits) that make any individual an exceptional hire.

The traits of athletes we desire are as follows:

1. They have the drive to practice a task rigorously, relentlessly, and even in the midst of failure until they succeed. Athletes are tenacious—they seldom or never give up. They also have a strong work ethic and the ability to respect and deal with the inevitable issues of temporary pain (along with the intuition to know when the cause of the pain is an issue too serious to safely ignore.)

3. Athletes develop new skills. Even though an athlete is highly specialized at certain skills, such as speed, blocking, or hand-eye coordination, they are also good at adapting to scenarios that call for cross-functional skills.

4. Athletes are exceptional entrepreneurs. As you consider new hires, you will likely discover that business athletes are often former (or current) entrepreneurs. Whereas people from large corporate environments may tend to be specialized in their skills and single-minded in their objectives, a business athlete is equipped to see the bigger vision of all that goes into making a company thrive. They can think strategically and are tuned in to the “big picture” and the long-term goals. They also know how to put the strategy into action.

5. Athletes strive for balance. Too much junk food and too little sleep will not contribute to a healthy company or a winning performance. Their bodies must be strong and in good condition, so athletes understand that they can’t cheat the system for long and expect positive results. A true business athlete will respect the laws of balance in energy, health, sleep, and nutrition (as well as the business corollaries) that will allow them to succeed and to do so not only in the present but for the long term as well.

6. Athletes work well with partners and in teams. Athletes know how to leverage the unique and complementary strengths of each member of their team. They know that cutting down a teammate or disrespecting a partner will only contribute to an organization’s demise. In fact, an athlete will typically put the needs of the team or a partner on equal par or even ahead of their own needs. How do you find and hire these athletes? Consider the questions you ask in interviews about outside projects, other interests, community service, the ability to focus on pet tasks, and the concepts of teamwork. And, as always, be keen to the ways you can recognize and hire for propensity instead of for current demonstrable traits. Many of my own strongest players have never previously excelled at a physical sport. They never knew they were athletes. That’s an important aspect of hiring athletes: The world’s best athletes are not necessarily discovered; they are trained.

How are you finding, fostering, and training the champion athletes on your own business team?  Everyone deserves the opportunity to discover the “athlete” within themselves.

Friday, October 04, 2013

40, The New 20

Mark Allen's three components for getting faster after age 40.

(Courtesy of Terry, extracted from Lavamagazine.com, written by AnnaBuckley )
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My last year as a competitive swimmer was when I was 22 years old. When my final result was posted and the goggles were tossed into the back of my closet, I thought my days as a true athlete were done. Finished. I was retired for life. It was all downhill from there. You see, I had no role models to demonstrate what “older” athletes are capable of. I had no idea that nine years later I would be winning an Ironman world title or that 15 years later I would win my sixth Kona title at age 37.

We are seeing the limits of older age fall like leaves in the athletic world. Nowadays, 20 years old means you’re just getting started, not a year or two from your athletic grave. Thirty means you’re just hitting your stride, and being a world-class athlete at 40 is no longer an anomaly. We’d better start watching out for the 50-somethings. In a few years we may be seeing world records being set by those with ages that previous generations thought were heart attack territory.

The record books have been sprinkled with athletes bucking age barriers for some time. U.K.-born marathoner Priscilla Welch didn’t even jog until she was 35, yet she won the New York City Marathon at age 42. Rob Barel, one of our sport’s pioneers from Holland, was the oldest triathlete in the Sydney Olympics also at age 42. And don’t forget Dave Scott, who at 40 came within 12 seconds of overtaking eventual champion Greg Welch on the marathon in the 1994 Ironman Hawaii. Perhaps the most impressive example of excellence at an “old” athletic age is six-time Hawaii champion Natascha Badmann, who won Ironman South Africa in 2012 at age 45.

So what’s going on here? Why is this generation of athletes making 40 truly seem like just a number on a page while their machines are still humming along at world-class speeds? Clearly there has not been a significant genetic mutation in the human genome over the last 20 years that has suddenly made such performances possible. The genetics needed to do so have been around for thousands of years, but it’s only coming out now.

Opportunity
One could argue that the ability to make a living as a professional athlete is what is propelling the age standard to new heights. Certainly this is one part of the puzzle. Training, especially for an endurance event, is often a closed equation. There is only so much of the personal energy pie to spread around, and if someone is putting in 40–50 hours in the office, there is little chance that they will be logging another 30–40 a week into their training logs. But, if the results keep rolling in and sponsors continue to cut the checks, then suddenly that part of performance is taken care of and the freedom to continue to train and race full time is no longer limited by financial concerns.

But this doesn’t really explain the whole picture. When I retired from swimming there may not have been any professional swimmers who were supported financially to keep going as long as they could, but there were sports were that did happen. Golf was one of them, and certainly there were some older golfers with scores close to their ages. But in general, even in the sports that had outright professionalism, we saw few who aged up very gracefully. So what has made the shift now?

