Coach 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.
Coach Al checking in from the Kailua-Kona on the eve of the Ironman World Championships. This is such a magical place, and those of you who have visited or have had the honor of racing here, you know what I mean.
Thoughts about truth and honesty that I want to share with you today came to me while walking through, of all places, the race expo. I was struck that the biggest challenge facing my partner Dr. Kurt Strecker and me, as we work to build Pursuit Athletic Performance, is that we tell the TRUTH. This may sound harsh, but the hard fact is the expo is full of products of little value, coupled with vendors hawking pseudo-science and false claims all in the service of THEIR agendas. In fact, telling the partial truth has become so common place, we have been domesticated into believing the partial truth IS the truth.
At PAP, we offer the honest truth, to every person who walks in the door. We walk the talk. We do what we say. We have no fancy gadget or magic fixes–we start with a simple mirror. We ask each athlete to take a hard look at what we uncover through their gait and movement analysis and face the TRUTH. It may be difficult to hear, it may not be what you want to be told, but we ask you to see your own “raw reality.” We know it is not easy to look our weaknesses squarely in the eye. But once you do, the reward for being honest with oneself is nothing less than the chance for incredible growth, and an explosion of your performance potential.
Susan Ford and Lisbeth Kenyon are two incredible athletes I coach who are racing here in Kona. Lisbeth, in fact, is here to defend an age group championship for the fourth year in a row. I can tell you that both of these incredible athletes looked into that mirror, faced the truth, worked hard to erase their liabilities, and have reached truly amazing performance peaks. The truth can do the same for you.
I just have to share an extremely gratifying testimonial from triathlete Todd Wilkins. Todd was a broken athlete when he contacted us. You can read in his own words below the trials and tribulations he endured dealing with severe iliotibial band syndrome. He was a dispirited athlete, and had just about given up hope on racing again. He did not expect to be able to return to long-course triathlon, that’s for sure.
Todd lives afar from our lab, so we began with our work together with the virtual on-line gait analysis. The more athletes we work with through the online analysis process, the more we know how incredibly effective the system is. We were able to pinpoint Todd’s problems in movement quality leading to compensations, dysfunction, and, ultimately, to his unending cycle of injury. We got him on a regime of prescriptive exercises, and created a training plan for him. He put his head down, believed in the process, and did the work to rebuild his body as a strong, stable, mobile, and durable athlete.
Recently, Todd went a 4:48 in a half Ironman–the first race of that distance he has been able to do in 2.5 years! He was fifth OVERALL, and took first place in the masters category. It is a super, super result. Not only are we over the moon at Todd’s finishing time, but Kurt and I are extremely gratified that Todd is uninjured and pain free! Think about that! He rocked the house with a super solid result, and got on the podium. Thing is, now that he’s a stronger, more stable and durable athlete, he can begin to REALLY TRAIN and unleash his true potential. There are many great races and results ahead of him, no doubt in our minds!
Thanks for the kind words, Todd. Kurt and I are both so happy for you!
~ Coach Al
Coach Al and Dr. Strecker,
I just needed to send a long overdue note to thank you for getting me back to running and racing triathlons. You will remember I had severe ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome). For the last two years, I had gone through self treatment with rest, stretching and yoga. Then I went to see a sports medicine specialist getting MRI’s, injections and physical therapy. When that didn’t work, I went to see a different sports medicine specialist and got more of the same. Finally I was told I would either have to stop running or consider surgery.
You know surgery for ITBS has pretty poor results. I am a physician myself, and am pretty comfortable with most standard medical therapies, but was not going to have surgery. I had pretty much given up hope of running more than a couple of miles ever again.
Then I saw you for a gait analysis.
The program is fantastic! I have run several triathlons this summer that include both Olympic distance and sprints. I just completed my first half iron distance race after two-and-a-half years of being out of racing. It went great thanks to your gait analysis, the Return to Running program, and Coach Al’s awesome coaching this summer. I was able to post the second fastest bike split in the half iron distance race, and still run a decent 1:37:xx half marathon on a hilly course. I could not be happier.
I think I see an Ironman in my future now, something I had given up on not too long ago.
Thanks so much!
Todd Wilkens M.D. F.A.C.S.
PS–You too can find and unlock your potential. 20% off all gait analysis packages AND 30 days FREE on our triathlon team. Click here to learn more.
