That's right! The picture above contains the very serious, very accomplished and very proud Air Force Triathlon Team. It's fair to say that our team won the "smile" award at the dinner social. I didn't know I ordered my dinner with a side of "scowling eyes" from other teams. First off, I'd say our team is super accomplished when it comes to work related accolades. I know a few members of our team performed open heart surgery while preparing a turkey sandwich at the same time....and landing a C-17. Honestly, this was another unforgettable event and a stout reminder of why I love this sport.
AHA, so why do I relate triathlon to art? A very curious reference indeed; however, open your mind and you may understand. First off, I found a lot of inspiration for this blog post after I watched some surfing documentaries. Those guys carry themselves in a way that inspires me. They are challenged by mother nature, respect her raw power and are friendly with their competition until the point of competition. I suppose this "idea" coincides with most competitive sports but I'd like to think I'm on a spiritual (not religious) journey riddled with tough days of competition. Draft legal racing is especially tactical, requiring some very intense bouts of energy. Either way, that's just how I try and stay balanced.
It's hard to believe blood thirsty men and women charged into this water, with what was set to be a remarkable day, full of passion for the TEAM. For once this year, triathlon wasn't just for ME. My teammates needed me to run harder, stay focused and drop elbows on the competition. This year was especially different because I was no longer a "newbie". Myself and my bearded room-mate Brad Williams just completed our 3rd tour at the Armed Forces National Championship....sadly he won't be back (separating). That's right...my room is up for grabs and yes I prefer to sleep in the nude, except for my studded mask of course! Anyway, this location brings me a more balanced outlook on who I really am, almost like a "hippie" finds his balance while living in nature or eating bark? (they do that right?)
After the very scenic..amazing...inspiring drive to Pt Mugu, it was time to settle in. This was the latest I'd ever gotten in so there wasn't any time to really ride or run...just wanted to EAT (Trader Joes!)! The plane ride was long but pleasant, especially the older lady who had lost control of her butt and cut many farts during the 4 hour flight. As I sat there marinating in fart fumes, I tried to somehow imagine she ate organic food and I was getting good energy by breathing in the pungent aroma.
Once on base, it was time to get my head in the game. It was time to deal with some light nervousness and again...share a room with Brad "the beard" Williams. This meant I will probably be woken up in the middle of the night by moaning, followed by horrific screaming and yes...more terrible farts. But hey, he's super fast and always lubes my chain before races, gotta love a guy like that right?
Team gear issue was awesome (thanks Brooks and Team Coach/Coordinators)! The Ice breaker dinner was required event you don't want to miss. The Marines grunted, the Navy sank, the Army drooled and we gave long introductions, successfully irritating the hungry mob. After dinner we all departed for our beds, looking forward to the next day of NOTHING. No events planned (except team dinner). A Full day to kick up your feet. Oh wait, I can't forget the part where I drove around for 5 hours trying to get a new tubular tire glued since I flatted on my ride earlier in the day.....lame! At least I got to eat lunch while watching some surfers.
How Did the Race Go?
Race Prep: I ate a lot of salad the night before. They were all loaded with quinoa, some nuts and roasted veggies. I opted out of the team dinner at Olive Garden. I was pretty tired and honestly wanted to get down my mental prep. Like I said in the title, there is an art component I've been trying to connect with. Our race didn't start until 10:30 the next day so Brad and I tried to sleep in until at least 7:15...so naturally I was up by 4:30am. I ate a banana, almond butter, quinoa, blueberries, cinnamon and coconut milk. It was almost like cereal...but way better. Between breakfast and the race I indulged in a Honey Stinger Waffle and sipped on OSMO!!
Time To Swim: The water temp was a face freezing 57 degrees. Somehow I end up falling in love with this swim though, maybe it's because of the cold. There isn't any wetsuit overheating or tension (Thanks XTERRA)...I can unleash the crack'n! There was a strong current from left to right on our way out so naturally I was continually off course. I felt like an idiot! Every-time I would spot, I couldn't correct enough to hold a straight line. I'd bet all that cost me 30 seconds! Regardless of the long course and current, I felt amazing under max effort. Finally, a breakthrough experience!! I think I may have been 5th out of the water so I'm certainly pleased. The course is 2 X 750m loops where you have to run around a buoy on land in between 1st and 2nd lap. I'm glad I watched the WTS Men's race before my race, it gave me clarity!
Bike: Unfortunately my swim still wasn't quite fast enough to make it into the lead pack. They were still a couple minutes ahead ...BUT it's not over until it's over. My bearded room-mate was able to bridge up despite coming out minutes behind me...super strong cyclist! For me however, I got caught up in a very lazy group which kept getting slower the lazier we all got. This was the most unorganized I'd seen a bike pack during this race. We all sighed and knew it would be a runners race (unless you have crusty white beard like Brad Williams and can bridge to the front).
Run: Since we all did minimal work on the bike, a solid run was certainly within reach. For some reason they decided to alter the course this year. Based on the various GPS files it ended up to be 6.356784334 miles....no big deal! Either way, I had a great run this year, holding pace with some past "top 5" winners and typically fast runners. Took a Stinger gel at 5k to keep the energy going but couldn't out-kick a Pro Army fella at the end. Either way, I'm 100% happy with my performance...still a long way to go at 13th place, 5th on the AF team.
So after all is said an done, where am I mentally?
I needed this event to be concrete, I needed to walk away knowing I at least felt confident I'm getting faster (even if it's 1%). I've never been a D1 swimmer or runner and I certainly can't stack up to those fellas quite yet....but I ONE DAY they're going to have to wipe my sweat from their face when I blow by them. Until then, this sport is as much art as it is utter pain. I heard this quote somewhere and It keeps me pretty level headed and always pushes me further.
"Not all pain is significant"
A final thank you to Scott Bicycles for a very very light and rigid Foil 10, OSMO for keeping my bottles full of anti-cramp fluids/nutrients, Honey Stinger for keeping me buzzing along, American Classic for safe carbon wheels (even at 60mph), Rudy Project for protecting my pretty brown eyes and wavy hair and XTERRA Wetsuits for making a seriously flexible wetsuit that kept my "man parts" very warm despite the frigid temperatures. Oh and let's not forget the US Military Endurance Sports! Without their partnership with Boeing and Snapple....I wouldn't be able to do ANY of this!
Congrats to my USMES Team Mate Sam Morrison for taking the Female overall win and helping the Women take 1st overall For the Air Force Team! Air Force Men took second by 5 points but we're still way better looking....Also, great way to end your AFTC journey Brad Williams....Stellar top 5 performance!