Understanding TrainingPeaks Numbers and Why You Should Care About Them

In our quest to become better athletes, regardless of level, a knowledge of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and interpreting results of these training sessions is paramount for growth. As I have stated in previous posts, this is where a coach comes in. Not only to set a plan, but to monitor, adjust, and provide an explanation of results.
I personally use TrainingPeaks software to coach clients, as do many other coaches, but TrainingPeaks as a lot of numbers and measurables that can be confusing and daunting to a new athlete. Again, this is where a coach comes in, but I fully believe that the athlete should not only have a good working knowledge of these numbers and what they mean but also know why these numbers are important. I am going to try to explain the main results but also give you an idea of WHY they are important to know.

Training Stress Score (TSS)

TSS is basically a measure of how hard you are working. It is based on Intensity Factor (IF) and the length of time of the training session (or race). Knowing your heart rate numbers helps make this a bit more accurate, especially in determining the IF score, but power (if using one on the bike) or RPE (rate of perceived effort) can also be used. I personally like to use RPE in my head and then compare it to the IF reading after a session to see how close the result was. For example, if I have a run scheduled and know it is for 60-70% RPE, my IF score should be between .6 and .7. If my IF is a .9 that would tell me that (1) my RPE is wrong (entirely possible), or (2) my heart rate entries are off in the TrainingPeaks software account.

So why does TSS matter?

It comes down to knowing how hard you worked outside of how it felt. We all have those runs that felt like we were in quicksand. Sometimes TSS can back that up with hard numbers, but also it can tell you that it might have felt hard, but actually wasn’t that taxing on your system. It can also tell you when a specific workout was too much (i.e. a hill repeat for 10 splits might be too much, but the same workout for 5 splits might be fine). Knowing that “tipping point” is helpful and reviewing TSS can help identify that point.

Acute Training Load (ATL) and Why it Matters

ATL is the measure of FATIGUE over the last 7 days of training based upon the frequency, duration, and intensity of the workout sessions. Knowing this number helps identify upcoming needs of recovery. Watching TSS as it increases can cause ATL to jump up very fast, which eventually leads to your body failing you.

Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Why it Matters

Basically the same measurement as ATL, CTL is taken over the previous 6-weeks. Progressive training, if done correctly, will result in an increase in CTL, which is what you want to see. It is the relation of CTL to ATL that is important, and bring us to the next item.

Training Stress Balance (TSB), or Form, and Why it Matters

As stated, TSB is the relation of CTL to ATL at any given point. So taking CTL and subtracting ATL give you a number either positive or negative (the formula is TSB = CTL – ATL). A negative TSB (meaning ATL is higher than CTL) can mean you are over-fatigued, and a positive means you are “fresh”.As with most thing, however, this can be misleading and is subjective. Your goal is to hit an event with a positive TSB, meaning you are fresh and ready to race, but some people race better with a negative TSB. Finding that “sweet spot” is key to planning and measuring training. Once again, where a coach can come in handy. I personally, for my own racing, try to come into an event between -3 and +10. When I have raced with a number below -3 I have found to be tired very quickly, and the same for anything over +10, where I feel very strong at first but tire out fast.

The Performance Graph

So, for some real-world examples consider these graphs:

In the performance graph above you can see my cycling results since January 2019. The circled result is the 52-mile ride I did on May 4th. At this point in my training, I had a CTL of 15 and an ATL of 44, meaning in the previous 7 days to this ride I was doing quite a bit of high TSS training. My TSB (form) was a -3, right where I like it to be, so it resulted in a ride that was hard at the end, but for the first 35-40 miles I felt really strong.

In this performance graph, I am only looking at my swims in the same time frame. what you can see here is I was doing quite a lot of swimming in the first three months and that has tapered off a bit. In this instance, I rarely use a heart rate monitor so my TSS as it uploads shows a zero, and even when it does show one it hovers around 10. This is due to my heart rate not being that fast while swimming and the duration being in the 60-minute range. My TSB is also in the 0.0 range, meaning most swims are not taxing me that much, so I need to “up my game” as far as effort goes.

