||Armed Forces Triathlon Championship
||Saturday, July 28, 2007
||Pt. Mugu, CA
||Triathlon - International Distance
||Male 35 - 39
||22 / 75
|Age Group Place:
||9 / 12
||Go NAVY! - Race #2 of 4 - Draft-Legal Olympic distance
2007 ARMED FORCES TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIP
NAVAL BASE VENTURA COUNTY (PT. MUGU) - JULY 28, 2007
Scattered/Broken low clouds / 71F air temp / 64F water temp /
78% relative humidity / winds SW 8 knots
Full results here:
News stories from the Ventura County Star:
This race report is REALLY LONG, because it's a big story about a race that many people do not know about, and few people get to do. So, if you want to see certain parts rather than the whole monologue, the chapters are in the following order:
- (The traditional...) COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS™
- THE ALL-NAVY TEAM
- RACING ITU-DRAFT-LEGAL STYLE
- THE COURSE
- MY RACE
- POST-MORTEM I – THE RACE EFFORT
- POST-MORTEM II – THE ALL-NAVY EXPERIENCE
- NEXT RACE(S)
THE COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS™
I have to begin by saying that this race, by far, goes off the charts on my Cost-Benefit Analysis™ because the ratio of Benefits (well over $500) to Costs (hardly any), mathematically and experientially, approaches infinity.
If you get selected for the All-Navy triathlon team, the Navy Sports office, the Navy Exchange and adidas (the shoe company) provide at not cost to you with the following:
- Free entry into the Armed Forces Championship, a fully-supported, draft-legal triathlon on completely closed roads, held annually at Naval Base Ventura County (Pt. Mugu) CA. “Fully-supported” includes all the usual amenities…copious volunteer support, well-stocked aid stations, medical and massage, police protection, post-race food, finisher’s medals, and (of course) a white race t-shirt.
- Air transportation for you and your bicycle from your duty station/base to LAX, ground transportation from LAX to Pt. Mugu, and back the same way.
- Four nights lodging at either the Beach Hotel (located at the start/finish area) or the base’s visiting officer’s quarters.
- A whole lot of swag…race kit, polo shirts, warm-up suit, bike jersey, arm warmers, running shirts and shorts, bike gloves…and a backpack to put it all in…at least $250 worth of stuff here…
- A pair of running shoes and a pair of sandals (from adidas).
- A complementary banquet and opening ceremony (Thursday night before the Saturday race)
- Complementary bicycle tech service (Friday before the race), and
- $60 per diem ($12/day for five days)
- (But wait, there's more!) An opportunity to race your way onto the All-Armed Forces team that goes to the World Military Triathlon Championships later in the year…with a similar benefit package.
If you don’t get selected for the All-Navy, and you’re in the Navy, you can still get selected to participate in the race (in a separate division) and get some of the sponsor goodies, like the shoes. Even this reduced level of benefits, along with the chance to race draft-legal and possible race your way onto the All-Navy team in future years, should entice any service member who can conveniently make it to Pt. Mugu.
So, in that respect, I first have to thank the All-Navy support team for both their extreme generosity and the faith that they put in me by selecting me for the All-Navy team. These folks include:
- Don Golden, head of the Navy Sports office
- CDR Jim Felty, our officer representative and “coach”
- Kent Blankenship, Pt. Mugu’s MWR director and the director of this race for the past seven years.
- Bill Marx, representing the NEX, and
- Cleveland Howard, representing adidas.
THE ALL-NAVY TEAM
I also need to recognize, and introduce the casual reader, to my teammates. This year’s AFTC was my only “A” race, and what got me mentally through much of my training in the past months was remembering that (a) I was on a mission to represent the Navy, and particularly the fine people who work with and for me at Souda Bay, and (b) Seventeen teammates, and particularly my 11 male teammates, would be counting on me to come to Pt. Mugu ready to do my very best. When I learned who my 11 teammates were, and the more I got to know them in the days before the race, I realized that they, individually and collectively, are people that you’d want to push harder on workouts for, or take a bullet for. In no particular order, they are:
- LT Tim O’Donnell, the winner of this race for the last four years, and newest member of the USAT National Team, putting him in the very select company of serious Bejing 2008 hopefuls.
- LT Andy Baldwin, known to many as this year’s “The Bachelor” from the ABC reality show, a teammate of mine at Kona in 2004, and clearly the center of attention at the pre-race autograph signing. (Sorry, his fiancée Tessa didn’t come to the race)
- ENS Tommy Brown, recent graduate of Annapolis, whom I will take some but very limited credit for recruiting to this team. I suspect that after nearly winning Collegiate Nationals and turning pro, my endorsement really wasn’t necessary.
