Tri-Wing Triathlon contestants put pedal to the metal

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colol -- The United States Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, and Schriever Air Force Base hosted a Tri-Wing Triathlon beginning the month of June and concluded July 21.

Contestants, made up of personnel from Front Range installations, began the competition at USAFA June 3, with their choice of a 10 or five kilometer, or one-mile run. Swimmers had the option of completing a 25, 15, or 10-minute swim at Peterson AFB June 24. The competition wrapped up at Schriever AFB, with most contestants completing an arduous 23.2-mile bike ride.

“The three wings were trying to generate interest in physical activity,” said Mark Schuette, 50th Force Support Squadron assistant fitness and sports manager. “The idea was to get families involved across the Front Range and get participants to experience events on other bases.”

Capt. Matthew Cork, 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron Automated Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space flight commander, took first place in the men’s category during the bike ride, finishing with a top overall time of 1:22:38.

The 23 miles consisted of riding two laps around the perimeter of the base.

“I felt really good at the end of the race and was very happy with my overall time,” Cork said. “Having only competed in the bike race, I thought battling the wind on the north side of Schriever was pretty challenging. The most fun part was riding my bike in great weather and seeing the antelope on base.”

Lt. Col. Sylvette Ortiz, 379th Space Range Squadron assistant director of operations, was the top female finisher with a time of 1:56:19.

“I felt happy, accomplished and tired,” Ortiz said. The sand on the course was the hardest part for me. I kept getting stuck in the sand and couldn't get enough momentum to get going again. I did get frustrated, but I'm not a quitter. I told myself I could find a way to do this. So I moved my bike to the vegetation, got going there, and then eventually made my way back to the path.”

With a wide range of tire sizes and widths, Schuette was impressed with the riders overcame the sand challenge.

“The trail has a lot of hills and there were many areas with very soft sand that slows racers down significantly,” Shuette said. “It was also impressive that all of our competitors finished in under two hours.”

While perseverance, determination and competition were the themes of the day, contestants also pointed out the sense of comradery during the event.

“We started with a ‘we're all in this together’ and then we all got so spread out on the course that it became every man and woman for themselves,” Ortiz said. “At the end, people stuck around to cheer people behind them on to the finish. That was really nice.”

The Front Range contestants had a leg up on most competitions since the events were split up across multiple days. Typically, all triathlon events are performed consecutively on the same day. The Tri-Wing Triathlon allowed people from varying levels of fitness and duty schedules to compete.

“A full triathlon at those distances is a commitment to training and a heavy undertaking the day-of,” Cork said. “The Tri-Wing setup allowed you to accomplish those events in a more consumable fashion.”

Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Fuller, 10th Communications Squadron cyber transport compliance and policy NCO in charge, completed all three portions of the triathlon.

“All the time I put into training for three events paid off the moment I skidded to a stop after the finish line,” Fuller said. “I've been running for a few years and just picked up cycling, so I figured, why not? I liked how it was set up between having events on different days and different distance categories. I've been wanting to do a multi-sport event like a duathlon and this was perfect to start out with.”

Schuette had training advice for anyone considering competing in future triathlons.

“The biggest thing to practice is transitions,” Schuette said. “Transitioning from the swim to the bike and from the bike to the run can be a huge hurdle for people to overcome. If you only practice swimming on one day, riding on another, and running on yet another, you will really struggle when you put them all together on race day.”

The fitness center will host the 13th Annual Schriever Air Force Base Triathlon August 4, at 8 a.m. Participants will swim 400 meters in the Tierra Vista Community pool, mountain bike 12-miles around the base perimeter, and run 3.1 miles. Teams of 3 will be allowed to compete. For more information, contact the fitness center at 567-6628.