This is always an exciting time of year at Pursuit Athletic Performance! Pursuit athlete Lisbeth Kenyon will soon be on her way to defend her age group championship at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on Saturday, October 13. Not only is Lisbeth the two-time defending champion in the 45-49 age group, she is also the record holder having shattered the previous mark by more than 20 minutes.
Lis and Coach Al have been working together for a number of years. Not only did they tackle Lis’s preparation for Kona this year, but Al also coached her to a record-breaking performance at the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon this past August.
The Ironman website recently ran a preview of the Age Group Women’s Champs, and we just had to share Lisbeth’s comments. This is a phenomenal athlete who works incredibly hard at training to her ultimate potential, yet never loses site of life’s priorities while keeping a sense of humor!
GO LISBETH! We are in your corner all the way, and will be cheering!
[Lisbeth] says her strength is definitely the ability to be in more the one place at a time and her second hobby is laundry. A quick glance at Lisbeth Kenyon’s “typical” day and I would have to agree. At the crack of dawn, Kenyon begins to wrestle her three children out of bed. Two are driven to school and the other catches a bus. The family dog is along for the car ride as she is deposited at daycare so she is not alone all day. In between working and training, Lisbeth delivers her kids to saxophone lessons, swim practice and golf. The kid’s activity time is her chance to go back to the office and catch up on work before she retraces her steps to gather up the clan to head off for dinner and homework time.
For Lisbeth, it is all about family first so it was no surprise to see she scheduled in the Norseman Xtreme, which takes place near where her family live in Norway. After reaching the top of the mountain and earning the coveted black t-shirt, she took some time to be with her loved ones before she changed gears and focused back on Ironman training.
Besides having her family in Hawaii, Lisbeth says she is most excited to reunite with the pull apart cinnamon buns at Lava Java.
We at Pursuit Athletic Performance are very proud to share this story of our client, triathlete Susan Ford, who will be racing the Ironman in Kona this October! The Ironman website featured a great article about Susan, a 15-time Ironman competitor, who was chosen to receive a Kona “Legacy” slot for the race.
The Legacy program is new, and is designed for athletes who have raced 12 or more IRONMAN races over the years–”These athletes make up an important part of Ironman culture; though they may not be fast enough to officially qualify for the marquee event, their dedication to IRONMAN was worth acknowledging with a chance to race on the historic course.”
You can read about Susan, her history, and her training here.
Susan also gave Pursuit and Coach Al a nice shout out in the piece saying, “I’m coached by Al Lyman at Pursuit Athletic Performance. He has helped me make enormous gains in my performance and ability to resist injury.”
Said Coach Al, “No one is more dedicated or works harder than Susan. I am looking forward to seeing her through her training, getting her stronger and faster still, and cheering as she fulfills her dream of racing in Kona.”
One of the athletes I coach pointed me to an interview with triathlete Sami Inkinen in Inside Triathlon. Sami gained quite a bit of attention after his sub-nine hour performance (8:58:59) at the Ironman World Championship in Kona–a result achieved on very low training volume.
It’s a great article, and I encourage you to read it. Once you do, here is what I like all of you to take away from the piece:
First and foremost is Sami’s focus on RECOVERY:
What I’ve been super-conscious about this year is this idea that if I don’t improve in almost every single workout, it’s not because I haven’t trained, but because I haven’t rested. Literally, that’s been my thinking,” said Sami. In other words, he rejects the notion that you have to train through months of hard, exhausting workouts to improve. Instead, he followed the principle that he should literally get stronger and faster every week, if not every day, and that his numbers should improve during every intense workout.
I coach Lis Kenyon, Ironman World Champion and reigning age group record holder (40-44 and 45-49). Lis tells me all the time that my words that stick with her and help guide her are: “Your next workout is only as good as your last recovery.”
Sami Inkinen uses RestWise to track his recovery. My opinion on this tool reflects my view on just about any training device. If you use it, and it increases YOUR OWN awareness of how you are recovering, then it could be a good tool.
I do not think RestWise is absolutely necessary to gauge how you are recovering. Each of you can do it with increased awareness, and honesty with yourself. I believe it all begins and ends with being truthful, and engaging in quality, open communication with your coach.
Ask yourself: Are you improving week to week, and even day to day?
Let’s face it, very few of us have Sami’s innate talent. BUT, as a long-time coach and competitor, I do think there is a great deal of value in this mindset about both recovery and improvement.
