This past weekend TriLife spent a couple days at a training camp in New Paltz, NY. It was 2 days of running, cycling, swimming and cross training. It was incredibly tiring, but incredibly fun.
Saturday started off with 2 hours of swim training. We then drove up to New Paltz and got in a 1:30 of trail running in the middle of a huge snow storm. The day ended with agility and balance training which was a great break to the typical training regimen.
Sunday started with 2 hours on the bike trainer. It was hot and miserable but I could feel myself getting stronger and faster. We then went snowshoeing for a couple hours. I thought it was going to be a nice walk in the woods but we ended up running the entire time and did some hill sprints just to cap it off. We got in about 7 miles…running,…in snowshoes.
Some photos from the weekend….
Building a brand is hard. Well, that’s not totally true. Building something that people love and that will endure more than a few years is hard. Building something that you think is a brand but that no one else finds compelling is rather easy actually. But ultimately that isn’t a brand. It’s a product. Products can be great, but products can be copied. It’s nearly impossible to copy a brand, because a brand comes from within the people who created it. Even if another group of people tried to build the same brand the best they could do is be inspired by that brand. Different people can never create the same brand. Therefore brand is a competitive advantage. A really good one at that. That might sound a bit loosey goosey but if that’s the case it’s just because you think building a brand is some sort of magically process or driven by guesswork and luck. It happens all the time. Ralph Lauren, Patagonia, Stance Socks, Warby Parker, Nike, Porsche, Bonobos. They, and many many more, have done it so there is obviously a process behind it. And you can’t say it’s all based on the product. Because, except for Porsche, all the examples I listed started out with relatively basic and simple products. They created brands because they made people feel something.
So how does this work? I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer but I have picked up some ideas from studying the companies that have done it right. I split up my notes into Brand and Non-Brand not (Good Brand and Bad Brand) because I don’t think there is such think as a bad brand. Either you built a brand or you didn’t. It’s a bit binary. Either people love the company and have an emotional reaction to everything you do or they don’t care and see you as transactional. Why is is a company like Method or Nest so compelling? Because they built brands where there was previously just transactional products.
This past Saturday was the first day of official triathlon training. Here we go. It’s going to be a long, hard, fun 5 months of training for the Mont Tremblant 70.3.
This is the point in race preparation that I start to get nervous. It might sound weird since I’m still far away from race day but I start worrying if my training will be sufficient or if I will get injured. If I spend all this time training and I end up not being properly prepared for the race there is no way to change that on the start line. If I go through my training and end up getting hurt before the race and can’t compete I would be heartbroken. These things start to cause anxiety right about now. Once I’d deep into training, I start to feel strong and don’t worry for much about being fit on race day. On race day I’m typically not nervous because I’ve gotten there injury free (hopefully) and I’ve done all the training I could so there’s nothing more to be done there.
There was a hiccup in my schedule week before last so I had to run on Monday which is typical day off. It ended up being an awesome run. I hit a PB on the 10k dirt road loop by my parents house in New Jersey. This might be my favorite course to run.
Tuesday I got in some great hill training on my bike. Before I started biking I always thought that to get in a good bike workout you had to spend hours out on the road. I’ve learned that 30-45 minutes of hills can be a brutal workout. I got this in at my parents house in New Jersey. Unfortunately there are little to no hills of the same size in Manhattan.
Friday was a simple swim session of 1,000 meters. It’s awesome to see my lap times dropping. I think there is hope for me yet in the pool.
Saturday was a swim/run brick. These are the sessions that make you be 100% committed to doing long course triathlons. In marathon training the longest you spend training in a single day is 3, or maybe 4 hours. Saturday was the first brick of training and we worked out for over 4 hours. This is going to get brutal. Swim skills started at 6am, swim workout was at 7 and then we ran from 8:30 to 10:30. Running wasn’t too intense but after 2 hours of all out swimming it was hard to find the energy to do a few simple hill repeats. Getting in swim/run or swim/bike bricks later in the season is going to take up the whole day. Gotta really love it to make these sacrifices.
