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NNSY Sailor has ‘iron’ will

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Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 11:25 am

If anyone needs motivation to follow through with New Year's resolutions, they may find it in Norfolk Naval Shipyard's (NNSY) Hull Technician 1st Class Matt Mlachak, who will be competing in the 2012 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Long Course Championships scheduled to be held in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain in late July.

"Two years ago I was overweight, pushing 200 pounds and almost could not fit into my uniforms," said Mlachak. Knowing he needed to lose weight - instead of opting for a gym membership or personal trainer - he set a simple goal to finish a race. In fact, he set his sights on finishing an Olympic distance triathlon and began training for this .92 mile swim, 25 mile bike race and 6.2 mile run.

Mlachak doesn't have a distinct reason for choosing triathlons, but as a child his father, who was also in the Navy, competed in triathlons.

"When I was little, when my dad would go out for a run, I'd ride my bike next to him," he said.

According to Mlachak, biking happens to be his strongest category. So, setting out to run his own race, he accomplished his goal.

But it wasn't enough. He wanted more and continued training. In his first race of the 2011 season, Mlachak finished another Olympic distance triathlon. This time he finished 15 out of 61 competitors in his age group (25-29).

Unrelenting, he continued to stick to his training regimen, set new goals and kept on competing. He said while he trains, he does not daydream or allow his mind to wander.

Every time his feet pound the ground, all he can think about is numbers - distance and time. Further, stronger, and faster he doesn't quit. Eventually, his weekly two mile runs turned into over 50; half mile swims evolved into 9; and 12 mile bike rides to more than 200.

Because he continued to surpass all his expectations and goals, Mlachak decided it was time to take it up a notch and compete in a Half Ironman, simply hoping to finish. A Half Ironman consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike race and a 13.2 mile run. With over 400 competitors, he finished at a time of 5 hours 24 minutes and 56 seconds and qualified for the National Championships, a Half Ironman distance race which was held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Ironically, 10 months prior, all he had wanted was to do was shed some pounds, which he did, but he gained something more.

For the National Championships, those who qualify in the Top-20 are eligible to become a team member of the USA National Team for triathlon. Running along with over 500 competitors, Mlachak finished at 4 hours 58 minutes and 31 seconds, which placed him in 10th place for his age group.

In July, when he arrives in Spain for the ITU World Long Course Championships, he will race against representatives from about 20 other countries. More than 750 competitors are expected to compete and swim 2.49 miles, bike 74.6 miles and run 18.6 miles.

Even though the world championship is in July, Mlachak is already thinking about the next race.

"My goal for the 2012 triathlon season is to be a top contender in my age group at every race I compete in," he said. "I always try to better myself. I want to do better today than how I did the day before."

He is already signed up for an Ironman in November, which according to him, is the ultimate challenge for any triathlete.

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