What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Ironman

When Steve Jobs started building computers in his garage, he was hungry.

A few years later, Apple was a powerful brand and Jobs faced a whole new set of challenges.  The Board of Directors was more concerned about how Apple’s perception, but Jobs couldn’t stop thinking about its soul.

The Suits ran Jobs out of town, so he took his youthful passion to Pixar and NEXT. Apple may have been his baby, but he never lost sight of his purpose.

Eventually, he went back to Apple with real influence.  He re-trained the culture to focus on basics and ultimately changed the way we live.

Jobs was a little nuts, but what genius isn’t?  Who in their right mind would think they could accomplish the things he did?  And what person in their right mind would think they could complete an Ironman?

Somehow Jobs overcame resistance and made huge sacrifices to stay true to his mission.  Say what you want about Jobs, but his story is a good lesson for training.

For my first Ironman I was a hungry entrepreneur sharing the message with anyone who would listen.  I genuinely felt like I was moving toward a higher plane of consciousness.

Then came Number 2, and I was a more comfortable with the shape of “my business.”  The product worked, it was just a matter of consistency.

In year three I have become a little complacent.  Automation is taking over, but that’s no way to be great.

Racing is far more than hanging an award on a hook.  Being great is a process and it helps to remember why we wanted this in the first place.  For me it was to be alive, test my limits, and become a better person.

That is why I train.  That is why I sacrifice.  That is why I push my body to places it doesn’t voluntarily go.

It always comes back to today, to the process, to the growth.  When we start chasing symbols, approbation, and medals . . . we lose.


Back to the Trails

Here’s a little video I made this morning on our trail run.  Yes, I was smelling the roses/snow and really enjoyed it (there will be a post about this later).

This was our third weekend (of 10) for trail training and we’ll hit seven more parks in Tennessee before it’s done.

I’m using a new edit/conversion system, so make sure you up the quality to HD . . . much better.  Oh, and be sure to stop by Nashville Running Company for all your trail running needs.

Trail Shoes vs. Street Shoes

You’re probably getting ready to run this weekend, so here’s a quick little video to help you navigate the wilderness if you plan on hitting trails.  Ultra runner, Steven McNeal, shares his take on whether or not you need trail specific shoes.  Video provided by Nashville Running Company for Crushing Iron.

Also, if you’re in striking distance of Nashville and want to do a great trail race, don’t forget about the Dry Creek Marathon and Half on February 22nd.

My First Training Mistakes of 2015

Remember that time when you were craving sweets and reached into the snack drawer to break off off the corner of a cookie then walked away after a small nibble?  Yeah, me either.

Yesterday I was craving a trail run.  It was a little cold, but the sun finally came back, so around 3:00 in the afternoon, I laced them up.

In an effort to top my cookie with 2 inches of frosting, I decided to run with music for the first time in months.  That was my first mistake.

It’s odd to think of running with music as a mistake.  I mean, it’s music!  Probably the best invention God has rolled out in a long time. But for some reason it always pumps me up just a little too much.

My rule for exercise is always “ease into everything.”  But Eminem, AC/DC, and Grandmaster Flash rarely encourage you to chill.

After a few days of rain, the trails were a quagmire and the lyrics pumping my brain assured me this was a minor obstacle.  I ripped into shin deep puddles with reckless abandoned.  I was “Cleaning Out My Closet” on the “Highway to Hell.”

I’m not sure how much harder it is to run in mud, but by the time I realized I was 4.5 miles away from home I was a little beat up.  I refilled my water bottle and contemplated the next move, and for me that’s typically, keep running.

I turned up the music and went about retracing my steps.  Six miles was plenty, but after flying through a miniature lake at mile seven (and wrenching my ankle pretty good) I finally stopped at 8.

Still two miles from home I decided I should practice my Ironman-tempo-walk, and that’s what I did.  There were a few attempts at running, but it hurt.

For some reason, running with music throws me off.  It takes me away from my body, breath, and rational decisions.  I pushes me like that 10th beer can give you confidence for the 11th.

My second mistake was running too far.  When adrenaline is pumping, it’s easy to do.

But the fallout was exhaustion and frankly, that’s not my motivation.  Last night was worthless and this morning wasn’t much better.

