Josh Beck is a professional duathlete and regularly the top American at the longer duathlons as well as the highest-placed American finisher ever at Powerman Zofingen, the Kona of the duathlon world. Rarely does Josh dabble in triathlons, but he had visited Deep Creek to vacation before the first SavageMan so was familiar with the area and decided to race it on the inaugural year in 2007. He now comes back every year and hopes that the swim will be canceled, a hope that has to come to fruition. Josh has the run course record and the second-fastest bike time ever by just seconds.
By Josh Beck
I was drawn to longer distances from a very early age, because I was never the fastest on the field or at the track – but I could go forever! Once I was settled down into running and cycling, I found that I did the best at longer races; and if the weather was bad, it was even better! If you want to pin it down to a life experience, I would trace it back to growing up in a sleepy little town and being an only child. I had no problem entertaining myself for hours on my old BMX bike. If I look at my career as a professional cyclist and triathlete/duathlete, the races I am most fond of are the longest ones.
I spent a lot of time training in high school – probably too much. My priority was not girls or parties; it was getting to the gym, running and playing soccer. At times I had conflicting goals (like bench pressing a lot of weight but running a 4:40 mile), but my motivation was always, always very high. Once I left high school, I found that being recruited to play soccer was a huge draw; so I attended a D3 school to do just that. I enjoyed that for about three minutes and even though I started as a freshman, I felt like I needed to leave that scene. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why, but I think maybe I wasn’t ready as an 18-year-old to be around 21- and 22-year-olds. Anyway, I walked onto the cross country team and did that and ran track. After all, I couldn’t do nothing!
After my freshman year, I transferred to Slippery Rock University, where I was able to pick up my degree in Exercise Science. Along the way I picked up a used road bike and started riding. Back home in the summer, I found a group of older friends who were so encouraging and challenging to ride with. Before I knew it, I was the Slippery Rock cycling team and I traveled to races all over by myself. As you can tell, I paid a hefty price for my social life in college; but I didn’t really care. I have never kept a training journal, but I’m sure I was always between 20-30 hours per week of training during those years.
After college, I left for Colorado Springs to do an internship with Chris Carmichael – Lance Armstrong’s coach. At that time he just started CTS, and I was their first intern. The neat part was being around that small crew and being at altitude. The bad part was working eight hours a day! Fortunately, I rode before and after work and got to do some cool races out there. I couldn’t find a financial way to stay, so I drove back to Pennsylvania, where my parents were willing to let me live at home and pursue cycling. The day after I arrived I met my wife Jan, which was been the best thing that has ever happened to me!
The next year I worked part time and Jan and I dated. I rode a lot. By this time I was a Cat 1 and doing well in local races. In 2002 we were married, and I did a ton of regional bike races but I also won Duathlon nationals as an age grouper and won my age group at the World Championships. In 2003, I got a spot on a small D3 professional cycling team called sportsbook.com, and I dropped duathlon. I loved the European races we did and some of the longer stuff here in the U.S., but the lifestyle was very daunting for a 25-year-old, married-with-a-mortgage guy like me! After that season, I decided I wanted to leave bike racing and do duathlon and maybe triathlon.
In 2004, I started going to Zofingen, Switzerland, for the Powerman World Championships. It’s a nasty course with usually nasty weather. Perfect! In 2005 I finished third overall, which was the first time an American was on the podium in a long, long time. In the years after, I bounced around in the top 10 with a few spectacular bonks thrown in for good measure. I have done it a total of seven times.
The next thing on my list was to do an Iron-distance race. I hate swimming…actually, I do not like trying to squeeze three sports into my tight schedule. In 2010, I did Ironman Louisville on a scorching hot day. I think I was 1800th out the water, 20th after the bike, and seventh after the run. Kind of a tough way to do it, but that’s how I do triathlons!
My training is very low–tech; I just train, and I have never kept a journal. It’s all on feel! I will train 12-20 hours a week, depending on the weather or my schedule. I run five or six days, swim one to three, bike two to three. I usually run with a watch and just run however I feel. I run fast or slow, flat or hilly, short or long. Sometimes it’s all of those! On the bike, I love riding “tempo”. I am fortunate enough to have two or three guys who I can go out with, and I love riding at the front and just putting the hammer down for miles and miles. I do the same thing as running, though; fast or slow, hilly or flat, short or long. I really don’t have the time to ride like I used to, so I boil it down to two to three rides a week. A mid-week group ride where we just hammer, a Friday long tempo ride (4-6 hours) and maybe a quickie on a Sunday afternoon.
