Challenge & Opportunity Ahead

JoshRunningJune

Two weeks have passed since my podium-topping age group finish at Trinona. I took two days off of training afterwards to rest and soak in the accomplishment. Then I got right back to it. New challenges and opportunities loom on the summer’s horizon.

So what’s first? Swimming. More swimming. Considering my panic attack 200 yards into the Trinona swim, I still have plenty of work to do as I gear-up for longer distance events this summer. Knocking-out more laps in the pool is one option, but I really wanted get out in the open water more. So I joined the the Minneapolis Open Water Swim Club. Being a part of this club gives me the opportunity to swim a lifeguarded course across Lake Nokomis and back three times per week, and at Cedar Lake twice per week. It’s perfect practice for the step-up in distance that I’ll be tackling this summer.

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A successful 0.75 mile swim across Lake Nokomis and back!

In another attempt to strengthen my swimming-related mental-toughness, I signed-up for the Lake Monster 1-2-3 swim race on Saturday, July 7 at Lake Nokomis. This event offers one, two and three mile distances — I opted for the one mile event. This will be the same distance as my first Olympic/International distance triathlon that occurs exactly one week later on the same lake. I’m a little fearful that participating in this event provides an opportunity for another panic attack that would undoubtedly carry over into the next weekend. But more so, I see this as an opportunity to face that fear head-on, come out on the other side stronger from the challenge and be even more prepared for my first attempt at a longer distance triathlon.

Speaking of that next race, I’ll be competing in the Life Time Tri Minneapolis Triathlon on Saturday, July 14 at Lake Nokomis. This will be my third time competing at this event, but it will be my very first attempt at an Olympic/International distance triathlon (0.93 mile swim, 24.5 mile bike, 6.2 mile run), which is twice the distance of a sprint tri. Doing something for the first time is always a little scary. It’s also a chance to step outside the comfort zone and find out what I’m capable of. And I’ll be full of motivation and inspiration for this event, competing as part of Team Save the Children, raising funds and awareness for the amazing work they do to protect and nurture kiddos around the globe.

Save the Children helps innocent children gain access to education, health care and nutrition while fighting to save them from poverty, discrimination and violence. I’d be honored if you joined me in my journey for positive impact. Together, we can help make a child’s life happier, healthier and safer. Together, we can be the difference. Please consider making a donation and visit my personal fundraising page today: www.savethechildren.org/minneapolistri18/joshaverbeck

And last, but not least, there’s plenty of logistical planning and training to do throughout the rest of July and into August. Last week I received my official qualification notification and invitation to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. I’ll be registering for the Olympic/International distance, which is an invite-only race that I qualified for by winning my age group at Trinona (there is also a sprint distance event the following day which has open registration). The top 18 finishers in each age group at this event will earn the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2019 ITU World Championships in Switzerland. I don’t know that I’m quite on that level yet, but I’m absolutely honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to compete against some of the best triathletes in the country!

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The dividends of hard work and continuous effort.

Race Recap: Trinona 2018

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Sometimes, when you’re struggling and think things are going downhill fast, you manage to persevere and find that in fact, it’s gotten much better than you could’ve imagined. While I didn’t achieve my aggressive finish time goal, I did best my 2017 time by more than two minutes and took first place in my age group with a time of 01:12:09 — my first time on the top of the podium. Better yet, that first place age group finish qualified me for the 2018 USA Triathlon National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio!

Pre-Race

This was probably the most relaxed I’ve been on race morning. I woke up at 2:30am, ate my pre-race breakfast of peanut butter toast and yogurt with fruit, went back to bed, woke-up at 5:15am, got ready, packed-up the gear and drove down to Lake Winona. It had rained most of the prior evening and was still sprinkling as I parked the truck and rode my bike to transition.

Transition was rather tight on space as it always is. I found a spot on my age groups’s rack, parked the bike and started prepping my gear for the race ahead.

I originally planned on skipping the wetsuit for the 0.25 mile swim, but then started to change my mind as I saw many other sprint distance athletes putting theirs on. The water temp was 72.5°F that morning, a few days colder than measured just a few days prior. The air temp was in the low to mid 60’s. And then I remembered how cold Lake Zumbro was the weekend before. With just a few minutes before transition closed, I quickly applied some body glide, grabbed my wetsuit and joined the pack walking down to the swim start.

