Thursday, May 27, 2010
JP: Hillary, what did you do for training today?
HB: I started the day by hitting the road with two of my favorite girls: my neighbor, Sam McGlone, and another stud pro ironwoman, Tara Norton, who has been staying with me here in Tucson. Sam had some pre-race cycling intervals to do, so we did those with her, and then added some miles to make for a 2.5-hour ride (46 miles). My legs were pretty shelled before this ride even started, and it took everything I had to match Sam’s pace! I was so thankful for my girls’ company for making me push through it.
Then an hour later we were in the pool. I just had a cruisey swim on the schedule, so I actually got to pace Sam for some race-pace stuff; that was a fun change of pace since she regularly rips my legs off on the bike! My swim was just 4,000 yards today.
In the afternoon I completely passed out in my bed and then had to consume a huge quantity of coffee and chocolate to get moving again. Eventually I ended up on the treadmill at my gym—and even convinced Tara to join me—for a 93-minute hill session. Afterwards she accused me of trying to kill her. Which of course meant she loved it.
JP: What has your training been like to give you the ability to race multiple ironmans every year?
HB: I think I have trained myself to a level of fitness in which racing an ironman just doesn’t take the toll on my body that it once did. I am able to recover quite quickly, but this recovery requires a whole lot of months and years of training in the bank, and then doing the first ironman of a set (two or three in very close proximity) without much rest at all. That sometimes hurts, but I know that I can still usually record a solid finish at the first one, and then will feel even stronger the following week.
JP: Your Ironman Wisconsin win was seen as a breakthrough, but you were right there and had placed second the two previous years. Compare the win with the two second places in terms of the day and what took you to the top.
HB: By the time I arrived in Madison in 2008, I had logged five second-place iron-distance finishes in two years. Needless to say, ever since I led the race in ‘06 through mile 90 of the bike and then finished just five minutes out of first, I had been dreaming of winning Ironman Wisconsin. I was pretty determined that ‘08 was my year, and everything went according to plan on the day until I got passed about mile 21 on the run after leading from the start. I tried to challenge the woman who passed me (Karin Gerber)—to go with her—and I couldn’t. I spent about a mile feeling demoralized and then got my act together, remembering that anything could still happen, even though she eventually got about two minutes up the road from me. I kept my eyes glued on the lead bike next to her and around mile 23.5, found something inside myself that I didn’t know I had. As in, I thought I was giving my run that all, but I found another gear, and it was like I was magnetically pulling Karin back towards me. I was able to pass her back at the mile 25 marker, but honestly, this had taken so much effort that I didn’t know if I would make it to the finish. This final stretch was mostly uphill and I pretty much couldn’t even allow myself to celebrate til I hit the finish tape in first. It was amazing how surreal it all was, especially given how many times I had imagined this moment!
JP: After Ironman Wisconsin ’08, I threw up a ton and blacked out to celebrate. How did you celebrate after that race?
HB: Haaa wow that is impressive! Pushing myself to the point of vomiting on the finish line has always been a goal of mine! I have yet to do it—only during the race, which I would imagine isn’t quite as fun.
I celebrated my win much in the way that I celebrate every ironman finish, which is to return to the finish line and cheer in the last couple hours of finishers. I love the finish line in the final hours! Only this time was extra special because I was able to stand in the finish chute with my dear friend and Co-Champion Chris McDonald and be introduced as an Ironman Champion for the first time.
JP: Lightning Round!
How do you take your coffee: increasingly more black every month it seems!
Worst habit: overcommitting
Favorite place to train: Tucson, Arizona
Favorite bike workout: Mt. Lemmon time trial
Workout in the AM or PM: AM
Best book you’ve read recently: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Last song you listened to: Imma Be (Black Eyed Peas)
JP: When did you decide you would pursue triathlon as a career?
