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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Training Update: April and May

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I’ve crafted my blog on milestones and accomplishments, many accompanied by quotes that motivated me during those achievements. It’s easy to talk about things when they’re going well, but not so much when they’re not.

April and May have been rough training months for me. And when I say “training” I mostly mean the lack thereof. I should give myself some credit — I’ve done some things really well. But I’ve also let some things slack.

When I first started reflecting on it, I thought maybe I’d just pass on writing about what did or didn’t happen. I felt like a hypocrite thinking about some of those quotes and how I wasn’t currently applying them to my training efforts. I thought about how this image of myself that I had in my head may not be so accurate. Like I said, it’s a little easier when things are going well.

Then I realized that sometimes the best way to move forward is to be honest with the past, learn from it and then forge ahead. So here it is. My last two months.

Swimming: Ugh. This one is hard to admit. Ok, rip the band-aid off — I haven’t jumped in the pool since March 26. Not even once. No swimming whatsoever. Whew, ok it’s out there now. My goals for this year have been centered around building endurance and tackling longer distances. Swimming is a big part of that. It’s no longer my weakest triathlon leg, but that’s because I’ve worked hard to get better. Up through March, I’d been working on my kick and learning to alternate side breathe, and it was paying off. I was getting more comfortable. I was swimming more yards per session and I felt faster. Then I totally dropped off in April. I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. And I feel pretty guilty about it. I’ve got some serious work to do in the next few weeks, especially since my first triathlon of the year, Trinona, is on June 10. Yikes. I know I’ll be fine, but I want to be fast. I better get to work. Like now.

Cycling: Meh. I’ve done some cycling. But not nearly as much as I should be doing. I’d gotten in a decent routine of attending cyclefit classes on a weekly basis towards the end of winter. And I’ve had my bike out on the road a few times now that the snow finally left for good in mid-April. But I know just a few rides just aren’t enough. Cycling was my weakest leg by far last year. Probably because I practiced it the least. Again, I need to put in more effort here. The good news is at Trinona, I’m doing the sprint distance, so it’s an 11-mile ride. But again, I want to be faster. I need to log some solid rides soon because June 10 is right around the corner.

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Need to spend much more time behind these bars!

Running: Finally, I can share some good news. Running is the one thing I’ve been doing well lately. I’ve ran 110 miles in the last 50 days. I’ve averaged 5.5 miles per run, with a max distance of 8.2 miles. That eight miler happened this past week and I was pretty proud of it because I averaged a sub-eight pace — 07:49 per mile! I’ve ran a few 3 milers and averaged sub-sevens. I’m a lot faster at this point in the season than I was last year, which has me very optimistic for Trinona. The run has always been my strongest leg. And now that I’m used to running longer distances, I’m hoping to let it all loose on the sprint distance 3.1 mile run and have a really strong finish.

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The evening of eight-plus miles at a sub-eight pace.

Whew. Ok. That was my last month and a half. There’s a few things to be proud of, and a few more things that are opportunities for improvement. Opportunities to work a little harder. I keep thinking back to a quote I posted in a recent blog: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” That one is really sticking with me. If I want to achieve what I want to achieve, I’ve got to work a lot harder. Talent can only take me so far.

So, Trinona is only 20 days away. That’s 20 days to work harder. The last 50 days are in the past. I can’t change them. But the next 20 days, well, those are the days I still have control over. I choose the outcome. And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to use each day to get better — one day at a time.

Fundraising Update: I’m just $150 shy of my $500 Team Save the Children fundraising goal as part of the Minneapolis Triathlon in July. The work that Save the Children does to protect and nurture kiddos around the globe is a constant inspiration and reminder that there is good in the world. They’re helping 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

Rolling with the Punches

You can’t always control what happens in life, but you can control how you respond to it. Easier said than done, but it’s true.

Take the month of April for example. All of this springtime snow has extended my winter blues into a time where I should be seeing green grass and practically smelling the flowers that one expects to bloom within a few weeks. Mother nature certainly threw us a couple of left hooks here in Minnesota.

I can’t control the weather, but I can throw on a stocking cap and an extra layer, step outside and let my shoes pound the snow-covered pavement. And that’s exactly what I did, knocking out more than 30 miles in the last two weeks — with a smile on my face.