One of our clients, and a triathlete I coach, had a terrific day at Ironman Coeur d’Alene on June 24. Her super finish is all the more sweet when you consider that she came to us last winter a seriously BROKEN athlete. For the previous few years she had followed a training plan that focuses on daily intensity, actively discourages athletes from strength work, and promotes a “just train more” philosophy. Like most athletes, our triathlete did OK for a while on this kind of plan, putting up gains and getting faster.
But then the inevitable kicked in.
Without proper strength, stability, mobility, flexibility to support ANY kind of training–much less the kind of program she was on–our athlete fell apart. She could not absorb the training, she was not recovering, and her times got slower. End result? Injury. (Unfortunately, we see this scenario in our Gait Analysis Lab every day.)
Our triathlete came to us for a gait analysis last winter. Through our findings, we went to work to rebuild her, and then train her hard, but sensibly, for her Ironman. She took our work together seriously. As the months passed her body became functionally strong, durable, and resilient. She was able to train with appropriate intensity, absorb the training, and recover. She made serious gains in power and speed. And as we said, she had a great Ironman race day.
But take a look at how she feels now, only a few days out from the race:
“I have to say that this has been my must amazing post race ever. I was walking and sitting yesterday like it was 2 or 3 days post marathon. Unbelievable. It’s strange, every time I sit or stand I brace myself for pain but it isn’t there. I guess this is what being healthy, balanced, and functionally strong is all about! Essentially pain free post IM. Un-frickin-believable!”
This athlete emailed me to ask WHY she felt so good? Here the reasons, all of which are very obvious to me.
1. She was not remotely injured going into the race.
2. She was and is stronger than she has ever been. Hence, her body was able to deal with the stress of race day much more easily.
3. She was more balanced and more “fit” in a holistic sense, than ever before.
4. For the first time, she went into a race with a training plan that was designed to bring her fitness along smartly, rather than destroy her into injury and poor health submission.
My partner, Dr. Kurt Strecker, and I are thrilled for this client. We know how far she has come from the broken athlete that walked into our Gait Analysis Lab last winter. As her coach, I am thrilled at where she is at this point in time. Now, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, she can now unleash and get faster. Why?
Strength, stability, muscular balance, and good health are the basis for a training program designed to get you fast. That’s right, it’s not punishing intensity or the latest-and-greatest secret-sauce training. Movement quality FIRST is the only way to get fast, stay fast, and get faster over time.
It’s like we tell athletes all the time, when your body is working as it should, it will race well AND also recover quickly and completely. It’s how our athletes race again and again, year after year.
We wish every competitor, from Ironman to 5K runner, the same sense of accomplishment and good health our triathlete here is experiencing. She has a heck of a post-Ironman glow, and we are so happy for her
It is my opinion that the work we do at Pursuit Athletic Performance (PAP) likely requires a paradigm shift for our athletes. Before we begin to talk about training plans with clients, we reeducate our athletes on the importance and ultimate power behind “authentic movement.” Restoring authentic movement through balanced mobility, stability, and strength is the basis of what we do. From where I sit, each and every athlete, no matter what the ability, should–no, must–approach their training from this fundamentally powerful place.
I cannot drive home forcefully enough how authentic movement and balance in the body results in better quality training, phenomenal recovery, better overall health, and faster racing! Balance, as we talk about it at PAP, is not standing on one leg or exercising on a BOSU ball. Rather, it is an holistic balance of muscle length, mobility, stability, and strength. Our sports, coupled with our lifestyles–sitting, driving, computers work, etc.–create imbalances in the body. These imbalances lead to compensation and dysfunction, and, ultimately, to injury. Make no mistake, dysfunctional movement patterns diminish performance, extend the time needed to recover from training and racing, and absolutely shorten an athlete’s lifespan in sport. As we age, it certainly negatively impacts quality of life as a whole.
This philosophy is also the foundation of the way I coach. Discovering dysfunctional movement, and working to rid the body of compensations and restore balance is what I first do with any and every athlete I coach, whether it be Lisbeth Kenyon, 3x consecutive Ironman age group world championship, or Debbie Livingston, women’s champion at the Grindstone 100 ultra run, to a pure novice. My coaching philosophy is based upon restoring authentic movement and building a base of balanced strength from the ground up so that athletes can train and race to their true potential.
You simply cannot train and race to your ultimate best with a body that is unbalanced and broken.
Cultivating speed and outstanding personal performance is what we expect all our athletes to be able to achieve–and they do. By rebuilding the athlete’s body from the inside out– so that it is injury resistant and able to withstand more training load, and teaching them how to properly recover and maintain optimal health–we create the perfect confluence where fulfillment in sport and personal happiness is greatly enhanced. When this holistic balance is attained–and I see the power of it in my athletes every day–it is the most fulfilling and rewarding aspect of my coaching.
