Winning the Mental Battle 

Open Swim

Sometimes challenges and tasks just seem too big. We tell ourselves we can’t do it. Sure, someone else certainly has the strength or courage to do it, but we do not. We build it up in our head to the point where it seems impossible. Those phrases are familiar in my mind. They’re dangerous and have the ability to doom a dream, idea or challenge before it ever begins.

“Our greatest battles are that with our own minds.” – Jameson Frank

Swimming continued to mess with my head over the last month or so. I can’t totally explain why, but it’s been a mental battle — a battle which begins before I even get in the water. Let’s take yesterday for example. I had a plan to attend Open Swim down at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, MN. The course runs about 1200 yards (or 0.70 miles) round trip across the lake and back. The furthest open water swim I’ve ever completed has been just under a half-mile. I started thinking it would be too long of a swim for me. I started running through all the what-ifs in my mind. The doubt kept increasing.

Once on the beach, I gazed out at the marked and life-guarded course as I began the long process that is putting on a wetsuit. For some reason, it looked doable. It wasn’t quite as scary as seeing the tetrahedrons out on the water the morning before a race. But I had already built it up in my head as being too difficult. I began making a plan b. Maybe I’d just swim halfway out and then come back. Yeah that would be safe. That was my plan.

I waded into the lake, dunked my body to adjust to water temperature, took a few breathes and started swimming. My body became weightless and enveloped by the water. I was surrounded by other swimmers, yet I still felt alone, in a peaceful way. I settled into a groove and was at the middle of the lake in what seemed like no time. This was where I had told myself I’d turn around. But I wasn’t tired. And I wanted more of this weightless, relaxing exercise. I kept swimming.

I progressed to the opposite shore and turned around for the return trip to the beach. I was completely relaxed yet actively engaged in swimming against a light wind current on the lake. How was I doing this? I’ve been much more tired while swimming shorter distances. I blocked these thoughts out of my mind the best I could, focusing on each stroke. The moment was very present. All that mattered was moving through the water with efficiency. I could analyze it all afterwards.

I stepped back on shore and looked back to see where I had been. Wow. I did it. I swam all the way across the lake and back. My confidence was sky-high. Earlier in the day I doubted my ability. Now I had completed what I thought I could not.

This didn’t cure my swimming fear, but it’s one more piece of evidence that I can use against my own brain in the future. I’m already looking forward to next week’s Open Swim night. This boost was just what I needed with only a few weeks to go until the Chicago Triathlon. A new race is sure to produce jitter and doubt. But now know I can handle a swim longer than what I’ll encounter on race day. It’s me against my brain.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we set fear aside, tune-out our own negative thoughts, push our limits and just believe in ourselves. Cheers to the next challenge!

Race Recap: Minneapolis Triathlon

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It was the strongest and most meaningful performance of my young triathlon career. I finished with a time of 01:27:38, beating last year’s time by more than eleven minutes. I represented Team Save the Children, connecting my race efforts to a worthy cause. And it was all in honor of Olivia Ann Christiano.

Before the race

I knew it was going to be a special day. It was the culmination of months of fundraising for Save the Children, totaling $1,420 that will make life a little better for kiddos somewhere in the world. I was surrounded by family and friends, including Robbie and Alisha. I had joined Team Save the Children just seven months prior as a way to honor the memory of their daughter.

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This race was different than the others because, for this race, my body was a vehicle carrying a much larger message.

My emotions ran the gamut as I stood on the beach of Lake Nokomis, waiting for my wave to be called. I was anxious to get started. I was thankful knowing my friends and family were there to cheer. I was tearful knowing that Olivia was not, but at the same time, was inspired to be honoring her. I felt a lot of pride representing Team Save the Children. I was excited to compete.

Before I knew it, I was standing on the lake’s edge in front of a race official, our knuckles bumped together. Then he dropped his fist as he said, “Go!” and I dashed into the water. The race was on.

The Race

My goal was to finish in 01:30:00, which would’ve been almost nine minutes faster than 2016. That was a big chunk to cut off. I surprised myself, finishing the race in 01:27:38 — beating my goal by almost two and a half minutes, and beating last year’s time by eleven.

