So, what happened last year?

It happened again. My desire to blog fell off around mid-season in 2019, a tad earlier than it did in 2018 – when it started to feel more like work than fun. Last year I made an attempt to write shorter posts. That lasted for two races and then the writing quickly faded. Maybe that’s common amongst casual bloggers – I don’t know (insert emoji with both hands in the air here). Well, fast forward to today – I’ve had a little extra free time given COVID-19 stay at home and social distancing. So I thought I’d recap the remainder of 2019 into one post.

Chisago Lakes Triathlon (Sprint Distance)

I had never done this race before, but I was really intrigued by the distance configuration and it was a USA Triathlon sanctioned event. It had sprint and half-iron options. The sprint bike was 22 miles instead of the standard 12 – so it was a bit of a mashup between a sprint and olympic distance. The sprint would be a great tune-up distance before nationals in August.

The competition-level was high, yet the overall vibe of the event remained local and chill. I think there were a lot of participants in the half-iron distance utilizing this event as prep for a fall Ironman such as Wisconsin. Not a lot of specific commentary from me on my personal performance. I finished 9/21 in my age group and 28/253 overall. I just had a good time. And had even more fun at the post-event celebration at Uncommon Loon Brewing. I think half the reason I like endurance sports are celebrating with a beer or three afterwards and not feeling guilty about it!

That’s the “I know I’m about about to get a beer soon” smile.

USA Triathlon Age-Group Nationals (Olympic Distance)

I skipped this one. It’s funny – after going to nationals for the first time in 2018, I couldn’t wait to compete for a chance to go back and see if I could do better. I qualified again in 2019 through my finish at Trinona – the USAT Triathlon State Championship race in Minnesota. I punched my ticket and registered for the main event. But when it came time to start packing and hit the road, my heart was in another place. I already knew I could complete the Cleveland, OH course – the same one as the year before. I had done nothing different in my training to notably improve my performance. It was like I already knew a middle of the pack finish was in the making, and with a road trip to the great Southwest on the horizon at the end of the month, it became harder to justify the travel expense. My heart just wasn’t in it. It felt like if I went to nationals, I wouldn’t be doing it for me – but to just say that I went. It didn’t feel right.

So I spent that five days of planned time off camping on Minnesota’s North Shore instead. Trading in the stress and anxiety that sometimes comes with racing for week of peace and nature turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time.

Time stops in places like these. The only moment that matters is the one you’re in. 

Ragnar Relay – Road Minnesota

This one surprised me. Like really surprised me.

I had long been intrigued by running ragnar someday. But the logistics and team recruiting kind of overwhelmed me. This year, I got invited to join an existing team. All of that coordination would be taken care of. All I had to do was show up and run my assigned legs. Obviously I said yes.

I totally underestimated the experience I was about to have. I knew I’d have a good time. I’d make knew friends (I barely knew one person on the team, and was brand new to everyone else). I just thought I’d run my 20-ish miles and it would be some good training. You see, I’ve been used to the solo and self-sufficiency aspects of triathlon and running. This whole team thing was going to be different for me.

What surprised me was the sense of accomplishment after finishing, and it grew in the days after the event. Our team of 12 dudes ran the 200+ miles in just under 28 hours, finishing 16th our of 390 teams. We ran non-stop, making sure the next runner was at the next transition early for the handoff. Everyone ran their hearts out. And in the downtime waiting for our next turn, we joked, laughed, shared stories and encouraged each other. I slept on the pavement of a parking lot. The atmosphere was wild in the early morning hours (something we called “the witching hour”) as all teams were tired and exhausted, yet still going – like half-human and half-zombie. And the finish line was electric as teams waited for their final runner and joined, running through the finish arch together. I made 11 new friends. Gained countless stories that we still joke about today. It was an epic adventure and honestly just something you have to experience to understand why people are so proud of those stickers on the back of their vehicles. I can’t wait to do it again.

12 dudes. 200+ miles. One epic adventure. 

