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.

Race Recap: Trinona 2018

TrinonaFinishJosh

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.

Podium Crop_3

Picking up the Pace

IMG_20180530_201200_019.jpg

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

OpenWaterSwim

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.

IMG_20180526_125726_752.jpg

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.

20180606_182234

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.

20180609_204911.jpg

Race Recap: 2018 River to Ridge

20180519_103554

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!

20180519_102633(1)