Wednesday, November 06, 2013

What Greatness Takes

We will be doing a new series of interviews. hoping to get some on video. The theme of these interviews will be a discovery of what make people successful. in life and in sport. We will be interviewing first timers to professional greats. 
Our first interview is an athlete of ours, Savas Gunduz, who did his first ironman, Ironman Lake Placid.  Savas's story is a common one but with some very uncommon common aspects. 
Savas only trained an average of 6.9 hours per week preparing for the race. While he has a athletic build at 165 lbs standing 5,11 and his past high school soccer and college rowing endervers surely shaped some of his ability he is no Olympic athlete in disguise. Personally I feel he could be a fantastic athlete. Qualify for Kona material but his lack of consistency over the years has been the biggest issue for him (as it is for most people). 
Despite this lack of consistent training over the years and less than 7 hr's of training a week he accomplished what many people fall short off.  a near perfect IM race and his first nonetheless. 
I have highlighted some he said at the end of his question 5 answer. This is something i have heard and seen form almost every successful person ever. I am sure it will be a recurring theme

1. whats drove you to do this event. IM lake placid. 
Answer:  A Subaru.  Just kidding.  The real impetus was the fact that two of my best friends and former rowing teammates were going to sign up. I got a 4-page email from one of them, JR, stating something to the fact that we aren't getting younger, and this would be a great challenge, and on and on and on and on.  His disertation was summarized by the simple question, "So, you in?", to which I answered his lengthy email with the one-word answer, "Yep".  Therefore it was a combination of some very positive peer-pressure, with the fact that if I were ever to do an Ironman, that Lake Placid was one of the toughest, most iconic, and admittedly closest ones to me.

2. what other priorities do you have in your life Savas?  aside form this race?
Answer:  Pretty much everything else, except for clean socks.  Ie. Family, Job, Training, and then clean socks - in that order.   My wife and I had a 6 month old daughter when I decided to do the race, and we had another child during my training - so my kids were 2 and 6 months when I did IMLP.  They were definitely a priority in my life.  Following that, my job was very intense.  While I sometimes worked from home - those were 12 hour days, and I often had to travel during the week.   Behind those two things, came training.  Ahead of clean laundry, mind-you. 

3. what were your goals for this race? 
Answer: I had 2 goals - (1) to finish the race upright and feeling good.  (2) to break 12 hours, even though my coach said time and time again that "time doesn't matter".   I  knew what he was saying, that the weather could be rainy and thus the bike decents would be slower than normal.  Or the course could be windy, which would slow down times.  Or I could have a great race, but have a mechanical on the bike which would affect my time.  But still - I wanted to finish in sub-12.

4. what challenges did you face in preparation for achieving these goals? 
Answer:  The biggest challenge I faced was time available to train, plain and simple.  I had very, very limited windows of time, and those windows were constantly moving based on my work schedule/travel, or the kids' nap schedules, or other commitments (see priorities above).   I was never able to say "Every morning from 6-8am I'll swim/bike/run", or "Saturday's will always be my long rides and brick runs", because my wife could have needed help with the kids some mornings, or my work schedule would shift.

5. what were the keys to over coming these challenges? how did you succeed? 
Answer: I got a coach.  My coach was key for not just race tactics an workouts. But most importantly he was a "Time Management Expert".  I would talk to him every Sunday night and present my schedule for the coming week.  He would then tailor my workouts accordingly, for example making my work travel days my "running days" where I could simply pack my shoes.  He would help me to restructure my week's worth of training if my job suddenly shifted, or the kids got sick and I had to miss a long ride, etc.   As a result, I was able to be very consistent with my training from day one, and while it wasn't quantity, my training was definitely quality.  One other key is that I made each and every training session count.  I would be 100% mentally focused on my task at hand, and block out everything else.  Then when I was done with my training I would focus 100% on the other priorities in my life.

6 what was race day like?  this was your first IM how did it compare to what you expected/ what your training was like? 
Answer:  Race day was magical.  Thanks to the preparation from my coach of my physical abilities in the months leading up to the race, combined with the mental preparation from my coach in the days leading up to the race I had no surprises on race day itself.  It was just a matter of executing on my strategy of heartrate management, fueling, and enjoying the day.  I had a better than expected run, but that could have been because I was a bit too conservative on the bike.  But if I was more aggressive on the bike I could have potentially blown up on the run - so all-in-all it was a perfectly executed day.

7. what was the most unexpected thing that happened to you on race or in your preparation. 
Answer: The timing clock at the finish line flashed 12:01 for my time as I crossed.  And while the first person that I saw was the lady who handed out the finisher medals, the second person that I saw as I crossed the finish line was my coach, who had snuck back into the area after his own race to greet me.  That alone was unexpected, but even better was his smile when he told me that I broke 12 hours.  "Huh, how?" I asked in that post-race fog that we all experience.  "Since this was a rolling swim start this year, you actually started 5 minutes after the official time - so your real time is 11:56."   While unexpected at the time, in hindsight it made sense.  I had done the most with my training that I could  - blending consistency with quality.  I listened to ever trick that my coach told me in terms of mental preparation, and I executed my race to the best of my abilities.  The result was my hitting both of my goals - a great race where I finished upright and strong, and breaking 12 hours.

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