Race Recap: Red, White and Boom 2019

This was my first year running the Red, White and Boom, and third half-marathon overall. My fitness base was in a good place due to triathlon training, but I hadn’t executed a specific half marathon training plan prior to race day. With race-time temperatures in the mid-70s and relative humidity near 90%, I knew I’d need to keep my expectations in check and not overdo it. No sense in getting hurt early in season, and especially not right before a long holiday weekend!

Rather than setting a goal for the day, I opted to just listen to my body and let it set the pace. The strategy worked. Minus the attention-grabbing realization that I practically stopped sweating in the last few miles, I felt pretty darn comfortable throughout the race. And I finished only three and a half minutes away from my current PR.

Results

  • Distance — 13.1 miles
  • Time — 01:40:01
  • Pace — 07:39/mile
  • Place — 82/1481 overall

Race Recap: Trinona 2019

This was my fifth year racing at Trinona, but my first time tackling the international distance. Known for it’s intense cycle climb up Garvin Heights (1.15 miles with 540 feet of elevation gain at 9.2% grade), the Battle for the Bluff did not disappoint. It was a real kick in the shorts alright. But also a badge of honor to race up a hill that Greg LeMond trained on in preparation for the Tour de France.

Highlights

  • Finding strength and confidence on a long swim that would’ve been filled with panic in years past, and cruising to a swim PR by more than five minutes.
  • Conquering that monster hill and still averaging 19mph+ across the bike course, even after being slowed to 8mph or less during the mile-long climb.
  • Discovering pure joy while riding a new bicycle in its first race, and feeling like I could legitimately hang.
  • Winning the mental battle on the run.
  • Setting a overall distance PR by more than ten minutes.

Results

Trinona – International Distance – June 9, 2019

Split

Split Pace

Age Group Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.93 miles)

00:28:29

01:55/100m

5/14

43/155

T1

00:02:00

4/14

32/155

Bike (24.85 miles)

01:17:52

19.15 mi/hr

5/14

41/155

T2

00:01:49

10/14

60/155

Run (6.2 miles)

00:44:55

07:15 min/mi

3/14

26/155

Total

02:35:03

5/14

32/155

6250e3b9-1b2d-464a-93e8-ea15e9b0b2ea-1

2018 Wrap-Up

Recently, I’ve felt like I left something unfinished. I had made blogging a consistent practice over the last two years. Then this fall it started to lose its fun for me. The writing felt like work — something I had to do in order to keep the blog going versus something I was excited to do. It was much easier to post a photo and a quick caption on social than to create long-form content here. So I stopped.

I hadn’t stopped the activities that I loved. I just needed to take a break from writing about them. Here’s how my season wrapped-up:

Twin Cities Marathon

I knew running a marathon would be tough. I just didn’t know how tough. Someone had told me there are two halves of a marathon — the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. I had shrugged-off that comment as cliche. But as I found out first-hand, they were not kidding.

The first 20 miles were somewhat of a breeze. My body felt good. My feet felt good. My lungs felt good. And my spirits were high. The course was lined with spectators, enthusiastically cheering for the full distance. It was amazing, and unlike any race atmosphere I’d experienced before. I can see why so may people love running this event. The longest training run I had completed was 18 miles, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect in the final miles.

The last 6.2 miles hit me hard. I first felt soreness in my knees and hips. Then my shoulders hurt. Why in the world were my shoulders hurting? Everything inside me was telling me to quit. But I didn’t run this far to give up now. Tough runs don’t last; tough runners do.

Crossing the finish line of my first marathon brought me a sense of pride I’d not yet experienced. I’d pushed myself harder that I’ve ever pushed before. I did it. My body was tired but my soul was wide awake.

  • Distance — 26.2 miles
  • Time — 03:32:36
  • Pace — 08:07/mile
  • Place — 1019/7144 overall

Minneapolis Halloween Half Marathon

So I probably shouldn’t have been running this race. It was three weeks after the Twin Cities Marathon. And my physical therapist recommended taking about a month off from running. Obviously the math doesn’t work there. I took about ten days off and started loosening-up for the Halloween Half.

My goal was to best last year’s half marathon time of 01:45:00. I was unsure if I could do it given my lack of full recovery. But I was still going to give it a try! I got a little to ambitious out of the gate and found myself running a sub-seven with the lead pack after the first mile. A half-mile later, my right knee became very unhappy. By mile three, I thought I may need to throw in the towel. I’d never thought I’d quit a race as much as I did in that moment. My knee felt like it was going to give out.