HB: After my first pro race, Ironman Florida 2004, I decided it was time to put everything on the line and give a triathlon career a try. I had just come back from a broken hip and major surgery earlier that year and was able to finish right in the middle of the pro field. But I was also mid-way through a really intense English PhD program at the University of Southern California and knew I was compromising both my academic and athletic pursuits by trying to do both; there really wasn’t time for things like sleep! I didn’t ever want to look back and wonder what I could have done as a professional athlete. It was a fantastic opportunity but also a huge risk; I loved my studies and teaching at the university and was not pleased to give them up. I suppose there was also the chance—likelihood, actually, according to the odds—that I wouldn’t “make it” as a pro. But I guess I didn’t waste a lot of time worrying about that. I just went for it, and I have been very fortunate not to have had to look back.
JP: It’s probably safe to say that Brett Sutton was instrumental in your rise through the ranks. When did you start working with him and could you describe what life was like at team TBB?
HB: He absolutely was. I am forever indebted to Brett for teaching me how to be a professional athlete and helping me develop the tools I needed to make it in this sport. I started working with him in October 2005. He told me early on that what it would take to get some results was “going to bed very, very tired, and waking up very tired every single day for three years.” That describes life with Brett’s training pretty well. I often woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, and learned quickly that there was nothing to do but get moving and get over it—because “easy” days were very few and far between. When we began our project, neither Brett nor I imagined that three years of that kind of work would result in an Ironman title; almost three years to the day later, it did.
JP: What is the best athletic advice you received?
I can’t think of any particular quote here, but what I have benefitted from throughout my athletic career is training with champions and learning by example. When I was a swimmer at the University of Southern California, I had teammates who were Olympic gold medalists and world record holders. Then as part of Brett Sutton’s squad, I had the privilege of training with many great Ironman Champions. I’ve always thrived on being the proverbial small fish in a big pond, as I have learned so much about being a professional and what it takes to be a champion from these training partners.
HB: What advice would you give to an age grouper regarding Ironman training?
A lot of people want to make training a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be. No gadget or fancy equipment is going to make you a champion. To a great extent, what improvement comes down to is simply saying “yes” to the alarm clock every morning-- getting the work done, day in and day out. There is no magic bullet. CONSISTENT hard work is the key.
JP: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Last question, why do you race with a pearl necklace?
HB: Actually it is a silver Tiffany star necklace. It was a gift from my parents and I love it! If I took it on and off for each ironman, it would have been lost years ago!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
So here I sit, ready for my first race (digo races) of the season. I am fairly tapered; however, I put in a lot more hours than my usual taper. I figured I was shutting it down too much and wanted to see how I would respond to a higher workload taper.
Anyway, I am bored in the airport so I thought I would share some Airport observations as I think it is a strange strange environment.
#1 Airport Security is effing intimidating. I feel like a criminal when I try to bring an empty coffee thermos through.
#2 The bathrooms are luxurious as hell. I prefer the handicapped stall, as that is quite the spacious palatial estate. If it is wrong to use it, then I don’t want to be right.
#3 People eat like they are going into a famine. Like Burger King is the last food they will see for 6 months. I try to avoid this but there is something about the herd feeding that really speaks to my soul.
Alright gotta get out of here. This woman next to me is hacking up a lung and I am getting disgusted.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I met a dude named Anthony at an overpriced bike shop. He seemed pretty cool and had just qualified for Kona with a 9:35 at Arizona. We talked a bit and agreed to train sometime. Usually this would be blowing smoke but I actually followed through. MAN DATE! On Saturday, we set out to a pool in Santa Monica. Amazing 50m pool and really solid swim set. 20x100 and we were moving like sleek beavers in a muddy river.
After that, we headed to a diner for some breakfast. As we were talking in line, Cameron Diaz walked in! We tried not to notice as I’m sure she loves gawkers. She smelled like rotten Salmon for some reason.
That last part was a lie just to check if you’re paying attention.
We then headed to Highway 1 as it was time to ride bikes. Basically 40 miles pretty comfortable, charging all the hills.
It was really good day of work and my man date was so good that we have a ride on the docket for tomorrow. He is even getting me out of bed for early training. I am blushing. He nicknamed me Johnny Rocket.
I was so pumped to meet someone so even. We are going to smash each other for the next 3 months.
Stay tuned for a hilly race report from Triple T. 4 hilly races in 3 hilly days. Total hilly distance of a hilly Ironman.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Andrew: Coming from a running background and now crossing into triathlon, define suffering...is suffering in Triathlon and Running the same?
