Training Update: April and May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Need to spend much more time behind these bars!

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

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

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

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

Fundraising Update: I’m just $150 shy of my $500 Team Save the Children fundraising goal as part of the Minneapolis Triathlon in July. The work that Save the Children does to protect and nurture kiddos around the globe is a constant inspiration and reminder that there is good in the world. They’re helping innocent children gain access to education, health care and nutrition while fighting to save them from poverty, discrimination and violence.

I’d be honored if you joined me in my journey for positive impact. Together, we can help make a child’s life happier, healthier and safer. Together, we can be the difference. Please consider making a donation and visit my personal fundraising page today: www.savethechildren.org/minneapolistri18/joshaverbeck

Rolling with the Punches

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

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

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

Oh, these negative splits though

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

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

Mile by mile splits from the highlight run

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

Refocusing on strength

Back in the gym

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

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

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

Fundraising update

The Minneapolis Triathlon is just under three months away and I’m halfway to my $500 Team Save the Children fundraising goal. The work that Save the Children does to protect and nurture kiddos around the globe is a constant inspiration and reminder that there is good in the world. They’re helping innocent children gain access to education, health care and nutrition while fighting to save them from poverty, discrimination and violence.

I’d be honored if you joined me in my journey for positive impact. Together, we can help make a child’s life happier, healthier and safer. Together, we can be the difference. Please consider making a donation and visit my personal fundraising page today: www.savethechildren.org/minneapolistri18/joshaverbeck

Racing for the Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To donate, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

New Distances in 2018

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

The plan so far

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

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

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

Yet to be planned

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

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

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

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

My 2017 Season Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Season highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change of Pace: Enjoying the Out-season

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

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

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

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

Here’s a couple highlights from November and December:

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A 7.1 mile #OptOutside run on the day after Thanksgiving

Measuring my metabolism

Getting festive with my main man Mitch

Exploring Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas

Reading

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

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

Listening

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

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

Up Next

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

Race Recap: 2017 Monster Dash Half Marathon

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

Pre-Race

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

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

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

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A quick pre-race Batman pose.

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

Race

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

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Look at those costumes!

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

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

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

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

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

Running strong in the final miles.

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

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

My mile by mile splits.

Post-Race

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

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

 A happy man and his hardware.

Reflection

I did it. I completed my first half marathon.

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

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

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

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

What’s Next

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

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

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

Week 4 / Week 12 of Half Marathon Training

Well, I did it. After three straight weeks of 20+ mileage I finally made it to taper week. And it was kind of nice.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were 4.1, 3.1 and 2.1 miles respectively for a total of 9.3 miles. That’s less than half the weekly mileage I had quickly gotten used to this month. Thursday and Friday were rest days before the main event on Saturday. My legs are silently thanking me for that.

Looking back to one month ago, I questioned whether or not I could ramp up in time to run 13.1 miles. Yet here I am. I was nervous. I was uncomfortable. I was a little scared. I had never done this before. But the challenge and the unknown excited me. I was ready to push myself towards one more goal. I took it day by day and stuck with the plan. 76 miles later, here I am — ready for my first half marathon.

My strategy? Good question. Since I’ve never ran a race of this distance before, I’m not totally sure how my body will respond. I think I’ll start out cautious and join a pace group for at least the first few miles to keep my adrenaline in check. By that time my body should be warmed up (the temperature at race time in St. Paul will be 29° F). Then I’ll start to just listen to my body and see how I feel. I’d like to have some gas left to open it up in the last few miles.

Given that in my three long training runs I’ve averaged around a 08:38 per mile pace, I’m setting my goal for today at 01:53:00. I’m often faster in a race than I am during training due to adrenaline and competitiveness, but again, I’ve never ran 13.1 miles before. I’m excited to see what I can do.

The training is complete. The work is done. Now it’s time to have fun and run. Four weeks down, one race to go.

Weeks 2 & 3 / Weeks 10 & 11 of Half Marathon Training

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The second and third weeks were fairly similar to the first. At this point (week 10 and 11) in the twelve week plan, I’ve maxed-out on the mid-week distances, so that has remained consistent. The biggest difference is the long run, which gets a little longer each week.

Week 2 / Week 10 — 21.9 miles

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were 5 miles, 3 miles and 5 miles respectively. Saturday was my long run at 8.6 miles. Add ’em all up and the weekly total came to just under 22 miles. I’m pretty proud of that considering most of the summer was running 5Ks four to five times a week. That’s about a seven mile jump when it comes to weekly total. Not too shabby.

Pacing remained a challenge. I’ve been kicking-off each run at an 08:30/mile pace. Within the first half-mile to a mile I keep finding myself below eight minutes. Even though I feel like I’m on pace, somehow I keep speeding-up to sub-eight minute miles. Sometimes I even find myself running eight minute splits at mile five. Even as the miles stack-up, the energy still seems to be there. I knew I’d need to maintain focus on this in week three.

