Marines Win 2001 Armed Forces Triathlon
By Kim Upshaw
Special to American Forces Press Service
NAVAL BASE VENTURA COUNTY, POINT MUGU, Calif., Jun. 29, 2001 The Marine Corps won the 2001 Armed Forces Triathlon Championship here June 16 in the face of 58- degree water temperatures, rough surf and overcast skies.
The 72 military triathletes from all the services launched a full-out attack, vying for one of the top six spots in either the men's or women's category that would allow them to compete July 2-7 in the Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Triathlon Championships in Murska, Slovenia.
On the morning of the race you could feel the tension and the thrill of competition as these triathletes, clad in wetsuits and insulated swimming caps, waited on the beach for the signal to start. When it finally rang out, 72 men and women dove into the frigid Pacific waters and began their quest to represent the United States in Slovenia.
The rough waters tossed the swimmers violently but they persevered and found their way around the markers of the 1.5-kilometer swim, emerging beaten and battered from the surf. Marine 1st Lt. Susan Stark ran into problems early on.
"I was swimming and my wetsuit came off, that was a bit of a challenge for me, I swam about 15 minutes without my wetsuit," she said in a post-race interview. "As cold as it was, I was actually happy when my wetsuit came off. It was restricting me a bit, so once it was off I was able to concentrate more on my swimming stroke." In spite of her struggles in the water, Stark was the first woman to finish the swimming event.
The triathletes sprinted across the beach to the transition area, some pulling off their wetsuits as they ran. They quickly donned bicycling gear and set off on the second leg of the race. The transition went smoothly for some, not so smoothly for others. Four-time champion Army Maj. Michael Hagen from the Army team had a particularly bad one.
"I fell in the sand coming out of the water," he said. "Then when I got to the bike, I couldn't find my shoes or sunglasses." Others were out of their wetsuits and on their bikes in the blink of an eye.
The triathletes flew through the 40-kilometer bicycle course, zipping past checkpoints and water drops without breaking their pace. Bikers snatched water cups from the outstretched hands of the many volunteers who'd come to see the event. The bike race gave Hagen the chance to recoup valuable time he had lost in the swim and the transition.
"I guess I was passing people," he said, "but I didn't realize I was doing it." He managed to move into fourth place in the men's division after coming off the tough swim.
The 10-kilometer run was everyone's last chance to secure a place on the CISM team. The wear and tear was evident on the faces of the triathletes. They were tired, but game to win the race.
One hour, 59 minutes and 35 seconds after the beginning of the race, Hagen was first to cross the finish line. In spite of his rough start and a bad knee, he was able to come from behind and secure the first place in the men's division. The crowd cheered wildly for the five-time champ, and then awarded a similar response to every man and woman who crossed the finish line.
Stark, Marine Corps female athlete of the year for the past two years, crossed the line just 11:48.0 behind Hagen to capture the women's division and her spot on the CISM team.
The top six male finishers bound for Slovenia are Hagen, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., 1:59:35; 1st Lt. Matthew Nuffort of Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., 2:01:27; Lt. j.g. Stephen Fisher, Naval Station Bangor, Wash., 2:01:29; Lt. Col. Robert Fink, Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., 2:01:35; Capt. Mark Potter, Fort Irwin, Calif., 2:01:41; and 2nd Lt. Scott Miller, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2:01:45.
The top six women were Stark, Camp Lejeune, N.C., 2:12:23; Maj. Karen Krajicek, Marine Corps Reserve Support Command, Kansas City, Mo., 2:13:36; Maj. Heidi Grimm, U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., 2:14:49; 2nd Lt. Jessica Jones, Fort Hood, Texas, 2:16:14; Petty Officer 2nd class Tina Eakin, Honolulu, Hawaii, 2:18:57; and Coast Guard Lt. Amy Baribeau, Washington, D.C., 2:22:56.
Baribeau cannot go to Slovenia because of a personal commitment. Joining the other five women will be by Lt. j.g. Lynn Fodrea of Monterey, Calif., who placed seventh with a time of 2:23:06.
The U.S. team will be squaring against some of the world's best triathletes. The CISM tournament in Slovenia is expected to attract military athletes from about 25 countries.
The overall team standings were: Marines: 26:13:47. Air Force: 26:24:01. Army: 26:28:41. Navy: 26:59:06.
(Kim Upshaw and Vance Vasquez work at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, Calif.)