But giving-up was not something I was willing to do. All year I had been telling myself I wanted to experience suffering in a race atmosphere. If I was going to achieve some of the long distance goals I have for my future, I needed to push my brain. This was my chance. I could either quit or double-down and accept the challenge. I chose the latter. The pain returned in mile ten, but I kept focusing on positive thoughts and kept running my pace.

Crossing this finish line brought a new sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t the distance I was proud of. It was the not giving up that brought a smile to my face in a time when the rest of my body was frowning. Oh, and I crushed my goal too.

  • Distance — 13.1 miles
  • Time — 01:36:28
  • Pace — 07:22/mile
  • Place — 33/674 overall

What’s Next

Rest and recovery is my top priority right now. I’ve ran a few times in the last month, usually three to four miles at a time, and within a few hours afterwards, I feel like I ran a marathon. Both of my knees and right hip are just sore. I’m hopeful that it can all be chalked-up to overuse and that rest will be the remedy. I’ve committed to not run again until February. Let’s see if that sticks.

In regards to 2019 races, I have a few ideas, but am trying to rest on that as well. I put a lot of time, physically and mentally, into planning, training and racing in 2018. It kind of consumed me. I’m a little nervous about approaching a point where I take this all too seriously. I started pushing myself because it was fun. And I want it to stay fun. When the time is right, I’ll kick-off 2019 activity. But in the meantime, it feels pretty good to just chill.

Marathon Training: Overcoming Overuse

20181001_221152.jpg

Gone are the days when I could run as far and as fast as I pleased without consequence. The invincibility that I knew would one day expire finally did just that. A substantial increase in mileage as I swiftly transitioned out of the triathlon season and into marathon training resulted in my first bout of running-related knee pain.

I had spent the entire summer splitting my training across three sports — a lot of swimming, not as much biking as I probably should’ve, and running about 24 miles per week. After wrapping-up my triathlon season at the USAT Triathlon Age Group National Championships in mid-August, and then taking a week off, I had about five weeks left to really focus on running before tackling my first ever marathon — the Twin Cities Marathon. The training plans I had looked at were set on a 18-week schedule. I had hoped all of my other training would provide a good base, so I plugged into a plan at week 15, made a couple modifications and hit the ground running from there.

More miles meant exploring new trails!

In the first 15 days, I logged 84.5 miles — about double the weekly mileage that my body had been used to. That included three long runs at 13, 16 and 18 miles respectively. The 18-miler was the one that did me in. Well, all of the summer’s mileage added-up to the pain that would occur, but it happened during the 18-miler. I felt a pain behind my right knee within the first mile that I’d never felt before. It was like there was a cable in the back of my leg that was being pulled as tight as it could be, with the tension right behind the knee. I kept running and after a few miles it kind of loosened-up. Kind-of. Then during the last eight miles, I felt a strain on the outside of that same knee. It started as a dull ache and intensified after taking off from a stoplight. This was also unlike anything I’d experienced before. I knew something wasn’t right.

I saw a physical therapist with a running specialty and was told I had a strained distal hamstring tendon and a strained IT band — both caused by overuse. I had probably ramped up a little too quickly in my training plan as I attempted to make-up for some lost ground. The good news was that they wanted me to keep running, just shorter distances and at a slower pace. Whew. What a relief that was to hear. I had to skip the 20-mile race I had signed-up for to complete what would’ve been the longest long run of the training plan, but the physical therapist said that if I had already built-up to 18 miles, I should be able to do the full 26.2 miles in a few weeks. Another relief to hear.

So for the last two weeks, I’ve stuck to a modified training plan, with long runs of 10.5 and 8 miles. I’ve been doing my assigned stretches and foam-rolling the heck out of my legs. Side-note: I’m new to foam-rolling but I love it. I never knew how tight some of the muscles in my legs have been until I pressed them into the foam. Leveraging my body weight to help massage my legs with the roller has already done wonders.

The best part about long runs? Replenishing the thousands of calories burned!

Overall, my knee is feeling much better. I’ve logged the majority of the miles I needed to during that last five weeks of that 18-week training plan. I’m rather relaxed about the challenge ahead. With only five days until toeing the start line, I’ve done about all I can do –minus the few remaining more short runs to stay loose, getting plenty of rest and executing a nutrition plan a few days before the race. I’m honestly just excited to get out and run the course that’s been dubbed the most beautiful urban marathon in the country.

Oh, what’s my goal? This has been a great question. The first answer is to finish. That’s the big thing. And since I’ve never ran the marathon distance before, I’m not totally sure how my body will respond in those later miles. Last fall, I finished my first half marathon with a time of 01:45:33. If I could keep that same pace across a full marathon, which I’m unsure of, that would put me at a 03:31:06 time. I averaged a 08:10/mi pace during the knee-pain inducing 18-miler a few weeks ago. Based on that, and accounting for the unknowns that could happen during the last 8 miles, especially with a knee that isn’t 100%, I’m setting a goal time at 03:38:00. It’s certainly achievable if all goes well, yet will challenge me to keep a 08:19/mi pace or better across all 26.2 miles.

