Saturday, May 24, 2008

JD's return to Camp Merrill

Originally written in an email to friends I served with in 2/75 (1984-1987)

23 years after my first visit I finally had an opportunity to go back
on to the hallowed grounds of Camp Merrill. I was there to participate
in the Mountain Ranger Duathlon <>
along with several adventure racing friends. The duathlon starts with
the 5k run, followed by the 34k bike course and finally a 2 mile run.

I had set a goal of 2:40 for myself. I did this knowing little about
the actual courses. I knew the basics of the terrain out there, so I
knew there would be lots of climbing - I didn't know how much! Camp
Merrill's Rangers put on a great event and the course maps were
helpful in setting my goal time.

My runs were a bit slower than my typical trail run pace, but those
hills out there are killer! The 5k is an out and back course, or
should I say down and up course!! Yep, run down the fire-road for ~1.5
miles, then turn around and run up it! I ran my typical 5 miler pace
(~7:30/mile) on the downhill, but slowed way down on the uphill. I
needed to save something for the bike leg.

Had no way to know how many people were actually doing the duathlon
except for the number of bikes piled up in the transition area. When I
got there at the end of the 5k (first run leg) a large number of bikes
seemed to have dissappeared - I knew to where!

I had a good transition to the bike. Looks like about 2 minutes (much
better than my previous triathlon attempts). Started the climb just
behind some guy
- managed to get ahead of him relatively quickly and I could see
several more bikes in front of me. I started picking them off one by
one - nothing easy about it the climb to winding stair gap - it's
horrible (but in the best way!!!)! I think I was actually catching the
tail end riders from the bike race (bike race started at the same time
as the 5k) before I got to the top. One guy caught and passed me on
the bike - I wasn't pleased, but he was strong on the bike for sure! I
tried to keep him in sight, but there was too much climbing for me to keep
with him.

By the time I got to the top of the main climb (winding stair gap), he
was well out of sight. Coming down from Winding stair gap was awesome!
My top speed was about 37 mph. I'm sure there was some crazy folks out
there faster, but that was comfortable for me. Passed a bunch more
people - I have no idea how many were from the bike race and how many
from the duo - but I did my best to keep up the pace. About 3 miles
from the end of the bike leg, the terrain gets hilly again. Short
uphills followed by short downhills. Some of those uphills were very
tough! The bike leg ends on the same section of fire road that the 5k
used - that means the last 1.5 miles was all uphill!

Made another good transition (just under 2min) to the second run leg
and took off with the one guy who passed me on the bike in sight. I
must have re-gained enough on the downhills to negate most of the lead
he managed to get on me during the climb. The last run leg is similar
to the 5k - down and up the same section of fire road. This time the
total distance was only
2 miles. I was able to catch and pass my arch nemisis (he really did
piss me off by passing me on the bike) before the turn-around. More
importantly I was able to hold him off for the climb back to the
finish line. I crossed the line at 2:34:06 - beating my goal.

When I came across the line, the volunteers handed me an info sheet to
fill out my race information - they used this to immediately calculate
the placements for each category. While I was far from first, I did
come in 3rd for my age group. This pleased me greatly as I would be
able to take home a very nice plaque.

After the awards, my friend and I went over to watch the Hooahs in
action demo. It was very cool and brought back a bunch of memories.

Funny to think how much I missed doing that stuff. I envy those of you
who stayed with it. I don't regret getting out, but I sometimes wonder
how my life might have been different had I stayed in. Revisiting Camp
Merrill was a good thing for me. It was an inspiration to see the
young soldiers pushing themselves to be their best.

I thought I'd share this story partly because I know several of you
served with the cadre at Camp Merrill, but mostly because I want to
hear your stories about things going on with your lives and families.

Take Care Brothers!

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