Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 28 - Will McGough - SWIM BIKE BONK - Part 2 of 3

To backup because we both have the context as I read the book and you wrote the book and lived it. So, the premise of Will’s book is that he and I will say like an idiot, I say that lovingly--
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 28 - Will McGough - SWIM BIKE BONK - Part 2 of 3

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JESSE: To backup because we both have the context as I read the book and you wrote the book and lived it. So, the premise of Will’s book is that he and I will say like an idiot, I say that lovingly-- WILL: I’ll say that too. JESSE: But he decided, for his very first triathlon, he was going to do an Ironman. And many people along the way also said he was an idiot, but he continued anyway. And the book is basically a recounting of the trials and tribulations leading up to the race and the race itself. WILL: Right. Now, I do want to tell you something, I gotta tell you a side story here because I agree, I'm an idiot. But now you might feel a little bad for me because originally, the way this book came in is that this publisher and I were discussing other topics which didn't work out, separate story. But then the Ironman came up and I'm based out here in Hawaii, and at this time in 2017, it was leading up to the 40th anniversary in 2018. And triathlon participation has been growing like a weed. So, this was kind of like a good time we thought to maybe do something on it. And so my publisher was really like, hey, why don't we work on sort of a historical account looking at where Ironman started and seeing to where it is now. And that could be an interesting project. And as you know, the book has a lot of those components in it, kind of retracing the steps in the history of it. So, that was the initial goal. And when I was talking to the publisher, this was like July of 2017, firming all this up, my plan was like, okay I want to, I'm an immersive journalist, I want to do an Ironman, or at least take part or try or whatever, get involved. So, I'm thinking it's July 2017. I'll train this winter. I was looking up the Ironman schedule for next summer. I'm like, okay, maybe next July I'll do one or next fall. You know, the publishing process is so long. We'll turn the book in like right around the 40th-- We could still get it out in time, I could train. So, in my mind, I'm having this timeline going and this is just me being naive because this is my first book. So, then we get to signing on the dotted line. And I'm like, I reveal this timeline to them at the final meeting. And they're like, great we love your outline, we love what you're going to do. The only thing we need to change is that, like you don't have that much time, you need to have the book written and turned in by January 2018. And I'm like, guys, that's six months from now, the last Ironman of the Year is in November, it's August 1st and they're like, “Well, do you want to do it or not?” So, I'm just saying I didn't, it comes off as me like-- And of course I tried to be confident about this and there's a little cockiness there. But this was not my plan of like, oh, let me just show everyone that I'm awesome. And I'm going to try this without like-- I kind of like got forced into this in a way, it just was not my initial plan to do this. JESSE: See, that's what I-- I kept reading through it and going back to the beginning and trying to find, I’m like, how did he get roped into this? I kept trying to figure out like, did you come up with it on your own or were you just in like a fever dream all of a sudden and you're like I'm doing it. I kept trying to figure out, and I'm not sure if it's in the book, maybe I missed it. I don't-- WILL: I don't talk about why-- JESSE: Yeah, I don't think you talked about why you ended up in this predicament of having three and a half months to train, that's the idiotic part for you listening. I'm getting ready for an Ironman, not necessarily doing it for your first which is not, to me very advisable. But also on top of that, having three and a half months to do it. WILL: Totally. Yeah. And so I just want you to feel better about that. Because I feel like triathletes reading this might just immediately be like, okay, is this guy trying to show us up or what is the goal here? And yeah, okay like, I'm a competitor. So, it gets to that point a little bit where people are doubting me and I'm like, well, you know what, screw you. But this was not my intention to come in and make a mockery of this or anything. I really, it’s just the way it worked out, man. And it kind of made the story like once I got over the initial shock, and fear of that, I was like, okay, you know what this does kind of-- Because the one thing that you need more than anything to compete in these things is motivation. And so, the fact when someone tells you like, okay hundred days, go, and you don't own a bike, and you've never ran more than eight miles in your life, and you used to be a good swimmer when you were a kid. But now the most swimming you do is like snorkeling around, you're like, okay, I'm motivated. And when you have something on the line of like, okay, you don't have to write about this. So, that was sort of the push into it and that's why the book just starts out with a bang all right, today's the day I'm telling everybody, here we go. JESSE: See, I noticed even like, I don't know when the turn was but it was like, even for the first month you