Commentary

DRIVE FOR FIVE

Updated: July 10, 2012, 2:35 PM ET
By Karen Russo

WANT TO MINE GOLD THE HARD WAY? TRY PREPPING FOR THE OLYMPIC PENTATHLON

WHILE YOUORE IN THE ARMY

It's so early, your eyes are begging you to go back to bed. But forget about the snooze button. Army first lieutenant Chad Senior is standing in his driveway, his lean, six-foot frame set against the darkblue sky of a Colorado Springs dawn, waiting for you to hop into his Bronco so he can get started on his obscenely grueling day. Senior, 29, is enrolled in the Army's World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), which allows soldiers to train for three years in preparation for the Olympics. Sound tough? For the seven-year Army vet, it's beyond tough, because his event of choice is the modern pentathlon, a left-brain, right-brain test of skills in swimming, pistol shooting, fencing, horse jumping and cross-country running. To excel, you've got to be willing to train your butt off-the earlier, the better. So get in the truck already, wouldya?

06:10

DEEP FREEZE A Florida native, Senior hates the cold. He hates it even more on this particular spring morning, with a half-inch of fresh snow covering his truck's windows. Senior brushes off the flakes, turns on his ride by remote and mentally preps for hitting the pool during the threeminute ride to the Olympic Training Center. Coffee? Wheaties? No need. The brisk pool water is the ultimate wake-up call.

06:45

WATER WORKS Senior attacks the lanes in what his swimming coach, Kevin McKenna, calls a "high-quality power workout." He starts by going all out for six 50-meter sprints. He finishes by strapping himself to a bungee cord and stroking as hard as he can for six sets of 20 seconds. Consider Senior wide awake-and ready for breakfast.

09:15

GLORY BOUND Senior skips his midmorning fencing workout to deal with something much more important: his Army future. His contract expires before the Athens Games in August, so he heads to Fort Carson, 20 minutes from his home, to extend his tour for at least another year. That means he could be deployed to Iraq after the Olympics. Until then, he feels the best way for him to honor his fellow soldiers is by working as hard as he can to win gold. "Give them something to be proud of," he says.

11:15

DEAD CALM Senior takes a few minutes to chill before hitting the shooting range. According to coach Janusz Peciak, the '76 Olympic champ from Poland, shooters should have a heart rate so low they're nearly dead. When Senior finally starts firing, Peciak gets in his face to break his focus. Whatever. Senior hits his targets without so much as a twitch.

12:28

RUNNING ON EMPTY Ugh. Senior won't admit it, but he's been lagging ever since he returned from a World Cup competition in China four days earlier. He runs the first of eight 400-meter sprints in a muddy 71 seconds. He digs deep on his last 400, cutting four seconds off his time, but he just about collapses at the finish line. Good thing the running's over. Better thing it's lunchtime.

16:00

HORSE PLAY At the Sydney Games, Senior rode a testy horse that refused to clear several obstacles (horses are randomly assigned 20 minutes before competition). He dropped out of first place and finished sixth overall. That's why at the Penrose Equestrian Center, he always takes a few extra minutes to groom and stroke his ride before saddling up. Apparently, Senior's finding his groove. Yesterday, he rode the "aggressive" Freedom for an hour without a hitch. Today he flawlessly commands the even more unpredictable Gus (left).

18:30

REST EASY Senior goes home to his wife, Margaret, and three dogs for some precious QT. He's on the road competing about 100 days a year; in April, he saw Margaret on her birthday for the first time in five years. After dinner and some TV, Senior practices his shooting form for an hour. Then it's lights out at 10, so he can get up in the a.m. and do it again.