The Process

The Process is something that people in the sport of college football refer to when discussing Nick Saban and his success at LSU and Alabama.  I was reading on yesterday, this article, about The Process and I kept going back to the sport of triathlon.  I recently posted about Recovery and the lessons I Learned From Ironman training and for whatever reason this article spoke to me in triathlon terms and not college football terms. These first few sentences from the article are what really grabbed me:

Instead of talking about wins and championships, Saban speaks about the Process. In its most basic form, the Process is Saban's term for concentrating on the steps to success rather than worrying about the end result. Instead of thinking about the scoreboard, think about dominating the man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Instead of thinking about a conference title, think about finishing a ninth rep in the weight room. Instead of thinking about graduating, think about writing a great paper for Intro to Psych.

Read that again and then apply it to triathlon or to marathon or ultra-marathon running.  Better yet if you found this blog because you want to get started in these sports then apply it to that as there are a lot of lessons to be learned here, and almost immediately.

We can tend to lose focus and see the big picture before really honing in on all the little things in the sport of triathlon, especially Ironman.  The distance itself is magical.  140.6 miles.  That is a lot of ground to cover and the only engine you'll be using is your own strength and will power.  When people see the distance they tend to think about finishing, but what about if you focused on taking the sport apart.  Focus on the swim while you are in the water, then the bike when you are pedaling and finally the run.  Why think about the finish line when you are in that mass of swimmers?  Isn't that a huge waste of energy?

In one of the many conversations I have had with Jeff about triathlon (as you can see our training camp was more than just working out but also focusing on the process) he said something to me that has stuck like a pasta noodle to the wall when it is cooked just right (sorry I am a foodie too!)  Jeff said the following:

  • When I go for my swim training I am a swimmer.  I do flip turns and I concentrate on being the best swimmer I can be.
  • When I go out on my bike I am a cyclist.  I do the things that cyclists do like wear a cycling jersey with sleeves.  Small and inconsequential but in the end I am a cyclist and so I focus on that.
  • When I am running I am a runner.  I carry a hand-held.  I think about cadence and form.  Mid-foot to fore-foot striking.
That is the process right there.  During the swim he is not worrying about getting on his bike.  He is living in the moment and I think that is something that we can take away from Nick Saban's philosophy.  Why worry about the scoreboard, or in our sport the finishing time, but instead focus on the sport you are in.  Let's break that down even further.  Why worry about what your swim time is going to be but instead focus on your stroke and sighting?  Doesn't that make more sense.  If you are focused on your form and sighting then you will get to the swim exit when you do and probably in a faster time than you originally thought. Further down in the article you come across this paragraph:

Every few years the game becomes enamored with a system or scheme, and it rushes to declare the birth of the sport's Next Big Thing. In 1991, Houston quarterback David Klingler clutched a lit bundle of dynamite on the cover of SI, suggesting the run-and-shoot would explode the old assumptions. It never did. In 2000, Virginia Tech quarter-back Michael Vick graced SI's cover and was featured in a story about how the dual-threat quarterback would drive the towering drop-back passer into extinction. That never happened either. 

The difference between Nick Saban's system and the spread or the run-and-shoot is that Saban's on-field schemes involve no gimmickry. 

The first sentence is really the one that I kept reading.  The new system or scheme could be referring to the new way to train for triathlon.  By this I'm referring to CrossFit.  I have no doubt that CrossFit will get me to become more fit, but it sure as shit won't make me a better triathlete.  You know how I become a better triathlete?  By riding my bike more, by running more and by swimming more.  Hitting a big tire with a sledge-hammer will make me a better what?  Tire hitter with a sledge-hammer but it won't make me a better triathlete.  Instead of looking for the short-cut to the result do the work.  Get on the bike for those 4-6 hour rides and embrace them.  Get the bike on the trainer and embrace the suck because it will pay off when you are at Mile 90 and mentally you are fatigued.  You will have something to fall back on because you did it already.

The article then goes on to discuss how Nick Saban has a grading system for each position.  How every player is graded and must fall within a certain guideline to even be considered as a recruit.  Here is the paragraph I am referring to:

While Saban has always surrounded himself with coaches whose X's and O's acumen allows them to make the right calls on game day -- just look at his budding coaching tree -- the true success of his system hinges on the selection of players and the way they are trained once they arrive on campus. That is why Saban's system can endure when schemes can't, and it is also why several programs have made big bets that it can be duplicated.

How does this pertain to triathlon?  He has a standard into which everything must fit.  The same is true for equipment as well as for selecting a training plan and/or coach.  If the equipment doesn't fit you could be facing injury which will derail your dreams.  If your coach is not right for you then you could be stalling your success before you even get to the finish line.  Make sure the bike is fit to you and not the other way around.  Test out the goggles in actual water and return them if they don't work.  Make sure you have your running shoes fitted properly at a running store and not at the nearest Dick's where the 17-year-old kid could give two rat's tails about how your feet will feel around Mile 22 of the marathon.  Take the time to invest in your equipment because this is an investment in yourself. I have seen lots of friends hire coach's and ultimately break up with them because the fit just wasn't there.  Just like equipment make sure that this investment is worth it for you.  Instead of just hiring a coach because somebody recommended them to you, do some research.  What are the coach's qualifications and I'm not just talking about being certified.  Does the coach have real world experience or is everything from a book?  Nothing wrong with that if that is what you want but regardless of what you choose make sure the fit is correct. These next two paragraphs speak volumes as to what it takes to complete an Ironman or any triathlon for that matter:

"There was a belief there that who you are mattered in terms of how successful you were going to be or how you played." Having tutors and an academic adviser made staying eligible easier for the players, and it made for fewer academic headaches for James. By the time Saban took over at LSU, many major athletic programs had an academic-assistance unit -- a group of advisers, counselors and tutors that support athletes -- but he considered LSU's inadequate. 

Saban took note of the sign Belichick hung in the Browns' complex. It said do your job. Saban loved it because Belichick clearly defined the expectations for every employee in the organization.

Though it may come as a shock to many, Saban is more comfortable than most of his colleagues in admitting what he doesn't know.

Where Nick Saban discusses that he has tutors and academic advisors I went to family and friends.  People there to support me throughout the journey.  This is an individual sport in terms of race day but if you think you can go at this alone you are sadly mistaken.  When I crossed the finish line the first person I thought of was Karen.  How she sacrificed for me to reach my potential and accomplish my dreams.  Today when we discuss the 2013 race calendar it is with her blessing and knowledge that I am going to be able to train and accomplish more at this sport that I love because of her.

The sign in the Browns' complex can be equated to your training.  Do your job.  Period.  Don't post on Facebook and Twitter how you HAVE to do this or that.  Just f'n do it.  Get out of bed when the alarm goes off and get that workout in.  You are not doing it for the here and now but you are building a machine.  A machine that will carry you through 140.6 miles and whether it takes 10 hours or 17 hours you still need to do it.  Stop wasting time saying how you wish you were still in bed because that is an option.  Get back in bed, but remember there is somebody out there getting faster and stronger than you.  Do Your Job.

When you don't know something about a piece of equipment or why you are doing a certain training block.....ASK questions.  This is a sport that will always teach you.  Whether it be the lesson of bonking or the lesson of crashing your bike or even how to fuel properly this sport is always teaching us, but you have to be open to learning those lessons.  If for one second you think you know it all then you have just been passed by many because they are exploring.  They are investigating and they are trying, sometimes failing but ultimately will succeed because of this.

Thank you for reading!

Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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