Ending the Laps Lapse

20170516_220454

Swimming. I’m always amazed by triathletes who feel it’s not the most difficult leg of a race. Open-water swimming is an animal of it’s own, but then add in a hundred other swimmers around you, who you may or may not accidentally swim into, or who may or may not accidentally swim over you or grab your leg, and you have what I like to call organized chaos. But it’s really not all that bad either. It’s kind of a rush. It’s an obstacle that once completed, you know it should be downhill from there, in a good way.

This month, I finally got back in the pool after a few months off. I never planned to take that much time away from swimming, but that’s usually what happens anytime you say you’re going to take a break from a routine. You see, I’m not a great swimmer. Sure, I know the basics of swimming. My parents had me in swimming lessons as soon as I was old enough. And I grew-up spending my weekends on the Mississippi River. But now that I’m trying to be somewhat competitive, I realize I still have some work to do.

Last summer, I got into a habit of swimming at least twice a week – and it really helped me prepare for the triathlons I did. Last May, I could barely swim more than eight laps before feeling exhausted and needing a break (the .25 mile swim at Trinona is equal to about 16 laps in a lap pool). I got a little better with each swim practice, swimming a few more laps each time without a break, and was ultimately able to make my way through Trinona ok. I was exhausted when I got out of the water, but I made it through.

I stuck with the twice-a-week practices. I mean, I had to, especially knowing the MPLS Tri sprint distance was .47 miles, almost twice that of Trinona. It would be my longest swim yet. Somehow, during the swim leg of the MPLS Tri, I became comfortable keeping my head under water and using rythmic breathing. Somehow, someway, something just clicked. Not only did I feel more confident in my ability, but I also noticed I was swimming more efficiently than with my previous doggy-paddle form. This was a turning point. I was getting faster and more comfortable with the distance. Oh, and using a wetsuit didn’t hurt either. The buoyancy gave me the mental piece of mind that helped me relax in the water. I realized open water swimming was something I could actually do and not be scared of.

At the end of the year, I told myself I was going to keep that swimming routine and be an even better swimmer this year – never letting up. Well, as I already mentioned, that routine fell off.  But I’m back at it. A few weeks ago I went for my first swim since October and was pleasantly surprised to knockout 32 laps (just a tad longer than .47 miles) in about 15 minutes without a rest. I didn’t lose much of a step, which was quite a relief. I took a short break and then swam eight more laps just for good measure, making the total distance 1,000 meters, or the length of a football field just under eleven times.

I’ve been back to the pool a few more times since. Realizing that my first race of the year is only three weeks away, it’s definitely time to step it up a notch. Or a couple notches for that matter.

What are most focused on heading into tri season?

 

 

Race Recap: 2017 Get in Gear 5K

Note to self: remember to drink water the morning before a race. I had no problem crushing some peanut butter toast and a cup of coffee when I woke up. But water, that I forgot. 

Don’t worry, I eventually remembered the water thing about a half-mile into the race when my right calf cramped up. That’s when I said, “Oh yeah, now I remember what I was supposed to do: hydrate.” By then, it was too late. Besides, I knew the only water I’d get would be post-race. The stiff cramp tagged along for the rest of the run, but I did a pretty good job of using mind power to block it out and power through to the finish line. 

The Get in Gear 5K takes place at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN. The views there are beuatiful. And once you break away into the course, the surrounding neighborhood is quite pleasant too. 

I was extremely happy with my results. And quite surprised too given the stiff leg. I guess it’s another reminder that when you want to achieve something, stick with it and power through. That’s a pretty solid thought heading into tri season. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.10 miles
  • Total time: 23:15
  • Average pace: 7:29/mile
  • Overall place: 67 out of 1425

The Need for Speed

NewBike

As someone who’s not the strongest of swimmers, the bike leg of a triathlon is a perfect opportunity for me to make-up some time and build momentum. I’m even more excited about that possibility now that, thanks to my dad, I’ve added a road bike to my race day gear.