The Swim

The swim started out strong. I ran into the lake and dove under the water. I had a strong stroke and started passing those in front of me. I wasn’t thinking about anything except swimming hard. I made it to the first tetrahedron, turned the corner, sighted the long straightaway ahead and kept on swimming.

Then came the panic attack I feared. I looked up to make sure I was still on course and noticed how far away the final tetrahedron was that signaled the final turn back into shore. At that moment I realized the restricted my vision felt within the goggles. I started thinking about how tight my wetsuit felt (which it really wasn’t but my brain was stretching for more reasons of doubt). I did the breast stroke, caught my breath, then put my head back in the water and restarted the freestyle. Then I starting thinking how my momentum was gone and wondered how I’d get back into rhythm. I stopped again. It was like I was floating outside of my body, watching myself tread water and telling myself, “You’re blowing it dude. That aggressive swim goal – gone. That aggressive overall race goal – likely going down the drain less than a few minutes into the race. You’re throwing away this race and all you’ve worked for.” I did my best to fight the doubt with calm thoughts. And I remembered I’m not a quitter.

Somehow I pulled it together, completed the swim and found myself back on land running towards T1. Surprisingly I still had a faster swim time than last year.

Transition One

T1 certainly wasn’t my worst ever, but it was far from my best. I had a feeling it would be a little slow given I opted to wear the wetsuit for the swim, which meant I had to wriggle my way back out of it now. I never did buy clip-in cycling shoes, so I had to sit down and tie my running shoes. I threw on my sunglasses, strapped my helmet and thought I was was ready to go. Then my bike got caught in the rack. The weight of the other bikes sagged the top bar, making it difficult to get my 60cm frame out. I had to twist it vertically in order to get the seat under and out. And with that I was running and rolling the bike towards the mount line.

The Bike

I knew this was going to be a grind. It’s the sport I train in the least. But after a rough swim and T1, I knew I needed to put my head down and pedal. I pedaled as hard as I could for 11 miles. Legs burning but still turning. Their were a couple small climbs that I really pushed myself with, but otherwise it was fairly uneventful.

Transition Two

Remember when I said in my last post that it would be hard to beat my 00:00:57 T2 from 2017 and the pressure would be on to just maintain that? Well I was wrong. I bested it by nine seconds, clocking a time of 00:00:48. Not needing to change bike shoes for running shoes has a lot to do with that speed.

The Run

My favorite part of the entire race if the final run. It’s my strong suit. Within the first few paces on the pavement, I felt a dull, aching pain in the bottom of my left foot (I later realized I must’ve cut it on a rock while running into the lake at the swim start). I jumbled with resetting my watch and failed to notice any mile markers. I had no clue how fast I was or wasn’t running. So I just ran. I set my sights on the person in front of me and tried to pass them. Then I looked at the next person and tried to pass them. That trend continued. The pain in left foot numbed after awhile. I hit the halfway turnaround point, flipped my hat backwards let and made sure the pedal was to the floor for the remainder of the run. I rounded the corner off the paved path and onto the back half of Lake Park Drive with a big smile on my face. The finish chute was in sight. I heard the cheers from friends and family. I crossed the finish line of my fourth Ttinona. And at 00:22:13 (07:10/mile) it was the ninth fastest run time of the race!

My Trinona 2018 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Group Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:08:05

02:01 min/100m

3/14

43/260

T1

00:03:13

10/14

158/260

Bike (11miles)

00:37:52

17.44 mi/hr

5/14

73/260

T2

00:00:48

1/14

6/260

Run (3.1 miles)

00:22:13

07:10 min/mi

2/14

9/260

Total

01:12:09

1/14

34/260

Reflection

In 2017, when I realized I missed the podium by just 16 seconds, it really lit a fire within me. I was so close to the podium. That was when it really sunk in that maybe I was on to something here. Triathlon was becoming more than a hobby. I was getting good at it and still tapping into potential. I wanted that podium.

I’d hoped 2018 would be my best Trinona performance yet — it certainly was that and then some. Sure, I missed my aggressive finish time goal of 01:09:00 by a little more than three minutes, but I still got a course PR with 01:12:09 and bested my 2017 time by two minutes and ten seconds. This was my first time on top of the podium with a first place age group finish. And qualifying for a spot at the 2018 USA Triathlon National Championships was icing on the cake. I think the achievement of it all is still sinking in.

