Laura: To set the stage, I wanted to do this interview with you because you just had a great race at 70.3 Oregon, specifically a big breakthrough on the run, and I wanted to be able to share your process with people. I believe we’ve been working together for about 5-6 years –
Hibbs Has it been that long?
L: Yes! Isn’t that funny?
H: Holy smokes!
L: I know, and I don’t think I’ve ever coached anyone who shows up as consistently open-heartedly as you do, so that’s why we’re here today. I believe that’s the magic that has allowed you to make so much progress.
So let’s start with the fact that you qualified for and raced in your first 70.3 Worlds last year in St. George. Can you tell me a little bit about what that experience was like?
H: Um… mindblowing! I was just excited to be there. It was a lot of work to get there, and it just felt good, like a validation. All the hard work finally paid off. I got to do something I always wanted to do. I had that opportunity and I just wanted to enjoy the whole thing. It was a cool experience just to be present there and to see all the things that happen with people competing at that level. It was a long road if we’ve been working together for 5 years!
L: It was a long road! I don’t know if it was an explicit goal right away but it became a goal at least a couple years ago.
H: Yea I kept getting better and I thought well maybe there’s a chance.
L: So after that, you wanted to qualify again basically the second you crossed the finish line, right?
H: Yea I think I sent you that maybe 24 hours later. My plan was to go right back.
L: It was, but then at the beginning of this year you were hesitant about setting that goal again. Can you tell me about that?
H: Yea, I kept thinking I was too worried about validation, I was too worried about what others were thinking about me, and that’s maybe what was driving the desire to get back there vs. just wanting to get myself strong and make myself better. We’re all unique in the situations we’re going through and where we’re at at any moment. And at that moment I was needing to focus on getting myself better instead of worrying about needing to make it to a world championship to prove to anybody or anything that I was actually making those improvements.
L: Right, and then I posted my personal blog about how I personally didn’t have goals for the season and then you were like, “Wait a minute, does that mean I don’t have to have goals?” And I said, “That’s not at all what that means! You still have to have goals.” But when you first turned in your goal sheet – which of course started with your naming your values and went through a whole process – you didn’t have goals right away. The process was still unfolding.
Here are the themes that you wrote at the top of your goal sheet for your year:
- Be in the present. Focus on the now.
- Trust in the plan.
- Build strong roots.
H: I nailed all of them!
L: You did, I agree! How do you feel like those set you up for coming through the process to the point where you were ready to have goals again?
H: I think it was the best thing I could have done for myself at the time. With everything that’s been going on personally and with family, it was definitely hard to talk about things or do anything. Training is a nice outlet for me, from stress and everything else. And you know, we always talk about “control the controllables.” But I never really – probably until this year – stopped worrying about the outcomes, controlled what I could control, and let the outcome be what it’s going to be. I think that has teed me up to have a pretty good outcome with everything that’s been going on.
The roots thing was really about focusing on that and just trying to show up for myself when it came time to train and do all those little things, knowing I may be tired, I may be sore, I might not be as fast as I thought I was going to be. I think showing up like that opened me up to surprise myself quite a bit this year. You would stack me up with some crazy workout on a Saturday and follow it up with some crazy run on a Sunday where I had to hit some pretty good splits, and I thought there’s no way I can do that, but I shifted to “I’ll just try and see what happens.” And had I not spent time just being present and focusing on the task, I don’t think I would have done what I’ve been able to do throughout the year.
L: Before Oregon, I was telling you about how I think you actually wrote in your post-workout comments that you surprised yourself on average once a week. It was amazing to me how often you surprised yourself. It came from your ability to be present. It’s one thing to make that a theme or a focus for the year but it’s another thing to really actually show up and be present all the time, and however you did it, led to some pretty amazing stuff along the way.
H: I think it helped to build that up knowing that some days you just aren’t going to have it and that’s ok.
L: Right, and if there’s no outcome goals then who cares if you don’t have it on a particular day. If being present is your focus, then you can’t fail.
H: Yep! And low-and-behold you surprise yourself quite a bit!
L: I can’t even think of – maybe there was 1 workout – that you didn’t actually hit your paces. I think you surprised yourself in a positive way maybe 99% of the time. Does that seem right?
H: I’d have to go back and look but that’s probably about right.
L: So you eventually got back into the mindset where you wanted to go for 70.3 Worlds again.