Recovery
One of the biggest deterrents to consistent long-term top performance is poor planning in the recovery department. Poor recovery leads at a minimum to big-time burnout and in the extreme to a career-ending injury. Regardless of whether you are trying to be a world champion or just cross the finish line, if you don’t execute your recovery very consistently your body will start to break down. Then your racing starts to suffer, which leaves you with a zapped body as well as the frustration of knowing that all that training was for nothing. Problems caused by inadequate recovery were rampant in the early days of most endurance sports and certainly triathlon.

These days the scene looks much more tidy. We have more advanced exercise science, gadgets to measure your every heartbeat and breath, coaches who really know what they are doing, and the critical dos and don’ts that could only be built through years of trial and error by other athletes. Now all of these combine and the masses are finally tapping into a vast reservoir of knowledge about how to train smart. Recovery has gained stature and is factored into an athlete’s training way more than even 10 or 20 years ago. Suddenly careers are lasting longer that ever thought possible simply because fewer athletes are burning out before their genetics need to wind it down.

In our sport people are no longer throwing training theories against the wall to see what works and then paying the price for those harebrained plans that don’t. They can pretty much map out their years, then sit back and just do what is laid out with less apprehension about whether their training will do them right or do them in.

Throughout my career I thought I had the formula down, especially from 1989–1993, when the Ironman trophies started to add up. Race results speak volumes, but unfortunately they don’t always reveal the underlying weaknesses that are building up from training that is not matched with enough recovery—at least until the time bomb goes off, which happened to me after my fifth Kona title in ’93.

I was exhausted. After almost five years of inadequate recovery, the guillotine dropped. The short version of the story is that it took me a season and a half of pretending I was still a top triathlete before I went on a severely limited training schedule and finally started to revive the hope of putting in one more bid to win Hawaii. Others thought it was my age creeping up, but the problem was that 13 seasons into my triathlon career I had made rookie mistake number one: I hadn’t been recovering nearly enough. I was 36 and was coming back to win Kona at 37, something that had never been done before at the time.

We now know that this and more is possible. In 2010, at age 37, Macca used the field as a punching bag in his second Hawaii victory after cutting back his training load from previous seasons. Last season a 38-year-old Craig Alexander executed a perfectly planned season of racing and recovery to become the oldest male champion in the history of the race.

The final component
Opportunity and recovery are close to the complete answer of why we are seeing today’s 40-somethings still on top, but not quite all of it. The final component required to be “old and on top” starts with a thought. It’s either “I know I can,” or something like, “I think I might be able to and I just want to see if I can.” You just need a part of you to believe that your best days aren’t behind you.
My view of the world when I finished swimming—that all athletics were over—was limited. Probably many pro triathletes in the ’80’s had already seen themselves joining the age-group ranks sometime in their early thirties until they saw Dave Scott and me still at the top of our games at age 40.

Nowadays the belief is there for the “old-timers.” And maybe it’s not even about being a champ. Ken Glah has logged a finish in Kona every year since 1984 [Ed note: This year will mark his 30th time on the starting line]. He believes he can, so why not? Has age clipped a dream short for you before you even gave it a fighting chance? Maybe this is the year to tell yourself, “I know I can,” or at the very least, “I don’t know if I can but I know I can give it a try.”

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

How Green?

(Photo courtesy of Siti Hay)
 
Now this is what I call greener than green.
 
On a three family trek to Le Monal, The Crosses, The Waymans and the Hays - I got us all lost so everyone except Sid and Seb abandoned me and went for hot chocolate.
 
An hour later the boys and I eventually found our destination - me boys are harder than nails!
 
 

2 Waymans and 2 Crosses - It makes me very proud...ah hmmm!!!

Photo - Courtesy of Chris Wayman
Pretty girl with happy smile - Courtesy of India Wayman
Aloof, kind of cool looking guy - Courtesy of KofiWayman
Two Numpties...they are the TriTwins! Oh dear! haha
 
 


Peter Kay - Misheard Lyrics - Hilarious!

(Courtesy of Stephen Dennison)



Friday, July 19, 2013

How good is this?

Click on this link if you just want to see the Brownlee Brothers blowing everyone away. Their swimming is just poetry in motion. So good it's mental. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8_aZ80O9ig#t=04m20s



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

New Trek Speed Concept 2.0 - Sssshhhhhush, don't tell Gladys

 


























Check out the video of the new Trek Speed Concept 2.0 HERE.
I'm not sure she's as pretty as Gladys but there's a lot to be said for loose and faster over pretty (and fast).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Latest training update for Ironman Switzerland - Phase 2 Week 6 (w/e 14/07/13)



Here's my training weeks leading up to Ironman Switzerland. I'll update them weekly and slot in the most recent at the top each week.