Oh, these negative splits though

An early season highlight came during one of those April runs. My average run this spring has been about 5.5 miles. I was getting ready for a run last week and realized I was running short on time (no pun intended). I decided to shorten the run to 3 miles, which was probably a good idea to add variety. However, since I was running less distance, I thought more speed would be a worthy challenge.

One mile into the run, my running app notified me I was running at a 07:02/mile pace. Whoah. That’s about one minute faster per mile than I’ve been pacing this year. I opted to keep it in high gear to see how fast I could crush a 5K. Mile two was faster yet, and also about the time a stomach cramp kicked in strong. I powered through and ran an even faster mile three. I finished the 3.1 mile run with a time of 21:46, averaging a 06:54/mile pace.

Mile by mile splits from the highlight run

I was shocked to be running this fast this early in the season. I was just 34 seconds off of my 5K PR set at last fall’s TC5K. And I was hitting negative splits (running faster mile times than the mile before) on the run. I think the endurance gained from increased distances has contributed to short distance speed. I’m hoping this early season highlight is a glimpse of what’s to come during my first sprint distance triathlon of the season in June!

Refocusing on strength

Back in the gym

Last winter I emphasized strength training, spending two to three days per week in the gym lifting weights. Then the racing season kicked-in and the only strength building came from swimming practice. Then fall rolled around and I went 110% on running as I ramped-up for my first half marathon. And then the out-season came around — and strength training was nowhere on my radar.

I think I ran so much in the fall and through the winter without any strength training that I may have even started burning muscle. As I ramp-up this spring for summer races, I’m realizing the lack of focus on strength over the winter was a big miss. The running, swimming and spin classes have been great practice, no doubt. Heck, you just read about my 5K highlight. But without core and back strength, I’m leaving myself prone to poor form and injury.

So I’m addressing that and refocusing some effort into core and strength training. I’ve spent one day during each of the last few weeks at the gym focused on weight lifting and core exercises. Additionally, I’ve implemented a quick at-home routine that I’ve been using twice per week, which consists of 50 push ups and just under four minutes of front and side planks. I can already tell it’s working because I’m no longer thinking that side planks are next to impossible! It’s a light routine, but I’m not looking to get jacked — I want to be strong enough to maintain form and endure.

Fundraising update

The Minneapolis Triathlon is just under three months away and I’m halfway to my $500 Team Save the Children fundraising goal. The work that Save the Children does to protect and nurture kiddos around the globe is a constant inspiration and reminder that there is good in the world. They’re helping 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

Racing for the Kids

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I’ve joined Team Save the Children again for this summer’s Minneapolis Triathlon, raising awareness and funds to help support the amazing work they do for children around the globe.

Millions of children throughout the world face chronic malnutrition, die from preventable illnesses, or are vulnerable to exploitation, violence or neglect. Save the Children saves countless lives by providing food assistance, medical care, education and disaster relief assistance. And 86.5% of donations go directly to those programs.

In 2017, I joined Team Save the Children for the Minneapolis Triathlon as a way to honor the memory of my dear friends’ daughter, Olivia. Through the contributions of friends, family and some very generous people who I’ve never met, together, we raised $1,420 that made life a little better for kiddos who urgently needed the help.

That support and generosity blew me away, and left me feeling overwhelmed with emotion on race day. What started as an effort to honor one child in particular became a message of hope for children everywhere.

The experience showed me how much positive impact can be driven when leveraging my triathlon efforts for a greater cause. And it’s what inspired me to once again join Team Save the Children in 2018.

I strive to be a positive role model, with hopes that my efforts will also inspire people to do something that helps others – whether it’s though contributions to my fundraiser or embarking on their own journey for change.

I’ve pledged to raise at least $500 for Save the Children and I need your help to get there. Please consider making a donation and share this page with others so they too can have the opportunity to make a child’s life happier, healthier and safer. Together, we can be the difference.

To donate, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

New Distances in 2018

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I kind of thought I’d have this year’s race schedule a little more locked-in by now, but with a few core races decided on and registered for, my 2018 season is starting to take shape.

