Blog

Each year over 2,000 athletes toe the line with a dream of hearing Mike Reilly announce “You are an Ironman” as they come through the finishing chute on Ali’i drive. On their way to achieving their dream, they have to tackle the waves of the Pacific, the winds of the Queen K Highway and the heat of the Natural Energy Lab.

Like every IRONMAN® Race, Kona is often filled with stories of challenges and triumphs, and this year was no different. Before the race even began came the news that Tim Don would not be able to make the start after being involved in a crash during a training ride on the Queen K. Also missing from the finish line was perennial favorite Matt Russell who was involved in a bike crash during the race. Thankfully, both are now on the mend but the recovery will be lengthy. We are sure both of them are eying a return to Kona in 2018 as the ultimate goal on their recovery journey. Follow Matt’s journey here.

On the more positive side, there many stories of triumph among the finishers including Patrick Lange’s course setting record and Daniela Ryf’s third straight win. There was also a breakout performance by Australia’s Sarah Crowley who managed a third-place finish after a mid-race crash.

From a TriBike Transport perspective, Kona is one of our most challenging and rewarding races every year. It is one of the few races each year that we have to pack bikes for water shipment, which adds a whole new level of complexity.

This year was our 8th trip to the island for the IRONMAN® World Championships and saw us helping 330 athletes experience hassle-free transport getting to their race. Since we began supporting the Kona race in 2009, we have now transported over 3,000 bikes to and from the island.

Congrats to everyone that realized their Kona dream this year. Whether it was for the first time, or the 35th, you don’t get to the World Championships without drive, determination and plenty of hard work.

0 Comments | Posted in News

It is often thought that as athletes, and specifically triathletes if proper attention is paid to our training, nutrition/restoration, race fueling, and race pacing that we will just naturally race to our potential. We, at QT2 Systems, consider these to be our four cornerstones of success. But, often is the case that we do not race to our potential, despite tremendous fitness. When this occurs, a probing analysis must consider all aspects of our preparations/execution, including the four cornerstones, and perhaps something deeper still. This adds a layer of complexity to the performance package, as our foundation of cornerstones becomes pentagonal and much, much more complicated.

This fifth element, mental fitness, is the least tangible of the cornerstones, and therefore the most difficult to wrap our hands and minds around. The original four cornerstones all have the basis in the hard sciences that study human physiology which, though always being refined, are universally well-understood. The introduction of mental fitness brings with it a level of abstraction because it deals with the human mind, and despite tremendous gains, over the last century its scientific ramifications have not yet been fully defined.

Despite an incomplete understanding of the human mind, and how it works, enough research has been done in the area of athletic performance to determine the appropriate strategies needed to overcome mental limitations, as they arise. Let's consider just a few...

What Is Mental Fitness, and Why Is It So Hard To Come By? Competition in and of itself is quite a daunting proposition! In it, you avail yourself to comparisons against others, within a confined set of rules. Your abilities, be they strong or weak, are put forth to be judged. This can be a tremendous undertaking for the human ego! How an athlete perceives the environment of the competition, and how it makes them feel is fundamental to mental fitness.

Those with strong mental fitness can adapt to any setting, and either take full advantage of it or, at the very least, be completely unaffected by it. At its most basic level, take for example this year's Ironman Lake Placid. On the morning of the event, it was announced that it would be a non-wetsuit swim, for those competing for a Kona slot. Those with strong mental fitness were able to recognize that this was the hand that they had been dealt, and though it might result in a slower swim time, would leave their race primarily unaffected. Others panicked! In essence, the key components of mental fitness really boil down to the following during competition:

  • Failure - Very little fear of it.
  • Goals - Not thinking about performance outcomes.
  • Focus - Being "in the moment" and focused on the activity at hand. • Experience - Having your body just complete the task almost involuntarily.
  • Control - Sticking to your executables, and staying within your targets creating a great sense of personal control.

Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is one of the most important attributes of mental fitness, and can best be described as the athlete's desire to train and compete, on a daily basis. An athlete's "love of the game" will typically fuel the desire to be competent and self-determined in their respective sport. This tends to be second nature to most triathletes, otherwise, why would we sign up for races a year in advance and get up at ungodly hours of the morning to train for them. But, when this intrinsic motivation begins to wane, there is very often a bigger picture issue related to either physical or mental health, such as overtraining and depression, respectively. As a result, it is quite possible to be both intrinsically motivated and lacking in mental fitness. Their mutual exclusivity is the very reason for this discussion, and what constantly bewilders coaches and athletes alike.

Task Relevance

Task relevance considers an athlete's mindset while training and/or racing. Athletes who are able to focus their full attention on task-relevant items, be they training or racing, are constantly reminding themselves of things such as "I will stay focused on the bike, and peddle at 90rpm" and "I will run this hill strong, keeping my eyes on my target". These are signs of a mentally fit athlete because, despite any outside distractions, they are able to concentrate only on the task at hand.

