Categorized | Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman: Navy athletes join in world’s top endurance race


Honoring more than 30 years of tradition, six active duty triathletes commanded the strength, courage and commitment learned from years serving with the U.S. Navy to battle one of the most grueling race courses at the 31st annual Ironman World Championship.

“Our six Navy athletes accepted this challenge of physical and mental stamina in pursuit of competitive excellence and dedication to serving our nation,” said Senior Chief Petty OfficerTom Jones of Navy Recruiting Command. “The Navy is honored to continue its relationship with Ironman and we are excited to see our athletes – all with diverse backgrounds- remain highly committed and push themselves to the limit in this awesome athletic event.”

This year’s Navy triathletes represent a diverse mix of Navy professionals:

— Captain (Select) Scott Jones, currently serving as the commanding officer of a theater Anti-Submarine Warfare unit in Southern California, is an avid triathlete. An 8-time Ironman finisher, he was named an All-American by both Inside Triathlon magazine and USA Triathlon.

— Commander David Haas, a Naval Academy graduate, is the commanding officer of the USS Thach. Having completed over 20 triathlons including two Ironman-distance races, this is his first time at the Ironman World Championship.

— Commander Wendy Towle, a Naval Academy graduate, will soon take command as the Meteorology and Oceanography Officer embarked on USS Blue Ridge in Yokosuka, Japan. A lifelong athlete, this is her second full Ironman triathlon and first time at the Ironman World Championship.

— Lieutenant Commander Don Cross, an officer with strong Navy family history and a current MBA candidate at Brenau University, currently serves as a Strategic Weapons officer for Commander Submarine Squadron Twenty. Inspired by the annual Navy SEAL Superfrog Triathlon in 1996, he has actively competed in the sport of triathlon since with this being his first Ironman World Championship.

— Lieutenant Nick Brown, an NROTC graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, is a qualified Seabee Combat Warfare Officer and has been selected to serve in the Civil Engineer Corps’ Ocean Facilities Program. A competitive swimmer since youth, this is his third Ironman distance triathlon.

— Chief Petty Office Marty Taylor, a U.S. Navy SEAL, currently serves as Training Leading Chief Petty Officer for the Naval Special Warfare Preparatory Course at Naval Station Great Lakes. Since 2004, he has participated 60 triathlons, marathons and other endurance events including ultra marathons.

– US NAVY PARACHUTE TEAM: at 6:30 a.m., the U.S. Navy Leapfrogs jumped into the water near the swim start.

– The USS Paul Hamilton is anchored in Kailua Harbor.

– Sailors from the USS Paul Hamilton will disembark from their ships (in their “whites”) to welcome the Navy athletes at the finish line.

Inspirational Officers

(Kevin Mackinnon meets Commander David Haas and Lieutenant Commander Don Cross)

In case you’re ever struggling to get out of bed to head out for a workout. In case you ever feel like it’s just too challenging to get a workout done. In case you think it’s too hot, the workout will be too boring … You need to meet Commander David Haas (left) and Lieutenant Commander Don Cross.

Haas is here competing in his first Ironman race. Up until a few weeks ago he was on board the USS Thach, commanding the ship as it protected oil rigs in the middle of the Persian Gulf. Most days it was 130 degrees Fahrenheit outside, with humidity hitting more than 80 percent. The heat index was measured at a balmy 200+ degrees.

To get his 21 to 25 hours of training done every week, Haas would often ride his CompuTrainer on the bridge so that he was accessible in case anything came up. There was a treadmill set up on one of the decks so he could get some warm weather training done.

Twice a week he’d use a VersaClimber or Concept 2 rowing machine to simulate swimming.

Once every two weeks he’d jump off the side of the ship into the 105 degree water and swim around the ship with a couple of search and rescue members to keep him company.

How’s that for leading by example? It gets even better.