Not to leave running out I am using a client’s run performance profile (because I have not been running as much as they have). This client has a race coming up this week and has been training hard for it. All is evident from what we are seeing here; a steady climb of CTL (the blue portion), a steady decline in ATL (the pink line due to tapering), and an entry into race day with a TSB of +11. They should, according to this graph, do very well in this race.

The Meaning of it All

In the end, numbers like this are there to help you quantify your training plan and how you are progressing. As I wrote in the first section, an expert level knowledge is not needed to make the most of this, but a working ability to see the numbers or the graph, and know how you are doing goes a long way in helping you work with your coach to achieve your final goal, which is always to do well in the event you are training for, whatever that means for you.

If you have any questions about your personal numbers and are not currently being coached by us, please reach out and we can guide you through some basic understanding of it. There are also some great guides out there online (try the TrainingPeaks blog or the book Triathlon 2.0 to start). We are always here to help you.

The Obesity Issue is Hormonal, not Caloric

I want to write a bit about obesity in this post, and about weight loss. As you are probably aware, this is an ongoing issue with me over the past ten years, and it seems that it isn’t going away any time soon, so instead of talking about it on the podcast, I am going to start writing about it again. I think it helps me to get my thoughts on “paper” (such as it is) and my hope is that it speaks to someone else out there having the same issues.

In the United States, it is estimated that 93 million Americans are affected by obesity. Individuals affected by obesity are at a higher risk for impaired mobility and experience a negative social stigma commonly associated with obesity. Socioeconomic status plays a significant role in obesity. Low-income minority populations tend to experience obesity at a higher rate and are more likely to be overweight. In 2001, the states with the top five percentages for obesity were Mississippi, West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, and Indiana. Almost 112,000 annual deaths are attributable to obesity. In the United States, 40 percent of adults do not participate in any leisure-time physical activity.

Those are the facts, and we can quibble about facts all we want, but the truth is the truth, and I don’t think most of us can argue against any of these things. It is important to note that there seems to be a correlation between high obesity rates and lower income. The reasons for this are pretty clear; bad food is cheaper, and lower-income people tend to be less active (my thought on that is it’s usually because they are the ones doing the more back-breaking labor during the day and have less time for “leisure” once that day is done, but I have no data to support that).

Being affected by excess weight, obesity or severe obesity significantly increases the risk of developing many other diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and much more. Severe obesity is characterized by an individual weighing more than 100 pounds over their ideal body weight or having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher. To be clear on that BMI number, my current BMI (I am 5’10 and 271 as of this writing) is 38.9, meaning I am 1.1 points away from being considered SEVERELY obese.

I am heavy I know, but I am not severely obese, and hence the problem with BMI. Behavior, genetics, and environment are all contributing factors of severe obesity. In 2002, 25 percent of individuals affected by severe obesity were being treated for six or more obesity-related conditions (see above for some of those). The issue is really what is the ROOT cause of obesity. Are the co-morbidity issues causing the obesity, or is the obesity causing the co-morbidity?

Much like the “5 Why’s” method of root cause discovery, if you don’t weed out the underlying issue, or the ultimate cause, then the issue will never change. Excessive caloric intake is a proximate cause of weight gain, not the ultimate cause. It is dangerous to assume that because two factors are associated that one is the cause of the other. This much of the problem with the Calorie In Calorie Out theoretical framework. It is ridiculously simplistic in design and theory.

Take, for example, a 300-calorie bunch of spinach. It enters the digestive system and is processed as everything else is but because of the fiber etc only a minuscule amount is converted to carbs for energy. Now, eat a 300-calorie packet of energy gel. There is NO fiber so it bypasses a few steps, immediately enters the bloodstream, and is converted to energy or to fat.

See the difference?

