Crank those things hard

Photo: Crank those things hard

This morning, I'm participating in the Squamish Off-Road Triathlon. I began competing in triathlons last year to satisfy a hunger that I was struggling to quench.

Training and competing are activities I relish. However, in my late thirties, with three young children, it was challenging to find a sport in which I could remain relevant. My background is in kickboxing, and when a good friend of mine stepped into his first boxing match, I considered the possibility.

The prospect of training for a sanctioned fight incited the nervous energy and excitement I was longing for, but the potential for head injuries gave me pause. I've experienced multiple concussions, a depressed skull fracture, and trauma to the front of my face so severe that my upper jaw had to be artificially regrown seven years ago.

Head injuries are serious business, often having latent harmful effects. For example, men who sustain numerous blows to the head frequently suffer from hormone deficiencies as they age, leading to a myriad of mental health problems.

I've had my share of head injuries. As such, I've decided that being punched in the head is an activity best left for others.

Last year, I discovered off-road triathlons, which consist of a lake swim, followed by a mountain bike race, and culminating in a trail run. This mountain-based multisport event requires competency in three different activities over varying terrains – navigating technical routes, swiftly descending, and making strenuous climbs over rocks, roots, and dirt.

This was exactly what I was seeking.

It's now my second season. I may not yet feel like a relevant athlete in my age category, but I can see the path.

Off-road triathlon involves a lot of complexity, and complexity gives me an advantage.

Let me explain.

If you compare it to a triathlon, a 100-meter sprint is a straightforward sport. If you were to create a pie chart displaying the relevant skills required to win a 100-meter sprint, the majority of the chart would be one colour, labelled “speed."

Speed wins 100-meter sprints. It's as simple as that.

However, if we extend the race from 100 meters to 10 kilometres, the pie chart of required skills suddenly changes. Speed is still a factor, but it has conceded some ground to endurance, which now plays a larger role than it did in the 100-meter sprint.

If we increase the distance to 50 kilometres, the pie chart of required skills evolves even further. While speed still holds a place, it has diminished in significance. Endurance has expanded its share, and new sections for physical durability, mental toughness, pre-race nutrition, and intra-race nutrition have emerged.

The longer the race, the more distributed the required skills become.

Last year, I competed in a mountain-based ultra-marathon. The addition of steep, technical terrain added layers of complexity, putting more emphasis on physical durability and mental toughness.

Looking at the full pie chart of required skills, I had to identify areas where I could excel.

I knew I wouldn't be the fastest. I'm capable of running uphill for days, but speed isn't my forte.

I knew I could be competitive in terms of endurance, but I was also aware that I would be up against lifelong ultra-marathon athletes, many of whom would be stronger than me.

However, there was nothing stopping me from developing the most disciplined and effective nutrition and fueling strategy.

From past athletic pursuits, I knew I was tougher than most. During this race, it was guaranteed that everyone would, at some point, experience knee pain, muscle cramps, burning lungs, and fatigue. However everyone's response to these challenges would differ. I committed myself to being the toughest racer on the course.

Training for these races is demanding. Balancing the needs of three kids and two businesses, I knew I was bound to miss some training days. However, the second half of training is recovery, an area where I knew I could excel through ice baths, sauna sessions, post-training nutrition, and mobility work.

By examining the full chart of required skills, I was able to build my competitive advantage.

Naturally, I trained in speed and endurance. But I knew that if I wanted to be competitive, I had to delve deeper into the competition vectors and manipulate the levers best suited to me.

The more complex the race, the more competition vectors I had at my disposal.

I ended up ranking 18th out of 300 in that race. I didn't make it to the podium, nor did I secure a top 10 spot, but for my first ultra-marathon, I was content.

I performed better than I had anticipated, and I know my performance benefited from focusing on the competition vectors where I believed I could excel.

For instance, on race day, there was one notorious section known as "Singing Pass" — a continuous 10-kilometre steep downhill run. By the end of it, my right knee was in agony.

Part of my mental preparation involved anticipating this very moment. I knew it would happen, and I was ready for it.

Rather than slowing down, I had a pep talk with my knee as I ran.

"I know you're in agony right now. I know this is hard. But I promise you, we are going to run. We're going to run all the way to the finish line, and we're not going to stop. Once we get there, you can do whatever you want — completely give out on me, your call. But until then, we're running. So scream at me if you want to, or shut up and get the job done. We're running."

Fortunately, my knee saw reason, the pain subsided, and we ran. After the race, I was unable to walk for three days.

Today's race is an off-road triathlon, comprising a swim, followed by a mountain bike ride, and ending with a trail run.

I won't be the fastest swimmer. I'll be competitive on the bike. I'll be a threat on the run.

But more importantly, my nutrition is optimized. My sleep schedule is perfected. I've trained the transitions from swim to bike and bike to run until every movement is memorized and automatic. Everywhere I can be the best on the course, I've focused on excelling.

The objective? I will race my race. My race strategy is geared towards the vectors where I can outperform others.

Triathlons, while complex, pale in comparison to the intricacies of building a business, managing a wealth portfolio, improving relationships, raising kids — you name it, life is brimming with complex challenges that offer a wealth of competition vectors.

The mistake we make is to walk too closely in the footsteps of our competitors.

It's vital to learn from our peers, mentors, and predecessors, but their unique advantage is not my unique advantage.

Right now, I can't become the most educated or the most experienced. Over time, this can change, but at this moment, I am who I am, equipped with an abundance of competitive advantages completely unique to me.

I don't write a weekly essay. I write my weekly essay. I don't host a podcast, I host The Jay Martin Show.

In business, I flourish when I am specialized and boutique. I flounder when I scale and generalize. I've learned that I am a sniper, not a machine gun.

In the market, I succeed when I stay focused on early-stage deal flow, concentrating exhaustively on the people involved. Investors who are more focused on technical analysis see my approach as reckless, but I'm not racing their race; I'm racing mine.

Life is not a 100-meter sprint where one skill rules all. It is the pinnacle of complexity, with infinite competitive advantages to be built.

Most people are focused on the same levers. Our goal is to find the ones that no one is looking at, and crank those things hard.

Now let's jump into the portfolio...

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