Archive for Ask Coach Al

049: Coach Al visits with Triathlete Rachel Beckmann, Ironman Coeur d’Alene 30-34 Age Group Winner [Podcast]

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Rachel on the run in Kona!

Rachel on the run in Kona 2013, sporting her signature trucker hat!

Today I’m really pleased to welcome on to our podcast the winner of the women’s 30-34 Age-Group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Rachel Beckmann.

Rachel is an active duty commisioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard presently stationed in Alexandria Virginia. Amazingly, I managed to catch her not moving for a few minutes while she was out in Las Vegas on vacation visiting family (AND training for the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona).  This woman doesn’t stop and sit still for too long so I feel really fortunate to get her on our podcast.

Rachel and I go way back to her days as a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. (I was also at the Academy playing percussion as a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Band).

In the time we spent together as coach/athlete, I really learned so much from her. Honestly, I still had so much to learn about coaching (and still do) and I think she was too young to really see it!  :)  I also learned about her relentless work ethic and inner drive to succeed, and that she is truly as intelligent, fun-loving, kind hearted and just wonderful to be around, as anyone you will ever meet.

Rachel has blossomed from that enthusiastic young collegiate newbie into a full-blown Ironman age-group champion, who has certainly learned a thing or three on her path to multiple Ironman finishes and numerous overall race wins.

In today’s podcast, she looks back on the journey and shares some thoughts on the fun she’s had, the difficulties, what she’s learned, and what it’s like to live life as a young female officer serving our country while also pursuing her “personal-best” in the sport.

Among the topics we discuss on today’s podcast:

  • How did her childhood, as well as her experiences as a female cadet at a military academy impact her development as a triathlete?
  • How does she balance her career as a Coast Guard officer with her triathlon lifestyle? What has she learned that could help YOU?
"Rach" knows how to keep it FUN and can rock the mountain bike too!

Rachel knows how to keep training FUN, and can really rock the mountain bike too!

 

  • What are her most important training, racing, and life “secrets to success?”
  • What about the challenges she faced during this year’s Ironman Coeur d’Alene. How did she respond that ultimately lead to her age-group win?
  • What are the two or three things she thinks are the most important, to both have more fun and achieve greater success? (You won’t want to miss these!)
  • And so much more!
Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Rachel and Coach Al catching up on one of her recent visits to Connecticut

Thanks for joining me Rachel, I enjoyed our chat!  Make it a great day everybody!

~Coach Al

048: Listener Questions: Becoming a Better Runner, Swim Training and More! [Podcast]

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Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Team PURSUIT triathlete Megan Pennington, on her way to the OVERALL WIN at the Litchfield Hills Triathlon!

Today we dig into some great questions sent in to us from listeners.  The first has to do with becoming a BETTER runner, something nearly every triathlete and pure runner has thought about at one time or another (or a few thousand times!) :)

Whether it’s right here in our Pursuit Athletic Performance lab during a gait analysis, or out on the trail or road OR over a beer at the local pub, we always relish the opportunity to talk to anyone about running.  (Anyone who knows Coach, KNOWS how much he can talk, talk, and talk some more about this topic!). No apologies necessary though – running has been a passion of Coach Al’s since first running “Boston” in 1983.

Every so often though, a conversation with a frustrated triathlete turns to a sort of self depricating exchange where they end up telling us (trying to convince us, or themselves, perhaps?) why they CAN’T be as good a runner as they really would “like” to be.  Whether this self-doubt stems from a long period of training struggle or chronic running-related injury, the bottom line is that most triathletes have much more running ability inside of them waiting to get out than they realize! They just don’t know how to GET it out!  In the podcast, we offer some real and practical suggestions to take your running to a new level.

In case you’re one of those who is impatient and curious and can’t wait to listen, here are some hints:

  1. No! It isn’t necessarily about planking, more of it, or doing it differently.
  2. No, it won’t necessarily be “easy.”  While we offer some practical suggestions that you CAN implement tomorrow in your training, the truth is that it generally takes a long time to “get good” as a runner, all things being equal.

Also, we jump in on some questions about all things swim training for the triathlete.

  • Is it REALLY worthwhile to spend time doing kicking sets if I am racing in a wetsuit and generally never kick in a race?
  • Why is the coach writing “hypoxic” sets for us anyway? Is it really valuable, and if so, why?
  • And more!