Caloric intake and Expenditure are DEPENDENT variables. decreasing calories in will trigger a decrease in calories out. In other words, a 30% decrease in caloric intake equals a 30% decrease in a caloric burn, producing minimal weight loss. So in a perfect world, the caloric amount should remain the same, but what should change is the TYPE of calories consumed. A calorie is not a calorie, no matter what some nutritionists try to tell you. Food cannot be reduced to its caloric energy, because the metabolic response between food types are not the same.

A “normal” person has a base metabolic rate of 2,500 calories a day should lose weight if they consume less than that over time (yes, it takes more than a day), but if they eat 2,500 calories of carbohydrate-laden fast food, that weight isn’t going anywhere because most of that will be shunted to fat stores instead of burned. BUT, if you eat the same amount of calories but mostly vegetables, meat, and complex carbs (i.e. naturally occurring which is NOT added sugar) the weight should come off.

It is important to learn and understand that obesity is NOT a caloric disorder. Hormones control both calorie in and calorie out, as well as fat growth, which means that obesity is a hormonal disorder.

When the World Gives You a Jeffrey, Stroke a Furry Wall

Seriously … Aldous Snow is a genius.

He takes a simple phrase, which sounds nonsensical when you read it, but in context tells you exactly how to get through the rough patches that life throws you. A Jeffrey, in Snow’s world, is a mix of …

“Weed mostly, with some Opium, Heroin, Crushed up E, Clorox, Morphine, Some of its unidentifiable, oh and a little bit of Angel dust. It’s like a drug Neapolitan.”

… as he explains about 64:00 into the movie “Get Him To The Greek”.

“who could ever be afraid of a Jeffrey?”

Now, I know some reading might jump to the conclusion that I, too, am speaking of drugs, but I look at it as I think the writers were really meaning it, that world throws “Jeffrey’s” at you all the time. It’s never one thing that comes at you … your car breaks down on the same day your son is sick and you can’t miss work because you have a presentation, or you’re running late to training and you forgot you needed gas, so instead of pumping and checking bike you throw it on the car, then get there finally and you have a flat that needs changing.

Bad things never come alone. They come in three’s.

So what do you do when the world slips you a Jeffrey? In the movie, when his handler starts freaking out after smoking the drug, he tells him to “stroke the furry wall”, which is a wall in the club they are in covered in faux fur.

And that calms him down.

So the trick is, as I see it, is to find your own Furry Wall to stroke when the Jeffrey is slipped into your drink. Something to center you, calm you, refocus you on what needs to be done.

But, of course, life being what it is, something else will come along also to push you down that long hallway.

And it’s a long and dark hallway too.

It’s Kubrickian!

 

Life in a Fishbowl

I started writing this blog on November 30, 2010 (which can still be seen HERE). That is going on 9 years now, a fact that is amazing to me, in that the purpose originally for the writing was to log on a daily basis what I was doing and what I was feeling. The first 6 months consisted of posts that were short, to the point, and really not that interesting to anyone other than me.

Or so I thought.

Over that same time frame, people started finding the blog on their own. Yes, I did the occasional post on Facebook that there was a blog and that there was content there, but what shocked me back then was that people were Googling about things I was writing about and finding the blog without any input on my part. This is how I met Dave Baldwin. This was how I met a number of other people, both here locally in Florida and all around the country.

I never thought what I said or felt made much difference to most people.

There has also been over the years numerous times where I rubbed some the wrong way or made a comment that was applauded by some and booed by others. Most of the time, probably 98% of the time, I couldn’t care less, but there were times where it mattered. In the course of all these posts, I have only removed ONE blog from publication. Only one. For you data geeks out there that is 1 in 852, or < 1%. It was a post that got a bit too personal about my family and my upbringing, and it hurt people I did not intend to hurt all for a need to “vent” about things I should be over mentally. So I removed it from publication.

It’s still not a bad track record, right?

The problem with blogging, and the podcast, especially doing it like I do, is that longtime listeners and readers tend to think they know you.

