Friday, June 29, 2012

US Military Triathlon Championships

23 June-

I finally did it, I had finally made the Air Force Triathlon Team.  It took me just a little over 4 years from my first triathlon to make it to the starting line, but wow what a journey it has been.  It almost didn't happen due to the fact that I had crashed on some railroad tracks about 10 days prior, but luckily just some minor road rash and stitches.  I couldn't of made it onto this team without some amazing mentors along the way, but there is one person who really looked after me.  So first off I just wanted to say thanks to Kathy Rakel, the now 3x US Military Triathlon Champ, as she helped mentor me over the past 2 years.  I would go to her with questions in regards to the application process and what exactly the team was looking for.  So I owe a special thanks to her for all the help, and wish her the best as she transitions from a full time military member and pro triathlete to just focusing on being a full time athlete.

Last time I traveled over from Korea I struggled with jet leg for the first time.  I normally adapt really quick and typically do not have problems with jet lag.  So with that in the back of my mind I came out 2 days prior to the rest of the team and arrived to Pt Mugu on Monday.  Pt Mugu is located next to Oxnard which is about 30 minutes north of Malibu.  It is an amazing area and I was really happy to show up early so I could enjoy the local roads for some good training.  I woke up on Tuesday and got an early swim in and then headed out on the bike finding some amazing climbs right off of the Pacific Coast Highway.  I came back after training and had to send my coach a message asking him if I was allowed to ride longer the next 2 days as long as I kept it easy and didn't completely smash myself.  He was all for it, so Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I put in some amazing rides.  It was awesome to wake up to overcast weather and then just go out ride up the mountain a bit and then boom the weather was amazing.  It was nice to arrive early and just get settled in and be able to just focus on getting solid recovery and rest after each workout.

The rest of the team trickled in on Wednesday and I played the role of bike mechanic throughout the evening.  The team had a few issues, a few minor ones and then one major one.  One guy showed up with a 10spd cassette while the rest of his bike was 9spd, so off we went to Performance Bikes to get a 9spd cassette.  The major issue was one of our girls somehow went out for a ride and snapped her derailleur hangar and set screw on her derailleur.  She had a Look bike, so it was quite rare but luckily there was a shop in town about 30 minutes away that helped her out.  Other than that everything mechanically was fine.  I had switched my cassette out from the 11-23 to 11-28 to go climb the mountains so other than that my bike was all setup for race day.

The "busy" day of the week was Thursday.  It started out with a 10am team meeting and gear issue, followed by bike check at 1230.  They were pretty particular on bike check since it was ITU Style racing (Draft Legal).  After that we had the race briefing which took place at 1400.  Then 1600 was team pictures followed by opening ceremonies at 1800.  So to say the least Thursday was the busy day.  Friday was a really relaxing day, got my workouts done early then just relaxed.  We went to Olive Garden for dinner as a team and then followed it up with a past tradition from James Bales (who was not able to attend this year due to injury) with Dairy Queen Blizzards.

Race morning was not the typical race morning since our race didn't start till 1030.  Luckily our hotel was within a 3 minute walk of the transition area.  They were actually doing chip pickup and body marking right outside the hotel.  They had a sprint distance race that started at 0800, which my step dad took place in.  He had a good race, minus his swim as he was a little paranoid of the ocean swim, and ended up 3rd in his Age Group.  I just hung out and watched the start of the race and then went about my normal routine.  I got in a short 15 minute run to loosen up the legs and then took a 10 min shower that was nice and hot which really got the body loosened up.

Prior to race start they played the national anthem with all of us on the starting line.  Immediately after that the horn went off and the race started.

Swim- 21:32
The biggest horror stories you hear of this race is that the swim is brutal.  It is brutal in the sense that their are a lot of strong swimmers and then the water is COLD!  Not to mention there can be some surf, although it wasn't that bad.  It was a 2 lap swim and I just swam as hard as I could and tried to remain around someone the whole time.  As I was coming out of the water on the 2nd lap our coach was there telling me I was 30th out of the water (actual results have me at 28th), so right where I expected to be.

T1- 0:57
Nice and fast, but not quite as fast as the others comparing times across the board.  Off onto the bike I went and had my work cut out for me.