The unknown is what excites me most about this race. This is something I’ve never done before. And the only way to find out is to try it. This reminds me of a quote: “Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go.” Well, I’m going to find out!

You never know where you’ll find a reminder to smile on a run!

Race Recap: USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships 2018

51_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_000561-19363933

Three years of training, racing and a heck of a lot of hard work lead me to this race — the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. The opportunity to compete with the best Olympic distance triathletes in the nation. The chance to compete on a level I’ve never been on before.

Pre-Race

The magnitude of what I was about to embark on finally sunk-in during the national anthem. As I stood next to the other 159 athletes in my age group staring at the American flag, along with countless waves of athletes standing behind us, it hit me why we’re all here. We’re about to compete for the opportunity to represent that flag and the entire nation at the world championships next summer. I was surrounded by the best of the best. And further yet, I realized I wasn’t just standing amongst them on the outside looking in — I was one of them. I had earned the invite to this race just like each and every one of them did. And that was a pretty powerful thought to fill my mind with as I walked into the swim corral.

Swim

This was far and away the most gnarly swim I’ve ever tackled. For starters, let’s set the stage with location and condition. This was a 0.93 mile swim out in the great wide opens of Lake Erie. There wasn’t a breaker wall to protect us from the chop and waves. Nope. We were swimming right into the thick of it.

I was in the very first swim wave of the morning, a likely indicator that it would be one of the strongest age groups of the field. After a quick warm-up swim, we were directed to wade over and line up at the buoyed start line, between waist and chest deep water depending on your height. The music from the shoreline behind blared, the countdown began and then horn sounded. All 160 of us started swimming furiously, all at once. It was chaos. I got kicked, but also kicked others. My ankles were grabbed, but I grabbed ankles as well. I was ran into and swam over, and I did the same. None of it intentional– it’s just what happens during a mass start.

It took a good quarter-mile before the group started to space out in the water. I did my best to just focus on myself – staying calm, keeping my heart rate low and continue taking consistent, long-reaching, steady strokes. Sighting was a challenge. I’d lift my head every few strokes in search of the next buoy only to be met with a wave rolling above my sight line and straight into my face. Fortunately, I had hung with a pack of swimmers and was able to glance at those to either side during each breath, or follow the splashing directly in front of me. Outside of the sighting challenges, I didn’t mind the waves. I think they helped distract my busy brain during the long swim.

55_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_007062-19363937

I stepped back on the beach, noticed there were still orange caps coming in behind me, but there were also green caps in front of me, meaning the second wave was passing some of the first wave — my second indicator of just how strong the competition would be today. I unzipped my wetsuit as I ran down the long chute back to transition and started jogging my memory on where my bike was racked amongst the field of 3,000.

Bike

This was the part of the day I looked forward to the least. I knew I was under-trained on the bike. My back injury limited me to two bike rides in the last five weeks — both of which were races. If it were up to my physical therapist, I wouldn’t have ridden at all during the last month. So anyhow, I knew I was in for a grueling ride.

73_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_063764-19363955

The good news was I didn’t fall. I clipped-in after the mount line rather seamlessly and got to pedaling. The course followed many under-construction expressways, which were rough, bumpy and full of cracks. I’m glad I took the advice to run the tires as at slightly lower pressure in order to try an avoid a flat.

63_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_034944-19363945

Almost immediately I began getting passed by other riders, bike after bike. I was out of my element on this course. These riders were strong. I mean, I averaged just over 19mph throughout the course and they were blowing by me like I was standing still. My third indicator of how strong the field was. Mentally, this was a battle for me. It was hard to not get too down on myself about how much faster everyone else was on the bike. I knew I was underprepared given my recent back injury, but I was hoping I could hold my own against some riders. I finally passed two bikes in the 22nd mile on one of the steeper climbs of the course. But about a mile later, they both passed me on a downhill. I was quite happy when I reached the dismount line at mile 25 and knew the bike leg was now behind me.

Run

Finally, my favorite part of the day — the run. I just love the run. I bolted out onto the course and started cruising, focusing on the person in front of me, trying to pass them and then repeat. This is where I started getting some confidence back after a very sub-par bike performance. With my feet back on the ground, I was passing people. It was much harder to do than other races of the year — another indicator of a strong field. But I started noticing I was passing people during the run that had passed me on the bike. I was making up a little ground.