- LT Andy Sause, another product of the waters of Annapolis, Tommy’s training partner, and one of the happiest bubbleheads that I have ever met. He comes from Salt Lake, another plus. Qualified for Kona this year at Eagleman.
- CDR Dave Haas, an Annapolis classmate of mine (!), who has been successful as a SWO (currently commands a crew for the soon-to-be-commissioned USS Independence), successful as a husband, and successful in making the transition from football team captain to top-fleet triathlete.
- LCDR Jay Calvert, yet another product of the waters of Annapolis, and clearly the team’s Fish-on-a-mission.
- Master Chief Mike Ferriera, also ably representing the Coast Guard and a long-time member of this team, the All-Coast Guard team in Kona, and a World Military Triathlon participant…the man who has been there and done that…many times.
- LCDR Roger Turpin, another veteran on the team, making the drive up from San Diego, who has been steadily moving up the finisher’s list from year to year.
- LT Isaac Smead, who rides a really cool looking bike, lives in San Diego, and works with special warfare folks…all things that I envy.
- LT Matt Knight, our resident expert bike racer and my roommate. I don’t know if I was the best roommate for him, but he was definitely the best roommate for me. (For at least two reasons named La Salsa and Jamba Juice.) Oh, yea, he’s another member of the Annapolis grad mafia.
- Seaman Apprentice Sam Dannenbring. When I learned that Sam was on the team, I knew then and there that he, and this team, was capable to doing something really special. Two years ago, I finished behind him in a sprint triathlon that he almost won, at the age of 17. He’s a natural runner, and I knew that he’d do really well here if we could just get him to a good position off of the bike.
RACING ITU-DRAFT-LEGAL STYLE
We run the Armed Forces Triathlon Championship as the only ITU-style race in the United States open to age-group athletes. This is because the race is a qualifier for the World Military Triathlon Championship, which is also a draft-legal event. The AFTC switched to the ITU-style format in 2005 since Pt. Mugu was the host of the WMC that year as well. (AFTC and WMTC were held on consecutive weekends that year.)
ITU-style racing requires a bicycle that meets certain specs…the frame must be the traditional diamond-style (i.e. no “beam” bikes like Softride or Titan-Flex), wheels must be spoked (no discs), and only traditional drop handlebars are allowed with an allowance for bridged, clip-on aerobars that can not extend forward of the brake levers (i.e. no long aerobars with bar-end shifters).
Also, ITU-style racing simply means that the USAT drafting and position rules are suspended. As long as women only draft off of women, men off other men, and open division only off open division, cyclists can take any position relative to the road (right, center, left) or another cyclist. In an event like this, where one has 11 teammates, team tactics can, and do, play a significant part.
The interservice team competition is scored by taking the aggregate of the fastest eight times of each service’s men’s team (four for the women) and the lowest aggregate time wins. The top two teams of each gender receive medals, with the winning team earning a trophy as well. Additionally, the top two combined mens/womens teams earn the right to lodge the following year at the Beach Hotel, located at the race site, rather than the bachelor quarters almost two miles away.
THE COURSE (Advertised as the traditional Olympic distance of 1.5k/40k/10k)
SWIM: Two-lap ocean swim, beach start, with a water exit/re-entry after the first lap. Triangular course going counter-clockwise (direction determined by anticipated current/swell)
BIKE: Four-lap course, clockwise and completely flat, measured out on GPS at 8.9km/lap. Has the shape of the state of Oklahoma inverted horizontally (make the panhandle stick to the right instead of left) but with a stubbier panhandle.
RUN: Three-laps, with one 10-foot mound to climb at one turnaround. A mixture of pavement, packed dirt, and soft dirt/sand. GPS measured out at 2.2mi/lap.
What happens here sets up the dynamics of the bike leg. I expected Tim, Tommy and Jay to be in front of the whole field, with Andy Sause close behind. After that, we hoped to link up teammates coming out of the water close to each other.
I had plenty of practice in the water this week with the wetsuit so that eliminated the hyperventilation problem I had in New York. It led to what felt like a good swim for me. After the violence of the start and transit to the first turn, I managed to hook up with a pair of swimmers, but the light ocean swell was just large enough to make it too difficult to get a good draft. Any chance I had at keeping a good draft, however, went away when, for a short time, I sighted off the wrong intermediate yellow buoy and started swimming into the middle of the triangle. I went off course for maybe 20 seconds, but I’m sure that I lost more returning to course.
The remainder of the swim felt pretty strong, and I felt like I held my position on the second lap. The question now was, was I around any teammates? All of us were wearing the same colored swim caps, so you really didn’t know who you were with until you got out of the water.
And I got out of the water and onto my bike not only without any friendly faces, but with few faces at all.
