Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 15 - Ben Yocum - PUREBRED ATHLETE - Part 1 of 3

Exactly, exactly. So, I was like if I finish this thing I score a point and if I don't we don't lose anything. She just laughs at me. She's like let's go ask Coach Webb, and Bill Webb was a head coach at Tennessee for ages and he's a phenomenal guy, I love this guy.

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“Exactly, exactly. So, I was like if I finish this thing I score a point and if I don't we don't lose anything. She just laughs at me. She's like let's go ask Coach Webb, and Bill Webb was a head coach at Tennessee for ages and he's a phenomenal guy, I love this guy. We go down and we’re like hey, how do you feel about him jumping in the steeplechase? And he looks at me like what, you're a decathlete. Why do you want to do something stupid like that for?” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Today on the Smart Athlete Podcast, my guest is a former NCAA Division 1 Decathlete, currently taking those talents and competing in triathlon. He’s a USA Track and Field Certified Coach as well as a USA Cycling Certified Coach, and he's taking those talents and coaching at Coastal Carolina University. Welcome to the show, Ben Yocum. BEN: Howdy. JESSE: A little bit different getting the read off before? BEN: Yeah, not really used to getting introduced. JESSE: That’s how a lot of people are which is fine. But a few weeks ago, I talked to Richard Fineman and he's like job searching. He's like, did you get my CV? I’m just trying to like get through all this stuff. But I feel like and you probably come across maybe the other coaches that you work with, there's a lot going on with people, especially kind of, I’ll say at the point that they're in their career, they've accumulated a fair number of things that they've done. So, I think sometimes we forget, oh, yeah, I did do that and oh, I can do that. And so I always like to make sure everybody gets their credit where credit's due. So, we talked on the phone the other day a little bit. I'm going to try and see if I can get you to commit here. You're thinking about leaving the Iron Man in 2020. So, what's the hesitation? What can we do to push you towards signing up? BEN: So, did Chattanooga this past September, and that was a fantastic experience shy of the swim getting canceled. JESSE: You did the full? BEN: Yeah. Yeah. Loved that bike course, it was incredible. The run course there is tough just from an element standpoint, just Barton Hill is nothing to be messed with. I think anybody that has ever run that course will tell you the same. But yeah, so and then after doing that, and spending, just what it takes to actually train up for full a Iron Man, I was like, this next year needs to be a down year, I need to recover. I need to do some things from a social standpoint because the training work balance meant no social for almost a whole year there and that wasn't fun. JESSE: That's what a lot of people say it just like it eats up all life. So, then all your loved ones are in with it on you just because you're doing it, and they are your support crew, basically. So, it's all-consuming from what I understand. BEN: And it's the kind of thing where coaching at the level that I'm coaching, on top of trying to train for it. You know, there were a lot of life lessons that came along with balancing everything out across the 10 months or so that I was training up. And then I also had the kick in the backside where I'm trying to think if it was about it was roughly January, February that I came down with mono. So, February, March, April, May, were all just shot like I was not doing anything from a training standpoint. So, half a May, June, July, August, September was my training base. So, that was not an ideal scenario whatsoever. JESSE: Yeah. Did you have base going into it before that, or was it like-- BEN: Yeah. No, so going into December, so September, October, November, December, I had 16 weeks of really solid base going. I was probably running 40 miles a week at a decent clip for me. And then January hit and my energy, I just felt like a slug. And I was like, well, this is different. JESSE: Yeah, that's one of those like, I'll run through a cold but you can't really run through mono, or train through mono or fever. Like, there's a lot of things it's just you can't do it. BEN: Yeah, you literally just have to sit down, sit on your hands and go like, all right. We're going to bide our time and it's just gonna be what it's going to be. JESSE: Yeah. Yeah, I was like, you're saying there's like four or five months there leave in the race. And I'm like people do it but it always seems bananas to me when people go from say, I’ll call it couch to Iron Man. I'm like, you're out of your mind. BEN: Yeah, exactly. Or Iron Man's going to be the first race that you do. And I was a decathlete in college like 1,500 meters was the longest race I ran. And most decathletes dread the 15 like, I actually enjoyed the 15 like I was a 427 guy. So, I could run a decent clip and to do that I had