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.

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Picking up the Pace

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The last 20 days have been much more productive than the previous 50, which is a huge plus considering Trinona is tomorrow. Yep, my first triathlon of the season is less than 12 hours away. And unlike 20 days ago, I’m feeling ready.

The Last 20 Days

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The biggest news here is that I actually got back in the pool — something I hadn’t done in the 50 days prior. I knocked-out a few quality lap sessions at the gym and even worked-in an open water swim last weekend. I’m unsure of the water temp during that open water session, but the air temp was only 63°F, so that’s enough proof for me to reinforce how cold the Lake Zumbro water felt. My heart rate was spiked and my lungs were working extra — it was the solid kick in the butt that I needed one week before Trinona.

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Cycling took a backseat with the new focus on swimming and continued focus on running, but it didn’t go without a few strong rides. The highlight was a 29.3 mile ride around Lake Minnetonka and the surrounding area with two friends who are much stronger cyclists than I. They pushed me harder than I would’ve rode on my own. Again, exactly what I needed heading into tri season.

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The biggest change in running was the time of day I did it. I traded pounding the pavement under the afternoon sun for a 4:20am alarm to run under the fading moonlight, which opened-up time for cycling or swimming after work. The running highlight came just a few days ago, running 5.4 miles at a 07:05/mile pace during a rare afternoon run. That gave me a confidence boost for what I hope is a strong run tomorrow.

Trinona Preview

I’m hoping to make this my strongest Trinona performance yet. My times have gotten progressively better in each my previous three finishes at this event, including just missing the podium in my age group by 16 seconds last year. That’s left me hungry and wanting more for 2018.

While I had some gaps in my training over the last two months, I kept a fairly steady focus throughout the winter and wrapped-up the last 20 days on some high notes. Usually I’m a little nervous heading into a race, but for this one, I’m quite relaxed and more so just excited to compete. The fact that I’m not nervous started to make me nervous though. The nerves and fear push me harder, wanting to prove to myself that I can push through and overcome.

So to add that element of “can I do this?” back into the equation, I’m setting a more aggressive goal — to finish within 01:09:00. That’s more than four minutes faster than last year. It may not sound like much because last year I shaved almost 12 minutes off from 2016, but there was a big difference between training in those two years and even a new bike that helped shave a big chunk of time. Comparing 2017 to 2018, I’ll have the same equipment and not as drastic of a training increase.

My Trinona Time Comparison

Trinona 2014

Trinona 2016

Trinona 2017

Swim (0.25 miles)

00:11:29

00:09:27

00:08:19

T1

00:04:44

00:04:07

00:02:35

Bike (11 miles)

00:45:35

00:43:40

00:38:50

T2

00:01:21

00:01:07

00:00:57

Run (3.1 miles)

00:27:17

00:27:54

00:23:39

Total

01:30:25

01:26:13

01:14:19

The aggressive goal is putting some doubt back into my head. How can I shave off that much time? Well, let’s start with the run. I think I’m much faster at this point in the year than I was last year. If I can run close to seven-minute miles, I should be able to shave a minute and a half. Ok, I’m almost halfway there.

Transitions. T2 was awesome last year and hard to get much faster. So the pressure is on to keep that speed. T1 could use some improvement. I’d love to pull that under two minutes, which would save me another 30 seconds. I’ll need to really focus and not stumble after the swim while I gear-up for the bike ride.

I’ve gradually become a better swimmer each year and am feeling as comfortable as I ever have in the water. I’m guessing I’ll still have some level of a panic attack in the water, but I’m working hard to think those calm thoughts and stay focused. I’d love to clock a 07:30 swim time, which would shave almost another minute.

And then there’s the bike leg. That’s where there’s the most opportunity to pick-up speed. However, it’s the sport I’ve spent the least time training in. In order to get faster here I’m just going to have push hard. Plain and simple. That worries me a bit as I don’t want to burn up the legs too much before the run. But if I want to achieve this new goal, I need to be aggressive.

Really, overall, I need to push harder than ever before if I’m going to hit the 01:09:00 goal. That’s the beauty and fun of the sprint distance though – going all out from start to finish. I think this is an aggressive goal. But what’s the fun in achieving a goal if it’s too easy? Just setting this goal has pushed me back outside of my comfort zone. And I like that feeling. I’m back in the unknown, which is the perfect place to prove I’m capable of more than I’ve imagined.

So with all of this said. I think I’m ready. I’ve trained. I’ve picked-up my packet. Applied my stickers. Double-checked my gear. All that’s left is to relax, get some rest and wake-up tomorrow ready to give it all I’ve got.