I'm self coached now and the basic plan is to go back to my 2009/2010 training plan and adding some of the lessons I've learned since. I don't have the same mileage in my legs and I'm 10kg+ heavier, therefore the main emphasis is to get the weight down, build some mileage and everything else is secondary. Getting the weight down will be critical. I'll worry about a more scientific approach for my next Ironman. I've given up booze totally and not eating dinner most days.

The plan will consist of two "Prep" weeks to try to get myself into a routine of training again and also to nurse my injured right arm. (MTB accident, in a sling, basically I can't use it for now). Then 4 weeks "Phase One" loading the miles, then 6 weeks of "Phase Two" full-on Ironman mileage and finally 2 weeks "Taper".

The stats leading up to the start (things had really gone to the dogs as you can see): -
Average weekly training hours since Jan 1st until start of Prep Week 1 - 6hr53
Average Weekly Swim Distance since Jan 1st until start of Prep Week 1 - 2.7km
Average Weekly Bike Distance since Jan 1st until start of Prep Week 1 - 1.04km
Average Weekly Run Distance since Jan 1st until start of Prep Week 1 - 16km
Weight 84.7kg

Phase 2 Week 6 (w/e 14/07/13)
Weight 71kg

Swim 22km - Bike 367km - Run 46km - Gym 3hr20

(Long Bike/Run Brick 184k/12.5k, Long Run 21k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 27hr42

Comments: -
Hmm! Mixed feeling about this week. After last weekend's races  and next week the beginning of my taper I was highly motivated to make this the last big week without any missed sessions. I was happy to accept a sluggish start to the week but I guess the big loading over the last few weeks, considerable weight loss, low glycogen reserves, two races and an "over-reaching" training plan, all took their toll. The thing that really suffered was my running, I was just too mentally and physically exhausted to do it all.

I put in a decent run after my long ride on Saturday but come Sunday I had my last 32k scheduled, I was in pieces from the off and considered getting a taxi back at 11k. I reminded myself I was going to feel worse than this in a couple of weeks at IMZurich so even if this wasn't doing me any physical good it was certainly great mental training. I slugged it out back to the car with the help of my all girl body guard squadron (thanks again girls) and called it a day at 21k.

Oh well ay! I did what I could do, the whole idea is to push the limits to breaking point without making excuses but without actually breaking either. I found that limit this week and other than my little bout of food poisoning I haven't been laid of sick, training has been pretty darn consistent and I'm still mentally very motivated.

It's taper time now although the taper doesn't look much like a taper, not this week anyway haha. Race day less than 14days away - getting excited! Yay.

Phase 2 Week 5 (w/e 07/07/13)
Weight 72kg

Swim 12km - Bike 102km - Run 18km - Gym 0hr

(Port Dickson Sprint Tri - 1:07:59 - 1st 40-49 Age-group)
(Port Dickson Challenge [1.5km/1km/43km/9.5km] - 2:12:07 -
1st 40-49 Age-group, 2nd overall)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 8hr06

Comments: -
This week was always going to be a light effort week culminating in a Sprint tri on Saturday and a slightly longer than Olympic distance tri on Sunday. As it happens I didn't intend to back off as much as I did but hey ho, as I said last week I have been loading big volume and was reaching my mental and physical limit. What I didn't expect though was coming down with chronic food poisoning on Thursday evening. Despite the resulting excellent outcome at the weekend, Thursday night and all day Friday was just a miserable cascade of vomit and diarrhoea, mostly the latter. By Friday night I could eat again and Emer, one of my running buddies and also a doctor, recommended I take as many Oral Rehydration Salt sachets as I could manage - I managed 10 Friday, 2 Saturday morning and 2 Sunday morning.

My stomach started cramping again during the run on Saturday's tri but being a sprint it was over before it got too bad and on Sunday it was a really difficult to digest anything during the race. Both days I had no power on the bike but the run was fine, strangely. All in all a dodged bullet and an awesome outcome.

I was just 1min39secs from winning the whole thing, something I've never dreamed of at my advancing years let alone after food poisoning. As I keep telling those who care to listen (and those that don't) I am Benjamin Button. Haha.

The plan is to load the volume big time again next week to the maximum before a 2 week taper. Let's see how that works.

Phase 2 Week 4 (w/e 30/06/13)
Weight 72kg

Swim 15km - Bike 350km - Run 63km - Gym 2hr

(Long Bike 184k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 24hr47

Comments: -
Horrific Haze came down big time Monday and Tuesday, no way would it have been safe to swim although should have done the indoor sessions, sadly it threw my routine and thus my resolve so I ended up doing nothing for these two days. Air quality improved enough to get back into it on Wednesday and then I was just trying to play catch up doing 30hrs in 5 days...it didn't happen.

Still an OK week, di dlong run on Saturday and flew, long ride on Sunday and had nothing much to give and missed the brick run afterwards tch tch.