Conversely, the mentally unfit athlete will tend to allow themselves to be distracted by outside stimuli, thus focusing on task irrelevant items. A looking glass into their minds might reveal thoughts that fall along the lines of "If I don't perform well, I am going to disappoint my family and friends" and "If I don't place in the top-10, my sponsors are going to drop me".

The difference in mindsets is quite clear, and it is not too difficult to see the positive impacts of one, and the very negative impacts of the other. While a focus on task-relevant items will not necessarily lead to physical success, it will certainly put the athlete in a position to fully capitalize on their fitness. By the same token, the toll of focusing on task irrelevant items can take the wind right out of an athlete's fitness sail, so to speak, as too much mental energy is spent on why something can't be done, rather than why it can.

Athlete Arousal

For those of you snickering like a 15-year old boy in the back of the classroom, "arousal" is actually a common term used to describe the level of excitement that an athlete is able to bring to an event or workout. Athletes should work to identify their optimal arousal level, such that they are neither a jittery mess nor a wet mop at the starting line. Athletes want to make sure that they are aroused enough to push themselves to their physical limits on race day, but not so much so that they begin making mistakes and focusing on task irrelevant items.

Caffeine or other mental stimuli can play a very important role in reaching the proper arousal level. Finding thoughts to reduce arousal level in some athletes, and thoughts to increase it in others is an important component to mental fitness.

As we all know, caffeine is one of the most effective ergogenic aids available. Its use in endurance sports has been extensively studied mostly from a physiological perspective. Here, I discuss its use relative to mental fitness.

Caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system and has an excellent record of increasing alertness and decreasing perceived exertion. For this reason, athletes who tend to have a bit of trouble reaching the arousal level necessary to fully push their fitness limiters can consider its supplementation. On the very opposite end of the spectrum, those who have little trouble reaching appropriate arousal levels should potentially avoid its use, perhaps until later into an event if at all. Caffeine use in these athletes will, more likely than not, lead to overarousal which can lead to task-irrelevant thinking.

Motivation - The Avoidance of Failure

Athletes who are motivated by the avoidance of failure (MAF), will typically perform best in events that are perceived to be either very, very easy or very, very hard. These athletes will thrive at local sprint races, where the competition is perceived to be very weak, or in a race like Kona, where they perceive the competition to be head and shoulders above themselves. But, at a regional championship, or satellite Ironman, where the perception of success is 50/50, they will talk themselves right out of a potential Kona slot. As a result, these athletes should stay away from caffeine, as they tend to become over-aroused, very easily, and begin to focus on task irrelevant items. This is a shortcut to the following thought process:

  • The environment is perceived to be a threat to self-esteem
  • A disconnect between ability level and what is required for perceived success
  • A fear of consequence from coach, sponsors, or peer group.

And so begins a nasty cycle of mental cat and mouse, as these thoughts lead to further and further arousal, for an athlete who doesn't need it. Successful MAF athletes will focus their attention on process goals, and their coaches will work to mold the athlete's perception of an upcoming event as either very easy, compared to their training, or as nearly impossible. These athletes can be negatively affected by too much detail.

Motivation - The Achievement of Success

Athletes who are motivated by the achievement of success (MAS) perform very well when they perceive success to be 50/50. They "want the ball", when the game is on the line and are able to rise to the challenge defined by how they perceive their environment.

Regardless of the reality, if these athletes perceive a challenge, they embrace it. When faced with a 50/50, the MAS athlete can summon the optimal arousal level, leaving them focused and motivated to perform as their fitness suggests.

The MAS athlete responds very well to detail and tends not to perceive "failure" as detrimental. Rather, they maintain perspective of the details, in relation to their training as a whole, better perceiving the reality of each. The MAS athlete knows that missing the timing of their race morning breakfast by 10 minutes really isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Caffeine may be a serious consideration for the MAS athlete, who may sometimes struggle to reach the arousal levels necessary for optimal performance when the environment is perceived to be overly easy, or overly hard. Unlike the MAF athlete, who can be sent over the edge by caffeine, the MAS athlete may employ it for both, best effort workouts and races alike when there is little outside challenge to the task.

At times, the MAS athlete may require a bit of help to concentrate their efforts on the importance of a key workout, or a local sprint race where they know they will win. Where the MAF athlete can be a bit too much like the Tasmanian Devil on race morning, the MAS athlete can too closely resemble Deputy Dog depending on the situation. Deputy Dog is going to require some caffeine to get through a set of mile repeats, at a best sustainable effort when there is very little outside stimulus!

