||World Military Triathlon Championship
||Sunday, June 15, 2008
||Triathlon - International Distance
||Male 35 - 39
|Age Group Place:
||6 / 23
||Got a gold medal, flowers, and a band playing the Star Spangled Banner. Not bad for a vacation to Estonia!
15TH CISM WORLD MILITARY TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIP
Sunday, June 15, 2008
[Writer's note: If you've ever looked through my body of work on this website, you'll notice that I like to vary my themes, or perspectives, or approach to writing these race reports. As always, I muse over each race report in an agonizing way before writing it, trying to determine which theme/perspective to use that best captures the ideas that I would most like to feature.
I have decided to start writing this "report", however, in a much more generic and sanitized way than I would prefer. The reason why is that the theme that I really want to promote is the one that focuses on my teammates...the shared experiences that we had as a team and the qualities that make them champions in more than just the sport of triathlon. In order to do that, I would have to write a work of at least 900 pages, like a novel but based entirely in fact, because it would take that long to present and develop the characters of such a story (16 other athletes, 6 support staffers, and a few other non-Americans) and convey the events of the entire two-plus weeks of training, travel and competition through those characters.
The big story of this race, however, is about the people. I was asked by a reporter for the Ventura County Naval Base newspaper what I enjoyed the most about this trip, and it was being in the company of so many talented, special and like-minded/like-vocational people on the journey of a lifetime. I can't truly convey that story in writing...at least not within a week's time. (Better to share sea stories in person and perhaps while also sharing adult beverages.)
Over time, I'll add to this report to include some of the other feelings and thoughts; such as international travel...as a group...with bicycles...or what Estonia is like...or how it feels to win an gold medal in an internation competition and to have the Stars and Stripes raised and the Star Spangled Banner played before hundreds because of what you did...as well as anything else of general applicability. Maybe, in coming months and years, I'll get to write about people one-by-one...and how I wish to race with each one of them again, train with each one of them again, and willing go to battle (if necessary) with each one of them.
To all of you, my loyal readers, I hope you are informed and entertained, but most of all come away with a hope that someday you will get the opportunity to challenge yourself in a triathlon (or any other huge endeavor) in the company with true friends and teammates.
- Frosty ]
Mostly sunny. 21C/70F. West wind 5m/s (11mph)
Freshwater lake. Wetsuit legal at 16C/60F. Two lap swim on a triangular with an Australian (out of water) exit/reentry between laps. Beach start with a straight 350m swim to the first turn.
Grass. On-ground, wheel slot bike racks with adjacent space (no bins) for gear.
Three laps of a 13.4km course circling the lake. Very fair championship course. Rolling hills throughout, none being too steep or too long. DRAFT LEGAL as we do this event under ITU rules, just like the Olympics
Four laps of a 2.5km course. Cross country style over five different surfaces (Asphalt, concrete, dirt road, cinder track, and grass). Mild undulations. Again a very fair championship course.
McCoy (best cyclist), Ferreira (best runner) and I (best swimmer) talked a fair bit over the past two weeks about race strategy in general, but we never sat down together as a threesome and discussed a specific team strategy for this race. I thought that I had a good chance of being the swim leader, or close to the swim leader, so my strategy was to get to/near the front and try to stay there. Ferreira is the weakest of the three in the swim, but strongest in the run. That really left it all up to McCoy to come out of the water in the middle and choose to either hook up with Ferreira behind him, myself in front of him, or go on his own.
After numerous discussions and alterations behind the scenes, I arrived at the lakeshore on race morning to find the swim course altered from what we had practiced on the day before. I also eager to get into the water for a warm-up for three different reasons…first to get used to the water temperature so that my body is acclimatized to it…second was to get stretched out in the arms, because I was swimming “bent” all week by pulling/leaning to the left instead of swimming straight…third was to break in a new set of goggles that I had strung together the night before.
With a wave of only 23 men widely spread out along the shore of the lake, the start was pretty clean. After a couple of minutes of looking to my left, I felt my fantasy of leading this thing from wire to wire was starting to play out as I see the field falling behind me. Once I started focusing my eyes forward and right towards the first turn, I discovered the reality of one lone swimmer with a short but clear lead.
The first leg of the triangle was the longest. The second would be the shortest but trickiest. When the “final” course was set, it looked from shore like a small grassy island was right next to, if not intersecting, this back leg of the triangle. Upon rounding the turn, I could see the second turn buoy clearly, but the tall grass tapered into the water right in line with the buoy. I saw the leader cut in (left) to swim clear of the weedy shallows, and I followed in concurrence.
