By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo — Bouncing back. That, by definition, is what resiliency is all about. So when Al Strait, 21st Space Wing director of staff, didn’t meet the cutoff time at mile 30 during the 2012 Squaw Peak 50-mile run, he knew he would be back to tackle it again.
And tackle it he did. On June 6 the 62-year-old Strait completed the grueling mountainous run in 16:22:28, a great demonstration of a trait — resiliency- he regards highly.
“I had a horrible, horrible first 5 miles in 2012,” Strait said, “Not this year.”
In fact he covered the first 5.58 to the fortuitously named Hope Campground checkpoint in 1:36. That pace assured he would get to the 33-mile mark in time to get through the most difficult section of the course before it was dark.
He called the Squaw Peak challenge the most difficult race he ever ran. He has the running experience to make that a substantial claim. Strait has run many Pikes Peak Marathons and Pikes Peak Ascent races and other 50-milers.
“I’ve never run a course that was so rocky. At the 40-mile mark Windy Pass is like a mini-(Manitou) Incline, sort of.” Nearly half the course was over dirt trails thorough the Wasatch Mountains outside of Provo, Utah. “There were a lot of isolated trails, sometimes there was cell service.”
Strait doesn’t like to fail and that’s not such a strange thought coming from a retired Air Force colonel. Not finishing the 2012 event left a bad taste in his mouth so he decided to draw on the resiliency and sticktoitivness he gained during his Air Force career.
“I wanted to get that monkey off my back,” Strait said. He used the Bataan Memorial Death March in March as a training run and ran/walked between three and four and a half hours on the weekends. Along with his typical running he trained for six months to specifically conquer the Squaw Peak event.
Strait had some company for portions of the trip. His daughters ran with him a bit as did his wife, but for the most part it was all him and back country trails. The last 50 yards his four-year-old granddaughter joined him and they crossed the finish line together.
“That was pretty special for me,” he admitted. His goal was to finish the challenge and now that he did he is checking it off of his list.
Running is something Strait has long enjoyed, finding benefits to regular jaunts as part of his typical regimen. He said it helps clear his head.
“Running is my outlet,” he explained. “Running helps me become a little bit more resilent and blow off some steam.”
Strait also draws upon something he became familiar with during his time as an Airman: the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. He is pretty comfortable with where he stands in the social, mental and spiritual pillars, but desires to attain a balance between all four so the physical pillar is the one he focuses on most.
“Balance those four and you’ll have a good quality of life,” he said. “One thing is for sure, I don’t run for speed anymore, I’m not as competitive. But I want to be an example for others, especially my family. I wanted to set an example for my kids so they’d want to stay active.”
He pursues fitness as a lifestyle. For example he enjoys War Fit even though he is not as fast as he used to be. Strait continues to participate because he is doing what the Airmen are doing as well as setting an example. Demonstrating resiliency is something everyone can do, regardless of things that might be considered hindrances.
“Don’t be limited by what you think you can’t do,” Strait advised, “Don’t let limitations be in your mind and when you start something, finish it.”
Having moved the Squaw Peak 50 off of his list, Strait is on to the next challenge. What particular challenge he takes on is still up in the air. It could be a 100-mile bicycle ride or possibly next year’s Bataan Memorial Death March. One thing is certain, however. Whatever the challenge ends up being Strait and his Air Force resiliency will be ready to face it head on.