*Hibbs’s 2022 Goals are listed at the end
It took us a little while to pick the race and that was kind of stressful because first Oregon was a qualifying race for 2022 Worlds, and then it wasn’t, and then at the last minute it was again… so that was a whole thing. But this year got a little crazy for you in a different way. You had some hard family stuff that you have been working through this whole year and are still working through – can you talk about that and how it has affected you both with regards to training and just in general?
H: Yea, life has been pretty stressful. My older sister got diagnosed with cancer and then my father-in-law got diagnosed with cancer about a month ago. But it’s been good to have training and to trust in the plan that you’ve created for me. It’s been a good way to keep me focused and present, and staying on top of things that we can control instead of jumping to what could or could not happen. I’ve applied that to a lot of things going on with my family and I think that’s really made it – not bearable – maybe manageable. Just knowing that there are ups and downs – a lot of downs – it’s been very very tough.
L: You’ve been very open and emotional in your post-workout comments with me, talking about things like if your sister can go through this amount of pain, then you can too. And venting too – sometimes you just need to get some things out through a workout and then after a workout, in response to it. Do you feel like you were able to channel your emotions? How was training a support system for you?
H: I’m an introvert by nature, so training is a place where I can go and let my mind wander a little bit. Training allows me to work through things and process things, but also it gives me opportunities to distract myself. So in a session where we’re hitting certain times or watts – that’s a good distraction for not letting my mind wander too far. So that structure has helped a lot. Training is a stress relief for me. The longer I can train, the better it is for stress.
L: I’ve said to you that it would have been completely understandable if you had ever gotten to a point where you had said, “It’s just too much today, I can’t workout, I can’t show up for myself, I’m emotionally overwhelmed,” but that never happened.
H: To me that would be giving up and I didn’t want to give up. It’s just a workout. So what if I don’t hit a pace or a power number? That doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme. I’m still making myself better by showing up and going through it.
L: At one point during our build to Oregon you made a comment that you said you felt like I was being harder on you than I ever have and making you do harder shit than you’ve ever done before, which made me realize that we had to have a conversation about that because you were absolutely right. That was exactly what was happening! And perhaps I neglected to tell you ahead of time. Can you tell me about how that went from your perspective?
H: I thought you were just being super mean!
L: Hah! You thought I was just being mean spirited for no reason?
H: “I’m just gonna keep doing it until he complains. See how much we can get him to complain and if he’ll ever break…”
L: Well you never complained –
H: I was thinking, “Well if that’s what she’s trying to do, I’m just not going to complain, I’m just going to keep going!”
L: That’s funny – I was playing mind games with you that I didn’t even know about.
H: Yes, I could tell it was a lot, but it could have been other things too. With all the personal stuff going on and all the physical stuff going on, I was just drained.
L: What I explained to you was that we’ve been working together for 5 years and you just keep getting faster so of course we’re not going to do the same training year after year, we’re going to have to turn it up!
It’s insane to me to look back at the 70.3 race that you did right before we started working together: you ran a 2:05 off the bike. And then we brought it down to 1:50’s, 1:40’s, and now we’re in the mid 1:30’s. That’s so cool that you’ve made that amount of progress!
H: It’s a testament to leaning into the training. It’s been helpful this year to just let go and not get too worried about what you were prescribing knowing that you had my best interest in mind.
L: Ok, let’s talk about Oregon in particular since it was last weekend. You were just shy of your goal of qualifying for 70.3 Worlds – which you know, is an outcome goal anyway, meaning we don’t have complete control over that. But you still had a big breakthrough performance. You knocked off 5 minutes from your previous 70.3 run PR, which is no joke when you’re running in the mid 1:30’s. That’s a huge percentage. The run is where a lot of doubt has come up for you in the past. Can you tell me about how that may have held you back before?
H: Yea I’d say it was giving up on myself where maybe the swim time wasn’t what I wanted, and then the bike time wasn’t what I wanted and, “Man this really sucks, why am I even doing this, I’m not even going to make my goal.” So I would just kind of quit on myself mentally, which makes it easier to slow things down. I think I’ve changed it in the sense that “Well the rest of that stuff didn’t work – that’s fine, but what can we do here?” It’s going back to being in the present, tackling the task at hand, and doing what we can to make this moment better.
L: In your race report, you mentioned some low points. Can you talk me through how the run played out?
