The makings of a Coast Guard Ironman

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Update: The results are in! Congratulations to Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira and Lt. Rachel Beckman on a successful finish at the Ironman World Championship. Ferreira completed the Ironman in 10:11:31 and Beckman finished in 10:46:3. The Coast Guard team came in 2nd place in the military category, behind Army. You can see the rest of the race results at the Ironman website.

Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira and Lt. Rachel Beckman pose for a photo while at the Ironman World Championship in 2010. The two represented the Coast Guard in the mentally and physically challenging race that has more than 1,800 competitors. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young.
Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira and Lt. Rachel Beckman pose for a photo while at the Ironman World Championship in 2010. The two represented the Coast Guard in the mentally and physically challenging race that has more than 1,800 competitors and will again be competing this year. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young.

With contributions from Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Torres, Training Center Petaluma, Calif.

A visit to the land of aloha typically involves surfing waves, relaxing on sandy beaches and of course celebrating the luau tradition. But for the 1,800 athletes traveling to Hawaii’s tropical paradise to compete in the Ironman World Championship this weekend, the islands will be anything but tranquil. Representing the U.S. Coast Guard in the service’s signature orange and blue in this cruel feat of fortitude will be Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira.

At age 47, Ferreira has represented the Coast Guard at the World’s Ironman since 2005 and will once again embark on the 140.6-mile journey in search of the title of “Ironman.” Ferreira joins nine other servicemembers in the race – each military service is allowed a male and female competitor – which has involved military athletes from the very first Ironman.

Command Master Chief Michael Ferreira of the 14th Coast Guard District runs by the crowd after transitioning from the bike to the run while competing in the Ironman World Championship in 2010. U.S.  Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young.
Command Master Chief Michael Ferreira of the 14th Coast Guard District runs by the crowd after transitioning from the bike to the run while competing in the Ironman World Championship in 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young.

The Ironman Triathlon was spawned by a simple debate between competitors at the conclusion of a 1978 running race: who is more fit – swimmers, runners or other athletes. Among the debaters was U.S. Navy Cmdr. John Collins and his wife Judy. Together they envisioned a race to settle the argument once and for all.

Fifteen athletes participated in the first Ironman, with only 12 completing the race. This Saturday, Ferreira will continue the tradition of military competitors started by Collins when he competes in the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and to finishing things off a 26.2 mile run, or what Ferreira refers to as a “cool down.”

Starting out in shorter races at age 25, Ferreira worked his way up by joining a local runner’s group, eventually leading him to the Boston Marathon where, as fate would have it, he met his biggest supporter and training partner – his wife.

It is no secret there is tremendous stamina and endurance required to compete in the Ironman and Ferreira has been training for years. Ferreira describes his training as “continual” and increasing in difficulty.

“In the beginning I start off with short races, then by the middle of the year I try to do half-Ironman and then a few months before the race I concentrate on longer training that will prepare me for the Ironman events,” said Ferreira.

While the race cannot be performed without maintaining a meticulous training regimen, experience in the competition is also crucial.

“The race is always very difficult, and on any given year for different reasons,” said Ferreira. “The heat, wind and elements can be cruel in Kona. It is a fantastic venue to test ability, emotion and tenacity. Training is what it is. For any event, you prepare yourself to the best of your ability with the time you have available. Get yourself mentally ready to work hard and give it what you’ve got on race day.”

When it comes down to race day, Ferreira looks forward to signature elements of the Ironman – including Hawaii’s crystal clear waters – but there are still grueling components that test the body and the mind.

“The swim, although my weakest event, is beautiful, clear and cool,” said Ferreira. “The bike can get long and beats up on you mentally. The ride back from Hawaii is like an ‘easy ticket’ ride; often you are riding between 30 to 35 miles per an hour with crosswinds that can be interesting and challenging. The run gets tough as you might imagine. The final mile of the run believe it or not, is the easiest.”

At age 47, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira has represented the Coast Guard at the World’s Ironman since 2005. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Torres.
At age 47, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira has represented the Coast Guard at the World’s Ironman since 2005. Photo courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Torres.

Despite his strenuous training schedule and his passion for competing in the race, Ferreira understands he doesn’t have the time to finish at the very top; his leadership and guidance are needed somewhere else.

Ferreira is the current command master chief of the 14th Coast Guard District. As the command master chief he is an essential member of the district’s leadership and advocates for the needs of servicemembers and their families. He never forgets his responsibility to his people and balances this important leadership role with his training.

“You do the best you can with the time you have,” said Ferreira. “I would prefer to train much more than I have time to do currently. The process is still fun and I think you have to ensure yourself to keep that point in the front of your mind. It’s about doing something you enjoy! It’s all about that work-life balance.”

Ferreira will compete alongside fellow Coast Guardsman Lt. Rachel Beckman at this year’s competition and with exactly 1 day 12 hours 50 minutes and 32 seconds until they compete we wish them both the best of luck!

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