Race Recap: Turtleman Triathlon 2018

Josh Finish Line

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

Pre-Race

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

Swim

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

Josh Swim Exit

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

Bike

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

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

Josh Bike

Rolling with the punches.

Run

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

Results

My Turtleman 2018 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (1.1 miles)

00:33:44

4/17

21/89

T1

00:02:28

Bike (25 miles)

01:20:17

16.10 mi/hr

13/17

53/89

T2

00:01:54

Run (5 miles)

00:36:18

07:16 min/mile

3/17

9/89

Total

02:34:39

7/17

25/89

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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Race Recap: Minneapolis Triathlon 2018

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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The dividends of hard work and continuous effort.

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!

Race Recap: Minneapolis Triathlon

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It was the strongest and most meaningful performance of my young triathlon career. I finished with a time of 01:27:38, beating last year’s time by more than eleven minutes. I represented Team Save the Children, connecting my race efforts to a worthy cause. And it was all in honor of Olivia Ann Christiano.

Before the race

I knew it was going to be a special day. It was the culmination of months of fundraising for Save the Children, totaling $1,420 that will make life a little better for kiddos somewhere in the world. I was surrounded by family and friends, including Robbie and Alisha. I had joined Team Save the Children just seven months prior as a way to honor the memory of their daughter.

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This race was different than the others because, for this race, my body was a vehicle carrying a much larger message.

My emotions ran the gamut as I stood on the beach of Lake Nokomis, waiting for my wave to be called. I was anxious to get started. I was thankful knowing my friends and family were there to cheer. I was tearful knowing that Olivia was not, but at the same time, was inspired to be honoring her. I felt a lot of pride representing Team Save the Children. I was excited to compete.

Before I knew it, I was standing on the lake’s edge in front of a race official, our knuckles bumped together. Then he dropped his fist as he said, “Go!” and I dashed into the water. The race was on.

The Race

My goal was to finish in 01:30:00, which would’ve been almost nine minutes faster than 2016. That was a big chunk to cut off. I surprised myself, finishing the race in 01:27:38 — beating my goal by almost two and a half minutes, and beating last year’s time by eleven.

My MPLS 2017 Results

Split

Split Pace

Age Rank

Overall Rank

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:15:36

02:04 min/100m

9/27

131/539

T1

00:03:01

6/27

140/539

Bike (14.8 miles)

00:44:52

19.79 mi/hr

16/27

222/539

T2

00:00:59

1/27

6/539

Run (3.1 miles)

00:23:12

07:29 min/mile

8/27

75/539

Total

01:27:38

8/27

107/539

At 0.47 miles, the swim was almost twice the distance of the 0.25 milers of Trinona and Rochesterfest. Fortunately the water temperature measured 76°F on race morning, just two degrees below the limit for a wetsuit legal swim. Having the extra buoyancy of the suit gave me the peace of mind I needed to tackle the longer swim. Overall, I was pleased with my effort in the water. Sure, I still needed a few breaks from the freestyle to breast stroke, catch my breath, and regain bearings and composure, but even during those breaks I maintained focus on forward progress instead of treading water. The swim is still a hurdle for me (mostly mental), but with each race I become more comfortable and see more improvements in pace and time. I was a half-minute faster than last year.

Out of the water

I was pretty tired when I stepped back onto land, but I was quickly re-energized knowing the hardest part was over. I ran up the chute into transition, slipped out of my wetsuit, laced up my shoes, slapped on my helmet and shades, grabbed my bike and headed towards the bike exit. I shaved almost two full minutes off my T1 time from last year. I think I’m getting this transition efficiency thing down!

The bike leg was smooth sailing. Almost the entire length of the course contains new blacktop, which provides a lot of opportunity for higher speed. I passed a handful of people and got passed by a handful of other riders. It was rather uneventful. Just a 00:44:52 pedal grind. Looking back at that time, and seeing where it ranked against the field, I’m realizing that cycling is where I could use the most improvement. Every other category stayed within the top 140, but cycling, I ranked 222/537. It certainly makes sense given it’s the sport I train the least in of the three. Guess it’s time to reassess training efforts!

The second transition was a breeze. I racked my bike, removed my helmet, ran towards the run exit and was on the course in less than a minute. Much of that super fast T2 time can be attributed to me not changing shoes. My bike still has the stock platform pedals and I wear my running shoes for the last two legs. Eventually I should upgrade to clip-in pedals to maximize cycling power. Whatever time would be lost in swapping shoes would surely be made up for with a faster bike time.

Josh Running

I have to admit, I was feeling a little tired when I embarked on the run. My legs were gassed from grinding it out on the bike. I had been pedaling hard. But I kept with it. I kept repeating a running quote in my head: “Tough runs don’t last; tough runners do.” Looking across the lake and seeing how far away the finish line is can mess with your head. I tried to simplify the run into smaller increments. I kept my eyes on the person in front of me and tried to pass him or her. Then I set my sights on the next person. And again and again. That kept my mind distracted from the remaining distance. It worked. I had another strong run at 00:23:12 (07:29 per mile pace). The run has become my strong point all year and it feels pretty good to have that to rely on at the end.

Finish

My MPLS Tri Time Comparison

MPLS Tri 2016

MPLS Tri 2017

Swim (0.47 miles)

00:16:05

00:15:36

T1

00:04:47

00:03:01

Bike (14.58 miles)

00:51:04

00:44:52

T2

00:02:39

00:00:59

Run (3.1 miles)

00:24:11

00:23:12

Total

01:38:44

01:27:38

Reflection

This was the seventh triathlon of my career and by far the performance I’m most proud of. Physically, it’s probably my strongest performance to date. I crushed last year’s time. I finished eighth in my age group, which means only five people stood between me and the podium. That’s pretty cool to think about given the level of competition at this race. I’m trending in the right direction.

Sporting the Team Save the Children gear was a pride point of the weekend. It was truly an honor to represent an organization that in making a difference in the lives of kiddos around the globe each and every day. I thought about the important work they do throughout the race and that helped me keep things in perspective, and keep trucking along. I’m so thankful to everyone that donated to my personal fundraising campaign. Together, we helped make a difference in the lives of children somewhere in the world, who will now have a little better life because of our efforts and contributions. Thank you.

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And most of all, it was really special to do this in honor of Olivia. I thought about her throughout the race. My emotions were up and down, but they reminded me to keep going. I still remember the day I heard she left us so soon — I had no idea what to say to my dear friends Robbie and Alisha. I said I was sorry and I was here for them in any way I could be. But there really was nothing I could say to ease the pain. There was, however, something I could do to honor her and joining Team Save the Children for the Minneapolis Triathlon was it. Her memory lives on through the lives of the children positively impacted by the Save the Children donations. Every dollar raised, every swim stroke, every pedal, every step — it was for Olivia and her family. Robbie and Alisha, I love you guys.

This race will always be near and dear to my heart.