H: I was just giddy. I was excited to be there, I didn’t think I’d make it to the start line. Happy to have started, happy to finally be on the run, and it was actually a beautiful place to run, nice and peaceful. I was just happy. Happy to be pushing myself, I felt like I was doing something I hadn’t done before. I wanted to keep pushing and keep seeing what I could do. There were definitely some tough parts with some cramps and a nutrition low point around mile 8 or 9, but I just tackled through that, got my cola – which always seems to work – and I even said out loud “Alright let’s close this out.” I just kept passing more and more people and it just kept fueling me that I was doing the right thing and that I could do really hard things.
L: So there was never doubt. There were low physical points maybe, which are literally unavoidable.
H: Yes, just physical. Mentally I was in a good space. The outcome of the race never once came up in my mind.
L: What about your time? Were you trying to hit a certain time or you were just in it?
H: I was in it. You had made me work pretty hard so I was getting pretty good at knowing my perceived effort on things and I was just going by how my body felt, running the checks: checking the form, making sure my turnover was good, making sure my knees were driving, and just pushing. And it felt great. It felt so good! It’s hard to describe, I was literally just giddy.
L: One of the things I sent you before the race was to give your mind tasks so that your body could be free to just do its thing. Did you feel that at all? Did you feel a switch from making yourself do it to just doing it?
H: Right at the start of the run. It literally popped into my head to let my body do what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been building towards and to trust it. And my mind said, “Ok, we will do that.” It chimed in every once in a while and was like, “Are you sure?”
L: I love that. Do you feel like that’s something you’ll be able to tap into in the future?
H: The biggest thing I got out of this race was literally living through all those values. That’s what I really enjoyed. I’ve learned that it’s fun to go through this stuff.
L: I’ve learned that there is tremendous organizing power in writing down your values and intentions. It sets off a chain of events. I’ve gotten to see this with myself and my athletes who wrote down their values at the beginning of the year. You don’t even have to think about them or plan out how you’re going to follow your values or stay in alignment, it just happens.
You wrote down 5 values (even though I only asked for 2-3). So I just want to read your values –
H: Well before you get into that, I run a team now and I actually instituted that for our yearly goals. They are all writing their values out now and we’ll go through them in a couple weeks.
L: Wow, that’s so cool! Are you doing yours again with them?
H: I shared mine out as an example for them to begin to think through. So, kudos!
Your first value you wrote down is adventure: new things, get out of the loop. Do you feel like you’ve had adventures this year?
H: I think my road to Oregon became an adventure! It wasn’t necessarily planned to be that way but it sure felt like it.
L: Yea it did, it definitely got you out of a loop. But also maybe writing down adventure as one of your values – even though this wasn’t an adventure you would have chosen – allowed you to move with the adventure and not expect training or other circumstances to go exactly to plan.
H: I think that’s probably a good way to put it. And I think my next race is going to be an adventure!
L: Yea we’re going to talk about that in a minute, don’t you worry. Your next value was contentment: appreciate where I’m at in the moment. That goes along with presence because once you’re present, the feeling that goes along with that is contentment, right?
H: Yea I think I got all into comparing myself to other people: “Oh these people can run this pace and go this fast,” and I think I needed to include contentment because I needed to remember we’re all different, we’re all going through different things and we have different issues we’re working through. The only thing I can do and control is where I’m at and what I can do today.
L: And that’s a feeling of ease, right?
H: Yes, tremendous.
L: The next one is family: top one of all…this IS my squad.
H: That was hard this race because only my son could be there, but my brother ended up coming with his fiance, which was great.
(Hibbs’ wife and daughter contracted COVID right before the race and had to cancel their plans to come support.)
L: The next value is growth: try new things/experiences. We might have some more of that coming up with the next race. And leadership – tell me about leadership.
H: That one was because I now manage a team of people so I wanted to make sure that I led by example and be outward facing because I’m very introverted. I’m not one that talks a lot. I don’t share a lot typically. But I wanted to make sure that my leadership qualities would at least shine through knowing that I have a group of people now that I need to inspire.
L: Can you tell me how you think you are a leader despite being an introvert? Because I don’t think that precludes people from being leaders.
H: I don’t think so either but it makes me more conscious of needing to talk a little more. I maybe need to speak when I might reserve myself a little more. I also think to be a leader you need to have empathy, so making sure I show that as well.
L: I have to make myself talk sometimes too so I get that.
I’m interviewing you today because I think you’re a leader in the way that you go about pursuing something that is meaningful to you. The way we go about anything is the way we go about everything, right? I gave you the consistency award and I wish I could explain to people what it looks like –
H: I would love to know what it means since I don’t know any different!
