If you looked closely at the results of Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake you might have noticed the name Josh Terwoord, and possibly wondered about him, because he is the one who had the fastest run split. Terwoord is an age grouper who has had a few very fine other displays of athletic prowess, but this recent effort in Texas was his best to date.
Slowtwitch: Thanks for your time Josh.
Josh Terwoord: No problem, my quads are still too fried to train much! Thank you for having me.
ST: Congrats on that very fine result at Buffalo Springs Lake.
Josh: Thank you, I am very happy with it.
ST: Jordan Rapp described the run course as difficult in general, but with the windy conditions this year maybe the worst in a long time. You were actually the only one to go sub 1:20.
Josh: I think the challenging bike took a lot out of people for the also challenging run. The wind was relentless this year: some sections were a slow grind into the wind, others were screaming fast, and the crosswinds were a real test of nerves.
Off the bike, my quads were not feeling great from the steep hills and wind on the bike, but the pace was alright. The run is my strength, though, and it has been better than ever lately so I drew confidence from that. Starting the run in no man’s land in a competitive race like this was a new experience for me. I am used to having plenty of targets to catch on the run as a consequence of a slow swim time, but my swim improved almost 3 minutes from 2012. The “Energy Lab II” out-and-back was demoralizing with the lack of people; you can see the turnaround in the distance but it never seems to get any closer, plus it is wide open with the sun beating down. I tried to bring it home hard the last 3 miles and the heart rate went up, but pace was about 10sec a mile slower than outbound. The race pics from this final stretch are some of my ugliest yet!
I was super excited to find out that it was the fastest run split. That was unexpected given the pro field there, but I also don’t ride like those guys do!
ST: Did you catch any Pros on the run, or was your wave too far back?
Josh: No, they started 24 minutes ahead. I passed a handful of age groupers on the run, but overall it was pretty lonely out there.
ST: You have done well in a variety of big races, usually with an impressive closing run. Where does this race result rank?
Josh: This is my best finish overall in a WTC race. I mention that because they tend to be more competitive than others I have done. I ended up 2nd overall amateur by just 17 seconds - shout out to the first AGer Tim Hola, who won the 40-44 by 29 minutes! We weren't racing side-by-side due to the wave starts, so I did the math when we saw each other on the out-and-back section and estimated that the gap was 8-9 minutes. I did what I could to catch up, but it was not enough!
ST: Can you tell us about your athletic background?
Josh: I ran my first road race in 7th grade, so I got an early start with running. I ran cross country and track in high school, but always saw myself closer to the mediocre end of things talent-wise because I never qualified for the regional meet, let alone the state meet in track (Ohio). High school personal bests were 9:56 for 3200m, 4:39 for 1600m, and high 16s for cross country 5k. I spent four years in the Air Force before heading to Northern Arizona University, but I did not run for NAU. I found longer distance to be my strength and ran two marathons prior to getting the triathlon bug in 2007. Again, longer distance suited me, plus the long bike + run in 70.3 and IM distance provided plenty of time for me to make up for my sub-par swim.
ST: Arizona in 2011 was your first Ironman event, and I believe that is when ST forum members started to discuss your name.
Josh: Arizona was an incredible, eye-opening experience. I will never forget it; it was one of the best days of my life. The journey and all of the training to get there, plus the race itself kind of redefined how I saw myself as an athlete and I love how you learn a lot about how your head works when it gets to such a distance.
ST: That was a 9:04 total and 2:52 run. Was that a run time you had expected?
Josh: When I first started training for IMAZ, I thought a sub 10hr finish would be a good goal. Then the training progressed and I was responding so well that it became 9:30, then 9:20, and by race day, I thought I had a decent shot at 9:10. Run-wise, I was pretty confident I could get under 3 hours, but I didn’t think it would be very far under. Looking at past results and seeing how few AGers run under 3 made me question whether there was something I was missing since I had never done a full IM before. Either way, I didn’t put a cap on what my run time could be and the 2:52 took the better part of a year to sink in!
ST: You also got a Kona slot for 2012.
Josh: Yes, I ended up winning the 25-29 and I was ecstatic to punch my ticket in the first go.
ST: How was that first trip to Kona?