Jeff : Suffering…for me suffering has always been when physical or mental performance begins to decline due to the high stress levels a race can place on the body and mind. Suffering for me has definitely been different in running than triathlon. Physical suffering completely different…in running I know I’m suffering when my legs begin to tire and I completely fall off the pace. Most of the time after races when I look back the suffering was more mental than physical…i.e. I didn’t think I could handle the pace and thus my body slowed down. It’s a much different feeling in triathlon. I think of suffering in triathlon when my body is actually starting to restrict performance most often through cramping. It is why nutrition plays such a role especially in long course events.
In regards to the mental aspect of suffering for me it is totally different between (only running), and triathlon running. If I’m doing a running only race, I find myself wanting it to end as soon as possible. That mindset probably creates more physical problems because I think about how much it hurts. In triathlon I am quite the opposite. Because the run is where I can gain time on competitors I don’t want it to end. The longer we have to go the better. Mentally it is a huge plus because I wouldn’t want the race to end unless I’d gotten a chance to get to the front.
Andrew: What do you tell your friends when they:
- want to go out for a beer close to a race?
- want to go to an event and you have a big workout to get in?
- ask you how you are doing (and you are wasted from the days workouts)?
Jeff: The social life…oh boy. There's no doubt my time is restricted when I'm into full training mode. If it's during the school year I'm spending 40 hours a week working on top of 20-30 hours a week in total training time while trying to be a good husband and father of 2 young children. If a friend wants to go for a beer close to a race I'll do what I almost always do when something comes up...I'll ask my wife for permission. Sometimes I know not to even ask if I've been gone training a lot. My first thought would be on how much time I've been gone as opposed to the race since I don't think a beer would hurt. Now if they were going out late into the night partying I'd decline and tell them why because I want them to know what I'm committed to. Most of the time they don't ask any more because they know my plate's full.
Honestly, I don't think there are many events as important to me as some of the big races. I've invested so much time and sacrificed so much that it would not be worth missing a key workout unless the schedule allowed for the workout to be moved easily to a different day. When they ask how I'm doing after a tough day of workouts I normally tell them what I did and I don't have to say much more than that. I think there are many people who don't understand why triathletes, even most age groupers put in the time they do training. Triathlon is an addictive sport and training for some becomes part of their lifestyle. They have to get it in. This can be fine if they keep other things in balance but I find it's toughest for me when I feel an injury or sickness coming on and I struggle to back things down. In summary, I have told friends when I'm in full training that I really have no social life. Something's got to give in the circle of time and right now I'll sacrifice social life to pursue my dreams.
Andrew: What drives you?
Jeff: I’ve always loved to compete. I played about every sport out there growing up…even soccer which I terribly regret. One thing was always constant regardless of the sport I was competing in…I loved to compete and hated losing. It didn’t matter if I was racing my brother through a word search during church service, trying to throw the football through the tire swing in the back yard, playing one on one basketball games in the snow covered driveway…I loved to compete. Even still today in my classroom I play my students in Connect 4…a game I’ve mastered. I track my success against them through the year and had 196 wins versus 5 losses last year. Each of those losses had me fuming on the inside although I tried to hide it from the class.
2 years ago I started the summer at nearly 200 lbs. I’d been a recreational triathlete the past few summers. I almost decided to not race that summer because I was so fat and out of shape. Through the summer I lost about 25 lbs. and began having success in races. I started wondering how good I could be if I devoted everything. I knew that would mean I’d have to stop coaching track and cross country during the school year. I’d just been named the head track coach for the upcoming season but the more I thought about going “all in” for something the more I was drawn to the idea. I knew I had potential and the idea of finding out how good I could be was too good to pass on. My wife and I sat down and talked about it and she threw her support in my corner. That was important because with 2 children (1 at the time) I could not train as much as I do without her being in this journey with me. I have my whole life to get back into coaching…I want to spend a few years competing against the best in the world simply because I can. When I’m done I want to know there was nothing more. I’m on this journey to find my potential. It’s been well worth it. The journey has helped me to lose 49 lbs. from my peak of 202 and I have more energy for everything I do.
