Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How I Broke The Guinness World Record - Fastest Single Hole Of Golf Ever Played

Following is an account of how I prepared for and twice broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest single hole of golf ever played (minimum hole length of 500 yards.) On May 8th at Bing Maloney Golf Course in Sacramento, CA, I broke the previous record of 1 minute, 50 seconds, with a performance of 1 minute, 40 seconds, scoring a bogey six on the 503-yard, par-five ninth hole at Bing. On June 1st, 2018 at the Woodley Lakes Golf Course in Van Nuys, CA, I beat my previous record with a time of 1 minute, 38 seconds. I scored a birdie four on the 503-yard, par-five fourth hole.

This was a really fun, complex, and challenging process to prepare for and execute two successful record attempts. Maybe the details will inspire you to set your sights on a peak performance goal and go for it. Here’s how things went down:

YouTube Video of June 1st record at Woodley Lakes Course

Guinness Record!?
In late 2017, I stumbled upon this awesome YouTube video of British Speedgolfer Steve Jeffs breaking the Guinness World Record for the fastest golf hole. Dig the 161,000 views (okay well, 1,000 of them are mine, but still…pretty viral!) and the dog pile celebration at the end. Jeffs did a 1:50 to beat the old record of 1:52 at his course in England. I didn’t even know that this record existed! It was a perfect opportunity to blend my two favorite fitness activities of sprinting and Speedgolf! However, Speedgolf tournaments are contested over the entire 18-hole course. Competitors carry a handful of clubs and run at a good pace while shooting good scores. A player’s minutes and strokes are added together to produce a total Speedgolf competitive score. For example, my best tournament performance, a 3rd in the 2017 California Speedgolf Professional Championships, was a score of 78 in 45 minutes = 125 Speedgolf score.

This fastest single hole world record endeavor is an entirely different beast. Rather than running at a steady pace for ~5.5 miles during a Speedgolf tournament, the athlete is compelled to run an all-out sprint for a single hole of 500 yards minimum length. Pretty simple - the score doesn’t matter (but it does…details follow), and you start the clock when the first shot is hit and stop when the putt drops.

I was pretty stoked to watch the amazing record video, but honestly my first thought afterward was that I could go out there right away and bust that record! After all, I’m a sprinter (As Primal Endurance Mastery Course students know, since there is a disproportionate number of videos on the niche topic of running technique instruction, form drills and proper execution of sprint workouts!)

The day after viewing the video for the first time, I went out to the ninth hole at Bing and made what I thought was a very good informal attempt. I was shocked to see a finishing time of 2:12—a full 22 seconds slower than the record! I tried again the following week, running faster this time, and threw down a 2:13 - this time due to a crooked shot here and a missed putt there. After these dry-runs and exchanging emails with Jeffs, I realized this was an extremely impressive record. Jeffs informed me he practiced his chosen hole hundreds of times to hone his fitness and shot sequences.

I studied the video of the existing record, considered my typical Speedgolf tournament strategy, and devised a strategy to shave time off the record as follows: 

One club: Developing the ability to compete the hole with a single club improves running speed from carrying multiple clubs, negates the need to carry a cumbersome bag (even a small bag will slow down your sprinting significantly), and also eliminates the need to drop and retrieve clubs from the ground after each shot. However, it adds a significant degree of difficulty to be without a trusty wedge for short approach shots and a putter to sink putts.

I chose to attempt the record with just a three-wood. This is great for the first two shots, but very difficult for a short pitch shot and for putting. For the third shot onto the green from a probable distance of 10-40 yards (depends how well the first two shots are hit), an abbreviated three-wood stroke is going to produce a screaming grounder - far more more dicey than using a wedge to hit a shot in the air and landing it softly onto the green. Hit the grounder too softly and you are stuck in the grass short of the green for another delicate attempt. Hit it even a tiny bit too hard and it hits the green too hot, sails quickly past the pin and off the back of the putting surface. Death to a record attempt in either case. I got frustrated a few times during practice sessions because the single club technique is so high risk. Thanks to Alex Kampmann for the original idea, and Mark Sisson, and Christopher Smith for encouraging me to keep at it and stay committed to my strategy. 

