Archive for Ironman

035: Open Water Swimming with Alcatraz Legend Gary Emich [Podcast]



Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Elite open water swimmer and coach, Gary Emich

Today we’re stoked to have Alcatraz swimming legend and triathlon coach, Gary Emich, on our podcast. Gary is most well known for having completed over 1000 Alcatraz swims (without a wetsuit!) and for a host of other impressive open water swimming accomplishments. 

Gary is a Certified Level 1 USA Triathlon Coach specializing in open water swimming and a Certified Level 2 ASCA Coach.  He is co-host and co-producer of the DVD “Lane Lines to Shore Lines:  Your Complete Guide to Open Water Swimming” and co-author of “Open Water Swimming:  Lessons from Alcatraz.”  And, from 1998 through 2009 he was the race director for the “Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim.” His open water swimming CV includes the Amazon River replete with piranhas; Peru’s Lake Titicaca; Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness; the Hellespont (a swim from Europe to Asia); and the 20km Rottnest swim at the age of 58.  Relay crossings include the English Channel (2000 and 2011), Catalina, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay, the Bay of Naples (Italy) and the Strait of Gibraltar as well as relay circumnavigations of Manhattan, Key West and Pennock Island in Ketchikan Alaska.


On today’s podcast, Gary and I chat about all things open water swimming related including…

  • Navigation and sighting: What’s the impact of poor sighting? Tips and drills on how to improve this critical skill
  • Wind, waves and current and how to deal most effectively with these challenges
  • How training in the pool can cheat you
  • Safety considerations for swimming in the open water
  • Race starts and finishes
  • Goggles: what are the most important considerations for open water swimming?
  • Triangulation: what is it, and how can it help you in the open water?
  • Are you a bilateral breather?  Is it a worthwhile skill to develop?
  • And much more!

Thanks for joining us! Make your next open water swim a great one!

~Coach Al

ps: Here’s a neat funny which I know you’ll enjoy!


Get Out! (Of Your Comfort Zone That Is)

 A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. ~ Denis Waitley

One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again~Abraham Maslow

Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Life Begins Outside Of Your Comfort Zone!

Throughout everyday life, each of us has certain physical and psychological  “comfort zones” that influence who we are and how we act.  Perhaps you follow the same routine when you wake up in the morning, or drive the same route to your job each day.  Similarly, from a training standpoint, do you tend to migrate toward the same pace, intensity, or routine, day in and day out, because it is “comfortable”?  I thought so!  :)

Physical comfort zones are usually easy to identify.  For example, if you have recently trained at or around 8 minutes per mile during your long aerobic runs and suddenly increase that pace to 6 minutes per mile, you will quickly step outside of your comfort zone.  Running at 6 minute pace quickly elevates your heart rate and perceived effort, immediately putting you outside your comfort zone! 

Psychological comfort zones can be a bit harder to quantify, but here’s an example. I think we can all agree that for most of us, talking one on one to a friend or two is usually not that tough.  But, stand up in a room in front of a live audience and try to give a speech while everyone is staring at you is a lot more difficult, and perhaps way outside of the comfort zone for many of us!


 In my opinion, one key that can unlock the potential for greater personal growth and success in many of life’s endeavors is the willingness to step outside of comfort zones.   If you’re going to reach your potential as an athlete, as you execute your training program you must resist the temptation to always do the same thing, in effect resorting back to that which is “comfortable” for you.  After all, it feels absolutely fantastic when we do finally step outside and as a result, experience some success!  Remember what it was like when you were nervous about asking someone out for a date? For most of us, this was well outside our comfort zones, yet how great did it feel when they said, “Yes!”  From a training standpoint, do you remember ever focusing your time and energy on developing a certain skill or technique?  Do you remember how good it felt when you realized you were getting BETTER at that activity because you did things a bit differently?  Far too often we train and perform activities the way we always have, staying with what is comfortable for us.  Routinely doing things the same old way (training pace, intensity, route, focus, etc.) prevents us from growing and improving.  We like to be comfortable!  Resist it, reach out, expand your horizons, and take some risks!  Improve!


There are two major factors that stop most of us from stepping outside our comfort zones more often.  The first is habit.  Simply put, out of habit, we tend to migrate to that which we are familiar with or that gives us a sense of security and safety.  The second and perhaps most significant factor is fear.  Fear of failure. Let’s face it, at one time or another we are all afraid to fail.  But we all know but rarely admit to ourselves, that the real consequences of “failure” are truly inconsequential and never last long.