I hope this explains where I focus my efforts as a coach, and how dedicated I remain to outstanding results for my athletes–on the race course and in their daily lives. It may take a bit of relearning on the part of some athletes–the paradigm shift we talked about earlier–but it is a place of true power in our lives and outstanding performance on the race course.
We have an outstanding group of runners, cyclists and triathletes doing AMAZING things. Here’s a sampling of the latest racing results from the Pursuit Athletic Performance team.
Debbie Livingston Zane Grey 50 Mile Endurance Run, Highline Trail, Arizona
Champion ultra-runner Debbie Livingston had an amazing start to her 2012 season with a 5th overall finish at the Zane Grey Endurance Run, the most difficult 50 mile race in the country. As the organizers claim, “This race is HARD!” Debbie survived a tough patch mid-race, and at one point went off course for a bit. Despite all the challenges she faced, Debbie pushed toward the finish line like the true champion she is. Her 5th place finish came against a field stacked with some of the nation’s top ultra runners. We are so proud of her effort and tenacity in this epic event!
7 Sisters Trail Race, Amherst, MA
A mere two weeks later, Debbie placed 2nd at the 7 Sisters Trail Race. The race is 12 tough miles with 3,700 feet of climbing and many steep, rocky sections with hazardous footing. Outstanding result after the Zane Grey 50! (See? We tell you our strong, stable athletes recover well!) Congrats Deb! Rest up! 2012 is looking like a great season for you.
Tim Ahearn Tour of the Battenkill, America’s Toughest One-Day Race, Cambridge, New York
Those of you who are not local to the Northeast may not be aware of this “Queen of the Classics.” The field is as deep as the course is rough. The race is unbelievably brutal, and the competition is the deepest many face in all of their racing careers. Just FINISHING with the pack is a huge accomplishment. Our Tim Ahearn finished 6th in the Cat 3 division, just seconds off the podium. Outstanding is an understatement!
Blue Hills Classic, Blue Hills Reservation, Milton, MA
Two weeks after Battenkill, Tim had a podium finish in the Blue Hills Classic. He placed 3rd in Cat 3. Huge congratulations to Tim on two incredible outings!
Bob Meikle Miles Standish Road Race, Plymouth, MA
Masters cyclist Bob Meikle placed an impressive 11th in the Miles Standish road race. A day marked by typical bike racing tactics, Bob, unfortunately, got boxed in by a competitor’s team in a breakaway, and no other riders were willing to help reel them in. Bob tells us with good cheer, “sometimes that happens in bike racing!” Congratulations, Bob, on a solid day.
Susan Ford Rev 3 Knoxville, Olympic Distance Triathlon, Knoxville, TN
Fantastic age group win by Susan Ford at the Rev 3 Olympic Triathlon in Knoxville! Susan works her butt off, pays attention to the details, and is seeing outstanding results. The Kona slot she covets remains her true motivator. We are super proud of you, Susan! Way to rock it!
Steve Kohler Ironman St. Croix 70.3
In a day that included lots of rain on the infamously tough St. Croix course, Steve Kohler raced to a 9th place finish in his age group at Ironman 70.3 in St Croix. Top 10 in that race is a true accomplishment. He not only conquered The Beast, but a tough day overall!
Ironman St. Croix 70.3
PAP client Rebecca Stephen won the 40-44 AG in St. Croix–and it was her first ever 70.3! Interesting story… Rebecca is one talented lady. But when she came to me, she was very injured, and believed her running days were behind her. I consider her gait analysis, followup, and my work with her as a coach to be among my greatest success stories. She also provides one of our most compelling testimonials. Thank you Rebecca and congratulations! We wish much continued success.
Margee Clarke Charron
Boston Marathon, Boston, MA
Margee’s Boston Marathon finish is particularly sweet to us. She came to PAP with chronic iliotibial band syndrome (ITB) just a few months before the race with little hope of being able to run it. She put her trust in our process, and worked hard on our prescriptive training for her. Not only did she overcome her injury, but put herself in a position to do some specific marathon training. She finished Boston strong, and in the top 1/3 of all finishers. Three cheers, Margee! We could not be happier for you!