Straight line approach: The fatal mistakes for this record are to hit a shot offline into the rough, or to hit a shot past the pin, which unnecessarily lengthens the hole. It’s absolutely essential to stay close to the tangent line from tee to green with each stroke. While you can’t be too conservative on a world record attempt, hitting a shot straight but a little short is not a deal breaker like a long or wide shot is.

Do or die: Guinness record rules allow for multiple attempts, but truthfully the first attempt at an all-out sprint will be significantly faster than successive attempts due to fatigue slowing running speed. Try running the 400-meter dash at a track meet over and over! Not happening. For a record performance, a do or die mindset would be essential. Go all out on the first try and hold nothing back!

Be quick, but don’t hurry: I trained myself with repeated practice to hit my shot almost immediately after arriving to the ball—one to two seconds pause only. In Speedgolf tournament rounds, you run at a good tempo between shots, but it’s customary to reach the ball, drop your other clubs, take a couple deep breaths, take careful aim at target, and swing when ready. This precious 5-7 seconds (or more) wastes valuable time on the single-hole record. Let’s face it, you are not going to catch your breath after a full sprint of ~240 yards even if you wait 10, 15, or 20 seconds. Through repetition, I made myself feel comfortable hitting a full power three-wood shot, or a delicate, soft-wristed pitch shot, or sinking a pressure putt, with my chest heaving and my heart pounding in my throat!

However, I also had to train my brain to immediately transition from the frenzied aggressive mindset of sprinting into a calm, focused state prior to striking the ball. In the video you will see that I break stride ten yards before arriving at my ball each time to gather myself. This technique honors the late John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach, prolific author, and pyramid of success creator. His frequent admonition to his ballplayers: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Trivia: the Woodley Lakes Golf Course is about a mile from Wooden’s longtime residence in Encino, CA.

Context specificity: Christopher Smith of Eugene, OR, perhaps the greatest Speedgolfer of all-time, Nike Golf consultant, and also top-100 ranked teaching professional, coined this term to describe the absolute necessity of making practice effective and meaningful by simulating your competitive environment as closely as possible. Smith relates that banging balls on the range to hone your swing is an overrated component of becoming a good golfer, and is vastly different from hitting the assortment of shots during a golf round. Similarly, sinking twenty short putts on the practice green is great for honing your stroke mechanics, but has little to do with sinking a four-footer on the final hole of a tournament. This is why we still see the world’s best professionals choke routinely.

In Smith’s interesting golf instruction/life philosophy book called, “I’ve Got 99 Swing Thoughts, But ‘Hit The Ball’ Ain’t One,” he cites brain research revealing that a different part of the brain lights up on MRI imaging when you are casually practicing versus when you are asked to perform under pressure. Yes, you are stroking a three-footer on the practice green, just as you might on the final hole of a big match, but it’s literally not the same exercise to your brain. Similarly, shooting 50 free throws in succession or delivering your presentation in front of the bathroom mirror is going to have a minimal crossover application to the real deal.

This concept was never better evidenced than by the famous Caddyshack scene when Rodney Dangerfield’s character (Al Czervik) yells to Ted Knight’s character (Judge Elihu Smails) as Smails address his ball on the first tee. “A hundred bucks says you slice it in the woods.” And of course Smails slices into the woods. And refuses to pay up. 

Smith is also not a big fan of golf instruction (how’s that for a guy who teaches golf for a living?!), and prefers that golfers relax, enjoy their walk in nature, and hone and trust their natural tendencies instead of obsessing upon the perfect swing. If you are not yet acquainted with the amazing sport of Speedgolf, you must check out this fabulous high-speed video of what in my estimation is one of the greatest golf rounds of all-time. It’s Christopher shooting a four-under par 68 in 53 minutes at the world-renowned Bandon Dunes, OR, Golf Course. Smith was instrumental in keeping me focused and confident in my months of preparation for the record. It’s easy to get discouraged trying to become a magician with a three-wood, but he urged me to stay the course and continue to put myself under pressure situations in practice.

In my practice sessions, I simulated over and over hitting sprinting up to my ball on the fairway and hitting quickly. I practiced the delicate and wristy short distance grounder with a three-wood on my chosen hole (after sprinting up to the ball of course). Surely, casual golfers at Binge wondered who this guy was slapping three-wood shots and repeatedly sprinting up to the 9th green in the dark all winter!

