The Determined Zwift Badge Hunter

Josh Hageman currently has 143 known Zwift badges to his name and is ready for any new ones to come. Among them, he's run a sub 5 minute mile on Zwift (Olympian), climbed 29,029 feet in one ride (Everested!), ran a marathon (Going the Distance), pushed over 1200 watts (1.21 Gigawatts), managed to hit 100kph (100KPH!), and grabbed all the route badges. But while this former Marine considers himself a Zwift addict he has had many other adventures and plenty of other ideas for unique challenges - including but not limited to Norseman.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Josh.

Josh Hageman: Thank you, it really is exciting and an honor to be interviewed by you for Slowtwitch!

ST: Is there any challenge or race you are currently getting ready for?

Josh: Right now, it’s Ironman Lake Placid that is the primary focus for the 2021 race season, whatever that may look like. Cautious optimism and training like it’s going to happen. I also just signed on to do an endurance type event for charity, so I’ll be running 2.2 miles every hour for 22 hours on Feb 22nd in an effort to fundraise and bring awareness to the issue and staggering statistics of veteran suicide. I’m a veteran of the Marine Corps and these causes are very meaningful, so when I was asked just last week to consider doing this, it’s an easy yes.

ST: Talk about your military background.

Josh: I enlisted in the Marines in 1997 and spent my first two years learning Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Following that, I was stationed in Kaneohe Bay, HI and was a member of the Radio Reconnaissance Platoon, which is a small unit which specializes in tactical signals intelligence collection. I had a number of great opportunities there, to include some incredible training and am a proud graduate of Marine Recon course, Army Ranger school, Navy SERE school, and Army Airborne school, among others and served an overseas deployment on the 11th MEU(SOC) in 2002. I left the Marine Corps in 2003 to pursue my college education in Middle East Studies and later moved to Washington, DC to work in the federal government.

ST: Well thank you for your service both in the military and the federal government.

Josh: My pleasure, and I’m grateful for those who have and continue to serve as well.

ST: You are mostly a stay at home dad these days. Is that a fair statement?

Josh: Certainly, as much as we all are to varying degree these days, yes! A few years ago, I left my government job to be a stay at home dad and manage the schedule demands of our two daughters who are now in elementary school. My wife has been an executive in the hospitality industry and her work required a fair amount of travel and we are fortunate to be able to balance the career with family demands in that respect.

ST: Are your kids remote schooling or are they going to school in person?

Josh: They have been doing all of their schooling remotely and have adjusted incredibly well, all things considered. We’ll never be able to say “you have too much screen time” to them again!

ST: What is the word where you are for them to return in person?

Josh: We are in the public school system in the Northern Virginia suburbs and as of right now, there is no set date for an in-person return to school. However, teachers in our district are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, so that’s a very positive step towards a responsible return to school.

ST: Someone in the forum mentioned that you have been a Zwift badge hunter. How did that start or what inspired you to chase the carrot?

Josh: I am definitely a self-confessed Zwift addict. I started on the platform just over 3 years ago and I found the gamification to be very motivating. An early goal was getting that Zwift Tron bike, so I’d go do repeats up the Epic KOM and Radio Tower and unlocked the Tron bike in a few months. Of course, shortly afterwards they introduced the Alpe du Zwift and a number of other badges, and Zwifters discovering some in-game hidden extra credit badges like Liftoff and Everested, so the hunt was on! With the introduction of Zwift Run in 2018 that opened up a whole new set of achievement badges and of course all the route badges has now brought the total number to 143 *known* achievement badges between cycling, running and extra credit. I’m happy to say I have them all, at least for the time being.

ST: Which one was the hardest badge for you to grab and what was it that made it hard?

Josh: Certainly the Everesting badge (29,029 ft of climbing in one activity) was a huge challenge. Although it’s possible in the game to keep an activity open indefinitely and accumulate the elevation to unlock the badge, I opted to keep it in the spirit of the challenge and followed the official Hell’s 500 rules for virtual Everesting in that it has to be repeats on one hill in one activity without sleep. My local tri shop was very kind and hosted me in the store for the entire event which was very helpful for motivation and positive distractions to have people coming in and chatting throughout the day!