The plan so far

Trinona | June 10, 2018 | I’ll be kicking-off my triathlon season at the race where it all began for me. Trinona has a special place in my heart and I’ll probably compete in it for as long as I’m able. It’s the first triathlon I ever competed in. It takes place in the beautiful bluff country and river valley of southeastern Minnesota where I grew up. And it’s a race that some of my good friends are competing in now as well, which makes it even more fun with banter before, during and after. This will be my third consecutive year competing at this race, and fourth time overall. In 2017, I missed the podium in my age group by 16 seconds. I’ve registered for the sprint distance once again, with a goal of making this my best Trinona finish yet.

Minneapolis Triathlon | July 14, 2018 | New distance alert. I’ve registered for the International / Olympic distance for this race, which is twice the distance of a sprint. I’ll be swimming 0.93 miles, biking 24.5 miles and running 6.2 miles. I’m pretty excited to be taking my triathlon career to the next level. And I’m even more excited to be doing it as part of Team Save the Children, raising awareness and funds to help support the amazing work they do for children around the world (I’d be honored if you visited my personal fundraising page here). This is sure to be a special race on many levels.

Twin Cities Marathon | October 7, 2018 | Another new distance. Last fall I ran my first half marathon. This fall I’ll be running my first marathon. Tackling this distance wasn’t on my radar until last year. As my overall triathlon goals began trending towards an Ironman within the next few years, I realized I needed to start increasing my distances and exposing myself to the physical and mental challenges that come with them. But exposure to suffering wasn’t the only reason I chose to run a marathon. I’ve heard so many great things about this race specifically from past participants. It’s been dubbed the most beautiful urban marathon in America. It’s well organized and has tremendous fan support. The atmosphere is sure to be electric, providing a spark right when runners need it most.

Yet to be planned

I’d like to get a few running races under the belt prior my first triathlon of the year in June. A few options include the Hot Dash and Goldy’s Run, which both offer 5k and 10-mile options, and the Get in Gear event, which offers a 5k, 10k and half marathon. I’ve raced the Get in Gear 5k the last two April’s, but given my goals for this year, I’d likely target the 10k distance. A ten-miler at the end of March or early April might be a way to start the season with a bang though!

The biggest gap in my schedule is the second half of July through August. I’d really like to do four triathlons again this summer. With two already registered for in the early part of summer, this late summer window is the place to add them. A few local options include the Chisago Lakes Triathlon at the end of July and the Maple Grove Triathlon at the end of August. Or it may be time to look into a long weekend trication.

I was disappointed in learning that Life Time Tri races moved away from being USA Triathlon sanctioned, meaning the Minneapolis Triathlon will no longer be the regional qualifier for USAT nationals in August. I was really hoping to make my first run at the International / Olympic distance as an effort to qualify. However, it’s been a race I’ve always enjoyed and coupled with my opportunity to leverage race efforts as a way to bring positive change for kids around the world through Save the Children, it’s still a race I’ll continue to prioritize.

While I still have some planning left to do, one thing has already become clear — 2018 is going to be a year of new distances and new challenges. It’s going to take me out of my comfort zone. It’s going to push me harder than I’ve trained and competed before. But it’s also going to provide opportunities to get faster, stronger and smarter. The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. I’m ready to see how much farther I can go. Cheers to goals, growth and new experiences in 2018!

My 2017 Season Review

One of the best parts about challenging yourself is looking back after the fact and realizing all that you’ve accomplished. I kicked-off 2017 by setting a planned race schedule. What I didn’t realize then was that I’d be wanting even more challenges as the year went on.

I completed four sprint-distance triathlons, a half marathon and a handful of 5Ks (notable race recaps linked below):

Three of the above races were part of my planned schedule. The Rochesterfest Triathlon happened on a whim, which was empowering to know I was capable of completing races on back-to-back weekends. Entering the Monster Dash Half Marathon only became an idea just one month prior to race day. My training was opening doors I didn’t realize I could open.

In triathlon, I noticed growth with each race. I still recall my slight panic attack during an open water swim one week prior to Trinona – my first race of the year. By the end of the summer, I was swimming a half-mile with confidence in the choppy Lake Michigan waves surrounded by hundreds of other swimmers. On the bike, I was two miles per hour faster in my last two races compared to the first two. And on the run, wow, the speed built with each race. All four triathlons ended with a 3.1 mile run, with my times being 00:23:39, 00:23:05, 00:23:12 and 00:22:11 respectively. I was running 28 seconds per mile faster at the end of the year!

