Do you have an inspiring story or special motivation for participating in Rocketman Florida? We’d love to hear it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line: Rocketman Florida Personal Story.
Feel free to include photos, link to your personal blog, etc. We will be posting a few of our top submissions from now through the event.
“Staying in shape is a core requirement for the Air Force. For some, the requirement comes easy. For others, it can be a challenge.
But for some members of the 920th Rescue Wing’s Maintenance Squadron, it’s just like riding a bike. Literally.
The MXS started a cycling club in 2011, and it has members not only from maintenance but from the operations and aeromedical staging squadrons, as well as a small group of retired 920th Airmen. The group meets after duty hours to train and socialize.
“We have our group rides on the weekends,” said Master Sgt. Mike Monopoli, an aircraft production control specialist with the 920th MXS. “We meet at a restaurant, bike 30, 40 or 50 miles, then come back to point A and have breakfast. It helps build camaraderie.”
The team rides for fun. But they also train to participate in community charity rides.
“We couldn’t find events that were competitive, so we decided to participate in charity rides,” said Monopoli. “We are doing all these miles, so why not put it to good use?”
Their charity rides include biking for breast cancer awareness and the annual Tour De Cure, which benefits the American Diabetes Associated and includes 70 miles of spinning metal spokes, rolling rubber wheels and turning handlebars.
The group gets sponsorships from local restaurants and pubs, and also hosts fundraising events. They’ve raised $10,000 as a team.
“We are looking forward to doing the biking part of the Rocketman,” said Monopoli. “We are going to reach out to the group and see if we can start a few teams. It’ll be fun to be on different teams and gunning for each other. If my team loses, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
Monopoli says it’ll be great training for other big rides they have coming up, the three-day, 375-mile ride they plan to do in Puerto Rico this January.
“The key to train for big races is to just ride and ride and gain mileage,” he said. “Right now we average 100 miles a week. So by that time we should be hitting 250 to 300 miles a week.”
While the group trains for rides around the community, there is another benefit to adding mileage on their bikes – it helps keep them fit to fight.
“If I can endure the grueling conditions of being on a bike and riding that long, I feel I can handle a PT test of 20 minutes of exercise (omit “of exercise),” he said. “For me, I still get nervous before test. But I always think in my head, ‘if I can sit on a bike in the blazing heat, wind, sometimes rain, all these nasty conditions – I can do the run.”
Biking is also therapeutic for these maintainers.
“You’re on the bike and its freedom,” said Maldonado. “You forget about everything. It’s a great way to decompress. It clears your mind.”
Whether biking for charity, biking for fitness or biking for Zen, these Air Force Reserve bikers push themselves to always strive for excellence in all they do.”
“Recovery from bowel surgery is hell. I will spare you the details, but I learned that if I didn’t stay physically active, my body would revolt against me. Sometimes I feel like a shark, that can’t stop moving or I’ll drown.
A retired neighbor inspired me with his habit of riding his age in miles for every birthday. Today is his 76 mile ride. In 2012 I rode 47 miles. While preparing for my 48 mile ride, I learned about a triathlon at Kennedy Space Center, and got hooked on the idea of riding my bike where man first departed for the moon.
This year, at 48, I completed my first sprint + triathlon. I completed a 1/4 mile swim, 36 mile bicycle ride and a 5K run in 3:39:40. My goal was anything under 4 hours.
I am now looking to take time off of my transitions and to complete enough USAT events to carry a national ranking. I want to be at least 100 places from the bottom in my category. I may have 1000 behind me at my current pace.
I also completed my 48 mile ride with much more energy than the previous year. I have dropped 30 lbs, so I’m out of the Clydesdale group. I also completed my 49 mile birthday ride. I followed that up as an adult leader at Wallwood Boy Scout Reservation (summer camp) with my son’s Troop. While I was there, I earned the mile swim patch (for scouts or leaders).
