Date: 5 June 2010

Location: Point Mugu, CA

I know I haven’t written anything in a while, but I was rolling into this championship race at the same time as finals week. I was trying to front load some of the work I had to do before the race, and then still had to play catch up for a couple days after. Although my personal performance was remarkably poor (not too exciting to write about), this is still an incredible event and I feel fortunate to have even been a part of it.

This race is an invitation only race. Each branch of service, Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, put together teams of 10 men and 6 women. This has been going on now since 1998, and this was my second consecutive year competing. The race is unique in that it is a small field of elite athletes, and it is also an ITU style (draft legal) race. Most of us do not regularly race in this type of event, and although this was my second time racing here I was still surprised by how difficult this type of race can be.

Unfortunately I wasn’t rolling into this race in top shape. I had applied for the race mid April, right after having decent races at Oceanside 70.3 and Superseal. Even before Oceanside I had started the downward spiral of reduced fitness and weight gain, which I’ve alluded to in previous posts. It is obvious to see this when I look back on the training log, but at the time it just seemed to be a couple of hiccups in the training plan. I decided to try to make the best of it though, and to give what I could in the race. Although I was slower in every leg, my swim and bike times only seemed a little slower than when I was in top shape, and they didn’t feel particularly “bad”. My running has been terrible lately, and feels horrible. Even at Superseal my running wasn’t very good, but this weekend I ran a minute/mile slower than at Superseal, and 1.5 minutes/mile slower than at other Olympic distance races I’ve done in the past 6 months.

So what makes this race so special? I think it is the collection of athletes that are there. Not only do we have our sport in common, but we are also members of the Armed Forces, and we are brought together from around the globe. Most of the athletes I do not see or race against regularly. There was only one other Navy athlete from San Diego, Tommy Brown, and then there were several Marines that I’ve been able to race with regularly. Several of the athletes I had met last year, but most of them I had not met before. Deployment schedules, changes in duty station, and service obligations often interfere with people’s ability to race. There are often people that are good enough athletes that just can’t make it.

My wife Molly was selected for the Navy women’s team both years that I have done this race. This year we were already familiar with the race and the caliber of athletes that were there, so I think we were much more relaxed. I’ve been particularly stressed lately, so this almost seemed like a vacation for us. I had brought study materials and had a paper to write, but ended up ignoring them which was a good thing. We both needed the break, and the chance to come out and race for free with some awesome athletes was a great experience. We arrived on Wednesday in Point Mugu, and stayed at the Beach Motel on base. The accommodations were simple, but comfortable. Molly and I weren’t the only couple that was racing, which was pretty cool. Chris and Laura Springer were also on the Navy team. It is cool to see couples adopting healthy lifestyles.

On Thursday we had team meetings and activities scattered throughout the day. The team met at 5:30 AM to head over to the pool before breakfast, then after breakfast we did a preview of the bike course. The course is flat with several 90 degree turns, and the quality of the roads varied from very smooth to fairly rough. It was good to get out and figure out the best lines to take for the turns, and where on each road to bike on. Since it is a draft legal race, the entire road was open. In non-drafting races you have to stay to the right to keep the left open for passing.

The swim is a triangle with two buoys in the water and one on the beach. It was a two lap swim, and we had to exit the water after the first lap and run around the buoy. It is amazing how tough this is. Sprinting out of the water, and then sprinting back into the water is a combination for max heart rate. The start of the bike is similarly tough in that I wanted to get on the wheels ahead of me. On the bike a little ahead of me was teammate Lee Boyer. Just behind me coming out of the water was Sam Dannenbring, but he had a fast transition and quickly caught up to Lee on the bike. With me was an airman and a marine, and we pushed to catch up to Sam and Lee (they were actually waiting for us). Immediately we started a pace line but Lee fell off from the start, and I fell off about a mile later. I realized that usually in a triathlon I’ll cruise the first 5-10 miles, keeping the power a little on the low side while my legs warm up after the swim. Then I’ll notice that my breathing is more relaxed and my legs actually feel good. This is the point that I bring up the power and hold it. In this race though I was way over my threshold power as soon as the bike started, and the next thing I knew I was gassed. I had to settle down for a while before I met up with Nicholas Brown who wasn’t feeling well on the bike. I tried pulling him for a little bit, then another airman and two marines met up with us and we started another pace line. Nick fell off after about a minute, and I held it with them for about 10 miles. My hands had completely fallen asleep at that point and when I tried to brake around a turn I couldn’t feel how much pressure I was applying to the brakes. I was trying to just feather them, but was feeling the bike jerk. I sat up for a minute and shook my hands out, and couldn’t catch back up to the pace line.

The run was just bad for me. I kept getting passed, and even got chicked by the lead female (and they started behind us). I finished 48th of 50 men, and one of them didn’t finish the swim. I had heard that he took a kick to the throat and had swallowed a lot of water so he had to get pulled out. It was a humbling experience in some ways, but my focus now really needs to be on getting ready for Kona. Kona is only 4 months from today, so I can’t afford to mess around anymore!

Results are here.

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