A fairly strong stomach cramp set-in after mile one, which was rather distracting. And to compound that, I really needed to pee. I felt the urge since stepping out of the water. I had tried letting it go while on the bike, and even while running the first mile, but I just couldn’t separate the physical activity I was engaged in enough to let it go (I guess I’ll need to train for that?). TMI? I’m sure this sounds weird to some, but this is what happens during a race. After mile two of the run, I noticed the familiar shape of a cement building that resembled a public parks restroom. It was right along the run course. Do I dare stop and use it? Or do I uncomfortably hold it and try to power through. At this point in the race I knew it wasn’t my day. It wasn’t my race. I was far from podium contention. I bolted into the bathroom, used the urinal and bolted back out onto the course, like I never lost a step. I probably lost 20-30 seconds doing this, but it put me into position to comfortably run my fastest for the last four miles.

67_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_047116-19363949

I soaked-in every step of those last four miles. Running. Smiling. Passing people. Just enjoying the experience. I opened up a pretty gap during the last mile, turning the last corner towards the finish chute with a huge smile on my face. I ran down the red carpet, past the flowers, flags and spectators thinking to myself, “I get to do this. I have my health, strength and positive mental attitude — and I get to do this. I worked hard to get here. I did it. Just enjoy this moment, man.” And what an epic moment it was.

Results

My USAT AGNC 2018 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.93 mile)

00:34:19

104/157

1143/2892

T1

00:04:32

Bike (25 miles)

01:20:17

19.13 mi/hr

152/157

2242/2892

T2

00:02:50

Run (6.2 miles)

00:45:10

06:55/mile*

109/157

706/2892

Total

02:45:15

139/157

1450/2892

*Note about the run split: USAT appears to have averaged the recorded paces from the timing mats throughout the run course versus dividing overall time by overall distance to calculate the split pace, which would have otherwise been 07:17/mile for me.

Reflection

This race kicked my butt. The swim was the gnarliest of my career. The bike exposed what has become my greatest weakness of the three sports. And even though I had a sstrong run, there were still a lot of athletes were just flat out faster than I was that day — 705 of them to be exact.

The race also showed me how far I’ve come. I think back to the panic attack I had just 200 yards into the quarter-mile swim at Trinona in June — a panic attack that had me questioning if I’d even finish the race. And here I was two months later conquering an unforgiving great lake without pause.

Just one day earlier, while standing in line at packet pick-up, I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve never been around such a shear number of incredibly fit athletes.” It was intimidating. Everyone just looked fast, even though they were standing still, waiting to receive their race packets. Much like during the national anthem on race morning, I realized I was one of them, earning my way there just as they did. Racing amongst and against them humbled me in a way I hadn’t yet experienced in the sport, realizing I’m far from my ceiling. Yep, while on this day this race wasn’t my race, it left me hungry for more. It was exactly the epic finale to end the season, and also the fire that will burn inside me throughout the offseason.

74_3rd-2423091-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2443_065208-19363956

Race Recap: Turtleman Triathlon 2018

Josh Finish Line

When I scaled-back my registration from Olympic to Sprint at the Minneapolis Triathlon earlier this month, I knew I’d need to call an audible within a few short weeks. I’d need to insert another race into the schedule and get longer distance experience under my belt prior to the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships. The Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview, MN would be my audible.

Pre-Race

Almost everything about this race was new to me. This would be my first time racing Turtleman. My first Olympic distance race (technically the swim is a little longer here – 1.1 mile vs 0.93 miles, and the run shorter – 5 miles vs 6.2 miles). My first time seeing this specific course. So since it as all new to me, I just focused on staying relaxed and taking it all in on race morning. I found a comfortable spot in transition (first come, first served), racked my bike and laid out my gear. I walked down to the beach and got my first look at Turtle Lake. I stretched. I maintained a balance of calm and excitement. Maybe the biggest surprise this season has been my sense of calm on race mornings. Even with all the unknowns on this specific race morning, nothing worried me. I was ready to tackle whatever came my way. And welcomed the challenge.

Swim

This was probably the best swim of my career. It’s hard to really say how it compares in regards to time and speed since this was my first Olympic distance. But in regards to how I felt, it was by far the best. Here’s what I mean. I didn’t have the slightest thought of panic — for the entire one mile swim. I didn’t question if I could do it or not — for the entire one mile swim. I didn’t stop to take breaks or catch my breath — for the entire one mile swim. My swimming struggles over the last three years have been well documented on this blog. Heck, I had a huge panic attack during the Trinona quarter-mile swim just two months ago. To conquer this one-mile swim with a sense of calm and strength is a point of immense pride.

Josh Swim Exit

Swim exit zipper struggles: proof that not all race photos are glorious and graceful.