Last year, I completed all three triathlons using my mountain bike. Sure, I swapped out the knobby tires for thinner, smooth road tires to reduce rolling resistance. But I could still only go so fast. I felt like I knocked out some respectable bike times, averaging over 17mph in two of the tree races. But I vividly remember being maxed-out on gears and pedaling as hard as I could, hitting about 19mph max on smooth straightaways, and getting passed by guys on road bikes going so fast that I felt like I was standing still. There was literally nothing more I could do. I was going as fast as I possibly could.

Split Time Split Pace Distance
Trinona

43m 40s

15.12 mph 11 miles
MPLS Tri

51m 4s

17.63 mph 15 miles
Maple Grove Tri

37m 58s

17.39 mph 11.5 miles

Bike times from my three 2016 triathlons

Excited turn the pedals and shift some gears, I took the new bike out for its maiden voyage last weekend and boy was it a night and day difference from my mountain bike. I was hitting 17mph with a steady pedal. I continued pushing, reaching 19mph, realizing I still had a couple gears left. Reaching 21mph on a smooth straightaway was a joy. Then maybe a little more scary, mixed with fun, was speeding 32mph down a winding hill. Don’g get me wrong, flying down the hill was a thrill, but I was still getting used to the caliper brakes. The mountain bike I had rode for years to had disc brakes that stopped on a dime. The caliper pads on the new ride still needed to be broken-in. But all went well. The 14 mile ride was over before I knew it. The first ride was a success.

I’m pumped about the possibilities this bike will bring this year. It’s light. It’s geared for faster speeds. The tires are thinner and capable of holding higher air pressures. I should definitely see some improvements in my times.

But I also know that equipment can only take you so far. And Trinona is only a little more than six weeks away. Time to get back to training!

 

My Stretching Partner and I

JoshNellie

I’m certainly no expert on stretching, but one of my favorite ways to keep the legs moving after a good run is going for a walk with my dogs. It’s hard to want to do much of anything on tired legs. It’s also hard to resist a dog’s stare and wagging tail that greets you when you walk in the door. After tonight’s run, my dog Nellie and I went for walk, which helped her stretch her legs after a day in the house and it helped me stretch mine too.  It was a win-win really!

Spring has sprung here in Minnesota and the warmer weather is certainly welcomed for spending more time outside. I’ve been able to get three good workouts in during the last five days – two outdoor runs and a brick on a rainy day at the gym.

You might be wondering what exactly a brick is. In triathlon talk, a brick is where you practice two of sport’s three activities in succession to help prepare not only your muscles but also your mind for that weird feeling you get transitioning during a race. For example, after biking many miles, your legs are quite confused when you hop off the bike, rack it in transition, and immediately start running. It’s definitely a challenge to run when all your legs want to do is pedal circles. I can remember each of my T2 transitions from last year’s races. If I didn’t have my bike to lean as I jogged it back to the rack, I probably would’ve tumbled immediately after the dismount line. So, with all that being said, I spent 35 minutes on the bike at the gym and immediately went into a ten-minute run on the treadmill. My legs felt surprisingly good making transition, but then again, the gym bikes aren’t quite like the real bikes one would ride outside and the treadmill isn’t quite like actually running. It still makes for good training though, I hope!

Here’s the details on my two recent outdoor runs:

Monday

  • Distance: 3.04 miles
  • Total time: 24:40
  • Average pace: 8:07/mile

Friday

  • Distance: 2.90 miles
  • Total time: 23:17
  • Average pace: 8:02/mile

I’m quickly approaching a sub eight-minute mile and not far off of the seven-and-a-half-minute miles I averaged during last fall’s training runs. For further context, at this time last year, I don’t think I had even started running yet. Looking back in my Nike+ Run Club app (that app wails by the way!), my first run of 2016 was at the end of April with nine-minute-plus miles. I used to think keeping track of all these running activities might be silly, but now I see the value in being able to track progress. Luckily the app makes the tracking part easy.