I also started putting exclusively with a three-wood, even during regular Speedgolf rounds, so my brain could form the strong association of my three-wood as my putter. While it’s far too strenuous to make a dry run record attempt more than occasionally, I did put up a 1:47 one night at the 9th hole at Bing. That was under the official record, but of course nothing like doing it under pressure with a full crew per Guinness guidelines.

Perhaps the most daunting and pressure-packed element of all is to arrange for ten people to come out and support your record attempt. Guinness rules are very exacting: First, a 12-week application process before you are even approved for an official attempt, then the attempt guidelines require two official timers, two independent witness, including an expert witness, who have no vested interest in the record attempt, video footage of the entire record and photographic evidence of each shot along the way. For both the Sacramento and Los Angeles record attempts, I had to arrange for approval from the golf course, secure cart rentals for timers, photogs and spectators, and rally the dream team of supporters to appear just before sunset. Furthest traveled award goes to Shawn and Maria Watts, driving three hours each way to Sacramento for the May 8th occasion. Talk about pressure—you don’t wanna send home the dream team empty handed!

Break The Record To-Do List
*Rise to the (rare) occasion, knowing how difficult a record attempt is to orchestrate
*Get really good at using a three-wood for straight long distance shots, pitching, and putting
*Hit the ball straight and in-line to the hole (never past)
*Sprint full speed for a do or die first attempt
*Balance the frenzy of sprinting with a zenlike focus before each shot

May 8th Sacramento Record
My first attempt on May 8th was a 1:40, ten seconds under the existing record! I scored a bogey but kept the ball straight and short of the hole each time. I ran very well and was pleased to take that much time out of the old record. However, I hit a poor second shot (offline but luckily hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway) and a poor third shot (from 80 yards out it only traveled 50 yards). It didn’t cost me much time to hit an extra shot up to the front fringe of the green, and then two more excellent putts into the hole.

I made two more attempts just for fun that night. The second attempt was two perfect shots that almost reached the green. The third shot nearly went into the hole, but I choked and missed the short putt, then missed the comeback putt, then missed again! Whew. I was also informed that despite the vastly superior first three shots, I would have finished in about the same time even had I made the birdie putt, because I sprinted much slower.

I submitted the footage of the record performance and the sworn timer and observer statements to Guinness and awaited a 15-week approval process. In the interim, my competitive juices started flowing again and I wondered, “what if?” What if I hit a succession of perfect shots on an initial full-sprint attempt? Perhaps I could take the record down further? I also wanted to make an attempt in front of family and friends in Los Angeles, so I arranged for another attempt on June 1st, 2018.

June 1st Los Angeles Record
I had only one practice session on my chosen hole at Woodley Lakes Golf Course prior to the record attempt, but it’s all about hitting good shots, not memorizing every grass blade. On the record attempt, everything went to perfection as I hit a straight drive, a straight second shot to about 20 yards short of the green, and then a perfect third shot that raced through bumpy grass, poured onto the green and finished about six feet from the hole. With this much success in the bank, I carefully strided up to the final shot, taking care to be deliberate and hit a nice, square putt—which dropped for a birdie 4 and a time of 1:38.75!

The Future
As revealed in the video, I was quite satisfied with this performance and welcome all attempts to break it. It’s gonna be tough. Granted, the sport of Speedgolf has some elite runners who are significantly faster than I am for a 500 yard sprint. New Zealander Nick Willis is an Olympic silver (2008) and bronze (2016) medalist at 1500 meters. He is one of the fastest milers of all time and an excellent Speedgolfer with multiple top-20 finishes in the Speedgolf World Professional Championships. Mac McLain reached the #1 world-ranking in Speedgolf in 2018 and is a former collegiate champion at 1500 meters - another sub-4 minute miler out there with some legit golf game! Alas, lot’s of work is required to take this thing down with an official Guinness-approved attempt.

Life Lessons In A Minute Thirty-Eight
The most enjoyable aspect of the experience was sharing it with family and friends. I was truly touched and honored at the support I received, and you can see the credits to both dream teams at the end of the video.