I guess the lesson here (and I have no idea how I keep forgetting this) is that moderation is the key to life (even when training for Ironman) and must be accepted.  Just when running was becoming fun again, I fucked it up.  Don’t let me do that again, no matter how many people would be impressed by a photo of my Garmin.

Trail Running Has Me In Its Grip


30+ Trail Runners Prep for Bowman

30+ Trail Runners Prep for Bowie

This morning I joined 36 other runners for Nashville Running Company’s Tour of Trails and confirmed a new addiction.  Under blue sky and over frozen earth, we gathered at Bowie Park to explore. It was our first journey together, and . . . we won.

The 6 mile loop is challenging, but fair.  Roots and rocks keep you honest, dicey climbs test your will, and calm flats let you escape.

Like most trails, it was as hard as you wanted to make it but pace groups stayed together and enjoyed the frost-covered scenery at a comfortable pace.  Conversation was there if you wanted, or unchained if you preferred to hear yourself think.

In the past I have proclaimed that I am “not a runner” which makes it even harder to explain why I’m falling in love with trail running, but it must have something to do with these factors:
–  The cushion of the earth and crunchy leaves are undeniably more pleasant than pavement.
–  Trail running forces you to pay attention which is a welcome change from the Zombie-land of road running.
–  I feel a greater sense of peace when I’m surrounded by nature and every corner offers a surprise.

Trail Running Customs

Because this is a training group, we have guides to lead the way and answer questions. Phil ran alongside me most of the loop and I’m sure he sensed my inquiries building.

Beth with proof that Phil made it

Beth with proof that Phil made it

I’ve always been curious about the running tradition of warning others what’s ahead.  On the road it’s typically things like, “Car up!  Car back! or Curb!”  And yes, they all come with exclamation points.

Often this practice gets way out of hand and the entire gaggle of runners crow the first thought on their mind while pointing wildly in the direction of a potential hazard.

“Stray cat!  Beer can!  Snicker’s Bar!”

As it turns out, trail running has a few customs of its own, but when the entire path is decorated with rocks, stumps, and gravel patches, incessant warnings would drive you to the loony bin.  Yet the danger is real.  I saw one face plant and many others come close.

Phil told me he warns of upcoming hazards occasionally, like if he runs through a tree branch that has potential to snap back and scar the next runner or if there happens to be a well disguised cliff on the horizon, but for the most part it’s every man and woman for themselves.

He also strongly believes in courtesy telegraphs for poisonous snakes, quick sand, or wild boar.  Unless of course, it is a race, then all bets are off.

The Power of a Group 

Sign in and sign out so no one's forgotten

Sign in and sign out so no one’s forgotten

The common theme this morning was that most who ran in the frigid conditions believe they would not have shown up on their own.  Me included.

If it weren’t for positive people and group training I doubt I would have started running in the first place, and never in a million years finished an Ironman.

While I haven’t put my finger on why, there is something about trail running that feels more evolved.  Treacherous paths are a great equalizer and there’s an unspoken bond that seems to say, “Sure, we can run as fast as we want, but nature always wins.”

I’ve played team sports all my life and there is something about endurance that makes it easier to pull for your competition.  Trail running takes this to a new level and, even though we completed our run, I sensed a universal desire to decode our sensations by talking about the trail, our dreams, or life.

That thought consumed me for the 45 minute drive home.  How can I make that feeling last?  Running further is obvious, but for the first time I’ve started craving a running vacation.  A group of people, a rented cabin, and an endless canvas of trails.  Seems like great practice for living in the moment.

New on Crushing Iron

Photo courtesy Jennifer Eberle

Photo courtesy Jennifer Eberle

Stephen McNeal, one of our training leaders and recent 100 mile finisher, spoke about the difference between road and trail shoes before we took off.  I will post the video soon and we plan to continue this as a series of trail training tips for the next 10 weeks.  They will be available both here and on the Nashville Running Company’s website.

And speaking of Nashville Running Company, you may have noticed their ad in the Crushing Iron sidebar.  We’ve created a little content sharing partnership and I’m pretty pumped.  NRC is where I started running and it’s a great store with even better people.  They have anything you need to get going with trail running along with what may be the best running-store-pint-night in America.  Make sure to tell them you saw their ad on Crushing Iron.

They have blogged about me, too.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Dry Creek Trail Marathon and Half - February 22nd near Nashville.  I did this race last year and it was quite the adventure!