My MPLS 2017 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:15:36

02:04 min/100m

9/27

131/539

T1

00:03:01

6/27

140/539

Bike (14.8 miles)

00:44:52

19.79 mi/hr

16/27

222/539

T2

00:00:59

1/27

6/539

Run (3.1 miles)

00:23:12

07:29 min/mile

8/27

75/539

Total

01:27:38

8/27

107/539

At 0.47 miles, the swim was almost twice the distance of the 0.25 milers of Trinona and Rochesterfest. Fortunately the water temperature measured 76°F on race morning, just two degrees below the limit for a wetsuit legal swim. Having the extra buoyancy of the suit gave me the peace of mind I needed to tackle the longer swim. Overall, I was pleased with my effort in the water. Sure, I still needed a few breaks from the freestyle to breast stroke, catch my breath, and regain bearings and composure, but even during those breaks I maintained focus on forward progress instead of treading water. The swim is still a hurdle for me (mostly mental), but with each race I become more comfortable and see more improvements in pace and time. I was a half-minute faster than last year.

Out of the water

I was pretty tired when I stepped back onto land, but I was quickly re-energized knowing the hardest part was over. I ran up the chute into transition, slipped out of my wetsuit, laced up my shoes, slapped on my helmet and shades, grabbed my bike and headed towards the bike exit. I shaved almost two full minutes off my T1 time from last year. I think I’m getting this transition efficiency thing down!

The bike leg was smooth sailing. Almost the entire length of the course contains new blacktop, which provides a lot of opportunity for higher speed. I passed a handful of people and got passed by a handful of other riders. It was rather uneventful. Just a 00:44:52 pedal grind. Looking back at that time, and seeing where it ranked against the field, I’m realizing that cycling is where I could use the most improvement. Every other category stayed within the top 140, but cycling, I ranked 222/537. It certainly makes sense given it’s the sport I train the least in of the three. Guess it’s time to reassess training efforts!

The second transition was a breeze. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, ran towards the run exit and was on the course in less than a minute. Much of that super fast T2 time can be attributed to me not changing shoes. My bike still has the stock platform pedals and I wear my running shoes for the last two legs. Eventually I should upgrade to clip-in pedals to maximize cycling power. Whatever time would be lost in swapping shoes would surely be made up for with a faster bike time.

Josh Running

I have to admit, I was feeling a little tired when I embarked on the run. My legs were gassed from grinding it out on the bike. I had been pedaling hard. But I kept with it. I kept repeating a running quote in my head: “Tough runs don’t last; tough runners do.” Looking across the lake and seeing how far away the finish line is can mess with your head. I tried to simplify the run into smaller increments. I kept my eyes on the person in front of me and tried to pass him or her. Then I set my sights on the next person. And again and again. That kept my mind distracted from the remaining distance. It worked. I had another strong run at 00:23:12 (07:29 per mile pace). The run has become my strong point all year and it feels pretty good to have that to rely on at the end.

Finish

My MPLS Tri Time Comparison

MPLS Tri 2016

MPLS Tri 2017

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:16:05

00:15:36

T1

00:04:47

00:03:01

Bike (14.58 miles)

00:51:04

00:44:52

T2

00:02:39

00:00:59

Run (3.1 miles)

00:24:11

00:23:12

Total

01:38:44

01:27:38

Reflection

This was the seventh triathlon of my career and by far the performance I’m most proud of. Physically, it’s probably my strongest performance to date. I crushed last year’s time. I finished eighth in my age group, which means only five people stood between me and the podium. That’s pretty cool to think about given the level of competition at this race. I’m trending in the right direction.

Sporting the Team Save the Children gear was a pride point of the weekend. It was truly an honor to represent an organization that in making a difference in the lives of kiddos around the globe each and every day. I thought about the important work they do throughout the race and that helped me keep things in perspective, and keep trucking along. I’m so thankful to everyone that donated to my personal fundraising campaign. Together, we helped make a difference in the lives of children somewhere in the world, who will now have a little better life because of our efforts and contributions. Thank you.

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And most of all, it was really special to do this in honor of Olivia. I thought about her throughout the race. My emotions were up and down, but they reminded me to keep going. I still remember the day I heard she left us so soon — I had no idea what to say to my dear friends Robbie and Alisha. I said I was sorry and I was here for them in any way I could be. But there really was nothing I could say to ease the pain. There was, however, something I could do to honor her and joining Team Save the Children for the Minneapolis Triathlon was it. Her memory lives on through the lives of the children positively impacted by the Save the Children donations. Every dollar raised, every swim stroke, every pedal, every step — it was for Olivia and her family. Robbie and Alisha, I love you guys.

