Monthly Archives: January 2015

Greg Taylor: a Champion’s Perspective

South Dakota's own Greg Taylor guts it out and wins his age group at the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

South Dakota’s own Greg Taylor guts it out and wins his age group at the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Photo credits to Nick Morales.

When the mercury plunges below zero in January, seasoned South Dakota triathletes know that during this time, when everything else creeps to a standstill, they must begin moving. They must find their plan, scratch out their races on the calendar, and start training.

Ironically, South Dakota’s own champion triathlete, Greg Taylor, found his beginning in triathlon during such cold snaps.

Taylor, a Yankton resident, topped the podium for his age group in four major races in 2014: Ironman Boulder in early August, the USAT age-group championships a week later, Ironman 70.3 World Championship, and Ironman World Championship.

It’s hard to believe that for Taylor triathlon began as just a way to train in the off season.

Nordic ski racing actually captured Taylor’s attention and heart before he ever donned a bike helmet or dipped his toes in the water. Triathlon, according to Taylor, was a secondary event to stay in shape during the offseason.

One great triathlon win paired with one disappointing ski race was all Taylor needed to make a decision that changed his personal history and the history of triathlon as a whole. In his early 30s Taylor competed in a nordic ski race where he began the race in second place and then dwindled on the latter half. The results of that race, and seemingly most races, depended on the unscientific process of ski waxing. Taylor likens the frustration to if a triathlete would have three different sets of tires to use, and the decision to use them was hoping that the one picked would work the best. Unlike the simple luck that nordic racing requires for success, in triathlon hard work means success for the most part. The formula is pretty simple.

Greg Taylor strides to an age-group win at the USAT age-group nationals in Milwaulkee in August. Taylor also won best performance overall. Photo credits: Kristin Taylor

Greg Taylor strides to an age-group win at the USAT age-group nationals in Milwaulkee in August. Taylor also won best performance overall. Photo credits: Kristin Taylor

Shortly after that ski race, Taylor had a good friend who challenged him to compete in The World’s Toughest Triathlon. With minimal training, Taylor finished high enough to earn a spot at Kona, the Ironman World Championship. With a cache of knowledge about the endurance training required for nordic ski racing, Taylor began to train for the big race. Having no prior experience other than World’s Toughest Tri, Taylor finished sixth in his age group by seconds.

And the seed for triathlon was planted.

Since that time, Taylor has qualified for a total of 25 Ironman World Championships, giving him many trips to experience the big island in Hawaii. He has competed in dozens of other triathlons, always with Kona in the back of his head for the year.

Success obviously breeds enjoyment. Had Taylor not succeeded so quickly, one would wonder if he would have continued in the sport. However, with such a strong work ethic, Taylor quickly noted one of his favorite things about the sport: “it felt like the result was a direct correlation to your effort,” he states. Basically, if a person is willing to work hard, according to Taylor, he can achieve just about anything. He has to understand the sacrifice involved and be willing to make that sacrifice to meet his goals. And if he can do that–understand the sacrifice and work hard–he’ll meet them.

Like many triathletes, Taylor also cites the triathlon community as his favorite part of the sport. Because of his success, Taylor has had the opportunity to mentor different individuals, helping three in particular make their way to the same island that holds such allure for him. A trio of athletes have qualified for Kona under Taylor’s wing. Furthermore, he’s had the opportunity to inspire countless other young athletes, two of which ended up going back to school and furthering their careers outside of triathlon because of him. But more than that, Taylor recognizes that spending time with people, training with them and sweating with them, creates a bond and forges friendships different than other activities. And while he notes that this type of bond is not unique to triathlon, he does recognize the uniqueness of triathletes. “This sport just attracts a special kind of people,” he states.

Taylor has racked up some big and little awards in his tenure in the sport. While his performances make him stand out on paper, his personality makes him stand out in person. After all, he has the perspective and wisdom that comes from endurance racing for a couple of decades. He oozes philosophy and wisdom, much of which he has gained from his most challenging and memorable races.