Voices in My Head

Not many variables in triathlon are more important than believing in yourself . . . but self-doubt can be relentless.  Over the course of my athletic career I have come to the conclusion there’s only one way to change self-defeating voices in your head, it’s called: Diving In.

Facing fear has never been easy, but it always makes me feel alive.  If you’re afraid to talk to a stranger, go for a dream job, or sign up for an Ironman, do it . . . now.

When you think about it, fear is what makes life interesting.  It forces us to think, adapt, and grow.

Other than actually completing long training swims, rides, and runs, the next best thing for my confidence is writing.  It’s therapy that leads me through the event before it happens.  It’s problem solving in advance that settles in my subconscious.

Life is about learning and writing let’s me visualize every stage of the game.  It hasn’t always been perfect, but my race “visions” and results have been pretty consistent with my writing forecasts.

I just read an article by Chris Bagg for LAVA magazine that gives some ideas for keeping your head in the game during training and races.  After a “prolonged shuffle through the filing cabinets of his athletic past” he finally (I think) got to the point of his piece with this:

I hope to make a point today about mental toughness: how easy it is to have it when we have no knowledge of it, how devastating its absence can be to any kind of athlete, and how difficult (yet possible!) it is for any of us to regain it. I should say, here, that I am indebted to Jesse Kropelnicki at QT2 Systems for working with me on my mental game, and to the United States Olympic Committee’s excellent handbook on the subject: Sport Psychology: Mental Training Manual. Essentially they focus on two key elements of mental strength.  

It all honestly took some mental toughness to read the piece, but here’s what I took away:

Use positive affirmations, relax, and try to approach races like they are practice.

You can read the entire article here.  

Flying Monkey Nashville

Whitney battles the infamous Flying Monkey.

The Courage To Be Yourself

One of the hardest parts about having a blog is consistently believing in what you write.  I can assure you I have been writing, but none of it seems to make sense.

Sometimes I get into these “What the fuck are you talking about” phases and this is certainly one of them.  This was only compounded the other night when I was watching one of the many Stand Up Comedy shows I’ve been devouring on Netflix.  I can’t even remember who the comedian was, maybe Bill Burr, but he said, “As I get older, I realize how full of shit I am.  You never see it when you’re young, but now I start talking and it’s like I can literally watch the bullshit flying out of my mouth.”

In the lifecycle of my triathlon career, this suddenly feels like the maturity phase.  It’s like a condensed version of my eduction.  I’ve finished college, spent two years fucking off, now I have to think about the cold reality of working.

Frankly, I’m not a fan.

So, I’ve decided not to think of it like that.  The reality is, I still don’t know shit about triathlon and should approach it with the zeal of an infant.

For instance, I still have an insatiable urge to be really good in my age group without always being in pain.  And when I say pain, I mean that stupid limp around the house the next day pain because your ankles and hips hurt so much you feel like you just spent the night in the basement of a Quentin Tarantino film.

What is the point of that in training?  I say, save it for race day.

The reason I’m thinking that way is because I have been doing some strength training and running between 5-7 miles at a safe and comfortable pace for a few months now.  Most of that running has been on trails and while it’s hard not to put the hammer down, I’ve been good about not killing myself.  And you know what, it’s kind of enjoyable.

And so is writing when fear of pleasing the readers isn’t holding me back.  I’m always trying to remember the first thing my writing “mentor,” William Zinsser taught me, “Write for yourself.”

They say we become what we think about and I have no reason to doubt that.  I’m convinced that writing about my training helped me understand it better and gave me confidence going into my races.  It’s like I have been there before through visualization.  And all of these posts prepared my mind for what was ahead.  It seemed familiar.

The more I watch, read, and think about sports (or life), the more I realize it comes down to preparation.  Race day results happen long before we toe the line.  And it’s really not even about the race.  It’s about enjoying the process.

So, I am back and I will not claim to know anything you don’t, but I will not fear my thoughts.  I will respect my experience and discuss life’s challenges with exuberance.  Hopefully some of it will resonate, even when it’s complete bullshit.


New Podcast – How to Love Swimming

Here’s the first Crushing Iron audio podcast, duly titled the Squadcast (More on The Squad coming soon).  This is basically the student talking with the coach about how to, not only get better with excellent drills and workouts, but love your time in the pool.  There’s a bunch of good information in here that can take a long time to figure out, but is now translated in ways that everyone can understand.