Sunday was an hour on the bike in the gym due to the weather. Every moment was unenjoyable. I hate being inside.
Over the past couple years I have been fortunate enough to get the chance to work with some incredible entrepreneurs. These interactions, along with my own entrepreneurial experiences, have given me a lot of material on which to reflect when it comes to what makes for a great entrepreneur.
Many of the aspects of great entrepreneurs are binary to a certain extent - level of intelligence, risk tolerance, etc. Above a certain threshold and one has the potential to be a great entrepreneur. Below that threshold and they will never make it, or don’t even bother trying. I’m not really interested in these parts of entrepreneurship though as they are uncontrollable. I’m more interested in things that can be acquired and improved. And even in that category I’m not all that interested in what conventional wisdom says about being an entrepreneur - things like confidence, charisma, leadership, and non-consensus. All these are a bit cliche really. In thinking about what has really impressed me about some of the great entrepreneurs I’ve me, I’ve tried to articulate some of less discussed qualities that have stood out to me as more interesting, and more important, than the often-repeated platitudes
I think conviction is the most important attribute of great entrepreneurs for a very simple reason - if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, no one else will. But I think conviction goes deeper than a synonym for confidence. Conviction is the key to moving quickly, iterating, and ultimately discovering the right combination of variables. There are so many decisions to make every day that without conviction in the overall vision and in each individual decision progress will grind to a halt. In my experience, few things kill startups like lack of momentum and progress. Conviction is deep, unwavering belief in not only each decision, but in your ability to make the right decisions. There will be mistakes along the way but it is critical to never loose faith that you have the ability to figure it out. Conviction is also a manifestation of a sense of inevitability. Inevitability says that there is no way this company is not going to exist and thrive. It says that the right order of things includes the company. The best entrepreneurs I’ve met tell their story as an inevitable outcome, and from this they have an unshakable conviction in what they are doing. This inspires teams, investors, and customers in a way little else can.
#2 Work Like Your Life Depends On It
Hard work is required. That’s a given. But I think there are differences in how people approach it. You can work hard because it’s part of your personality. You can work hard as in spending endless hours at your desk. You can work hard in spurts. But to become one in the best in the world at what you do, you need to work like your life depends on it. Your approach to your work has to be all consuming and viewed like a fight for survival. Nothing can get in the way of getting stuff done, making process, and pushing your company forward. You cannot leave anything on the table. Anything and everything needs to be tried. Crazy ideas and long shots must be explored. At the end of the day there cannot be anything you should have done. The best entrepreneurs I’ve met view their work at elemental to their existence. Their visions and goals are as important to them as breathing. Viewing the world like this gives you superpowers. It pushes you to do things no one else will think of or try. It subsists you through the worst times imaginable. It makes you feel like you can tackle and accomplish anything. This isn’t a job or a project. This is survival.
#3 Be A Mad Scientist
My good friend Will Peng recently explained this concept to me and it has become my favorite way to classify how great entrepreneurs act. Will wrote a great post about the idea as geared towards creativity. I think the concept of a mad scientist is an instrumental attribute of entrepreneurs in an additional few ways.
First, for a mad scientist it is risker to not try something new than it is to try it. As Will says, they have a different risk profile and there is no choice but to stand up for what they believe in. There is no other option. I love this way of viewing entrepreneurs because it doesn’t position building a company as a choice. It doesn’t require a reason for pursuing a crazy idea. There never was a choice. The way mad scientists, and great entrepreneurs, view the world is that their idea must exist and that a world without it is materially worse off. If you think of something like this, if you have this level of conviction, then the only option is to dive in head first and not look back. They are typically alone in these options, but not only does that isolation not bother them, it is not even acknowledged.