This race will always be near and dear to my heart.

Thank You for the Support

Thank YouThanks to the generous donations from family, friends and some very kind people who I’ve never even met, I’ve raised more than fourteen hundred dollars in support of Save the Children.

I joined Team Save the Children seven months ago to honor the memory of my close friends’ daughter and I committed to raising at least $500. I was a little nervous if I’d be able to reach that goal, but I knew is would be totally worth the effort. I’ve been blown away by the generosity and support I’ve received ever since, surpassing the goal by almost three times. That money is going to make a direct and positive impact for some kiddos somewhere in the world that urgently need help.

To everyone who has contributed to this campaign, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tomorrow morning I’ll be standing on the beach of Lake Nokomis, waiting for my wave of the Minneapolis Triathlon to be called to the starting line. And I’ll be ready to give it everything I’ve got, hoping to make you proud. Together, we’re making a difference in the lives of children throughout the world. Thank you.

Making Lemonade with Life’s Lemons

JoshBikingLong story short — my car was in the shop for most of the week for some unexpected repairs and I had to get a little creative on transportation in the interim.

Time constraints forced me to utilize ride-share services on the first morning. But after work I decided to ride my bike to the gym so I could jump in the pool and knock out some much needed laps. A relaxed pedal to the gym was the perfect opportunity to dust off my mountain bike, which was still outfitted with a pair of more road-friendly tires from races past. This was my first time on the saddle of the mountain bike since getting my first road bike earlier this year. I had almost forgotten how much fun this bike was to ride — the big comfortable frame and disc brakes that stop on a dime.

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Riding the ol’ mountain bike also made me realize just how much faster and lighter I am on my new road bike. It’s almost hard to imagine that I completed four triathlons on this bike. It’s heavy. The geometry isn’t the most aerodynamic. And most of all, you run out of gears way to fast. I’m really thankful to have a road bike this year.

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Anyhow, back to the gym. 32 laps are about equivalent to the .47 mile swim I’ll be tackling in the first leg of the Minneapolis Triathlon next weekend. So that’s what I did; I swam 32 consecutive laps and finished with a time of 00:14:52. Not bad. For perspective, last year I swam a 00:16:05 at Minneapolis. It’s really hard to compare pool swims to open water given the contrasting conditions, but as least I know I’m in the ballpark. I took a short break, swam eight more laps and called it a workout. It was a short one, but I was a little excited to jump back on the bike instead hopping into a car for the ride home. In a way, it was almost like mini brick workout, transitioning from one sport to the next. This one just had a longer transition time from pool to bike. Still good practice.

Sure, it was frustrating to be without a car for a few days. But that part was out of my control. The car needed repair and I needed to wait for the work to be completed. Rather than getting down about it, I found a way to get to the places I wanted to go and got to have some fun along the way. It was surprising how much joy was found in riding an old bike. And now I want to get the knobby tires back on it and hit some trails. Sometimes we can’t control what happens in life, but we can control how we react to it. We might even be surprised with what we find along the way.

Cheers to the glass being half full.

Race Recap: Rochesterfest Triathlon

FinishLine

Less than 48 hours after my wild last-minute idea, I’ve completed my second triathlon within a week’s time and second overall for the year.

I finished with a time of 01:09:24 which was good for 2nd place in my age group and 27th place out of 114 participants overall. This was the first triathlon where I placed in the top three of my age group, so I’m super stoked about that. To be honest, I think it’s all still sinking in, which is making the smile on my face bigger and bigger as the day goes on. I’m sure it’ll still be there when I wake up tomorrow.

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My Rochesterfest Triathlon 2017 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:08:35

01:57 min/100 yd

1/7

18/118

T1

00:02:26

3/7

57/118

Bike (10 miles)

00:34:42

17.3 mi/hr

3/7

45/117

T2

00:00:38

1/7

4/117

Run (3.1 miles)

00:23:05

07:27 min/mile

2/7

23/114

Total

01:09:24

2/7

27/114

My overall time was also 04:55 minutes faster than Trinona seven days ago. Rochester’s bike leg was one mile shorter than Trinona, but I was faster in every leg of the race except for the swim. My swim time was only 16 seconds slower and I can live with that. I opted for the wetsuit, which helped keep me warm pre-race and buoyant through the swim. Even with the wetsuit, I beat my T1 time from last week by nine seconds — and I didn’t even wear a wetsuit last week! It’s pretty great to see small improvements like this.

