On Nov. 16th, Senior Airman Daniel Hughes, 355th Contracting Squadron contract specialist, tested his fitness limits and participated in IRONMAN Arizona.

IRONMAN Arizona is a triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim around Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Ariz., followed by a 112-mile bike ride which consists of a three loop course that heads out of Tempe to the Beeline Highway. The final portion of the race is a 26.2-mile run around Tempe Town Lake and through Papago Park. 

"An IRONMAN is considered an ultra-triathlon because it is the longest distance that is recognized as a triathlon," Hughes said. 

With the help of family and sponsors Hughes was able to race in the competition as well as raise $5,050 for a charity.

"I participated in the race through a charity, which helps kids in underdeveloped countries that have cleft lip and cleft palate," Hughes said.

Hughes has been participating in triathlons since 2006, however, this event was a first for him.

"The entire time I was excited to be there, I have always wanted to participate in an IRONMAN," Hughes said.

Hughes decided to compete in the IRONMAN in Oct. 2013 and has been preparing for the race ever since.

"I would go to the gym every morning, Monday through Friday, then a little later during the weekend," Hughes said. "Two months before the race, the charity coach sent an email out asking its participants to do a metric IRONMAN, which is where you take the distance of an IRONMAN but convert it to meters."

This metric IRONMAN helped Hughes gauge how well he would do in the race as well as what he needed to work on.

Race day soon came for Hughes and he would find himself entering the 68 degree water at 7 a.m. swimming alongside 3,202 competitors.

"During the swim everybody is punching and kicking each other," Hughes said. "Not on purpose of course, everybody is just crammed in there."

After the swim, Hughes entered the transition area where volunteers brought him his bike and the gear he needed for the ride.

"There was a time on the bike when I thought to myself, I'm not very good on the bike," Hughes said. "Then I hit one corner of the loop and checked the time and I knew I was good. I instantly got a boost on energy."

Once again Hughes went through the transition area to prepare for the marathon long run.

Throughout the run, Hughes' wife and their 1-year-old son would move around the course hoping to see him.

"Seeing her and my son gave me the motivation to keep going," Hughes said. "We saw each other about seven times throughout the course."

Not only was Hughes' wife there to motivate him, but the families who had participants running for the charity cheered Hughes on as well.

"We all had matching uniforms," Hughes said. "The family members that knew 'that's a (charity) participant' would shout or hold up signs as I passed by."

To help get through the run Hughes would set small goals to accomplish.

"Everybody finds a person to gauge how you're doing or as a motivational partner," Hughes said. "I would see someone, and tell myself I'm going to catch this person then I'll catch the next."

During the entire competition Hughes said his spirits remained high.

"I was just really stoked to be out there and have my family support me," Hughes said. "Doing it through the charity was a great thing to be a part of."

Hughes crossed the finish line at 9:48 p.m. placing 1,729.

"I got to the finish archway and the announcer called out 'Daniel Hughes you are an IRONMAN'," Hughes said. "I was just excited to finish it and cross it off my bucket list."

Hughes plans to continue participating in IRONMAN triathlons.

To learn about the IRONMAN Arizona and to see the results visit, http://www.IRONMAN.com/triathlon/events/americas/IRONMAN/arizona.aspx .