Marines excel at Triathlon World Championship

22 Oct 2004 | Capt. Chad D. Walton

Thousands of the world's best triathletes gather each year in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to contest the Ironman Triathlon World Championship and among them again this year were Marines competing for individual honors and the Armed Forces team title.

The All-Marine Ironman team overcame tough conditions to narrowly lose the Armed Forces team title by seven minutes to the team from the Army

The Marines arrived early to acclimatize to the hot, humid weather that is nearly always present on the big island of Hawaii and so were prepared to run a smart race.

Mitch Gold, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, 29 Palms, Calif., led the Marines out of the water near the front of a more than 1700-athlete field and used a consistent ride and excellent run to move up to finish in 93rd place overall in a time of 9:59:43.  Gold finished third in the Armed Forces individual competition, bettered only by Michael Hagen and Micheal Grabinger of the Army who finished in 9:50:35 and 9:55:32 respectively.

"The biggest difference between this race and years past is that I never considered quitting, something I've thought about at all my other Ironman races," said Gold.  "I was pleased I was able to sustain a solid effort on such a demanding day."

More than 10 percent of the field succumbed to the heat and wind and did not finish the race, a record for the championship.

"I don't think I have seen such consistent strong winds for the bike," said Gold.  "Most of the way to Hawi (where the race turns back to the finish) was spent riding with a very steady crosswind. Occasionally we'd get a break from the crosswind when it was a direct headwind.  Thinking about running a marathon after such a tough ride is not easy to do, but I think it helped me to prepare mentally. "  

Gold rode the 112 miles in a little over five hours 30 minutes and then ran the marathon in 3:18.

Team member Blake Benke, 8th Communications Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C., was the next Marine to finish in 10:30:13, anchoring his solid day with a 3:07 marathon.

"Hawaii can throw something new at you every time," said Benke.  "It can be humid, windy,
and hot or a combination.  It was a great experience and the finish drives
me to compete and requalify!"

Bill Wainwright, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, 29 Palms, Calif. also had a very steady day, swimming well, riding an evenly paced bike leg and then running a 3:31 marathon to finish in 10:54:35. 

"Racing for 11 hours and hitting my goal time within a few minutes means I executed my plan very well," said Wainwright.  "I don't think I could have done any better on that day."

"It is always a great privilege to race for the Marine Corps," said Wainwright.  "The crowds will cheer for the Marines and other services, even if they don't know you."  

The Marine's female team member, Kristin McCann, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, N.C., finished in 12:16:18 to help the Marines defeat the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard teams and narrowly miss the win over the Army.  McCann's first iron-distance race was completed less than three months ago and this years Ironman Championship was her first trip to the race.  Only the Army's Heidi Grimm, this year's female champion at the Armed Forces Championship in May, finished ahead of McCann among the female of the military in 11:31:05.

"The heat was not that bad," said McCann, who regularly trains in similar conditions at Camp Lejeune, "but the wind was terrible on the bike."

The team score is computed by combining the overall times of the four team members from each service.  The lowest overall combined time was put up by the team from the Army after more than 42 hours of combined racing.

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