Trinona is only nine weeks away. I’m happy to be ahead of the game compared to last year. I also know now that April is here, it’s time to pick up the pace. My goal for next week: get back in the pool!

Reasons to Smile

Today’s outdoor run was my first in about three weeks. A few things contributed to the lapse: catching a cold that knocked me down for a bit, the weather changed back to normal Minnesota winter conditions and then just tackling the mental battle to get back to it again. Outside of the week of being sick, I was still able to stay active, but it was in the gym doing cycling classes and general strength training versus running outside. As the weather warms, I hope to get back to running five times per week. I also need to get back into the pool, but that’s another blog post.

Back to today’s run. The sun was shining, making it look warmer than the 34° F air temperature felt. I got a stomach cramp less than a quarter-mile in, but I’m blaming that on the granola bar I shouldn’t have ate just minutes before leaving the house. I also took a slight detour about halfway through the run to descend down a side trail and run straight back up it (200 feet ascent in about a quarter-mile distance). I thought the climb would wear me out for the rest of the run, but it actually felt like it was getting easier after leveling out. It was fun.

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.30 miles
  • Total time: 27:34
  • Average pace: 8:21/mile

The last few days have been humbling. A few more generous donations were made to my Team Save the Children fundraiser, bringing my total to $851. When I signed-up for the team back in December, I was nervous if I’d meet the $500 fundraising minimum before the race in July. Now we’re on pace to double that – making an even bigger impact in the lives of children around the world that urgently need help. The support from friends, family and people who I’ve never even met has been truly amazing. I hope to make them all very proud on race day!

Helping Girls Grow into Bold, Empowered Women

17191431_10155961530748065_5218325255302616270_n

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to raise awareness and honor the movement for a more inclusive and gender equal world. As I reflected on the day, I was reminded of the amazing work of Save the Children and how they’re helping girls grow into bold, empowered women.

In the photo above, 11-year-old Sarawati from Nepal tells Save the Children she wants to run an NGO when she grows up. She attends a meeting at the children’s club where Save the Children advocates for child rights and against child marriages. With support from the government and local partners, they educate and raise awareness to end child marriages so girls like Sarawati can stay in school and follow their dreams.

Hearing stories like Sarawati’s make me so proud to be a part of Team Save the Children for this summer’s LifeTime Tri Minneapolis Triathlon. I know the funds that we raise are going to help make a positive impact in the lives of children around the world. This has me motivated to keep adding to my fundraising total between now and race day. And when race day comes, I’ll be extra motivated to make my supporters proud, knowing that together we’re making a difference.

To make a donation, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

*Photo and Sarawati’s story provided by Save the Children

Another Warm Winter Run

Warm winter. The two words contradict eachother. But for this Minnesotan, especially in February, they make for a welcome surprise.

I’ve never been a big fan of treadmills. Don’t get me wrong, I like the off-season opportunities they provide for cardio, but the experience just isn’t the same as actually running. Its really just knowing when and how quickly to lift your feet versus actually propelling yourself to a destination.

This morning I woke up to temperatures already pushing 40°F. I had to check my phone twice to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was a great day to lace up the running shoes and hit the pavement. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 2.94 miles
  • Total time: 24:22
  • Average pace: 8:16/mile

I’m thankful to be completing comfortable outdoor runs this early in the year. Last year, I didn’t start running until late April. Looking back through my Nike+ Run Club app, I was at a 9:06/mile average pace on that first run – almost one minute slower than today’s pace. 

Now I’m excited for what this two-month head start on training will bring. It feels good to be ahead of the game.

First Outdoor Run of the Year

Minnesota winters don’t always lend themselves well to running. Well, unless you like running on snow and ice in sometimes sub-zero temps. But today was a different story. With 40°+ temperatures, the conditions were great for a run under a setting sun. 

