Okoboji, Iowa -- Early on a particularly cool summer morning in Iowa, a few swimmers begin to emerge from West Lake Okoboji leaving hundreds of others in their wake. The competitors are making their way to the bicycle transition area for the second leg of the 2014 University of Okoboji Triathlon. A small crowd of sweatshirt-clad spectators is gathered lakeside to cheer them on as they strip off their swim caps and goggles. Cheering on Senior Airman Michael Considine is his biggest fan, his mom Patty.
This scene has been repeated numerous times throughout the last several years. Considine, a veteran triathlete has been competing in marathons and triathlons since high school. While he competes individually, he is also a member of the University of Iowa's triathlon team, the Tri-Hawks.
A little short of breath and dripping wet from the swim, Considine is proudly dressed in the black and gold of his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes, where he is a full time student. He has reason to be proud - the Tri-Hawks have been competing in Nationals for nearly a decade and usually finish in the top ten of 100 competing teams.
A Sioux City native, Considine works as an avionics technician in the Iowa Air National Guard in Sioux City as a 'traditional' or drill status guardsman. It was his mom, a triathlon competitor herself, who first inspired Considine to give it a try. It was while he was still in high school that he completed his first Ironman. Having been sidelined from traditional sports in high school due to surgery on both knees, running an Ironman at that time was a huge accomplishment. Ironman is a 140.6 mile race consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a full 26.2 mile marathon.
It is not just marathons and triathlons that Considine is passionate about. When pressed, he admits that he "has a problem" when it comes to these, and other events, like ultra-marathons. The problem is that his involvement can surpass passion and become more of an obsession. "Once you get into the 'ultra' distances, like Ironman distances or 50 miles on a run, or over two miles on a swim, it's one of those things where you think, 'I've gone this huge distance, I wonder how far I can go'. And then you just keep pushing yourself over the limit," said Considine.
The influence of Considine' s parents is evident in every aspect of his life - from his desire to compete in triathlons to his career choices. Both of Airman Considine's parents are former members of the Iowa Air Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, IA. It was watching his father, a former fighter pilot and commander of the 185th, fly fighter jets that motivated him to aspire to be a pilot himself once he completes his education. "I grew up down here (on the base in Sioux City). When we had F-16's I was down here all the time," said Considine. "So that made joining the guard a really easy decision, especially when I learned about all the financial benefits available for school."
Considine pushes himself to excel in many areas. Not only a veteran triathlete, he is also a military veteran. With four years of military service, the 22 year old again plans to postpone college this fall to volunteer for a second overseas deployment. Having a unique understanding of the military and veteran's issues, Considine is actively involved with campus veteran's groups. He applies the same level of tenacity that he gives to his sport, to helping veterans as part of the University of Iowa Veteran's Association. He has also been active in developing a student group for veterans, as well as participating with fund raising projects for organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Fisher House during his tenure at the University.
While some people his age may not put much thought beyond the end of the week, Considine said it was his father who taught him at a very young age, the benefit of thinking long-term. When he was just 7 years old, his dad gave him money to invest and allowed him to choose from a list of top performing stocks. It was years later, when the stock began to pay dividends, that the lesson really took hold. Colonel Tom Considine, Michael's father died of cancer a year after that lesson. Patty Considine said that was a defining moment for Michael. "It was the day of the funeral and we had just gotten home and there was a burnt out light bulb. I thought, 'What else could go wrong?' That's when Michael said, 'I'll change it, I'm the man of the house now'," said Patty.
The influence of Michael's father - both in life and in death stuck with the younger Considine. He continues to apply the principals he learned - responsibility, service and thinking long-term - to all of his endeavors, whether it is running, school or the military. "'Can't' is not in my vocabulary," said Considine. "If I fail at a 50 miler and run 35 miles, it is way farther than I thought I would be able to go".
Nearly two hours after first plunging into West Lake Okoboji to swim, bike and run, Considine finished the University of Okoboji Triathlon with an official time of 1:48:27. The 2014 Okoboji Triathlon consisted of 0.6 mile swim, 18 mile bike ride and 4.5 mile run. In a field of 124 competitors Considine finished 53rd overall.
It was Vince Lombardi who is credited for saying that "leaders are not born, they are made." There are many factors that go into making a leader. While many of the circumstances surrounding Considine' s life were out of his control, he is the one who has taken what he was handed and is putting maximum effort into making himself a leader worth following.