My journey to qualify for Alcatraz

Taking advice from others

Posted in Uncategorized by ottojungsf on October 20, 2009

Disclaimer: I recognize the potential irony in this post since it is criticizing the prevalence of advice given on blogs while appearing on a blog. Let me disclaim that I am not seeking to provide advice to others or present myself as an expert. This merely represents my thoughts.

Some of my goals are going to take longer then others to accomplish. Winning my age group to qualify for Alcatraz may take a decade or longer. So far I have read articles, received unsolicited advice, and have had the occasional person dissuade me. I believe all this advice can be distracting and often leads to self-doubt about my desire to reach my goals. The increase in the number of so called experts has led me to occasionally question my determination.

The internet is a wonderful tool. It lets me contact a friend in Spain, track my workouts, and manage my banking online. One problem I have found is that it also has lowered the barrier to those seeking to give advice. Today we have forums, twitter, blogs, and news feeds that can inundate us on ways to change our training, a berry that will increase your VO2 max, or why we should run by ourselves. I think the problem with so many often conflicting opinions is that it makes it difficult for us to make a decision on which opinions to believe. One of the few coaches I trust to receive advice from is Joe Friel. From when I first started reading Triathlete’s Training Bible I saw that he had years of experience and had worked with novice triathletes before. His credibility gave me confidence that he understood what was going through my head and the mistakes I might be making. The problem I have with reading a blog from an individual I don’t know is that I have no idea if he knows the situation I’m going through, or if the article is even written for me. For example, if I am reading an article on running technique, how do I know if this is for a beginner, has he taught runners this technique, and is there research to support his claims? As a safety mechanism, I rely on a handful of people that have established credibility through proven experience and publications.

My friends and associates are another source of advice. Overwhelmingly they are supportive of my goals. Over the past year I have met two wonderful women (you know who you are) who have been extremely supportive of my goals to qualify for Alcatraz. Occasionally I will run into an individual convinced to dissuade me. One man was an active triathlete and member of a San Francisco triathlon club. I was excited to learn that he competed in triathlons and we began talking about our goals. When he learned I had been only training for a year he told me I should forget about winning my age group and enter the lottery. Regardless of whether he had foresight into the future or 20+ years of experience (he didn’t), entering the lottery was not going to make me happy. Even if I work at this for the next decade I will be glad I put my all into it. I think this demonstrates why it is important to believe in your mission since if you do not someone will come along and advise you on something they would do that won’t necessarily make you happy.

Establishing the credibility of experts and having an understanding of what makes you happy, I believe is a key to accomplishing one’s goals. It is a lesson I am carrying into other aspects of my life.


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