Jumping back to the swim. This was my first time doing a mass start from the beach. The previous races I’ve competed in all released two swimmers every three seconds, allowing for some more even spacing throughout the water. Today was different though. It was kind of fun to run into the water at the same time, but once in the water, it was immediately congested with swimmers. As I swiveled my head underwater in-between breathing, I was constantly presented with a view of kicking feet not far from my face. It took a little while to get used to, but the lake was clear, free of weeds and still pretty warm from the weather of the last week. It was quite refreshing to be in the warm water after spending 30 minutes on the beach in 62 degree air temperature.

AfterSwim

After running out of the water and into transition, I knew it would be all downhill from there. Well, I knew there would be some uphill climbs on the bike, but I’m speaking figuratively here. Swimming is my weakest leg, so once that’s complete, I feel like I can tackle the rest with a clear head.

The ten-mile bike ride turned out to be a challenge. The first five miles out to the turnaround were almost all into the wind. I was ok with that because I thought I’d have that wind at my back as I powered through the last five miles to transition. Wrong. It felt like the wind changed, greeting my face with a smirk of its own for most the ride back.

My legs were exhausted as I hopped off the bike, racked it in transition and embarked on the run course. It took about a half mile to shake off the circles my legs were used to moving in. Once I loosened up though I felt like I just kept getting faster with each step. And my time showed the results with a 07:27 min/mile pace. That’s 11 seconds per mile faster than last weekend and 34 seconds faster overall. Again, more improvements.

It seems like just yesterday that I learned about the Rochesterfest Triathlon, which makes sense because it basically was just yesterday. I’m glad I acted with my heart instead of my head and just went for it. Sure there were risks. Was I doing too much too fast? I don’t really know. What I do know is that I can look back and know that I did two triathlons within a week’s time. And I got a little faster in that time too. Each event teaches me something, either about racing or life. Sometimes you just have to go for it. And I’m glad I did.

Rochesterfest Triathlon on a Whim

RochesterTriRegistration

Two triathlons in seven days? Sure, why not.

It started with a conversation about a friend of a friend who was doing a triathlon on Sunday (which is now tomorrow already). Naturally, I was intrigued. What was the name of the race? Where was it being held? What were the distances? I just wanted to know more out of curiosity. Then I realized I didn’t have any plans for the weekend and was free on Sunday. “Hmmm, were they still accepting registrations?” I wondered.

I jumped on the Rochesterfest Triathlon website and found that they were indeed offering walk-up registrations during packet pick up until the race was full. So that’s what I did. I drove one hour down to Rochester, MN and registered for my second race of the year, exactly one week after Trinona.

Why choose to do this? Well, I figured I could use the open water swim experience as I thought I could’ve done better last weekend. And honestly, it just sounded like fun. That’s what’s really important anyways. Go out, compete and enjoy the experience. It’s pretty simple when stated that way.

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Since this will be my first time participating in the Rochesterfest Triathlon, I drove down to Foster Arrend Park to familiarize myself with the lake and transition area.

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The buoys were already out on the water, but I’m not really sure if they’re in the final spot for tomorrow. The manmade lake looked really calm, which should make for a smooth swim. My only concern is how much the temperature is supposed to drop tonight. With a forecasted air temperature of 62 degrees, I’m not sure if that will also make for cold water temps too. I’ll pack my wetsuit just in case and make a decision in the morning.

RochesterTransition

The transition area construction was well underway but empty of  any bicycles. It was like a two-wheel ghost town. The races I’ve previously competed in have had many athletes racking their bikes the day before the event. So tomorrow morning, the transition will be bustling with activity and all of the athletes rack their bikes, prep their gear and start mentally preparing for the swim – a swim from which I gather is more a “mass” start for each wave versus releasing swimmers in pairs every few seconds. I could be wrong, but I guess I’ll find out at the swim start.