Bike

This is where the wheels fell off. Not literally, but also not that far off. Exiting T1 was anything but graceful. The race director warned us all during the pre-race meeting that there was a hill immediately after crossing the mount line. She wasn’t kidding. I saw others in front of me struggling to mount on an incline. I clipped-in to my left pedal, pushed off and upwards, and threw my right leg over the frame towards my right pedal. But I missed the clip and my foot slipped. I couldn’t keep the bike rolling uphill with just one leg. And in slow motion, I tipped over, crashing to the ground, with one water bottle falling out and rolling backwards down the hill. Definitely not my greatest of race moments. I scraped-up my knee pretty good, took a gouge out of the skin on my ankle bone and got a few cuts on my hand. A very generous volunteer grabbed my water bottle and ran it up to me — otherwise I probably would’ve ditched it. I noticed a few athletes behind me must’ve said “F it” after seeing me fall and they ran their bikes to the top of the hill, mounting their bikes there. I did the same, ran my bike to the top, made my second mount attempt and got to rolling.

I quickly heard a fluttering sound from my front spokes. Oh great, did I break something in the fall? I pulled-over and noticed my bike computer sensors got twisted. The wheel sensor was out of alignment and the fork sensor was shifted. I made some adjustments and got back to spinning. No dice. No data on the computer screen. I rode for about a mile, struggling with a decision of if I should pullover again, or keep going without the computer. I really didn’t want to lose more time than I already had, but ultimately, I opted to pullover. The speed and mileage data were just too important to efficiency, power utilization, and most importantly — my peace of mind. I adjusted the sensors, pushed-off and started pedaling. Again, no dice. So I went the entire 25 miles without and speed or mileage data. Not ideal, but sometimes things happen. And you just have to roll with it. Luckily, there were mile-markers about every four miles along the course. Could be worse.

Josh Bike

Rolling with the punches.

Run

Finally — the run. My favorite part of the race. This was my first time running after 25 miles in the saddle. I wasn’t quite sure how my legs would respond, but I tore out of transition determined to find out. Well, that quick sprint was short-lived due to a truck and boat trailer pulling-out across the run entrance. This was definitely a first for me — a transition area open to traffic. I wasn’t the only runner mumbling a few choice words under my breath. But after a few seconds, I was back on the course and it didn’t take too much longer than usual to shake out the legs. A stomach cramp set in after the first mile and stuck with me for another two miles, which wasn’t pleasant at all. I kept thinking my calm thoughts and stayed focused on the runner in front of me, trying to pass them and then focusing on the next runner. I just kept on running and didn’t let up.

Results

My Turtleman 2018 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (1.1 miles)

00:33:44

4/17

21/89

T1

00:02:28

Bike (25 miles)

01:20:17

16.10 mi/hr

13/17

53/89

T2

00:01:54

Run (5 miles)

00:36:18

07:16 min/mile

3/17

9/89

Total

02:34:39

7/17

25/89

Reflection

I did it. I finished my first Olympic-ish triathlon. It started out strong, got rough in the middle, then shifted back to positive for a strong finish. Strong enough for a top-ten run too!

That rough patch in the middle — the bike debacle — really threw me for a loop. The fall was one thing. But then to be down on equipment added insult to injury. Literally. But as I mentioned earlier, things happen. And sometimes they’re out of our control. We can’t change that it happened; we can only control our response. I chose to keep going. It was a little frustrating in the moment, but now it’s a story I can look back on and say “I did that silly thing, I got back up and finished the race.”

My back held-up fairly strong in this race too. It had only been three weeks prior that I bulged a disc bending over to light a campfire. And here I was swimming, biking and running my longest combined distance yet. You could definitely say I’m a believer in the powers of physical therapy for getting me back to health this quickly.

Now I turn my sights to the biggest race of my life to date: USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.

Race Recap: Minneapolis Triathlon 2018

BikeOut.jpg

Sometimes we just flat-out surprise ourselves. We go into something with lowered or relaxed expectations due to circumstances outside of our control. But we still have a choice – allow those circumstances to affect our effort, or still give it our all. I chose the latter, and despite a back injury that left me feeling 70% on race morning, finished the 2018 Minneapolis Triathlon with my best sprint time at this event yet.

Pre-Race

I woke up Saturday morning feeling rather relaxed, which is kind of unusual for me on race day. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to race, but the race day stress I usually pile on my shoulders wasn’t there. I knew I was injured. I knew I wasn’t 100% and wouldn’t be able to race as hard as I usually could. But I was happy. Just happy to be healthy enough to compete. Happy to don the Team Save the Children kit and represent the amazing work they do for kiddos around the world. I knew that regardless of the outcome, it was still going to be a good day.