Week 3 / Week 11 — 24.1 miles

I’d been looking forward to week three all month. This was the week I’d rack-up the most mileage before tapering during the last week before the race. I knew if I could make it through this week, I’d be prepared enough to tackle my first half marathon.

To accommodate some non-running activities, I switched-up my training schedule for the week. I ran my two five-miles on Tuesday and Thursday. My weekend would be spent celebrating homecoming at my alma mater, so I moved my long run to Friday morning and repurposed a 5K on Saturday for a training run.

Logging a few miles in a race environment proved valuable. Adrenaline is always high waiting for the race to start. It’s hard not trying to pass as many people as you can after crossing the start line. It was great practice trying to block all of that out and just run my own pace. I ran the first two miles at a 08:30 splits then turned around to find my other half, Jamie. I spotted her in a group of runners just a quarter mile back and we ran side by side for the rest of the race. I was super proud to be right there with her as we crossed the finish line!

Run 5K: Check! Time to celebrate homecoming!

Back to Friday’s long run. When I was contemplating this half marathon idea a few weeks back, I figured if I could run ten miles in a single outing, I’d be able to attempt 13.1 on race day. Well, this was it, my last long run. I was a little worried about hydration and energy, so I set-up a little aid station in my garage and then set out for a seven mile loop. Once back at the house I downed a gel and a few gulps of water. This was another component I wanted to practice at least once before race day – find out how my body would respond to nutrition while running. I took off down the driveway and knocked out another 3.3 miles. I was happy to find my body took the gel just fine. My stomach as good and I could feel just a minor energy boost. All-in-all, I ran 10.3 miles in 01:29:11 with an average 08:38 per mile split. I reached double digit mileage in a single outing. Lots to feel good about.

Well, that was interesting.

I also addressed my pacing challenge throughout the week by experimenting with a change in music. All summer I had been listening to high tempo mixes so I switched to some slightly lower tempo tunes. The slower beats calmed my mind, helping me cruise closer to my goal pace. I’m a little surprised I didn’t think if this sooner. Live and learn.

The week ahead

I made it to the peak of the training plan. Now I get to taper this week with a four, a three and a two mile run before taking two rest days before the main event. Three weeks down, one to go.

Week 1 / Week 9 of Half Marathon Training

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The first week of officially training for a half marathon is in the books. I was a little nervous about plugging into week nine of a twelve week plan. But 20.6 miles later, I’m feeling pretty good.

The week started out great. Sunday and Monday were much-needed rest days after Saturday’s TC5K. I had really let it rip during that race, setting a new PR of 21:12 with 06:50/mile splits. My legs needed those two days off.

Tuesday was my first of two five-milers. Looking back, I think I was a little too excited about this first training run. I paid no attention to pace and ran at my normal speed that I was used to. I completed 5.2 miles in 40:08, with 07:40 splits. I was pretty proud afterwards running that distance at a faster speed. But the next day, not so much. I had went too hard, too soon after a weekend race.

Wednesday was my three-mile run. My legs were sore from the day before. I was a little worried about hurting myself by running more, but I knew I wanted to stick to the plan. The three miles went by like a breeze, a slightly uncomfortable breeze.

Thursday was the other five-miler. Again, my legs were still sore. I was starting to get a little worried. But I knew I just needed to knock out this run and then I’d get a rest day. It was good practice for fighting what my brain wanted me to do: not run. Five miles later, I called it a day.

Friday was a rest day. And with the day-long rain, Saturday became a rest day too.

Then came Sunday — my first long run. At week nine of a twelve week plan, I would’ve been due for about nine miles. But since week nine was also my week one, I adjusted it to seven miles, with a plan to increase each of the remaining long runs by at least 1.5 miles each, hitting ten miles the week before the half marathon.

My legs felt fresh and I wanted to make the most of them. I set a goal to pace myself at 08:40 per mile splits. This turned out to be harder than I thought. A few blocks into the run, I felt like I had the pace down. But almost one mile into the run, my phone alerted me my current pace was at 07:45, almost one whole minute faster than I was aiming for. It became very evident pacing would be one of my biggest challenges as I transition from shorter to longer runs. Eventually I found a more relaxed stride and completed the 7.1 mile run in 1:01:49 with 08:36 splits. Not bad.

This first week was tough. It pushed me outside of the comfort zone, literally. My legs were sore most of the week. Changing pace added a new level of difficulty for me to focus on. But this is where growth happens. In just a short amount of time, I’m already gaining confidence that I can run longer distances.

One week down, three to go.