The World Championship in 1995, for example, stands out as one of his most memorable experiences. Winds gusted that year and literally lifted cyclists and their rides off the road. Taylor remembers a good swim and then a challenging ride. He talks in vivid details, as if the race just occurred last week. He recalls a “tiny tailwind” for the first 45-50 minutes and then mean gusts that met the riders head on. “It was blowing dogs off chains,” he states.  And while he thought he was moving forward and making some progress, he recalls people passing him in droves. At one point in the race he could see three-quarters of a mile ahead, and all he saw was a line of riders.

Little causes more frustration to a champ than seeing droves of people ahead of you.  “I was thoroughly demoralized,” he recalls.

In fact, Taylor remembers watching the pavement go by under the bike as he pedaled and ground his way against the wind, and then thinking that the pavement passed by more quickly when he ran than when fighting these island gales.

Forty-five minutes of mental anguish followed, and then something magically changed. Taylor cannot describe this something, but like with all big, long races, the low passed and a high began that lasted the rest of the race. “For the next six hours,” he states, “it was effortless.”

Taylor went on to run a three-hour marathon. He ended the race 32nd overall (that includes professional triathletes) . He surged to the finish line, collapsed with exhaustion, and then immediately popped up before medical personnel could cart him off. “I was high for two weeks,” he states. Taylor cites no fatigue, no soreness, but just pure elation after that race.

And he has yet to replicate the experience.

At age 60, Taylor has nothing but good things to look forward to in triathlon. He has automatically qualified for Kona again with his age-group win there this past October. Now he has to decide if he wants to go back a 26th time.

What does a champ do in his off season when he’s on the fence? Not what every other 60-year-old does. He goes to the gym, faithfully, and pumps iron. Taylor has spent the last eight weeks strength training, and in short, feeling great as a result.

Who knows where the future will lead Taylor. We just know this: we’ll continue to keep tabs on him. After all, it’s kind of fun to see the “old guy” sprinting up and past the young bucks. Best of luck, Greg Taylor.

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20 Great Reasons to Do a Triathlon

dakotaman-swim.jpgWe came across these great reasons to take the plunge from the book Triathlon Training by Eric Harr. They’re all great reasons. Veteran triathletes: pass these on to your friends looking to dip their toes in the water and take on a new challenge for 2015. 
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

People are motivated to “take the plunge” and do a triathlon for reasons that are as varied as those setting out on this mission. Some are obvious: “To lose weight fast!” Others are personal: “To boost my self-confidence and feel good about myself.” Others are spiritual: “To find more meaning in my exercise,” “To live more fully.” A few are social: “To brag to everyone in the office that I did a triathlon,” and some are inspirational, “To serve as a model for others and show what is truly possible in life.”

Although the reasons people do a triathlon differ, the benefits are universal. That’s what this chapter is about — it outlines the 20 benefits you can reap from training for and completing a triathlon. The bottom line is that this process is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do in your life, not just physically, but mentally, spiritually and socially as well. Ask anyone who has done a triathlon, and they will tell you the same thing.

But for all its power to change your life, training for a triathlon isn’t going to consume your life. The training program set forth in this book is designed to blend seamlessly into your busy schedule and requires just one day, a total of 24 hours–four hours a week for six weeks. The payoffs, however, are timeless: You will lose loads of weight, feel better than ever, and gain self-confidence that will last a lifetime.

Lofty promises, indeed. Can doing a triathlon really deliver? Follow the advice in this book and, yes, without a doubt it can. It has for hundreds of thousands of other triathletes, and it will for you, too.

Physical Benefits

For you to consider training for and completing a triathlon, there have to be some serious, long-lasting benefits, right? Well, here they are — 20 of them. Let’s start with the most observable payoffs: what will happen to your body.

