By U.S. Army Capt. Nicholas SorokaDOHA, Qatar - Fingers grip the lip of the Camp As Sayliyah swimming pool in the fading evening light Nov. 10. Many racers wondered if they could finish a triathlon. Then with the blast of an air-horn, they thrust off the wall and started swimming. By the time they reached the big "A" at the bottom of the pool, their anxieties gave way to a simple desire for speed.Designed as a soldier's introduction to the sport of the triathlon, the Camp As Sayliyah triathlon hosted 90 racers from Camp As Sayliyah and Al Udeid Air Base in three different races: a sprint-distance triathlon, a super-sprint distance and a sprint-distance relay.The majority of racers undertook the longest, most challenging individual event, a full sprint-distance triathlon consisting of a 500 meter swim, 20 kilometer bike ride, and a five kilometer run. For some, swimming 20 lengths of the Camp As Sayliyah pool proved the most formidable challenge. For others, it was the hour and a half workout that followed. Averaging 1:46 of strenuous exercise to complete the course, competitors in this race had a surprisingly low dropout rate - 98 percent of all those participated finished.
Those starting the super-sprint distance race knew they were in for a 250 meter swim, a 10 kilometer bike ride, and a 2.5 kilometer run, which although half the overall distance, required higher intensity and a faster pace.Nine teams competed, with the fastest overall paces, in the sprint-distance relay. Taking on the course together, teams of three divided themselves into a swimmer, a biker and a runner. U.S. Army Maj. David Bornn, senior intelligence officer for Area Support Group Qatar, who dominated the running leg of the race, said "the relay provided an easy entrance into the sport as well as an innovative way to develop our military teams."Following the final heats of the race itself, soldiers, airmen and civilians broke bread together outside Chili's at the post-race barbecue and awards ceremony.Finishers from every race left with full-bellies, t-shirts, medals and war-stories, but most importantly they left knowing that they could finish a triathlon; they had proven it to others and they had proven it to themselves.