After the triathlon season wrapped-up, I shifted focus solely to running. I broke sub-seven minute miles at the TC5K, setting a new 5K PR of 00:21:12. That’s about the time I had the wild idea of attempting a half-marathon one month later. That was a lofty goal in itself given I only gave myself one month to build running distance and train for the event. It had me doubting my own abilities. But I crossed the finish line of the Monster Dash Half Marathon almost eight full minutes faster than my goal. That really drove home the idea that I’m capable of accomplishing more than I thought I could.

The most meaningful race of the year was the Minneapolis Triathlon. Competing in that event as part of Team Save the Children, raising funds for their worldwide relief efforts and raising awareness for child issues around the globe, all while honoring the memory of my dear friends’ daughter, was an experience that still brings a rush of emotions each time I think about it. Unlike my previous races, this race wasn’t about me. I became a vehicle for a larger cause. Realizing that I could use my triathlon hobby as a way to help bring positive impact for kiddos throughout the world was something I’ll not only cherish but also carry into future seasons.

Season highlights:

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Racing Trinona with friends. The cheers and jeers were a plenty. Hopefully we’ll all be back in 2018!

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Taking 2nd Place in my age group at Rochesterfest. My first-ever podium. And it came just seven days after Trinona.

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Racing with Team Save the Children and honoring my dear friends’ daughter. This was an experience that I’ll cherish forever.

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Chicago. The whole weekend was a highlight. Lake Michigan. The skyline. The post-race pizza.

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Setting a new PR with sub-sevens at the TC5K.

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Channeling my inner-superhero to finish my first half-marathon. The jump from 3.1 to 13.1 in one month was a big one. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

2017 taught me a lot about what I’m capable of accomplishing. I saw growth from the start of the season to the finish. Most of all, it gave me confidence to tackle new goals, both faster and longer, in 2018.

Change of Pace: Enjoying the Out-season

Two months have passed since crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon, signaling the end of my 2017 running and triathlon season. Those two months have been much more relaxed than the previous ten.

My running schedule dropped from five times per week to one or two. I’ve saddled-up on the bicycle just twice, both times in my basement on a borrowed trainer. I’ve visited the pool twice as well, both times within the last week.

That reduced level of activity wouldn’t have cut it during the summer. But in the out-season, the change of pace has been a real treat. I’ve been able to say yes to impromptu happy hours, dinners, concerts and other fun without needing to consult my training schedule first. I’ve been able to spend more time with my family, pets and friends. I’ve been able to rest, recharge and enjoy the holiday break.

My focus may have changed gears throughout the last two months, but it hasn’t been lost. I’ve kept diet top of mind, making many of the same snack and meal choices I made throughout the summer. I even took a metabolic calorie test to gain personalized data around what rate my body processes food and how much I need to consume for different activity levels. The frequent snacker in me was quite pleased with the results – 4,000+ calories on peak training days! And while my weekly run frequency dropped, I’ve been proud of the distance covered during each outing. Prior to starting the half-marathon training in October, I was running just over three miles per run. Now my go-to run has become five miles. That’s a bonus when considering my yet-to-be-blogged-about goals for next year.

Here’s a couple highlights from November and December:

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A 7.1 mile #OptOutside run on the day after Thanksgiving

Measuring my metabolism

Getting festive with my main man Mitch

Exploring Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas

Reading

I finished “You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon” by Jacques Steinberg a few weeks ago. It was understandably a little hard to follow given the tough task of bouncing between six age-groupers’ individual journeys to race day. But it was an insightful look at the commitment that athletes put into Ironman training along with the physical and mental battles they fight during the event itself. It was even a little surprising to find out how much the six paths crossed during the race.

I’m currently reading Chrissie Wellington’s autobiography “A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey“, and am about halfway through the book. Wellington has won every Ironman distance race she’s entered, including four World Championships at Kona. Talk about domination! Reading about her journey has been inspiring, and I still have half of the book to go.

Listening

I know I’m about ten years behind on this, but I’m starting to get into podcasts. Until recently, I’ve always gravitated to music when I need an audio fix. About two years ago I read “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll, an autobiography account of an overweight man on the verge of middle age who adopted a plant-based diet and a focused fitness routine that helped him become one of the world’s fittest men. He went on to complete five Ironman distance triathlons within one week – one on each of the Hawaiian islands. Wow. Mind-blowing. Rich has been someone I’ve looked up to and respected ever since reading his book.

