2013 Armed Forces Triathon National Championships

June 7th, 2013

Gold never tasted so good!

I have been on the All Army Triathlon Team and competed at the Armed Forces Triathlon in Pt. Mugu, California four times.  I placed 4th in 2009, 5th in 2010, and 2nd in 2012. I was deployed to Kuwait in 2011 and was unable to attend. Coming in to the race this year, I was aiming for overall champion.   Our team consisted of familiar faces and some new ones.  We arrived with plenty of time to preview the course and acquaint ourselves with the other members of the Armed Forces teams, including Canada.

Beach Start - Waters 62 degrees!

On race morning, the weather was perfect: slightly windy, cool and overcast.  Before the gun went off, I decided to move my starting position so I would be closer to the faster swimmers, namely Derek Oskutis and Thomas Brown.  I did not want to get caught up with everyone else who would take the swim out too fast and then slow down once their heart rates maxed out.  Despite the move, I was unable to keep up with Derek and Tommy and eventually found myself swimming solo.  The waters were choppy but I have had my fair share of these types of swims this year. Upon exiting the waters for my first loop, I looked back to see that I was indeed alone.

From Swim to Bike

I continued to keep up my tempo for the second loop and I exited a little over a minute behind the leaders and about 40 seconds ahead of the next swimmers.  So I did the only thing I could do. I put my head down and hammered the gears hoping to catch the two guys ahead of me.  Although I was closing in on them during the 1st of 4 laps, I wasn’t able to hold the pace alone.  Luckily, a group of four caught up with me going into the second lap.  We worked well together speeding along at an average 27.7 mph, but our paced slowed over the course of the final laps, which gave Derek and Tommy another minute on us.  I almost did not make it through my fourth lap as several of us took a corner too wide and I ran over two large traffic cones.  I just braced myself and charged through them like Superman through a brick wall. Fortunately, it only shook my nerves and not my bike.

Running my way to first place

With two minutes down, I knew I would have to have a great run, which I usually do at this venue.  I was not alone either.  James Bales, a former Armed Forces Champion, came off the bike with me and he is also a fast runner.  From the start, I decided that I would need to run a fast first mile and then settle into my pace a little later. This gave me a buffer from James and a good start to run down the leaders.  As planned, I executed the first mile and started running hungry for my prey. Going into the second lap, I caught Tommy, but Derek continued to hold me off.  I could tell I was catching him and at the 4 mile mark I was a little over half a minute behind.  I knew I could catch him but the task would hurt.

Podium consisted of Air Force James Bales 2nd, Army Nicholas Sterghos 1st, and Navy Tommy Brown 3rd

Approaching the 5th mile, I could see Derek just ahead of me. Something did not seem right, it look as though he was slowing dramatically. Next thing I knew, he was grabbing his hamstring and shouting in pain.  A little misfortune had found him and I found myself in first place.  As I passed him, I gave him words of encouragement. I was in the lead, but I still had to hold off James, who is as strong as an Ox and can usually always find another gear.  At the last turn around I could see James and the other guys behind me, I could tell that I had put more time on them too but I did not want to take any chances so I tried my best to pick up the pace even if it was just enough to not slow down.

Bounding through the mountains

I did not look back; I just continued to run towards the finish line. About 200 meters from the finish, I saw Heather cheering with joy and she ran with me for a few strides.  This race is important to us because it is how we first met.  She knew several people from the Navy team last year and found me through the channels.  I was working at Fort Hood near her hometown of Austin, TX and the rest is history.  

Biking on the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH for all you roadies

As I approached the finish line, I knew I had it in the bag. I crossed the line in 1:49:21.  Slower than last year but the swim and run were longer this year. No matter, I was the All Army and Armed Forces Triathlon Champion! This one was for the men and women of our Armed Forces, those like Nick Vandam, who is in Afghanistan this year, unable to compete and defend his 2012 title. Instead, he is doing his part to protect our freedom.  I also am in great dept to my unit 1-44 ADA BN who has supported my triathlon pursuits since I was a butter bar—“Strike First!” As a team, Army placed 4th for the women, and 3rd for the men.  Hopefully the Army team can find a top place finish next year. See full results here.

Getting my picture taken with a beautiful mermaid that washed up on shore

Thanks to all those who support me and thanks to everyone that supports our military —  Jack & Adam’s Bikes, Sable Water Optics, Serotta Cycles, Amrita Energy bars, Total Immersion, Team Red,White & Blue, Global Healthy Living Foundation, Vasa, and TC2 Coaching. I would not have won it without you! We are one more step in the right direction. And a special thanks to the USO of Los Angeles for helping all of our teams during our travels!

Chill'n at the Griffith Observatory checking out Hollywood