start 100 some odd days out. And even for the first 30 days, it seems like you're still just kind of meandering around, not really getting into training. WILL: Totally. Yeah, there was like all this in my mind too like, oh, well, maybe like, I go to my doctor. I'm like, maybe he's gonna say like, dude, don't do this, you know? Or like, maybe there's something that's gonna-- It just I kind of-- for a while I just like doing all the research, it was just hard to believe-- it was hard to believe I was going to do it that I just wasn't doing it. And then finally, something clicked where it's like, all right, you can't read about training forever. You just have to start doing it. And like start somewhere, and I don't have all the gear yet. But how am I going to piece that together? And okay, like start with what you have and start where you can, and just let's go for it. So, yeah, there was a bit of meandering, which cut down the time. But again, that just even more built this pressure and this motivation this drive. I don't know, I guess it just took me a while to get in that right headspace to be like, okay now I feel like-- Because training plans, like everybody has a million different opinions, right? So, I spent a while trying to figure out like, okay, what should I do? Like what's the excellent advice quote-unquote on training three months out. And turns out there is none because no expert would ever recommend that. Right? So, sorting through it all and being like, okay, what should I do? What's the approach here? And then finally just being like, all right, man I just got to do something, so let's get going. Yeah. JESSE: Did you end up running your own schedule, or did B Mac help you or how did the schedule come together? SPEAKER 2: Yeah. So, I had the influence from carriers like B Mac and Drew who were like, hey these are kind of benchmark goals you want to get. But initially, yeah, I just-- or eventually I just started going with how I felt. I had a lot of IT band issues as you've read about. And my scheduling was a nightmare as it is for a lot of people who are doing this. And so just to fit everything all in, but mostly I just really tried to work on my mental aspects and I just figured, like somewhere in my head, which is the dumbest thing to think when you're talking about these distances, but I'm just sort of like, what kept driving me was like, okay I'm not quite there yet. But you know what, it's one day man I can gear up for one day. When I get to that starting line I'm like, whatever it is, even if I haven't run 10 miles, like one day I can gut it out. ?? 7:37> was a stupid, foolish thing, right. But yeah, no, I just, I mean, what you see is what you get man. Like in the book, it's the timeline is true, the story is true. Like I was kind of winging it and just fitting in wherever I can and just reacting to my body. And just trying to learn as I go and see like, what is my capability, how fast can I push, and my body would push back. I would feel injured or feel tired, and just kind of navigating through that as I'm sure like, I mean, all the best laid plans for your training, you're an expert, you have these, but I'm sure at times, right, you have like hey, I can't stick to the schedule because of x, y, z or whatever. I don't know. JESSE: Yeah, I've been through injury actually recently. And I have, so I have a coach and he writes on my schedule, but I also have the ability to pull the plug at any given time, if necessary. He trusts me enough and I know myself well enough that if it’s like, this is not happening today, then I have that ability to say, okay, that's it for today. Let's make a smarter approach at this. Yeah. WILL: What surprised me was, I mean, it's like swimming, biking and running, but it's like, riddled with injuries. Like it's so easy to get hurt. Like, I don't get that, that was-- JESSE: Repetitive motion, same motion over and over and over and over and over again. So, that's why-- that's why I suggested that you're an idiot for doing it in three months because you need-- your body needs time to make muscles stronger, to make ligaments and all those attachments stronger and not have your bones break down from repetitive pounding to like bones and getting stress fractures. And there's so many ways that your body can break through repetitive motion that that's why when you try and cram something like that in so quickly, the risk for injury is so high. WILL: Super high, I think it was like 70 some percent chance of like getting injured as a triathlete, which like, blew me away. I would have never guessed that, that these seemingly basic things that we've done forever, you would have that. But it's like the intensity, I guess. And then really the mental breakdown that you experience and just how your world becomes so distorted. At least for me as an outsider, I mean, there's one example in the book where I talk about like, you can't go backwards, right. Like I remember going on like a three mile-- a three hour ride and then a seven mile run and I'm all stoked. And a couple of days later, I do a two hour ride a five mile run, it's like, that's a huge workout, right? But after that workout, I'm like, man, I slacked off. You know, I’m like what? JESSE: Your new normal is raised. It's totally different perception. WILL: Yeah, just like that headspace was baffling to me. And I don't like, how do you just go for a run after dinner anymore? Like you do all these competitions, you do all these events, like pushing yourself? Like, are you satisfied with like, hey, I'm gonna go on a 30 minute run before dinner. I mean, you gotta-- it's like, nothing for you. JESSE: Right. Yeah, it's definitely tough now, as I was telling you, and anybody who’s watched the podcast knows this. I spent eight years trying to become a professional triathlete. So, yeah, I backed off this last year, and I really felt kind of aimless. Like, I don't even know what I'm doing it. I actually kind of think you talked to some of the people that founded Ironman early did the very first one. And then you yourself kind of have this kind of almost laissez faire attitude about being active. I've kind of found it a challenge like that. Next Friday I'm flying out to Colorado Springs to run the incline. I don't know if you're familiar with that. WILL: ?? 