Andrew: Pertaining to your big race career that is just starting; would you rather have a career in triathlon of mainly mid pack (5th-10th place finishes) with 1 or 2 big wins or consistent podiums, but lacking the crown of race champion?
Jeff: If I had to choose between a career of consistent podium finishes or a bunch of mid-pack finishes with 1 or 2 big wins I’d definitely go with the mid-pack finishes with 1-2 big wins. This may be different if I stopped teaching and needed to be on the podium to support myself and my family financially. With money not an issue, winning a big race would be something I would remember forever. It’s hard to imagine how many hours, how much pain, how many sacrifices go this entire journey…to win a big race would forever be a reflection of how much it took to get there. Part of what motivates me is finding out how good I can be in the sport. When I stopped coaching to begin this journey my goal was get my pro license within 2 years. It was something I thought about every day in training. When I got it in October during year 1 I wondered how my motivation would change now that I’d reached what I set out to accomplish. Almost immediately my focus went to proving to myself and others that I belong in the pro field. I’m inspired to find out how high up the ladder I can climb. If I could win 1 big race I’d feel pretty good about how far I’ve come. In a different kind of way I’m much like you in putting aside something (in your case the job and in my case coaching) to chase this dream. A big win would be extremely meaningful in how far I’ve come. I had a lot of people who thought I was nuts because they knew how much I loved coaching and we’d had a lot of success winning 3 state cross country titles and 1 in track and field. The doubt of others only fueled my fire and I know there are those out there who think I’ll struggle in pro races. That fuel makes it easy to train hard.
Andrew: If you had the opportunity to have the talent of 1 athlete for one day, who would it be and why? (Does not have to be a triathlete)
Jeff: If I could have another athlete’s talent for a day it would be Michael Phelps. I would use that talent to feel what it is like to swim much faster than I’m capable of. My hope is that by feeling the water like he does I’ll be able to do it myself when his talent leaves me. I see such tiny improvements with my swimming month after month and I feel it must be technique related. I watch videos of myself, videos of other…Phelps included, practice drills and technique…and I feel the same speed week after week. I’d like to have his talent for 1 day but then learn from that experience so I can be faster for the rest of my life.
Thanks guys for phenomenal questions and responses. Great insights from both of you. I know both of you are dealing with setbacks in the form of injuries right now. Know that Evotri is behind you and wishes both of you a speedy recovery. For updates, check out Andrew’s Blog and Jeff’s as well. Both are excellent reads.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
1. When you decided to turn professional in the sport, what were your biggest fears/apprehensions and how did you deal with or overcome those?
AS- 1a - When I got my pro card...It was a no brainer, I stayed in the age group ranks until I did everything I wanted to do as an age grouper (except for win nationals, which was canceled in 2005). I won the big races...Wildflower* (Olympic), Memphis in May, and Chicago* (*-Course Record) along the way picking up a podium at Age Group World Champs. So it was time for me to go race the big dogs.1b - Turn Professional...Give up my great engineering job to chase my dreams. January 31, 2009 I gambled and took a severance package from Caterpillar (which 1/2 of my group was laid off in the following weeks) and never looked back. My biggest fear, not making it as a true professional triathlete. I really haven't overcome it, my ability to continue in the sport pends on my performances at local, regional, national, and international competitions. Yet, as soon as I take that first stroke, pedal rev, or step in a workout the thought about money or making a living is gone. It is about the love of it...because there is very little money in the sport, it sounds corny, but it is about the love of the game, and I got it bad.
2. You’ve had great success in both Olympic distance and 70.3 race distances. How is your approach to those 2 races different in training and actual race execution? Which do you enjoy the most? What distance will we see you racing most down the road…say 5 years from now.
AS- Olympic distance is the heart of the sport to me. It is a race that, if done properly, is 110 min of flooding your body with lactic acid and denying suffering at a very intense level. The Olympic distance is about being aggressive start to finish, it is about getting seconds, not being able to speak or comprehend anything. It is about 1 thing, getting to that finish line, FAST. The half distance is a lot more controlled and a lot less fun. For me I just stick it 5-10% below Olympic distance intensity and play the waiting game until the tank runs dry. Usually that happens between miles 6-10 on the run. Then comes fantasy land, disillusion, and just put one foot in front of the other until that finish line.