As athletes, most of the fear we have when we step outside our comfort zone and try something new is all in our head. The fear is a figment of our imagination.  It just never seems that way at the moment of truth!  As an example, all of you triathletes out there, take open water swim starts (which tend to give many first time triathletes a fit).  Be honest, you know you’re not going to drown!  You know that nothing “down there” is going to swim up and get you!  You know everyone in attendance wants you to succeed!  All the other athletes have the same goal as you, to get to the finish line!  Whatever fear you may experience is only in your thoughts, and you control your thoughts, no one else.  Fear limits what we do and who we are, and ultimately, what we can achieve.



 Applying these concepts to your training on a consistent basis can be a key to unlocking untapped potential.  However, and this is important, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to always go harder and/or faster!  As an example, getting outside of your comfort zone may mean running, riding, or swimming more slowly on certain training days, when your mind might be telling you that you “should” be going faster.  Or, it may mean doing more drill or skill work in a training session when it might be more “comfortable” if you didn’t include skill/technique work.  In fact, failure to get outside of your training comfort zones relates very much to smartly differentiating pace and intensity in training, something I routinely remind athletes about.

Gray zone training is addictive and easy to succumb to because going “sort of” hard can and often is “comfortable” for many of us.  Think about that. When you’re training “sort of” hard but not REALLY hard (e.g. gray zone), you are in no man’s land. You are much better off either going easier than is “comfortable” for you (aerobic or even easier for recovery), or if your training program calls for it, going much HARDER than is comfortable. In fact, getting the maximum benefit from your training program means being way outside of your comfort zone during hard (quality) training sessions. It means going VERY hard and being VERY uncomfortable!


Though it may not always be obvious on a daily basis, consistently getting outside of comfort zones even just a little bit can lead to unbelievable results in your training and racing.  Starting today, have the courage and mental strength to “step out” regularly both physically and psychologically, and I guarantee you’ll get better and faster than ever!  Make it a great day!

~Coach Al 

031: Intensity Metric Triangulation with Coach Will Kirousis [Podcast]



Coach Will Kirousis

Coach Will Kirousis

Today I’m joined by coach Will Kirousis of Tri-Hard Endurance Sports Coaching to discuss a variety of training related topics.  I’ve known Will for many years and know him, along with his partner Jason Gootman, as among the finest coaches in the business.

In today’s podcast, we discuss the concept of Intensity Metric Triangulation, which is simply an approach that helps to empower athletes to better understand what their power meter, pace meter, heart rate monitor and perceived exertion level are combining to say to them.

Taken further, and most importantly, Intensity Metric Triangulation helps athletes understand how to adjust and perhaps modify how they are executing a training session based on the feedback they are receiving, both objectively from the training tools they might be employing, as well as subjectively from the information their body is sending to them.  In a nutshell, Intensity Metric Triangulation is a simple to use system that helps the athlete know better what’s happening inside in their body and how they might want to adjust training as it evolves.

Will and I also have some fun discussing a variety of concepts that I know will be helpful to consider for any endurance athlete, from communication and self awareness to logging training data to understanding the value of each of our own unique personal histories.  These are key players in our ability to train smart.

One last thing: JOIN Will and I at TRI-MANIA Boston Summit and Expo on March 29, 2014. All information and details can be found here:  Among many other great speakers, clinics and vendors, Will and his partner Jason Gootman will present a seminar on this topic, Intensity Metric Triangulation at 10:00 AM. I am presenting a seminar at 3:30 PM entitled “Lessons From The Gait Lab.”  Its going to be a great day all around. We hope to see you there!

~Coach Al

017: 70x Ironman With 30 Straight in Kona: Ken Glah (Podcast)



Hi Everyone!

Ken Glah

70x Ironman Finisher with 30 Straight Kona’s, Ken Glah. He also the owner of Endurance Sports Travel.

In the sport of triathlon, the name Ken Glah is synonymous with class and endurance. A humble guy from eastern Pennsylvania who has mixed it up with the best in the world on the race course, he’s competed in more than 70 Ironman races and finished his 30th Kona in a row this past October. An extraordinary achievement!

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ken for this podcast in which he shares his insights and tips on:

  • What he has learned in 30 years of training, traveling, and racing in the sport
  • How he has been able to essentially remain injury free, despite very high training volume
  • How he feels athletes should train to maximize their chances for success in Ironman racing
  • What his favorite race destinations are and why

Ken also talks about his unique business, Endurance Sports Travel, which is, essentially, a concierge service for the traveling long course triathlete looking for top notch service and support. He explains many of the unique services he offers, and how he might help you enjoy your race travel more and with less stress.