Clearly reaching my limit, good to recognise it, so won't beat myself up too much. Sprint Tri next Saturday and Olympic Distance Tri on Sunday won my AG in both last time I did them so would like to do well and will back off a bit next week.

I may not be there yet but I'm closer than I was last week.

Phase 2 Week 3 (w/e 23/06/13)
Weight 73kg

Swim 21km - Bike 400km - Run 82km - Gym 3hr20

(Long Bike/Run Brick 184k/8.8k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 31hr40

Comments: -
Wobbled a bit at the beginning of the week missing my 18k dreadmill interval session. Did it on Friday instead though, this meant 5 days in a row running from Wednesday through Sunday, this meant the end of the week was seriously loaded and I was totally whacked. Did everything except 2 optional easy bike sessions, so a total win but boy oh boy, tired or what?!!!

Big problem now is the haze, it is now super thick, twice as bad as it was over the weekend for my long ride and run and it was super bad then. The other guys on the long ride stopped and got taxi's home it was so bad. Just hoping for major rain storms but looks like most stuff this week at least will have to be done indoors. The swim is going to be an issue!

Somehow got to keep on track.

Phase 2 Week 2 (w/e 16/06/13)
Weight 74kg

Swim 21km - Bike 440km - Run 81km - Gym 2hr40

(Long Bike/Run Brick 187k/8.8k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 32hr24

Comments: -
A very satisfying week, 20 sessions and only missed one optional gym session and one optional easy turbo. I'm managing the loading, body and mind adapting reasonably well to it all. There are sessions where I have nothing to give, no power, high lactic acid and can't get my heart rate anywhere near where it should be. These sessions are effectively the recovery time and I expected them but they're tough pills to swallow.

Sleep has been pretty good which is incredibly important with such high volume and no built in recovery days. I'm eating top quality food albeit still very minimal to drop the weight but starting to find myself snacking a little now, nuts, fruit etc. I guess the level that I was eating at is unsustainable so not too worried about it.

No signs of injury or illness yet although I'm starting to get some choice comments from various quarters just waiting for it to happen, ha! Managed my first brick run after a long ride on Saturday. Didn't have much in the legs for either ride or run but got them done. Sunday morning's long run was the real breakthrough, my legs were positively spritely and the speed reflected it - fitter, stronger and most importantly lighter - ONWARDS!

Phase 2 Week 1 (w/e 09/06/13)
Weight 75kg

Swim 21km - Bike 401km - Run 62km - Gym 3hr20

(Long Bike 189k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TIME 30hr46

Comments: -
A good week really, had a blip on Wednesday, was supposed to do my mid week brick workout but it just didn't happen, I did do it on Thursday though but that meant pushing Thursday's run to Friday. Doable but after my swim and gym I made the mistake of having planned a game of golf in the 40C heat. Won't do that again as I missed an important run and a more important max effort turbo session. Won some money at golf though haha. Saturday's long ride was a super hilly one, low power and low heart rate (unable to push it up) were problems again. By the time I got home temp was through the roof and the brick run didn't happen. Sunday's long run was pretty good and progressively faster than previous weeks. Did a turbo session in the evening as a recovery ride and to push the bike mileage over the 400k per week target. Running again was a real let down this week although improved on last week. Long way off my 80km weekly target. Must focus more on this and force myself to at least do the all important brick runs. Weight continues to disappear which is helping all aspects of training, this is still the key factor and will eventually make the running more bearable as the loads reduce week on week.

Phase 1 Week 4 (w/e 02/06/13)
Weight 76kg

Swim 25km - Bike 321km - Run 45km - Gym 2hr40

(Long Bike 194k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 27hr50

Comments: -
Solid week although running let me down a bit, I was just too whacked to do all the scheduled runs. Boys off from school so didn't have to do the school run and consequently my days all started later so I kept running out of time. By the time the weekend came around I was a mess, no power in my legs and sweating profusely before it even got hot. Couldn't get heart rate up either so clearly haven't adapted to volume yet. Missing runs was probably good and necessary. Long ride on Saturday was a massive struggle just to keep going. long run on Sunday not much better but got both of those important sessions in with a modicum of quality. Next week I move to full Ironman riding and running volumes in Phase 2. Uh-Ho! All good so far though.