On a much larger scale, celebrities have the same issue. Because you watch their movies, TV shows, listen to their music you start thinking you have a personal relationship with them and understand how they feel about things. I am a very open book on the blogs and in the podcast about how I feel about things, and I share both triumphs and failures (or setbacks) openly and without regard to how it might make me look to some. The majority of the time this has been received well, but there have been a few occasions where I was “brought to task” by some who thought they really knew me.

The thing is, they really don’t know me. Only a very few know me, and even they probably discover crap in my head that shocks them.

“Being in a fishbowl, everybody looking at every move you make, talking about everything you do – it’s just a hard life to live.” ~ Allen Iverson

The life you have lived always, ALWAYS, makes you the person you are today.

There are no exceptions to this at all. You can make a choice whether your experience is something you embrace or eschew, but it still affects you. I was abused as a young man (something that might be news to some reading this) and it affected me. Luckily it affected me in the opposite manner, but there are more than a few instances of abused men and women becoming abusers themselves. Children of rape don’t always become rapists. Children of thieves don’t always become thieves.

But … sometimes they do right?

“Sometimes people think they know you. They know a few facts about you, and they piece you together in a way that makes sense to them. And if you don’t know yourself very well, you might even believe that they are right. But the truth is, that isn’t you. That isn’t you at all.” ~ Leila Sales, This Song Will Save Your Life

I am not saying all that in order to get into a debate over psychology or neurology or to discover causal links between all of that. My whole point is that how we were raised determines, to a large extent, who we are as an adult, for better or for worse. My underlying point is that reading a blog, or listening to me on a show, doesn’t mean you know my entire history, so if I have a reaction to something that seems … out of line or unnecessarily intense … it probably is due to something inside me that I might not even be aware of myself. I like to think I am a pretty self-aware person, and when I do overreact to something I am one that stews on it for a while trying to figure out the “why” behind it. This is not a new thing. I have always done this. I am not always able to get to the root cause, but many times I am, and I always feel a need to explain a reaction, especially if that reaction hurt someone’s feeling or confused a situation.

I had mentioned in the group and on the show an email I got from a long time listener and reader that called me out for a few things I had said on the show and on my blog after the Infinitus race in 2017.

I am not going to rehash all of it, but what I will say that my INITIAL reaction was … hostile … but I thought better of it and let it sit for a day before I responded or wrote anything about it. I shared the email with other listeners whose opinions I value and they were very helpful in guiding me through interpreting it. The bottom line was that if you read through the often ridiculous rhetoric, the writer actually hit on a few things that I had said on the show myself, so it was nothing new. Where the writer went off the rails was a few of the comments like “you never finish anything lately”, or “how can you be a good coach if you can’t do the events yourself?”.

Both stupid comments and can debunked rather easily. The point being here is that this person, because they have been part of this group and show since the inception, assumed they knew me as well as I know me.

They, of course, don’t.

They see your life through the lens of their own perspective and sincerely believe they have all the information they need to make these judgments.

When people comment without all the facts they lack real empathy. When I was on the climb up Mt. Romance these people were not with me, they cannot feel what I feel, or know how much the pain was. They assume they do. They see your life colored by the historical precedent of their own and don’t know about the external elements of your life which have shaped the decisions you make.

Perhaps they are intimidated by your evidently superior (wo)manliness and the only way they can find to assuage their flailing egos is to convince themselves you need their advice.

It is easy to stand and comment on the lives of others when we view one decision in a vacuum and don’t see the bigger picture. Don’t hold it against them or argue against it, you won’t change their minds. Those who care most about you won’t judge you and they will listen with the intent to understand; not with the intent to reply. Most people have already made up their mind of what they are about to say before you have even spoken. Ultimately only you will ever know what you have experienced to lead you to where you stand now.

I think Brene Brown said it very well:

“It is easier to CAUSE pain than it is to RECEIVE pain. Don’t work out your internal bullshit on me”

I Am a Cancer Survivor

Although I feel I have mentioned it a number of times, both here and on the podcast, I am finding that there are many people that do not know this fact about me; that I am a cancer survivor.

