MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA -- The morning sun struggled to shine over the tops of tall pine trees at the Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park. In the dim light, more than 130 athletes eagerly awaited the start of the Second Annual Georgia Veterans Triathlon Aug. 17.
The race started at 7 a.m., and 11 Marines from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany were pumped with adrenaline, ready to take to the water.
The race began with the crack of a loud gunshot, and the athletes hurried into the warm water of Lake Blackshere to complete the first leg of the race, a half-mile swim.
"Just the adrenaline rush before you even start wakes you up," said Staff Sgt. Scott Erickson, supply operations chief. "You're ready to go before the gun even goes off. Then it's no hold barred, you just go for it."
Before the start of the race, the Marines joked about who of the small group would finish first. This was the first triathlon competition for some Marines, while others had competed in a handful of them.
The Marines weren't there to take home the first-place trophy, but instead to egg each other on in friendly competition. Most of them had trained a few months before the triathlon to prepare their bodies for the challenging race, but few expected to keep up with the seasoned triathletes competing in the race.
Although the Marines did not plan to take first, they, nevertheless, pushed themselves to the limit to achieve their best personal finishing time. For instance Sgt. Gregory Marsh, S-6 network technician here, was motivated by adrenaline and not wanting "the guy behind me to beat me."
Marsh and others overcame the pain pulsating through their aching muscles to complete the triathlon.
"There is nothing fun about it, everything is awful," said Marsh, a third-time triathlete. "You get off the bike and your legs are jelly and you still have 15 guys in front of you [who] you got to try and beat. But you don't have a chance."
Marsh was the first Marine to cross the finish line at one hour and 14 minutes after the start of the race, which was nine minutes behind the first finisher. He admits he would've liked to finish sooner but, but he won't lose any sleep over his time. He met his goal for the triathlon by giving his all and beating the other Marines.
According to Erickson, along with earning "bragging rights to take back to the base" by beating fellow Marines, competing in the triathlon was another way to stay in shape.
"It breaks up the monotony of doing the same old pull-ups, crunches and 3-mile runs that we do," said Erickson.
Marine Corps Community Services here made it possible for Marines to compete in the event for free, said Gunnery Sgt. James F. Cully, battalion gunnery sergeant.
Although the Marines competed as individuals, Cully still felt it was a team effort. The Marines were trying to beat one another, but they cheered and motivated each other to do better.
When Marines passed or saw one another during the race, loud grunts such as "ohrah" and other words of encouragement could be heard.
When the race was over the Marines congratulated each other and shook hands. Many were tired and quick to gulp down water once across the finish line, but after a few minutes of catching their breath, they all wore smiles on their faces.
They were happy to be done with the triathlon, but they were also proud of their accomplishment - swimming 0.5 mile, bicycling 13.6 miles and running 3.1 miles. These Marines completed a triathlon before 9:30 a.m., accomplishing more in a few hours than some people did all day.