My Journey to ITU 2007 Worlds Olympic Race in Hamburg, Germany
Article by: STC Member Dave Campbell
As most know by now, this opportunity was the Y of the road for me in my Sports career. I started
Triathlons around 10 years ago to try something new, and to try to keep myself in shape as I was
getting older. At my first sprint tri race at Lake of the Pines, I nearly fainted out of the swim, I walked
all the hills on the bike, and I walked most of the run. Was pretty close to last place.
So, fast forward after 10 years of slowly getting more into this sport. I knew coming into this season, I
was going to be at the bottom of the 5 year age bracket again. So, my thought was to go into this
season with the best effort I could muster. At the end of the last season, I looked at my results and
could see my weakest event was swimming. It also was the event I was really doing nothing to improve.
I decided that if I was going to go for it, I had to quit coming up with excuses as to why I could not do
something, but act as if nothing can hold me back. I took the chance and went to a masters swim
practice. And you know what, there were lots of slow swimmers just like me. After working on this 5
days a week for 6 months, I went from a MOP to FOP swimmer.
I had signed up for IMCDA because I got caught up into the Mdot hype. But, last winter I was reading
the USAT web site and saw that Nationals for 07/08 were going to be in Oregon. Now, since I did not fly,
I said cool, I could drive there. So, I cancelled IMCDA and changed my entire focus for 07. I was going to
try and qualify for AG Nationals in 07, and make Honorable Mention in the USAT rankings.
Well, as an engineer, I started to plan out my attack for this goal. I had already started on my secret
weapon to improve my swimming, I now needed to figure out what races I could go to in order to try
and qualify for Nationals. Looking at the USAT site, I saw that the college series started In Feb at the
Bearathlon, and figured few folks would have the focus to get racing so early in the season. So, I trained
hard, went to the race, and since so few Ager’s go to these races, won my AG and qualified for
As I was planning to drive up to Oregon, I looked at the folks who had signed up for the race in my AG.
By getting their USAT rankings, I could see I was about 35th, which meant I was only going to have fun,
since only the top 16 got a slot for Worlds, rolling down to 25. As I was racing at Nationals, and running
in the hills, I was counting how many folks were in front of me. (The older folks started first so it was
easy to count). When I got to about 25 of so, and only saw a few in my AG, I started to think who
knows, maybe I had a chance to be 25th. I ran as hard as I could, and ended the race 12th, and had a
choice to go to Germany. The boss kept asking me what I was going to do since I had not flown for 25
years, and flying was my biggest phobia!!! I kept telling myself, I had worked hard for the last 10 years
to get this opportunity, and if I did not give this a try, I would kick myself for the rest of my life. So, I
took the chance, and signed up.
Now, taking a trip to Europe as the first test for flying seems a little nuts, but I figured if I was going to do
it, I might as well go for it all. I also knew if I had any chance of making that long plane flight, I needed to
get into Business class. Was able to get lucky and find a round trip ticket for half price. Gina was nice
enough to loan me her bike carrier so I could avoid buying one assuming I might not make it on the
plane. I went to my doctor and got every med known to man so I was ready for anything.
We got to the airport early on Tuesday morning. Now, here I was, at the cross roads of my life. Who
was bigger, me or that darn plane? So, with all my mental energy, I walked through that plane door, and
took my seat. I knew once they closed the door, there was no going back. I had decided that I would
start cold turkey without any meds and see what happened. I did wear the wrist bands that were
suggested for motion sickness. Our first leg was from SF to NJ, in around 6 hours. Boy was all the leg
room in business class great! We had a few hour layover in NJ. Took us around 90 minutes to get off
the tarmac, but away we went. I had heard it was critical to get some sleep before arriving to Europe.
So, after 45 minutes, I took an ambian. Another 45 minutes awake, another ambian. Still awake after 45
minutes and took a third. This time it knocked me out, and before I knew it, a 9 hour flight felt like 1.
(Now, I will not take that much ambian again since I was hit for 3 days with the side efforts, dizziness
We had decided that if we were going over as a Team USA member, we might as well spend the extra
money and stay at the Team USA hotel, and do everything else with them. So, at the airport, they had a
person with a Team USA sign waiting for us. We put the bike into the truck and jumped in the bus. As I
was told, the weather was very cool, cloudy and wet. Was neat during the trip from the SF hotel, to the
bus, I continued to see more and more folks with either Team USA gear on, or USAT stuff. I again got
out of my shell and kept introducing myself to these folks. By the time we were at the host hotel, there
were quite a few Team USA racers there. I have never in all my years of racing met such a great group of
people!! Knowing these were some of the best in the world was hard to believe, and none of them had
egos!!!! We were all wearing our Team USA clothes during the week and I could just tell we were all so
proud to be able to be there representing our country. It was funny watching folks look at me as we
were on buses or walking the streets with the Team USA clothes on, but boy did I feel proud!!
I feel sorry for the folks who decided to stay at other hotels. They may have saved some money, but it
just would not have been the same experience without staying at the host hotel. The entire USAT staff
that came was there as well as all the support staff. I never would have met so many fantastic folks if I
had gone on my own.
A lot of us were getting nervous as the big day approached. The weather had been pouring with rain
every day. We knew the water was going to be cold, and it was not the cleanest we had seen. But, this
was the big dance. When we got to transition early Sunday morning, it was all kind of a blur. The
transition area was the longest one I had ever seen. It was so neat to so see all the different folks with
their country uniforms on, and all of us being nervous. My wave did not go off until 10, so I was trying
to figure out how to eat correctly for a late start.