There’s certainly an element of the unknown for me in this race. Except for a few glimpses of the swim course, I know almost nothing about the course. But how could I? I made the decision on Friday night, registered in-person at packet pickup on Saturday afternoon and will be racing on Sunday morning. Not a ton of time to prepare. But in a way, that’s kind of exciting!

Race Recap: Trinona 2017

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Crushing goals, making memories and having fun. That pretty much sums up my Trinona 2017 experience. But one sentence can’t quite capture the awesomeness that was.

First, I got to spend race day with two close friends who were competing in Trinona for the first time (a first tri ever for one friend and a second tri overall for the other). It was a joy to hangout and share banter in transition before the race, walk to the swim start together and ultimately reunite at the finish line to high-five, share stories and celebrate our accomplishments.

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Second, I had the support of many family and friends that showed up to cheer. Running into the lake and embarking on the swim can be a bit of a lonely feeling in my opinion. Sure, I was surrounded by dozens of fellow swimmers who were so close that I’d accidentally run into them or they’d accidentally run into to me, but ultimately it’s up to me to power through to shore. Enveloped in water I can’t hear much except for splashing and my own gasps for air. It’s a huge energy boost to step out of the lake and hear friends and family screaming as I dash to transition. It gets better when hearing them while dismounting the bike for T2. And it’s even better hearing them while closing in on the finish line. Not only did I make it through the race, but I had their support the whole way. That’s pretty special to have others invest that effort.

My TRINONA 2017 Results

Split

Split Pace

Overall Rank

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:08:19

02:04 min/100m

77/285

T1

00:02:35

155/285

Bike (11 miles)

00:38:50

17.00 mi/hr

111/185

T2

00:00:57

21/285

Run (3.1 miles)

00:23:39

07:38 min/mile

39/285

Total

01:14:19

61/285

Third, on a personal note, I crushed the goal I set about a week ago by almost three whole minutes, setting a personal record of 01:14:19! That’s almost 12 minutes faster than my 2016 time and good enough for 61st place out of 285 racers overall. I was faster in every segment of the race over last year.

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

My swim time was faster than last year by almost a minute, even though I took a few breaks to tread water and catch my breath along the way. When I took those pauses I wasn’t exactly tired but more so just trying to mentally stay calm. Those breaks are a sign that more training is needed before the Minneapolis Triathlon in just a few weeks, which swim distance almost twice as long as Trinona at just under a half-mile. I’m still happy I was faster than last year though. I’ve come along way in my swimming abilities over the last year. The only not so fun part of the swim was passing the last buoy towards shore and grabbing hand fulls of weeds with each stroke. But hey, that’s all part of the experience of swimming in Lake Winona!

I skipped the wetsuit for the swim, which lead to a much improved first transition time. But in comparison to other racers, it was still fairly slow at 00:02:35. I might have to think more about what the heck I’m doing in transition that’s taking up so much time (maybe get better at swimming so I’m not so tired at this point of the race).

The new road bike made a significant difference in this race, shaving off almost five minutes from last year’s bike time. I could feel how much lighter the bike was beneath me as I shifted through gears for efficient pedaling and maximum speeds. Hitting a couple downhills at 30mph was a highlight from the ride.

T2 was a breeze at 0:00:57. Not much more to say about that!

Then came the run. I crushed the run. Seriously. I was more than four minutes faster than last year. Four minutes! I guess it makes sense considering most of my training efforts this year were put into running. I’ve been hovering around 8-minute miles during my training runs. In a 5K race at the end of April, I averaged a 07:29 min/mile pace. At Trinona, I averaged a 07:38 min/mile pace, and that was after swimming and biking. I’m still a little surprised about how much energy I had left for the run, but super stoked about it too.

Crossing the finish line was a real joy. All of the training and preparation came to a conclusion that resulted in a new PR. I’m really, really proud of this race. And after receiving my medal, returning my timing chip and grabbing a bottle of water, I was able to cheer for and watch my buddies cross the finish line. Trinona 2017 was a special day. I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete and share the experience with such amazing people. Cheers friends!

TrinonaFinishers

Trinona: The Day Before

The countdown to Trinona 2017 is down to one. Today was the expo, which features sponsor booths, packet pick-up and pre-race meetings. 

