By Airman 1st Class William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo — The Ironman Triathlon is a challenge which tests the athletic skill and endurance of its participants, many of whom do not cross the finish line.
The event, held throughout the world, consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon run – all in consecutive order that must be completed in under 17 hours.
While many Airmen take leave to go on a vacation, 2nd. Lt. Chase Contreras, operational contracts manager with the 50th Contracting Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, spent his leave time in Santa Rosa, California, earlier this month preparing and participating in a triathlon.
“This was the first time I ever did something like this,” Contreras said. “I just wanted to do something challenging. I’ve always maintained fitness throughout my life and I wanted to see if I could do this.”
He finished the triathlon within 14 hours, completing a personal milestone and earning himself permanent bragging rights within his squadron.
“Crossing the finish line was an awesome feeling,” he said. “You had spectators cheering you on at the end, you earned a medal – it was a good deal.”
Contreras’ story is one example of taking advantage of the season’s warmer weather to pursue fitness goals, in line with Comprehensive Airman Fitness and the Whole Airman Concept.
CAF is a set of pillars which must be sustained to be a well-rounded and resilient service member. While physical fitness is one pillar; mental, spiritual and social fitness constitute the rest of the foundation.
“Everyone experiences stress in one manner or another, having a fitness regimen that one can fall back on daily to relieve stress is central to being a healthy, stable human being,” said Daniel Webb, recreation assistant at the fitness center. “Nothing beats the immediate, honest feedback that comes from the pursuit of fitness.”
Webb said even though maintaining physical fitness is year round, Airmen should take advantage of the favorable weather.
“Get outside,” he said. “In addition to adding spice and variety to one’s running program, exercising outside will boost one’s vitamin D levels, which will have cascading effects across several health fronts from elevating mood to suppression of illnesses. Going to the gym can improve one’s fitness, but nothing beats ultraviolet light for boosting vitamin D levels.”
Contreras said his resiliency was tested consistently throughout the triathlon, however the challenges strengthened him as a person and Airman.
“Each component of the race had its own challenges you had to overcome,” he said. “Swimming in open water with hundreds of other participants, biking for seven hours, and then the marathon. It took a lot of endurance, but you can’t better yourself as a person without challenge.”
Both Contreras and Webb advocate for 50th SW Airmen to challenge themselves and strive to reach new goals.
“Set a goal and accomplish it, it’s an important part of life,” Contreras said.
“Without challenges, there can be no growth,” Webb added. “Without challenges, without stress, the body is not forced to make adaptations and without adaptations, there is decline.”
Doing so is an example of significant self-improvement, one of the three crucial components of the WAC, alongside leadership and job performance and base/community involvement.
Despite reaching his goal and fulfilling this component, Contreras said he plans to run another triathlon as soon as he can.
“I will definitely be doing another one,” he said. “I’m excited to find out how far I can push my limit.”
He shared his advice for Airmen who face adversity not just physically, but in all aspects of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.
“Stay motivated,” he said. “Whether it’s running a marathon or pursuing your next degree, any kind of personal growth is good for you and the mission.”
For any Airmen seeking help with endurance training, contact Contreras at 567-5732.
For information about fitness programs, contact the fitness center at 567-6628.