Through this challenge, I learned the value of a methodical and strategic approach to a peak performance goal. This is not always my strength, especially as a triathlete where I chased money and recognition across the globe, occasionally in a haphazard manner. I was patient through the record approval process, honing interesting new skills like three-wood pitching and putting. This was a stimulating challenge and a refreshing break from playing regular Speedgolf with my usual five club arsenal. 

I honed my sprinting abilities with workouts and extensive technique drills on the track (including taking a few simulated golf swings right after every sprint), a handful of informal all-out attempts at the golf course over several month’s time, and lots of short sprinting as I practiced the final few shots near the green over and over at the end of each Speedgolf outing. Mind you, all this practice on the course happened just prior to darkness at Bing Maloney and other courses so as not to disturb other golfers playing regular golf.

As I mention on two podcasts I recorded for my new show (launching in summer 2018), there is tremendous value in cultivating a competitive edge and pursuing distinct peak performance goals throughout life. This crazy Guinness pursuit kept me honest and focused for many months. That said, my career as an elite professional triathlete ended 23 years ago, and today I try to align my competitive mindset to my age (53) and other responsibilities and realities of daily life. It was great to devote a decade (I raced on the circuit from ages 21-30) to an extreme and narrow focus on peak athletic performance, but it’s always healthy to move gracefully into the next stage of life and recalibrate your goals accordingly.
An important clarification: While this Guinness record pursuit was certainly not life or death and had no economic consequences, I hesitate to say it was “just for fun.” Every minute of the process was indeed fun and rewarding, but this pursuit was more than just for fun, it was for personal growth and a catalyst to leverage the focus, discipline and risk-taking required in athletics into other areas of life. The greatest happiness and fulfillment in life come when you cultivate and express passion, curiosity, enthusiasm, and pursue the highest expression of your talents without compromise or excuses. The trick is to keep things in perspective such that you cultivate a pure motivation for your peak performance goals—a deep appreciation for the process, and release your attachment of self-esteem to the outcome.

Sir Roger Bannister, the first human to break the four-minute mile barrier in 1954, and who passed in 2018, delivered the most beautiful quote on this subject: "The essence of sport {fill in the blank here for anything else - parenting, career, etc.} is that while you’re doing it nothing else matters, but after you stop, there is a place, generally not very important, where you would put it.”

Bannister quotes are second to none—hit this page and you will be regaled. Another of my favorites: “Struggle gives meaning and richness to life.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Avoiding Heart Attacks and Evolving Your Perspective About Healthy Eating

Attached photo is my friend and Primal Endurance success story Peter Coffey's recent blood test result, from which his doctor recommended he take a statin due to his LDL levels outside the desired range. Oh man, this innocent screen shot got my blood boiling today! Read on to see how you can minimize your heart disease risk and sort through the misinformation that still pervades health and medicine. As you can read in detail in The Primal Blueprint and The Keto Reset Diet, Dr. Cate Shanahan and other ancestral health leaders believe that one's triglycerides-to-HDL ratio is the most important marker for heart disease risk. Getting better than 3.5-to-1 is essential to get out of high risk zone, and getting to 1-to-1 or better is ideal. As you can see, Coffey's results are outstanding--HDL is well above triglycerides. 

This favorable ratio strongly suggests that the LDL cholesterol in his blood is mostly the large, fluffy variety (typically harmless), rather than the small, dense variety. Small, dense LDL (you need to ask doctor for a special test to determine LDL particle size--the breakdown of small to large in the total number--as they usually just run a total) is typically blamed as the instigator of heart disease, because these molecules are small and dense enough to lodge in the walls of your arteries and become oxidized by passing blood, stimulate an immune response of macrophages (white blood cells) coming to the area, which then become inflamed to the extent that blockage occurs on the artery wall and causes a heart attack. 

Your physician may or may not be informed about matters such as the triglyceride-to-HDL ratio being vastly more important that LDL values, or even the importance of testing particle size before dispensing a prescription. Your physician has not necessarily been exposed to science or education related to healthy eating in his or her medical training and careers. Ditto for your hair stylist or auto repair person. However, to be clear, your cardiologist is a great choice for heart surgery, as is your hair stylist for the occasion of your daughter's wedding, as is your car person for a needed repair. 

