A Triple Threat of Optimism

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Evanson

It is a sunny, yet brisk 38 degrees in Portsmouth, Va., and Lt. Staci Krueger is competing with traffic at a busy intersection. Not in her rugged sport utility vehicle but on a flimsy aluminum bicycle. She peddles aggressively signaling with her arm to change lanes with trucks, vans and convertibles breezing past by mere feet. Some call this mode of travel in these conditions unnecessary, but to Krueger it means everything; she is training for a triathlon.

“If you think training is hard, you should try chemotherapy.” That is the motto emblazoned on the back of a t-shirt for Team in Training, the world’s largest endurance sports training program, and part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This t-shirt attracted Krueger. “I was sold,” said Krueger, a wiry and enthusiastic 26-year-old. Krueger, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., and 1999 graduate of Princess Anne High School is training for an Olympic distance triathlon later this spring. The Olympic triathlon distance consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, followed by a 40-kilometer bike ride, and concluded by a 10-kilometer run.

In her professional life, Krueger is a search and rescue controller at the Coast Guard Atlantic Area and Fifth District Command Center in Portsmouth, Va., where she plans, and dispatches units to distress calls coming from mariners in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. The core values instilled upon her in the Coast Guard have helped Krueger meet this challenge head on. “Growing up with a devotion to duty and dedication gives you a will to never quit,” said Krueger. That is not to say that quitting was never an option. “My worst moment was when I first began training for this event and learning the harsh reality of how far I was from this goal,” she added. To an athlete, that is a tough pill to swallow. Krueger has faced many challenges in pursuing her first ever triathlon. She said that finding time and figuring out how to do this without hurting herself was very difficult. “This event is all about progress, and working your way up to it,” she said. Her best moment of the training came as she completed her first twelve-mile run. “I felt great euphoria because I had accomplished this feat, and disappointed at the same time because it was over,” she said.

Motivation comes easy, as the objective of the charity is simple. “To cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and Myeloma and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families,” said Krueger. She has a personal stake in the program and its benefits. When she was in high school, she lost her grandfather to blood cancer. “This charity really hit home, because I lost my grandfather, and my uncle is battling leukemia.”

She began her training last November and has not looked back. A typical workout for Krueger is no walk in the park. She alternates days with a grueling regiment of running, cycling and swimming. On Tuesday’s she jogs anywhere between 6-12 miles, and the following day exchanges her sneakers for a specially designed shoe that snaps into the pedals of her bicycle for a bike ride that ranges anywhere from 18 to 30-miles. Throw in a one-mile swim and the training cycle is complete. In addition, she prefers to complete the majority of her training outside, no matter the elements.

“I have always been super athletic, and I wanted to do something unique,” said Krueger. In her college days at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., Krueger had a reputation for high velocity spikes on the Division III volleyball team; not one as a triathlon junkie. During her college volleyball career, she helped lead her team to a conference title and the East Coast Athletic Championship during her senior season, and also served as co-captain. In addition, Krueger has participated on the All-Navy volleyball team the past two years competing against other armed service teams.

Later this spring in St. Petersburg, Fla., Krueger will be among people from all lifestyles and ages competing in the St. Anthony’s Triathlon. As a member of the Team in Training contingent, she will be raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “My goal is to raise $5, 000,” said Krueger. “When I train each and every day, I feel I have a purpose,” she said. With her drive and determination, it is safe to say that on April 27, 2008, Krueger will be Semper Paratus. “I am completing this triathlon in honor of all individuals who are battling blood cancers. These people are the real heroes on our team, and we need your support to cross the ultimate finish line – a cure!”

In addition, if you think her life gets any less hectic at the conclusion of the triathlon, think again. Krueger just received orders to the 270-foot Coast Guard Cutter Thetis homeported in Key West, Fla., where she will serve as the operations officer. That is the third in command of a vessel whose responsibilities include counter narcotic and humanitarian missions in the Caribbean Sea.

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