Phase 1 Week 3 (w/e 26/05/13)
Weight 77kg

Swim 18km - Bike 304km - Run 66km - Gym 3hr40

(Long Bike 190k, Long Run 32k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 27hr28

Comments: -
Great week except Friday, it was a holiday for the boys so no school run and it threw my routine, ended up sleeping most of the day. Felt awful about it but not going to beat myself up, I clearly needed it. Saturday long ride saw increased distance, lower heart rate and higher power than last week. Didn't manage a brick run though, too hot and need to HTFU. Sunday's long run was a huge confidence boost, kept up with the group (albeit they were taking it easy) but then last 11k alone was a solid run rather than an Ironman shuffle. Had planned to catch up on missed swimming and ride in the afternoon but didn't happen. Still struggling to come to terms with the volume but getting there.
Phase 1 Week 2 (w/e 19/05/13)
Weight 78kg

Swim 17km - Bike 300km - Run 46km - Gym 2hr30

(Long Bike 184k, Long Run 25k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 24hr52

Comments: -
Felt great until Thursday afternoon, probably pushed too hard on Wednesday ride/run brick and got dehydrated. Just didn't have anything Thursday afternoon and by the time I turned up at the pool Friday morning I felt the beginnings of a cold/fever or worse. Didn't swim, went home and straight to bed for the day. Woke up Saturday for the long ride not feeling much better but well rested at least. Long ride was great and long run on Sunday a struggle but 25k in the bag.

Phase 1 Week 1 (w/e 12/05/13)
Weight 80kg

Swim 21km - Bike 164km - Run 55km - Gym 2hr25

(Long Bike 0k, Long Run 22k)

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 21hr31

Comments: -
Started using my right arm swimming now carefully. Fantastic week's training until the weekend arrived. Sid and Seb had the Nexus Triathlon so couldn't ride in the morning. Super hot so ran in the evening, 22km only felt awful. Party Saturday night which ended at 2:30. Did nothing on Sunday - very poor, completely drained though.

Prep Week 2 (w/e 05/05/13)
Weight 82kg

Swim 20km - Bike 302km - Run 42.2km - Gym 1hr30

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 20hr51

Comments: -
Right arm slowly improving but still excruciatingly painful so all swimming still left arm and kicking only but letting right arm move through water now. Not eating dinner at all which is tough but the weight comes down super quick if you can tough it out.

Prep Week 1 (w/e 28/04/13)
Weight 85kg

Swim 20.24km - Bike 271km - Run 21km - Gym 20mins

TOTAL TRAINING TIME 20hr35

Comments: -
Right arm in a sling with badly damaged shoulder so all swimming was left arm and kicking only. The first day the doctor allowed out on the road bike I got rear-ended by a car but thankfully landed on my good side and the bike wasn't too badly damaged. Road rash will heal! ha!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Americans are not stupid - Very disturbing!

(Courtesy of CK Chew)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Seb and Sid's Poetry Finals







Seb's rendition of Ken Nesbitt's "My Teacher Ate My Homework"


Sid's rendition of Ken Nesbitt's "All My Great Excuses"

Monday, June 03, 2013

A note from Sam in sunny France


Hi Simon

Have a look at these photos from yesterday (more on Martin's link on my FB). You'll recognize the coffee shop but you can be excused for thinking it is still the ski season. Madness! I am joining Martin and John Thomas on a 5 day cycling Tour of Mont Blanc on Thurs. Luckily, our neighbour from Li Villas arrives tomorrow and Carmen will have some company while I'm away. 

Sam


Monday, May 13, 2013

Becoming the All-Terrain Human


(Courtesy of Anees - From the New York Times, written by CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON)

Kilian Jornet Burgada is the most dominating endurance athlete of his generation. In just eight years, Jornet has won more than 80 races, claimed some 16 titles and set at least a dozen speed records, many of them in distances that would require the rest of us to purchase an airplane ticket. He has run across entire landmasses­ (Corsica) and mountain ranges (the Pyrenees), nearly without pause. He regularly runs all day eating only wild berries and drinking only from streams. On summer mornings he will set off from his apartment door at the foot of Mont Blanc and run nearly two and a half vertical miles up to Europe’s roof — over cracked glaciers, past Gore-Tex’d climbers, into the thin air at 15,781 feet — and back home again in less than seven hours, a trip that mountaineers can spend days to complete. A few years ago Jornet ran the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail and stopped just twice to sleep on the ground for a total of about 90 minutes. In the middle of the night he took a wrong turn, which added perhaps six miles to his run. He still finished in 38 hours 32 minutes, beating the record of Tim Twietmeyer, a legend in the world of ultrarunning, by more than seven hours. When he reached the finish line, he looked as if he’d just won the local turkey trot.

Come winter, when most elite ultrarunners keep running, Jornet puts away his trail-running shoes for six months and takes up ski-mountaineering racing, which basically amounts to running up and around large mountains on alpine skis. In this sport too, Jornet reigns supreme: he has been the overall World Cup champion three of the last four winters.

So what’s next when you’re 25 and every one of the races on the wish list you drew up as a youngster has been won and crossed out? You dream up a new challenge. Last year Jornet began what he calls the Summits of My Life project, a four-year effort to set speed records climbing and descending some of the world’s most well known peaks, from the Matterhorn this summer to Mount Everest in 2015. In doing so, he joins a cadre of alpinists like Ueli Steck from Switzerland and Chad Kellogg from the United States who are racing up peaks and redefining what’s possible. In a way, Jornet says, all of his racing has been preparation for greater trials. This month, he is in the Himalayas with a couple of veteran alpinists. They plan to climb and ski the south face of a peak that hasn’t been skied before in winter.