I jumped at the opportunity for my first non-treadmill run of the year. The ice that once covered the paths and sidewalks was mostly melted away, leaving just a few puddles to dodge, jump over or be a kid again and splash right through. And the fresh air was, well, a breath of fresh air. It was just good to be outside. 

Here’s the details:

  • Distance: 3.06 miles 
  • Total time: 25:19
  • Average pace: 8:19/mile

I was pleased to see I hadn’t lost too much of a step from where I left off in the fall. For most training runs last year, I had averaged around a 7:45 pace. Certainly some work to do. But hey, it’s only February! 

Oh, and the highlight besides being outside: getting to spend some more time listening to Run the Jewels’ RTJ3 album. They’ll definitely be a part of my running playlists this summer.

My 2017 Triathlon Season Preview

josh_2017_preview

At this time last year, the idea of doing a triathlon wasn’t much more than a fleeting thought. Almost three more months would pass before registering for my first race of 2016. Things are different this year. My 2017 triathlon schedule is set and I’m pretty excited about it.

I’m kicking-off the season at Trinona, the race where it all began for me. In 2010, my wife and I volunteered on Trinona’s green team, helping sort recyclables and compost. This was my first exposure to the sport and it had me dreaming of tackling the race some day. In 2014, I completed my first triathlon at Trinona. The sense of accomplishment after crossing the finish line was like nothing I’d experienced before, proving to myself that I was capable of something I’d doubted I could do. In 2016, I raced Trinona again, sparking a love for the sport and completions of two more races that summer. This year, I’m looking forward to having two close friends participating in this race too. I’m sure lots of camaraderie and friendly jeering will enjoyed before, during and after the event.

Next up for 2017 is the LifeTime Tri Minneapolis. This one will be special because I’m not just racing racing for myself. I joined Team Save the Children for two reasons: to raise awareness about worldwide hunger and poverty and its affect on children – and to do so while honoring the memory of Olivia Ann Christiano. I get goosebumps just thinking about this race. I pledged to raising at least $500. Thanks to the contributions from family, friends and some very generous people who I’ve never met, I’ve already exceeded that goal. But I’m not stopping there. Between now and race day, I want to keep adding to that fundraising total. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of children throughout the world. If you’d like to contribute, please visit my personal fundraising page here.

In August, I’ll be tackling my most adventurous event yet – the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon. Adventurous is open to interpretation, but traveling out of state for a race, and the thought of swimming in Lake Michigan, both say “adventure” to me. This will also be the largest event I’ve competed in. For a comparison, last year’s Minneapolis Tri Sprint race had 641 participants; Chicago’s had 2,237. Biking and running along the lake shore and through downtown Chicago will provide some spectacular views. Plus, celebrating with a slice of deep dish pizza sounds like the perfect prize.

Setting the race schedule felt like an accomplishment in itself. But now the real work of training becomes the focus. I’m just happy that this year, I’ve planned ahead and allowed plenty of time to prepare for the season – a season with a lot to look forward to.

Humbled by Support, Excited for Impact

progresspost-image

Just a few short weeks ago, I joined Team Save the Children for the 2017 Minneapolis Triathlon as a way to raise awareness about worldwide hunger and poverty, and its impact on children — all while honoring the memory of Olivia Ann Christiano. In a very short amount of time, thanks to the contributions from family, friends and some very generous people who I’ve never met, I’ve exceeded my $500 fundraising goal.

The support has been humbling. What started as an idea of making a difference has quickly become reality. The donations will help Save the Children provide clothes, nourishment, health care, education and safety for children in areas of crisis or emergency. Here’s a quick recap of what they accomplished in 2016:

I’m excited about the positive impact we can make together in 2017. Over the next six months, I’ll be working hard, training and preparing for race day –  a day which I hope to make my supporters proud. And while my fundraising goal has been reached, I don’t want it to stop there. I want to keep adding to that fundraising total between now and race day. Each donation will help Save the Children implement programs and provide support to communities around the globe that urgently need help.

To make a contribution, please visit my fundraising page.