enough of a running base and like, I ran cross country in high school and like I ran, I want to say like, 17 flat for 5K kind of thing. You know, but I ain’t done anything like that since, you know. There's an infamous story floating around out there about me running a steeplechase, 3K steeple, my senior year of college that we won't necessarily go into. JESSE: Well, I ran the steeple so now I want to know because I have this theory that no matter how good a shape you're in, I don't care-- I've talked to a lot of people who run steeple. No matter how good of a shape you're in, the very first steeplechase you ever do hurts like hell the whole way through. BEN: Okay, I'll go ahead and tell you the whole story. So, we're at SEC quad B with Tennessee-- it might have been Florida, Florida and Arkansas and we're at Tennessee. And I look around, I've kind of realized like I'm done for the day and I realized that we've only got one guy entered in the steeple. So, if I finish it, I score a point. Okay, cool. So, I grabbed my coach, and I was like, hey, what do you think about running the steeple and you want to do what? JESSE: Well, you already know how to run hurdles. I mean, the only thing that’s a barrier, just getting over the barrier with the pit. BEN: Exactly. Exactly. So, I was like, I like, if I finish this thing, I score a point. If I don't, we don't lose anything. She just laughs at me. She's like, let's go ask Webb. And Bill Webb was a head coach at Tennessee for ages and like he's a phenomenal guy. I love this guy. We go down and we’re like hey, how do you feel about him jumping in the steeplechase? And he looks at me like what? You're a decathlete. What do you want to do something stupid like that for? I was like coach, somebody bet me I couldn't do it. And he's like, right on jump in, buddy. So, I'm in there with a handful of guys that ran like 905-908 the week prior. These are not guys to be like trifled with. Now, our distance coach grabs me by the shoulder right beforehand. He says whatever you do, don't go out fast. I’m like all right, cool. So, what do I do? I go out on the shoulders of these guys. Because 72 second quarters feels slow to me at this point. I'm not thinking we got two miles worth of this. And I had no concept of what the barrier-- JESSE: The barrier-- It’s like two miles and five barriers a lap. BEN: Right and like I was hurdling like a champ know. JESSE: Yeah. You know how to hurdle, you’re a decathlete, you’ve done it. BEN: Yeah, 36-inch barriers instead of 42 is nothing. JESSE: You’re probably stepping over them, yeah. BEN: Yeah. Yeah. And let me-- Man first mile, I'm cruising. Two K's I'm like, yeah, 2K's. Wait a minute. There's another thousand freakin’ meters of this? That next two and a half laps was the most painful two and a half laps of my entire collegiate career. Like I got the golf clap coming down the last straightaway. They were trying to pull the barriers off, they're trying to get real lined up for the next event. Like it was ugly. JESSE: But you got that point, right? BEN: Hey, one point man. And if I remember right, we actually won that meet by like, half a point or a point it was something ridiculous. And like it was basically the go ahead point. And old Bill Webb was hot. Oh, he was hot because he gave the go ahead on that one. But yeah, so that was, of course, my coach at the time, coach -, like loves telling that stories. He’s like man, we had this decathlete, he just jumped in the steeplechase just because-- JESSE: Hey, that seems like it's not an unusual situation. Like the steeplechase is a pretty, I'll say specialized event. And oftentimes it like-- So, I was at school an ?? 11:42>, this now Division Two. So, our meets didn't have typically as many as like a Division One school would have. And sometimes you only have it'd be me and like four other guys. So, there's three spots. If you stick anybody in there. They've got points, and then...don't. So, it's not unusual that that happens. But I'm glad to see like my theory stands out that, no matter what that very first people chase, it hurts like hell. BEN: You know, and I'll tell you a funny story is a couple of years later post-collegiately, I was like, You know what, I'm gonna jump into another steeplechase. I'm gonna like, I'm in better shape now. Like I'm running distance stuff. It's going to be good. JESSE: Now you're just a glutton for punishment. BEN: Well, why do you think I got into triathlon? JESSE: Oh, right. BEN: So, I had zero interest in going out to the longer distance tri stuff for a long time. And my buddy, who actually ironically was the other steeplechaser in that race, he calls me up. He says, hey, come do this half Ironman with me in New Hampshire. I'm like, I don't know, bro. He's like, no, no, no, you got plenty of time to train for it, you'll be fine. It's like five hours worth of work. You'll be great. Like, I don't know, bro. Man, if you go, if you look up the course profile for the old timber man race, that thing is a bear. Like it is an absolute bear. Not just the bike course but the run course is