I own Appalachian Running Company and Dutrey’s Shoes, which is a specialty running shoe store and casual shoe store in Carlisle, Pa. I often try the products that I sell, just so I know what to expect. I have my favorites, but I really try to test everything. I have found that sponsorships are a double-edged sword: You get product for free or greatly reduced, but it’s not always what you need or want; and sometimes the time investment to promote the company can’t be obligated, especially when you are a family guy and own a business! As far as brands go, I like to run in some Brooks or Mizunos; I love my trusty Sugoi running shorts and triathlon kits; and I like a bike that fits well, brakes, and shifts! I’ve used Sram stuff for the last few years and like it a lot, and I’m really impressed with my Valdora tri bike that I’m using right now. It’s super practical and easy to work on. It’s also really light!
I have always had a great staff, which has been a huge blessing because I can leave for a run in the middle of the day. My wife is a teacher, and with the little guy at home and one on the way, I have spent much more time at home with him. I wear many hats during the day, but it’s what I do. Every day is different, but the common thing is I hit the ground running and go all day. I’m always exhausted by 8 p.m.! I kinda eek through the week just stuffing workouts in whenever I can, and I look forward to Friday where I have a big block of time to get some quality training in. As busy as I am, I really like the downtime, too. Our family likes to be outside, and we spend a lot of time just having fun.
Competition? It’s part of what makes me tick. I just like it. If I didn’t race, I would still ride or run and push myself. I like the challenges. I like races where I have to compete against the course. Competing against other racers is cool, too, but I like taking the equipment and pure speed out of the equation and just racing tough. Bad weather, really hilly, really long, whatever. That’s what gets me going!
Unfortunately, however, I missed races due to broken bones, mononucleosis and illness. That’s all part of life. I love racing, but sometimes life gets in the way! All of those setbacks really turned out to be great things, as I’ve come back better afterward. Triathlon can be a very self-centered sport, and I think those injuries have pulled me back from being too self-absorbed. Everything in moderation, including triathlons!
When it comes to gear, I have a closet full of running shoes…kinda goes with the job! I will always wear some clothing with our store logo on it, since that’s my job too. I have a Valdora tri bike and a Scott road bike, although I have had a fleet of Cannondales before those. I am fortunate that I have had the opportunity to try so many things, so I really try to help our customers not make hasty or poor decisions when it comes to buying things from us. I really like stuff that lasts, even if it’s a little heavier. I like my bikes without integrated brakes, complicated bottom brackets, and fancy seat posts! Just give me something I can adjust with a simple Allen wrench in the transition area if I’m forced to. As far as food, that’s a work in progress. I always drink Coke the last hour of a race, for example.
The equipment I use the most in training is silence. It’s really nice to hit the open road by myself. I can work through a lot of things during my training. That’s why I don’t stress about an exact training program.
I try to be as calm and easygoing as I can before a race. I’m not sure I have any crazy training behaviors. I’m probably the least scientific guy out there. I’m really hoping I can crack that bike course record again this year. It would be awesome to have the run and bike course records. I took a lot of risks on descents last year and came close, so I think I need to get a smidge faster on the uphills. To do that, I’ll probably just ride more hills!
In terms of racing, the triathlon is getting very expensive. I’m very aware of that, as I talk to my customers about it all the time. Gear is one thing…you can select different levels of components, bikes and wheels. The races are getting really up there. I have raced less and less over the past few years, mainly because I get just as much enjoyment out of training as shelling out a couple of hundred to do a race. Having said all that, I am fortunate to have some close friends who have flown me to several races over the years. As far as gear goes, I’m also fortunate that I’m in the business. I don’t really budget, but I have gotten very selective about which races I’ll do.
So why do I do SavageMan? SavageMan has a great feel to it. Everyone is there to compete against the course. It’s a race that makes you want to go back every year. I’ve done it every year, and wouldn’t miss it!