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Race Recap: 2018 River to Ridge

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The first foot race of the season is under my belt. On May 19, I ran the River to Ridge five-mile race in LaCrosse, WI — finishing with a time of 00:37:46, which was good for third place in my age group (3/24) and fourth place overall (4/143).

The five-mile race starts on the banks of the Mississippi River, winds through swampy river bottoms and finishes with a 600+ ft climb up the bluffs to the top of Hixon Forest. Surfaces range from pavement and gravel to sandy spots and singletrack dirt trails, scattered with rocks and tree roots. Eyes and feet needed to move in synchronized fashion to avoid trips and falls.

I started the race near the front of the pack with the goal of having room to run. Within the first mile, separation of the leaders from the rest of the runners became quickly visible. I was hanging on at the back of the lead pack, somewhere in the top-ten. As each mile passed, I found myself gaining just a little more ground, not realizing how close I was to the front.

Somewhere about halfway through the third mile, the 600+ foot climb up the bluff began. This is where room to run faded for steep and narrow singletrack trails. It’s also where my quads began to feel the burn. But I kept plugging away, maintaining a steady pace — albeit a much slower pace than the sub-sevens I ran during the first three miles. I’d catch-up to a runner in front of me and battle the decision of “should I follow their heals and catch my breath, or should I squeeze past at the first glimpse of a wider section of trail?” I balanced somewhere in-between the two options, not realizing just how close I was to the front of the pack. I savored a few seconds to rest at a slightly easier pace, but then passed when the opportunity of a wider section of trail presented itself.

When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I still had a little in the tank. Not much, but some. That 600+ foot climb kicked my butt. I was amazed to find out I finished fourth overall. A true delight to finish so close to the front.

I’ve since wondered if I could’ve finished higher, especially knowing I was only five seconds behind third place and 14 seconds behind second place. What if I had been more aggressive on the climb? The what ifs are no game to play. Hindsight is 20-20. I ran my race, and I ran it hard. I never expected to finish as high as I did. It was a pleasant surprise and a proud accomplishment.

This was my second time competing in River to Ridge. The first in 2015, finishing with a time of 00:48:08. I skipped participation in 2016, making a morning-of decision due to cold, rainy conditions and I feared risking an injury just weeks before my first triathlon of the season. And then this year I finished in 00:37:46. Pretty wild to look back and see that I shaved almost 11 minutes off of my 2015 time. That’s more than two minutes per mile. Progress I’m oh so proud of.

The icing on the cake was getting to race this event with some great friends — friends that’ll also be racing the Trinona triathlon next weekend. I’m really looking forward to another weekend of laughter, banter and celebration with these guys. Cheers to that!

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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

Perception Shift

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Six weeks have already passed since completing the Minneapolis Triathlon. It’s been my longest gap between races this season, which has provided me a lot of time to train and reflect.

I’ve noticed a shift in how I view my status in the sport, and how I view my own ability. For those that already know me well this will not come as a surprise: I’m pretty hard on myself. I set high standards. And even when I achieve them, I often don’t give myself enough credit.

Take this blog for example. When I launched it last December, I set the description as “An aspiring triathlete’s thoughts and perspective.” Looking back, I can see how I sold myself short, giving myself minimal credit. I had completed four triathlons by the that point – one in 2014 and three in 2016. Yet I used the word “aspiring” like I hadn’t yet earned the title of triathlete. Maybe it was because even though I’d competed in races, I hadn’t done well enough yet (I’m not even sure what my “well enough” standard was). Or maybe I didn’t feel like I had competed in long enough distances.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I received the following comment from a fellow triathlete on my Minneapolis Triathlon Recap post: “Hate to break it to you, but you aren’t a “aspiring” triathlete anymore. You are a veteran working hard and making gains. You can smell the podium even at large scale events (which tells me that you will pick up a lot of AG podium hardware in the not so distant future) and you are looking at longer distances as well. Nicely done! Congrats on a great race!

Wow! At the time he wrote this, I had just completed the seventh sprint triathlon of my young career. I took second place in my age group at the Rochesterfest Triathlon a few weeks prior. I wasn’t far from age group contention at Minneapolis, a race that draws some strong competition. He was right – I was no longer an “aspiring” triathlete. I wasn’t trying to be one. I was one! It felt really good to hear it from someone who has completed long distance events, including Ironman Wisconsin. Confidence boosted.