Support Systems

Coaches typically fall into two categories. There are those who use positive reinforcement to motivate their athletes and those who use punishment. 99% of the time. Most coaches and family support systems fall somewhere in between these two approaches. Punishment can be extremely detrimental to the MAF athlete, because it causes them to further focus on task irrelevant items, and reinforces their fear of failure. This can catalyze the cycle of negativity discussed above. MAS athletes, on the other hand, can sometimes react positively to some punishment in their program, as they tend to perceive it as a challenge. It is very rare that a coach will be successful utilizing either model, exclusively.

Coaches and support systems should consider the athletes who they are working with, and gauge their approach accordingly. An approach heavily weighted in the punitive model should be used cautiously, and only for those athletes who the coach knows will view the punishment as an opportunity to rise above it. While many coaches are who they are, and take the approach that best suits their personality, I urge coaches to allow their approaches to be more athlete-centered than coach-centered. This may require the coach to wear more than one hat but will ensure that their athletes are able to maintain an appropriate mental approach to training and racing.

Just as a good teacher must consider how best to motivate each individual student, a good coach must do the same. Positive reinforcement is never the wrong answer. But sometimes, when you need a little more emphasis, to get your message across, punishment can be a very effective tool, specifically for the MAS athlete. Where the MAS athlete can typically handle some level of reprimand, the MAF athlete may feel alienated by it. This can result in a poor athlete/coach relationship, culminating in hostility and/or discouragement. For the MAF athlete, this can create a loss of motivation, with a renewed focus on failure.

Conclusion

All but a very few athletes are neither 100% MAS, nor 100% MAF, and where they fall on the spectrum can vary on a yearly, monthly, and even daily basis. As a result, I adjust my approach accordingly.

Once you are able to understand the athlete's state of mental fitness, you can better guide their performance on race day, with the goal to always display the fitness they have developed and shown in training. As coaches, and athletes, we tend to place the bulk of our attention on the physical aspects of the sport, and for good reason. But, when we find ourselves, or one of our athletes, not performing to physical expectations, we must take a step back and consider this additional sphere of influence.

The sport of triathlon is multifaceted, and as a result, we are always presented with any number of potential limiters. Like the physical, limiters in mental fitness can be just as restrictive. Remember, that each athlete is an individual; that each athlete interprets their environment according to their own perceptions. Just as we would never expect each athlete to respond to exactly the same physical stimuli, we cannot expect each athlete to motivate in kind. I believe this is one of the reasons why many triathlon squads that take a standard approach to all athletes from a mental perspective can be successful for some, but detrimental to others.

Jesse Kropenicki

QT2 Systems Founder

QT2 Pro Coach

USAT Level III

NCSA-CSCS

ACSM-cPT

For more information on Jesse and QT2 Systems. Go to www.qt2systems.com

0 Comments | Posted in News

Guest Blog - Mike Levine - Using TBT

Oct 7, 2017 4:23:26 AM

Aricle: Mike Levine.

Photo: Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune

During my days of more serious competing, racing involved traveling from coast to coast, and many international trips as well. Hope on and off a plan fresh enough to race is challenging enough, without the hassle of carting your bike as well.

Back in those days, there was no TriBike Transport to make travel hassle-free. Instead, I was left scrambling trying to digest the best method of getting my bike from one destination to the next. And I tried everything…

  • Bike cases are always an option, but they require varying levels of disassembly which potentially leads to misplacing (or breaking) parts

  • Bike boxes are also an option, but that means rummaging the back doors of a local shop to grab a cardboard bike box and then trying to fit my tri bike into the banged up box and holding it all together with duct tape

  • Thankfully things have changed since those days!

    Recently, my training partner, Kathleen McCartney, introduced me TriBike Transport. Now instead of going through the hassle of dismantling my bike before travel, I simply drop my full-assembled bike off at my local shop and meet it at my destination.

    Reduced stress is key to a successful Kona finish, and TriBike Transport has perfected this process to a science.

    Thank you so much TriBike Transport for making this terminal Cancer Patient’s journey to the World Championship simple, worry and hassle-free.

    Michael Levine

    2017 Ironman World Championship Ambassador Athlete

    Read more about Mike's journey in an article by The San Diego Tribune by
    clicking here.

    About Mike Levine:

    Mike is a:

  • 1982 and 1983 Ironman World Championship finisher

  • 1994 Tri Fed USA All American Triathlete

  • Current stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer Patient on lifetime chemotherapy

  • Selected and competing at the 2017 Ironman World Championship Kona as the ‘Special Interest Story’ Ambassador Athlete by Ironman WTC and NBC

  • 0 Comments | Posted in News

    Team TBT Spotlight: Keish Doi

    Oct 4, 2017 2:06:19 AM

    The triathlon bug first bit Keish Doi in 2000. Over the next three years, he completed a number of smaller format races before moving up to an IRONMAN® race in Canada in 2003. Since then there has been no slowing him down. To date, Keish has completed 60 full distance races and 53 70.3s! Along the way, he joined Team TBT in 2009 and continues to be one of our most active racers (no kidding).