Anyhow, back to the podcast topic. I discovered Rich Roll has a podcast — and it’s pretty great. His guests include athletes, coaches, nutrition experts, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders and more. I love that he’s also started posting video episodes on YouTube as well. My favorite recent episode was Rich’s November conversation with Lance Armstrong. My interests were very different back when the cycling doping scandal shook the sport years ago so I missed a lot of that news. Listening to Lance’s current perspective on the topic, along with hearing how he spends his days, opened my eyes to the significance of the scandal and left me wanting to learn more about the story.

Up Next

The year is quickly coming to a close. I’m in the process of reviewing my 2017 season and then hoping to turnaround a plan for next year. My interest in endurance and multisport events grew significantly over the last year. I’m excited to focus that energy into some defined goals for 2018!

Race Recap: 2017 Monster Dash Half Marathon

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There aren’t many better feelings than when you accomplish something that you once doubted you could. Last weekend I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon.

Pre-Race

I followed the same pre-race routine I’ve used all season: set an alarm for five hours before the race start time, eat an English muffin with peanut butter and some fruit and yogurt, then go right back to bed. Sure it’s weird eating breakfast at 3:00 am, but it works for me. My body gets time to process the food into energy and my stomach gets to do it’s thing well before the start of the race. It’s been an effective strategy to be fueled for the event yet in control of what goes into my empty stomach once the race begins.

I arrived in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul about twenty minutes before the race start. I then spent the next fifteen minutes waiting in line to use a portable restroom. Apparently I wasn’t the only person with this idea given how long the lines were. But on the plus side, it gave me a chance to meet and chat with new people while waiting. That’s one of my favorite parts about endurance sports, pretty much everyone is so nice and happy to talk about the sport or share advice. Everyone always just seems thankful for their health, happy to be together and excited to race.

The Monster Dash is known for its Halloween theme and costume-wearing participants. Since this was my first race of this distance, I opted for function over fashion. I wore a Batman t-shirt, which happened to match the rest of my mostly black and yellow attire. I was still a little festive while maintaining the gear I’ve been used to running in. Never try anything new on race day!

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A quick pre-race Batman pose.

I was assigned to wave H, which I believe was one of the last groups scheduled to start. I think I was placed in this group since I didn’t list a goal finish time during registration. This made me nervous when I approached the start corrals as I’d most likely be wanting to run at a different pace than those in my waves. So I worked my way through the crowd until I found pacers holding 08:24 and 08:47 signs. My goal was to run somewhere in-between those two paces so I squeezed into a space to stand and waited the remaining two minutes for the race to start.

Race

I crossed the start line and ran past the historic James J. Hill house in Summit Avenue. I nestled my phone into my new Nathan flip belt and slid my gloves over my hands. The temperature was just below freezing at race start so it felt good to get the body moving for some warmth. Just like that I was off on my first half marathon.

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Look at those costumes!

When I reached the first mile marker, my Strava app reported I was running an 08:08 pace. That was more than thirty seconds faster than planned. I was worried this would happen — the adrenaline would kick in and I’d be running too fast too soon. But I was still alongside my pace groupmates so I kept going.

The first few miles of the course were lined with spectators, and a lot of kids in halloween costumes holding out their hands for a high five. I never pass up the free high five from a kiddo during a race. There’s something about the joy on their faces after the celebratory exchange that makes me smile and wants to keep running. Anyhow, in all that fun I realized I wasn’t paying attention to the split reports in my headphones. I had no clue what pace I was running. But I kind of didn’t care either. I was having fun.

At mile four I was at an 08:00 pace. Wow, I was still moving faster than planned and felt great. This was about the time I passed the pacer holding the 08:24 sign. If I was running very low eights for the first four miles there was no way he was holding his pace. I just smiled and kept running.

It was about this time I felt the urge for a restroom break. I must’ve overhydrated before the race. I was conflicted over stopping as I didn’t want to giveaway time so I just kept running for a few miles, hoping the urge would dissappear. But it didn’t. And I didn’t want to have that feeling for another seven miles. So somewhere between miles six and seven I quickly pulled over for the much needed bathroom stop. Don’t worry, I used one on the many conveniently placed portable restrooms along the course, and it was just a number one. Less than thirty seconds later I bolted back onto the pavement and found my stride. If it wasn’t for the short delay I probably could’ve had four sub-eight minutes miles in a row.