I’ve also found myself answering questions and giving advice to not only friends, but also to athletes competing in their first ever triathlon. I remember my first event. I had no idea how to rack my bike, where to set-up my gear or what to bring down to the swim start. I had no idea about keeping my bike in a low gear for an easy start out of transition. I had no idea about a lot of things. That first race can be scary. It’s been a joy to share what I’ve learned and hopefully make someone else’s first race a little less overwhelming. Yeah, I guess that’s another sign I’ve become a veteran triathlete. Confidence boosted.

Most recently of all, I’ve pushed my limits in open water swimming and have noticed a change there too. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t speak too confidently about my swimming abilities. I often reference my fear and panic that sets-in just thinking about the swim. It certainly does not exude confidence. Last year, I doubted if I could do the half-mile swim at Minneapolis, but I did it and it felt amazing to prove the doubt in my brain wrong. Just a few weeks ago, I doubted I could make the almost three-quarter mile round trip across Lake Nokomis and back. But I did that too. I’m realizing I’m capable of more than I often tend to think I am. It’s been pretty sweet to see that perception shift. Confidence boosted.

Lake Nokomis

Lake Nokomis

These confidence boosts couldn’t come at a better time. The Chicago Triathlon is just a few days away. There’s a lot of unknowns in this one for me. I’ve never competed at this event so I’ll be seeing the course for the first time on race day. Swimming in Lake Michigan sounds like an animal of it’s own, but knowing it takes place behind a walled harbor calms my nerves a little. I don’t know where the elevation changes are on the bike course, so no knowledge on where to save my energy and where to push hard. The run course is not a complete loop so I’ll need to pay extra attention to my watch to keep tabs on pace and distance rather than looking across a lake to see where I am in comparison to the start.

While the unknown can be scary, it’s also exciting. The lakeside and iconic skyline views are sure to be beautiful. Reports are stating 7,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators are expected for Sunday’s events so the buzz and energy level is sure to be high. I’m really thankful for the opportunity to compete and take it all in this weekend. It’s going to be an epic adventure. I’m confident of that!

Winning the Mental Battle 

Open Swim

Sometimes challenges and tasks just seem too big. We tell ourselves we can’t do it. Sure, someone else certainly has the strength or courage to do it, but we do not. We build it up in our head to the point where it seems impossible. Those phrases are familiar in my mind. They’re dangerous and have the ability to doom a dream, idea or challenge before it ever begins.

“Our greatest battles are that with our own minds.” – Jameson Frank

Swimming continued to mess with my head over the last month or so. I can’t totally explain why, but it’s been a mental battle — a battle which begins before I even get in the water. Let’s take yesterday for example. I had a plan to attend Open Swim down at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, MN. The course runs about 1200 yards (or 0.70 miles) round trip across the lake and back. The furthest open water swim I’ve ever completed has been just under a half-mile. I started thinking it would be too long of a swim for me. I started running through all the what-ifs in my mind. The doubt kept increasing.

Once on the beach, I gazed out at the marked and life-guarded course as I began the long process that is putting on a wetsuit. For some reason, it looked doable. It wasn’t quite as scary as seeing the tetrahedrons out on the water the morning before a race. But I had already built it up in my head as being too difficult. I began making a plan b. Maybe I’d just swim halfway out and then come back. Yeah that would be safe. That was my plan.

I waded into the lake, dunked my body to adjust to water temperature, took a few breathes and started swimming. My body became weightless and enveloped by the water. I was surrounded by other swimmers, yet I still felt alone, in a peaceful way. I settled into a groove and was at the middle of the lake in what seemed like no time. This was where I had told myself I’d turn around. But I wasn’t tired. And I wanted more of this weightless, relaxing exercise. I kept swimming.

I progressed to the opposite shore and turned around for the return trip to the beach. I was completely relaxed yet actively engaged in swimming against a light wind current on the lake. How was I doing this? I’ve been much more tired while swimming shorter distances. I blocked these thoughts out of my mind the best I could, focusing on each stroke. The moment was very present. All that mattered was moving through the water with efficiency. I could analyze it all afterwards.

I stepped back on shore and looked back to see where I had been. Wow. I did it. I swam all the way across the lake and back. My confidence was sky-high. Earlier in the day I doubted my ability. Now I had completed what I thought I could not.

This didn’t cure my swimming fear, but it’s one more piece of evidence that I can use against my own brain in the future. I’m already looking forward to next week’s Open Swim night. This boost was just what I needed with only a few weeks to go until the Chicago Triathlon. A new race is sure to produce jitter and doubt. But now know I can handle a swim longer than what I’ll encounter on race day. It’s me against my brain.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we set fear aside, tune-out our own negative thoughts, push our limits and just believe in ourselves. Cheers to the next challenge!

