POHANG, South Korea -- Despite beginning with shoulder-high waves breaking on their heads, Team USA took bronze medals in women's senior triathlon, men's senior and mixed team here at the CISM World Games Oct. 10.
Air Force Reserve Maj. Judith Coyle earned bronze with an overall time of two hours, 15 minutes and 27.69 seconds in the event that involves swimming 1.5 kilometers, biking 40 kilometers and running a 10K.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Mason took a bronze in the men's senior category with a time of 2:02:54.78. Together with Navy Capt. Leslie Warren Boyer III, who finished at 2:07:28.59, they earned USA a mixed-team bronze.
The race began with the women swimming into four-foot waves breaking in Pohang's downtown harbor. "It was a learning curve," Coyle said.
"I got taken out by two waves -- arms, legs everywhere," she said about her swim back toward shore.
Competitors had to swim through the breakers out to buoys next to anchored boats, then across to other markers and back in before starting all over for a second lap.
"I needed to practice my body surfing for today's race," said USA elite team member Army 1st Lt. Alexis Ressler from the Vermont National Guard.
"It was very different from the practice swim, for sure," said U.S. Navy Ensign Erica Hippe. On Friday, the competitors swam the course and the harbor's waters were as calm as glass, she explained.
Despite the waves, Coyle said it seemed she had a "solid swim" and her time was 20 minutes, 58 seconds. Her transition to biking also went fairly smooth, she said, thanks to all her recent training.
Coyle is accustomed to competing on a much longer "Ironman" course where the transition times aren't as crucial.
"This is only my third Olympic distance," Coyle said. "I really had to work on my transitions a lot coming into this."
Competitors must quickly take off their wet suits and get their biking shoes on so that little time is lost on the clock.
"Coming off that swim and getting into a solid pack in a race like this helps out," she said about being able to draft behind other leaders during cycling to conserve energy for the run.
Her biking time was 1:08:26 for the 40k and her run time was 43:27. She was pleased with the run despite just healing from a broken toe suffered six weeks ago while traveling for her civilian job.
Balancing it all is sometimes a challenge, she admits.
"You juggle the training and work and Reserves, it can get to be much," she said, "but this makes it all worth it," she exclaimed after learning she earned the bronze medal.
Coyle said she tries to work out twice a day, except for the one evening per week she spends piloting C-17 aircraft at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where she's a member of the 728th Aerial Squadron, 446th Airlift Wing.
She'll now be training for an Ironman scheduled for Nov. 9 in Florida, Cole said. She's run five Ironman competitions in the past and finished in third place earlier this year at Tahoe.