I train for the Olympic distance and what I will do is put a half at the end of a block of races. Last summer: Decatur, Lifetime, Evergreen, New York, Steelhead. Last fall: Westchester, LA, Dallas, Clearwater. In training for Olympic distance you have the bare bones for the 1/2 distance. Your long swims, rides, and runs are close to 1/2 distance. Then there is the mental side. The pain threshold for Olympic distance training is so intense and requires so much more focus that when you go longer it is easier on the mind. The pendulum shifts from Lactic pain tolerance to confidence that you can hold your pace til the finish. To say the least, I preach Olympic distance. You can race it week in, week out and have enough energy to have a beer with your friends afterward.
3. What inspired you to get started in triathlons? What was your background? When did you realize you could dominate on the bike?
AS- My good friend Adam Frankel bet me that he could beat me in a triathlon (He swam and ran). I blew him off. He tried this for the next 2 years, and then got really smart. He got my mom to do it. So if my mom, who had never raced or even run was going to do it, I had to do it. I did the race...I was 3rd out of the water, 2nd off of the bike, and finished 3rd (barely).My background...I grew up playing soccer and started swimming freshman year of high school. By the time I was a senior I was an All American swimmer. My Junior year I gave up track due to my swimming frame and started Water Polo. When I went to college, I intended on becoming an engineer and swimming. The coach had other ideas and cut me...how is that for motivation? I was faster than a few guys on the team and got cut. So I played polo in college and got more competitively into triathlon. I had the opportunity to start for a team that won Big Ten's and compete in collegiate national championships in 3 different sports (triathlon, cycling, and water polo).Domination of the bike...Genetically I got lucky on the bike. I have really long femurs, which help my biking (but kill my running). Growing up I was always pedaling my bike everywhere. I had a need for speed and my bike was my transportation. While many of my friends got dirt bikes, I just chased them pedaling as hard as I could. When I started racing triathlon (on my mom's campus bike) I was able to hold my own. Then I got a road bike and started to have top bike splits and qualified for worlds. After 4 years in the sport I got the privileged to ride my first TT bike and then I was untouchable (amongst age groupers). I was rolling thunder!
4. What do you do on a day when you don’t feel like working out? Do you skip it? find a way to push through it?…play golf? In other words how do you handle the times when motivation for working out is low?
AS- Keeping my eye on the prize. I have a few sponsors that have invested money out of their pockets in me, I have coaches who sacrifice time with their family to help guide me, and I have a lot of supporters (friends and family) who are there to support me. When times get tough I think about those things and also the big picture.We are building the Coliseum, the Parthenon, the Sphinx and each workout is a brick in the wall. A great workout is a good strong brick, a bad workout is a crumbling brick, but it is better than no brick at all. I am getting further into my career and there are a few areas where my foundation is not the best, but I am working on strengthening these areas now, so as my career continues these parts of my races and training will be structurally sound. That said, the stronger and better the foundation and structure, the higher the peaks can be. So that is the big picture I think about.The rest is set into motion with that first stroke, revolution, or step of a workout. All I want to do is go faster, harder and it my coaches who prevent me from killing myself with lactic acid. Like I said, I love the sport and I in a sick twisted way I really like the ways it makes you suffer.
5. If tomorrow was the last day you could ever train again, what would the day consist of?
AS- I would do a race w/ the same attitude and focus that I bring to the line at the big ones. Go big or go home crying. Swim hard and get out with the pack and then make them watch me ride away from them. Except in this race the officials will actually enforce the rules. Then I would get off the bike with leaden legs from pushing so hard on the bike and then have the run of my life. Would I win? Hopefully, but I would give it everything I had and then go and get a beer with some fellow athletes and supporters afterward.If you were looking for a list of my favorite workouts...Open water swimming in any body of water that is clear and you can see the seaweed, fish, and sand. Then there would be a bike. If we are talking an easy day, it would be a trail ride on the cross bike, a hard day, anything that makes my lungs burn and the pavement fly by. For running. If it is an easy day, trail running (catching a trend), a hard day, I just want to feel light and good and be fast! Then finish out the day with a good core body workout. Again, I would still be working on building that Parthenon one workout at a time.