Second, experimentation is essential to science just as it is to startups. Great entrepreneurs experiment and test in the search for the right answer just like scientists. The framework of the scientific method works just as well in the lab as it does in startups. Formulating a hypothesis based on your gut and available information and testing it with real data is how all great startups live. This iterative process drives not only big strategy decisions but day to day tactics. Experimentation not only helps get to the right answer, but it creates a mentality that is crucial to being a successful entrepreneur. While you have to put everything you have into your company, you cannot get too tied to any idea or strategy in particular. If you view everything as an experiment than everything is a test. If it goes well that’s great but if it doesn’t you simply move on to the next test without any hard feelings. There are too many low points in building a company so you must do what you can to take an outlook that limits the chances of preventable emotional distress.
Third, without a little bit of crazy you just get a regular scientist, not a mad scientist. It’s the same distinction between good and great entrepreneurs. Crazy opens up ideas and opportunities no one else will think of. Mad scientists, and great entrepreneurs, come up with, and completely believe in, things other people laugh at, ignore, or never even consider. You need to be living out there on the edge to really innovate on anything. Crazy may seem like a personality trait but I think it can be cultivated in a pretty straight forward way by simply allowing yourself to embrace the stuff you tend to immediately reject. We all have crazy ideas, and like any other skill, they will get better the most you use them. Instead of writing something off because it’s “too crazy”, put that idea into practice as an experiment and see what happens. Do this enough and it will become part of how you operate.
Fourth, the caricature of a mad scientist is someone obsessed with the most minute details. Everything needs to be precise and exact. The best entrepreneurs are equally obsessive over every single element of their companies. Nothing if overlooked and nothing is ignored. Pixels are scrutinized and strategies are analyzed and reanalyzed constantly. This behavior can of course become debilitating - i.e. analysis paralysis - but it’s a balancing act that needs to be mastered, and the best have figured it out.
#4 Focus On Small Wins
Not to personalize this too much, but as an entrepreneur I always had a hard time with this one. I always thought that caring about small wins was a form of embracing mediocrity. Why be happy about incremental progress when there is still so much more to do and so much more to strive for? It wasn’t until I saw entrepreneurs much more successful than me taking the time to celebrate the little wins that I realized it’s essential to maintaining motivation along the long haul. Everything gets tiring, no matter how passionate you are. But if you can get reenergized periodically then the long journey gets broken up into many smaller ones. In the end, a company, like life, is less about the big things and really just an accumulation of a bunch of little things. Getting these little things right, and celebrating them as the wins that they are, is how you breakdown seemingly insurmountable goals and keep up the energy to get to the end.
#5 Enjoy The Ride
Building a company can get really intense and heavy. Things can seem incredibly bleak at times. All the hours and hard work sometimes seems like it will all be for nothing. But the best entrepreneurs I’ve met do not get bogged down by all this. They not only take it in stride but they enjoy the ride. They find joy and happiness in the midst of all the struggle and craziness. I think a lot of this has to do with personality but I think it can also be learned and improved. I’ve noticed a large percentage of entrepreneurs mediate, workout constantly, or find other ways to take mental breaks from the day to day. To be able to enjoy the roller coster ride of startups you need to come at it with the right mentality, and to get this mentality you need to check out every once in awhile to gain perspective and calm your mind. Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword these days but I think it does a good job of capturing the mental state you need to achieve to be able to be happy in the midst of the chaos that is starting a company. Like celebrating small wins, enjoying the ride gives entrepreneurs the stamina to keep high energy through the entire race, instead of burning out in the dark and tough middle bits.Comments
Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is my last week before full on training begins. I am definitely a little nervous but excited to see if I can hack it. I’m going to be pushing myself to limits I thought were previously impossible and I’m psyched for personal and physical journey that will come along with this new adventure. Training for and competing in my first 70.3 will require me to face make weaknesses, but hopefully in the end will allow me to become a stronger and better person.
