TRAIN SMART, CONQUER GOALS. Led by Christine Fletcher, Coach to Spirited Ultra-Endurance Athletes

Endurance Sport Success in a Numbers-Driven Culture

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Here's your workout for the day: "8x1km, work-down." You, the athlete, asks, "work-down?" Coach says, "yup, work-down. See what you can do." 

How would you go about interpreting this workout? How would you go about executing this workout? Are you and your coach in sync with the intention of the workout? Can you get after it or do you need more guidance?

Let's take the same workout format but this time the instructions are: "8x1km with #8 being as fast or faster than #1." This prescription may pose pace management considerations and clarification of the term "fast".

And finally, a third example of the same format: "8x1km - even pacing for each kilometre. Find fast flow. Short rest. Shut it down after 8." To some athletes, this might read like a foreign language. Where are pace targets and recovery intervals? What if you feel you can do 10 reps? How will you explain flow on Strava? 

Since the respective outcome of each session above tells a story, defining whether a workout was successful or not is a complex formula especially when we live in a culture driven by metrics, social media and more is better.  We like to reference faster paces, more watts, and higher volume as true measures of progress worth reporting. We fail to give credit to softer parameters such as flow, recovery, feel or mechanical efficiency.  While metrics offer a very small piece of the puzzle, they give little insight into the human side of effort. 

So what is the secret to finding success in training when we sidestep the data to bond more with feeling, intention, and purpose? How does one report on these parameters? What role does the coach have to articulate intention, mindset and theme of a workout? Athletes that take the time to reflect on a wider view of training objectives will discover that good workouts are often a result of intention and effort vs. winning Strava segments and Training Peaks color coding and medals. 

Would it surprise you to learn that a good workout doesn't always mean completing the workout as exactly written? Or exceeding the prescription? Or that training is a form of practice? Good workouts are the results of taking hold of the intention and giving best efforts relative to the prescription.  Maybe read that sentence again...good workouts are the results of taking hold of the intention and giving best efforts relative to the prescription. Athletes often bump against a wall before they understand that failing a workout helped them eventually succeed. In simplistic terms: Interpretation and objectives matter. Process matters.

The thing about making a practice of training (aka: living) is that your practice spills over into everything you do, whether you're racing or giving a presentation or writing or coaching or running or operating or working in a spreadsheet or parenting. Workout greatness doesn't come from a few heroic efforts. It comes from showing up and being good enough day in and day out over a long period of time. This mindset lessens the risk of injury-emotional and physical-since there isn't a perceived need to put forth heroic efforts every day. The result is more consistent performance that compounds over time. Research shows that sustainable progress, in everything from diet to fitness to creativity, isn't about being consistently great; it's about being great at being consistent. It's about being good enough over and over again. This is why showing up at workouts and taking a long view are two really important inputs to growth and great performance. 

Focus on the process more than results.

Big goals serve as a wonderful motivational tool. But oftentimes we place far too much emphasis on whether or not we achieve a specific goal and not enough emphasis on executing the incremental steps along the way. Adopting a process mind-set means that you set a goal, figure out the steps to achieving that goal that are within your control, and then mostly forget about the goal and focus on nailing the steps instead. It also says that you should judge yourself less on whether or not you accomplished your goal and more on whether or not you executed the process along the way.

A process mind-set ensures that your self-worth never hinges on events that are outside of your control (e.g., you get a flat tire in your first big bike race) and thus increases your stamina and ability to bounce back from failure: something that in and of itself is key to long-term success. It also helps keep your passions "harmonious," or driven predominantly by intrinsic motivation, versus "obsessive," which is all about external results and validation. Whereas harmonious passion is linked to sustainable performance and life satisfaction, obsessive passion is linked to anxiety and burnout.

The following 5 markers of success will help you connect with what matters most in the conscious absence of external validation:

1.         Know the purpose of training sessions and set intentions. 

2.         Reference feel & cognitive alertness in conjunction with metrics.

3.         Consider recovery as a marker of sustainability.

4.         Acknowledge unconscious competence when training.

5.         Honour your ability to train day after day, week after week, year after year. 

6.         Glorify progress by long-term health and enjoyment in the sport.

7.         Use a well-developed and honed library of efforts in everything you do.

8.         Test boundaries and respect your limits.

9.         Know Thy Self. 

10.       Own failure, take risk, be playful, develop community, connect to feel. 

Far too often we operate in a time or performance framework. We judge training session based on whether we swam, rode or ran faster than was written on the paper. How we operate and define success has a direct impact on how we operate in all areas of our lives. Embrace process of being the best athlete you can be on the day and in the moment. Let of fear of failing and judgement. Find your greatness in everything, including sometimes, numbers.