Making Lemonade with Life’s Lemons

JoshBikingLong story short — my car was in the shop for most of the week for some unexpected repairs and I had to get a little creative on transportation in the interim.

Time constraints forced me to utilize ride-share services on the first morning. But after work I decided to ride my bike to the gym so I could jump in the pool and knock out some much needed laps. A relaxed pedal to the gym was the perfect opportunity to dust off my mountain bike, which was still outfitted with a pair of more road-friendly tires from races past. This was my first time on the saddle of the mountain bike since getting my first road bike earlier this year. I had almost forgotten how much fun this bike was to ride — the big comfortable frame and disc brakes that stop on a dime.

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Riding the ol’ mountain bike also made me realize just how much faster and lighter I am on my new road bike. It’s almost hard to imagine that I completed four triathlons on this bike. It’s heavy. The geometry isn’t the most aerodynamic. And most of all, you run out of gears way to fast. I’m really thankful to have a road bike this year.

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Anyhow, back to the gym. 32 laps are about equivalent to the .47 mile swim I’ll be tackling in the first leg of the Minneapolis Triathlon next weekend. So that’s what I did; I swam 32 consecutive laps and finished with a time of 00:14:52. Not bad. For perspective, last year I swam a 00:16:05 at Minneapolis. It’s really hard to compare pool swims to open water given the contrasting conditions, but as least I know I’m in the ballpark. I took a short break, swam eight more laps and called it a workout. It was a short one, but I was a little excited to jump back on the bike instead hopping into a car for the ride home. In a way, it was almost like mini brick workout, transitioning from one sport to the next. This one just had a longer transition time from pool to bike. Still good practice.

Sure, it was frustrating to be without a car for a few days. But that part was out of my control. The car needed repair and I needed to wait for the work to be completed. Rather than getting down about it, I found a way to get to the places I wanted to go and got to have some fun along the way. It was surprising how much joy was found in riding an old bike. And now I want to get the knobby tires back on it and hit some trails. Sometimes we can’t control what happens in life, but we can control how we react to it. We might even be surprised with what we find along the way.

Cheers to the glass being half full.

Trinona: Flashing Back & Racing Ahead

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Looking ahead to my third Trinona this Sunday, I thought it would be good to look back at my previous two times and set an overall goal.

Trinona 2014

Trinona 2016

Swim

11:29

9:27

T1

4:44

4:07

Bike

45m 35s

43m 40s

T2

1:21

1:07

Run

27m 17s

27m 54s

Total

1:30:25

1:26:13

My Previous Trinona Times

In 2016, I beat my 2014 time by a little more than four minutes. I was really proud about that. Here’s how I did it:

  1. First, I actually practiced swimming. In 2014, the first time I got in the water was about three days before the race. Bad idea. Especially for my first ever triathlon. Growing up in swimming lessons and on the river, I overestimated my swimming skills. In 2016, I went to the gym and swam laps two days per week for a about five weeks before the race. Not a ton of practice, but a lot more than in 2014. Considering the two-minute improvement, I’d say it paid off.
  2. Transition times. Definitely better in 2016. Interestingly enough, I added a wetsuit in 2016, which one would think would slow a person down trying to get the darn thing off after the swim. Somehow, I was still faster with that added task than with not having one in 2014. I’ll chalk that up to having a year of experience in knowing what to expect in transition.
  3. I think I practiced cycling less in 2016 than in 2014, but overall I had an increased exercise regimen overall which contributed to more cycling speed and efficiency. I also knew a little more of what to expect having one year of Trinona under my belt.
  4. My run time was slower in 2016 than in 2014. I’m really not sure why. I made running a focus both years. It seemed like an obvious to focus on to build endurance. Nonetheless, I was slower in 2016. No good reason here folks.