just, it was horrendous. I will never see another half iron course anything like it short of maybe Mont Tremblant would be-- JESSE: That’s what I was thinking. I haven't raced either but that was what came to mind as I like to compare the two. BEN: Yeah, I've heard it's very similar. In that regard, I was actually signed up to do Tremblant the year prior to - last year. Had some family stuff going on had, mom got real sick so training stuff went out the window. And I was like, hey we got to take care of mom. So yeah. Now once you get that itch, once you get that like nasty little fungus that gets under your skin that says go longer, go longer, go longer. There's this other random little itch that says it doesn't matter if you go slow, like, you can just keep going longer. I've got the infection like it's ?? 14:45>. And it’s kind of funny, because like, I'll talk with my kids about trying to run fast. Like I used to be reasonably fast. I am nowhere near anything that I would call fast anymore. But I really enjoy cranking on some long miles. JESSE: Well, yeah, I mean, you need to if you want to go the long distances. BEN: Well, right. Right. You know, so there's that. JESSE: It seems like I mean, you’re a decathlete so you're pretty big guy, I would assume. BEN: 5’10, at race weight, I'm probably closer to 175. Currently pushing closer to 190. JESSE: Where were you in college when you're doing decathlon? BEN: I was like 177 was competition weight. Yeah, 175, 177 probably about 4% body fat, just real lean, real strong like pound for pound. JESSE: Yeah. Did you do and this is just a personal curiosity. Did you do pole vault in high school or did you have to learn that in college? BEN: Oh, so the vault was-- I was actually one of the very fortunate decathletes that had the vault in high school. So, like I was a 400, 800 cross country guy plus the vault in high school. But I was self-taught with the vault. So, my freshman year was all like, relearned the vault, which was almost worse than coming in with no bad habits. JESSE: Yeah, you had to like really break everything down and find a coach to be like, okay, no, like your inversions wrong. BEN: It was all wrong. It was all wrong. The only thing that was right was my like, fearlessness of the event. Like, that was the only thing that was right about it. JESSE: So, how do you translate that-- I mean, now that you're on the other side, and now you're like, working with athletes, how do you take all that and translate that into helping your athletes be the best they can be. BEN: So, so much of coaching period, is just relationships, right? So, sitting down on a regular basis, having conversations and just being like hey, here's where we are, here's where you're telling me you want to go. These are not my goals, these are their goals. I'm not the guy to sit there and go, hey, you ought to be at NCAA, you ought to be world-class athlete. I push as little of that in their direction as I can. Unless they're just absolutely oblivious and sometimes that's a really good thing. But to back up a little bit too, my master's degree is actually in motor control and rehabilitation. So, basically, I did a whole bunch of stroke rehab reading in college and which is really nothing more than skill acquisition. So, taking all of the little pieces, taking like the small piece, the small piece, the small piece that all add up to build the castle. So, the metaphor that I always use with the kids is, if you take five Legos and you try to put them all together at the same time, how well does that work? Generally speaking, it doesn't work very well, unless you just super freaky coordinated to put five Legos together at the same time. JESSE: Yeah, like one lego on each finger and somehow you're-- BEN: It just doesn't work. So, like if you just take two pieces, and you put them together, and then you put two more pieces together, and you put two more pieces together and you put two more pieces together; keep your head down and just keep putting the pieces together. Sooner or later you step back and you built the castle. And I think if we're talking about distance and triathlon and all that, it's really no different. You put the pieces together one at a time, you get yourself into where like, okay, I understand what I'm doing with my running. And you can go way deep in the rabbit hole on any one of the different disciplines. But establishing a basic understanding of each, okay, cool. Now, let's establish a basic understanding of what it means to go out of the water in a supine position where your bloods flowing nice and smooth. And you stand up vertically and your heart rate shoots through the roof. And in the back of your head, you're going WTF man, what's going on? I know how to ride a bike and all of a sudden you can hardly speak words. So, understanding what that transition actually feels like, and that infamous first half mile or a mile off the bike in your first triathlon race, that's a major wake up call. Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3

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