ST: When Zwift brings out new routes and worlds do you then have to immediately hunt them down?

Josh: Absolutely. Just a couple weeks ago there were four new route badges added, so naturally I had to jump on and knock those out ASAP! I recognize that I may have a problem.

ST: What is your workout space at home like and can you describe it in detail?

Josh: We have a guest bedroom in the basement that we have completely remade into a workout room. My wife is also a triathlete, so we each have our bikes mounted on our own Saris Hammer smart trainers, a Sole S77 treadmill, and I typically run Zwift on a laptop or iPad on the Wahoo desk and use the wall mounted TV with the AppleTV to watch shows or movies. If I’m leading a group workout or meetup or doing a race, I’ll run Zwift on the TV so I can focus more on the action. I use a Stryd footpod for my treadmill running and it’s been rock solid for connecting via Bluetooth for over 1600 miles of Zwift running. We also have a TRX mount on the ceiling for swim stretch cord workouts, and recently added a Vasa trainer to the mix as well, based on some great info from the ST forum!

ST: But you are not just a Zwifter obviously. You raced in Kona in 2019 after qualifying in 2018 in Louisville. And have done a variety of other triathlons and ultra runs.

Josh: Louisville was a cold and wet race the entire day, and during the race I had no idea how I was faring against my competition. It wasn’t until after the race when I was in the food tent with my morning clothes bag in my hand and my phone started ringing and it was my wife telling me I came in 4th in my age group, which turned out to be enough for a Kona slot! I’ve enjoyed a number of other challenges also and have completed the 2016 USA Ultra Triathlon Triple Anvil which is a 7.8 mile swim, 336 mile bike, and 78.6 mile run. I’ve also had the opportunity to do the Barkley Fall Classic 50k twice, including an invitation to the 2020 event where the course was a double Rat Jaw ascent. Two weeks after Louisville I had a last minute opportunity come up where I ran 14 hours on a treadmill in Brooklyn during NYC marathon weekend for a promotion for Jaybird headphones- that was an epic experience and I covered just over 100k on the treadmill that day!

ST: I believe your 2019 Kona race did not go as planned. Talk about that.

Josh: In the respect that the goal for my first trip to Kona was to enjoy the experience and take it all in, it was absolutely a success. I managed the swim, kept the bike conservative but I melted on the run and had plenty of time to enjoy watching the beautiful sunset while shuffling and walking on the Queen K. Made the eventual finish that much sweeter.

ST: Any plans to return for redemption?

Josh: I feel like I got the full first-timer Kona experience, and it’s definitely a high priority goal to be able to return and race there again.

ST: What has been your favorite triathlon to date?

Josh: That’s a great question! I think the experience of that first triathlon is really what resonates for me. In my case, that was the 1998 Pacific Grove Triathlon in Monterey, CA. From the spaghetti dinner the night before where I sat across the table from the legendary Mike Pigg, to the race itself and the infamous “Kelp Crawl” section of the swim; all the excitement, nerves, and sense of accomplishment at the finish was all so exhilarating and what really cemented triathlon as a lifetime sport.

ST: Of all the running races you have done to date, which one has captured you the most?

Josh: Although not an official race, a few years ago I created an event to remember a friend of mine from the Marine Corps, Jason Mann, who was killed in Afghanistan. Similar to a beer mile format, the “Mann Memorial Mile” as it’s come to be known, is chugging a protein shake and running a lap on a track and repeat it four times. To make it extra memorable, it’s done shirtless and in short shorts, just as Jason would have done. It’s not a pretty sight sprinting around a track with 80grams of protein sloshing around, but it’s a ridiculous yet meaningful way to keep his memory and we are able to raise some funds for charity as well.

ST: What about longer events?