Looking ahead to this year, I tried to identify areas of strength and weakness to determine a goal:

  1. Swimming: Much like last year, I’ve practiced swimming leading up to this year’s race. The consistency has been a little more spread out with only about seven to eight swims over the last two months, including one open water swim, but looking at times in the pool, I think I’ve at least maintained my pace from last year. I also feel a little more comfortable in the water, which should help from a mental standpoint.
  2. Transitions: I might skip the wetsuit, pending water temperatures. This should save on transition time for sure. I’m also wearing my tri top during the swim, with or without the wetsuit, which will eliminate the need to put it on during transition, again saving time. I think there a few places to improve here over last year. However, if it’s cold, I may wear the suit. Either way, I’m going to keep urgency top of mind in T1 and T2.
  3. Bicycle: I have a road bike this year. It’s lighter and geared faster than the mountain bike I used the last two Trinonas. This is where I think I can improve the most. I’m hoping to increase my average speed by at least 3 mph and shave multiple minutes off of my previous bikes times. A lot to be optimistic about here.
  4. Running: I’ve kept-up on running to some extent throughout the offseason. Over the winter, against my personal surface preference, I knocked-out runs on a treadmill. I got back to running outside early in the season due to favorable weather. I also ran one 5K this spring, averaging seven-and-a-half-minute miles. With that said, I’m hoping that after swimming and biking, I can improve upon my nine-minute miles from 2016. I’d love to drop down to around eight minute miles, which could save me three total minutes over last year. I ran sub-eight minute miles in both the MPLS Tri and Maple Grove Tri last summer, so this is certainly realistic.

Overall, in 2014 and 2016, I was starting from scratch at the beginning of the year. I hadn’t been training prior to registering for Trinona those years. Heck, in 2014, I had never even ran a 5K before. I just jumped right in to triathlon.

This year, I’ve tried to keep up on conditioning since completing the Maple Grove Triathon in August 2016. Sure, the training wasn’t quite as consistent as I thought it would be at the end of last year, but it was there nonetheless. With one three-race season of experience under my belt, and solid training efforts this spring, I think there’s much room to be optimistic.

Given my improved swimming confidence, ideas to reduce transition time, new bicycle and running optimism, I’m setting my goal for Trinona 2017 at one hour and seventeen minutes (1:17:00). That’s more than nine minutes faster than last year. That’s a pretty big improvement if achieved. Maybe even lofty. But I think it can be done. This is the first tri season where I’m not starting from scratch. I have a base built up from last year, and I’ve added to it with training this spring.

The goal is driven partly by data and realistic opportunity, but it’s also driven by a gut feeling. I think I can do it. So with just a couple days to go to race day, cheers to setting goals and busting ass to achieve them. Cheers indeed fellow triathletes. Let’s go get ’em this weekend!

Return to Open Water

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I’ll admit it; I kind of freaked out. My first open water swim of the year had a bumpy start.

I crawled down the dock ladder into the water and immediately tensed-up as chills ran through my body. Sure, it’s finally summer here in Minnesota, but the lakes are still a bit chilly. I was wearing a wetsuit, but the water was pretty cold. I turned towards the lake, put my head down, took a couple strokes and that’s when I kind of freaked out.

I’ve been back to the gym over the last month swimming in the lap pool, but it’s been about nine months since my last swim in a lake. I had somehow forgotten that once your head goes under the lake water, you really can’t see much. The unknown felt confining. Combine that lack of vision with the cold water temperature and I immediately thought, “What the heck am I doing out here? What if I can’t do this anymore?”

For those that know me well, I can sometimes be a little dramatic about things, even jumping to the extreme end of a conclusion like I did in the water. I didn’t quit though. I treaded water, caught my breath and swam a couple 30-40 yard laps in the bay. I found a groove and knocked out 16 laps total, including eight without the wetsuit. I had never swam while wearing my tri top before and wanted to know how that felt without the suit before Trinona, my first race of the season.

I’ve struggled getting the compression tri tanks on during transition. They’re tight and get bunched up when I pull it over my shoulders. Plus I’m dripping water, tired and short of breath after the swim, which I’m sure adds to the dressing awkwardness. This year, I thought it would be nice to skip that part and just be dressed before I swim, like most other triathletes do. Heck, that’s what the tri outfits are meant for. I’ve just never done it that way before – just shorts for the swim and then the top for biking and running. So now I’ve tried it and I know what it’ll feel like on race day (always a bad idea to try something for the first time on race day). The lack of warmth without the wetsuit was very noticeable though.

I’ve also been contemplating skipping the wetsuit for Trinona since the swim is a shorter one (0.25 miles) and it would save me a good chunk of time in the first transition. However, that genius idea was before jumping in the lake yesterday. Feeling those shivers all through my body is giving me second thoughts. I’ll wait to hear the race day water temperature before making that call, but at least I have the option.

All in all, it was a good day in the lake. I’m glad I got that open water refresher before my first triathlon of the season this weekend. The limited visibility really messed with my head, but the rest of the swim was much smoother after finding a calm and settling into a groove. That calm will be much needed on race day!

TreadingWater

All smiles after the swim.