But bigger challenges bring bigger risks. Less than a year ago, Jornet watched as his hero and friend Stéphane Brosse died in the mountains. Since then, he has asked himself, How much is it worth sacrificing to do what you love?

Chamonix, France, is a resort town wedged into a narrow valley at the foot of Mont Blanc, just over an hour’s drive southeast of Geneva. For those who adore high mountains, the place is hallowed. The Rue du Docteur Paccard is named for one of the first men to ascend Mont Blanc, in 1786; millionaires are tolerated, but mountain men are revered. The valley is Jornet’s home for the few months each year when he is not traveling. I met him there on a stormy morning in December, when he drove his dented Peugeot van into a parking lot at the edge of town, stepped out and offered a shy handshake. He is slight and unremarkable in the deceptive way of a Tour de France cyclist — he’s 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds — with the burnished complexion of years spent above the tree line and a thatch of black hair that, when sprung from a ski hat, has a slightly blendered look.

As we drove to and from Valle d’Aosta in Italy, where he would train that day, Jornet told me in soft-spoken English (one of five languages­ he speaks) how he first stunned the small world of elite ultrarunning. It happened at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, the most competitive ultrarunning event outside the United States. (An “ultra” is any race longer than a marathon.) In 2008, when he was 20, Jornet defeated a field that included Scott Jurek, perhaps the sport’s most well known star, while setting a record for the 104-mile course around the Mont Blanc massif (which happens to include 31,500 feet of uphill climbing, or the equivalent of 25 trips to the top of the Empire State Building). “It was a revelation and a coronation at once,” Runner’s World magazine later wrote. Then Jornet won again the next year (and again in 2011).

Jornet has won dozens of mountain footraces up to 100 miles in length and six world titles in Skyrunning, a series of races of varying distances­ held on billy-goat terrain. “Other Top 5 or 10 ultramarathoners can show up for a race, and he’ll just be jogging along, biding his time, enjoying their company until it’s time to go,” Bryon Powell, the editor in chief of the Web site iRunFar.com, told me. In the longest races, which can last 24 hours, he’s been known to best the competition by an hour or more. Lauri van Houten, executive director of the International Skyrunning Federation, calls Jornet “God on earth.”

He is also the most visible figure in the growing “fastest known times” movement, in which runners measure how long it takes to complete geographic challenges — running up and down the Grand Teton in Wyoming, say, or around a lake — and then post their results online. This is often done on the honor system, although Jornet, the only fully sponsored professional in ultrarunning, frequently has others time him. In addition to the mark he set at Lake Tahoe, Jornet holds the record for the GR20 trail that traces Corsica’s mountainous spine, and he crossed the 500-plus miles of the Pyrenees in 8 days 3 hours 15 minutes. He has set records on the 19,341-foot Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (7 hours 14 minutes) and the 9,570-foot Mount Olympus in Greece (just under 5 hours 20 minutes).

His versatility amazes other runners, including Jurek, who today is a friend. Jornet has been able to run the very short mountain races like a vertical kilometer race that’s over in about 30 minutes, Jurek says — and then, he adds, Jornet can turn around and win the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run in California’s Sierra mountains, arguably the world’s most prestigious ultrarun. (Jurek himself won the Western States seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.) It’s a little like an Olympic-champion sprinter winning the Boston Marathon.

Once we crossed over the Italian border, Jornet steered the Peugeot through tight alpine streets to the small ski area of La Thuile. Ski-mountaineering racing, usually called SkiMo in Europe, is a mountain man’s steeplechase up, down and around high peaks while wearing ultralight backcountry gear that’s built to climb: matchstick skis, slipper-light carbon-fiber ski boots, climbing skins that grip the snow. The first race of the season was a few weeks away, and Jornet needed to log some workouts in the mountains. Beneath a giant trail map, we discussed a plan: he’d ski, and I’d try to watch. He wore a skintight cat suit adorned with tiger stripes the color of traffic cones. KILIAN was printed across his right thigh. The message was less boast than warning: Get off the tracks. Train coming.

At one point during Jornet’s workout that day — he’d climb and then descend about 10,000 feet in about four hours — he paused at a mountaintop cafe to talk. I offered espresso. He declined. He also hadn’t eaten breakfast, nor would he eat or drink during his workout.

Don’t you sweat? I asked.

“Maybe a bit here,” he replied, touching the back of his neck.

Even among top athletes, Jornet is an outlier. Take his VO2 max, a measure of a person’s ability to consume oxygen and a factor in determining aerobic endurance. An average male’s VO2 max is 45 to 55 ml/kg/min. A college-level 10,000-meter runner’s max is typically 60 to 70. Jornet’s VO2 max is 89.5 — one of the highest recorded, according to Daniel Brotons Cuixart, a sports specialist at the University of Barcelona who tested Jornet last fall. Jornet simply has more men in the engine room, shoveling coal. “I’ve not seen any athletes higher than the low 80s, and we’ve tested some elite athletes,” says Edward Coyle, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin, who has studied the limits of human exercise performance for three decades.

