Average to EPIC: A User’s Guide

Average to EPIC! is predicated on the assumption that the athletically average, and below average can accomplish epic feats of endurance. Be it a marathon, riding 100 miles, or tackling a triathlon, with the proper knowledge, motivation, and training, anyone can achieve these goals.

Many of you may be interested in the Average to EPIC book so I’ve put together a quick overview of the book and the Average2EPIC process.

Step 1. Choose your endurance sport.

In the book, I cover road riding, mountain biking, running and triathlons. Why so many sports, you might ask. First, I wanted to give folks the endurance sports landscape. You may already have an inclination for a certain sport but this way you may see something else that grabs your attention: “I’ve been running a lot, maybe I’ll take up mountain biking”.  Each chapter is a “quick start” guide, demystifying the sport by reviewing jargon, types of races, equipment, and requisite technique. The second reason for covering so many sports is that people may want to sample several sports during their epic journey: Run a half-marathon, then do a road century, and then try a triathlon.

Step 2: Understand you body.

The human body is the best work of art.― Jess C. Scott

I provide some foundational information about the endurance body: How the body works to create movement, how to eat right, how the mind affects your performance, and how aging changes the game. It’s important to understand how the body functions as you head into training and racing. Note: I take a pretty firm position on diet and nutrition (I have a degree in nutrition). My position is a plant-based (vegan) diet.

Step 3: Set your goals

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Borrowing from the business world, you need to establish a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal or a BHAG. The BHAG will vary by person, depending on where you are today. A person running half-marathon’s today will have have a different BHAG compared to someone who has just taken up running. By the same token, the experience half-marathon runner will need to think BIG, like an ultramarathon or a marathon in all 50 states whereas the newbie might see a half-marathon as a BHAG.

Step 4. Develop a  plan

A goal without a plan is just a wish.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The BHAG tells you where you want to go but you can’t develop a plan until you know where you are starting today, fitness-wise.  I’ve provided a series of strength and endurance tests to get a feel for what kind of shape you are in. These are not definitive or all encompassing but they do provide some benchmarks by which to assess your fitness. Once you got the beginning and ending, you can fill in with a plan. The plan begins at a high-level with macroscopic view. Here are a few examples:

Example 1: Let’s say BHAG is to ride 100 miles on a bike and today you don’t own a bike but you’ve completed a couple of 5k charity runs. You are probably looking at a two year plan. The first year would be getting the bike and gear, getting comfortable on the bike, finding places to ride and people to ride with,  and developing some fitness on the bike. You might end the first season riding 50 or 60 miles. The second year would build on the first and put you in a position to ride 100 miles on relatively flat ground early in the season and maybe complete another century later in the season, faster or tackling hillier terrain.

Example 2. If your BHAG was to qualify for the Boston marathon and you had completed some 5 and 10k’s, then you might be looking at a two or three year plan. The first year would be a build up of endurance, completing several half-marathons or a half plus a full marathon. Year two would be a two marathons, the first for experience and the second one for time. Year three would be the Boston qualifying race.

Example 3. If your glory days of athletics have long passed you by and you are starting from scratch, then a full fitness assessment is in order. Your BHAG might be something like riding 50 miles or doing a half-marathon and it might take you several years to get there. Don’t be discouraged. Anything is possible!

In putting together your plan, take the long-view. Fitness does not happen overnight. Prepare for the journey!

After you have a macroscopic plan with yearly goals, the next step is to plan the first season out in detail. This should include a training plan along key races. One note, I do not provide any specific training plans but give plenty of guidelines for training. This includes key workouts for each sport as well as Dr. Don’s 10 Truths of Training.

Step 5. Begin training

To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.― Anatole France

This is by far the hardest step. Everything up to now has has been theoretical and just words and numbers on paper (or in the computer). Now it’s time to take action and letting the rubber hit the road, literally. The first step in training is gathering together what you need to train. This includes not only the clothing and equipment (e.g. bike) but other tools of the trade like a heart rate monitor or a GPS watch. In implementing any training plan, be it one you find on the internet (not recommended unless you extensively modify it), one you develop yourself, or one you’re given by a coach, I recommend you find your weekly training rhythm. This is the week-in, week-out rhythm that works best with your body, your work, and your family. Does your body need a full day of recovery? Are soccer matches every Saturday morning? Do you travel mid-week?

Step 6.Go Time! Your first EPIC event.

After enough training and racing the “B” races (the races that will give you the experience and knowledge to take on the epic race), it’s finally time for that race that a year or two or three ago you thought was impossible. You are finally toeing the line for the marathon that you once thought was completely out of question (“I’m not a runner”) or tackling that triathlon that seemed like only a dream as you took those first strokes in the pool and sank like rock. But today is different day. Today is your day.

Getting to this day took lots of training and lots of planning for the race. Having planned extensively for many races, I have to agree with Dwight Eisenhower:    “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” The race may not go as planned but just let the day unfold and be in the moment.

In the book, I cover race preparation for the major events and provide a race report for one of my races. In the reports, I show how things will likely unfold but also show how things can go sideways at times.

Step 7.  Enjoy the EPICness; dream about the future.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Finishing that first epic event is priceless. Enjoy the accomplishment. Savor the result and appreciate hard work. Thank those who have put up with your obsessive training. Then begin thinking about the future. Don’t be the one-and-done person. Don’t hang up the triathlon bike now that you’ve done the big one. Think about what could be next. Leverage your motivation, fitness, and knowledge for the future. Maybe it’s time to take up mountain biking. Maybe you should leverage that marathon by doing a triathlon.

Think in terms of how this accomplishment will lead to life-long fitness; to a lifestyle of healthier living.


I’m not a coach. I was never an elite athlete and I’m not athletically gifted. The point here is I am one of you. Someone with average, or perhaps below average, athletic ability, who as been able to tackle some epic challenges by learning, planning  and doing.

You can do the same!

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