Christine Fletcher

Brite Coaching, 

Coach Britni Bakk's Story

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If ever there was an unsung hero, Britni Bakk would be one. Britni is our sports most humble legend banking well over 40 Ironman races, 12 of which in Kona, Hawaii. While she doesn't sing her praises on social media nor seek public attention, she thrives on sharing knowledge and coaching athletes to their own best self and tapping deep into their emotional, mental and physical potential. 

As one of Brite's Head Coaches, I asked Britni to share a bit of her own story and most specifically, the ebbs and flows of the past couple of years. While she makes it looks, it was anything but....

Two Years in Rearview

Coach Britni Bakk

What two years means in the life of a triathlete ? A lot can happen. In the grand scheme of life that isn't that long. But for a triathlete that has some stalls in their racing schedule it can seem an eternity.

I raced my 12th Kona this year. It was, what I would call, a gratitude race. Grateful to be semi healthy and grateful to be on the start line. 

Let's Begin...

2016 started with a dog taking me down on my bike. A month later a broken tibia from a fall on the stairs. (Don't try to work on a computer as you go down the stairs). Just as my tibia was healed I suffered a seizure. As I was being treated for that the doctors discovered an abnormality in my heart along with high blood pressure. That was a lot to have thrown at me in a 12 month period. The heart issue, known as SVT, warranted surgery. 

As I made forward progress with one injury and a new issue would arise. It was endless. For someone whose has trained and raced healthy for so many years I was in foreign space. I was forced to deal with a new set of obstacles.  Frustration, stress, the possibility of not ever racing again, the possibility of losing the lifestyle I cherish so much. 

With all of the adversity i learned to live, train and race vicariously through my friends and athletes. I learned to focus on what i could do to - to better my athlete body and mind. 

Slowing Down

I started with slowing down. I think this is the most important thing I learned over the 2 year period. We as athletes put so much pressure on ourselves. We maximize every hour of the day to try and balance family, work, training and all the curve balls life throws at us along the way. We have to find the time each and every day for a peaceful activity. Whatever that may be for you, a short walk with your spouse and kids, meditation, devices turned off and a chapter of a good book.  Make it easy and accessible. 

Figure out what activities you can safely do to keep connected to your fitness.  Work on your core- as I was on crutches for 6 weeks and unable to run for 6 months. Core work was key. 15 minutes a day is a difference maker. It sets our body up for all three sports. I swam every day with a pull buoy. I appreciated every single session. The strength that I accumulated in the water was both mental and physical. 

Do what you can when you can. Be patient and things will turn around. My injuries were like the darkest spot of an Ironman. I just had to wait them out until the next aid station and glass of coke.

Getting Back to the Start Line

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The tibia injury was the worse. There were 3 races booked and paid for that all had to be canceled at the last minute.  Santa Rosa 70.3, Ironman Canada and Ironman Cozumel.  I had expected to be healed for each of these races but my leg said no. Then winter came and I was back running. Finally.  Then Bang SVT. The worst part of this was not knowing what was happening. It took the cardiologist time to diagnose and even longer to explain what was, how common it is and most importantly it wasn't life threatening (unless it lead to A-fib). I was given the option for surgery right away. It sounded very invasive and carried the possibility that if something were to go wrong I could end up with a pace maker. I had a two month period where my heart would race to 130 bpm for no reason. The episodes would last from 20 min to 2 hours. As I slowed my life down the episodes were less frequent and shorter. I started to be able actions that would trigger the tachycardia. The plan was to test my heart is race and make a decision based on that.  

Before I go further I was amazed at the number of people I knew or friends of mine knew that had this condition. They were a great source of information and support through this difficult time. Thank you to all. 

I chose to race Honu 70.3 to see how my heart would do. What did I have to lose. If something serious were to happen I would sit up and pull myself out of the race. Within the first 10 meters of the swim my heart went into an arrhythmia. My body felt flush with lactic acid I slowed myself down, waited for my body to stabilize and off I went. How could I not keep going it's such a beautiful swim course. The rest of the swim was fine. It wasn't until 30 km in on the bike that I had another episode. 