My Trinona Time Comparison

Trinona 2014

Trinona 2016

Trinona 2017

Trinona 2018

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:11:29

00:09:27

00:08:19

00:08:05

T1

00:04:44

00:04:07

00:02:35

00:03:13

Bike (11miles)

00:45:35

00:43:40

00:38:50

00:37:52

T2

00:01:21

00:01:07

00:00:57

00:00:48

Run (3.1 miles)

00:27:01

00:27:54

00:23:39

00:22:13

Total

01:30:25

01:26:13

01:14:19

01:12:09

Reflecting back on the race, two moments really stand out. This first was the panic attack in water within the first 200 yards. The out of body vision, watching myself stand still, telling myself I was throwing away everything I had worked hard for. I had a choice — either get stuck in the doubting mindset, or dig deep and power through the fear. I chose the latter and made it to the swim exit and back onto land. The other was crossing the mount line and saddling-in to my bike. At this moment I knew I had a rough swim and a very slow T1. At this moment I knew those two things were in the past. I couldn’t change them. But I could put my head down and channel everything I had into my legs and leave absolutely everything out on the bike and run course. I could’ve let up or given up after what I thought was a race-breaking swim and T1. But I didn’t. I battled back and came out on top of the podium. Yeah, I’m pretty damn proud of that.

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Picking up the Pace

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The last 20 days have been much more productive than the previous 50, which is a huge plus considering Trinona is tomorrow. Yep, my first triathlon of the season is less than 12 hours away. And unlike 20 days ago, I’m feeling ready.

The Last 20 Days

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The biggest news here is that I actually got back in the pool — something I hadn’t done in the 50 days prior. I knocked-out a few quality lap sessions at the gym and even worked-in an open water swim last weekend. I’m unsure of the water temp during that open water session, but the air temp was only 63°F, so that’s enough proof for me to reinforce how cold the Lake Zumbro water felt. My heart rate was spiked and my lungs were working extra — it was the solid kick in the butt that I needed one week before Trinona.

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Cycling took a backseat with the new focus on swimming and continued focus on running, but it didn’t go without a few strong rides. The highlight was a 29.3 mile ride around Lake Minnetonka and the surrounding area with two friends who are much stronger cyclists than I. They pushed me harder than I would’ve rode on my own. Again, exactly what I needed heading into tri season.

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The biggest change in running was the time of day I did it. I traded pounding the pavement under the afternoon sun for a 4:20am alarm to run under the fading moonlight, which opened-up time for cycling or swimming after work. The running highlight came just a few days ago, running 5.4 miles at a 07:05/mile pace during a rare afternoon run. That gave me a confidence boost for what I hope is a strong run tomorrow.

Trinona Preview

I’m hoping to make this my strongest Trinona performance yet. My times have gotten progressively better in each my previous three finishes at this event, including just missing the podium in my age group by 16 seconds last year. That’s left me hungry and wanting more for 2018.

While I had some gaps in my training over the last two months, I kept a fairly steady focus throughout the winter and wrapped-up the last 20 days on some high notes. Usually I’m a little nervous heading into a race, but for this one, I’m quite relaxed and more so just excited to compete. The fact that I’m not nervous started to make me nervous though. The nerves and fear push me harder, wanting to prove to myself that I can push through and overcome.

So to add that element of “can I do this?” back into the equation, I’m setting a more aggressive goal — to finish within 01:09:00. That’s more than four minutes faster than last year. It may not sound like much because last year I shaved almost 12 minutes off from 2016, but there was a big difference between training in those two years and even a new bike that helped shave a big chunk of time. Comparing 2017 to 2018, I’ll have the same equipment and not as drastic of a training increase.

My Trinona Time Comparison

Trinona 2014

Trinona 2016

Trinona 2017

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:11:29

00:09:27

00:08:19

T1

00:04:44

00:04:07

00:02:35

Bike (11 miles)

00:45:35

00:43:40

00:38:50

T2

00:01:21

00:01:07

00:00:57

Run (3.1 miles)

00:27:17

00:27:54

00:23:39

Total

01:30:25

01:26:13

01:14:19

The aggressive goal is putting some doubt back into my head. How can I shave off that much time? Well, let’s start with the run. I think I’m much faster at this point in the year than I was last year. If I can run close to seven-minute miles, I should be able to shave a minute and a half. Ok, I’m almost halfway there.

