Staff Sgt. Tina Eakin of HHC 59th trains to represent the Army at the Ironman World Championship.

Staff Sgt. Tina Eakin thought her triathlon career was over when she shattered her left ankle while making her first jump in August 2007 at Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga.

The renowned athlete had surgery and was on crutches for 10-12 weeks. She started running in water in 12-15 weeks and moved to the treadmill that December. She ran a 5K that Christmas at Camp Humphries, Korea.

Now back at Redstone, her triathlon career has taken off again.

Eakin was selected for the All-Army Ironman team which will compete Oct. 10 at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She and Maj. Christopher Bachl of Presidio of Monterey, Calif., will represent the Army against the other military services.

"It's like the World Series in baseball or the Super Bowl in football. It's the best of the best," said Eakin, an instructor with HHC 59th Ordnance Brigade and a squad leader with the 832nd Ordnance Battalion. "I was actually selected last year but I came down with a stress fracture in my toe three weeks before the race so I had to back out. I feel fortunate I was given the opportunity to apply again. And I feel honored that I represent the Army and Redstone Arsenal."

Eakin, 38, has done four Ironman triathlons which include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and marathon run (26.2 miles). She was the top female military finisher at Kona in 2001 and 2002; and she did New Zealand in 2001 and Australia in 2002. Her last Ironman was Oct. 6, 2002 at Kona. Eakin's best time was her 10-hour, 12-minute finish in April 2002 in Australia.

She represented the Navy in 2001-02 at Kona and was named the Navy's female athlete of the year in 2002. She served in the Navy from October 1992 until March 2007 when she switched to the Army.

After taking the Warrior Transition Course at White Sands, N.M., Eakin first arrived at Redstone in April 2007. She graduated that July from the Ammunition Specialist course and then left for Airborne School the following month at Fort Benning.

"I was in the third week, the jump week, first jump," Eakin recalled of her airborne mishap. "The jump went bad. I looked down. My ankle was shattered. I was devastated. I have a rod and screws in there right now."

She was originally scheduled to go on to Camp Ederle, Italy with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. But since she wasn't airborne-qualified, the Army sent her instead to Korea in November 2007. She won several races in Korea in 2008 and was the second female finisher in a half-Ironman. Eakin returned to Redstone in December 2008. She has run about six races this year - including finishing as first female in a 15K in Columbia, Tenn., in 1:13, first female in a off-road duathlon (5K run/9-mile bike/5K run) and first female at a triathlon in Memphis (1,500-meter swim/30K bike/10K run).

Eakin was the fifth female finisher in 2:16 at the Armed Forces Championship in May in Point Magu, Calif., which included a 1,500-meter swim, 40K bike and 10K run.

Her typical training week includes 160-180 miles total on the bicycle, 4-5 miles swimming and 25-30 miles running. She hopes to increase her mileage in preparation for the Ironman.
The Houghton, Mich., native takes classes at night at the Columbia College extension in pursuit of an associate degree in business administration. She has more than 17 years military service and plans to retire with 20.

"Career-wise, my goal is my bachelor's degree, so when I get out I can be marketable," Eakin said. "To attend the Basic NCO Course for professional growth, and continue working on those qualifications to better myself as an instructor. Athletically, just continue to race and continue to do my best.

"I appreciate the support my commands (both the 832nd and HHC 59th) have been giving me. They've been very supportive," she said. "In relation to my ankle injury, I'm just glad I can run again. Never give up. It's amazing what the human body can go through."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16