    In 2016, Keish started to plan his 2017 vacation. He thought, a month in Europe would be nice but wanted to take it a step further than the normal tourist type approach. So he decided to join his passion of traveling with his passion for triathlon and registered to race in four IRONMAN® events as he made his way across the continent.

    After registering to race IRONMAN® Switzerland, Maastricht-Limburg, Hamburg, and Copenhagen he began training and prepared for the adventure of a lifetime. Each race offered its own set of challenges that was only compounded by the demands of racing four full-distance races in a short amount of time.

    Previously competing in IRONMAN® France in 2012, Keish had some experience racing in Europe but was looking for more. The atmosphere in Europe is more focused on the race and less focused on the participation. In addition, the cites are older, and the roads are narrow and often rougher, which can make for a harder race experience in general.

    After its all said and done, IRONMAN® Copenhagen ranked as Keish’s favorite of the four. Aside from being his last race, and the fastest result, the culture of Denmark, the friendliness of the people, and the bike infrastructure of the city made it the most enjoyable.

    When it comes to the most challenging, that title belongs to IRONMAN® Switzerland. While beautiful, the bike course was incredibly challenging filled with many steep climbs, fast descents, and sharp turns.

    The biggest surprise of the trip was Keish’s ability to not only continue racing with no training in between but that he was also able to finish each race strong – with his last race providing the best result. Going into it, he was concerned his fitness would begin to decline making finishing each race harder and harder, but instead, the opposite was true.

    Now back home in Hawaii Keish is spending a little time recovering, a little time training, and no doubt a lot of time planning his next adventure.

    Keish, from all of us at TBT, congrats on conquering the challenge and thanks for continuing to be such a great ambassador for our company and our sport.

    0 Comments | Posted in News
    By Kathleen McCartney

    Some things never change on the road to the finish line in Kona - the wind, the heat, the fatigue, and the smile that works overtime in anticipation of running down Ali’i Drive, living your dream...and hearing ...“You...are...an...Ironman!” But fortunately, the road to getting your bike to the finish line in Kona has changed dramatically!

    For my first Ironman 35 years ago, there was nothing like TriBike Transport (and, no such thing as a tri bike). Instead of the hassle-free process of dropping my fully assembled bike off at my local shop, getting my bike to Kona was filled with stress, frustration and a whole lot of hope.

    Thanks to TriBike Transport, gone are the days of searching the back alleys of bike shops for cardboard bike boxes (yes, I really did that), dismantling your bike (removing the seat post, the handlebars, wheels, and pedals), and packing the tools required for reassembly. Also, gone is the stress of just hoping the bike didn’t get crushed, bent, wheels knocked out of true, spokes snapped or bike irreparably damaged when being tossed around by the baggage crew. TriBike Transport has also removed the stress (and expense) of transporting a huge bike box from the airport in Kona to my hotel. This often required upgrading my rental car or finding that one taxi that was big enough.

    Since 2004 TriBike Transport is the perfect solution to get your most crucial and valuable piece of equipment to Kona! Now all you have to do is go online, make a reservation and drop your race-ready bike off at your designated area bike shop. TriBike Transport takes care of the rest!

    Imagine arriving in Kona to the delight of a fully assembled race ready bike. Now all you have to do in Kona is enjoy all the benefits of your hard work and enjoy every minute of race week and race day!

    For a little extra charge, TriBike Transport will even pick up your bike and transition bags post race so you have more time to celebrate your finish! With all the countless hours we spend training, meticulously preparing for every race day possibility, the amount of money we invest in our race and our bike, TriBike Transport’s service is invaluable.

    When I came back to race in Kona in 2012 after a 9-year sabbatical from triathlon, I was thrilled to discover the services of TriBike Transport to transport my first ever real tri bike! I’ve used TriBike Transport for every Kona Ironman since my return to Kona (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017)! All that I have to do is train and prepare for the most incredible race of my life and TriBike Transport takes care of my bike! The service TriBike Transport provides is as important and integral to my race plan as my training, nutrition, and equipment.

    I wouldn’t dream of going to Kona without TriBike Transport on my team!

    Thank you TriBike Transport in advance of my 11th World Championship and for all of the benefits of your essential service to our sport!

    Kathleen McCartney is the 1982 IRONMAN® World Champion and 10-time IRONMAN® World Championship Finisher.

    0 Comments | Posted in News
    Page 1 of 9