Many of the benches down at the Lake Winona bandshell sat empty as most triathletes opted for shade under a tree or back near the Veteran’s Memorial. I can’t blame them. I was one of them. It was hot and windy out there this afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-90s. 

Speaking of weather, the forecast for race day looks to keep everyone on their toes with the possibility of rain. The race director mentioned his contingency plans in the case weather causes delays. He also said that either way, there will still be a party considering all of the beer from Island City Brewing. Rain or shine, I’m ready to have some fun tomorrow. 

After the meeting, I walked down to the lake to check out the water and see if the course buoys were out yet. Lake Winona is known for its abundant weeds and plant growth in the water. When people ask, “You’re going to swim in that lake?”, I like to reply, “Don’t worry, they’ll probably mow it first!”. As expected, there were plenty of weeds in the water near the shore. Luckily we’ll be swimming out far enough to be in the clear, but it could be interesting going in and coming back onto shore. It’s a small price to pay considering the rest of the beauty of the course. 

I also scoped out the transition area. It’s always good to be familiar with the entrances and exits so you know where to come in from swimming, exit and re-enter with the bike, and exit out to the run course. It was pretty early in the afternoon so the transition was pretty empty, but tomorrow it will be a small village of bikes and people. 

After eating a stereotypical night before the race pasta dinner, I applied my helmet and bike stickers, double-checked and prepared my gear and turned on some tunes to relax. It’s going to be an exciting day tomorrow. I’m excited to be participating in this increasing local triathlon in the town I grew up in. I’m excited to have my family and friends there to cheer me on. I’m excited to have two good friends also participating in the race. I’m excited for this opportunity to compete and have fun. I’m just excited about it all. The hard part is going to be getting some sleep tonight with all that excitement going through my head.

Good luck tomorrow fellow triathletes!

Trinona: Flashing Back & Racing Ahead

Cover2

Looking ahead to my third Trinona this Sunday, I thought it would be good to look back at my previous two times and set an overall goal.

Trinona 2014

Trinona 2016

Swim

11:29

9:27

T1

4:44

4:07

Bike

45m 35s

43m 40s

T2

1:21

1:07

Run

27m 17s

27m 54s

Total

1:30:25

1:26:13

My Previous Trinona Times

In 2016, I beat my 2014 time by a little more than four minutes. I was really proud about that. Here’s how I did it:

  1. First, I actually practiced swimming. In 2014, the first time I got in the water was about three days before the race. Bad idea. Especially for my first ever triathlon. Growing up in swimming lessons and on the river, I overestimated my swimming skills. In 2016, I went to the gym and swam laps two days per week for a about five weeks before the race. Not a ton of practice, but a lot more than in 2014. Considering the two-minute improvement, I’d say it paid off.
  2. Transition times. Definitely better in 2016. Interestingly enough, I added a wetsuit in 2016, which one would think would slow a person down trying to get the darn thing off after the swim. Somehow, I was still faster with that added task than with not having one in 2014. I’ll chalk that up to having a year of experience in knowing what to expect in transition.
  3. I think I practiced cycling less in 2016 than in 2014, but overall I had an increased exercise regimen overall which contributed to more cycling speed and efficiency. I also knew a little more of what to expect having one year of Trinona under my belt.
  4. My run time was slower in 2016 than in 2014. I’m really not sure why. I made running a focus both years. It seemed like an obvious to focus on to build endurance. Nonetheless, I was slower in 2016. No good reason here folks.

Looking ahead to this year, I tried to identify areas of strength and weakness to determine a goal:

  1. Swimming: Much like last year, I’ve practiced swimming leading up to this year’s race. The consistency has been a little more spread out with only about seven to eight swims over the last two months, including one open water swim, but looking at times in the pool, I think I’ve at least maintained my pace from last year. I also feel a little more comfortable in the water, which should help from a mental standpoint.
  2. Transitions: I might skip the wetsuit, pending water temperatures. This should save on transition time for sure. I’m also wearing my tri top during the swim, with or without the wetsuit, which will eliminate the need to put it on during transition, again saving time. I think there a few places to improve here over last year. However, if it’s cold, I may wear the suit. Either way, I’m going to keep urgency top of mind in T1 and T2.
  3. Bicycle: I have a road bike this year. It’s lighter and geared faster than the mountain bike I used the last two Trinonas. This is where I think I can improve the most. I’m hoping to increase my average speed by at least 3 mph and shave multiple minutes off of my previous bikes times. A lot to be optimistic about here.
  4. Running: I’ve kept-up on running to some extent throughout the offseason. Over the winter, against my personal surface preference, I knocked-out runs on a treadmill. I got back to running outside early in the season due to favorable weather. I also ran one 5K this spring, averaging seven-and-a-half-minute miles. With that said, I’m hoping that after swimming and biking, I can improve upon my nine-minute miles from 2016. I’d love to drop down to around eight minute miles, which could save me three total minutes over last year. I ran sub-eight minute miles in both the MPLS Tri and Maple Grove Tri last summer, so this is certainly realistic.