Few athletes and business owners have a better handle on how to maximize success in our sport. We hope you enjoy our talk. Thanks Ken!

We hope you enjoy our podcasts and find them useful for your training and racing. Any questions? Hit us up in the comments, or on Facebook. Let us know of any topics you would like us to cover too.

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Watch! This “Strong” Ironman Likely to be Walking the Marathon (Video)

Hey Everyone!
We have a quick, yet important video for you to watch. In it, an Ironman athlete completes a 100 lb. clean and jerk in an effort to work on her strength program as she prepares for Ironman Florida. As you know from reading our stuff, strength, coupled with appropriate mobility, stability, and flexibility, is CRUCIAL to optimizing your full potential as a triathlete. So she’s doing all the correct things, right?

Sorry to say, in this case, not at all.

The are huge problems with what she’s doing, and we’d like to walk you through it.

Instead of creating true FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH, the dangerous, incorrect form she demonstrates in this lift is completely counterproductive to her goals.

When doing competitive Olympic lifting, the goal is to get the barbell over your head no matter what. In that kind of competition, judges don’t necessarily care how you get the weight there, or if you blow out your knees or your back doing it.

However, when it comes to performing better as a triathlete, rather than brute strength, what you need to create is true FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH–the kind of strength that will allow you to RUN the marathon distance in an Ironman and finish strong without the wheels coming off. In training functional strength effectively, it’s not IF you get the barbell over your head that matters, but HOW you do it. 

Let’s dissect this example, and focus primarily on the what’s happening at the knee.

When this athlete prepares to clean the weight and move it over head, note the dangerous collapse of the knees inward toward the mid-line. Even though she seems strong on the surface, this inward collapse indicates a lack of adequate and integrated glute and hip strength, and overall core stability and strength. The collapse of her knee under load is not only damaging for her knees, it is TRAINING HER NERVOUS SYSTEM to make that motor pathway a HABIT. That neurological habit is being deeply grooved with every repetition, and will be reproduced any time the knee is under load, and that, of course, includes running.

Over time, with repeated patterns like this, the knee will become damaged, with the risk of serious injury rising steadily.

As a hinge joint, the knee is a slave to everything that happens above and below it.  It is not designed to move sideways under load. Move it sideways toward your mid-line too many times, especially under load, and you’ll get a worn out meniscus, torn cartilage–and much slower running too. In effect, knee collapse during strength training actually teaches the body to do the same when running. The result is exactly the opposite of the desired goal–to have strength training help her to be better on the race course. This athlete is less efficient and absolutely leaking run speed, and she is surely inviting hip and knee pain and injury.

In addition to knee problems, continuing the mechanics this athlete is using in this video also puts her at great risk for a  litany of problems including:

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
  • Hip and glute pain
  • ACL and meniscus injury
  • Patellofemoral problems
  • Arthritis

The fact is, when it comes to racing Ironman, it doesn’t matter if this athlete has an aerobic engine the size of Chrissie Wellington’s. With mechanics like that, the odds are increased that she may have to walk at some point in the marathon. Why?

Let’s start with the fact that running a mile is the equivalent of approximately 1500 one-leg squat jumps.  That adds up to over 19,000 inward collapses of a single knee during the course of the marathon. Each time the knee moves inward with each foot strike, energy is being lost, and stress is being placed on other tissues to attempt to control or compensate. The “slower” running results from energy leak, much like running in sand or on ice. The repetitive inward movement for thousands of reps results in more pain with each successive foot-strike.

The thing about this that is most distressing to us, is the fact that this athlete–like many of YOU–has the best of intentions, yet is misguided. She understands that strength is important to compete well, and she obviously works hard at it. Brute force and a determination to “be strong,” are not enough, however. It is not about showing that you can forcefully move a weight and get it over head. In the end, it’s ALL about training your nervous system to control your muscles to work with PERFECT FORM when under load, and as fatigue mounts, mile after mile.

Helping YOU to BE GREAT!

Coach Al and Kurt

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Ironman AG World Champion Lisbeth Kenyon: What We All Can Learn From Her

Lisbeth Kenyon, Ironman World Champion

Lisbeth Kenyon, Ironman World Champion, W 45-49. 10:03:26

As some of you know by now, one of the athletes I coach, Lisbeth Kenyon, again won her age group title in the Ironman World Championship yesterday in Kona in a time of 10:03:26. I could not be happier for this extraordinary woman, friend, and competitor. The word “congratulations” hardly seems tribute enough.

