Hagen, Baribeau, Air Force Dominate Triathlon
By Marcia Brandhorst
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., May 12, 1999 Army Maj. Michael Hagen and Coast Guard Lt. Amy Baribeau continued their reign as military triathlon champs while the Air Force team ousted the title- defending Navy racers here May 8 at the third annual Armed Forces Triathlon.
The triathlon consisted of a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike race and 10-kilometer run. Baribeau, competing for the Navy, and Hagen won the individual women's and men's titles the first year and have fended off all challenges since. Both qualified to represent the United States at the Military World Games in Zagreb, Croatia, in August.
The Air Force captured the team cup with a time of 8:00:47. The Navy, its reign clipped at two years, finished second at 8:14:23. The Army trailed at 8:16:23 and the Marines, 8:17:13. Team scores were the total times of the top three men and top woman.
Although Air Force ran away with the competition, the three minutes separating the others was the tightest margin in the triathlon's three-year history, said Maj. Sharon Jacko, Marine Corps Military World Games coordinator.
"I think it's great," said Air Force's Lt. Col. Bob Fink, who finished third among the men and also earned a bid to Zagreb. "It's hard when there's someone way in front of you and someone way behind you, so you know you've got your place secured. You have to remind yourself that every second counts (to the team score)."
Baribeau (2:14:16), assigned to Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., said her victory wasn't so easy this time. "I got first by a very narrow margin," she said, adding she could see other women "creeping up" around corners during the run. One of those was teammate Navy Ensign Kathleen Baldwin, who finished No. 2 just 64 seconds later.
Hagen called his title defense a personal victory. He said he'd made a name for himself in 1997 as the amateur triathlete and duathlete of the year, but struggled in 1998 and early this year.
After struggling on the swim and coming out of the water in ninth place, Hagen passed all but Fink on the bikes. Fink started the foot race with more than a minute's head start, but Hagen power-shifted into first place somewhere after a mile and crossed the finish line at 1:52:09 with a two-minute lead.
"It was nice to win," he said. "It was a great competition." Hagen, 36, has been training for triathlons and duathlons since 1986. Assigned to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., last October, he'll be on his way to graduate school this summer.
Air Force's top finisher, Capt. Dirk Bouma, took second in 1:54:46. He came off the bikes in third and passed teammate Fink about four miles into the run. Also a pentathlete, Bouma is training at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, for the International Council of Military Sports pentathlon in Poland.
Fink, from Bradley Air National Guard Base, Conn., admitted running is his weakest link. Moreover, he said, he had navigation troubles on the bike course that might have allowed Hagen and Bouma to gain ground.
"Being in first is good, but there are drawbacks as well," he said. "I finished higher than I expected, but it didn't feel like a good race."
Baldwin is looking forward to the World Games after finishing in 2:15:20, 1:04 behind Baribeau, but she might not be able to go. She is in the middle of flight school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and may have to bow out of the games.
Although the weather was warm and sunny all week, race day was dark and gloomy -- much to the liking of many athletes. First Lt. Spence Cocanour of Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., had been hoping for cold temperatures. "I would melt otherwise," he said.
Bouma agreed: "The best weather is a little cool for the spectators."
But while the drizzle on the run was wonderful, it was also "numbing," according to Fink. After the swim in 60-degree water, moving on to the bike with vented shoes designed for warm weather left him with no feeling. "I didn't feel my toes until the third mile of the run," he said.
The coldness of the water wasn't the only scary factor. "It was the most brutal swim I've ever had in my life," said Baribeau, who threw up after exiting the water. The day before the race she and several other triathletes went out to get accustomed to the high surf, she said, but not even a practice run prepared them for race day.
Army 1st Lt. Mike Garcia of Fort Carson, Colo., got disoriented and temporarily lost his sense of direction in the water. "I'm normally one of the better swimmers," he said. "But not today."
"I was looking for my surfboard," quipped Navy Cmdr. George Murrell of Portsmouth Naval Hospital, Va.
While several of the athletes were nervous about swimming in the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean, a few members had an advantage. Marine Corps' Capt. Karen Krajicek finished fourth among the women and qualified for the Military World Games. A Division 1 collegiate swimmer, she also swam local waters while stationed at Camp Pendleton a few years ago. She was also familiar with the course.
"I had an idea going in what (the waves) were going to be like, but they weren't as rough as I expected," she said. Krajicek came out of the water with several of the top men but lost time on the bike. She started the run in third place among the women and finished fourth in 2:15:52.
Capt. Heidi McKenna, an Air Force Academy instructor, finished third. She also competed in the Armed Forces Cross Country Championships in February. She came out of the water sixth, held position on the bike, and kicked past three runners, including Krajicek. She finished in 2:15:23, just three seconds behind Baldwin.
Gunnery Sgt. Doug Marocco was the top male Marine, in ninth place with a time of 1:59:54. He said the rainy season at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, hampered his bike training. "It's really hard to train in those conditions."
The top six men and six women will travel to Zagreb. Other qualifiers included Garcia, Army; Capt. Peter Ohotnicky of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Petty Officer 2nd Class Joe Bell of Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif.; Lt. Kathy Kerrigen of Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center, Ill.; and Air Force Capt. Christine Bosau of Hurlburt Field, Fla.
For more information, visit the Department of Defense Sports Office.
[Marcia Brandhorst is a staff writer for the Camp Pendleton newspaper, the Scout.]