SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The former commanding officer of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Thach (FFG 43), will be featured in an upcoming NBC Sports broadcast of the Ford Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii Dec. 19.
The broadcast will be aired on NBC and features Cmdr. David Haas, who did a majority of his pre-race training aboard Thach while deployed to the Northern Arabian Gulf.
This was not the normal training environment for one of the world's most physically challenging events. For Haas it was an opportunity to use these harsh conditions to prepare for the triathlon, and hopefully earn the elite title of "Ironman."
"With a heat index of 130, it's pretty hot," said Haas with a smile. "So the heat in Kona, I'm hoping, won't be a problem."
The Kona Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile open-water swim, 112-mile bicycle road race and a 26.2 mile marathon through conditions that are alien to the average athlete. A group of 1,800 athletes tested themselves by dodging flailing arms and legs as they fought currents and ocean waves, only to then bike and run over taxing lava-covered terrain in blistering heat while fighting treacherous winds. These are the "lucky" ones who qualify for the Kona Ironman.
With a race like this, the weather conditions and terrain were not the only challenges Haas had to contend with. A frigate is not the typical training setting for athletes competing in triathlons, especially the Ironman. Due to the limited size of the ship, 453 feet in length, Haas had to use exercise machines to do most of his training. A lot of the machines are located on the exterior decks of the ship. Weather permitting, this is where he trained.
"Riding a stationary bike for five hours at a time on a Saturday or Sunday morning makes you either mentally insane or prepared, one of the two," said Haas.
While Thach was out to sea on exercises or deployments, training for the swim portion of the race was especially challenging. Haas used two different machines to help exercise the muscles he used in the swim, the rowing machine and the total body climbing machine. He rowed for 30 minutes for a distance of 10 km twice a week, and then moved directly to the climbing machine for 30 minutes. In total, it was about 1 hour 10 minutes, which was around the time he expected to finish the swim.
He did take advantage of the opportunities to get in the water whenever possible.
"When we pulled into a port, I found a pool," said Haas. "If we were off the coast of San Diego, I took my search and rescue swimmers out for exercise in the ocean."
Competing in the Ironman required more motivation, determination and conditioning than most people can muster. Haas drew motivation for this remarkable challenge from many different sources.
"I race for my family," said Haas. "I want them to know that they can dream, work hard, and make their dreams come true. I want my kids to look up to their dad. It is important to me that they think positively of their father."
The crew of Thach was another source of Hass' inspiration and motivation. They were a pivotal part of his ability to manage his time wisely and their support helped him through the tough times while training. "They know what I want to do and they encourage me all the time," said Haas. "I have a great chief's mess and a great wardroom. They ensure the ship has everything properly planned and allow me to move more into the execution phase of what we do. That's pretty nice to have; they're really strong."
Aboard Thach, the motivation flows freely both up and down the chain of command. Haas' journey toward the exceptional race has in turn inspired the more than 200 Sailors that look to him for leadership.
"I've seen a definite change in the attitude of the crew when it comes to working out and eating healthy," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Lucio Diaz, Thach's wardroom supervisor. "I think seeing him do it, motivates them also to make the time to work out, to eat healthy and to do the right thing."
Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Aaron Sell, assigned to the "Scorpions" of Light Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 49 aboard Thach, admits that Haas inspires him.
"I'm pretty sure he has a lot more to deal with than us," said Sell. "Seeing him work out throughout the day definitely inspires us to put things in perspective, stay positive and work out. It's given the crew a figure to look up to."
Haas' goal of competing in and finishing the Ironman drew the attention of a lot of people around the triathlon community.
"We were looking for a unique Navy individual," said Peter Henning, executive producer of the Ironman television show on NBC. "He might be the only person going to Kona to acclimate to the cold, because it's a lot chillier there than it is [in the Arabian Gulf]. This is the first time we've been aboard a ship and seen the relationship between a commander and his crew," said Henning. "The love that each has for the other and the way they work together is phenomenal. I think Cmdr. Haas is a credit to the Navy and I think this crew is a credit to the Navy."