Last year I swam breast stroke because of shoulder pain. This year I’ve cut minutes off my swim workouts because I’m back to freestyle. My running times are already faster by about 2 minutes per mile and my training partner and I are aiming for a finish time under 3 hours this year. I think we can do it.” – Jonathan Lyons
“[This will be] my 20th year doing triathlons, but without a doubt, my most special. My daughter Calli and her new husband Ben, will be doing the race with me. I was so honored this year not only by their wedding, but Ben participated in his first triathlon this year at the Crystal River sprint(#2), a race I co-founded 20 years ago. The circle of (triathlon) life!” – Robert Brockett
“A triathlon had always been on the “to do” list for me, but but I never felt truly compelled to attempt one until I saw the announcement for Rocketman Florida. It didn’t matter to me that I lived 2,500 miles away in California, I signed up for the half iron distance as soon as registration opened. I’m an endurance runner and I’m also a Propulsion Engineer at Virgin Galactic, where I help build rocket engines and spaceships which will very soon start fulfilling the promise of open and easy space travel that NASA made back in the 1960’s. I love racing and I love my job, so choosing Rocketman was a no brainer for me. However, my passion for both often led to long days of running early in the morning, going to work for 10-12 hours, and then getting home with just enough time to fit in a swim workout at the local high school pool before bed. Some have told me I’m a “glutton for punishment”, I say I’m just driven.
Though I’ve been training for months, this race took on a new meaning just two weeks ago when terrorism struck the Boston Marathon. I grew up in New England and spent my college years at Boston University, so I’ve always considered that city my adoptive home. I had dreamt of running in the Boston Marathon for a long time, a dream which was finally realized last year right before I moved away to California. The energy and excitement I felt during that race was electrifying and the addictive satisfaction of a hard-fought finish is a big reason I kept entering endurance races after a graduated college. I watched, stunned, as the events unfolded on April 15th and frantically tried to contact friends at the race to check if they were ok. Thankfully my friends at the finish line were unharmed physically, however they experienced a trauma I can barely imagine. The days that followed were pretty hard for me. Had I been in Boston, I would have been running that race. After the bombing, I would have been able to cry alongside people who understood what was wrong and later I would have been able to feel joyful alongside my fellow Bostonians when the perpetrators were finally captured. I’ve lived on the west coast for almost a year now and I’ve never felt so far away from home.
This triathlon is part of my own healing. It’s a cathartic gesture which I hope will prove to me that even though terrible things can happen in this world we will still run, bike, and swim. I will carry on in life with the same grit and determination that drives me through the next race mile and the one after that. And no one can take that feeling away from me.” - Kevin
“We wanted to be astronauts….we wanted to fly…we wanted to build things…we were curious how lights worked and stuck our fingers in light sockets…we took our toys apart and got in trouble with our parents for “breaking” everything…we loved science and math and were never the “normal” girl. We met at Raytheon and shared a love of sports and a desire to produce world class products and technology. We’ve worked on the toughest programs at our company, done whatever it takes, and now we’re ready to take our toughness to the test by doing a triathlon at a place that inspired our careers. We’re doing this for all the little girls who want to run, fly, take things apart and have it all.” – Jodi Enomoto, Charley Fodran, Kelly Hicks, Amy Hoang, Heidi Hoang and Andrea Richards
“I am a rubber chicken. But no ordinary rubber chicken. I am Camilla Corona SDO, the NASA mission mascot for the Solar Dynamics Observatory. I call it Little SDO – and Little SDO is our latest eye on the Sun. Thanks to Little SDO we are learning so much more about our Star, which by the way is the only star we know of to grow vegetables! I joined the mission a few years ago, shortly before Little SDO launched from Cape Canaveral. In fact, in just two weeks we will be celebrating its 3rd launch anniversary! Time flies… I digress.
In my function I focus on getting kids and adults excited about science! I help with solar education and bring Little SDO’s amazing images to the people, explaining to them the various features on the Sun and just making sure people always protect themselves from the impact the Sun has on us. But not only that, I am really focusing on STEM education; STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – subjects that kids sometimes don’t like because they are afraid of them. Or they think that they cannot do it.
As of late I am also doing the “Train Like an Astronaut” segments as I have to get ready for my own flight to Space. Exercise is such an important component of Astronaut training; before and even during a mission to the International Space Station. So in November I did my first marathon; it was the Solar Eclipse Marathon in Australia and it sure was beautiful. Now I am getting in shape to do the Rocketman Triathlon and I am documenting my training as part of NASA’s Train Like an Astronaut.
