Brent Tittle is a full-time fighter pilot stationed in Japan and competing in Asia this year. He hopes this is the year he'll qualify for the Games.
Stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, 12,221 kilometers separate Brent Tittle from his home in Colorado. The full-time fighter pilot was deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan in January of this year.
Tittle is keeping himself busy, both in the air and on the ground.
“Being a full-time fighter pilot and a competitive CrossFitter is a difficult balance that I struggle with daily,” he says. “It has been challenging eating and training the way I would like, but it is nothing compared to the obstacles some other athletes face. The first thing I did when I got here was buy a microwave and a grill for my room. I have tried to minimize the challenge of having to eat out every night.”
Tittle entered the Air Force in 2005, after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he played baseball for four years. During his second year in the Air Force, Tittle discovered CrossFit.
“While in pilot training in Enid, Okla., I noticed one of my flight instructors doing some interesting workouts,” he recalls. “I, like most, was skeptical at first. I tagged along for a couple of workouts and have been hooked ever since.”
Physical and neurological skills, such as hand-eye coordination and proprioception acquired during his years of baseball training, helped Tittle develop as a CrossFit athlete. But it is the mental focus from games and tournaments that have benefited him most.
“The biggest way I think (baseball) has helped is for the mental preparation before a competition,” he explains. “The way I feel on the morning of a competition feels very similar to what I would feel before baseball games. It’s a mix of nervousness, anxiety and excitement, but it all seems to go away when the first pitch is thrown, or someone yells 3-2-1 … Go!”
Tittle says CrossFit has helped him as a fighter pilot. The 30-year-old flies the F-22 Raptor, whose advanced technology challenges even the most skilled and experienced of aviators.
“This job can be extremely demanding on the body at times, but CrossFit has helped me with my recovery time in the air. There are some missions where you have the force against your body — anything from five to nine times your bodyweight — held for a series of minutes,” he says. “I truly believe CrossFit has helped me to recover in the short amount of time between engagements.”
CrossFit quickly escalated from a skeptical notion to a serious passion for Tittle. In 2009, he earned his Level 1 Certificate and has been coaching, as well as training at CrossFit Hampton Roads ever since. Adding to this, Tittle attended the Olympic Lifting Trainer Course at the end of 2012 and the CrossFit Kids Course earlier this year. He is currently signed up to attend the Coach’s Prep Course at the end of April.
Just more than a year ago, Tittle and his brother, David, opened CrossFit Low Oxygen in Frisco, Colo. Operating at 9,400 feet, one might say Tittle has an affinity for great heights.
“The altitude is a game changer. I always notice the lack of air most when I go back to Frisco to coach and I’m doing demos for the warm-up and WOD,” he says. “By the end, I am usually out of breathe and everyone is looking at me.”
In week three of this year’s Open, Kristan Clever and Talayna Fortunato came head-to-head, to battle out 13.3 at CrossFit Roots in Boulder, Colo. Before, during and after the workout, people spoke of the high altitude’s impact on the athletes’ performances. Tittle can relate. While the first few sessions back home may leave him feeling short of breath, once re-acclimatized, training at Low Oxygen has its benefits.
“Whenever I am there, I try and take advantage of that environment as it changes your strategy very quickly during a (workout),” he says. “Even just going for a run is a significantly emotional event when coming from sea level. However, when you go back to sea level, it’s game on.”
As if work at the air base and training for the Open weren’t enough, Tittle is trying to remain present at Low Oxygen, in spite of the current distance between him and the gym.
“Having my brother, David, as a business partner is awesome. He is incredibly business savvy, not to mention an amazing coach and athlete. Knowing that helps me not stress that I can’t be there as much as I would like,” Tittle says. “We talk multiple times a day and he keeps me up to date with how our athletes are doing and the overall pulse of the gym. We collaborate on the programming, website management, equipment orders and anything else that comes up.”
It is clear the Tittles are close, and that they like to keep things in the family up in Frisco, with the youngest of three brothers also helping out with the business.
“Scott lends a hand when possible for our business accounting. We are lucky to have his talents and I am very thankful we can all be involved with something that brings the three of us closer together,” he explains. “It is difficult not being able to be there to help my brothers with day-to-day operations, but I try to do as much as I can from a distance.”
Pilot, business owner and coaching roles and responsibilities aside, Tittle’s ultimate goal as an athlete is to make it to the Games. This is his fourth year competing, but his first time competing in Asia. After 13.3, he sits tied for 14th place in the region. The athlete is scheduled to move to Anchorage, Alaska in late May. The Asia Regional is May 31 – June 2.
“If I qualify, I will compete in Korea. The plan would be to go back to Virginia in mid-April and have around two weeks to pack up everything from my current base,” he says. “I would leave the first week in May to drive to Anchorage, which would take around 15 to 20 days. I am hoping to have a few days in Colorado to help my brother with the business and see my family. I’d like to arrive in Anchorage no later than May 23 to drop everything off at my new base. I would then look to travel around May 25 to Korea from Anchorage to have a couple of days to adjust back to the time zone before the Regional begins.”
Such a plan might leave others reeling, but not Tittle. Who knows, those few days of training at 9,400 feet might even give him a winning edge. If other athletes are even thinking of complaining about their flights to Seoul, better think again.
“Obviously it’s not ideal, but I would just be so grateful for the chance to compete. If I qualify, I will make it happen.”