Thanks for joining us! Make it a great day!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

Don’t Whine. Don’t Complain. Don’t Make Excuses: Life Lessons From Two Great Coaches.

An old cherokee told his grandson, “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, greed, jealousy, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope,  humility, kindness, emptathy, and truth.”  The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”  The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.” ~author unknown

Your complaints, your whining, your victim mentality, your drama, and all of your excuses, have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your dreams or goals. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of your DELUSION that you DESERVE better, and go EARN it. ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli

I’m going to make a change, for once in my life. Its gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…That’s why I want you to know, I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message coulda been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, then look at yourself and make a change. ~  Singer Michael Jackson, from “The Man In The Mirror.

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.”  ~Walter Anderson 


Advice John Wooden's dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Advice John Wooden’s dad gave to him upon graduation from grade school.

Its been one of those weeks when it seems that its just a little harder to “fight the good fight.” Hey, I know we all have our own pile, right? I’m not alone.

Sometimes life’s challenges step right up and hit us in the gut.  Sometimes people you trust and care for end up striking back at you, and what results is a struggle to regain your belief in the inherent goodness in people. Sometimes it seems that every time you look around, bad things are happening to good people.  My dad once told me that “life ISN’T fair, and not to expect it to be.” The ole man was right!  :)

 

I was watching a taped ESPYS show on the sports network ESPN the other night.  It was being replayed from 2009. Just when I least expected to be inspired and pulled out of a little doldrum I was in, up to the microphone steps now deceased Northern State basketball head coach, Don Meyer.   Meyer was being presented with the “Jimmy V Perseverence Award.”   Coach Meyer was the recipient of many other awards while he was still alive, and is the subject of a book, “How Lucky You Can Be” written by ESPN’s Buster Olney.  (If you don’t know who “Jimmy V” is, google his name right now and read).

Coach Meyer’s personal story is well known among college basketball fans and sports fans alike.  He retired in 2010 as the winningest men’s college basketball coach ever, compiling a record of 923 wins, and 324 losses. (The record was later surpassed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski in 2011). But coach Meyer’s record of basketball excellence doesn’t tell the story of this man, who never coached above the Division II level, yet had an impact on the his sport and the people in it, on a truly global scale.

As coach Meyer walked to the microphone, his personal saga played out on the big projection screen behind him.

It is September 5, 2008.  He is involved in a terrible car crash in which he suffers terrible injuries, including one that ended in a loss of one of his legs.  But that’s not the worst of it. During the emergency surgery after the crash, doctors discovered cancer in his liver and intestines.  Amazingly, in an interview during his recovery from surgery, he said “”What’s great about this is I would not have known about the cancer had I not had the wreck. God has blessed me with the one thing we all need, which is truth. I can now fight with all of my ability.”

The very next day after being released from the hospital, he was at school coaching from his wheelchair.

As I sat there listening to his speech upon accepting the Jimmy V award, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like a jerk, for how I was feeling at the moment I turned on the TV. I thought I had had a rough time – personal and business difficulties, and other things, seemed almost overwhelming.

537280e611665.imageAs Coach Meyer spoke straight from the heart, looking with gut-wrenching honesty into the eyes of every person in the room, he recalled visiting with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden after the crash. Coach Wooden shared with him a card that had some advice HIS father had given to him upon his graduation from grade school.

It has stuck with me virtually every minute since.

It said, “dont whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.”

Coach Meyer went on to tell the story of him showing up every day for rehab in the clinic, looking around the room at all of the people struggling and suffering, trying to heal and improve, and all the while, remembering and reiterating those powerful words to himself: Don’t whine-don’t complain-don’t make excuses.

Coach Meyer’s words really hit me hard; they shocked me back into that reality that often happens when we hear of someone else having what seems like such hard luck or bad fortune.

When bad things happen to good people, it often helps us realize what WE have to be grateful for – the blessings in our life – it helps us to prioritize and remember what is TRULY important – and helps us see that while life ISN’T always fair, it is good.  

Yes, its easy to allow a feeling of entitlement to occasionally creep into our mindset or to feel sorry for ourselves when something “bad” happens, when the harsh reality is, any discomfort or difficulty we find ourselves staring at is usually brought on by our own choices and decisions, however hard that might be to accept sometimes.

