By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 17, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 17, 2016) -- In one of its most physically demanding events of the year, Fort Rucker tested people's mettle with the Army Strong Triathlon where competitors swam, biked and ran to see what they were made of.
With 137 participants and 27 team members competing in the three-pronged event, the course, which was held on West Beach at Lake Tholocco started with a quarter-mile swim, followed by a 10.6-mile bike ride and culminated with a 3.1-mile run.
The overall winner was Charlie Johnson, civilian participant, who finished with a time of 58:34:02.
Johnson competes regularly in triathlons with his wife, Sandy, who both came up from Tallahassee, Florida, to compete.
"We found out about this triathlon through all of my friends," said Charlie. "They've been coming up here for a number of years and told me about how it was a wonderful race and just a wonderful place to be.
"I've never competed in a triathlon in the state of Alabama and we decided to come really just on a whim," he said. "(The night before the race), around 10 p.m., we were out at a restaurant and me and my wife decided, 'hey, let's go do the race,' so we woke up at 3 a.m. and drove over here and got here just in time."
For the Johnsons, who between the two of them have competed in over 100 triathlons, competing in triathlons is more than about just a competition, but about a lifestyle that not only keeps their bodies healthy, but also their minds and relationship, as well.
"Participating in triathlons is a lifestyle and, sure, it keeps me healthy," said Charlie. "It's something to wake me up each day and it's a form of dedication, and I think it carries over into my work life and just anything that I do."
If it weren't for triathlons, the Johnsons would never have met, he added.
"It really keeps our relationship strong because we're both so passionate about it," said Sandy. "We encourage each other and we push each other because when you're both into the same thing it makes it pretty easy. When I don't want to work out he's pulling me up to get out the door and if he doesn't want to work out I'm pulling him, so it's just constant motivation."
The couple trains for long distance and put in up to 20 hours of training in a week, and although its hard work, it's something they both enjoy, but also not something that they were able to achieve overnight.
"I wasn't naturally a triathlete, so I started from scratch," said Sandy. "Breaking that initial 30-minute 5K was huge, and you have to build up to it. I'd complete the Olympic distance running or complete a half Iron Man competition, and now I've complete 14 full Iron Man competitions.
"For me, it's all about achieving something that you didn't think you could do," she said. "Every time you achieve that, you just get more excited and you want to see what the limits are, and I've yet to find that limit."
Although the triathlete couple has competed in numerous triathlons throughout their lives, they said Fort Rucker's course was more than satisfactory.
"I thought the course was great," said Charlie. "There are different sizes of races, there are some that have 50 people competing and some that have 2,000 people competing, and for the size of this race, I thought it was very well organized and the people were great -- I wouldn't change a thing about it."