I did start the bike with a few riders in sight ahead of me, by a couple hundred meters, who were starting to form up. With a trickle of athletes behind me, I thought my best option was to try to catch the group in front. Yet, my lungs were already at redline and the first leg of the bike loop (Oklahoma’s southern border) was into the wind. At the first turn, I estimated that I was about 30 seconds behind the group in front of me. I wasn’t gaining ground on them, but I wasn’t losing much ground either, and the road behind me looked rather empty.
I felt strong, and raced the first lap and a half by myself. It was clear to me when I got back to the same turn on lap #2, I had lost about 30 seconds to the group in front…but it was only 30 seconds, and the road behind was still empty. It might have been a long time before any group that was behind me could catch me, so I elected to press on. Plus, there seemed to be some hope in the near distance.
For the first lap and a half, I had passed a number of open division racers and women racers, (Those groups started in a wave with a seven-minute head start on the all-service men.) but I finally caught up to a familiar face. I caught up to Marine Captain Mike McFerron, whom I met at the infamous rained-out 2005 USAT Nationals…and I recalled many things about Mike from that trip…great friend, great swimmer, struggles on the run like me, and has a legendary tolerance for alcohol. Hooking up with Mike seemed to me to be a low/no risk maneuver…it would improve the time of an adversary, but it might also improve my time if we could work together…and I felt pretty confident that I could beat Mike in the run.
Yet after I brought Mike on board, it was soon apparent that I wasn’t going to get much out of the deal. I ended up doing about 90% of the work for the two of us, and when Mike was strong enough to pull forward, he couldn’t keep up the speed I was keeping and after about 10-15 seconds of drifting (rather than drafting), I was moving back to the lead.
We passed the start/finish area together after two laps, and I heard quite a few loud cheers for Mike as we went by the crowds. After we turned into the wind, Mike came alongside and joked that it sounded like most of the people were cheering for me. I got a little chuckle out of that…after all, they should have been cheering for me since I was doing 90% of the work to drag a Marine who was my only hope for drafting help.
We maintained a fast clip early through lap #3, but gave up another 30+ seconds to the pack in front of us. It really looked to me that we had a fair chance of making it to T2 as a flight of two. That is, until we reached the panhandle and I looked back to see that we finally had company, steadily approaching.
Mike and I were still a flight of two as I encouraged him to give me one strong final lap as we began our final circuit. Yet, I did hear one spectator yell that the trailing group was close behind, and as we turned into the wind, I was expecting to be overtaken in a matter of time. Yet, I still felt strong and wasn’t going to concede to the group just yet.
Mike and I managed to stay in front of the group on the windward leg, and turning north with a tailwind, I started looking back often to ascertain the composition of the group. I recognized another familiar adversary, Air Force’s Mike Bergquist (still stationed in Spokane, where I knew him from my time at Whidbey), along with a couple of Marines. But leading the group was Sam Dannenbring, and this is where I thought that I had a chance to throw Sam forward. After turning east with a half-lap to go, the group started to line up behind me but not pass me. I was hoping for Sam to cycle back to the front of this group and when he did, I tried to get him to break with me. The attempt was unsuccessful and Bergquist and company were able to stay latched onto Sam. I still wanted to try at least one more break attempt, but I needed a moment to regroup, so I cycled back into the back to discover, with great surprise, that Sam was joined with Dave Haas. Dave was riding a back-up bike, specifically Kent Blankenship’s purple tank, and I thought that there was no way that Dave could make that bike go that fast. Sure, he had been a football star, but he really impressed me by putting himself this high up in the race.
By the time that I cycled back to the front, there wasn’t much distance left before the finish and thus not much to be gained from a break attempt. Most everyone behind me was already getting out of their cycling shoes anyway. So, I tried to maintain most of the pace, keep the wind off of Sam, and block Bergquist a little. Eventually, I wanted to let Sam get in front of me and have a clear path to the dismount line, while I too got out of my cycling shoes. I ended up letting half of the pack (I think it eventually totaled eight riders) go by before I made it to the dismount line.
I struggled a little to squeeze the feet into my tight shoes, but was soon on my way.
The run leaves the T2/Finish area headed east for about 400 meters, U-turns back through the T2/Finish area, then goes 1400 more meters westward and into the wind to the 10-foot mound. With the wind at my back, I was doing O.K., but I struggled a little while heading west. Sam and Bergquist took off, but the remainders of the group didn’t get too far away that fast. The first teammate that I saw was Tim, meaning that I was already one lap down to him on the run course. Then more teammates started crossing paths…Tommy was a solid second place overall. Then Andy Sause, followed by Roger…wow, check out Roger having a great day! Andy Baldwin and Jay were next, and I realized that I wasn’t too far behind them as I turned off of the pavement headed to the turnaround mound. At this moment, my running felt well…not spectacular, but I had already repassed McFerron and was holding position. I also realized that I was in the eighth, and last, official scoring position…so I’m still on the clock with Matt next behind me and Mike Ferriera looking very strong.
