For most of us, 140.6 miles is a long Sunday drive. To LT Laura Springer and AETCM Michael Ferreira it amounts to a grueling one-day competition with temperatures peaking at 105. On October 10 they swam, biked and ran under these extreme conditions against the best-trained athletes in the world.
Springer, a marine casualty investigator at Sector Seattle and Ferreira, command master chief at Air Station Barbers Point, HI, earned the opportunity to represent the Coast Guard at the 2009 Armed Forces Ironman Championship. It is a part of the Hawaii Ironman World Championship, a world-renowned triathlon event with strong military ties.
The idea of the Ironman triathlon was conceived in 1977 during an argument among service members in Hawaii over who were the most fit athletes – swimmers, bikers, or runners. Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy configured a demanding racecourse featuring all three sports – the very first Ironman. Collins handed out the rules and course information to the 15 competitors with the final declaration “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!” The winner would be called “ironman.”
More than 30 years later the “Ironman” pits 1800 of the top triathletes in the world against each other in the Super Bowl of triathlon sports. The military division consists of the top male and female triathlete from each of the five armed services.
Springer and Ferreira earned their bragging rights when Springer placed second among the military female athletes and Ferreira came in fourth place among the military men. The Coast Guard team took second place overall among the five services.
“It was great to race on behalf of the Coast Guard,” said Springer. This was the lieutenant’s second Ironman but her first representing the Coast Guard.
For Ferreira, who just turned 45 years old, this is his fifth Ironman in a row. “I enjoy setting a positive example for the younger folks interested in the sport,” said Ferreira.
“A lot can happen during the race, but in the end it’s about accomplishing a goal,” Ferreira said. “I’m already looking forward to next year.”
LT Springer had a strong showing in her first Ironman for the Coast Guard, setting a personal best and seriously challenging the Army frontrunner.
Getting here is serious work. Athletes often log 20-30 hours a week for up to three months prior to the race.
“It’s like a second job,” said Springer. “My command has been very supportive of my efforts to compete at the highest level and sees the benefits of enabling a culture that supports personal fitness and a healthy lifestyle.”
“This is a lifestyle,” said Ferreira. “It’s not about natural ability; it’s about setting goals and having the discipline to achieve those goals under difficult conditions.”
For both Springer and Ferreira this year’s Ironman race was special for another reason. They both raced with their spouses, Chris Springer, a lieutenant in the Navy reserve, and Sandy Ferreira, an insurance agent. This is the Ferreiras’ third time competing together in the Ironman.
Ferreira threw down the gauntlet when he said he’ll continue competing for the Coast Guard until someone younger comes along to take his place. To keep his edge he is also looking at competing in the Honolulu Marathon in December and the Boston Marathon in April.
Springer is preparing to follow up on her Ironman success by competing in the Carlsbad Marathon in January, the Kinetic Half Ironman in April and is working toward being selected for the Navy Triathlon Team in June.
Semper Paratus and Bravo Zulu to “Ironman” Guardians LT Laura Springer and AETCM Michael Ferreira for their strong showing.
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