The miles seemed to pass rather quickly. I was still holding in the low eights for pace. During the ninth mile I saw another water station coming up. I figured now was the perfect time to take-in some nutrition. I grabbed a GU Gingerade gel from my belt and sucked it down just in time to grab a water from a volunteer’s hand. Whether I needed the fuel or not, it gave me some reassurance I’d have a little boost to tackle the last four miles.

Running strong in the final miles.

The approach to the ten mile marker had me nervous. Ten miles was the distance of my longest training run. I hadn’t ran further than that before so I had no idea what to expect from here on out. And the finish line for the ten mile race was literally right alongside the course the half marathoners would continue running. At first I thought seeing people finish would distract my focus, making it hard to keep going when others were done for the day. But it did just the opposite. When I saw the ten mile finish I thought, “No way. Don’t wish you were done. You’re doing the full race, Josh.” It motivated to keep going knowing I was so close to my goal.

That motivation was just what I needed. I got a little faster during those last three miles. Seeing the St. Paul skyline come back into view gave me another boost knowing the finish line was not far off. This is when I started to really soak it all in. The bulk of the distance was behind me. My lungs and legs still felt great. It was time to close this thing out. I enjoyed every step within those final miles, especially the step that took me across the finish line.

My mile by mile splits.

Post-Race

I crossed the finish line with a time of 01:45:33 and an average pace of 08:04 per mile (266th place out of 1,774 overall). That’s seven-and-a-half minutes faster than my goal — and that included the bathroom stop. Wow. I was super stoked about that finish time.

It’s funny how my legs felt fine throughout the duration of the race. But as soon as I transitioned back to walking I could feel a soreness my groin. And the lack of movement quickly cooled down my body, reminding me how cold it actually was outside. Oh well, the discomforts couldn’t take away from the huge sense of accomplishment on my mind. I went home and found a nice warm spot on the couch, which, with the exception getting up to take a shower and make dinner, was where I spent the rest of day.

 A happy man and his hardware.

Reflection

I did it. I completed my first half marathon.

A month ago it was just an idea that sounded cool — an idea that I doubted my ability to accomplish. I made up with excuses about how I wasn’t prepared and didn’t have enough time to ramp up for the distance. I told myself I should probably attempt a 10 mile race, or at least a 10K, before making the jump to 13.1.

All of that doubt and fear triggered something in me though. I had become comfortable in the Sprint triathlons of the summer. I knew I could so those. But I didn’t know if I could pull off a half marathon. That reminded me of the fear/excitement of when I first got into triathlons. The element of the unknown drove me to find out.

The extra training pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I was running distances I had never attempted before. But I just kept going. And now I’m seeing all that’s been accomplished over the last month. All that work lead to an achieved goal. That excites me. It makes me wonder what else can I do. How far can I go?

This idea of tackling doubts and fear can really be applied to just about a anything in life. It’s all too easy to make excuses, doubt our abilities and let fear stand behind us and our dreams. But that’s what makes it all worth it in the end, accomplishing what we thought we couldn’t in spite of that doubt and fear. Nothing ever changes when we do the same old things. Trying something new is where growth happens. This reminds me of a quote that inspired me one month ago: “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

What’s Next

Rest. Lots and lots of rest. I think I’m finally ready to call the 2017 racing season complete. I’ve been training and racing hard all summer and fall. I’m ready to give the legs a break. I’m ready to enjoy a happy hour after work or make dinner plans without needing to think how that fits with my training schedule. It’s time to recharge, relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be going for a run or two — weather permitting — each week, or heading to the gym for a spin class or jumping in the pool for some laps. But at least for the next month or two, it will be on a more relaxed schedule.

My biggest racing-related priority is coming up with a plan for next year. I know that over this past year I really enjoyed having my season planned out ahead of time. I definitely want to do that again, but need to decide which races and distances to register for. Which races specifically? That’s a great question that I hope to answer in the next month or so. I do know that I’m riding high off this half marathon finish — and it has me dreaming big for next summer!