This week was just for fun. I put away my GPS and pace sensors and just enjoyed being out there. It was tough to get a lot of work in this week with the holidays but what I did do was awesome. I haven’t enjoyed running this much in a very long time. The cold winter air and the long dirt roads by my parent’s house in New Jersey just made me smile. I must have looked like a complete fool running down the road with a big grin on my face.
I got in a few good 5-6 mile runs this week and a few good rides of between 17 and 26 miles. Yesterday I did 26 miles which is the farthest I’ve been on my bike yet. I felt some tightness in my neck from being in aero for about an hour of the ride but overall I felt great. I’m really falling more and more in love with cycling every time I get out. I think running is starting to get jealous since I’ve been feeling very heavy on all my runs recently. I think it’s saying I should be running more.
I need to get back to my LBS for another fit session though. The more time I spend in aero the more I’m noticing a few possible fit problems. Overall the bike is well fitted to me but I’m sliding forward a bit in the saddle when in aero for a long time which causes my knees to start hitting my elbows. I think there should be a few easy tweaks to get me dialed in but I’m a bit concerned about all this stuff. I probably obsess over fit too much but it’s the sort of thing I will tinker with forever until it’s just perfect.
I took off today because of a massive rainstorm in New Jersey so tomorrow won’t be my typical day off. This week I’m going to again get rid of all speed and pace monitoring and just get out there to enjoy the process. Next Saturday starts full on training so I’m going to be doing a lot of data tracking and analysis for the next 6 months. I want to be pure and simple for one more week before the onslaught.
This past week was the second to last week of base conditioning before race training begins. I feel as if I’m in pretty good condition and I’m looking forward to ramping it up in preparation for my first 70.3 on June 22 in Mont Tremblant.
I decided to train with TriLife to get ready for the 70.3. Official training begins January 4th but they have been doing a base building program for the last few months. I joined their one of their swim sessions last Saturday. - 2 hours of skills and conditioning…all starting at 6am. Hardest swim workout I’ve ever done and I got worked, but enjoyed every minute of it.
Sunday was an hour on the bike in the gym because of the snow and ice from Saturday’s storm. I try to get outside for every workout no matter the weather but biking when it’s wet and slippery can get dangerous. I also got in a couple good runs this week of 5-6 miles each, and another swim skills session.
I was all pumped up to get in a good ride this past Thursday but it ended up being a weak workout. The West Side Highway was still wet, slippery, and snowy so my ride got cut short when I ran out of clear path. There was a massive headwind and my pace sensor wasn’t working properly so my RPM based training ride wasn’t all that effective. Days like this can really suck and make you feel like you’re never going to get ready for the race. You have to stay positive even on the bad days and always try to find the positive. While I didn’t get a good workout in, I did get more time on the bike and was able to work on handling and getting more comfortable in aero position. During the course of a long training period, there will be bad days but every day builds on the last. Accumulating time on your feet, or in the saddle, is what it’s all about and as long as there are more good, hard days than slow, weak days then all will work out on race day.
Monday’s are my day off and I really look forward to the downtime. Not because I don’t enjoy training but because it’s a day when I can focus completely on work and can take some time just to reflect on everything. Weeks tend to go by so quickly lately between training, work, and trying to fit in a bit of life. One day a week with a few unplanned hours is a very nice treat these days.Comments
There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
- Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
Cycling in the winter can suck. Rain, cold, street grime, and slush can make an unprepared rider pretty miserable. When the weather gets rough you have a choice..,move in the gym and spin away like a rat on a wheel, or pick up the right gear and embrace the added challenges winter brings. The way I look at it is the long spring rides will feel that much easier after you’ve toughened up all winter.
For this winter, I’m rocking the following gear on my rides. I’m now no longer in fear of what my weather app is going to say in the early hours of the morning when all I want to do is stay in bed.
In researching gear, I really gravitated to Castelli. They breakdown the climate ranges for all their products which takes a lot of the guess work out of the process. I also love that they make tri specific gear as well so I don’t feel like I’m “faking it” pretending to be a cyclist when I’m doing my training rides.