Laughs with Dad

Pre-race laughs and strategy talk with my dad.

Swim

The water temperature clocked-in at 79.2°F on race morning, meaning wetsuits were not permitted for the swim (78°F is the cutoff for wetsuit legal swims). This made me a little nervous given my panics of swims-past. But again, the water temp was out of my control. Just gotta roll with the punches and give it my best.

To my surprise, the swim was pretty great. All of the practices during Open Swim Club were paying off. Panicked thoughts never entered my brain, even without my wetsuit safety blanket. And even though the water was warm, it was still a welcomed cool-down after standing on the sun drenched beach for an hour before race start. It turned out to be my best swim time yet — even without a wetsuit. Progress.

SwimExit_Edited

No wetsuit; no problem.

Bike

Hopping on my bike was the part of the race I feared most. My physical therapist said I could do any activity I wanted unless is involved leaning forward. Well, that’s the only posture I’d have on a bike – leaning forward. I made it eight miles before the back pain set in and it wasn’t pleasant. It turned into a constant ache that intensified as I rolled over each crack in the road. I let my share of four-letter words fly during the last seven miles.

This was also my first race using clipless pedals and shoes. I was excited by the efficiencies this would bring, but also nervous given my lack of preparation for mounting and dismounting. I was still determining my strategy after transition closed that morning. Ultimately, I opted for no socks and wearing the shoes as I ran to the mount line to clip-in. Luckily, I mounted the bike without issue and got to pedaling. For the dismount, I unstrapped the shoes after making the final turn onto Nokomis Parkway, pulled my feet out and rode barefoot on top of the shoes until I reached the dismount line. I seamlessly hopped off the bike and ran back to my spot in transition. Success. Looks like I found my mount/dismount strategy.

Bike Into T2.jpg

The bike took its toll on my back.

Run

My favorite part of the race. The run has always been my strongsuit and that was evident on this day. I slugged a gel on the way out of T2 and cruised onto the run course. I felt like I found another gear as all of my energy poured into my feet. My run strategy was effective once again, breaking it up into smaller increments by trying to pass the person in front of me and then focusing-in on the next person. It’s not that I’m trying to beat that person, but it’s that I by doing this I’m pushing myself harder and faster. And that’s who I’m competing against – myself. I always want to put my best foot forward and be better than I was last time. Well the strategy worked. I posted a PR 5K time — and I’m not just talking 5K at the end of a triathlon PR, I’m talking a straight-up overall 5K PR, breaking my time at last fall’s TC5K which I hadn’t swam and biked before running. With sub-seven-minute miles, I posted the 13th fastest run of field that was 548 deep. Proud of that.

IMG_1531565173700

Channeling my inner-cheetah.

Results

Pleasantly surprised by these 2018 numbers. To be this competitive while only feeling 70% taught me a lesson not only in the power of pre-race relaxation, but also in mental strength and believing in myself to always be my best self.

My MPLS 2018 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:15:23

02:03 min/100m

6/31

95/548

T1

00:02:35

9/31

75/548

Bike (14.8 miles)

00:44:04

20.16 mi/hr

11/31

150/549

T2

00:02:02

14/31

208/549

Run (3.1 miles)

00:20:58

06:46 min/mile

4/31

13/548

Total

01:25:00

5/31

45/548

And even more pleasantly surprised when comparing them back to 2017 and 2016. The only segment I didn’t improve in was T2, which makes sense to me since I had to change from bike shoes to running shoes here, whereas the previous two years I already had those running shoes on from wearing them on the bike with platform pedals.

My MPLS Tri Comparison

MPLS Tri 2016

MPLS Tri 2017

MPLS Tri 2018

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:16:05

00:15:36

00:15:23

T1

00:04:47

00:03:01

00:02:35

Bike (14.8 miles)

00:51:04

00:44:52

00:44:04

T2

00:02:39

00:00:59

00:02:02

Run (3.1 miles)

00:24:11

00:23:12

00:20:58

Total

01:38:44

01:27:38

01:25:00

PostRace with Dad.jpg

Celebrating and laughing some more with my dad.

Reflection

It was an honor to once again be a part of Team Save the Children, raising awareness and funds for the work they do around the world, including right here in the United States, to help innocent children gain access to education, health care and nutrition while fighting to save them from poverty, discrimination and violence. Even with my back injury just one week prior, I knew if there was any chance I’d still be able to race, I’d be at the start line for Save the Children. I felt an immense sense of commitment not only to the organization, but also to those who supported my personal fundraising efforts along the way. I wanted to be there to represent them and their contributions to such a worthy cause. Together, we helped make a child’s life happier, healthier and safer. Together, we made a difference. Thank you.