Let us know what you think and what else you’d like us to discuss.  Next Podcast is on Open Water Swim training, including, how to simulate in a pool, beating anxiety, and importance of a solid warm up.

Click the orange arrow to get going.

10 Thoughts On My Run 12-21-14

1.  I still can’t get over how awesome it is to take off on an open-ended run, but paranoia is a crazy thing, and though I work hard to live in the moment, sometimes I get anxious about things that shouldn’t even be in my head.
2.  No matter how many times I run into the park I always forget that dog on the corner and his bark scares the shit out of me.
3.  This racial tension in our society is really a bummer and I have no solution.
4.  I have this fantasy that one day we will be so evolved as humans that cops won’t need guns.
5.  For the first two miles of blacktop I contemplated whether or not I would turn off into the trails.  It was getting dark and it’s just one of those, “Maybe the best decision is to play it safe.” I wasn’t that worried, but then I started thinking about all the BS we’re exposed to these days.  My first thought was that I would step into one of those traps that lasso your foot and spring you upside down while a bunch of hillbillies contemplate their method of torture.  I also feared I might step on a pile of leaves disguised as a Vietnam jungle pit with long spikes waiting to pierce my plantar fasciitus.  Then I thought about the Seinfeld episode where George did the opposite of his first instincts and that convinced me to turn into the dark trail at mile 2.
6.  This section of trail is my favorite because it’s more or less a single track covered with foliage.  But as I turned into paradise, I noticed tire tracks and immediately started hearing the theme song from “Deliverance.” Then I realized a park maintenance crew had completely raped the forest.  Instead of a single track it was now wide enough for two cars.  At first this pissed me off, but then I was slightly relieved because of the aforementioned fears.
7.  Running alone on a trail during the day can be freaky enough, but at dusk, the strange sounds are amplified times 3 (I was going to say times 10, but I think society needs to back off on the exaggeration a little and that was my contribution).  It’s so quiet that even running down a leave-covered-hill can sound like someone is chasing you.
8.  I always think park benches or tree stumps are wild dogs and brace for the worst.
9.  For the life of me, I wish I could do these trail runs as the sun was coming up!
10.  As I closed in on the park exit, I thought I was alone, but at the last intersection looked to my right and saw a guy walking toward me with his hood up.  I made a friendly “hello gesture” with two fingers in the air, but immediately feared he may have thought I was  flipping him the bird.  I kept my 8:22 pace for the last 50 yards of the trail and the whole time I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was about to get shot in the back.


The Pursuit of Happiness in Triathlon

In 1997 I was working as the Director of Stadium Operations for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.  Director of Minor League Operations at the time, Dan Duquette (now a VP for the Baltimore Orioles) was a long time family friend thanks to his relationship with my father.  We were both standing on the field before the game when he asked me a simple question, “What do you want?”

It’s important to understand that Dan could have helped me get whatever I wanted inside the world of professional baseball.  I think he liked me and wanted to help.  Did I want to be in minor league development?  A Major League front office?  Just tell me and we’ll get you on the right track.

It was one of those questions that scared the hell out of me, but I was under the gun and had to come up with an answer.  I looked down, then out at the field and sheepishly said, “I want to be a baseball player.”

I’ll never forget his reaction.  It wasn’t disgust, but it was kind of a “throw your hands in the air, I give up” kinda things.

It was kind of a turning point for me.  I ended up going back to school to finish my degree, then into a myriad of different things before landing in television for 15 years.  I’ve always been one of those guys that likes trying new things and never quite masters anything.

I feel that ugly head rearing itself in triathlon as well.  I still like the principles of being in shape and as healthy as I can be, but am torn about the dedication it takes to pursue Ironman.  I’m registered for Chattanooga and will give it my all, but until then I must find ways to make training a passion.

It can be a relentless grind, but I can’t accept that.  I’m determined to find ways to make swim, bike, run enjoyable, and why not?

I’ve added a new tab along the top of this site called “The Squad,” and our mission will be focused on ways to get better and enjoy the process.  I’ve just never felt like I can put my life into a box, but it certainly doesn’t get easier when its scattered.

So as Dan leads the revival of one of baseball’s most storied franchises, I will continue to search for a deeper fulfillment in my life.  A pursuit of happiness through movement and hopefully a lot of you will join me.


Photo: Mike Tarrolly