By Ms. Brittany Bangert (USACE)August 28, 2012
WIESBADEN, Germany - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District Logistics Management employees Dale Free and Heath Drako recently competed in Ironman Germany triathlons. The Ironman, organized by the World Triathlon Corporation, is a premier long-distance sports competition of swimming, biking, and running for athletes in peak physical condition. Free completed the half-Ironman on August 12 in Wiesbaden and Drako completed a full Ironman in Frankfurt, Germany.
Free, the district Logistics Chief, completed the half-Ironman, consisting of a 13.1-mile run, a 1.2-mile swim and a 66-mile bike ride, totaling 70.3 miles and finishing with a time of 7 hours, 49 minutes and 26 seconds.
Prior to competing in his first Ironman, Free ran often and biked to work, but was never an avid swimmer. After receiving motivation from competitive colleagues and family, Free decided to compete in the half-Ironman triathlon this year.
"While living in Wiesbaden, the timing of the Ironman seemed perfect" said Free.
Free registered for the race over a year ago, began extensive training, and prepared for his first race day in Wiesbaden.
The energy of the city was "fabulous" on the day of the big event, Free said.
"Wiesbaden is full of energetic people motivating all of the participants," he said. "Germany is a great place to run an Ironman."
Preparing for the Ironman involved extensive training. Free swam, biked, and ran six days a week for over a year. During that year, Free said "training was tough all the time, especially on the treadmill in the winter."
Despite Free's extensive training, he said that the triathlon was a true test of character and determination.
"As you're running the race, sometimes all you think about is how much your legs hurt, but my whole family and lots of friends from the Corps were there to cheer me on and keep me motivated," Free said.
Fellow district employee, Heath Drako is someone who helped him stay motivated before and during the race. After eight marathons, 15 half-marathons, and a full Ironman, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a marathon 26.2-mile run, totaling 140.6 miles, Drako is not a stranger to the year-round training and dedication.
During the work week, he bikes to work, runs at lunch, and either bikes home or to the pool. On the weekends, Drako completes long runs and bikes hilly terrain in order to build up distances for the main event, ranging from 9 to 18 hours.
"The training is the biggest challenge while working 40 hours a week and making time for family," Drako said.
However, Drako offered a training tip to future Ironman participants.
"Stay consistent with your training," he said. "You have to show up every single day. There are days I could just lay on the couch, but, that would be the easy way out. Don't get me wrong, I do rest and that's my favorite workout of the week," joked Drako. "Getting rest is the key ingredient for making gains."
Those gains transfer to the work place as well. Free and Drako describe working with fellow tri-athletes as incredible. They endure the occasional "smack talk" but it is good natured, Drako said.
"We're always zapping knowledge from each other. Being in our office is like talking Ironman every day," Free explained.
Not only does their dedication to training help them on the course, but, Drako explained how their training for the Ironman translates to a stronger relationship and better dynamic in the Logistics Management office.
"The dedication and commitment to our training translates to successfully seeing logistics tasks through, easy or tough, every day in the office," Drako said.
Free and Drako plan to continue to participate in triathlons for as long as their health permits and both will participate together in next year's Wiesbaden half-Ironman.