Can we learn from the mistakes we have made so we don’t repeat them?  Can we truly be grateful for the blessings in our life and share that attitude of gratitude with the world on a daily basis? Can we wake up every day ready to re-commit to living the ideals put forth by John Wooden and his dad?

As I look at the man in the mirror and re-examine my own life and my attitude toward it, what am I trying to say with this blog today?

  • If you’re an athlete and have made the choice to walk into a gym, or to train and race, don’t whine or complain about how hard the training is or how tough the race may be. You are choosing to do this. Getting out of your comfort zone and “suffering” on some level to achieve is what it takes to GROW and to reach your ultimate potential.
  • More to the point, I can say with total confidence that suffering through any pain or discomfort is a privilege and a blessing… that so many who aren’t so fortunate, only wish they could do.  To be able to train and race is not something we’re all entitled to! Cherish the opportunities!  Make the most of them, every day, and in every way.
  • Be HONEST with yourself and be willing to accept honesty from others. If someone IS being truly honest with you, it means they care about you. Its the liars you have to worry about.
  • If you, like me, have made mistakes in your life be it personal or in business, suck it up and stop whining and realize that sometimes life teaches us hard lessons. We need to LEARN from those lessons and soldier on!  Don’t give up or give in.
  • Have the courage and strength to accept that the choices you’ve made and don’t look back. Look forward.
  • Please join me and starting today, strive each and every day to be thankful for every blessing in your life; commit to doing the most you can with every minute of your life!
  • Don’t stop learning, don’t stop growing, don’t stop reaching, don’t stop challenging yourself, and don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.

As Charles R. Swindoll said, “Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

046: An Interview With The Amazing Larisa Dannis! [Podcast]

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Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Ultra-Runner Larisa Dannis (2nd Woman overall at the 2014 Western States 100) smiling widely as she rolled into the 100k aid station at Western States!

Today I’m really excited (I mean, REALLY excited!) to be able to share a wonderful conversation with elite ultra-runner and friend Larisa Dannis, on the heels of her recent 2nd place finish at the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run. In a nutshell, Larisa simply shocked the ultra-running world and took it by storm with her amazing finish!

Also, Larisa and I were joined by Pursuit Athletic Performance ultra-runner extraordinaire (and Larisa’s pacer for Western States), Deborah Livingston.  If you haven’t yet, check out my chat /podcast with Deb from a few weeks ago here, where among other things, we talk about Deb pacing Larisa at Western States 100!

At the very young age of 26, Larisa has already accomplished more than most runners could ever even imagine.  And believe me, she’s done it all with incredible toughness, class, a huge smile, and a zest for life!

Here are just a few of her most recent racing highlights:

  • 2013 Vermont 100 Endurance Race: 18:38:10; 1st woman, 8th overall
  • 2013 Peak Ultra 50 Mile: 10:40:27, 1st overall
  • 2013 Zion 100 Trail Run: 20:22:23, 2nd woman, 10th overall
  • 2013 Beast of Burden Winter 50 mile: 7:18:35, 1st overall, women’s course record
  • 2014 Rocky Racoon 100 Mile: 17:10:30, 4th woman, 19th overall
  • 2014 Boston Marathon: 2:44:14, 33rd woman overall (1st in the non elite field), 17th American woman
  • 2014 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run: 18:29:18, 2nd woman, 22nd overall

Our chat is jam packed with incredibly powerful pearls of wisdom that every athlete, regardless of experience level or sport, will absolutely want to hear.  Among the many topics we delve into:

  • Larisa’s development as an ultra-runner; her childhood background including what ultimately led her to follow her passion of ultra-running (not what you might expect but intriguing and very powerful none the less!).
  • Her philsophy on eating and fueling (she considers herself a low-carb, high-fat runner, but is she? Listen in to find out.)
  • Her “mental” approach: thoughts, strategies, and wisdom from inside the mind of a truly unique and humble elite ultra-runner.
  • What’s next?  Larisa shares some of her long terms goals and what she hopes to accomplish. (and she’s not even competitive!)
  • And much more!

Larisa is wise beyond her years. We can ALL learn from her AND be inspired by her, not only as it pertains to training, running and racing, but perhaps most importantly, life in general.

If you want to learn more about Larisa and follow her developments, check out her blog here.