Then Ironman Whistler. With fear i faced this race as Honu before but just acknowledging the moment where my heart wasn't happy. I dealt with the moments as they arose. As every athlete does in every race they do. The troubleshooting you go through in a race ! Admittedly it wasn't my greatest day but it got me to my end goal of each year: to get me to the start line at KONA and is a reminder to keep persevering no matter how bad you think you are doing. It is all about decision making in the moment , Staying present and moving forward.

I chose to wait and do my heart surgery two weeks after kona. And now i have a new lease on life. And am grateful to continue to be an athlete. To aim to race as strong as i can. That is all we want anyways in life right To continue to pursue what we love. So appreciate your health ! Take care of yourself ...

If adversity comes your way - embrace it and work on something new or what you can do in the moment.

Life never stops it just changes.

You Matter

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You Matter.

As the year comes to an end, high performing individuals are presented with the wonderful opportunity of reflecting back and mulling over what we achieved, what we learned and how our experiences will shape us going into the next year. 

Never a day goes by that, as a coach to high performers driven in sport, career, family and community, do I not find myself reflecting on the awesomeness of commitment and dream seeking passion sought by all the athletes Brite Coaching is so fortunate to partner and work with. So first I would like to express incredible gratitude for entrusting your athletic (and often times personal & emotional) journey with us. It's been nothing short of training breakthroughs, wild highs, epic lows, vast and diversity endurance racing literally around the Globe, in-field lessons and off course contemplation.  Not one journey is the same and not one athlete "gets it" the first time. Most importantly, everyone's story matters...especially to us.

During the first week of December, myself along with Coaches Britni Bakk and Liz Cullen ventured to Palm Desert to support a crew of over 20 Brite Athletes racing the new 70.3 event. With Britni and I running support on the side lines and Liz in the trenches (securing a spot to Nice 70.3 World Championships as 1st Female in her AG), we were each presented with a unique view into the strides taken by so many athletes and the amazing creation of a Brite community brought together by a lifestyle of endurance sport. 

As we head into the holidays, please find a small window of time to reflect on what you have accomplished and how, if any, changes you will make in 2019. Reflect on what keeps you going in this sport. Reflect on what you need as a dynamic individual to stay in the game, stay inspired, stay disciplined and remain connected to what matters to you, holistically. It's the outcome of these thoughts and values that come rushing into your mind at start lines or at the end of a long event or when the alarm goes off at 5a.m. Get laser focused on showing up for the process of building endurance, resilience, stamina and strength. Be specific when it matters and playful when it doesn't. Avoid random exercise in strong favour of progressive training. This mentality alone will reap dramatic and glaring results.

Let me conclude with two key points before we wrap 2018 and enter a fresh year.  The first is: if you have yet to pick up a pencil and scribble your 2019 intentions (aka: goals), please spend some time doing so. After your first stab at it, brainstorm with your coach or mentor for a little more direction. The exactness of what or how you want your year to play out is less relevant than starting the scribbling process. Shapes will form and desires will spill out. 

The second point is: refresh your commitment to using your training diary.  As trite as it may seem, the training log is invaluable to you firstly and to your coach secondly. Be reflective in your comments and leave out random distractions or, for some, convenient excuses. Be honest, be helpful, be insightful, be creative, be thoughtful and be constructive. Use your training log as intentionally as you might be any other time of the year to gain insights into what you are capable of and what you are noticing about your fitness, fatigue and progress. From beginners to Olympic level athletes, those who reflect daily in a log (or diary) create space to perform and clarity in their abilities. 

Lots on tap for 2019 from new partnerships namely with GarneauBlended for YouBike Tech & Dixie Devil, training camps unfolding, educational clinics, new racing opportunities and virtual platforms to keep you entertained indoors. Keep your communication coming along with best efforts day in day out. You matter.

Execution & Discipline

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Already we are into the thick of race season and thus brings more specific training as each of you prepare for your big 2018 goals. Even though the ground work has been laid in the winter, now is the time to bring it together, translate the training to racing, maintain self discipline (more on this below), maintain a high level of ‘desire to train’, and define execution for your key events. As race reports flow in or coaches meet one on one with athletes about upcoming races, the narrative evolves towards execution and best efforts. 