Commander Haas is a walking sound bite for everything that is good about the U.S. Navy. He talks about how Ironman provides a great way to showcase the fitness requirements required to serve your country. He says it shows how planning skills can help as you prepare for a race. He talks about overcoming adversity in training, racing and life as a naval officer. He talks about being a good leader. Here’s what he had to say when I asked him why he was here and why he went through all those challenges to compete in the Ironman World Championship:

“I think you need to be in shape to be in the Navy,” he said. “If you’re leading sailors, you need to earn the salute they’re giving you. You need to walk the talk.”

Why now? Why triathlon? Why an Ironman?

“Training for this brings balance,” he continued. “It makes me a better officer, a better dad and, hopefully, a better husband.”

While Haas was training in the crazy heat over in the middle east, Lieutenant Commander Cross was facing some even more unique issues for his training. How would you like to prepare for an Ironman while stationed on a submarine? That’s what Cross has been doing as he gets ready for his second Ironman here in Kona.

“We don’t get to swim, but we do have bikes and treadmills,” he said. While training inside all the time is one thing, that’s just one of the issues Cross had to figure out. Submarine life is organized around an 18-hour-day, so there’s even less time to train, Cross told us in an interview earlier this week. His daily routine was simple: on watch for six hours, six hours of maintenance and training, then six hours of time to himself where he’d get a couple of hours of training and four hours of sleep. Then he’d start the process all over again.

So, how hard is it to train looking at the walls of a submarine all day? Not so bad, Cross said. “The hardest thing is that there’s only 18 per cent oxygen,” he said. “It’s difficult to motivate yourself when you’re body just feels bad.”

So, once again, I had to ask why.

“The desire to stay in shape, push your body to the limits, to compete and, once you’ve reached a milestone to reach another milestone,” Cross said.

Are these guys for real? Like Haas, Cross also talks about how important it is to set a good example for the men they’re leading.

“They definitely look up to those of us who work out,” he said. “I think for the most part they do look up to me, especially when I get to go to races like this – it shows that lots of hard work pays off.”

What’s amazing is that these guys are for real. They also are living proof that you really can overcome any training obstacle put in front of you. They embody just about everything that’s good about our sport and military service. They’re the kind of leaders who earn the respect that they very much deserve.

2 Responses to “Ironman: Navy athletes join in world’s top endurance race”

  1. Michael says:

    It’s no accident that of the six Navy athletes, five are officers and only one is enlisted and he’s SEAL in a training unit. Often in the military, regardless of branch, if you’re enlisted you’re entirely at the mercy of your commanding officer (and more accurately his or her whims and opinions). If he played football at West Point or Navy and you beg for time off to compete in a tri or marathon, let alone earn a little time to train, don’t be surprised when it’s denied because he doesn’t “get it.” I’d be willing to bet this might not represent the best the Navy has to offer in terms of triathlete/ironman potential, it just so happens to be those who are allowed to train on their own rather than doing PT with the masses and authorized to take the time off to complete. How do I know? I was denied a chance to compete for All Army as a distance runner even though I had times that made me competitive. Often, I couldn’t even get a day off on the weekend to complete in a 10k or other tune up race because I was on guard duty or mowing lawns. It was a grind to even get them to let me run on my own during PT. The slowest I ever ran a PT test 2 miler was 10:31 (a day I was running a high fever) and the fastest was 9:48, after doing pushups and setups and having about two mins to warm up and the generally pumped them out under 10 mins yet it took almost a year for my chain of command to come around and let me even run on my own during PT. The purpose of serving of course is to perform your duty and then if possible, compete, but even in garrison or after a deployment it was the same story. When I finished my four year stint in which I was rarely physically challenged (in the airborne infantry) I got out and walked on as a track and cross country athlete at a div II school and then and only then, was I “all that I could be” mentally and physically. You might be saying “well that’s the army, not the Navy.” True, but in mentality and culture, very little separates the Navy from the other branches. Glad these athletes get to compete while serving, but sorry, there’s untapped athletic potential going to waste in all the branches.

    • VA says:

      I agree 100%. In the military they preach exceeding the standards but this is never the case. Doing Physical Fitness training is way below my standard of training. I’ve never received any support while training for Marathons or Triathlons to train on my own. The military is comprised of the majority being fat and out of shape. It’s a shame but true.


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