11:06>. JESSE: No, it's the Manitou Springs incline. So, it's nine tenths of a mile and raises, it goes up 2,000 feet in that period of time. So, average grade is about 40%. So, I'm just like, trying to find a new challenge, going to go see how it goes. Yeah, so it's like, once you've done it, and I raced halfs, I haven't done a full, I haven't had the interest in doing the full because I obliterate myself on the halves. But yeah, coming back down, it's like, okay, on Sunday, I used to ride 80 miles and and go for half hour run after that. Well, now I only do two and a half, three hours and run 20 minutes. It's like, I'm not doing as much anymore. I'm not doing that much. Yeah, I definitely feel that all the time. WILL: That was like a mental trap. I just felt like oh my God, like I'm going to totally lose touch of my normal life. Even when I would go on hikes with friends I really tried to maintain a lifestyle and I'd be like, just on the hike it's beautiful Hawaii, Hawaii, I'm like, man, I'm just wasting my time out here, this is not benefiting me. You have this monkey on your back that you're just like, man, two months or one month from now I gotta be ready to do this. And literally anything that doesn't contribute to your training is like seem as a distraction or something standing in your way. And I just-- that was really hard for me. That was like, I think one of the hardest parts of it just sort of recognizing the sacrifice you have to make. And then sort of humorously sort of discovering that a lot of people who are into this stuff, date other triathletes or this is their social calendar, or like jabs like the anti-social calendar. This is what they're committed to doing and that's so admirable. I just don't know if that's just-- that was the hardest part for me, that really was. Like integrating in that way to that intensity Just having to sort of eliminate everything else in your life when you have these races coming up. JESSE: Do you feel like-- in the beat of the book, there's definitely a lot of division. I remember, I saw my massage therapist as I was reading through your book and I was like, man, I hate this guy. I was only about halfway through the book because you definitely had that like, naive whatever I don't like you, I can do this attitude. Although reflecting on myself, if I was in your position, I'd probably feel the same way where it's like, having this negative attitude about well, I can't do this, but I'm doing it like, it doesn't help you. Even if it's like a crazy impossible challenge, and maybe you're not going to make it, but trying to buy into these people saying, okay like you talk about, Mr. I'm on another level. Like you can't buy into that attitude of, you're not good enough, you're not gonna be able to make it so it kind of like transformed through. WILL: Yeah, I mean, if I were to listen to all these-- there were so many people being negative enough, right, that if I was going to submit to that and be like, okay, you guys are right, then why try, right? So, at some point I realized, okay I'm on a tight physical timeline, but mentally I think I can get where I need to be. And of course, like I say, I'm a competitor, yeah, you're gonna give me hell, I'm gonna give it right back to you. I'm not gonna let you push me down and tell me I'm not good enough. And I'm like, that’s gonna motivate me even more. I think that's just kind of like a life attitude. I mean, for me. But for a lot of people, it's like when you meet resistance, how do you respond to that, are you gonna push back? And if you're doing triathlons, you better push back because even when you're in top physical condition, you're going to be hit with hitting walls of some degree. So, you need to learn to get through that. So, I just realized that okay, there's no way I'm going to get to where I should be physically, but what I can do is just be like a hundred percent confident mentally. And yeah, I get that breeds cockiness in a way. And to be fair, I'm humbled at times, for sure. But I just didn't want anybody else telling me oh, don't you know, because then it's just okay, why do it? If I'm not gonna believe in myself, and I mean even my own family was like, “You're crazy.” You know, my sister's a big marathon runner and she was like, “You're gonna die.” I'm like, “Okay, well, we'll see about that.” So, yeah, it's just you have to get to the mentality and I don't know, maybe you can shed light to me. I just assume that's where everybody gets to because at some point, there's your training but there's always going to be somewhere where you're not quite ready so it's like, are you really gonna have that doubt in your head or you can't have that down when you get to the starting