Champion finds passion in Ironmans

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariette Adams
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

His hearts thumps, almost out of his chest, as he walks up to the starting line. Hundreds of people stand eagerly awaiting the big race to begin, and his excitement leaves a pit in his stomach. He mentally prepares; shutting out the crowd, silencing his own reservations for the challenges he’s about to face. He’s ready.

He hears the cannon boom, and he sprints off into the water. It takes a few minutes to get into his rhythm because of the splashing and kicking of the other swimmers around him, but soon he is into a routine. He focuses on his form; one breath at a time, one stroke at a time.

For Maj. Reynaldo Champion, commander of the 6th Communications Squadron (CS), Ironmans are not just a race, they are a way to build and test his resiliency.

For years, Champion has been running marathons as well as sprints and Olympic-distance triathlons, but in the summer of 2012, that all changed. His friend challenged him to a half-Ironman, and he became immediately hooked.

Since then, he has traveled all over the country and trained for months at a time to compete in the races he’s passionate about. He has competed in both half-Ironmans, a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run and full Ironmans, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.

“An Ironman, or any endurance race for that matter, challenges me,” explained Champion. “It’s an opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and reach deeper into myself, to push myself harder and further than I have ever before.”

The challenge he faces in his competition is also his reward. Through difficultly he gains inner strength.

Although finishing is an accomplishment; for Champion, it’s about more than that.

“The biggest reward for me is finishing not because it’s an Ironman, but because I had the strength and willpower to face the challenge that day,” said Champion. “For me, it’s about being able to face every challenge and obstacle in my way and to confront my fears, step up to the starting line and take on the task at hand.” 

The races push him to be a better person in uniform and out.

“I think it makes him an inspirational leader both in the physical and mental areas of resiliency,” said Richard Armading, the deputy director of the 6th CS. “Ironman isn’t only physical, it is extremely mental to be able to get through it, because you have to work through a lot of pain and difficulties throughout the race.”

Whether its obstacles in his life or as an Airman, the challenges he faces in his races help him manage the everyday stressors he encounters.

“In training, you will experience different emotions and stressors, and through experience you learn how to deal with them or avoid these stressors, depending on where you are at in the day,” said Champion. “Dealing with the stressors of training for an Ironman helps me be a better Airman every day.” 

The competitions have also taught Champion to find balance. At times he must take breaks and at other times he must push forward.

For him, it’s about finding a healthy balance, which he applies to his own life.

“For me, it’s important that I know when to step up and take on some of these challenges and also to recognize when I need to step back and take a break and recover,” explained Champion. “When I look at this and apply it to being an Airman, I think about balance and how at times the balance will shift, because you can’t just keep driving forward, sometimes you need to adjust your schedule or priorities, so you don’t burn out.”

Ironmans are both a passion and challenge for Champion. He pushes himself, but still works to find balance in what he does. He encourages people to find their own obstacles and work towards their goal.

“Go out there, find your biggest challenge and go for it. Find out what you are made of and work towards accomplishing your ’Ironman.’”