Local teacher triathlon contender

Carl Armstrong has qualified for the 50-to-55 age group for the national triathlon championships next month in Kansas City. Armstrong will be one of 67 to compete in his age group. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Eric Butler: CNJ Correspondent

A Clovis science and physics teacher shares more in common with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong than the same last name.

Carl Armstrong too enjoys pushing his body to the limit in a grueling sport that demands mental and physical stamina.

A science teacher at Clovis High School and a part-time physics instructor at Clovis Community College, the 50-year-old Armstrong has qualified for his age group for the national triathlon championships next month in Kansas City. He’ll be one of 67 people in the 50-to-55 age bracket who will compete on Aug. 13, out of 1,400 total participants.

Armstrong only took up triathlons recently.

Tom Martin, a friend of Armstrong’s, said he recruited him to a triathlon a couple of years ago.

“I would be the swimmer, someone else would be the runner and I tried to get Carl to be the cyclist and we would do (a triathlon) as a team,” Martin said. “After doing that for about half-a-season, Carl says, ‘You know what? I think I want to do all of them.’

“Interestingly enough, his swimming and running times have improved tremendously,” Martin said. “Now he’s a contender at every race he goes to.”

Armstrong grew up in the western New York town of Avoca, about 60 miles south of Rochester. After four years at the Air Force Academy, Armstrong received his commission in 1976 and served as a pilot in Las Vegas, England and Germany before moving to Cannon Air Force Base — where he retired in 1996.

“In high school, I ran track and I did a lot of cycling when not many people in New York state were cycling in a recreational manner back there in the early 70s,” Armstrong said. “When I was in the Air Force, I did a lot of bicycling and running. So that’s the background I had prior to the triathlon.”

Swimming was the one area where Armstrong was lacking in experience.

Though he’s dedicate himself to being a better swimmer, it’s still the aspect of triathlons he least enjoys.

“When you’re running or cycling, you have things to look at and can even have a conversation with someone while doing it,” Armstrong said. “You can’t do that with swimming. And when you train in swimming, if you get a little tired, you can stop and rest at the end of the pool.

“But that’s not possible in an actual competition, where you’re out in the middle of a lake or something,” he adds.
The primary motivation for Armstrong is “for fun” and a way to stay fit.

As a school teacher, the summer months have become the best opportunity to improve for Armstrong, who often bicycles 70 to 100 miles in an outing and runs a 14-mile loop every other week.

He recently participated in a half-Ironman competition in Lubbock and now has his sights set on a whole Ironman event — a grueling race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon (26.2 miles).

At this point, training to run the marathon distance — something he’s never done — may be the biggest obstacle, especially in view of the more limited time he has during the school year.

“I’m hoping to get up to 20 miles by March,” said Armstrong, who already has signed up for an Ironman event schedule for April.

Though Armstrong knows his fastest days on a bicycle have come and gone, and that it’s inevitable the same will happen soon enough in running and swimming, he plans to continue competing as long as possible.

“I’ve played softball, golf and tennis. This is one of those life-long activities,” Armstrong said. “It’s not unusual to go to races and find people there who are in their early 80s. They don’t have to compete against guys like me and, in turn, I don’t have to worry about guys who are in their early 30s.”