I have always felt odd making that statement. Even though I have done a number of events (12+) with Team in Training, raising money for cancer research, I never felt that I was “one of the survivors” we saw so many times at the kick off meetings. Because of the type of cancer I had, thyroid, it felt like I was falsely placing myself in the ranks of people that fought through this awful disease much harder than I had to. I liken it to how I felt when I first started doing triathlons. Even though I have finished many of them, from Sprints to 70.3’s, because I was still a solid back of the pack participant it never felt right to call myself a triathlete.

But I am one.

And in that same vein, I am also a cancer survivor.

Thyroid cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow in your thyroid gland (a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck). Its job is to make hormones that regulate the way your body uses energy and that help your body work normally. Thyroid cancer is also a rare and uncommon type of cancer, so it makes perfect sense that I would get it, but most people do very well because it is usually found early and responds well to treatment. After it is treated, thyroid cancer may come back, sometimes many years after treatment. Unless, like me, you have the entire gland removed.

But what causes thyroid cancer in the first place, since it is so rare?

Most experts cannot agree on what causes thyroid cancer. Changes in DNA, like most cancers, probably plays a role. People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroid cancer. I, for example, served aboard numerous Navy warships during my ten years serving, which also had radioactive items onboard. Since I had no family history of this cancer, it seems to reason that this may have been the catalyst, just don’t try to tell the military that. Past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer can cause several symptoms:

You may get a lump or swelling in your neck. This is the most common symptom. This showed up the first time on my medical discharge paperwork in 1991. Right there in black & white. “Small Goiter in the neck”. Nothing was done.

You may have pain in your neck and sometimes in your ears. Not really for me. Though I have been known to BE a pain in the neck, that’s different.

You may have trouble swallowing. I did then and I still do now. Feels numb.

You may have trouble breathing or have constant wheezing. Absolutely. I always feel like I am gasping and forcing air into me. Try racing a triathlon, especially a swim, with THAT issue.

Your voice may be hoarse. I lost a vocal nerve when they removed the gland. There went my angelic singing voice.

You may have a frequent cough that is not related to a cold. I always have a slight cough.

Thyroid cancer is treated with surgery and often with radioactive iodine, which was true in my case. What treatment you need depends on your age, the type of thyroid cancer you have, and the stage of your disease. I had to go back from scans every few months to see if there were floating pieces in my body, which was then blasted. After five years I was declared cancer-free, and after 2007 I was no longer required to be checked again.

But the damage has been done.

Thyroid cancer can create havoc in your system. Once the gland is gone you are permanently hypothyroid. You get tired, have little energy, your muscles, especially the large ones like legs, always feel fatigued. You have trouble sleeping. You put on weight. It can affect your testosterone level (which it did), and result in other autoimmune diseases taking up residence (hello psoriatic arthritis).

So, the bottom line is this – I am alive. Yes, I have issues I have to deal with and will continue to deal with the rest of my life, but they are manageable. There are treatments, if not cures, and it can be handled when you set your mind to handle it.

Too Fat to HIIT

I admit it.

When the subject of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) was first brought up to me my instant reaction was exactly the blog title above … basically that I was too fat to be able to participate in HIIT programs. I would not be able to do most of what was being expected and therefore would neither finish the workouts nor continue with it after getting through one or two.

And I see this feeling echoed all of the time on social media. As soon as someone states that they are having a hard time losing weight and a suggestion comes across about HIIT intervals, the immediate reaction is “I am too fat (old, slow, etc.) to do that”.

I am here to tell you that you are being misled, or are trying to convince yourself of this because you don’t really want to do it.

The problem is that this belief is often echoed in the media. Look up HIIT on Wikipedia and you get the following definition:

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. Compared with other regimens, HIIT may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, or improving muscle and bone mass. Researchers also note that HIIT requires “an extremely high level of subject motivation,” and question whether the general population could safely or practically tolerate the extreme nature of the exercise regimen.