Transitions. T2 was awesome last year and hard to get much faster. So the pressure is on to keep that speed. T1 could use some improvement. I’d love to pull that under two minutes, which would save me another 30 seconds. I’ll need to really focus and not stumble after the swim while I gear-up for the bike ride.

I’ve gradually become a better swimmer each year and am feeling as comfortable as I ever have in the water. I’m guessing I’ll still have some level of a panic attack in the water, but I’m working hard to think those calm thoughts and stay focused. I’d love to clock a 07:30 swim time, which would shave almost another minute.

And then there’s the bike leg. That’s where there’s the most opportunity to pick-up speed. However, it’s the sport I’ve spent the least time training in. In order to get faster here I’m just going to have push hard. Plain and simple. That worries me a bit as I don’t want to burn up the legs too much before the run. But if I want to achieve this new goal, I need to be aggressive.

Really, overall, I need to push harder than ever before if I’m going to hit the 01:09:00 goal. That’s the beauty and fun of the sprint distance though – going all out from start to finish. I think this is an aggressive goal. But what’s the fun in achieving a goal if it’s too easy? Just setting this goal has pushed me back outside of my comfort zone. And I like that feeling. I’m back in the unknown, which is the perfect place to prove I’m capable of more than I’ve imagined.

So with all of this said. I think I’m ready. I’ve trained. I’ve picked-up my packet. Applied my stickers. Double-checked my gear. All that’s left is to relax, get some rest and wake-up tomorrow ready to give it all I’ve got.

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Race Recap: 2018 River to Ridge

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The first foot race of the season is under my belt. On May 19, I ran the River to Ridge five-mile race in LaCrosse, WI — finishing with a time of 00:37:46, which was good for third place in my age group (3/24) and fourth place overall (4/143).

The five-mile race starts on the banks of the Mississippi River, winds through swampy river bottoms and finishes with a 600+ ft climb up the bluffs to the top of Hixon Forest. Surfaces range from pavement and gravel to sandy spots and singletrack dirt trails, scattered with rocks and tree roots. Eyes and feet needed to move in synchronized fashion to avoid trips and falls.

I started the race near the front of the pack with the goal of having room to run. Within the first mile, separation of the leaders from the rest of the runners became quickly visible. I was hanging on at the back of the lead pack, somewhere in the top-ten. As each mile passed, I found myself gaining just a little more ground, not realizing how close I was to the front.

Somewhere about halfway through the third mile, the 600+ foot climb up the bluff began. This is where room to run faded for steep and narrow singletrack trails. It’s also where my quads began to feel the burn. But I kept plugging away, maintaining a steady pace — albeit a much slower pace than the sub-sevens I ran during the first three miles. I’d catch-up to a runner in front of me and battle the decision of “should I follow their heals and catch my breath, or should I squeeze past at the first glimpse of a wider section of trail?” I balanced somewhere in-between the two options, not realizing just how close I was to the front of the pack. I savored a few seconds to rest at a slightly easier pace, but then passed when the opportunity of a wider section of trail presented itself.

When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I still had a little in the tank. Not much, but some. That 600+ foot climb kicked my butt. I was amazed to find out I finished fourth overall. A true delight to finish so close to the front.

I’ve since wondered if I could’ve finished higher, especially knowing I was only five seconds behind third place and 14 seconds behind second place. What if I had been more aggressive on the climb? The what ifs are no game to play. Hindsight is 20-20. I ran my race, and I ran it hard. I never expected to finish as high as I did. It was a pleasant surprise and a proud accomplishment.

This was my second time competing in River to Ridge. The first in 2015, finishing with a time of 00:48:08. I skipped participation in 2016, making a morning-of decision due to cold, rainy conditions and I feared risking an injury just weeks before my first triathlon of the season. And then this year I finished in 00:37:46. Pretty wild to look back and see that I shaved almost 11 minutes off of my 2015 time. That’s more than two minutes per mile. Progress I’m oh so proud of.

The icing on the cake was getting to race this event with some great friends — friends that’ll also be racing the Trinona triathlon next weekend. I’m really looking forward to another weekend of laughter, banter and celebration with these guys. Cheers to that!

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