142nd FW Guardsman completes fifth Ironman Triathlon

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steph Sawyer
  • 142nd Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

If you’re a Portland Air National Guard Base employee, and an early morning gym-goer, you might have stumbled into Senior Master Sgt. Bobbi Kennedy’s 6 AM spin class at the PANG fitness center. While some of us might wonder what could drive a person to power through intense exercise first thing in the morning, working outside of most people’s comfort zones is something Kennedy is accustomed to.

In fact, the 142nd Medical Group Superintendent recently completed her fifth Ironman Triathlon in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  This triathlon consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 116-mile bike ride, and a full marathon (26.2 miles); all of which are completed over the course of one day.

Over the past 12 years, Kennedy has trained for and participated in five Ironman Triathlons, but when she started training in 2007, Kennedy was a heavy smoker and physically out of shape. When a friend mentioned participating in an Ironman, Kennedy knew it would require a complete lifestyle overhaul, meaning total dedication to her well-being as a whole, and intense physical training. She quit smoking, improved her diet, and began training.

“Once I got out of my bad habits, I really wanted to take care of my body,” says Kennedy.

To prepare for an Ironman, Kennedy increases her spin classes from one to 1 ½ hours. After class, her students often join her for a short run, but she gets the most training time in on the weekends.

On Saturday, she typically bikes for 6 hours, and on Sundays, she runs, gradually increasing her distance as she gets closer to the event. Overall, she exercises an average of 15 hours per week.

One of the toughest things about training, she says, is getting swim time in. 3 AM swim sessions at the gym are a necessary component of an all-encompassing training regimen.   

The most challenging aspect of training and competing in an Ironman, Kennedy says, is not the physical stress on the body, but maintaining a positive mental state; demonstrating mental discipline and resilience.

“When it gets hard,” says Kennedy, “know that the human body is amazing.”

Kennedy’s first full Ironman Triathlon took place in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Her main motivation behind completing her first full was to honor her dying father-in-law whose dream was to complete an Ironman, himself.

As a Guardsman in a leadership position, Kennedy sets the example by demonstrating dedication to physical well-being and mental fortitude and resiliency.

“We give a lot here,” says Kennedy, “and for me, [completing the Ironman] has helped with my ability to lead.”

Kennedy says she wants to see others succeed in leading healthy lives and taking care of themselves, but that doesn’t necessarily mean committing to a rigorous training schedule or running marathons and triathlons.

“It doesn’t matter if you do an Ironman,” says Kennedy, “it doesn’t matter that you do halves or run a marathon or a 5K, but it matters that you take care of yourself and that looks different for everybody, and that’s ok.”  

Kennedy has no immediate plans to participate in another Ironman event, but she’s planning on running a marathon in 2020, and most likely a 50K.