Josh: In a similar vein of ridiculous ideas, I have started to run my age in miles for my birthday. The idea started for my 40th and I wanted to do something unique and have my friends come celebrate, so I told them I’d be on a track and I set up a small table with water and a chocolate sheet cake and people came out to celebrate and run some laps with me! This year was 43 and given the circumstances, I did the run entirely solo on Thanksgiving morning and finished in time to get back home for an early dinner with my wife and kids. As far as official events, this year’s Barkley Fall Classic 50k was high up on the list of meaningful events. The field was understandably limited to around 100 athletes and was by invitation only if you had a previous BFC finish. Laz and crew did a stellar job in ensuring safety for runners and volunteers, while making sure the event itself was top notch. We all collected our race packets about 30 minutes before our respective start wave, and it was a shock to see that the course this year included a double Rat Jaw ascent. With no real time to worry about it, we went out and got it done. I slept in my tent under the stars in the park just about 50 yards from the infamous yellow gate, and even socially distanced, it was an awesome weekend with a tight knit group of athletes.

ST: How is Lazarus Lake like in person.

Josh: Not surprisingly, quite a character! In 2018 he had completed an entire transcontinental trek on foot across the U.S. and flew back to Tennessee just a day before his role as Race Director for the BFC50k. Unreal. For this year, since no GPS watches are allowed on course, I went to the dollar store and bought a kid’s Little Mermaid watch that lit up with flashing lights; when I showed this to Laz before the race, he told me “oh good; it’ll be easier now to identify the body.” Truly, he’s an exceptionally thoughtful person who balances and contributes so much not only to the ultrarunning community with so many of these creatively epic challenges, but also to his local hometown community, without which these events wouldn’t happen.

ST: What is still on your bucket list?

Josh: I’ve been entering the Norseman lottery for the past 7 years and will continue until I can finally have a go at that epic event! I love the creative and unique events and am always up for a challenge. Any suggestions?

ST: You could enter Swissman, the Inferno Tri or various SwimRun races such as Rockman in Norway, Odyssey Orcas Island in the USA or ÖtillÖ Engadin in Switzerland.

Josh: Those are some excellent recommendations! I have been eyeing the XTri series and love that these very challenging events are becoming more popular. Locally, Savageman has been a great event and I do have my name on a brick in the Westernport Wall. I haven’t yet done a SwimRun event, but I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and know Orcas Island very well, though not swim and running across it! I know my coach, Eric Limkemann, has done a number of SwimRun events since his retirement from professional triathlon, so I’ll have to see about finding a good option once we are all able to travel again!

ST: Marshmallows?

Josh: Yes! My alter-ego is The Marshmallow Fellow and I own and operate a small business making artisanal marshmallows. I had happened into this by accident, having made my first batch just for fun. Eventually I started mixing in ingredients to make unique flavors and eventually word got out and there was a demand from people who wanted to buy some for themselves! I am still operating from my home kitchen and make every batch myself by hand, but it’s been very popular, and if you’ve only had marshmallows from a bag at the grocery store, you’re missing out!

ST: Any plans to make this a bigger venture or would that take too much time from the family and training?

Josh: It’s certainly under consideration, and the challenge is finding a suitable commercial kitchen space to scale production. There are definitely a few things in the works and it’s very exciting and entirely not something I would have ever imagined myself doing, but it’s fun, rewarding, and I enjoy the creativity of it. I know there’s been requests for an endurance athlete specific ‘mallow...I’ll have to work on that recipe.

ST: That might become a sticky situation on hot days.

Josh: I agree- in that case, I’m going to need a very strong marketing team!

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Josh: Triathlon has been such a great and rewarding aspect of my life, and it’s even better to watch my daughters find their own competitive priorities in the sport as well. I’ve been fortunate to be able to coach and mentor a number of age group athletes myself and have recently taken on a position as head coach for a youth and junior elite team in the Northern Virginia area.

ST: How many athletes do you have under your wings?

Josh: Between the youth team and adults, I have just under 20 current athletes, although with the start of the new year and hopefully an actual race season upcoming at some point, that may adjust a bit in the coming months.

ST: Again thanks, and best of luck to you.

Josh: Thank you so much- this is a real pleasure for me. I’ve been a forum lurker for years and very thankful for all knowledge of the ST community!