For more interviews (including Larisa’s) from the Western States 100 (and other ultra events), check out irunfar.com

Thanks for joining me on this podcast – it was a ton of fun to host! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

045: Butter, Brains, and Better Health and Performance! [Podcast]

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Avocado

Today’s podcast is positively packed with powerful pearls of wisdom that are applicable in team sports, triathlon and life!  Coach Al and Dr. Strecker start off with a discussion of the role of fats in the diet on the heels of the TIME magazine article entitled, “Eat Butter.”  And while fats are often vilified, they play an important part in good nutrition.  Just wander through any grocery store and you’re sure to see product packages boldly emblazoned with the words “LOW FAT” or “FAT FREE!”  We have been programmed to believe that fat is the root of all dietary evil, yet a close look at the hard evidence reveals that this is not the case.

Great training involves more than just good nutrition, of course, and mental preparation is one key to success that can’t be overlooked.  In sport, at work and in life, stuff happens.  That much is certain.  It may be a bad call by a ref, a flat tire on your bike, or an obnoxious driver on the freeway that challenges us, but how we react defines who we are and what we’ll accomplish.  Let’s face it, spending the rest of the day obsessing about the truck driver who cut you off only detracts from your productivity and peace of mind.

Sit back, relax, eat an avocado, and listen in as Coach and Doc take you on a little journey filled with good fats and happy people.  :-)

Thanks for joining us on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Dr. Strecker

044: More Listener Questions: Comparing Ourselves To Others; The Psychology Of Suffering [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker pushing toward the finish!

In today’s podcast, I jump right into some great questions posed to us by some listeners. As we’ve said before, we really appreciate it when you contact us and ask great questions – keep them coming!

Comparing Ourselves to Others:  We all know and understand that each of us is, and will always be, on an athletic and personal  journey unique to us. Most of us are very comfortable accepting the idea that some athletes might be “ahead” of us on their journey, while others are of course, at a starting point that might be thought of as “behind” us.  Now I suspect that as you’re reading that sentence, you might be thinking, “aren’t you emphasizing comparing ourselves to others by phrasing it that way?”  Yes, and that’s the point. Comparing ourselves to others is rarely ever a good thing, although the nature of competition inevitably puts us smack dab right in the middle of comparisons.

A listener sent in a great question, asking what strategies she could use to not fall into the trap of constantly comparing herself  to other athletes, especially if the athlete that she’s comparing herself to is, in her viewpoint, stronger or faster than she is. To use her words, “sometimes I find that when I hear of others doing more, or progressing faster, my first reaction is that I SUCK.”  That’s a common reaction in our worst moments, so I felt it was a good topic to discuss on the podcast.

The Psychology of Suffering: Training hard and learning how to handle discomfort is certainly a key to improving as an endurance athlete.  A listener wrote in with a great question on the topic. Here it is:

“Yes, I know in my heart that to perform at my best, I need to suck it up when it starts getting hard, whether its in a race or in a workout.  How do I effectively control that voice in my head that is telling me to slow down or go easier? Or just quit?  Also, how often do I need to “go to the well” and suffer in order to learn better how to do it? The weather also always hinders me from accomplishing what I want to, or plan to. I find it easy to use weather as an excuse to do less than my best. How do I over come that?”

I jump in with my thoughts on the matter – important stuff if you DO want to reach your ultimate potential!

Thanks for joining me on the podcast! Happy Trails!

~Coach Al 

043: So, You Had a “Bad” Race? [Podcast]

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“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”  - C.S. Lewis
“Our best successes often come after our greatest dissapointments.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Reflect, learn, go again.” – Ben Reyna

 

 

10153250_10203154876609771_265784320_nEvery athlete, regardless of the sport (runner, triathlete, cyclist, adventure racer, or?) will, at some point in time, feel the frustration and disappointment that comes from a race that doesn’t go as well as planned or hoped for.  Sometimes it just feels “harder” than it should. Sometimes you struggle at a point in time where you didn’t expect. And sometimes, the finish time is slower than what you felt you were capable of. What do they say about “best laid plans?”  :)

As the C.S. Lewis quote above conveys, I truly believe that “failure” really IS one step on the path toward your ultimate potential.  Though it can be hard to accept and embrace, the truth is, none of us can truly know success until we’ve “failed” many times.

In today’s podcast, I look back on my own experience as coach and athlete to share some thoughts on how best to turn a “bad” race into a positive learning experience that moves you forward toward your ultimate potential and success!