Josh: Humbling. Sound familiar? Haha. It was tough! I was in better shape than IMAZ, but lacked mental preparation for how I would handle it if things didn’t go as well as I hoped. The swim was disappointing since I had made improvement in the pool that did not translate well. When I hopped on the bike, my front tire was thumping. It turns out that the tire was not fully seated and at high risk of blowing out. Rather than stopping to re-seat it, I opted to keep riding - perhaps poor heat of the moment decision. I thumped along for something like 38 miles until it finally blew and I was able to change the tube fairly quickly. Stressing about the tire for so long certainly burned some mental matches for me and my head was not in the right place late in the bike. I started falling apart after running up Palani hill and got super hungry. Then it was survival for the rest of the day consuming everything I could and walking every aid station. It certainly could have been worse and it was still an overall great first experience there. The vibe in Kona is amazing and the World Championship truly feels like it’s the only thing in the world going on.
ST: Once you had that first Kona race behind you, what goal did you set for your next one? Or was that not something you worried about?
Josh: I definitely wanted to get back to Kona because I knew I could do better, so it was just a matter of figuring out how to qualify again.
ST: Did you also take the lesson that you need to check all your gear closely, especially your bike, before you check it in?
Josh: Ha, absolutely! Now it’s a quadruple check kind of thing. I had ridden my bike to transition the day before so I assumed it was okay. Never assume!
ST: I believe you got married sometime after the first Kona race and before the second. Was Kona also a big relationship test or confirmation?
Josh: Actually, Janée and I got married in Sept 2010, so she was already stuck with me before my first IM! I think it was a confirmation. She has always been incredibly supportive and she did travel with me to the Boston Marathon and Clearwater 70.3 Worlds in 2009, so I think she knew what to expect. It must not have been too traumatizing. She knows that I work hard at it and that I really enjoy it, and at the same time, I know and appreciate the hard work she puts into her academics as a grad student at UT Austin. We have a good balance.
ST: What is your day job?
Josh: I coach triathletes individually with Racelab and move bikes regionally for TriBike Transport. Racelab’s head coach is also my coach of ten years now, Bettina Warnholtz. I coached Northern Arizona University’s tri team for two years before moving to Austin last August, so I am now getting things rolling with Racelab Austin here.
ST: Where did you qualify for the 2013 GoPro Ironman World Championships?
Josh: After Kona 2012, I was not signed up for a 2013 Ironman yet, so my options were limited with how quickly they sell out. I signed up for Ironman Texas because it was the best option timing-wise if I were to qualify for Kona again. I was living in Flagstaff, Arizona at the time so I had altitude on my side, but it’s a cooler climate so the heat and humidity at IMTX were a big concern. It was a brutal day but turned out well with a 9:15 and 3rd in the 30-34. I believe that performance was better than the 9:04 at IMAZ, given the conditions.
ST: A sub 3 run in Kona in 2013 and I believe you were happy.
Josh: Yes indeed, it was a completely different race for me. My main goals were to improve on the previous year, mentally prepare to handle unexpected challenges with a positive outlook, and finish the run in sub three hours. The race conditions were much better in 2013, but I think my 26-minute improvement from 2012 went beyond better weather. A good indicator was my overall improvement of 78 places over 2012’s finish. I'm incredibly happy to have met my goal of a sub-three hour run! I wonder how slowtwitchers feel the 2:52 in mild, flat AZ compares to 2:58 in hilly, hot Kona…I’m not sure on that one, but I think they could be close.
ST: So what is the target for this year?
Josh: This year, the aim is to simply race more and get more experience, and from a financial and physical stress standpoint, that means no IM(s). Plus, I don’t mind going a year without 6+ hour Saturday workouts! I am also continuing to take steps to further improve my swim. If it works with the work schedule, shout out to the fellas at TBT, my A races for the fall will probably be Austin 70.3 followed by Rev3 Florida half two weeks later.
ST: What will you do all these Saturdays without those 6 hour workouts on schedule?
Josh: What do normal people do on Saturdays? Perhaps I’ll reacquaint myself with my unicycle, hold up my share of doing the dishes, and we’d like to keep exploring Austin because it seems to be a pretty cool place!
ST: Anything else we should know?
Josh: I’d like to thank Bettina for being a fantastic coach who has progressed my training over the years with a smart, balanced approach, which has resulted in consistent improvement every year. Thank you to the Racelab team for their constant support and enthusiasm, to my parents for showing me how to work hard for what you want, and to Janée for her unwavering support and understanding.