L: Well first of all, you do complete almost every workout so that’s part of it, but it’s not that. It’s your engagement with every workout. I don’t care if you hit all the numbers and get everything done as written, but you show up ready to be open to an experience, rather than deciding how it’s going to go ahead of time. You don’t show up to your workout and think “I’m feeling this certain way so it’s probably going to go this certain way.” You show up and you’re ready to experience whatever is there for you on any particular day. I think that is your most powerful form of leadership. It’s something that a lot of people are afraid of because it’s a form of not having control. But the trick is we don’t have control anyway, all we have is anxiety about not having control.
You just continuously show up with an open heart, and you have done that the whole 5 years that we’ve been working together.
H: I’m just a nerd I guess.
L: Sure, we’ll call it that. You’re just a nerd. How would you say that you are a leader for NYX? What is your best “lead-by-example” quality?
H: I have no idea.
L: Yes you do.
H: … Be present, that’s all I can say. Just show up, deal with what’s in front of you, and stop worrying about what could come.
L: Perfect. Let’s switch gears. You sent me an email a day or 2 after Oregon and you said you didn’t know what you wanted to do next. And then maybe a few hours later –
H: It might have been 2 hours later –
L: Haha right – 2 hours later you said, “Here’s the thing – I signed up for a 100k.” I thought that was a funny, quick change of plans, but you actually wrote that in your goal sheet! You wrote:
If World’s is not in my cards for 2022: I thought about signing for a 100K because 😬😬😳
H: I remember I wanted to get back on the trails again. I was looking at all the trail races coming up and I forgot they have the Javalina 100 out here in October, so I messaged my buddy and asked him to pace me. And within about 2 seconds he responded and said absolutely! So I registered in that moment.
L: That’s so cool! How are you feeling about that?
H: Extremely scared! So scared – I’ve never done anything like that before. I have no idea what to expect. It’s a whole thing to run that long and far and to figure out how that’s going to work.
L: I would say that all the best adventures probably involve us being a little scared at the beginning, right?
H: I feel like all the ones that I’ve done since I’ve been with you, or things where I’ve grown a ton, like Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, I was scared out of my mind thinking there’s no way I’m going to be able to do this. Then I did it! And you know, we did all those other crazy challenges during COVID lockdown. It was fun to be a little scared and kind of unsure, but hey, let’s see what happens!
L: I love it. I had forgotten that you wrote that down on your goal sheet.
H: I didn’t realize I wrote it down either! I knew I wrote something about trail racing but I didn’t realize I wrote down 100k.
L: What is it about the trails that calls to you?
H: It’s just peaceful. The sounds, the primal nature of it all. It’s beautiful out here… I mean not right now – right now it’s terrible out here at a billion degrees. But when you’re up early and you see the sunrise, it’s pretty incredible with the mountains. I feel complete when I’m out there working hard.
L: I would say that it’s an adventure, and it’s also contentment, which is what you just described – the feeling of being out in nature. That’s cool, Hibbs. That’s what I’m saying. We write down our values and then they come together in strange and beautiful ways.
H: They really do.
L: I’m excited to look at our values again at the end of the year and see how our lives unfolded in even more ways that align with our values. I think that one way to guarantee that it does is to be open-hearted and to approach things the way that you do. I appreciate you for that.
H: I appreciate you making sure this old man is healthy and can do hard things!
*Hibbs’s 2022 Goals (as written on his goal sheet from the beginning of the year)
Become a more confident swimmer
- Bring my speed and efficiency to race day, not just in a pool
- Practice open water swims
- Get more efficient at swimming
- Continue to improve the catch and pull phase
- Swim 1:18 or faster 100/yard
Improve my power and aerodynamics on the bike
- Strength work (going HAM in the gym and life!!)
- New bike fit (plus minor adjustments to cockpit set up)
- Shave 10-15 minutes off my 56 mile bike time without sacrificing my run
- Sign up for just bike races
Run with no fear
- Complete a 1/2 marathon in under 1:35, preferably under 1:30
- Get back to the trails and connect back to the outdoors and mother nature; get strong again and fill up that soul cup
Qualify for 70.3 worlds
- Continue to work on the small stuff
- Yoga / flexibility, old man stretches, recovery: rolling, massage gun, proper refueling
- Get lean by eating cleaner, no more eating kids snacks!
- Remember to have fun and celebrate just how far I’ve come in endurance sport
- You may or may not make worlds. That’s ok. You don’t suck if you miss it. But you will do the work. You will control what you can to make sure that on the start line, the best version of you is ready. Because at your best, you are really tough to beat. Is anyone else ready for that version of you?!?