You Will Lose Weight

The first thing you’ll probably notice as a Triathlete-in-Training is that your clothes will become too big. That’s because training for such a three-sport event will make you as fit and healthy as you have ever been in your life. When you engage in a well-balanced program of swimming, cycling and running–known as cross-training — you will burn an enormous amount of fat from every area of your body. Better yet, the weight will come off as a natural consequence of your passion-driven quest to complete a triathlon, rather than from a guilt-induced diet, a boring exercise plan or a bizarre fitness implement.

The principles and strategies in this book are built on passion, not deprivation. As you progress on this program, you will gain momentum: You’ll lose a couple of pounds in the first week and you’ll begin to feel stronger, which means you can do a little more — and lose a little more weight. The workouts will get easier, so you’ll be able to go even farther and lose more weight. Before you know it, you’ll be sailing!

Keep this in mind: The program in this book isn’t based on some untested herbal weight-loss product. The principles at work are basic scientific ones that your body cannot disobey. Like the apple that must fall from the tree, your body must lose weight if you’re consistently burning more calories than you’re consuming. And nothing burns more calories than training for a triathlon.

Plus, you’ll likely find that when you’re training for such an athletic event, you’ll want to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that supports your training. Overeating or indulging in lots of less-than-nutritious foods will leave you feeling dull and tired during your workouts, so you’ll quickly learn to eat what’s good for you — and that will accelerate your weight loss even more.

The real Fountain of Youth

You Will Look and Feel Years Younger

When we neglect our bodies, imperceptibly over time we gradually accept lower standards of fitness, of health — and therefore of living. Worse, we don’t even realize how bad we feel, until we wake up and get fit again.

Training for a triathlon will reconnect you with your body and make you feel like you haven’t felt in years: young, energetic and powerful. And you’ll not only feel years younger but you’ll look better than ever, too. Triathletes are legendary for having some of the best physiques in the fitness world. That is because cross-training shapes the body in complementary ways: running develops long, lean muscles; cycling builds strength and tones your lower body; and swimming increases your flexibility and sculpts your upper body. Take a look at any triathlete over age 55 and you’ll see what I mean. These people have the look — and swagger — of 20- and 30-somethings.

You Will Have More Energy

Energy forms the basis of our existence, yet it seems that we all have less and less of it as our schedules have grown increasingly hectic. Unfortunately for some people, exercise can exacerbate this problem by draining their energy rather than replenishing it. In an effort to get results or lose weight fast, they may wind up overtraining and exhausting themselves.

Not so on this program.

The strategies in this book will show you how to exercise so that each workout refreshes your body and clears your mind, over time giving you more energy — so that you can perform better at work and at play. That, I guarantee.

You’re likely wondering “How can training for something as rigorous as a triathlon actually give me energy?”

This program is for real people–not for elite athletes. By following the principles in this book and exercising at the right pace for your fitness level, you’ll get fit without fatigue.

When I took a year off my triathlon-training program (to write this book!), my energy plummeted. I couldn’t believe it. It was as if someone pulled the plug on my life force. When I returned to consistent training, I felt fully alive again. You will, too.

You Will Get More Out of Your Workouts

In this book, I show you how to exercise more efficiently by using a few simple strategies, such as monitoring your heart rate and breathing properly. Follow these and other techniques set forth in the training program, and you’ll get fast results from your workouts — without expending a huge amount of effort. It’s all about training smart, not hard.

You Will Injury-Proof Your Body

When you stick with one sport like running, for example, you continually stress the same parts of your body — and that can result in overuse injuries such as shinsplints, stress fractures, knee problems and tendinitis.

Training for a triathlon, however, incorporates three very different sports. This cross-training, as it is called, isn’t as hard on the body, because it distributes the stress more evenly to your bones and muscles and develops more balanced fitness. That means less pain, fewer injuries, and a stronger body. Or as Donna Carlysle, a mother of three from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, put it: “I like training for the triathlon because of the variety — it strengthens every muscle in my body, and it keeps me fresher as opposed to getting all the aches when I’m just running or biking or lifting weights all the time.”

You Will Improve Your Health

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, regular exercise can lower your blood pressure, prevent diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, and reduce your risk of osteoporosis and depression — just to name a few. Follow the training program in this book, and you’ll spend less time at doctors’ offices and more time enjoying your life!