My general rule in buying gear is none of it can serve just a single purpose. Triathlon training, gear, race entries, and travel can get crazy expensive so I want to minimize the number of things I need to buy as much as possible. Therefore, I didn’t want to get a winter jacket and then have to also get something for early spring. I wanted a jacket that I could use in the depths of winter (into the 20s) but would also work in the early spring rides when it’s pushing up into the 50s. The Espresso Due jacket is Castelli’s widest range so it right away fit what I was looking for. It’s also by far their best looking jacket, and has some really nice features like front chest and rear shoulder venting.
I also looked at a few Pearl Izumi jackets like the P.R.O Softshell Jacket and the ELITE Shoftshell Jacket but I wasn’t confident they would work in all conditions given the reviews I read. I needed something with broad temperatures coverage and that is waterproof. Pearl Izumi has great stuff but I felt for the price it wasn’t going to give me the all around utility I was looking for. Also, I have a really hard time making a decision when there are so many options and Pearl Izumi, and most of the activewear world in general, suffers from a paradox of choice problem. There are just way too many items.
Because I seek out simplify in selection, I really learn towards Rapha but in the end I cannot justify the price when I can get something better for less. For example, their Classic Softshell Jacket is amazing looking but I can’t drop $375, without any front or rear venting, when I picked up the Castelli Espresso Due for $240 from Competitive Cyclist (best online bike and tri shop IMO).
They make two versions of these - one with padding and one without. I opted for the padded ones. They don’t have the best padding out there but when combined with the things going to them - weight, breathability, flexibility, and cost - I figured it was a fine trade off. The padding isn’t horrible, but it’s not over the top cushioning as you find in most tights or bib shorts these days.
I’ve ridden in these tights enough to have fallen in love and know it’s for real. First, some of the Castelli stuff can get a little crazy with the designs. They love that scorpion logo and their name and they put them everywhere. These are understated and sleek looking. Second, the temp range Castelli recommends for these is spot on. Haven’t ever felt too hot or too cold and I’ve been out with these when the temp is pushing into the low 20s and when its been up to the 40s. Third, the combo of warmth, breathability, and flexibility is perfect.
In trying out tights I felt a bit like Goldilocks looking for the pair that was just right. The Pearl Izumi AmFib Bib Tights felt like I was wearing a full on wetsuit and the Pearl Izumi ELIETE Thermal Barrier Thermal Barrier Bib Tights felt like they might be good for a spring day but that was about it. The Castellis were right down the middle.
This is my base layer for under my jacket. It’s incredibly warm yet breathable, and fits close to the skin so it doesn’t get bulky under the jacket. I love Icebreaker’s products (the brand is a bit weak if I’m honest) so it was an easy choice when looking for a base layer. I wanted something that I can also use running (to not have to double up on purchases) so any pure cycling base layers or long sleeve jerseys were out. I went with the half zip style vs. the crew neck so it adds a bit extra warmth around the neck but I can unzip it if I get hot to release some heat. I picked up a few of these as my go-to base layer for all winter running and cycling.
I also wear an Icebreaker neck warmer that I pull up over my face when the wind is bitting. I don’t like the balaclava set up. I feel too claustrophobic in it. Instead I go with Icebreaker neck warmer and a simple fleece running hat under my helmet. The running hat also doubles as my running hat. Multi-discipline products for the multi-discipline athlete.
My hands get very cold so I needed a glove system that would work across all temps and keep me warm. I opted for a two layer system. The Capo gloves have the lobster claw shape which helps keep my fingers warm when I’m out in aero position and it’s in the teens with the windchill. These gloves are pretty great on their own from the low 40s down to the mid 30s. Below that I double up with the Pearl Izumi liners. These are the same gloves I use for running (my hands get a lot warmer when running for some reason so I don’t wear heavy gloves). With both layers I’m super warm and really don’t lose any flexibility or dexterity. In the mid 40s and higher, or after a couple hours of riding, I go with just the Pearl Izumi liners on their own.