I have flown to the Edge of Space 5 times already. The view from 125,000 feet is spectacular and it shows a blue and white world with a very dark horizon and sky. Up there only 1% of the atmosphere is left and you have to be in good physical condition to endure such a mission. My flights were all prepared and executed by students, getting them closer to those STEM fields. And I truly hope that my participation in the Rocketman Triathlon in May will inspire a few people to take additional steps to get in shape, stay in shape and enjoy a more healthier life.
I shall be seeing you all in just a few months! Let’s Train Like an Astronaut! (don’t forget to stretch and stay hydrated!) More information about NASA’s Train Like An Astronaut.
Cmdr. Camilla Corona SDO
(I will be doing the Classic race with my dear friend and training partner Karyn.)”
“My name is Lindsey and a like many of the other story tellers, I too am a Floridian. I have always admired the Kennedy Space Program for the science and space missions it has gifted to this country. There aren’t many places where one can watch the night sky light up from a rocket launch.
My dear old dad first exposed me to the world of science & mathematics and naturally his interest in the space program soon became mine. From the time I was a mere 5 years old up to now (28 years) we have ritualistically launched rockets. Over the years the quality and caliber of our rockets have improved. We initially started with small 18” model rockets flying on C, D and E motors and slowly graduated to building our own (12 ft, +70lbs) flying on M, N and O motors.
This last year has been a bit of a challenge for my old man, as he has been battling some health related issues…breathing just isn’t as easy as it use to be. Therefore, I am swimming, biking and running this race for him, his values and his deep love for space science. My goal, to make every breath count!” – Linsdey Garven
“I grew up in Satellite Beach and my love of the space program was fostered through my father’s 42 years of dedicated service as a Range Operations Engineer for RCA. He worked on every manned space program and loved every minute of it. He always made sure to call us with the latest countdown information so we could run up to beach and watch the launches. I was fortunate enough to be hired by RCA and work across the street from my father for two years before he retired. Prior to working for RCA, in 1985 I worked at the O&C building at KSC on the Shuttle payload processing team. It was my first job in the space industry and great work experience while attending college. This is where I met my dear friend Michelle Falk who trained me to take over her job in the technical library. We both went on to work in many different areas of the space program but always remained close friends. In 1987 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, throughout my treatment and recovery my father and Michelle were always there for me. Ten years ago Michelle was working on a job site at CCAFS when she suffered an aneurism. She was 6 months pregnant at that time with her fourth child and she and baby Jaxon did not survive. My father passed away on May 5 , 2008, maybe it is a sign that the race is on the same date? I want to participate in this event as a tribute to these two very special people who have had such a positive and lasting influence in my life. I plan on honoring them with a memorial brick at Space View park in Titusville and by donating money in their names to the Candlelighter’s of Brevard, a non-profit children’s cancer support organization. (Father and friend pictured above.) – Trish Savage Merritt Island, Florida
“I grew up in Melbourne, went to the cape on school field trips, and watched the Apollo flights take off from my backyard. My dad (CMSgt Eddie Presley) worked at Patrick AFB as part of the 4950th Test Wing from 1965 to 1776. He was crew member in the Advanced Range Instrumentation Aircraft (ARIA) crews that monitored the Apollo take off’s and splash downs up through Skylab. When I was in junior high, the test wing was moved to Wright Patterson AFB.
My dad and his crew were killed in a crash in 1981
(www.ariamemorial.com). I finished my first sprint triathlon this past September and to be able to participate in this inaugural event at the cape is very exciting.” – Deborah Bolles
SISTER MADONNA BUDER is 80 years old, has run more than 340 triathlons, and doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. In her book, The Grace to Race, she shares the no-nonsense spirit and deep faith that inspired her extraordinary journey from a prominent St. Louis family to a Catholic Convent and finally to championship finish lines all over the world.
She lived a mostly cloistered life as a Nun until her late forties, when a Priest suggested she take a run on the beach. She dug up a pair of shorts in a pile of donated clothes, found a pair of second-hand tennis shoes, and had a second epiphany. This time, she discovered the spiritual joy of pushing her body to the limit and of seeing God’s natural world in all its splendor. More than thirty years later, she is known as the Iron Nun for all the triathlons she has won. Just five years ago, the age 75–79 category was created for her at the Hawaiian Ironman in Kona, where she completed a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon in record time. Now she has set her sights on a new goal: inaugurating another new Ironman age group, 80–84, in 2010.
