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Forging iron: A triathlete's legacy

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Evelyn Chavez
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Nine hours and 38 minutes of nonstop physical endurance requires commitment, motivation and the will to push the human body beyond the realm of what many consider to be possible. Ironman competitions, which are three-part races consisting of a swim, bike and run, are one of the world's most strenuous challenges, but one Airman recently finished one for the 14th time.

Lt. Col. Scott Poteet, stationed here, recently completed the 2013 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, for the fourth time since he first started competing in triathlons back in 1997.

"I was inspired as a kid watching the Ironman Championship on the TV broadcast," Poteet said. "It was something I have always wanted to do." 

As someone who has been active his whole life, Poteet ran cross country in college and was a lifeguard at Cape Cod National Seashore. Soon after he joined the military, he participated in his first half Ironman in Lubbock, Texas. After that, he said he was hooked.

"I have always been active, it is part of my lifestyle as it keeps me motivated." Poteet said. "Having a goal is what keeps me going."

Fourteen Ironman triathlons later, Poteet completed the 2013 Ironman World Championship ranking 343 out of 2,134 participants. He finished the swim in 1 hour 2 minutes, the bike in 5 hours 5 minutes and the run in 3 hours 25 minutes, completing the event with a total time of 9:38:27.

"An Ironman takes a lot of you," Poteet said. "It is categorized as the most difficult single day endurance event in the world, but success in this sport is the result of dedication, discipline and effort."

Not only did Poteet keep the dedication and discipline to train countless hours for the championship, but he also helped coach. Poteet coached 2nd Lt. Samantha Morrison, a 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs officer. Morrison finished the race first in the 18-24 female category with a time of 9:38:26. 

The mentorship began in 2009 when Morrison was a freshman at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where Poteet was the officer in charge of the triathlon club. During Morrison's senior year, she asked if Poteet would help coach her to prepare for the Ironman. 

"It all came full circle in that moment (at the championship)," Morrison said. "We got to share a full year of trials and tribulations together, from tough workouts to injuries to seeing drops in mile-repeat times. It was so emotional to be able to get a big hug from him right under the huge finish line lights in the middle of the crowd's cheering."

Poteet and Morrison crossed the finish line within one second of one another.

"The chance of us crossing the finish line together was amazing," Poteet said. "She was seven minutes ahead of me during the swim, then on the run we managed to stay together for the first 8 miles but I hit a wall. She was doing phenomenal and inspired me to give it my all to catch up to her; I caught up the last half mile."

Being inspired by seeing Morrison's results, Poteet is beginning to see a shift in his triathlon career by being more than just a competitor, but a teacher.

"I have seen a transition of my mindset over the last few years," Poteet said. "Instead of making it about personal goals, I want to influence others to achieve their goals; I want to set the example."

Poteet will be competing in the Nice, France Ironman qualifier, hoping to once again make it to the world championships in Hawaii.

"If you want to run, bike, swim, it basically boils down to making the commitment," Poteet said. "Simply just go out and do it; it's not a matter of wishing, it's a matter of commitment."