For new readers

To get an idea of what I'm trying to do and why I think it's possible, check out the following entries, they'll help get you up to speed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


A few things to report quickly -

#1)  a few days ago i posted a few of my training ideas on a forum at beginner triathlete - i wasn't sure what to expect but got quite a response (much of it predictably negative - fair enough - its a crazy idea that flies in the face of conventional wisdom).  I learned a few bits of internet lingo - trolling, OP - and a ton about my own ideas simply because i had to articulate them, with great attention to detail, to a 'hostile' audience.  Good discussion with critics is one of the best ways to flesh out your thoughts.  One thing that i said which was challenged over and over again was my statement that i wasn't really genetically gifted.  Most folks disagreed, claiming that i must be even to think i could run a boston qualifying marathon (BQ in triathlon-forum speak).  Hmm - perhaps i 'understated' my own genetics.  I guess i'll have to think harder about realistically how these old genes of mine measure up before ruffling feathers with these kinds of claims.  After all (and i'm no exception), people like to think that folks that are doing things that they "can't" have some unfair advantage... anyway, for those who are interested - you can follow the thread here. Warning - its a bit long and could easily distract someone for an hour or so!

#2) i've received the go ahead from Breathe magazine - a canadian adventure rag - to write a piece for their march issue about training for serious endurance events (or 'some of the toughest events on the planet' as i wrote in my pitch) on 2 hours per week.  I'm excited!  now i just need to make sure to finish this race i'm about to do so there can be a cool 'editors note' in the sidebar:  A few days after this article was written, the author put his training to the test in the Frozen Otter Ultra Trek, a 64 mile winter trail race - finishing in a time of 21 hrs and 42 minutes.  In the five years the race has been held only 11 people have finished and the race boasts a success rate of only 6%.  

I'll make sure not to mention that I had Grant carry my pack and tow me the last 25 miles.....


  1. Hey Andy, I was just poking around on BT and saw your post over there. I didn't have time to read all or even most of it, but I skimmed. I, too, thought you were out of your mind, or just trolling...until I popped over here to your blog and saw the list of endurance events you've done. Without that context of your endurance background, you just sounded delusional. Now, I have little doubt you could pull of a 12-13 hr IM, or better, if you wanted to. Now I'm really intrigued!

    Add me, though, to the list of those who suspect that part of your success is a genetic gift for endurance sports. I don't think you're the "average Andy" genetically...not a genetic freak necessarily, just well above the norm. You've already done some stuff that would break many a 12 hr IMer. Or, maybe I'm wrong. Whatever...honesty wishing you the best of luck in your upcoming endeavors. Hope Frozen Otter goes well. I have a friend doing that race, too.


  2. Steve - thanks for the comment! What's the guys name doing FO? maybe i'll run into him out there in the middle of the long cold night and we can chat. One thing i'm struggling to write about (or even articulate) is an ideas that i have about the role of the mind in unlocking the actual limits of ones potential. Alot of what i do would break many 12 HR (or faster even) IMers only because of the controlled nature of IM and the fact that most people have greater physical preparation for such events but as a result don't have to 'dig as deep'. Its probably hard to develop this mental capacity using conventional methods. i will defer to other peoples opinions as to any genetic gifts i might possess physically, but am really more interested in discovering/testing where i can get to through application of this mindset in combination with a level of physical fitness that i feel is, at least to many 'athletes' - readily attainable. Cheers -

  3. It's Matt Bartz I was referring to, from Wisconsin. I totally agree with you on the critical role the mind plays in these things, and that the more extreme the challenge, the more it becomes mental test more so than physical. I did triathlon/Ironman from 2001 through 2008, but in 2008 I started doing ultramarathons. Now, I've lost interest in Ironman. It's too controlled, too predictable. It's not easy, or course, and it is indeed hard to go fast. But the challenge of just trying to do the same thing, only faster, lost its appeal for me. Now, I'm enjoying testing myself over distances and terrain I once believed impossible to simply finish, and loving it! Good luck this weekend!

  4. Let me just chime in on Andy's complete lack of genetic gift, definitely not any way...really. Ha ha, I dunno, is mental toughness and ability, no, eagerness, to suffer genetic? I do think you underestimate how long conditioning and technique training stay with you. All the sports you've ever done still contribute to your ability to perform now. Things like swimming in high school are as much of a base as the training you did this month. I've recently experienced this with running. I ran for 3 years in high school, took 20 years off, and started back almost where I left off. Same with climbing, biking, etc. I would say that your 2 hours a week is just dusting off the cobwebs and resharpening abilities that were lying dormant within you. Have you been able to pick up a completely new discipline without exceeding the 2 hours? I've just started to learn to swim, having absolutely zero background. My upper body fitness from climbing enables me to apply a lot of force, but to learn the subtle techniques to be efficient will take much longer. I might buy the 2 hours a week concept if it were to focus on a single activity at a time, like a month of biking, a month of swimming, a month of running, then a month of mixed prior to an event. But you have to be honest in evaluating your program as to where your true starting point is, because for you, it's not from scratch.