Sister Madonna holds dozens of records, has broken dozens of bones, and tells of dozens of miracles and angels that propelled her to a far-flung race. “It is my faith that has carried me through life’s ups and downs,” she writes. “Whenever injured, I wait for the Lord to pick me up again and set me on my feet, confidently reminding Him, ‘God, you know, my intent is to keep running toward you.’”
“I am a space nerd. I grew up in the 60’s during the great space
race. I remember my parents waking me up to watch Neil Armstrong
take the first steps on the moon. I built models and I flew
rockets. As soon as I saw the ad for Rocketman Florida in the USAT
magazine I knew it was a race I wanted to do.” – Nicole Thomas
“I started doing triathlons in 2010, with my first sprint in Cocoa
Beach. Since then I’ve completed all distances up to and including
a full Ironman, which I just concluded in Panama City. What makes this race so special to me is I used to work at KSC. I was in security, starting on the Cape side in 1976, I was hired on at KSC in 1979 in security, where I was employed under several contractors until a RIF in 1993. I’ve since relocated to SC. This will be my first visit back since that layoff.” - Jim Morris
“I am a disabled Marine Corps combat veteran. My deployment to Iraq left me with little use of my mind or body, partly because of my reconstructive surgeries and hardware implants. Between of the mess of pain rehab, pain meds, and pain all over, I lost my motivation. I accepted the word of my doctors when they’d said, “You will never be able to compete again, John. At some point you will be able to walk, and eventually jog, but that’s it. You may be able to regain a majority of your cognitive processing and memory back, but maybe not. You have to accept it for what it is and move on. You can do plenty with you mind alone.” I thought to myself, “Thank you, but I will do both instead!” I weighed 350 lbs. at that time in 2010.
By 2011 I started biking and swimming, both of which helped me to cut fat. But it wasn’t until 2012 that I decided that I will make my own destiny. “I will start running again; I will feel good about my self again; I will be the role model that my nephews and niece need me to be; and I will compete again!” Since then I have lost a considerable amount of weight. I now weight 250 lbs. I stand to lose another twenty before Rocket Man.
I am looking forward to Rocket Man for two reasons. First, it will be the longest distance I’ve ever competed in. It is a challenge worth taking on at such a historical site. Second, I have never celebrated my birthday in my adult life. My birthday is the day after the race (May). I’ll be celebrating my third decade. I want to do it at a place full of life and energy! Participating in Rocket Man is a gift to myself for believing in myself, even when the odds were against me. Oorah!” – John David Fernandez
“I have always been a huge fan of the space program starting with the X-15 program when I was a kid and had several Bell X-1 and X-15 models hanging from the ceiling of my bedroom. I think that the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Space Center are a national shrines. I have watched many, many launches, both manned and unmanned since the first launch I saw, Apollo 13, after moving to Florida from Indiana 1970. I have also been a runner since the running craze started in the 70’s and have recently taken up long distance cycling. I have never entered a triathlon before but after hearing about the Rocketman Florida Triathlon being held on the property of the Kennedy Space Center, as well as the Canaveral National Seashore and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I felt compelled to enter. It will be my first triathlon. I will be 63 years old on race day. Crazy? Maybe.” – Robert Graves
“One day I was teaching my son to follow his dreams, and the different lessons of pursuing goals and life’s different challenges. During that conversation, he looked deeply into my eyes, and said: “Dad, if you want me to follow my dreams, why don’t you follow yours?” At that time I was 39, 205 pounds and 40% of Fat… and I am 5′-8″
It was one of the most shocking moments of my life. I literally realized the years I missed, and immediately started doing sports… exactly one year ago (April 9, 2102).
In my first year I dropped 35 pounds, did seven Triathlons (4 Sprints, 1 Xterra, 1 Olympic, 1 Half), two Mud Races (5K & 10K), one 5K Standard, and met the most wonderful people in the sports in my Island. We have embraced in a great friendship and lots of memories.
A month ago, two of those friends came to me telling me that they were registered to do the “RocketMan”, and therefore I was obliged to register my self as well (Jajaja). And so I went. So here I am, challenging myself in my first overseas Triathlon- which is super cool, because I will not be doing a Tri in Florida close to friends, but also get to visit one of the most impressive Landscapes man have created.” – Nestor Davila