Maple Grove Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

Feeling a re-energized again, I was excited about the Maple Grove Tri. It’s a well-organized and locally owned event, USAT sanctioned and happened to be the 2019 USAT North Central Regional Championship race. I knew the competition would be high, but it would give me a chance for qualify for nationals again in 2020, which is returning to Milwaukee, WI. I was ready to make my last triathlon of 2019 a good one.

The swim went great. Man, it sure felt great to finally kick those panic attacks this year. The bike leg kicked my butt, as always. The course was open to car traffic and mostly on exposed roads near open fields or new house developments. Once we got a few miles out of transition, three younger athletes, who I can only assume to be friends, grouped together and appeared to draft off each other to push forward, which is more than frowned upon. So, you’re darn right I made it my mission to pass all of them – solely on my own power. We traded spots a few times, and I don’t remember if I ultimately passed them all, but the competition pushed me to go harder and kept me motivated throughout the ride. I battled through stomach cramps throughout the 6.2 mile run. To occupy my mind, I thought about my late dog Mitch, who was always so stoic. That memory of him never grimacing pushed me to keep pushing – and imagining him running along side me. Gosh, I miss that dog. Overall finish time was 02:26:43, good enough for 10/28 in my age group and a qualifying spot at nationals again in 2020.

Twin Cities Marathon

The grand finale. This would be my last race of the year and I wanted so badly to beat my time from 2018 (03:32:38). In fact, I really wanted to go sub-03:30:00. However, I didn’t really train any differently than the year before. I maybe even trained a little less, hoping to avoid he same knee injury I wound up last year, attempting to ramp up for a marathon in a month and a half’s time after the triathlon season ended. I was basing this off of pure desire.

I started out way to hard. Last year I used a $10 Timex and did the pace and total math in my head at each mile marker. This was my first year with a GPS watch. About a half-mile in, I looked at my watch and noticed a 09:30/mile pace, which certainly wasn’t going to get me to my goal. It felt like I was moving fast, but the watch said otherwise – so I ran faster. Then I made it to the first mile marker, looked at my watch and it hadn’t made it to seven minutes total yet. The tall buildings downtown may have interfered. I had just ran a sub-seven first mile. If I kept that up, that was a guarantee to blow up early. In the second mile, I randomly connected with a friend from the Ragnar team. He thought his watch was off too. We ran alongside each other, same pace, and our watches were more than a minute off of each other. Something was up with GPS in the beginning.

I eventually settled into a comfortable pace in the mid sevens. I knew it might be a little fast for the long haul, but it felt good. Like really good. Maybe I was going to blow my goal out of the water. Well, that all eventually caught up with me around mile 17. My hips started to hurt. The bottoms of my feet started to hurt in ways they haven’t before. The speed had caught up with me. But I had gained so much ground, I could afford to slow down and still be on track.

Well, once I reached the first big hill around mile 20-ish, I decided to take a walk break. I had never done that before – walked in a race. That’s not meant to sound cocky. I just hadn’t done that before, so I had no idea what it would feel like to walk and then try to run again. Boy was that a kick in the shorts. It was like my legs didn’t want to do what my brain was telling them to. It was like that feeling you get in dreams where you’re trying to run from something but your feet don’t move. Multiple walking breaks ensued after. I couldn’t keep the momentum. The wheels had fallen off.

It was an odd feeling still being out on the course while my goal time ticked bye on my watch. In that moment I asked myself, why keep going. And the fact that I asked myself that was enough to keep me going. Not everything is going to go my way. I couldn’t control the moment any longer, just how I responded to it. I still finished with a great time of 03:37:52. I was probably prouder of this finish than the year before, because I didn’t give up, even after the goal was no longer achievable.

When the wheels fall off, smile anyways. We’re stronger than we think. 

Season Wrap-Up

So what were my takeaways from 2019?

  • You can’t do the same thing and expect different results.
  • Sometimes motivations change, and that’s ok. Follow your heart. It knows the way.
  • Regardless of finish time, just be thankful to be out and participating. Never lose sight of the fun.

Some of these learnings drove decisions for the 2020 season, which as we all know now, has a completely different landscape.

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.