Inspect and Adapt

“Fuckity fuck fuck.”

“This is such a disappointment.”

“I need to get off this bike.”

“I need a hug.”

These are all words that have come out of my mouth in the last 36 hours or so.  All of them the result of Ironman Hawaii and my poor performance.  I don’t want to dwell more than a paragraph or two on Kona;  If it isn’t obvious, I sucked.  Badly.


The race had three redeeming qualities

  • My swim wasn’t horrible, perhaps not quite what I was hoping for but squarely in the acceptable category.
  • It wasn’t a personal worst time.
  • I got to hang out with Ben Meer a lot.

Now that the pity party is out of the way, let’s get my hands dirty and go back to the subject of this post – Inspect and Adapt.  What am I talking about?  Inspect and Adapt, I&A, is a mechanism of the SAFe framework. Which is an exceptionally buzzword filled method for accomplishing things effectively in a modern Information Technology workspace.  It boils down to breaking larger projects/efforts (features) that can be completed in a “Program Increment” into smaller components that can be delivered in full at the end of each “iteration” of the Program Increment.  A typical duration of an iteration is two weeks, and a program increment could be twelve weeks.  During each iteration you partake in mid-block reviews and retrospectives.  The focus is on accomplishing the work you commit to and minimizing outside interference.  I&A comes at the end of each program increment where you review what worked, what didn’t, and make adjustments to your program to improve it and go at it again.

Now that I’ve totally lost you, I’ll stop the buzzword bingo.  Hopefully, some of those things I described trigger the words planning and periodization to pop into your head.  The number one goal of SAFe is to enable organizations to deliver expected, desired, and valuable outcomes in a predictable and cost effective fashion.  The same is true of periodization, and the associated planning process for training.

So back to Kona: I sucked. Again. I put in the work. Again. I didn’t get the outcome I expected. Again. Which means something went wrong in the process. (Again.)  What went wrong?

I am going to chalk it up to one thing:  riding the trainer too much.  Not for the usual reason that I don’t feel comfortable in the wind (I do), or I’m a panzie on downhills (I am), but simply that the bike fits differently on the trainer than it does on the road.   Most likely resulting from me setting my fit to be comfortable on the trainer, without frequent enough or long enough outdoor sessions to provide WTF feedback.

The hot spots on both my feet from last minute new shoes (not by choice), and my inability to tolerate my position on my bike led to me being just miserable.  And unwound my day.

Aside from Kona, I am really tired of my inability to deliver consistent performances.

I have been the top amateur at WTC events.  Twice.

I have gained eligibility for a USAT elite membership.  Three times.

I have finished high enough, at the right races, to earn a Kona slot. Eight times.

I should not consider 4:28 a good day.

I should not finish 44th in my division at USAT Nationals.

I should be ashamed I can’t qualify for 70.3 Worlds when that is the reason for putting my wife and child through ~22 hours of driving.

I am sick of the trend line going in the wrong direction, with a year or two between upticks.

I bitch and moan a lot on this blog interspersed with thoughtful and helpful posts, and to share stories of my success.  For better or worse a lot of those whiny blog posts center around a lot of similar things: Wah I suck or wah my bike fit sucks (I didn’t do a through review so there could be lots of other WAHs out there). With a lot of fluffy talk, then usually with a performance good enough to forestall serious action.

I need to fix these two problems, because not enjoying my bike and not having fun are killing my enthusiasm for the sport and are resulting in me questioning if putting my family through the stress of training for anything less than what I am capable of is worth it.  Both my family and myself do not deserve outcomes like yesterday for the effort we have put into it over the past year.  If I can’t do my family and myself justice come race day, I need to search elsewhere for self-validation.

Shit or get off the pot.  At 37 I have only a handful of years, if any to maximize my racing before it starts to taper off despite what I wish.

The first order of business is to fix my fit.  I’m going to set a goal of making this happen by the end of the month.  That gives me two weeks after I get back from Hawaii to get myself to someone and do something about it.  Most importantly I am giving myself a hard deadline to do something, with a short enough target window that I can’t have some lucky coincidence leave me thinking action doesn’t need to be taken or it can be delayed.  Accountability.

After that we will have to inspect and adapt to fix the consistency of performance issue; Weighted Shorted Jobs First.

Last Call

IMAZ Finish

Despite having been an athlete for 25 plus years, having experienced upwards of 35 maybe 40 tapers (and their associated prep), I have yet to encounter one that fits a mold.  Some I feel awesome all the way through.  Others have left me in tear filled despair part way through, only to be redeemed with an unexpectedly grand performance at the end.  And still others feel good in the middle only to fizzle to disappointment come race day.

From a pure metric perspective the key workouts of this prep and taper were not confidence inspiring and left me sitting on the plane to Hawaii doodling some notes about just wanting to have a positive experience, pondering the meaning of triathlon and the pursuit of crazy goals, and if I actually was capable of achieving those goals before the cruel hand of time forces me to revise my goals.

Then a few interesting things happened – in no particular order:

  • I got sick
  • I had an incredibly disastrous workout
  • I had some great workouts
  • I relaxed and did a lot of thinking

The last few trips to Kona, I’ve attempted to do my last “long” ride on Sunday morning, after arriving on Saturday.  I’ve done this mostly out of a desire to ride my bike in Hawaii, and only partly out of a desire to get that last workout in.  This has usually served me well, but this year I ended up limping home seriously dehydrated, more so than I can recall in a long time.

What really stood out about that experience was how difficult it was to produce power on the bike and how miserable I felt.  This coincided into relaxing and thinking about my last race in Kona and the follow-up in Texas, where I had issues on the tail of the bike sustaining power and had really rough runs.  Perhaps my issue wasn’t one of fitness, but simply not staying hydrated enough.  Both in an absolute sense and a sense to allow me to process my calories.

I arrived at this line of thinking after thinking about past IM performances and the key workouts leading into them.  What I observed in an absolute sense is that I’ve been able to average 230 watts on the bike (and run well) with key long rides having 4 hour powers in the range 200 watts to 245 watts, leading me to the conclusion that much like the difference between Elkhart Lake (terrible) and IMCDA 70.3 (solid) two weeks later that my fitness has not been noticable different between my Ironman races for the last several years, the difference is likely to solely lay in mental and physical execution.

After recovering from my dehydration episode I had some solid workouts, including a swim with some simulated race starts where I was trying to slow down yet swim the 100 + 400 significantly faster than I have in the past.  Additionally, some comfortable and fun bikes/runs took place.  All of which leaves me feeling content.

Finally, on Tuesday I started to feel the beginnings of a cold that I got from my lovely daughter, forcing me to rest more and get a lot of sleep in an effort to get it cleared out by Saturday morning, which it is looking like it will.  Even if it isn’t completely cleared out I’ve done hard workouts feeling worse, and I feel better than I did on race day in 2012.

All in all I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the opportunity to race and execute a strong race.