TRAINING NEWS Ken Marker
In training for Ironman Florida 70.3, May 20, Haines City, Florida
Ken Marker is looking super ready for IM 70.3 Florida in a couple of weeks. He just tested, and he has a new FTP (functional threshold power) of 257w. That’s a 3.77 w/kg, an all time high for him at this time of year! Ken is prepping for a GREAT season!
That’s it for our racing news for now. Lots more to come as the season goes on!
I think you will find interesting a current situation I am working through with one of the triathletes I coach. He is having a crisis in confidence about his run preparedness for Ironman Coeur d’Alene coming up in June. This athlete has been at the triathlon game for a while, but–like so many of you–has experienced repetitive cycles of running injury. Before we started working together, he had not been able to run with any consistency–or at all–for a year.
His current injury cycle came on the heels of his last round of Ironman training two years ago. He trained for that race with a mass coaching program that strongly stresses the “train more” philosophy with punishing levels of intensity day in and day out, week in and week out. And while this program touts it is “the way” to train for faster race times, in the end it robbed this athlete (and many others) of ANY ability to train or race at all.
As a long-time and experienced coach, I know one thing for sure–the “just train more” message is very seductive to triathletes. In a very real way, the mindset of “just train more” or “no pain, no gain” pervades much of our sport, and is almost like a drug. Many of us joke about it, but the fact is it seems to tap into a primal need to test ourselves and prove we can handle pain and not wilt under pressure. Once we drink that Kool Aid, it’s hard to turn back. Many don’t know any other way once exposed to it, and are often led further down the path by coaches who flat out don’t know what they are doing. The bottom line is, my triathlete’s concerns about run preparedness come from old, worn out training tapes replaying in his head. He has been duped into believing that you need to do week upon grueling week of long, hard running in order to be “ready” to run a marathon off of the bike.
That’s simply not true. Not on any level.
Here’s what is true–and this is where athletes find the place of phenomenal power, authentic fulfillment, and, yes, truly outstanding race day results.
IF you are functionally strong, TRULY healthy, and are building run and overall fitness steadily throughout training, that creates the conditions for an outstanding race. Then you must SHOW UP on race day, be TRULY healthy and rested, race smart, and be mentally ready to go after it. Put the two pieces together and it is then that you have the best opportunity for a GREAT race, especially off the bike–which is where it matters the most. Sounds too simple, and not “hard enough”?
Any coach can react to an athlete’s nervousness and write an overly aggressive run “build” phase. I always tell my athletes the easiest thing I can do is write harder plans. After all, I only have to type! Many knucklehead coaches, however, take pride in making stuff “hard” because their own egos are their biggest concern, not the athlete’s health and well being. As a responsible and experienced coach, I know that when an athlete returns to running after injury, the first few weeks absolutely DRIVE what happens, good or bad, with all the run training to follow for this race, this season–and beyond!
For example, if my triathlete is running slightly beyond his true functional capability due to an aggressive build designed to “get him there,” odds are he will fall back into old dysfunctional and compensated movement patterns. Remember, it is those same patterns that created injury in the first place. Also, he will be building TIREDNESS, instead of true run FITNESS. That means as he gets closer to the race, he will be thinking and believing he’s ready to race, when, in truth, he has been moving backwards on a number of levels–not the least of which is inching closer to re-injury.
I can guarantee that if my triathlete is FULLY PRESENT on race day with strong mental fortitude and toughness, AND a completely healthy, rested and ready body, he will surprise the heck out of himself with a run to be proud of–and a run that reflects his true potential. And the beauty is, this Ironman will be the start–NOT the end–of a training period. By ensuring true run health, athletes find a deep well of resiliency they never thought they had. They are able to dig deeper and find a resolve they always thought had to come through “force,” and a “train-more-and-suck-it-up” philosophy. Truly healthy athletes RECOVER, and come back to train and race year after year. Instead of beating the body to a pulp, Ironman becomes the beginning of a long period of steady improvement in strength, durability, and speed.
Most importantly, finishing this Ironman healthily and well will allow my triathlete to MANIFEST the power of the accomplishment in his everyday life, not simply adopt a persona. His personal reasons for undertaking the challenge will be with him with every breath he takes after the race. It’s what Mark Allen referred to as a “raw reality.” My triathlete will be authentically healthy, authentically athletic, authentically positive. He will be an IRONMAN, in the truest sense of what finishing the distance is supposed to mean. He will live it, and in his own mind, he will know he did it right.
I wish this same sense of peace, accomplishment, and good health for every single triathlete I coach. It is the place where true fulfillment and satisfaction are born. Believe it, and make the decision to BE IT.