I tried to arrange my bike in T1 so I could find it. Even though markers were not allowed, I have brought
my smiley flower with me so I tied it on the bike rack, hoping it would be okay. Got my T1 bottom
wetsuit on and started the long walk through transition to the swim start. We were put into a corral as
a group of 101 50-54’s 20 minutes before the start. At 10 minutes, we were allowed to get into the
water for some swim warm-up. Even though the water was cold, putting on my rubber swim hat made
all the difference in the world.
The swim start had us all along the Pro start platform, and we all had to hold onto the rope. The gun
goes off, and out we go. The course took us under a long low bridge to the turn balls. I am normally out
in front swimming but not today. Boy was I getting my butt kicked. As we headed back, we again went
under another longer low bridge that was pitch black. I just tried to stay calm even though I was dying
from the lack of swimming for a week. They had an angled platform in the river for us to climb up on to
get out. I was so tired, and it was so steep, I had to have the helpers pull me up. I looked at my watch
and saw 25 something and right away felt oh well, terrible swim.
I took off running towards my bike in T1. It was through lots of yelling folks and took forever, since it
was about a quarter of a mile. Found the bike easily with the flower, and other landmarks I was able to
remember. We were very lucky that the only day of the trip it did not rain, was on Sunday! I had heard
folks in the rain in other days had slid out. As I started on the bike, I could again feel the lack of training I
had during the week. Just felt weak. And, I was getting passed by folks like I was standing still. Again, I
just said to myself, it was just an honor to be there. The course was a two loop and I was starting to get
nervous I had missed the turn around, but I finally got there. I hear we road through the red light
district of Hamburg, but I guess I was too focused on the race to notice. :o( One of the biggest
disappointments of the bike was seeing how many folks were drafting. I guess I did not expect this at a
Worlds event. One guy was SO bad drafting a gal that I went up to him and yelled at him for drafting.
(As we passed each other different times in the rest of the race, he kept giving me these dirty looks). As I
was watching my time on the bike, it again was slow so I was bummed coming into T2.
Did a quick transition and off on the run. By this point I was just dying! All I kept telling myself is you
cannot walk at a Worlds event, so I kept my pace down. Since the signs on the run were every 1K, I had
no idea what my pace was, but when I continued to see guys in my AG flying by me, I knew I really was
having a bad day.
Now, one of the great things on the bike and run were the folks yelling at me saying go USA. That is just
an experience you will never hear at any other race. When the USAT folks towards the end of the run
were yelling my name and go Team USA, it really helped me to hold it together at the end. So, I came
across the line with all the yelling folks in around 2:26:31, and knew it was my slowest race of the
season, but I had finished, and was proud.
Now, after the race, I found out a few things. First, the swim buoys had moved, so the swim was long.
The police made them move the bike turnaround, so it was 41K. And, on the run, I did a 43:45 which is
around my normal pace. What did I learn from this? First, I was very humbled! I always knew I was not
that good, and when you race against the worlds best, well, I found out first hand. Second, the feeling
of pace is all relative. Even though I was running my butt off, when much faster folks fly by you, it can
mentally make you feel real slow. And, as I already knew, my bike is the weakest of the three events for
That night at the host hotel, USAT put on the team dinner and boy was it great. To see the folks that
had placed in their AG brackets was neat. Tim from USAT read out each persons’ name on Team USA
and we each got a special pin. I just felt like part of this super team of great folks. An experience I have
never had in any other race.
What have I learned from this experience? One never knows what barriers one can break through until
one tries. And, this is not to judge by race results, it is by judging against ones gifts. Never say never! If
you do not try, you never know what you can accomplish.
Being on Team USA was the neatest thing I have ever had the honor to do. I got lucky and have qualified
for Worlds 08 in Vancouver in June. Am look forward to going with Jane, who also qualified to be on
Team USA in 08. I am already starting to plan my off season to try and see if I can do a little better. And,
with Nationals being in Oregon for one more year in September, I am trying to set a goal to see if
somehow I can make the top 10 so I can be on the podium at the awards ceremony.
Bottom line, go for your dreams. We never know what tomorrow will bring, so make the best of each
day as they are so special, and go by so fast.
I hope my story inspires some of you to consider trying for your dreams, whatever they might be. And I
hope some of you will consider trying to join me at Nationals next season. The first race is just a little
over 4 months away with the Bearathlon, the first college event. These events have the fewest number
of Agers, so it will be your best odds. If there is any way I can help anyone, please do not hesitate to
write, call, or catch me at a race.
I would really like to thank everyone on STC for allowing me to be part of your team. Every one of you
that hits the starting line is a winner in my book. Finishing times come a lot from our parents, which we
cannot do much about. My values in life. Health, family, fun, work, and then triathlon! Whatever you
do, if you have a family, it is critical, IMO, to make them part of the trip. The only way I have been as
successful as I have been is because of the support of my Angel wife Francie, and my two daughters
Annie and Sandy. I would stop racing in a second if it impacted my health or family in any way.
I think if one wants to do well at anything in life, one needs to have goals. So, I have already started to
plan my 08 season.
1). Support STC members who might want to try and get to Nationals
2). California International Marathon in Dec with the group of family and friends who sign up for the 25th
3). Triple my bike mileage (I did 227 miles this week, and 21.5 hours of total training, by far more than
ever. Now will see if the body can hold together)
4). Do the Boston Marathon in April and finish around 4 hours
5). Do Vancouver Worlds in June and try to place 40th
6). Try to break 5:20 at the Vineman 70.3
7). Nationals in September and try to place 10th.
8). Try to make USAT AA again
9). Try to get as many STC members into the Lake of the Pines Triathlon in September. Then party at our
house after the race.