Cadet 2nd Class Nathan Betcher crosses the finish line Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 during the Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City. Betcher and two other cadets raced in the event representing the Air Force Academy Triathlon Club. (Courtesy Photo)
Cadet 3rd Class Brad Phelan makes his way through the bike course Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 during the Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City. Phelan and two other cadets raced in the event representing the Air Force Academy Triathlon Club. (Courtesy Photo)
Cadet 1st Class Alexander Milhous makes his way through the run course Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 during the Redman Triathlon in Oklahoma City. Milhous and two other cadets raced in the event representing the Air Force Academy Triathlon Club. (Courtesy Photo)
by Staff Sgt. Raymond Hoy
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
9/29/2010 - OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three cadets took a trip to Oklahoma City to compete in the sixth annual Redman Triathlon Sept. 25.
Cadet 1st Class Alexander Milhous, Cadet Squadron 31, Cadet 2nd Class Nathan Betcher, CS 25, and Cadet 3rd Class Brad Phelan, CS 18, were among roughly 500 other triathletes to compete in the grueling course, which included a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.
The three cadets are each members of the Academy Triathlon Club and have raced in multiple triathlons.
"This is my twelfth triathlon," said Milhous, who competed in the half-length triathlon. "I honestly haven't been training for a half-ironman. I've been using this distance as a checkpoint for my overall fitness and to train harder for my full Ironman in November. I've been training for Ironman Cozumel since the end of summer."
Triathlons are becoming very popular competitions in the United States. Racers came from all over the U.S. to compete in the competition. Part of the reason is because of the venue.
"To be honest, the venue was about as perfect as I could imagine," said Betcher, who finished in sixth place overall. "I love being outside in the heat, the hills on the bike ride were rolling and pretty easy to power over, and the support crews and volunteers were amazing."
While this is a solo sport, there are still outside factors that can really take a toll on the competitors' time.
"Thank God that I didn't have any bike difficulties," Milhous said. "For the past two races, I've gotten flat tires on the bike course which killed my bike split time."
A solid training regimen plays a key role in being able to perform consistently during the race. All three cadets spent most of the summer alternating between swimming, running and biking. And since the academic year began, they spend a lot of time before and after class in the gym or running and riding among the Academy's many hills.
However, some tend to get caught up in school and life.
"Training, what's that?!" Phelan exclaimed.
While training and self discipline are crucial, they agree they couldn't do it without the support of friends and squadron leadership.
"My friends and teammates were pretty good about calling or texting me the night before to give me awesome advice like, 'Don't suck!'"Betcher said. "Everyone in my squadron and group was really supportive. It meant a lot to me actually having friends call me up after it was done to tell me 'Well done.'"
And sometimes the support decides to suffer right next to you.
"I actually was at the race to support my two teammates who were racing the full iron distance," Milhous explained. "After I finished, the two of them would be racing for at least six more hours. This way I was there to cheer them on."
However, all the support in the world won't carry you across the finish line. Whether it was swimming, running or biking, all three competitors had specific parts of the race that was hardest for him. For one though, it was something else entirely.
"Resisting the limitless number of Clif Bars, Hammer Gels, Gatorades and cookies at the aid stations on the bike and run portion was the tough part for me," Betcher said. "The entire Ironman pretty much became a 140.6 mile Powerbar buffet line and I did a pretty cruddy job of turning down food."
But crossing the finish line is what mattered most. After more than 11 hours of exertion, being able to stop can be a euphoric experience.
"It felt amazing to complete this race," Betcher said. "Eleven and a half hours goes by pretty quick when you're surrounded by so many awesome athletes and have literally hundreds of people cheering you on every step of the way."
Milhous finished his half-ironman in 40th place overall with a final time of 5:21:05. Betcher and Phelan both competed in the full race. Betcher came in sixth place overall with a final time of 11:24:57, and Phelan came in 56th place overall with a final time of 13:13:29.