I didn’t try out too many other glove options. I picked these up from my LBS and they’ve worked great so I haven’t had the need to look for other solutions.
In an out of character move, I picked up my overshoes in an actual store without doing any research first. These Gore Bike Wear overshoes were on sale for $20 in my LBS down from $80. They are waterproof, windproof, and have a thermal lining. I figured at that price I couldn’t go wrong, and I haven’t been disappointed. I’d definitely recommend them, even not discounted. 1Comments
There’s a great idea floating around out there that being successful requires you to be right and non-consensus. It’s sort of an obvious point but framing it like this makes it stick in the mind. I think Peter Thiel has publicly talked about this and helped spread the idea but a quick search didn’t turn up a specific post or interview of his. Either way, we all know it and we are all trying to do that thing that no one else is doing or thinking about (non-consensus) but also is very much needed by customers and users (right).
No matter how non-consensus you are to begin with, if you are right - like on the path to a billion dollar business right - then you will become consensus at some point in the near future.
I find most problems can be solved by referring to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle concept.
It’s a relatively basic, but a super powerful, framework. The essence is that before thinking about what you do as a company or how you do it, you need to think about why you do it. His TED talk (embeded below) is pretty awesome.
Within this framework, when you go from being alone and right to having competition you are now not the only one with the same “what”. In this scenario the “how” and “why” become more important than ever. You need to differentiate not just with a new technology, service or product but with better strategies and tactics (how) and with a stronger brand (why).
Being non-consensus and right makes worrying about the inner circles less important at the outset. That all changes when you are no longer non-consensus. To protect from this inevitable outcome, it’s worth starting with why and working your way out no matter how empty, crowded or currently nonexistant your market is. On the plus side, you can be massively successful by being right and consensus. It happens all the time. But the companies that win there have their why and how buttoned up like nobody’s business.Comments
I’ve decided on my first 70.3 triathlon…Mont-Tremblant. Race day is June 22, 2104 so I have plenty of time to get in peak condition. I haven’t yet moved into a training program and I’m currently working on building up a base layer of fitness. The plan is still tentative but I’m hoping to get in a couple olympic distance races in the spring before the half.
I did a great 8 mile run today at an avg pace of 7:19 mpm. Not the fastest I’ve ever run but I’m feeling good and fast these days so I’m planning on ramping up from here nice and slowly.
I didn’t get to swim much this week but the one day I got in was a transformative day in the pool. For the first time I felt like I wasn’t just trying to avoid not drowning. I got into a good rhythm pretty quickly and felt like I could have swam forever. My technique is still pretty terrible but breathing is becoming much more comfortable where I can now focus on improving other elements. This was also the longest swim I’ve done yet at 1000 meters. Still far from half Ironman distance but thankfully I have a ton of time to train.
Still no bike yet. They shipped a new frame from Cervelo but I have no idea when it will get here. I’m so anxious to get back out there and ride. Biking is by far my most favorite leg. I’m slow and can’t last very long but I really enjoying being out there. I can’t wait for the bike to get back to me. Unfortunately I’ll get the bike back just in time for winter so I have a lot of cold rides ahead of me. I’m looking at a few winter riding jackets so I’ll pull the trigger on one soon.
I need to pick up a new pair of running shoes. My Nike Flyknit racers are pretty shot. I’ve had my eye on the New Balance Minimus 10V2 and the Minimus 1010. I’m going to head to the New Balance store this week to check them out. Running shoes these days are pretty dismal. The designs are generally terrible, the selection is weak, and the organization/messaging around differences and characteristics is incomprehensible. The current state of running shoes is so bad it deserves it’s own post to outline all the crappiness.
New Balance Minimus 1010
New Balance Minimus 10V2Comments