Unfortunately, conventional medical wisdom still looks at LDL cholesterol levels as the end-all risk factor, with values over 200 triggering a statin prescription. Statin's have assorted serious side effects, including depleting cells of the critical energy producing co-factor, CoQ10. The depleting effect of statins can contribute to fatigue and muscle weakness. So you exercise less and experience a decline in health once you start popping pills. Numerous studies show that statins have minimal effect at preventing heart disease to all populations except people who have already had a heart attack, and that dietary modification can have a vastly greater impact on reducing mortality risk that statins. 

Evolved doctors like Dr. Ronesh Sinha, who looks after large employee groups in Silicon Valley and wrote The South Asian Health Solution, cites respected research refuting this flawed and dated approach to heart disease prevention. Sinha cites a UCLA metastudy (a study of hundreds of other studies) where ~80 percent of heart attack victims had LDL cholesterol levels considered in the "safe" range! Whoops. Sinha metioned that the likely reaction to this news is to lower the "safe" threshold rather than re-examine the flawed initial premise that LDL values correlate with heart disease risk. The Framingham Study, Nurses Health Study (these are among the largest and longest health studies, involving decades of tracking populations and hundreds of thousands of individuals) refute that any direct correlation exists. You may recall a bit of alarm and reflection when TV personality Tim Russert died of a heart attack at 58, as his total cholesterol (statin-suppressed of course) was only 106! 

Stories and studies like these mentioned have buoyed those in the ancestral health community, but will take a disturbingly long time to be recognized and validated by mainstream authorities, who are strongly wedded (reputation, funding, etc.) to the status quo. As ER doc and leading primal fitness authority Dr. Doug McGuff (author of The Primal Prescription) says, "Mainstream medicine and government policy will indeed come around [to embrace the new research and ancestral-style health principles] but because they are giant bureaucracies, it could take 20 years. I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that long!"

For now, you don't have to accept this old-time athlete as a health authority, but you might want to educate yourself beyond what you hear at a doctor checkup or in a newspaper headline. If you are sciency, stubborn, and need proof to alter some of your long-standing beliefs about diet, fat, cholesterol and so forth, check out Why We Get Fat by the esteemed science journalist Gary Taubes. Extensive references are provided in this story that will help you embrace a new paradigm, where stuff we have been told our whole lives can be discarded and an evolved picture can be embraced. 

Quick takeaway - if you want to do something to save your life, eliminate the big-three worst offenders in the modern diet: 
  • Grains (wheat, rice, corn, pasta, cereal, and all the processed foods made from grains): We've been told that whole grains should form the foundation of a healthy diet, but even whole grains are eventually converted into glucose upon ingestion, and add to the disastrously excessive total carb intake in the modern diet. Whole grains also contain objectionable agents such as gluten and lectin, which are known to contribute to the now popular health topic of leaky gut syndrome. Yes, gut health is the cutting edge and about to explode in awareness. No less than the great South African physician Dr. Timothy Noakes (arguably the most prominent exercise physiologist on the planet) said, "leaky gut and insulin resistance are the future of medicine." Our new book by Australian journalist Kale Brock called The Gut Healing Protocol will give you an excellent education and dietary protocol to improve gut health.
  • Sugars: The assorted forms of sweetened beverages being the worst because they don't fill you up, but blast you with high doses of sugar. Also ditch sweets, treats, and deceptive forms of high sugar such as healthy-sounding energy bars and processed snacks and condiments containing sugar. Dr. Robert Lustig is a leader of the campaign against sugar. Check out The Real Truth About Sugarand Gary Taubes' The Case Against Sugar. Sugar will slowly kill you, and the 8-year-olds you serve it to at your kid's birthday party. Sorry to be a party pooper, but it's time to wake up, realize this stuff is truly physically addictive, and transition over to delicious, high fat treats (like highest quality dark chocolate). Sure it's important to enjoy life, but how about making sugar a special treat instead of a daily staple? Yah athletes, I'm talking to you too especially, due to your massive consumption of gels, bars, drinks and extra dietary calories of all forms. Check out Primal Endurance Mastery Course to help you ditch carb dependency and become a fat burning beast. 
  • Refined high-polyunsaturated vegetable oils: Immediately eliminate all bottles oils such as canola, corn, soybean, safflower, buttery spreads and sprays made with these oils, and all the packaged, processed, frozen, fried stuff made with these offensive agents. This stuff, because it has become oxidized (contains free radicals!) during high temperature extraction/processing methods, inflicts immediate damage to your cellular DNA to the extent that Dr. Cate cites research that they are in many ways worse then smoking a cigarette, and exclaims that, "they are, literally, like eating radiation." Unfortunately, an estimated 40 percent of all the calories in restaurant food are from vegetable oils (cited by Dr. Shanahan; due to entrees being cooked in this cheap sludge at everywhere from fast food joints to the finest establishments), and an estimated 20 percent of all calories in the Standard American Diet come from soybean oil alone (Dr. Andrew Weil). Check out Dr. Cate and her husband Luke and I talking about the dangers of vegetable oils. Luke's a nice guy but he will freak you out and scare you away from oils with this frank discussion of how oils mess with your brain and body. 
Thanks for your interest and consideration!!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