In many ways, Lisbeth’s win is beyond amazing, and is a reflection of a ton of work this season. And I will tell you this…everything that has happened over the past year—including a painful bout of shingles in the past month, and the fact that she has three growing kids that keep her incredibly busy—is a testament to the relentless work she did to again become the champion she is. The best in the world in her age group.

I also want to share this with all of you….

Everything emphasized with Lisbeth in her training—from when we started in earnest in January, right Lis Kenon and Coach Al, Pursuit Athletic Performancethrough her race day—reflects what we do with EVERY athlete who trains with the Pursuit Athletic Performance team.

 You want to know what made the difference for Lis this year? It’s this….

 Yesterday she raced with:

  • Better balance
  • Appropriate and improved flexibility
  • Stronger hips and glutes
  • A clear race nutrition strategy
  • A clear race execution strategy

She did all the work in training to get there, and she executed a near perfect race. 

Lisbeth, truly, is a living example of what can be accomplished when an athlete follows the whole-athlete, integrated training we lay out for ALL competitors who train with us.

ANY ONE OF YOU—at ANY LEVEL—can replicate what Lisbeth did to get to YOUR optimal result.

No, not everyone has the innate talent of a world champion athlete, but that does not matter. You simply need the ability to learn the TRUTH about what works in training, act on it, be willing to let go of counterproductive methodologies, and DO THE WORK. It’s as simple as that for your greatness and success to be realized.

Congratulations again to Lisbeth! And may all of you uncover the champion within.

Be Great!

Coach Al

P.S.–Mid-Ironman, Lisbeth got tossed over her handlebars and off of her bike at an aid station, landing on her back! She brushed it off, got back to her race execution strategy, and got down to business. The mark of a true champion!

011: Kona Through the Eyes of a Champion–Lisbeth Kenyon (Podcast)




LisWaik09Pursuit Athletic Performance triathlete Lisbeth Kenyon joins us live from Alii Drive as she gets ready to take on her 7th Kona this Saturday, October 12. For those of you who don’t know, Lisbeth is an Ironman Age Group World Champion in the 40-44 and 45-49 categories, and she holds the record in the latter.

Lis shares her reflections on what she enjoys most about being in Kona and doing Ironman. She reveals some of her most notable and memorable points along the course. She talks about the Kona vibe this week, as well as how she is preparing for race day on the heels of long travel. And she gives us the inside scoop on the race favorites on the pro side. 

Coach Al has been training Lisbeth for the past 5 years. Theirs is a special relationship, and he has this to say, “Last week, I had the extreme pleasure of spending a few hours with Lis to dial in her strength focus prior to traveling to the Big Island of Hawaii, to once again take on the best 45+ yr old women in the world at the most famous triathlon of them all. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. THIS woman is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I can’t begin to express in words how honored I am to KNOW her, let alone coach her. She IS an amazing mom, friend, citizen, professional, colleague, and champion triathlete. I know Todd Kenyon would say she’s also an amazing partner and wife. No matter what happens on race day, October 12th, she is a true CHAMPION in my book, and in every sense of the word. More good wishes to come as we get closer to race day, but for today, I just want to say THANK YOU, Lis, for everything you’ve given me.” 


Ironman Age Group World Champion Lisbeth Kenyojn and Coach Al Lyman

We hope you enjoy our podcasts and find them useful for your training and racing. Any questions? Hit us up in the comments, or on Facebook. Let us know of any topics you would like us to cover too.

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006: Kristofer Behn–From Broken Triathlete to Ironman (Podcast)


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Listen and be inspired!

Pursuit Athletic Performance triathlete Kristofer Behn faced with a VERY serious injury that threatened not only his Ironman, but more importantly, his long term health. Here is his story of how he committed to the PAP training to turn it all around and have a GREAT race at Ironman Lake Placid.

If you are injured, you need to listen! You can be better! You can reach your goals and dreams

Here’s what Coach Al has to say about this interview with Kris and his road to Ironman glory!

Kris had gone through our gait analysis and heard us talk about the importance of functional movement, signed on for coaching, yet as is sometimes typical…. he just DIDN’T fully understand or appreciate the importance of what we were saying….nor did he engage himself in the coach/athlete relationship really, or take seriously any of the strength training work and my demanding ‘perfect form’ from him UNTIL HE WAS FACED with a VERY serious injury that threatened not only his IM and his racing, but even more importantly, his long term health.

