USS RONALD, At Sea (NNS) -- Two USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors completed a ship-board rendition of the Silverman Triathlon Nov. 7 using different physical fitness centers throughout the ship while underway for a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).
Lt. j.g. Chad Haack and Master Chief Electronics Technician (SW/AW) Jim Ritch rowed for one hour, 10 minutes on a rowing machine, biked 112 miles on stationary bikes, and ran a complete marathon on treadmills back-to-back-to-back in less than 13 hours.
Kicking the triathlon off with reveille at 6 a.m., they finished half a day later - Haack in 11:46.16, Ritch in 12:19.18.
"I'm so happy we finished, especially after everything we did to make this happen," said Haack, a 33-year-old native of Deerfield, Wis. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I'll hold it with me forever."
The sheer length of a full triathlon necessitated the early start. Haack and Ritch began rowing in the ship's Seaside Gym, a small workout room located on a weather deck on the ship's starboard side, as the ship's bell sounded out 6 a.m. This, they said, was the easier part.
"There was a RAS (replenishment-at-sea) that morning, so we watched the sun rise over the horizon as USNS Yukon pulled alongside," said Ritch, a 45-year-old native of Los Angeles. "We were both feeling good, loose; ready for more. All that rowing really did a number on my legs, though."
They finished the row in 1 hour, 10 minutes, as planned, and set off for the "Spin Room", a small, warm and humid room containing 10 spin cycles. The longest leg of the event, Ritch and Haack agreed this section was particularly challenging.
"Four or five hours on any bike is a long time," said Ritch. "And there's almost 10,000 feet of climb throughout. But after 20 miles I was feeling good."
Not having a way to simulate downhill portions of the road course added to the challenge.
"We tried to mimic the actual road course as best we could," said Haack. "But on a stationary bike, you can't take a break for downhill portions. Consequently, we're going all-out for the entire time."
Haack set the cycling mark, going the distance in 4 hours, 12 minutes. Ritch finished his 112 miles in 4 hours, 55 minutes.
The last event was the marathon; a full 26.2 miles of running/walking with no breeze or changing scenery. This time Ritch finished first at 5 hours, 48 minutes, narrowly edging Haack's 5 hours, 51 minutes.
"The marathon is when a triathlete asks himself, 'What do I have left?'" said Ritch. "We persevered. I couldn't be prouder."
"I knew the run would be a challenge, as it's not my strong suit," Haack said. "I thought he would catch me even with my head start. I felt strong the first 40 minutes, and then I crashed. All I could think was 'just finish.'"
Making the necessary arrangements for the triathlon to be held aboard an aircraft carrier fully engaged in operations proved nearly as challenging as the event itself.
Haack and Ritch signed up for the Silverman Triathlon, held in Henderson, Nev., nearly six months ago and had been training rigorously. However, when Ronald Reagan's underway schedule received an unexpected change in late September, they decided to improvise.
"We were training from 10-16 hours a week all summer, sacrificing time from our families in the midst of a busy work-ups schedule," said Ritch. "When the schedule changed, and it was apparent we'd be underway that day, we had a long talk about what we could do."
"Neither of us wanted all that time and training to go to waste," said Haack. "All that work would have been for nothing, and that didn't sit well with us. So we looked into our options."
After consulting with Luke Lockwood, USS Ronald Reagan's fit boss, they hatched a plan to run the triathlon using various venues throughout the ship.
"We realized we could use the bikes in the ship's Spin Room and the treadmills in the forward gym, but obviously there was no way we could complete the 2.4-mile swim," said Haack.
The most-comparable choice was to replace the first leg of the triathlon with a rowing session.
"Once we decided to row instead, we figured a little more than an hour would match up pretty well," Ritch said. "That settled, we outlined the hills and terrain changes for the run and bike so we could vary the resistance and incline levels on the machines. We made the best possible compromise we could."
After presenting their idea to the command, they found all the support they needed.
"Fit boss was behind us from the get-go," said Ritch. "Our shipmates wanted to do anything they could to help, from mixing sports drinks to helping with our gear. We had more volunteers than we could shake a stick at."
After learning about the plan, Command Master Chief (AW/SW/SS) Mark Rudes, USS Ronald Reagan senior-enlisted advisor, loved the idea.
"It's incredible to see we have folks at that level of competition," said Rudes. "It blows me away to see two of our guys from the wardroom and chief's mess take on such a challenge. It's inspiration to the entire crew."
They also received full endorsement from the Silverman Triathlon organizers, complete with prizes and souvenirs, after they called to donate their admission place and fees to other athletes.
"While we appreciated the support, we declined the prizes, because in all fairness, we're running a different triathlon now," said Haack.
When all was said and done, Haack and Ritch acknowledged all their supporters and hoped they could provide inspiration to their fellow Sailors.
"People are saying 'if you can do this, so can we,'" said Haack. "I couldn't be prouder of what we did today, and we both hope that enthusiasm continues to spread."
Rudes said he could already see people, including himself, taking inspiration from their accomplishment.
"Fitness is essential not only [to] the Navy, but to life in general," said Rudes. "These guys are out there leading from the front, showing us all what anyone with enough determination is capable of. They're shining examples for all of us."
Ronald Reagan is currently preparing for an upcoming deployment - it's fifth in six years.
Ronald Reagan Strike Group is comprised of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), and the ships of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which include the guided missile destroyers USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Howard (DDG 83) and the guided missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43).
Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 includes the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146, the "Death Rattlers" of VMFA-323, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support (VRC) 30, and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.
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