New Book: The Keto Reset Diet

Hi Friends, this year I've been deeply immersed in writing an exciting new book called The Keto Reset Diet with my primal sidekick Mark Sisson. It's about the recently popular ketogenic diet, which represents the highest sophistication of the primal/paleo/low-carb eating strategy. The essence of “keto” is to become free from dependency on regular high carbohydrate meals as your main source of energy, and improve your ability to burn internal sources of energy—namely stored body fat as well as ketones. Ketones are made in the liver to burn in place of glucose when you restrict dietary carbohydrates. Going keto helps you easily remove excess body fat, improve cognitive function, minimize disease risk, and improve both athletic performance for both endurance and strength endeavors.

The benefits of keto are like that of fasting, where your body becomes more efficient with energy production and cellular repair, and you improve overall health, immune function, cognitive function and longevity. Keto allows you to eat satisfying meals that are high in nutritious fats and low in carbohydrates--minimizing insulin production and stabilizing appetite and energy levels. This honors our hunter-gatherer ancestral diet of meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. 

In contrast, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is wildly excessive in refined carbohydrates (bread, rice, cereal, pasta, sugars, sweetened beverages). This causes excess insulin production and free radical production in the body, inhibits you from burning stored body fat, and sets the stage for disease patterns like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart diease, and cancer. 

If you’re interested in healthy eating, reducing excess body fat, and escaping the epidemic of diet-related disease in modern life, you might appreciate this read that takes you from start to finish for how to clean up your diet and start enjoying the benefits of what we call metabolic flexibility. 

Right now the book is shooting up the charts and is in the top 50 overall on amazon, even before the official release date of October 3. We announced a special pre-order bonus of 4 digital—details about the offer here. 

More details about the book and the digital bonus items at this post on MarksDailyApple.com, the #1 ranked health resource website in the primal/paleo realm. 

We also have a Keto Reset Facebook group to join if you wanna get connected with other keto enthusiasts. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Speedgolf World Championships 2016 Report

Greetings, I just returned from the 2016 championships in Chicago where I placed 19th in the elite/professional field. I shot 90 in 50 minutes the first day and 85 in 50 minutes the second day. This result is on the heels of my 20th in 2015 and 20th in 2014. I was hoping for a higher finish but I did my best. I hit the ball very well and putted very poorly. It's tough to settle down and hit a good putt while racing full speed around the course! I'll work hard to improve for 2017. Here are the results

More Speedgolf
Here is my viral YouTube sensation: Introduction to Speedgolf

Speedgolf revolutionizes the traditional sport by introducing the element of speed, endurance, quick reaction, and shot creativity into the slowest-paced of all sports. In Speedgolf, your score is comprised of the number of minutes spent on the course plus the number of strokes taken (similar to the winter olympic sport of biathlon - shooting and xc skiing).

History of Speedgolf
My first exposure to Speedgolf was when Olympic middle distance runner and recreational golfer Steve Scott set a Guinness World Record for playing a round of golf in 27 minutes, shooting 103 back in the early 80s. In 1985, my mother bet me $50 that I couldn't finish 9 holes in under 30 minutes. I finished the nine in 17 minutes and change and was flabbergasted to notice that I played as good or better than normal golf when I was running full speed through the course--in the zone!