You Will Live Longer

By preventing disease and fortifying your body, regular exercise can help you live a longer, more productive life. Training for something as complete as a triathlon lays a foundation of fitness that will ensure that your later years are more pain-free and fun filled — so you’ll not only add years to your life but you’ll also add life to your years.

Strong In body, Strong In Mind

Mental Benefits

Although the physical payoffs of doing a triathlon are thrilling, the mental rewards you stand to reap are even greater — because they are truly timeless. The mental edge you’ll develop by becoming a triathlete will never fade.

You Will Be More Productive

Training for a triathlon will clear your mind and sharpen your focus. My most lucid and creative thoughts invariably arise during bike rides, after swims or while running with my dog Owen around the lakes of Mount Tamalpais in northern California first thing in the morning.

Not only will you have these “lightbulb” moments during exercise, you’ll also return to your day feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks that lie ahead of you. Essentially, as your body becomes stronger, your mind will follow.

You Will Learn to Handle Stress More Effectively

You will learn the profound skill of developing grace under pressure — that is, increasing your composure as the pressure around you heightens — as well as how to apply that skill to any stressful situation. If you can learn to “relax into” more intense physical efforts during a 45-minute run, for example, you will be more able to maintain mental equanimity during your morning commute. One of the most rewarding outcomes of my triathlon career is that few things in my daily life unsettle me. I am now more mentally resilient. You will be, too.

You Will Build Rock-Solid Self-Confidence

To develop a strong, “in-your-bones” confidence, I believe you must achieve something that deeply challenges you. Training for and finishing a triathlon is certainly a remarkable achievement and a powerful way to build self-confidence that will last a lifetime.

Your Mood Will Improve

Research shows that exercise improves your mood and lifts your spirits. And no wonder! When you put your body in motion, you can’t help but feel alive and invigorated. They don’t call it “runner’s high” for nothing. Plus, training for a triathlon gets you outdoors, and spending time in the beauty of nature is bound to boost your mood!

Your Motivation to Exercise Will Soar

Studies on exercise adherence show that many people quit their exercise routines because they become bored or burned out. This can happen when you do the same thing day in and day out. Incorporating three different sports into your weekly exercise plan helps you to avoid burnout. When you grow tired of swimming along that godforsaken black line in your local pool, you can go for a run, a hike or a bike ride around town or through the countryside. After all, each of these activities directly contributes to your triathlon success.

If the variety of training for a triathlon isn’t enough to keep you motivated — don’t worry. I give you several other strategies for keeping your enthusiasm high throughout your training.

Not only that. The training program in this book will help you redefine how you see and do exercise so that you can alter your long-term view of physical fitness. You will begin to see each triathlon training session for what it can be: a unique opportunity for personal growth, a celebration of life and a relaxing pause in your otherwise hectic and stressful life. You’ll learn to make exercise about letting go, stepping out into the world, getting sunshine on your face and having fun.

You Will Learn to Strengthen Your Weaknesses

As we age, we begin erecting physical and psychological walls, brick by brick, made of our fears, doubts and excuses. And we do it without realizing it. This wall begins to widen the distance between ourselves and our human potential. Before we know it, we’re nowhere close to the person we once were — or to the person we wanted to become. That can be a very scary realization later in life.

Training for and finishing a triathlon forces you to smash through that wall and deal with your weaknesses (for example, chronic knee pain, poor self-image, fear of failure). When you strengthen your weaknesses, you become more capable of setting aside your fears and doubts to achieve other extraordinary things in your life.

Get Training, Get Inspired, Get Chills

Social Benefits

Whether you train for your triathlon alone or with others, you’re sure to meet fellow triathletes along the way. You’ll find that the camaraderie within the triathlon world is unmatched in any other sport. In addition to making new fitness friends, you stand to reap other social rewards as well.

You Get to Rub Shoulders with the Best Athletes in the World

In a triathlon everyone completes the same course: mother of three, 56-year-old age-group competitor, world-champion professional. That’s one of the truly unique things about this sport.