Born into a Catalan family, Jornet grew up in the Spanish Pyrenees at 6,500 feet, and his gifts are literally in his blood. “When you are born and bred at altitude, you tend to have a higher blood volume and red-cell count for oxygen-carrying capacity,” which translates to better endurance, says Stacy Sims, a researcher at Stanford who holds a doctorate in exercise physiology and nutrition science. Years of daily running and skiing up mountains have further bolstered this advantage. This helps explain why Jornet sweats so little. During exercise, the bodies of very fit people quickly act to disperse heat by, among other things, vasodilation — expanding blood vessels at the skin’s surface where the air can cool the body. A body that sweats less loses less precious liquid from its circulatory system, a major factor in fatigue. In moderate temperatures, Jornet says, he can run easily for eight hours without drinking water.

Jornet was raised in the Cap del Rec regional park, where his father was a hut keeper and mountain guide and his mother a schoolteacher who liked to run and ski. “Mountains were his playground,” his mother, Núria Burgada Burón, told me. When Jornet was 18 months old, she took him on a seven-hour hike in the Pyrenees, and he never cried or fussed. Seven hours? She laughed. “Kilian is not normal.” At 3, she says, he completed a 7.5-mile cross-country ski race. “My mission is to make Kilian tired. Always, I was tired. But Kilian? No.”

His parents tried to instill a sense of humility and a deep feeling for the landscape. “Por las noches we walk out to the wood, the forest, without lamp,” Burgada says, describing how she sometimes took Jornet and his sister, Naila, a year and a half younger (and today also a SkiMo racer), out barefoot into the night dressed only in pajamas. Listen to the forest, their mother told them. Feel the direction of the wind against your cheeks, the way the pebbles change underfoot. Then she made her children lead the way home in the darkness. “All this,” she says, “to feel the passion of the nature.” At 13 Jornet entered a program for young Catalan ski-mountaineering athletes; he won his first youth World Cup race at 16. He began to run as off-season training.

A lifetime spent scrabbling over uneven ground — Jornet has never trained on a track — has molded him into a gifted negotiator of terrain. Skyrunning races are often won on the downhill, by hurling yourself over roots and logs and shifting scree. “There is probably no one in the world who is a better technical downhill runner than him,” Anton Krupicka, a top American ultrarunner, told me. Yet amazingly, Jornet has never sprained an ankle.

When Jornet told me this, we were at his apartment, a modest place just down the valley from Chamonix. Its décor is Modern Mountain Bum — rows of hard-worn trail shoes at the door, bins of carabiners and ice axes in the guest room, something gray and half-eaten petrifying in a saucepan on the stovetop. He stood in his socks, rolled one of his thick ankles to a tendon-straining angle, then began to hop up and down on it nonchalantly while I watched in horror.

On another day, Jornet pulled a pair of shoes out of storage, laced them up and then demonstrated his downhill technique on a snow-covered track behind the apartment — his weight almost recklessly forward, the sides of his shoes biting deeply when he cut a turn as if they were an ibex’s hooves, arms pinwheeling overhead for balance. He didn’t resemble a runner so much as the downhill skier Bode Miller, that master of the calculated free-fall, or an ecstatic child set free from school. “It’s like dancing,” he said when we reached the bottom of the hill.

And this gets to the heart of Jornet’s talent. Observers and competitors describe him as someone who draws endurance and vitality, Samson-like, from being among high peaks. Runners who have served as pacesetters for him have told me with amazement how, when he was midrace at Lake Tahoe, Jornet didn’t run with his head down in focused misery but instead brushed the hairgrass and corn lily that grew along the trail with his fingertips and brought the smell to his nose, as if he were feeding off the scenery. Sometimes in his all-day solitary runs, stopping only to eat berries, he can seem half-feral, more mountain goat than human. He likes to move fast and touch rock and feel wild, he told me; he feels most at ease and performs best when wrapped by the silence and beauty of the mountains. He can’t abide cities for more than a few hours. The sea — its unrelenting horizontality — scares him. Leading long races like Western States, he’s been known to stop and exclaim at a sunrise, or wait for friends to catch up so he can enjoy the mountains with them instead of furthering his lead. “It’s almost insulting,” Krupicka told me. But it’s just Kilian being Kilian, Krupicka said. “He’s not rubbing it in anyone’s face. He’s truly enjoying being out there in the mountains, and he’s expressing that.”