Years later, endurance sports publishing guru Bob Babbitt organized a circuit of Southern California tournaments where we raced thru the course, and had caddies in golf carts providing all of our clubs on demand. I placed 8th in the 1996 World Extreme Golf Championships in San Diego, shooting 80 in 40 minutes for a 120. The sport had Red Bull sponsorship and coverage on ESPN as an attempt to become the next cool extreme sport but it kind of fizzled out.

Forwarding to 2012 or so and a group based in Oregon (Speed Golf International) brought the sport back big time! Oh man this was exciting for me because I was just returning to golf in 2013 after a 10-year run dominating youth athletes while coaching them in soccer, basketball and track (then they grew up and I was forced into the stands to cheer). I read about and watched great athletes like Christopher Smith and Rob Hogan, and practiced hard for a full year to join the elite players at the 2014 championships in Bandon Dunes. Speedgolf is a great sport because it doesn't take much time to play. I visit courses in the final hour before darkness when there are no other players out there, and zip around 9 holes in 30 or 45 minutes, then return home for dinner!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thoughts on Phelps and Lochte....

Recently I was chatting with a group of old friends on email about the Olympics. Of course Ryan Lochte's name came up as did Michael Phelps. There was a compare and contrast the decorated Phelps with the disgraced Lochte. The all-time sports fan JB said he was disappointed in Lochte and that character means so much for who he elevates to hero status as an athlete. Here's how I went off in response:

Deep down very few people care about higher ideals when it comes to sports. We collectively worship athletes so they have a distorted view of real life and are free to misbehave without much consequence. We get outraged at Lance Armstrong or Barry Bonds when they get caught, but no one is outraged when watching the rider ascend the mountain or hit the ball into the San Francisco Bay.

Alumni boosters call for the college football coach to be fired when he's 8-4, very likely these days because he refuses to cheat as aggressively as his cohorts. Perhaps he is great at developing 'character' in young men (just like the alumni benefitted so much from mentors during their college years), but fell a little short on the field. But we want his head on the block.

Michael Phelps leaves Brazil as the all-time Olympic hero, but we should reflect upon how his past transgressions were far more impactful than Lochte's folly. Statistics cited by MADD suggest that each DUI arrest represents ~88 occasions of drunk driving (obviously, since you have to first weave noticeably and second be seen in the act by a cop. What are the odds! well, 88-1 I guess). So Phelps put others' lives at risk literally hundreds of times with his entitled mentality and his substance abuse problem that he waited a decade to get help for. (Phelps DUI's were in '04 and '14), a waiting period that was surely enabled by his ability to perform for fans and sponsors in Olympics and other elite events.

As a public figure and default role model, Phelps did severe damage with his behavior. His first DUI punishment sentence was community service - talk to high school kids about drinking and driving. Knowing the particulars of the disease, it's virtually certain that he was still drinking and driving while talking to kids about not drinking and driving. Perhaps he was telling them to choose bong hits instead, as that was his 2009 landmark.

By comparison, Lochte did some shit that happens every single day with high profile athletes on college campuses. They get in a bind and break something, lie a bit to try and assuage, and sometimes get busted. It's not a big story. Furthermore, speaking of "overexaggeration", you could suggest that NBC did this with his story for the purpose of a salacious ratings grab.

The 30-minutes plus of prime-time coverage could have been pointed at high character athletes doing good things in real life, but we don't care enough as viewers. Oh, Lochte, hurt his young teammates who got yanked off the plane to take the rap in person and get popped for $11,000 before they could leave Brazil, that's for sure. But don't forget Brazil Olympic committee spokesperson himself instructed the world to give Lochte a break and move on.

I must admit that Phelps has redeemed himself wonderfully at this Olympics by speaking to the camera, for the first time ever in his career, with a bigger perspective than himself, by being lauded as an inspirational team captain, and by seemingly, for the first time ever in his career, getting his shit together in personal life. Prior to recent years he was self-absorbed, immature, and engaging in some of the most dangerous criminal behavior imaginable (long-term drunk driving).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reflections with Gordo

There is nothing better on the internet than Gordo Byrn's reflections on Family, Fitness, and Finances - his major areas of interest in life. Gordo is a former world champion professional triathlete at the ultradistance specialty. Before that, he was a high finance whiz kid who had an exceptional and brief career before jumping ship around age 30 and going full bore into ultra triathlon. he's pushed his body to a training volume matched by few humans in history. Yes, there are many laborers who work extremely hard, but (as Andrew MacNaughton reminds us) if you define work as mass x force, guys like Gordo or Andrew or Pete Kain (going on his 30th straight competitive triathlon season at elite pro or amateur level) have worked harder than most any human who has ever lived.