~Coach Al 

041: The ONE Thing! [Podcast]

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Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Doc Strecker racing at Rev3 Quassy Olympic Distance and having fun!

Hi Everyone! Coach Al here. In today’s podcast, Doc and I delve into a topic we feel is SO important for long term success and fulfillment.  It is simply this: what is that ONE thing, that more than anything else, if you experienced a breakthrough in that area, would have the GREATEST impact on your success and happiness?

We are all an experiment of one: For each of us, the answer to that question will be very different, and that’s the point. We all have a unique “one thing.”

Are you getting the sleep you need? Are you able to be mindful and fully present in your daily activities and training? Do you have an eating habit that is holding you back? What about strength, mobility, flexibility, or a specific sport focus?

Are you HAVING FUN in your training and racing (as Doc clearly does!) and finding the right balance?

Identifying OUR own unique one thing, is often the easy part. What’s much harder is actually TAKING ACTION consistently, to truly make addressing that one thing, a priority. And that’s what we’re really talking about here…

Simplifying, and prioritizing as a means to achieving more, going faster, feeling better, and utlimately being happier.

Sounds “simple,” right? :)

Please listen in as we discuss this fun and important topic!  And have a great weekend too!

~Coach Al 

040: Listener Questions: Downhill Running and Nutrition [Podcast]

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Flatten the course!

Flatten the course!

In today’s podcast, we once again respond to some listener questions. We really appreciate it when you contact us and ask great questions – keep them coming!

Going down: The topic of downhill running, both from a technique perspective and also from a pacing perspective, is often glossed over in favor of the opposite, which is running up. A listener sent in a link to an article titled “Efficient Running Up and Downhill in Triathlon,”  (triathlon.competitor.com and the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport), which discussed some research conducted at the University of Connecticut on competitors at this past October’s Ironman World Championship. Specifically, the researchers looked at how “various types of pacing can effect overall performance.”

The author states, “researchers took a random sampling of Hawaii-qualifying athletes and measured their predicted personal pre-race goal time against their finishing time on race day. Using Timex Ironman Global Trainers and TrainingPeaks software, they analyzed nine segments of the bike course and 11 segments of the run course.  Their goal was to determine whether any of the segments predicted performance, and they were surprised at the results—the downhill portions (on both the bike and run) proved to be most influential on overall time. They found that athletes who maintained faster relative speeds on the downhill sections of the course, and who had smaller changes in heart rate between consecutive up and downhills, were more successful relative to their goal times.” 

How you pace your downhills and uphills in a race is critical, and the research, both anecdoatal and scientific, and practical experience, support this.  In today’s ‘cast, we’ve got lots more to share on this topic!  Its a good one.

Also, a listener wrote in with some questions regarding his nutrition planning as he prepares for the Alcatraz Triathlon next weekend. We believe his questions are common and important, so you’ll want to listen in to hear what they are and our responses.

Please tune in and join us for today’s talk, where we discuss these topics and a few more as well.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!  Thank you to ALL of the men and women in uniform who, through their selfless service, make enjoying our sports possible.

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker 

039: More Listener Questions! [Podcast]

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Did someone say running shoes?

Did someone say running shoes?

In today’s podcast, we respond to some listener questions on running shoes. This is always a popular topic for discussion regardless of the circle of athletes you’re in. We sure do LOVE OUR SHOES, don’t we? :)

We get a regular stream of questions on shoes, including the merits of certain brands of shoes, when they should be replaced, and whether it’s a good idea to rotate them. And without a doubt, it seems that from one month to the next, there’s always a “hot” shoe amongst certain groups of athletes.

We’ve talked shoes in previous episodes of the podcast. For those of you who haven’t listened, in this episode we told you how to pick the best shoe for YOU.

In this blog post from March of last year, we offered some tips on which ones you should buy.

And in what has been one of the most frequently listened to podcasts we’ve done to date, in this episode we discuss the merits of minimalist/barefoot running and hash out our differences and similarities with our guest, well known coach/athlete Ben Greenfield.

Join us for today’s talk, where we get into the Altras, Hokas, the weather :), whether to rotate (the shoes), what’s the key to knowing WHAT IS the right shoe for you, and much more!

Join us!

Happy Trails!

~Coach Al and Doc Strecker