Holloman Airman completes Ironman 70.3

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Antonio Salfran
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

On a warm October morning, the Arizona sun peaks through the window and greets 1st Lt. Ashley Corkins, 49th Wing junior executive officer, with a wake-up call. She sticks to her tradition and prepares her pre-race meal – banana and peanut butter toast. This meal has always fueled her body before going through the physical gauntlet.

Her hand trembles slightly as she holds the toast. The butterflies in her stomach begin to swarm, dipping and diving in every direction making it seem unbearable to take in any sort of sustenance. She struggles to eat her favorite pre-race meal, but the anticipation was higher for this particular day -- this isn’t like any race she’s done before.

“My body knew like, you’re doing something different today,” said Corkins. “It was actually very hard for me to eat [the toast].”

She had done fitness races before, but none like the half Ironman she was heading into that day in October.

“I had done a sprint triathlon and a handful of marathons,” said Corkins. “But, this was the first Ironman triathlon I’ve ever done.”

Participating in the Ironman 70.3 meant she was volunteering to swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles and finish off with a 13.1 mile run.

As all the contestants gear up for the start, Corkins says she can remember all the murmured conversations happening around her. Thus, giving her perspective on how everyone, no matter how much or little they may have trained, is going through the same trial together.

“It’s like you feel everyone’s nerves,” she said. “They’re all embracing the challenge together and doing it with you.”

The idea of being able to experience such a challenge, and proudly stating that you finished it, is more than enough gratification for Corkins.

“This was on my bucket list,” said Corkins. “I love to experience new things, and life is about that very thing -- so why wouldn’t I go for it?”

To Corkins, this was another chance to prove to herself that she could accomplish an extreme physical and mental challenge and that she is someone who can follow through.

“I think there’s been certain points in my life where I’ve felt terrible after being let down, or vice versa,” said Corkins. “When I think of that, I tell myself that when I commit to something I want to stay true to that.”

Staying true to this challenge proved difficult with COVID-19 precautions affecting her access to training facilities such as the pool at the Domenici Fitness and Sports Complex on Holloman Air Force Base. She began training in May of 2021, when Holloman AFB was still observing fairly strict safety and health protocols.

“My training went in waves,” said Corkins. “Due to COVID, it wasn’t always easy to get work (exercise) done, so I had to get that work in wherever I could find it.”

Preparing for an event as rigorous as the Ironman is stressful, but despite the challenge it adds to the balance of life and work, she persisted.

Corkins ties her mental resiliency and ability to push past her mental walls to her past experiences. Knowing that life entails so much adversity, she believes the perspective gained from that is what trains our mental capacity.

“Taking all that experience and projecting it on your mission is all you need,” said Corkins. At the Ironman she saw a woman with a breast cancer tattoo on her leg. Corkins took that tattoo as a reminder that each person has their own story and their own struggles, but they don’t need to make excuses – they power through the hard times and just do it.

After finishing the race, she stands tall and gleams with pride. She knows she’s become a part of a small number of people who have completed this race.

“There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment,” said Corkins. “What percentage of people can say they’ve done an Ironman?”

It’s all about the follow through for her, and the feeling that comes with not only talking the talk, but walking the walk.

“The hardest part is just showing up,” said Corkins. “But once you’re there, and you touch that water -- you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s go.”