Here is a reprint of one of Gordo's blog postings. Subscribe to his blog and get a regular dose (not an overdose he promises) of insightful commentary at a perfect word length for your busy life. Following his post are my comments back to him. See what you think....

My Silver Year

by Gordo Byrn
2015-12-27 13.50.08It was my 47th birthday last week.
Borrowing from the late Oliver Sachs, I decided to look up 47 on the periodic table. I was happy to discover it's the element Silver (47Ag). So the next 12 months will represent my Silver Year.
When I'm going through a tough patch, I tell myself to live-every-phase.
I have two tendencies that distract from a goal of living every phase of my life.
The first is wishing backwards - mourning the loss of peak physical power.
The second is wishing forwards - feeling like I am trapped in a perpetual holding pattern with my preschoolers. Wishing for freedom that, I believe, will come later.
The above thinking is not useful.
A useful antidote is to reflect on the advantages of my Silver Year.
My life is straightforward, surrounded by wonderful people, close to nature and simple.
While I'm past my athletic sell-by date, nearly all my physical changes so far have been positive.
Staying healthy is easier, and requires much less time, than I expected. As a former ultra-endurance athlete, the toughest part has been changing my belief system to reflect what I've seen with my body.
With that in mind, I'll offer this observation about my younger self.
  • If you have the capacity to convince yourself that total focus towards your goal is "necessary"
  • If you have the capacity to commit significant, sustained attention towards a narrow field of interest
  • If you have the capacity to recover from high workloads
  • then you have what it takes to succeed.
You also have the capacity for sustained, extremely poor judgement.
Success in a narrow niche is about getting a lot of work done, shedding non-core and motivating others to help you achieve.
As we age, we're likely to value connection more than success.
...and connection is about being good enough across a wide-network of relationships.
...and my relationships benefit from what I don't do, don't say, don't indulge
Now, at this stage of my life, there is a growing realization that the people around me don't care about my personal productivity. They want to see me happy and serene.
However, I notice that time is passing and the window for getting-stuff-done is closing.
But what stuff will "I" value having gotten done if I arrive at my Golden Year (79Au)?!
I deal with this tension by pausing and paying attention whenever I feel happy, content and serene.
The motto "live every day" always makes me feel like I should be enjoying myself.
For my Silver Year, I prefer "live every phase" -- giving myself permission to experience my difficulties as they come and vowing to keep moving forward despite knowing how the story will end.
Brilliant Gordo..here's a couple things:

1. Preschoolers - yes, maximum energy and attention and battery drain. My perspective now with kids 18 and 16 is that every phase was beautiful and perfect. I shudder at the idea of having pre-schoolers right now, and I was exhausted during that time period going all in. Other parents tried to intimidate me about the teenage years and while there was plenty of truth expressed (they get difficult/moody/rebellious, they don't need you any more blah blah), even the battles are a beautiful phase. Think of the alternative of an 18-year-old man clinging to my side like a preschooler. no thanks. Right when i was about to crack many times, my kids entered a new phase, bringing relief and also new challenges.

2. Training - reflecting now, I think its possible that if we only  trying to win, decisions would have been different. Lighter work load, more self care and self respect and moderated competitive intensity. Instead, I think many in our game were compelled to suffer, as a (possibly healthy psychologically) rite of passage in a world that's too safe and easy. Leaving your best performances in workouts sucks in many ways (poor judgement as you say) but it delivered a payoff on the spot, eh?

I have an idea for a new book - it's about transitioning from Type A to Type B...Letting go of attributes that no longer serve me or bring happiness. I think it could be of interest to many. Why does society value the excess competitive intensity too much? Maybe the parking attendants of the world have more to offer than the overblown lifestyle gurus that populate the social media. I spoke in Spanish to a parking lot attendant a few months back, lamenting my struggle to speak better Spanish. He said don't worry about it, the most important thing is the esfuerza - making the effort. What a profound statement!