So, what this means to a person trying to find an answer is that (1) you need to be highly motivated and (2) if you’re obese it probably won’t work. I am not sure how this result is arrived at since the consistent way I have been able to lose weight was when I was participating in HIIT on a regular basis. There are all kinds of research studies out there that show long course training (i.e. Zone 2) does not help you lose weight either, and in fact, can make you gain weight.

So basically, if you train long and slow you’re screwed, and if you train short and fast you’re screwed.

No wonder people give up right?

The bottom line is this … there is no medical reason that an overweight person cannot or should not do HIIT (OnFitness, September/October 2015).

There is a disconnect in understanding what HIIT actually is and how it is performed. This disconnect, unfortunately, is far too often parroted by the very coaches teaching it in the programs. HIIT is often linked to speed work, sprinting, but this belief is not true for everyone, and especially not true for the overweight population.

HIIT is about effort … not speed.

Someone who is overweight can get the same benefit by simply walking as fast as they can up a hill, then walking back down to recover, then walking as fast as they can back up the hill. Have a hard time walking? Then get on a bike, pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds to a minute, then go easy for a minute or two, then repeat.

The trick is that the all-out effort needs to be to the point you are breathless, and that is different for everyone.

I can go out and try this workout and be breathless running in 15 seconds, while a more fit person might be able to run a good 5 minutes before reaching that state. The result is going to be the same for each person because the effort is the same regardless of the speed or the distance.

I feel like at times people don’t want to have heavy people get thinner or healthier (not the same thing). It seems at times they design programs that make you give up (P90X anyone?) or defeat you in their explanations before you even try it. As a coach, I try not to do that. Even when I sign up for races I know I am not ready for I have never been told me to not do it, and I usually would not tell a client not to do it (unless I really felt they were going to get hurt). I don’t understand a coach or mentor, be it in fitness or in business, that seems to thrive on holding people down rather than raise them up.

And you have seen it.

I know you have.

I see it a lot with age too. People not telling me outright that I am too old to do something but acting surprised when they hear I have entered a race “at my age”.

I have races and events I want to do that I know I am not able to do right now. A Spartan Race maybe, An ultra run eventually. Maybe even an Ironman distance event at some point (the goal is in my 60th year).

Has no bearing on “why” I want to, or “if” I can do it. I want to.

And telling me I’m too fat is not going to stop me.

Dead Zones

One of the hardest parts of being an adult-onset athlete is learning when to back off. We have become so ingrained to sit on our asses for years upon years, that when we do find the energy, the willpower, the need, to get up and start moving, the very thought of sitting back on that couch is anxiety producing. It scares us. This is a hard thing to explain to those who have never been on the “other side”, who has always been active. Taking a day off to them seems easy, and welcomed. When I have a recovery day on the schedule, especially on a weekend day like Saturday, I spend the whole day fidgety. The mere act of sitting still, relaxing, taking it easy is enough to throw me into a panic attack. I get images of scales going past the 300-pound mark again. Images of not being able to get up that hill the next day.

Just typing this is making me antsy.

I will find reasons to prove my point as well, even if some are concocted.

“Took a day off did you? Well, you gained .6 pounds because of that, fella! Get your fat ass back on the road!!”

Our inner voices can be very insensitive at these times.

And we listen to these voices.

“We have lost dozens of pounds yet see in ourselves the same, self-loathing behemoth we were 10 years ago.”

It never goes away.

We can look at pictures of us before and now, and see … SEE … the difference and yet it makes no difference to us in our heads. A day off is giving in to the monster, the 300 pound beast inside me that wants, so badly, to win … at all costs.

So … when I struggled through 2016 to 2018 with injury after injury, along with new and exciting medical issues erupting, and with it some MORE meds to take, I feel like I am at my wit’s end. I was not sure in December of 2017 I actually cared enough anymore to keep going. I was having a crisis of faith, in a way, and was about to give in to Rick (my inner voice has a name) and let the fat guy back out. I went from a low of 238 pounds in January 2014 back to 281 a few months ago.

