By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)September 4, 2018
Some people's hobbies include reading, sewing, or even online shopping, but for Maj. Justin DeVanna, his hobby includes a 1500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.
DeVanna, who is the Veterinary Medical Center Europe director and a veterinarian, completed his first triathlon in 2002 and it was that race that he says was the stimulus for his addiction.
"I could barely run a 5K," DeVanna said, "I had just gotten a road bike and had done very limited training. But that race acted as a stimulus because afterwards, I thought, maybe I can do this -- and I went back the following year to do the race again."
And while he didn't take much time to prepare for this first triathlon, over the last year, DeVanna cycled 2,800 miles, ran 600 miles and swam more than 200,000 meters, with one goal in mind -- competing in the Armed Forces Triathlon, again, and beating his time from the previous year.
DeVanna's first Armed Forces Triathlon, as part of the All-Army team, was in June 2017.
Unlike other sports, members of the All-Army Triathlon team don't compete for a spot, they are selected through an all-paper process. Applicants submit information with the triathlons they have completed along with their times and other background information related to the sport.
Going into his first Armed Forces Triathlon, Devanna said he had high hopes and aspirations for himself.
"But I got foiled by illness and anxiety," he said. "The month leading up to the race I had Bronchitis and I knew as soon as I hit the cold water my lungs were going to tighten up. So I did not do as well as I would have liked."
But that attempt pushed him to try again.
"My goal was 2 hours and 12 minutes for 2018," DeVanna said.
He completed it in 2 hours, 12 minutes, and 40 seconds, and says he is happy with his results.
"I asked for clarity at the start this year," DeVanna said. "And I have never had a clearer moment than standing on that line this year. I knew I could do it. I knew I had put in the work, so I was going out there and just trying to push myself even harder."
DeVanna's 2018 time put him in 5th place in the Master's category (the 40 and over category), two slots away from competing at the International Military Sports Council (CISM) Triathlon. In the CISM competition, military members from around the world compete for the top spot.
DeVanna says he couldn't do the training and competitions without the support of his wife, Jenny.
"She is actually the one who found the Armed Forces Triathlon, and encouraged me to go for it," he said. "I wouldn't be able to do it without her support."
In order to get in the hours of training, which DeVanna says was about 12 hours a week, he had to learn to manage his time and the hours in the day.
"Balancing it all can be tough, I've got two kids at home, I've got to make sure I have time for my wife -- and I have my job."
In order to fit it all in, DeVanna said he would ride his bike to work, or would do his bike ride at 5:30 a.m. --while his family was still asleep. He would also get creative during the day.
"My soldier's all know I do [triathlons]," DeVanna said. "They see me go for a run during lunch, come back and eat my lunch at my desk.
"It's a challenge to balance it all, but it is my hobby," he said. "When I don't do it I am grumpy."
DeVanna isn't the only one in his family competing in triathlons though - his 10 year-old son has already completed two kids' races.
"I just encourage him to go out and have fun," Devanna said. "That is the most important thing for me -- have fun, enjoy the people around you, be a good sportsman and do your best. If I can get him to have fun I will have someone to bike with for a long time!"
He also hopes he can share some of the lessons he has learned through the years.
"I've learned that I doubt myself, a lot," DeVanna said. "And I sometimes undermine my ability to be where I want to be. But I've proved to myself I could do it -- it's about knowing yourself and knowing you can do it. Anybody can do what they put their mind to."
While DeVanna doesn't currently have plans to try for a spot on the 2019 All-Army Triathlon team, he hasn't ruled it out. He says he is a little more focused on cycling right now and hopes to complete a 100-mile ride.
But right now, he said he is really proud of how he did the last two years and honored to have been able to participate.
"I am honored to have had the opportunity to represent the Army," DeVanna said. "To meet and compete against [the other competitors] was a huge honor and it will be a highlight in my career."