Overall, in 2014 and 2016, I was starting from scratch at the beginning of the year. I hadn’t been training prior to registering for Trinona those years. Heck, in 2014, I had never even ran a 5K before. I just jumped right in to triathlon.

This year, I’ve tried to keep up on conditioning since completing the Maple Grove Triathon in August 2016. Sure, the training wasn’t quite as consistent as I thought it would be at the end of last year, but it was there nonetheless. With one three-race season of experience under my belt, and solid training efforts this spring, I think there’s much room to be optimistic.

Given my improved swimming confidence, ideas to reduce transition time, new bicycle and running optimism, I’m setting my goal for Trinona 2017 at one hour and seventeen minutes (1:17:00). That’s more than nine minutes faster than last year. That’s a pretty big improvement if achieved. Maybe even lofty. But I think it can be done. This is the first tri season where I’m not starting from scratch. I have a base built up from last year, and I’ve added to it with training this spring.

The goal is driven partly by data and realistic opportunity, but it’s also driven by a gut feeling. I think I can do it. So with just a couple days to go to race day, cheers to setting goals and busting ass to achieve them. Cheers indeed fellow triathletes. Let’s go get ’em this weekend!

Return to Open Water

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I’ll admit it; I kind of freaked out. My first open water swim of the year had a bumpy start.

I crawled down the dock ladder into the water and immediately tensed-up as chills ran through my body. Sure, it’s finally summer here in Minnesota, but the lakes are still a bit chilly. I was wearing a wetsuit, but the water was pretty cold. I turned towards the lake, put my head down, took a couple strokes and that’s when I kind of freaked out.

I’ve been back to the gym over the last month swimming in the lap pool, but it’s been about nine months since my last swim in a lake. I had somehow forgotten that once your head goes under the lake water, you really can’t see much. The unknown felt confining. Combine that lack of vision with the cold water temperature and I immediately thought, “What the heck am I doing out here? What if I can’t do this anymore?”

For those that know me well, I can sometimes be a little dramatic about things, even jumping to the extreme end of a conclusion like I did in the water. I didn’t quit though. I treaded water, caught my breath and swam a couple 30-40 yard laps in the bay. I found a groove and knocked out 16 laps total, including eight without the wetsuit. I had never swam while wearing my tri top before and wanted to know how that felt without the suit before Trinona, my first race of the season.

I’ve struggled getting the compression tri tanks on during transition. They’re tight and get bunched up when I pull it over my shoulders. Plus I’m dripping water, tired and short of breath after the swim, which I’m sure adds to the dressing awkwardness. This year, I thought it would be nice to skip that part and just be dressed before I swim, like most other triathletes do. Heck, that’s what the tri outfits are meant for. I’ve just never done it that way before – just shorts for the swim and then the top for biking and running. So now I’ve tried it and I know what it’ll feel like on race day (always a bad idea to try something for the first time on race day). The lack of warmth without the wetsuit was very noticeable though.

I’ve also been contemplating skipping the wetsuit for Trinona since the swim is a shorter one (0.25 miles) and it would save me a good chunk of time in the first transition. However, that genius idea was before jumping in the lake yesterday. Feeling those shivers all through my body is giving me second thoughts. I’ll wait to hear the race day water temperature before making that call, but at least I have the option.

All in all, it was a good day in the lake. I’m glad I got that open water refresher before my first triathlon of the season this weekend. The limited visibility really messed with my head, but the rest of the swim was much smoother after finding a calm and settling into a groove. That calm will be much needed on race day!

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All smiles after the swim.