line, can you? You have to wipe it out, what choice do you have? JESSE: Yeah, I mean, you have to try your best. Everybody has their own demons to deal with. Some people are afraid of succeeding, some people are afraid of failing, some people are afraid of this, there’s all kinds of things that people are afraid of. And we all deal with them differently, sports psychology is an entire field of performance enhancement, that’s like developing and becoming a new thing and trying to deal with all the weird little quirks that everybody has. As I went on through the book, I kind of came to the perspective thinking about you, prior to having kind of met you digitally here, you made me think about this friend I have, he was not a particularly great runner. I ran with him in high school on cross country team. And it made me think about if he came to me because he sometimes comes up with overly ambitious plans. I think I would have said to him, okay, his name is Daniel, I would have said, okay, Daniel, you're an idiot. But if you're going to do this let's figure out how best to do it. And if you feel like you're determined to do it, let's put together the best plan we can. WILL: Totally. Well, that's basically what everyone told me. They're like, you're an idiot, but okay I'll help you if you're gonna try and do this. I mean, everybody from B Mac, even Gordon Howler was kind of like, wow, that's-- And he's the guy that he didn't really train for his, he was just like he did these things, right. So, I think he was kind of shocked. He wasn't shocked that I didn't have a plan because he would never have a plan, but he was shocked that I just never done anything in this regard. So, do you feel that you're like, one thing I realized is that because of this way you're pushing your limits and everything like that, and you're constantly having to up your game that a lot of people describe like an addiction in a way to this physical activity. Do you find that you're in that space where the more you do, the more you want to do and do you feel addicted to triathlons? JESSE: I don't know about triathlons in particular, but I am addicted to, I'll say addicted, we can debate about the semantics of that word later. But the idea of being successful and I channel that through athletics a lot, where like I ran on a scholarship in college, but not good enough to be a professional runner. I was like, I could run sub 16 for 5K, so pretty quick, but if you're gonna be a professional runner, you're gonna be in a 13’s to be professional runners, it’s like not even close. And it gets astronomically harder, logarithmically harder as you go up in that scale. So, for me, it was a personal challenge, but also, I'm big on, I do another show called Runner's High and I tend to talk about long distance running and that kind of stuff. I'm big on this rate of perceived exertion for training. Not so big on let's only focus on pace. A lot of it revolves around kind of chasing this feeling where you are almost in this Zen like state where your mind is kind of falling away and you kind of become pure emotion. So, a lot of ways, I'm chasing that. And that's the addiction is like, you have to put yourself through enough pain and suffering and enjoy the vast majority of it to try to find this place where you're going hard and the pain is there. But it's not bothersome, you're simply noticing it. It's a state of meditation almost. So, I'm kind of after that. WILL: Okay, you're after the pain and suffering. JESSE: Well, no, I mean, and I talked to a lot of triathletes, a lot of triathletes better than me. Funny enough, I talked to Adam Feigh, who's a pro triathlete last week, his episodes are coming out as we speak this week. And he does Ironman, and he did two Ironman's three weeks apart and didn't originally plan on doing that, but he wasn't after the suffering. He was after the challenge and he's trying to get better and make his way to Kona but like I don't know that I've between pro triathletes, amateur triathletes, ultra marathoners, I don't know that anybody is after the suffering. But they are okay with dealing with the suffering to find the thing that they are after, which is usually a sense of accomplishment or that high or something that comes as a result of this suffering. WILL: Totally. No, that makes total sense. I kind of found that as well. People, when they say that they like the challenge of an Ironman, what I think they mean is that they like having completed that challenge. And for me, I gotta be honest, I mean, I worked out in those three months more than I ever have in my life. I mean, I'm a generally active guy, but in terms of intensity and dude, those were some nice nights on the couch, man, I'll tell you, I feel good. You're like, man, I just worked out for like four hours and I went hard. And now I'm feeling good and complete and you feel like you've earned whatever you do like for me having a beer or like, I was like crushing to bake potatoes and a big chicken-- You just feel like wow, like I did something. You know, I respect that. That is a feeling that a lot of people don't get and that it's harder to get in our modern world where everything you do and now it's like doesn't require much effort. So, that was the whole feeling, and when you have those off days, like you really feel accomplished and you feel like wow, okay I'm doing it. So, I appreciated that, that was cool. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 3

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