Can you imagine golfing alongside Tiger Woods? No way. But you can compete in the same triathlon as World Champion Ironman Tim Deboom. You may not be immediately impressed with that, but when a pro like Tim Deboom gives you a thumbs-up or a pat on the back as he goes by, you’ll get chills.

You Will Join the Fitness Elite

If you complete just one triathlon, you will become one of the fitness elite no matter what your finishing time. You will have accomplished something that only one percent of the population even dare try. That puts you in more of an elite class than a Hollywood star. Now that’s sure to impress your friends and coworkers, not to mention anyone you’re meeting for the first time.

Inspirational Benefits

Perhaps the most profound benefits of all to training for a triathlon are those you least expect. Setting out on this mission will not only shrink your waistline and give you more confidence, it will transform your life in ways you never imagined.

You Will Have an Increased Sense of Purpose in Your Life

There are times in our lives when we find ourselves unfulfilled on deep, intangible levels — and we cannot explain why. We may have everything we want: a fulfilling career, a wonderful family, a strong network of loving friends. We just can’t put our finger on our underlying restlessness.

Focusing your attention on an exciting, positive and challenging goal such as a triathlon can breathe renewed purpose into your life and channel away some of that restlessness. The triathlon is a noble pursuit and an outside-the-box undertaking, and because of that people tend to wake up each morning feeling that they are on a mission.

You Will Become the Best You That You Can Be

Are you tired of others telling you (or implying!) that you shouldn’t, you can’t or you won’t? Daily life rarely, if ever, provides us with the opportunity to be truly courageous, to show the world what we’re really made of — and to be recognized for our own greatness. Completing a triathlon will provide you, and those around you, with physical proof that you are capable of more than anyone realizes.

In this quest, pushing past what you thought was possible might be your barometer of success. For others, it might be setting a personal record. Regardless of your goals, you will glimpse your true potential by completing a triathlon.

Steve Prefontaine, one of the best competitors of all time, saw a race not so much as a competition against other people, but as a test to see how far the human heart can go.

That is what participating in a triathlon is all about.

You Will Be a Hero to Your Kids

If your children watch you finish a triathlon, they may never look at you the same way. How do I know? My mom was a triathlete back in the formative years of the sport — the early 1980s. At that time, people knew very little about how to train for the triathlon; trailblazers like my mom were making it up as they went along.

When I watched my mom train and compete, I gazed at her like I did at any celebrity sports figure. I remember thinking, honest to God, that Fleer should make a “Judith Harr, Triathlete” card with stats and everything on the back. As I’ve grown older, my admiration for what my mom did as a triathlete only grows. She’s even more heroic to me now.

You Will Motivate and Inspire Those around You

The courage and determination you show in pursuing a triathlon may inspire those around you to elevate their fitness and their lives–or at the very least, your quest will spark in others the possibility that they can do more. (“Hey, if this bozo can do it, surely I can!”) Bringing people to that realization is a wonderful gift. Knowing that you have set an example for someone to go after their dreams or to make a positive change in their life is a reward that simply cannot be matched.

You Will Set Other Positive Things in Motion — Things You Never Imagined

I know from personal experience that training for a triathlon event can totally transform your life. In 1994, when I decided to train for my first triathlon in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the extent of my exercise was walking to the local mango stand for lunch. It took courage to register for the race, but taking that one simple step set dozens of other unforeseen, positive steps into motion. I began eating better, I had more energy and I grew more sensitized to the joys of everyday life. I was a much more passionate and giving person because I felt so good about myself. That meant I could begin giving to others more. It may sound trite, but I began racing on behalf of animal welfare — something I likely would never have done if I hadn’t pursued the triathlon.

The moment you finish a triathlon, you will be astounded at the new realm of possibilities that open up to you. The only obstacles barring your way are your self-imposed excuses, fears and doubts. Overcoming them, and moving past them to where your real power dwells, is what the next chapter is about.

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