Kris went from a lackadaisical “listen and hear about 40% of what we put out for him to absorb and read on how to train,” to someone who is now incredibly detail oriented when it comes to the movement exercises. He refuses to skimp, will always cut short a run or bike in order to complete a proper warm up, and was even laughed at by his training partners when he was down on the floor in Lake Placid on race morning at 3:30 am, doing basic core stability exercises! He went on to have a faster run split than 3 of the 5 of those training partners, even though he had essentially had NO run base going in, only BEGINNING a return to running 3 weeks prior to the race. He ended up with a 5 hr run split and felt GREAT the whole way, running the last 2 miles onto the oval.

To reiterate: 12 wks out from IMLP, he was diagnosed with a herniated disc. He saw a specialist in his local area (on the recommendation and referral from Kurt) who put him on a 4-week program of PT to remove symptoms of sciatica that prevented him from standing, or getting in or out of his car. He was in a serious amount of pain and was debilitated. At the end of those 4 weeks, he came to the lab, where we reviewed his exercise form and changed what he was doing, helping him to become even BETTER with the movements. He was 8 weeks out from the race. At that point, we begin to have him start to ride just a little bit, and swim as well. No running yet. He needed to prove he could ride for 30min, then 1 hour, without discomfort.

 He followed daily with great diligence, constantly working on his exercises, relentlessly.

A week or so later, we began with a run program, starting conservatively with 30sec of running, 1min of walking. His LONGEST run/walk prior to LP was 90min!!!!!

Kris acknowledged that he had always resisted giving up some control, despite him paying me for coaching. He finally decided during this process to STOP THAT, and relinquish control completely to our program and my coaching. He decided he would do exactly what he was told to do, nothing more and nothing less. Empowering to be sure.

The stability and strength he developed in those few weeks literally gave him the ability to do only a few weeks of run/bike/swim training without pain, and that was enough to get him to the Ironman finish line in UNDER 15 hrs. His remarkably fast recovery speaks to his determination and mastery of the movements he was given to recoup his health.

He’s learned lessons he will apply to all phases of his life, and for sure, he’s a smarter better athlete for having gone through this very difficult time.

Be GREAT and Be Inspired!

Coach Al

We hope you enjoy our podcasts and find them useful for your training and racing. Any questions? Hit us up in the comments, or on Facebook. Let us know of any topics you would like us to cover too.

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Coach Al: My Three Takeaways from the Ironman World Championship

Kona Ironman, Coach Al, Pursuit Athletic PerformanceCoach Al here with some further reflection from my time spent at the Ironman World Championship. I have not been to Kona since the last time I raced there eight years ago. I can say, however, that having raced the event several times, and now watching from my perspective as a coach, it is the hardest Ironman triathlon on the planet. Getting to the finish line in Kona is an incredible achievement. Huge congratulations to all the athletes.

In the video below I outline my thoughts about three major things that I think truly impact a successful Ironman race:

Nutrition, salt, and STRENGTH

What is the limiting factor on very long race days like Ironman? It is what happens to your body. Nutrition and salt play a major role, for sure. But it is STRENGTH that also helps the wheels from coming off. The struggle in the Ironman marathon always comes from things like cramping, muscular fatigue, and pain in areas that make it difficult to keep race pace. Keeping a consistent and steady aerobic pace in an Ironman, without breaking down, can bring you to a very high age group placement. The marathon definitely becomes a battle of resisting fatigue, and you need the STRENGTH to keep it all together.

I recommend you Ironman athletes out there have a listen and take these messages to heart. Taking action on your strength issues NOW, can help to insure the wheels stay on in your next long course competition.

Coach Al in Kona–Dedication and Perseverance: Triathlete Susan Ford [Video]


Susan Ford, Ironman, triathlon, Pursuit Athletic PerformanceCoach Al here, and I am having a wonderful time at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona. Two of the athletes I coach are racing here today. Lisbeth Kenyon is defending her 45-49 age group championship and course record. (Go Lis!) Susan Ford is making her Kona debut.

I was so pleased to have a chance to sit down with Susan for an interview. I knew our talk would center around a discussion of dedication and perseverance, two qualities imperative to athletic success. Susan, without question, possesses both those attributes more than just about anyone I know. Her passion for the sport of triathlon, and long-course racing in particular, drives her relentless pursuit to be the best she can be.

Susan unfailingly believes there is always a way to reach her goals. The word “can’t” is not in her lexicon. She is always willing to listen and learn, facing her gifts and limitations with the kind of truth and honesty I discussed in yesterday’s post. This allows her to set increasingly higher standards of personal excellence.

Susan is so deserving of the opportunity to race here in Kona. To say I wish her the best is an understatement. She will earn her PhD in triathlon out there today–another step in the evolution of this incredible athlete and friend.