Sometimes when I ask an athlete “what’s your execute a plan?” they glare back like a deer in headlights. I too delivered a first-class glare before understanding what a) a successful day meant to me b) what the term execution even meant. 

So let’s talk about execution. 

Let me just say this, if an athlete decides to execute the plan, I mean really follow through, a good day almost always presents itself. Optimum execution can be a complex concept to play out effectively because so many factors can influence a long race (some controllable, some not) and for some a long day can be 14, 16, 24 hours+.  I don’t need to tell you guys that the margin of error grows with every passing hour.  Nonetheless, the formula to success is the combination of a million good decisions with as many executable factors as possible. The sum of these two factors almost always net out a great result. 

Make a lot of good decisions + set and execute upon achievable targets = successful execution.  

What about all these decisions to be made? What about external forces? How does one remember everything they set out to do in the plan? The best execution plans stem from a somewhat simple outline. Too many complex details packed into one plan can derail your ability to execute simply because you have too many things to think about.  Athletes use all kinds of tricks to remind themselves when to eat, when to drink, how to feel, who to thank (pictures of their kids on top tube!), what pace to ride/run, where their bike is racked, what direction to go, etc. As we tire, the more reminders we may need. Optimum execution takes planning and lots of it. It starts early in the process, it takes practice, it takes time away from your day to sit down and write it out, visualize it, create the framework then make sure it is possible. Create techniques that work for you and watch what others do. Over the years I have observed and learned from so many athletes - I adopt and adjust their ideas to work for me. On the rare occasion, I make up my own trick. Brite Coach Britni Bakk has taught me more tricks of the trade then she will ever know! 

The other aspect of embracing and owning race execution is to practice it and simulate it in training sessions. Practicing your execution in training allows you to process decisions, visualize the sequence and plot fuelling or gear or hydration or pacing. Come race day, it’s just a matter of doing what you already know how to do with a few other people around to bring out the best in you.

Consider this “execution” mindset for your next event: 

Focus on OUT-EXECUTING your competitors or peers around you. If you are the one athlete that remains focused, holds attention on the task at hand and sets out to do what you planned to do, you will guarantee yourself a great outcome. If you focus on out-executing everyone around you, you will rise to the surface simply by committing to execution. The trick is to apply your plan in action. Anyone can write out a plan, create lists and set intentions but the magic happens when the plan is applied in the field when critical decisions need to be made. So few actually do this. It is all too easy to go off plan. It’s much harder to stay the course, persevere and carry through with your execution plan especially when unforeseen forces are driving you to give up and give in. Those who do execute always have a great race. 




Where Does Discipline Comes From?

On the heels of execution, I wanted to also touch on discipline since this too is a reoccurring theme in recent discussions and observations in training logs and athlete feedback. 

On occasion, I notice athletes seeking external discipline to help carry their training especially at this time of year when training gets specific, longer and more interruptive of life. If you signed up for a race or event, you experienced a moment of commitment to a goal. The goal was in the future and the consequences of your commitment did not seep in quite yet. As days, weeks, and months rolled on, you started to notice how this commitment had consequences to your usual schedule. That volleyball game you play on Sundays is now bumping up against a planned ride. How’s this going to work? 

If you are one of those athletes that easily flips the switch, gets onboard and structures your life to accommodate new training time with work, kids, family and many one hobby then you likely understand where discipline comes from. If you are someone that is bumping up against a new training load or how to “get it all in” or creating a new normal for yourself, then maybe discipline is a trait yet to be developed. Either way, everyone, including myself, can use a reminder about where discipline comes from. 

Discipline comes from within. Discipline is an internal force.  Sure, you can have discipline imposed on you by another person, a coach or a self help guru but the reality is none of them will give you real discipline.

External discipline is not strong. It will not survive. It will not stand on its own.  Self discipline, as the very term implies, comes from self…from within you. It comes from an internal decision to be better. If you don’t think you are disciplined it is because you haven’t yet decided to be. You haven’t created it yet. You haven’t become it yet. To become disciplined you have to make a decision and commitment. You must embrace it’s relentless power and become it. Discipline, in my experience, will make athletes better, stronger, faster, than anything else.  When an athletes doesn’t want to get up early on a weekend to ride, that’s discipline playing a hand. When an athlete would rather do other things but then later regret that decisions because they could have done it, that again is discipline playing them. 

