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Rueben crosses finish line in Ironman Florida
Master Sgt. Jeffery Rueben, 319th Civil Engineering Squadron, crosses the finish line Nov. 2, 2012, during Ironman Florida in Panama City, Fla. Rueben finished the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run triathlon in 12 hours, 39 minutes. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
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Two Grand Forks Airmen grind through Ironman competitions

Posted 11/15/2012   Updated 11/15/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Derek VanHorn
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/15/2012 - GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- After spending more than an entire day swimming 4.8 miles through raggedy oceans, cycling 224 miles through French hills and Florida sun, and trekking more than 50 miles on foot, two Grand Forks Airmen completed Ironman competitions this year.

Capt. Andrew Stevens, 319th Medical Operations Squadron, and Master Sgt. Jeffery Rueben, 319th Civil Engineering Squadron, trained rigorously together for more than a year, but competed in separate events after Stevens was tasked for a deployment. Stevens competed in Ironman France earlier this June and Rueben competed in Ironman Florida - the third-oldest North American race - on Nov. 2.

Ironman competitions have been around since 1978 and have been represented by ambitious and courageous individuals who aren't afraid to push their limits through lengthy triathlons consisting of a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then capped off with a 26.2-mile marathon run. They are held all over the world in places like the United States, Korea, Brazil, France and Japan.

Rueben said Ironman appealed to him because of "the sheer challenge" of the event, saying that he had sights set on this opportunity for nearly four years, citing the balancing of work, family life and training requirements as the most difficult aspect of preparation.

That preparation was no open-and-shut operation for the duo. They used every training opportunity available on Grand Forks AFB.

Rueben and Stevens took swimming lessons from base employee Jane Hutzol, got cycling tips and mechanics from Senior Master Sgt. Seth Lininger of the 69th Maintenance Squadron, and participated in running clinics led by Denae Grove of the base Health and Wellness Center.

"Ironman is the pinnacle of endurance and not only challenges your body's physical endurance, but the mental aspect as well to keep pressing on," said Rueben, whose training helped him complete the Panama City based competition in 12 hours, 39 minutes. "I knew this was going to be a big personal accomplishment, making myself comfortable being uncomfortable so to speak."

Personal goals aside, Rueben stressed the importance of not only Ironman (which was founded by Navy SEALs) but fitness as a whole in relation to its importance in the military.

"The military history behind Ironman and its status symbol of being able to become one was why I got into it," he said. "Fitness is extremely important and I want to lead by example. These events have a rich military history and representing the U.S. Air Force was awesome."

As a flight surgeon, Stevens deals with military members' health on a daily basis and has a front row view to the fitness -- or in some cases, lack thereof -- within the Air Force. He said dealing with fitness exemptions and profiles is a less-desirable part of the job and hopes to see an increased emphasis into active duty fitness.

Stevens said competing in an Ironman event was both a bucket list type of thing and provided the opportunity to do something "that crazy."

Prior to Stevens' 112-mile bike ride -- which included a 1,300 meter elevation climb -- he had never ridden more than 50 miles at one time.

"I couldn't wait to get off that bike," said Stevens, who while waiting for his bike to ship overseas resorted to as many spin classes as he could get his feet on. "That was the hardest part of the race. After I got off the bike I felt like I had nothing left."

However, his cardio, Pilates, core combo, martial arts and running training kicked in for the final 26.2 miles on foot as he completed the Nice-based event in 14 hours, 14 minutes.

Amazingly, Stevens' and Rueben's swim and run times were within seconds of each other.

Rueben said he hopes he has set an example for Airmen to challenge themselves, and encourages others to take advantage of fitness opportunities such as Ironman.

For these two salient Airmen, the challenges may have only begun.

"I don't know when or why, but I have a desire to do another Ironman," said Rueben.

Stevens said he's already been surfing the net to find his next one.

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