Rick is back.

And He is angry.

The first thing I needed was to get a grip on was my health and injuries. Normal, and I say normal in the most positive way, coaches spend time on your workouts and training plans. I needed more. I needed someone to look at what I could do, what I have done, and what I can do, and try to help me (I say “try” because I am very hard-headed at times) work through it in a logical manner. This is how I found Meghan Fanning at ZenduranceNow. I had “met” Meghan through a few online groups I was part of, so when I was rambling on about what my issues were, and she started chiming in, I asked her onto the old podcast to discuss injury management. Once talking to her with Andrew on the show I felt like she understood the issues I was having so I contacted her about coaching Jennifer and me, and she agreed.

Meghan is “Up North”, so the coaching was via email and Skype sessions, but what I like about her is that she tells you what she thinks, point-blank, but not to the point that she’ll tell you not to do something if you really want to do it. An example is the Disney Marathon in 2015. I knew I wasn’t ready, she knew it was probably a mistake, but she gave me some pointers and told me to just take the race as it comes and not to be afraid to pull off if I had to. I did end up DNF’ing that race (the first time I had ever DNF’ed a race), but I felt supported, even in that failure. That is what makes her a good coach. She may not like or agree with something, but she listens and attempts to work around the issue without getting me killed.

Unless you count Infinitus. I do think she was trying to get me killed there.

So, the body was taken care of, but that’s the easy part. The mind is the hard part because I have spent 55 years screwing my head up as much as possible without actually tipping over to insanity. I have been told a few times, and once very recently, that one of my strengths is my willingness to look inward and mess with my inner doctrines. This is not something most people can do, especially men, or so I am being told. I find it interesting to be honest, which is why my undergraduate degree is in psychology. I find the way people think fascinating, but it’s easy to look at others and find their … not faults I think … wrong word … find their roadblocks. Each of us has the capability to be great. It is there. The hard part is unlocking the barriers that prevent us from becoming great. Being honest with ourselves, being Self Aware, is important in this. It is not self-deprecating to refer to the group, to myself, as a Fat Slow Triathlete. All of the parts of that title are true. I am Fat, I am Slow, and I am a Triathlete. So what’s the problem?

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” has little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It is meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

A large portion of my change was based on getting my life together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once you get the initial “lethargy” over with as your body is readjusting. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts, and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary. It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to change. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things: You’re neglecting your family! You’re obsessed and that is not healthy! You’re being a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

If you are struggling, I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a coach, whether it be a fitness coach or a life coach. Do your due diligence and find one that matches your personality or fills a need you have in your life. I use joke a lot about how Tara Newman would ask me blunt questions like “well when you finish an Ironman, do you expect to be different?” … reminds me of something my grandfather would have said. My grandfather was my first “life coach”. He had his faults, as do we all, but he had this old world Italian way of looking at things that cut through the bullshit and hit the nail on the head. I have striven, in my life, to be like he was, at least in that manner. He has been gone for almost 30 years now and I have been missing that person in my life ever since. So after struggling for that long with no one, I am starting, at this advanced stage, to fill that void with people I think like, act like, or wish to emulate in some way.

Andrew Weaver and I used to talk on the show about self-destruction or holding back just enough so that you had a reason for not being at the top of your game in training or in a race. It may not seem related but I think it is. A part of me was destroyed in that situation, and I am not sure that I ever fully recovered. There is always a sense of “distrust” in me about relationships, a stand-offishness that allows me the ability to not be hurt if the relationship ends. I have been doing better though. Suffice to say, though, that some can be traced to my inner shittiness and cold-hearted side at the most inopportune moments. I can be an asshole to the nth degree at times. Being aware of it doesn’t make it right though. So, as far as training goes, it’s that part of me that just assumes failure.

Just wrap me up now