No sooner had I posted an article - with research references - on the benefit of an amino acid, one of the major ingredients contained in an energy drink, my friend Pete asks me, "...so should I drink a can of the energy drink before a race or not? Do the drawbacks outweigh the benefits?"
Four days earlier, over a beer, I had a chat with a friend who has been bitten by the triathlon bug. He asked me about the relative merits of one particular race over another. He also commented about a friend's expenditures and asked whether he should spend his money on a particular triathlon outfit, or invest in coaching. Maybe it's because of personal experience or perspective that I get questioned about training and racing. I write a lot of these pieces with the goal that the reader will think more deeply about training, equipment, racing, and the citizen-athletic life in general. I hope the person who reads this will look more closely at what is being marketed as truth, try it on for size, and see what works best and what is bupkis.
I guess if this blog were titled: "I'm Your Coach, Darn It, So Do What I Say..." I could provide a response to my friends like Ernest Hemingway; strong, to-the-point, and decisive. I could say: "You will achieve a 1-to-2 percent gain in your 5K race performance, guaranteed, if you drink a 12-ounce can of this drink approximately two hours prior to the race start." Or, "you would be better off taking the money you spend for this non-sanctioned race and working with a swim coach for three months." Or, "Being a triathlete, swimmer, runner, or cyclist is not an 'X-to-Y' season, especially when we spend so much money to participate in an event; it is a year-long lifestyle decision."
Physiology, and psychology for that matter, is much like religious belief. What works for one person might not be the best thing for another. Even in a population with so many similarities variances exist. When it comes to sports physiology, I prefer to place my trust and confidence in a handful of researchers and writers; the overwhelming majority have multiple sets of initials after their name, the ones who may lack in titles academic have successfully guided athletes to titles athletic. As for matters spiritual, that's two-or-three pay grades above my level. Methodist ministers have been a reasonable (and approachable) source during my past, but if you can't find one of them close by a comparative religion professor may do the trick.
If I could change one thing about the present it would be my (flawed) perception of myself. I feel less like a coach - someone who instructs and counsels athletes through training and example - and more like a "guru." And to me, "guru" has negative connotations. My counsel to an athlete often comes from "making stupid mistakes." So, when the person asking my opinion goes and does the complete polar opposite I feel invalidated. Unlike a guru, I have nothing to sell, and I harbor few strong dogmatic beliefs when it comes to training. In fact, there have been many situations where I have either graciously backpedaled from a previously-held point of view, or at least explained in 25-words-or-less my reasons for holding one. I'd rather have folks come see me at the track rather than climb the mountain. Easier that way to get them to buy-in to what I have to say. Not what I have to sell.