Some people have the drive to accomplish goals in life others will never be able to. Being able to competitively swim 1.2 miles, bike for 56 miles and run 13.1 miles in a certain amount of time is one of them.

For Maj. Nicholas Simontis, being a competitive triathlete requires more than just physical training to prepare for an event.

"It is one of the most mentally challenging sports there is because you are operating at maximal effort," Simontis said.

Now the secretary of the general staff for United States Division-South and the 1st Infantry Division, Simontis trains to stay resilient.

"For most of my adult life, I have tried to maintain a base level of fitness," Simontis said.

The key to prepare for an event is to have a base level of fitness during and off-season, Simontis said. It makes it easier to prepare yourself when you are in shape than when out of shape, he said.

Simontis, a native of Cleveland, would train six days out of the week for months at a time prior to a triathlon.

"When I was competing actively in triathlons, I would typically spend 20 hours a week training," Simontis said.

Simontis' weekdays, while not deployed, start at 4 a.m. with either a run or weight lifting. After work he prepares for a swim or a bike ride. His Saturdays switch between long runs anywhere from 16 to 22 miles or bike rides between 90 to 100 miles. Sundays are rest and recovery days.

Over the years, he has learned what exercises work best for him.

"I do body lifting instead of weight lifting," Simontis said.

Now in Iraq, Simontis spends Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays doing calisthenics. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays he does cardiovascular exercise either running outdoors or cycling on a machine.

Triathlons are also a way of bringing Family together, Simontis said.

Eric, his brother, is also an avid competitor, Simontis said. They would drive from their homes to meet each other before a triathlon. The next day they were competing against each other.

Nick was a pretty fair bike rider, Eric said.

"Nick's best race was likely the Beast of the East, formerly known as the Chatuge Challenge, a half Ironman distance race of 13.1 miles that started in Hiawassee, NC," Eric said. "He placed third overall in 2003."

Also in 2003 Nick placed eighth overall in the Cheaha Challenge, Eric said. It was 102 miles of bike riding and roughly 10,000 feet of vertical climbing.

"2003 was a busy year for us," Eric said.

Being a triathlete is not easy and it does come with challenges, Simontis said.
"One of the biggest challenges is simple time management," Simontis said.

There are people who enter the event in hopes of completing it, and then there are people who want to place or win an event, Simontis said. A serious time commitment is needed, but with proper training, discipline and the desire to win, they will achieve their goal.

"One of the hardest parts about it is getting out of bed in the morning," Simontis said, "but after that, you feel good knowing that you did it."

Another challenge is that some people become obsessed with the sport, Simontis said.

"I trained with people who would bring their bikes with them on Family vacations," Simontis said.
His friends told him they had to get in a 100-mile ride sometime during the vacation or they would plan a vacation where an event was going to take place so they could compete.

"It is the nature of the sport," Simontis said.

Between work, Family and juggling everything else, his training time was his personal time.

"Although it was physically demanding, it was always a good time to recharge my batteries," Simontis said. "You hear a lot of talk about resiliency in this division. That is one of the keys to my personal resiliency."

After this deployment Simontis plans to resume competing in triathlons.

"Being a tri-athlete is not something for everyone," Simontis said. "I love it and I hope to get back to it."

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