And yes, if it were easy to have self discipline it wouldn’t be such a unique, practicable and improve-able trait. To get up early, to get it done and to get the training in is what you signed up for when you paid the money for that race. The process is not all unicorns and rainbows once you sign up for the event. Athletes don’t magically create themselves into the event: they have to do the work and put in the hours. No one, there is not one single except, is unique to this requirement.

The glory of finishing, completing and accomplishing something you signed up for is a direct result of the work you put in, the discipline you showed and the commitment towards that discipline. What’s not so shocking to anyone is that  discipline is a common thread through everything - if it shows up in our athletic life and training endeavours, it shows up in other aspects of our lives. We can use athletics and sport to practice a renewed commitment to being self disciplined. Every day we have a choice. Every day we get to renew our commitment. Every day we get to practice disciplined from within. 



Focus Constantly on Getting Better

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When athletes or "performers" focus on constantly getting better - be it through global health, relationships, nutrition, training, mindfulness or engaging both the internal an external worlds, one common thread is the journey has no end. The journey is constant, the goal is the path and the path is the goal. Below is an adapted list of 15 practices offered by author and expert in health and human performance, Brad Stulberg, on the path towards growth and development. 

Stress is a stimulus for growth. Without stress living organisms don't adapt, don't change. So you need stress. But stress is only beneficial in the right dose and when you have the capacity, resources, and support to absorb it. And stress is only valuable when it's followed by rest.

The space during which growth occurs. Without rest, we stand no chance at absorbing and growing from challenges we face. If you want to develop your body, mind, or soul you've got to understand that rest - that simply "being" - is every bit as important as doing.

Health is multidimensional. It is physical and mental and emotional and spiritual. It is also integral to lasting progress. It is true that you can burn "brite" for a while without a foundation of health, but keep existing in this way and eventually you'll burnout. Sacrificing health is myopic. The long-game requires it.

Research shows that the people with whom you surround yourself influence your performance and wellbeing by up to 30 percent. When things are going well community pushes you and celebrates you and keeps you grounded. When things aren't going well a tribe of support is everything.

A coach is there to see what you don't see and to point you in the direction of growth. The best coaching relationships are rooted in shared humility and caring. A good coach doesn't just show or tell. They walk with with you on your path - sometimes leading and sometimes following.

Show up, even when you don't want to. Doing so makes you better not only at your craft - via compounding gains - but also at the skill of exerting effort itself. The path of mastery isn't about being consistently great. It's about being great at being consistent.

In many ways, presence is synonymous with peak performance. When you are fully there - completely immersed in your pursuit with concentrated attention - you are almost always at your best. Practicing presence leads to a better body of work and a richer, more textured life.

If you really care about what you do you'll put your all into it. If you really care about the people with whom you interact you'll put your all into them. Caring serves as the cutting edge of personal and social evolution. Caring is quality. Caring is love. You've got to care.

Once you think you know you cease to keep knowing. Once you think you're good you cease to keep getting better. But there is always more to know. Always room to get better. Without humility there can be no growth.

It's knowing, based on a body of evidence, what you can and can't do, and then moving forward accordingly. Confidence isn't something that you have or you don't. It's not something you're born with. Confidence is something you build.

Drive means relentless pursuit. Often born out of insecurity, at its best it's fuelled by love. Drive must be channelled. It can be productive and beautiful and enlarging when pointed toward growth and development. It can be destructive and diminishing when pointed at external validation. The best drive comes from the inside.

Patience is letting things happen instead of making them happen. Not to be confused with passivity, patience is about persistence. Gentle persistence. It's about surrendering to a process and being present as it unfolds. Staying on the path of mastery in any endeavour requires patience.

Toughness is about doing the hard thing because it's the right thing. Sometimes this means putting your head down and grinding it out. Other times this means backing off and asking for help. Toughness lives on the inside. The people who don't act tough are generally the toughest of all.

You've got to be honest - and okay - with yourself. Acceptance does not mean doing nothing but rather acknowledging and starting where you are. Not where you think you should be. Not where you want to be. Where you are. Because if you don't start where you are, you'll never really get anywhere.

Vulnerability starts with being honest with yourself. Why are you doing what you're doing? What are you seeking? What could you be doing better? Are you open to receiving help? Answering these questions - being vulnerable - is uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable leads to growth.

Brad's offers 10 Commandments to Peak Performance as well as 57 pages of key quotes from the book