Bike- 52:27
With the bike being draft legal it does not play into my favor at all.  I knew I would have my work cut out with my swim time, but was hoping to have some people to work with.  Out of transition I had one guy with me but he didn't want to come along so I just settled in and started to bridge to the first group ahead that I saw.  My tactic was once I caught a group I would sit in for about 15 seconds and then move the front and get the pace going.  Well I would move to the front and pick up the pace and then look back and I would open up a gap.  The first 2 times it happened I slowed up for the group thinking maybe I just accelerated too fast.  Well after those first 2 times I decided that I just needed to ride my own race and moved on.  This happened as I came to 3 different groups.  No one wanted to come with me, except one guy, Brad Pigage, who is on the Navy Team (he is actually in the Coast Guard though), and is also a member of Team RWB.  He came with me right before the start of the 3rd lap, he took a pull or 2 and then I went to the front and looked back and he was off the back.  I was actually kind of happy that I dropped him because he is a stellar runner and I didn't want to take him into T2 with me.  At the start of the last lap I saw a group ahead which had 5 people in it, they had about 30 seconds on me.  I worked hard to catch this group but it took a lot of effort and I didn't catch them till about 1.5 miles to the finish.  When I caught the group it had my teammate Ken in it.  I knew I had already worked really hard on the bike, and figured I would lay it all out there since my legs were pretty shot.  I looked over at him and said "You just tell me when and I will pull you all the way to T2".  He was kind of in shock that I had made it to the group and after about 10secs he looked back over and said "Lets GO".  I dropped the hammer and off we went.  4 of the 5 guys in the group came with, so one less person to worry about.  I liked the tactics there as I felt if I could put some guys into the red right before T2 it might play into my favor.  I think it was a little to late to put them too far into the red, but it was the "lead" group, with 3 other guys solo off the front.

T2- 0:23
I had the fastest T2 time along with one other guy.  I was really happy with that as my T1 time wasn't all that great compared to others.  I got in and out of there and was out on the run with the guys I came off the bike with.

Run- 35:58
I knew I worked hard on the bike and it was just going to be a matter of how hard I worked to how bad my run would be.  I was confident going into the race that I would be able to hold low 6min pace if not sub 6min pace.  I came out of T2 and just tried to stay with Ken, but he set a blazing pace out of T2 and I just couldn't hang.  I settled in and just ran my race.  The interesting thing about this race is they take the top 6 to Military Worlds, and then for the team competition it is Cross Country Scoring (meaning you just add up a said amount of finishers placings and that is your team score, it was 7 men and 4 women, scored separately as a male and female competition, no joint overall winner).  I was running to protect my position as well as trying to move up to the top 6.  Once I realized the 2 guys in front of me were running quite well I just settled in and wanted to make sure I had some energy if I had to protect my position.  About half way through the 2nd of 2 laps, Brad Pigage had caught me.  I knew he had to put in a solid effort to catch me but I still had roughly 1.5 miles to run with him till the finish.  When he caught me I just stayed with him and realized he was breathing pretty hard.  I felt under control and was able to briefly talk here and there.  We ran stride for stride for about half a mile, then I started playing games.  I wanted to see what he had left so I would put in a surge then just float out there.  He would come back up to me and then about 30-45 seconds later I would do the same thing.  I did this about 3 times and then with about 400m to go I put in one final big surge and held him off to finish the race 8th Overall.

**A couple key points about this race that I want to address be for going further.  The course is SHORT, everyone has to race the same course so it DOES NOT matter that it is short.  So when looking at the above times realize that the bike is 22.8 miles and the run is 5.9 miles.  Also, the Canadian Armed Forces Team races in the race as well although they are not counted in the scoring, 1 Canadian was ahead of me, so technically I was 9th Overall, but among US Athletes I was 8th.***

Swim- 21:32 / 28th
T1- 0:57 / 17th
Bike- 52:27 / 1st    Strava File:
T2- 0:23 / 1st
Run- 35:58 / 16th   Strava File:
Total: 1:51:17 / 8th Overall US Finisher (9th w/ Canadians)
Link to Results:

Male Team Finish:
1st Navy
2nd Air Force
3rd Army
4th Marines

Female Team Finish:
1st Air Force (Also swept individual podium)
2nd Marines
3rd Navy
4th Army

Overall I was extremely happy with my performance as well as our teams performance.  Although we did not defend the championship, we had a great time and have an amazing group of athletes.  I was honored to be part of such a great team.  I came into the race with low expectations and ended up shocking myself.  I had no thoughts of going to Military Worlds, but missing that opportunity by 55 seconds is what will fuel my training over the next year.

I can't thank everyone enough for all of the support.  The race atmosphere was awesome down there with some great fans and all of the teammates on the course cheering each other on.  A special thanks to my Mom, Step Dad, and sister Madyson for coming down for the race and cheering me on.  Also, a huge thanks to HED Cycling for the great wheels that helped me achieve the fastest bike split.  HoneyStinger for the great support of the military and great products, and FRS for the awesome products.

Here are some pictures from the race and time down there  
Out on an easy spin day prior to the race.
Prior to Steve's swim start


The team, minus Stephanie, Erin and Scott
 Last minute pep talk from Mace and then a short prayer

 Hammering the bike Solo.

Out on the run course

 Finishing up the first loop

 The post race ride which happens every year up some random road that climbs up the mountains, great time with great guys.  Check out the strava file!

1 comment:

Michael W. Bergquist said...

Nice report and great race. I hope to be able to keep these creaky old bones and aging muscles strong enough to make it next year. Perhaps you'll make the CISM team then.