By KENNETH DEAN
No one in the Smith County law enforcement community questions Tyler Police Department’s SWAT leader Lt. Rusty Jacks’ toughness or courage, but the 42-year-old father of two had something to prove to himself, so he decided to compete in the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas last month.
The Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and finishing with the marathon, which is 26.2 miles.
Jacks, an avid runner, decided to challenge himself to the grandfather of all endurances, just to say he completed it.
“I wasn’t doing it for time, but to just be able to say that I completed it, and I did,” he said.
Jacks said he began competing in sprint triathlons several years ago at Lake Tyler and only just learned to swim properly in the past three years.
Sprint triathlons can vary in distances, but most consist of a .47-mile swim, a 12.4-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run.
In 2010, Jacks participated in a half Ironman in Galveston and was able to finish so he wanted to push further.
Jacks said entering the water with 2,200 competitors on Lake Woodlands on May 19 was surreal.
“There were so many people that the water was like a washing machine the whole time,” he said.
Jacks said once out of the water it was time for the bike ride, which wound through Sam Houston National Forest before returning to The Woodlands.
“The bike part was hard, too, and I remember seeing a sign close to the end of the bike route that said 34 miles to go for beer, because at the finish there was beer for the competitors,” he said.
Jacks said he was tired when he began running the final part of the race but knew he had 26.2 miles to go.
About mile 16, Jacks said the blisters on his feet caused him so much pain he had to stop running and walk.
“I walked about eight miles, but when I got to mile 24 the crowd was cheering everyone on so I began running and finished the last two miles in a run. Because of the crowd, that was the easiest part of the whole thing,” he said.
Almost 15 hours after he started, the weary SWAT commander crossed the finish line.
Jacks said he was thrilled he was able to finish the event, even if it took him 14 hours and 49 minutes.
“Police work is sedentary most of the time so this kept me focused to stay in shape. I chose to do the Ironman as a personal challenge, and because most people hear the distances and say to themselves, ‘That’s impossible,’” he said.
Jacks said he hopes his accomplishment will encourage other officers to get fit.
“We are very proud of Lt. Jacks,” Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle said. “Fitness is an important aspect of being a police officer, and we encourage our officers to stay active. However, this accomplishment is certainly above and beyond.”