In regards to my race performance, what can I say. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Racing through pain pushed me in ways I hadn’t been challenged before. I got my first lesson in suffering and powering through it. The result was rewarding and confidence boosting. Another reminder that we’re capable of much more than we may think we are.

IMG_20180714_192113_393.jpg

That moment when you realize you did it, and are all smiles.

 

When Injury Strikes

This week was rough. I always knew an injury would impact my training and racing at some point; I just didn’t know when. Well, it finally happened. And there isn’t even a good story behind it. I wasn’t lifting a boulder. I wasn’t chasing a bear. Nope, nothing cool like that. On Saturday evening, just 12 hours after finishing the Lake Monster one mile swim race, I bent over to light a campfire and felt a burning pain in my lower back that immediately and drastically reduced my ability to stand up straight again.

I awoke the next morning with a stiffness in my back that wouldn’t allow me to get comfortable for the entire day. I couldn’t stand up straight. And I was twisted towards my right side. All I could think about was “how the heck was I going to be able to complete a triathlon six days from now?”

I was fortunate enough to be squeezed-in Monday morning to see a physical therapist who has a spine specialty. Chiropractic care has always made me a little nervous. I liked the idea of utilizing physical therapy first to address the inflammation and range of motion versus a quick manipulation that may or not work. I know a lot people swear by chiro, and I believe it works, this is just my personal preference to try first. My diagnosis was a bulged disc and was assigned variations of prone press ups to do every two to three hours, helping to stretch my spine and related muscles backwards.

Within the first day I noticed improvement. I was able to put socks on without feeling it was impossible. I started standing straighter and felt less twist. I went for walks in the evenings, noticing day-to-day improvements there as well, going from 20-minute miles to 17-minute miles. I was still rather uncomfortable, but was making progress.

I had a follow-up appointment on Thursday and confirmed the improvement I’d been noticing on my own. I was still nowhere near 100%, but maybe 60-70% or so. My physical therapist didn’t recommend racing this weekend, but said I also wasn’t in danger of doing irreversible damage, just delaying my return to 100%. He understood my desire to compete and honor the commitment I made through Team Save the Children. I was assigned another progression of the press ups and given the option to up the frequency to every one to two hours over the next day to see if that got me to a better spot for race day, allowing my symptoms to drive my decision. It was up to me — a decision I’d find myself putting much thought into.

So here I am, Friday the 13th, the day before the Minneapolis Triathlon. I woke up this morning feeling decent, still with some discomfort but miles ahead of where I was earlier in the week. I ran a mile last night — my first run of the week and a drastic change compared to my 30 mile weekly average — and it felt ok. I could feel discomfort during the run, but it got progressively better as I ran. I was pleasantly surprised to still feel decent in the morning knowing the run didn’t set me backwards. My mind was still set on racing my first Olympic/International distance triathlon.

I went back and forth throughout the day on what I should do. Should I look into a reduced distance? Should I even race at all? I had come to terms that I wouldn’t be 100% and I’d have to be ok with not being able to put my best performance on the course. But I also knew this was no longer my “A race” of the summer. That was now the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, OH next month. And I want to put myself in the best position to be 100%, or as close to it as possible, for that race. So after giving it much thought, I decided to drop my registration down to the sprint distance.

I attended the pre-race meeting, picked-up my packet and walked over to the solutions tent to make the change official. It was an easy adjustment to make. I immediately felt a little bummed. I felt like I was pressing an easy button, even though I know the sprint is still going to take a toll on my back. If you didn’t already know this about me, I’m pretty damn hard on myself. There’s still a part of me that believes I could complete the long distance event. But logically, reducing the distance, and the toll that will ultimately be taken on my body, puts me in the best position for Nationals next month. It was the smart choice to make. And when I keep that big picture view in mind, it makes the decision a little easier to reflect back upon.

The best part is that I’ll still be racing tomorrow and representing Team Save the Children. Once again I’ve been humbled by the generosity shown from family and friends through my personal fundraiser. Together we raised $600 dollars that is going to make life a little better for some kiddos around the globe. Together we made a difference — thank you! It will be with great pride that I wear the Team Save the Children kit, honoring and raising awareness for the work they do to help innocent children gain access to education, health care and nutrition while fighting to save them from poverty, discrimination and violence. It’s a constant inspiration and reminder to me that there is good in the world.

So tonight I’ll continue my press ups to help keep my back stretched and flexed. I’ll gather my gear for tomorrow and check it twice. And I’ll have my usual night-before-the-race beer with dinner to unwind. Then I’ll try to get to sleep early. And I’ll sleep well knowing I made the smart choice. Tomorrow’s a big day. I have no idea how my back will respond to the activity load, but I’m more than ready to find out. I’m ready to race!

