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Barksdale aviator to compete in Ironman World Championship

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman William Pugh
  • 2BW/PA

1st Lt. Tara DeGeorge, a B-52H Stratofortress pilot from the 96th Bomb Squadron, received an invitation to compete in the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Finland.

The upcoming international competition is known as a 70.3, or “Half-Ironman.” This triathlon consists of a 1.2-mile swim segment, a 56-mile bike segment, and a 13.1-mile run segment. Competitors typically complete these races in four to seven hours.

The women's race takes place on Aug. 26 in Lahti, a city approximately sixty miles north of Helsinki, the capital of Finland.

The competition represents a significant opportunity for DeGeorge.

“Racing and training is my passion," said DeGeorge. “Military members have to stay in shape to accomplish the mission. I think you might as well do that by doing something you love.”

Though the event poses an immense challenge, DeGeorge is well-prepared, having been involved in aerobic activities since childhood.

“My mom really got me into swimming while I was growing up," she said. “As I reached high school, I began to compete in long-distance swimming.”

While exploring colleges, DeGeorge's mother noted that the Air Force Academy had a swim team she could join.

“I told my mom I would never join the military,” DeGeorge recalled. “Then, I attended a summer camp there for swimming. I decided that I really liked what the Air Force stood for, with everyone working together for a common goal.”

For the first two years of her enrollment at the Air Force Academy, DeGeorge spent 18 hours a week practicing with the swim team, in addition to her academic classes and military training required of cadets.

“I was cut from the swim team after my sophomore year at the Academy, which upset me,” DeGeorge shared. “But I then thought, 'I've always wanted to do an Ironman. I'm going to start training for triathlons.'”

After being stationed at Barksdale, she continued to train for and race in triathlons.

In preparation for the World Championship, she competed in a race that was double the distance of the Half-Ironman she'll be running in Finland.

“I completed my first full Ironman in April, using that as an aerobic base for this Half-Ironman,” DeGeorge said. “I figured if I can manage that, the shorter distance will feel comparatively easier.”

The race DeGeorge participated in during April, the Ironman Texas in Houston, was a 140.6-mile challenge. It consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike journey, and a 26.2-mile run.

1st Lt. Liana Bush, a 96th Bomb Squadron B-52 weapons systems officer, has been training on the B-52 with DeGeorge over the past year. She attended the race in April to cheer on her friend.

“It was inspiring to see how she kept pushing and persevered to the finish line,” said Bush. “She's an outstanding pilot and a great friend.”

Bush and DeGeorge are training for a triathlon set for Spring 2024 and plan to run the race together.

DeGeorge expressed her enthusiasm for the upcoming world championship.

“I think it'll be a lot of fun,” she noted. “My mom and sister will be there with me, and I'll be competing alongside some of the best athletes in the world.”