The third leg back to shore was a little interesting and did require some navigation skills. The start beach and the exit beach were in different places, so that meant sighting on one set of landmarks the first time around, and a different set the second time. Also, there was a discernable crosswind (left to right) that was pushing me to the right…a strange feeling after I had been going off course to the left all week. I could see the leader gradually pulling farther away, while I was in second alone and just a pair of swimmers close (but not close enough to touch or draft) behind.
I was assisted in sighting on the second lap by seeing the splashing of the elite women’s wave (that started eight minutes behind me) approaching the first turn. The elite men would start well behind me, so I continued to enjoy clean water the rest of the way. After clearing the island and rounding the final turn, the situation hadn’t changed…the leader was still moving faster and my two closest pursuers were holding their position.
Before the race, I made the tactical decision to not clip by biking shoes to my bike, as is my custom. The course from the transition area to the main road and the bike loops is a paved bike trail with some sharp, blind curves. For conservative safety, I elected to sacrifice time in T1 to put on the biking shoes instead of trying to step into the shoes on or after the bike path while dodging around other racers (and wayward pedestrians) on a curvy path. The grassy transition area and short asphalt run to the mount line also made it safe to do this without ruining my cleats. This did allow my two closest pursuers to close up on me…
…So that once we were clear of the bike path and up the first hill, we were all together as a flight of three.
The course has rolling hills throughout, but the hills are more difficult on the front half of the loop, which consists of narrow country roads, and easier on the main highway that completes the loop. Early on, I sensed that my “climbing legs” weren’t quite there on this day, and that would be an issue in trying to keep up with my two cycling partners, a German and a Latvian. Actually, the worry would be in keeping up with the German, as the Latvian went into full wheelsucker mode. Throughout the first lap, either the German led the threesome or I led the threesome, but never the Latvian. The Latvian’s strategy was to be a leech on my backside, and since I wasn’t particularly strong on this day, I didn’t have any suitable defense against that strategy.
We finished the first lap as a threesome. Climbing the first hill, Don Golden tells me that we’re now 1:30 behind the leader…not good news as we are falling behind him, and having one uncooperative drafting partner isn’t helping. Also, the German is starting to create a little gap between him and I on this climb. I “think” I have this move covered, believing that my superior weight will allow me to catch up on the ensuing downhills. Over the next couple of minutes, I discover that I really don’t have the move covered. The German pulls out to about a five second advantage, and I can’t close the gap and/or shake off my leech without an extraordinary burst that would poison me with lactic acid.
As I come off the last significant downhill on the backside, I’m still 5-10 seconds behind the German, who has occasionally been looking back to see where I was and if I’m going to catch up to work with him again. As I rollout from the bottom of the hill, I finally see a bicycle wheel out of the left corner of my eye and my first thought is “Finally, the leech has decided to work”. One instant later, I realize that the wheel belongs to somebody else, a Frenchman, who is immediately followed by McCoy. New thought to McCoy: “Thank God you’re here!” McCoy was part of a threesome of his own, with the Frenchman and a Finnish athlete. Once we became a five-some (or four-plus-one-leech-some), it took no time at all to reel in the German to become a flight of six.
Starting the final bike lap, Don shouts out that we are over two minutes down to the lone leader. I may have been the only person to understand this message, and should have relayed it to McCoy, since he didn’t know that there was a single racer ahead of us and that, by all likelihood, this six-pack would finish in second through seventh place. Nonetheless, I was busy with my own issues…I was clearly the weakest climber in the group. The Latvian leech was able to stick to the tail end of the six-car train without extra difficulty, but I was at risk of being dropped unless I worked my way to the front of the group before each climb. It became an effective strategy…get a little head start before each climb, force the other riders to go around me to go by me, and latch on to the rear of the train at the crest of the hill. Then, work back forward before the next hill. This allowed me to stay in the group all the way to the main highway, and all the way back to the resort.
We had a little adventure in returning to T2, as we had to turn off the main highway at a pedestrian crossing to get back on the winding bike path. The Frenchman sprinted ahead on a little breakaway on the highway, so fast in fact that he missed the turnoff. That allowed me to be second in line behind the German, and more importantly in front of McCoy. My bike rack was adjacent to, but downrange, of McCoy’s, so it was important that I enter T2 first to avoid colliding or swerving around each other.
