Event a Fundraiser for the Air Force Academy Triathlon Team
Story and photos by Lynn DeBruin
May 1, 2010 (Colorado Springs, CO) – Almost a year to the day he underwent knee surgery, and 15 months after returning from deployment to Iraq, Darin Shearer showed he’s in fine form as he pursues his ultimate goal: competing in the Olympics. The Army captain won the overall title in the second annual Falcon Groundspeed Triathlon at the Air Force Academy. He covered the 800-yard swim, 15.26-mile bike ride and 5K run in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 14.7 seconds.
“It was a challenging course (with all the altitude changes), but I was using it as a training race,” said Shearer, a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) who expects to compete next month in the Armed Forces Championship in California.
Boulder’s Eric Kenney took second in 1:12:41.9, while Colorado Spring’s Yaniv Atzmon was third in 1:17.28.4.
On the women’s side, Fort Carson teacher Pam Welch took first in the event with a time of 1:25:06, three and a half minutes ahead of Leadville’s Amy Peters (1:28:02) and about six minutes ahead of Colorado Springs’ Carolyn Atwood (1:31:50).
Women’s Winner Two for Two at Academy Races
It was Welch’s second win in as many Air Force events, following a victory in the Lindsay Brown Memorial Triathlon last fall. Both events are fund-raisers, with the fall competition raising money to help cadets dealing with bereavement costs, and the Falcon Groundspeed Triathlon in support of the Cadets’ triathlon team.
Welch said the bicycle portion was key for her.
“I ride this course every Sunday with a group,” she said, noting as many as 50 riders take off at 10 a.m. each Sunday from a downtown Colorado Springs park. “I like the hilly course on the bike and the run.”
Men’s Winner Aims for Olympics
For men’s winner, Shearer, this win was just a small step toward the ultimate goal.
“I’ve had this goal my whole life of making it to the Olympics. I’ve come close,” he said, missing out by six seconds six years ago. “This is my last chance.”
In 2004, competing in steeplechase, he finished fourth in the Olympic Trials—with only the top three qualifying for the Games. Four years earlier, he finished fourth at the national championships only to have a bad race at the wrong time blow any chance at competing in Athens.
With one degree in arts/architecture from Harvard already in hand, Shearer went back to school to study engineering. While at the University of Florida in 2006, he joined the Army. From December 2007 until February 2009, he was deployed in Mosul, working on a forward operating base to design and build checkpoints and combat outposts.
“It taught me to appreciate family and what hard work really is,” Shearer said of 90-to 95-hour work weeks with a day off only about every 3-4 months.
Upon his return he eventually was selected for the WCAP program, even though he’s 36.
“I’m still young and still getting fitter. But this is it for me,” he said. “It’s my last chance to try to make the Olympics.”
Though he admits he’s a long shot, sometimes long shots surprise.
“I need to improve my swim, take a minute off in a 20-minute race,” he said.
Considering he was on crutches this time a year ago, he’s definitely optimistic.
Relay Teams Add Family Dimension
While some of the 251 athletes competing were using the competition as a kickoff to their season, others saw it as a way of closing out a fine career. Brock Logan, a senior on the Cadet triathlon team, joined his parents in a relay earlier in the morning. His mother, Stephanie, started things off in the pool and handed off to Brock on the bike. He then let his father, Fred, finish the run—joining him for the last lap on the track.
“They’ve been so supportive of me the last few years, I really wanted to get them involved in one of my races. I thought it’d be fun for my last triathlon on the Air Force team to do a relay. I proposed the idea and they jumped at it,” Brock said.
They didn’t disappoint. Their team took third in the coed relay competition (1:24:19).
“It was exciting,” said Stephanie Logan, 49. “I just didn’t want to embarrass (Brock), so I trained a lot.”
The former Master’s swimmer would turn in her best time ever, even though she hasn’t competed for 24 years. Fred Logan, who graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982, competed on the water polo team years ago. But he was happy to anchor the run portion of the relay.
“Getting in the open air and getting to race with my wife and son, it’s going to be a highlight of my life,” said Fred Logan, who only previously had run a half-marathon with Brock in Florida.
Additional Race Notes
In other results, the 40’s Black and Bloods won the squadron relay competition in a time of 1:15:50.8. Swim team member Anthony Chiaro, a freshman cadets, started the race, sophomore Chris Reith took over for the bike portion and John Lohr, a former high school track and cross country competitor, brought it home in the run.
Buff Em Up, with Courtney Clark and University of Colorado teammate Matt Hudson, took first in the coed relay competition (1:18:05.4).
Grace Higgins was the top female cadet (1:49.00.4), while Juan Rojas Camacho was the top male cadet (1:22:07.2)
The youngest competitor was 11-year-old Haley Fortin of Albuquerque, N.M., still sporting pink, blue, green and orange braces on her teeth. She attended an Air Force graduation ceremony a few years ago with her parents, and made it her goal to graduate there herself one day. It was her second straight year in the event, and she improved her time by 5 minutes (2:56:05), even after a 15-minute mechanical delay.