  5. Mike - i agree - life is base fitness. So what this means to me is that there is this awesome cumulative principal at work - i can slowly add to my base, with limited volume and still get pretty damn fit - fit enough to do whatever i want pretty much. so you're right, i have a base. one of my issues with the typical mindset is that a 'base' is this thing that can only be gotten via such and such a path. And beyond that, as you've seen - i'm convinced that there is a very much overlooked mental component to realizing ones physical potential. As far as learning a new skill - why not? patterns are best learned fresh, not fatigued.... I guess instruction (ie a dedicated swim coaching session working on stroke technique) would probably not be considered 'training' - but everything else would. To learn wing paddling technique i took a one hour coaching session in San Diego and then just practiced on my own within my training - worked fine.

    Steve - congrats to Matt - i believe he finished in the last hour, right? what a great and tough race!

  6. Mike, I think you make a good point about "not starting from scratch", but I think there is more to it. I think your past activities do play a big role in how well you do something. Those activities created a muscle memory that allows you to be more efficient and faster than if you just started a new activity for the first time. But like Greg Lemond said "We all suffer the same, the Pro's just go faster". So, Andy's main question is how does someone have the mental capacity to suffer for longer periods of time than others? I can definitely say I am not a runner. I hate running. I don't feel good when I'm running, or after I'm running, even if it is only a 5k going slow. But, get me in a race, and I'll push through it, begging to die the whole time. I know for a fact, if I wanted to, I could go run a marathon right now with zero training. I know because I look at it not as "26.2 miles", but as "about 3-4hrs"... easy. I won't win the race, but I will suffer as much or more than the person who does, yet my total suffering time is longer. So, we know who has the better physical strength, but who has the better mental strength? You see some evidence of highly gifted pro athletes excelling in their respective high intensity sport, but see how they do in a 10hr+ type of endurance race, and most of them will likely crack because they are not about speed, but recovery, patience, and time. To me, the mental toughness comes from the mind's ability to ignore physical pain, refocus your thoughts on being patient, and allowing time to pass quickly. I recently ice skated for a lofty 200lap goal in my hourlong practice, and what was on my mind that concerned me more than anything was how little time was left when I was only half way through. That's all I could focus on, and I went faster because of it. It seemed each time I looked at the clock, 5 min went by. It was like I was in a time warp. That is usually what happens to me in any endurance event... time flies and 6, 12, 18+hrs feel like only minutes.

  7. Ice - i pretty much agree - someone with just average fitness (a guy or gal that does moderate cardio a few times a week and is of healthy weight, etc - in my view, has the physical potential to do things that mainstream fitness culture would tell them they simply can't - provided they are able to access that potential through these nebulous mental qualities. I look at the grueling physical ordeals that refugees, etc - often manage - walking over mountain ranges, etc for dozens of miles a day with what we'd consider 'inadequate' gear. When options are taken away, many people can dig substantially deeper than when they remain (i can just drop out of the race) - particularly in a culture where all of the rest of our 'education' attaches a lack of suffering to success. When one can tap into that 'survival instinct' and employ it in situations somewhat artificially (the interesting thing here is that on occasion, depending on the nature of the challenge - pushing this hard can sometimes lead to it not being artificial any more - i've had a few experiences with mike along these lines i recall) - we start to unlock our potential. This of course works for trained athletes too, and can make them impossible to beat sometimes. for example one of (in my opinion) the toughest guys in the world is richard usher - a record setting ironman triathlete from NZ, top mountain runner and multisport phenom - and this guy can push for days without sleep and right at his breaking point. how do you top that? But again, i've found that on my unconventional training , and the cumulative effect of not having had any real lapses in 'fitness' throughout my 36 years - i've developed this sort of 'slow built' base that never required LSD training (LSD racing/expeditions, yes - training, no). And those years of climbing and epics gave me that mental gift of being able to dig deeper which lets me, at least as a recreational athlete, compete (in my opinion) with dedicated athletes following a more conventional approach and putting in many more miles. FYI - mike, who i went to college with, would still kick my ass as he's got the mental stuff in spades and is no doubt at a higher fitness level.... although i'd still take him in the swim (for now) (;