Six in together, six out together. After an 89-minute warm-up, the silver and bronze medals were going to be strictly decided by a 10k run.
The first 100 meters portended the final result so clearly that the next 9,900 meters were practically unnecessary. The German and the Frenchman took off in front together. Then McCoy with the lazy Latvian. I follow next after a gap, and the Finn trails me after another gap. Like the bike, my legs feel good, but not exceptional on this day.
The run course circles the resort property. After about a kilometer, as the path approaches the main road, I see a massive hoard of what looks like 17 cyclists swarm by. Amazing how my 17-minute head start has now been sliced down to about 4 minutes…and how my peaceful little run in the countryside is going to get spoiled.
McCoy and I had similar run splits at Pt. Mugu, but after that first kilometer, I could tell that he was in better cruise mode on this day. I was surprised that the Latvian, for all of his “efforts” to save energy and feed of the work of others on the bicycle ride, was going to finish no better than fifth. Perhaps if he had worked together with me and the German, or even just with the German instead of sucking my wheel, he could have made it to T2 in front of McCoy’s three-pack and given himself a better chance to medal. Halfway through the first lap, I was certainly consigned to sixth place.
At this point, I got a good glimpse of the leader for the first time at a point where the run course overlaps in opposite directions. By his race suit, I could tell that he was Finnish, and that knowledge wasn’t comforting. The Veteran’s team competition is decided by taking the average of your nation’s two fastest men’s times and adding that to your nation’s fastest woman’s time. I didn’t know if the Finns had a woman in the competition, and if so, our best woman, Heidi Grimm, was a sure bet to win with a superior time. However, it seemed like the Finnish men (in first and seventh) were at an advantage over McCoy (fourth) and I (sixth). So, my work wasn’t done.
Early on the second lap, I caught sight of Ferreira on the run. He was running as strong as usual, but well behind the leading seven. He was 15th out of the water and rode the bike with no drafting help. Though he managed to move up to 10th by T2, he was 4 ½ minutes behind my six-pack and had also been overtaken by the Gang of 17.
Late on the second lap, I see Kent Blankenship “cheering” me on, telling me to dig deep because “we really need your time”. Honestly, I appreciate him telling me the truth rather than having to hear generic happy horses*$@ like “Good job, you look great!”, or even a lie like “You’ve got to start running or else you’ll miss the midnight cutoff.” This is the point in the race where you’re tired and you’ve come a long way, but you still don’t have the finish line in clear view…though you know that it’s getting closer. In this case, Kent’s information validated what I was seeing…the Finnish men have a lead and I need to try to keep it close and/or move up.
Starting lap 3, I see Jay Calvert pull out of T2 right in front of me, with Phil Giarraputo a few dozen meters in front of him. I’m hoping that I can pace myself off of those two, and for a while, I can keep them in sight. That lasts about a half lap as not only are they steadily pulling away, but now I’m getting passed by both the Gang of 17 as well as other elite division racers one and two laps behind the Gang. I later see Heidi on this lap, looking strong, and thus calming my fears about the Finns.
At the end of this lap, Kent is still there giving me the same, kind, truthful words. It is written that the truth will set you free. True, but the truth sometimes hurts, and I’ve got to handle the truth for another 10 minutes.
The final lap is mostly uneventful…just try to keep things rolling along with tripping, tying up, or falling apart. I think Justine Whipple catches up to me late in the lap (it’s her third lap), but I’m inside 400m to go and light up the afterburner. There’s no one for me to catch in front, and no one close to running me down from behind…at this point, it’s a matter of stopping the clock for the benefit of the team competition. As it is, I sprint to the line and reach it on the heels of the 17th and last member of the elite Gang.
Stopping the clock at 2:09:11, I was exactly one minute behind the Latvian leech, 1:30 ahead of seventh place, 2:11 ahead of Ferreira, and 2:22 ahead of the second Finn. The leading Finn won the Veteran’s race in 2:04:20. McCoy finished 16 seconds behind the third-place Frenchman, and 1:47 up on me.
The Finns did have a better men’s twosome than the USA, but it turns out that they didn’t have a woman in the veteran’s race, and our real competition turned out to be the French and the Canadians. Heidi and Tina Eakin went 1-2 for the USA in the women’s veteran’s race, ensuring the team gold for the USA (Heidi-1st, McCoy-4th, myself-6th) over the French (Women-5th and Men 3rd & 10th) and Canadians (Women-6th and Men 12th and 18th).