Finishing run lap #1, another familiar face from my past, Marine Major “Dizzy” Schutte, passes me and reassumes the title of the Prowler community’s fastest triathlete. I also see Tim, starting to run again (in my direction) after having been mistakenly led to the finish line. Now, it’s starting to feel hot…even though it’s barely 70 degrees, we’re on the coast where the marine layer of clouds has shown up for the first time during the week, making things sticky. The course has many more aid stations than you would normally see on a triathlon course, and I was now in big need of sugar and cooling. I’m still running well, for me, but my world is getting slower and I’m starting to struggle with cadence on the mix of surfaces.
I come through to start lap #3 fueled mostly by adrenaline, and now really in need of a shot of energy. I’ve left gel packets untouched at the transition area and Gatorade infusions aren’t stopping the feeling that I’m getting close to empty. Turning back west and into the wind, I fail to notice Matt but I do see Mike Ferriera continuing to charge hard, and I’m thinking that there is a fair chance that he could run me down. Yet, I’m still in the eighth spot and still hoping to finish that way for the sake of pride.
While I would have been proud to finish eighth, I was just as proud when Matt, my roommate, passed me a couple minutes later to move into that position. I knew he could make a bike move fast, which he did, but I thought that his shining moment was his last lap (his fastest) when he stayed in control of his legs and cadence despite the fatigue, winds, and soft soil.
The turn for home off the mound and with the wind behind me gave me a good push forward. There was enough adrenaline and sugar still left in the tank to offset the slow, loopy foot cadence and fatigue to get me to the finish line. But I was in an exhausted stagger after I crossed it, and everything that I had was left out on the course.
Our men’s team defended its championship from 2006, dominating the 2007 event by finishing over 20 minutes better than the second place team from the Air Force. The Air Force women were also victorious, meaning that the residents of the Beach Hotel remain unchanged for next year. Tim and Tommy did finish 1-2, and will both be on the team going to the World Military Games in October over in Mumbai, India.
POST-MORTEM I – THE RACE EFFORT
For my “A” race of 2007, I’m very pleased with my effort though there’s still room for improvement. I made at least one tactical error (swimming off-course), didn’t get into the mix with my faster teammates (the bike group in front of me included both Andys, Roger, and later Jay), didn’t have the bike power to catch that group, didn’t fall back early enough to work with Sam, and still struggled on miles five and six (and 6.5!) of the run. I will still look at this race, and the week, as a success because…
POST-MORTEM II – THE ALL-NAVY EXPERIENCE
…I enjoyed the All-Navy experience at Pt. Mugu for once. This was the fourth time that I had applied for this team in the past seven years, and the first time that I had been accepted. For me, this opportunity was a blessing, and one that I was stubbornly pig-headed to believe for many years was something that I deserved. Yet the opportunity happened at a time when I was stationed overseas in an environment not optimally suited for triathlon training and at an age not exactly optimal for triathlon speed. My eternal thanks goes to my teammates and the team staff who made this incredible dream come true.
I relish this experience knowing that it may not happen again. I want it to happen again, especially next year when there would be an opportunity for to compete at the WMTC in the Masters division (I will be turning 40). I may instead get sent on a GWOT-related Individual Augmentee assignment in 2008, but even if that doesn’t happen, next year’s All-Navy team could be filled with even more talent if some of the other veterans return (somebody had to fight the war while we were doing the race), some of this year’s rookies come back, (I think Tommy, Sam, Isaac, Matt, Dave and Jay have oodles of untapped potential.) and new faces show up. And with my retirement scheduled for June 1, 2010, the AFTC in 2009 may be my last legitimate shot to compete at Pt. Mugu.
So, I find myself feeling that my life, or at least my triathlon career, would be complete if I never came back to Pt. Mugu, but that I need to start preparing tomorrow for make the improvements needed to be competitive in 2008 and 2009, to honorably represent my fellow shipmates and coworkers, to be reunited with an outstanding group of men and women that I am privileged to call friends, and to honor those whose sacrifices allow these games to happen.
…oh, and to collect some major beers from Mike McFerron! (Nice race, dude…get well soon!)
The quest for the David Glover Medal at the iron-distance Vineman Triathlon – Saturday, August 4th. If I’m still physically capable, the final race of the 2007 multisport season will be the Alcatraz Challenge biathlon the following morning in San Francisco.