The trip last June was supposed to be special, a lightning traverse of the 43-mile Mont Blanc massif on skis, a punishing but glorious first in mountains that people have crisscrossed for centuries. It would kick off his Summits of My Life project. What made the trip truly special, however, was the man Jornet would make it with, Stéphane Brosse. A two-time ski-mountaineering world champion, Brosse was Jornet’s idol as a teenager — Jornet had a picture of Brosse in his notebook — and later became his mentor, training partner and good friend.

Jornet described to me the beauty of the trip, how blackbirds drifted like scraps of cloth in the thermals just beyond the skiers on the mountaintop. On the second day, they were almost done; all that stood between them and a triumphant descent to the wildflowers was a ridge crossing between the twin summits of the 12,799-foot Aiguille d’Argentière. Jornet led the way, skiing about 10 feet from the mountain’s edge to avoid releasing a cornice, an overhanging lip of hardened snow. Brosse and two of their friends skied behind, about the same distance from the edge. Looking back, Jornet noticed they were too far out on the overhang. He lifted his ski pole to give a warning, but it was already too late: under the skiers’ weight, a chunk of snow 10 feet wide and 20 feet long ripped from the mountain at Jornet’s feet. The collapse swept Brosse away 2,000 feet to his death.

The fall of his friend shook Jornet. A few days later, he climbed alone to the summit of Aiguille de Bionnassay high in the massif. He needed to experience why he’d been in the mountains with Brosse: “because it’s our home.” More than once during my visit, Jornet compared the mountains to a lover. To really know a deep love, you have to give yourself completely to another, he told me, which means making yourself vulnerable. As he wrote on his blog after Brosse’s death, “The mountain takes many things away from us, but it also gives us everything we need to breathe.”

A few months later Jornet ran again. This time he traversed Mont Blanc from Courmayeur to Chamonix, crossing crumbling moraines and split-lip glaciers and the chasm of the Innominata (“Unnamed”) Ridge. The route — 26 miles and 14,000 feet of ascent — takes alpinists several days. Jornet did it in less than nine hours while carrying a little more than a dozen ounces of sports drink.

What are you running after? I asked Jornet. Having beaten men, do you now want to challenge the mountains? He gently corrected me. You don’t beat the mountains. You go when they permit, he said. The speed records and “firsts” aren’t important except for motivation, he insisted. Then he mentioned the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Hughes Galeano, who once likened the ideal of Utopia to the horizon — goals that retreat even as we chase them. “The important thing is not to catch something,” said Jornet, whose own memoir, “Run or Die,” will be published in the United States in July. What matters in life is the pursuit, and everything we learn along the way. “The important thing,” he said, “is moving.”

Before departing Chamonix, I accompanied Jornet on his morning workout. I wanted to try to feel his speed and freedom for myself. We drove almost to the head of the valley and parked at a still-closed ski area, not far from the crumbling Le Tour Glacier. Where the parking lot turned to snow, Jornet stepped into his ski bindings and, wordlessly and without stretching, began to move. I fell in beside him. The apron of the mountain was a gentle bunny slope, and Jornet began to kick and glide upward with long, sure, measured paces. He wore a puffy jacket and warm-up pants against the cold, his ski-pole-holding hands jammed deep into his pockets and his poles trailing behind.

This isn’t so bad, I thought. I can do this.

We passed the silent bull wheel of the gondola house. We passed a shuttered chalet. The slope canted upward. My pulse bucked. Jornet’s stride remained unchanged: wide and sure and metronomic. The scenery began to blur. We passed the ribbon of the iced-over Arve River and a woman ski touring up the track.

My vision grayed at the edges. I glanced over at Jornet. His hands were still in his pockets.

It happened quickly. I was beside Jornet. Then I was not-so-beside him. Then I was behind him, snorting and huffing like a plow horse turning tough soil. Soon I doubled over, heaving and trying not to revisit the morning’s croissant. Jornet looked back, said something I couldn’t make out over the timpani of heart booming in ears and kept moving.

A lifelong runner, a marathoner, a backcountry skier, I lasted 3 minutes 6 seconds.

In a while the ski-tourer we passed arrived. She was a fit Frenchwoman, middle-aged, with silver hair. I nodded ahead. “The world champion,” I managed.

“My son knows him,” she replied. She looked after him for a moment, then said, “Everyone must have his — how do you say, rythme?”

After that we watched him together. Jornet was an entire knoll away now. He had removed his hands from his pockets and taken off his jacket. His arms pumped strongly with his poles. He moved fast and alone and content on the mountain, growing smaller and smaller as he climbed until he soon disappeared around a bend.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Best duct tape story ever

(courtesy of Ian Hay)
 
During a private "fly-in" fishing excursion in the Alaskan wilderness, the chartered pilot and fishermen left a cooler and bait in the plane.  And a bear smelled it.  This is what he did to the plane.





 
 
The pilot used his radio and had another pilot bring him 2 new tires, 3 cases of duct tape, and a supply of sheet plastic.  He patched the plane together, and FLEW IT HOME !





























Duct Tape ? Never Leave Home Without It