Race Recap: 2018 Lake Monster 1-2-3

“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

The open water has long been a mental battlefield for me, providing wide open spaces for anxiety and doubt to creep into my brain. But today was different. I found my calm, which lead to power and strength — and a 00:33:17 finish time at the Lake Monster one mile swim race.

Hosted at Lake Nokomis (Minneapolis, MN), this was the first year of the Lake Monster 1-2-3, which offers one, two and three-mile swim distances. It would also be my first swim-only race. I opted for the one mile event as it would be perfect practice for the 0.93 mile swim I’ll be attempting next weekend, in the same lake, as part of the Life Time Tri Minneapolis Triathlon.

I felt fairly relaxed going into this race. I swam 1.4 miles on two different nights earlier in the week during the open swim nights at Lake Nokomis. If I could swim 1.4 miles, I should have no problem with one mile. The big difference would be the optional breaks I took every 600 yards after reaching shore on the back-and-forth beach-to-beach straight-line course. The Lake Monster course would be a one mile loop, obviously without stops.

I also had my new ROKA Maverick wetsuit, which fits my tall, lanky frame like a glove. It was an upgrade over my previous suit to have something that fit so well. It’s long enough in the legs and torso, and doesn’t pull my shoulders down at all. The legs have thicker neoprene than the upper body, aiding in proper body position in the water. I stuck with a sleeveless model again since a majority of my swims are in warmer water and I just enjoy the range of motion that a lack of sleeves provides.

My wave hit the water at 8:08 am. The “go” call was shouted, I ran into the water until my knees were submerged and I dove forward into my freestyle stroke. The first 200 yards or so were great. Just thinking about each stroke, moving forward and remembering to sight every few breaths to make sure I was on course for the next buoy.

But then the dreaded panic attack started setting in, about the same time it did one month earlier during the Trinona 0.25 mile swim — but this time I had another 1,600 yards left to swim instead of 300. The daunting distance stirred-up all the doubt. Then I thought about having to do it again the next weekend, allowing anxiety to run rampant. I started thinking I’m going to need to flag a lifeguard and get hauled back to shore. I was on the verge of dooming my confidence for the next race and I hadn’t even finished this one. Yeah, the panic was real.

That’s when my heart stepped onto the battlefield. I couldn’t quit. I knew I’d regret it and kick myself over and over wondering what could’ve been. I took a few deep breaths while treading water to slow my heart rate back down. I brought my calm thoughts back into my head, locked eyes on the next buoy and started swimming again. I wasn’t backing down.

The rest of the swim was all about finding a rhythm. Physically, I still felt strong and wasn’t getting too tired. I found that a long swim like this is a lot like running — sometimes it takes a mile or two to loosen-up and then you feel like you can fun forever. The swim started to feel similar — I just needed to get through those first couple-hundred yards. Once I overcame my mental barrier and realized I was methodically putting the distance behind me, I found myself in almost a meditative state of mind. I realized I didn’t need to push so hard — I could relax in my rhythym and keep knocking out the yards. I was aware of my surroundings, enveloped in the water, yet I occupied my brain with calm, positive thoughts of things I’m thankful for and that make me smile.

The water conditions were fair. A light wind created a light, wavy current, reminding me on a few straightaways that I still need to work on my alternate side breathing to avoid needing to rely on one side. That can be a problem when waves are coming at you from that same side and your mouth is wide open gasping for air. But I was still moving forward. Progress; not perfection.

A metaphorical wave of excitement rushed over me as I swam past the last buoy, with just another 50 yards or so until reaching the beach. I maintained freestyle until the sand below grazed my fingertips, stood straight up and dashed out of the water through the finish line, shouting my number to the timekeepers.

I clocked in with a finish time of 00:33:17 for my first ever one mile swim race. Overcoming the mental battle and finishing strong provided a much needed confidence boost heading into next weekend’s international distance MPLS Tri.

Two years ago, the thought of doing a half-mile swim was daunting, but I did it. This year brought the new challenge of swimming twice that distance. The idea was uncomfortable, with an ability unknown. It’s easy to retreat back into the comfortable. But we never grow when we do. We never find out what we’re capable of. Only when we step outside of that and right into the unknown do we find out what can be — that we’re stronger thatn we think. That’s what happened when I found my calm, leaving doubt and anxiety in the water and allowing power and strength to bring me to shore.

Author’s note: My ROKA Maverick comments are my personal opinion, and not a sponsored review. I’m just a guy who purchased the wetsuit and happen to really like it.

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.

20180626_211957

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!

USAT Email Crop

The dividends of hard work and continuous effort.