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NMRTC San Diego Sailor races for victory on and off the circuit

25 August 2023

From Petty Officer 3rd Class Raphael McCorey

Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command San Diego’s very own Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Spencer Tanner will compete in the 2023 USA Cycling Masters and Para-Cycling Road National Championships, Aug. 26 - 27.The competition, which will be held in Augusta, Ga., will have Tanner competing in two races that are different in length and course
Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command San Diego’s very own Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Spencer Tanner will compete in the 2023 USA Cycling Masters and Para-Cycling Road National Championships, Aug. 26 - 27.

The competition, which will be held in Augusta, Ga., will have Tanner competing in two races that are different in length and course type.

“The first type of race is called a road race which is very similar to what the Tour de France riders race,” Tanner explained. “Normally the road is anywhere between 60 to 100 miles. This course is normally based upon laps where each lap tends to be between 10-20 miles each. So, timeframe for these races is very dependent on how many people are racing and how much elevation we are having to climb throughout the race, but we normally average anywhere from 24-27 mph for about 3-4 hours. The second type of race is called a criterium or crit for short. This race is raced on a short circuit normally about 1 mile or less. Each crit is raced for 60-90 minutes depending on the level of cyclists that are in the race, and the promoters who are putting on the race. Our average speed for those races is 27-30 mph with maybe some short punchy hills.”

Tanner has been competing in an amateur league for seven years and was originally introduced to the sport through his day-to-day travel to and from work, which led him to meet other cyclists.

“I came directly from Medical Corps school here to NMRTC San Diego and didn't have my car with me,” recalled Tanner. “I actually bought a bike to travel back and forth from home to work because it was quicker than having to sit through traffic here in San Diego, depending upon where you live. I then met up with some other people, and they're like, ‘Hey, you should come out and race.’ It's myself and about six other teammates, we have our own Southern California cycling team here in San Diego and I've been doing that since I first came to the command back in 2016.”

Tanner finds that the challenge of cycling continues to thrill his competitive spirit while continuously keeping him fit.

“I keep being brought back because of my competitive nature, overall love for maintaining my athleticism as I age, and the amazing people that you meet in the sport. Every race and course is different so depending on what type of racer you are could depend on how well you do in the race. Having a team really lends itself for an overall better result and experience. When you help a teammate get the win or when your teammates help you get the win it’s such an amazing feeling.”

As a Sailor at the hospital, Tanner leads his fellow teammates and finds the experience he’s gained is interchangeable in both his professional and personal life.

“I am the Intensive Care Unit leading petty officer here at Naval Medical Center San Diego,” said Tanner. “When working on the ICU ward you have codes called, and there are many different personnel that must fill all the roles to ensure the correct life-saving procedures are followed correctly and efficiently. This helps keep everyone calm and hopefully helps to prolong the patient’s life. While most would think it’s more of an individual sport, like working on the ICU ward, cycling is actually a team sport. It’s more about team dynamics and supporting each other as each race is different and I’m able to use the knowledge of teamwork that have I gained from the Navy, working with Nurses, Corpsman, other rates and Marines. Everyone has different aspects of what someone’s good at within the cycling aspect. You have sprinters, you have your breakaway specialists, and a few other types of riders that all must work together to hopefully attain a win for the team.”

Tanner’s interchangeable skills shine through his work to the appreciation of his mentors and peers as well.

“I think it's amazing that Sailors have the opportunity to pursue these incredible hobbies,” said Lt. Aleksander Korotayev, NMRTC San Diego ICU division officer. “I also think it pays dividends back to the Navy; It not only builds on that teamwork aspect and builds that adaptability, but you're getting immediate ability for problem solving skills, you’re able to figure things out right off the bat that you’re doing at a very high level.”

Throughout his time both as a Sailor and as a cyclist, Tanner finds the aspect he appreciates most are the relationships he’s garnered.

“I've been here in California now for eight years, which has been most of my Naval career thus far excluding time spent in boot camp and Corps School,” said Tanner. “Meeting everyone and all the friends that I have made throughout these years and now in the ICU, which is a big family atmosphere, as well as all my cycling teammates and others that I’ve met within cycling, just being around great people has been the most rewarding aspect.”

His mentors and peers also appreciate having his leadership and expertise as well.

“Tanner is always a positive person, he likes to joke,” noted Korotayev. “He’s very friendly and open. His office is always open, and it's evident that his corpsman and his peers, and nurses alike, respect him. They go visit his office, ask him anything, and he's always there. I think he has a great personality and is overall a great leader.”

Tanner attributes a part of his success to the support and opportunities the Navy, his fellow Sailors and friends provide him.

“I think it's great that I have the personal time afforded to me to be able to go out and do all these things,” reflected Tanner. “To be able to take leave to literally go across the country, go to Augusta, Georgia, for a week, and basically do recon of the course, and then just settle down and get ready for the road race and the criterium that I have on Saturday and Sunday, the support that I have from my leaders and peers is amazing.”

Tanner recognizes the wisdom and experience his mentors provide to him in navigating his profession while maintaining his personal life, and he strives to provide guidance to those he leads as well.

“Reach out to those who have been in for a while and have a good grasp of balancing work and personal life,” Tanner recommended. “I always try to tell my new Sailors it's a lot about making rank and moving up as quickly as possible so that you can get those responsibilities and show that you're motivated, but also not overdoing it. I tell them about things that they can do around town, especially out here in California. There are a multitude of things that you can do from snowboarding at Big Bear to heading to the beach. There are so many things to do around here. I think it's about talking to those who are above you and how they've been able to utilize both being in the Navy and doing stuff outside the Navy, what they find is intriguing and how it best suits them within their own lives.”

Korotayev acknowledges the significance the Navy has in supporting its Sailors both in the line of duty and in personal endeavors as well.

“I think it's important to us as leaders to make sure we instill that message to our younger Sailors that you need to have a work life balance; you need to go out there and do something because the Navy will ask a lot from you,” said Korotayev. “We need to be there to provide the time off. They need - what I call - mental health days, things like that, for them to go enjoy (themselves). Not only where the Navy sends you, but to really grow from those opportunities of having the time off and building yourself.”

Lt. Laila Schless, NMRTC San Diego ICU clinical nurse specialist, also takes time to instill wisdom of succeeding both in and outside of work.

“I tell this to a lot of folks; the Navy is your life right now, but it won't be forever,” said Schless. “You have to be able to take care of yourself outside of the Navy. Do your best job here, but know that there are other things out there, and that there are other communities outside of the Navy that you can be a part of. Being able to do that on your own time is so important because sometimes you need to have that mental break from work and the Navy, so being able to do that is so key.”

Schless acknowledges that Tanner leads through example in keeping balance of his professional and personal life.

“Having that work life balance is so important, and that's something we as Sailors can be better at,” said Schless. “I think he does an excellent job with being able to separate work and personal life. Even though he doesn't like talking about doing all the things that he does outside of the Navy and outside of the ICU, it's really cool that he can tell us and show us, and we can support him. We're so proud of him.”

Tanner finds that the San Diego area has many opportunities for Sailors to involve themselves in and provides his own personal recommendation for those interested in cycling themselves.

“Many local bike shops around here have local rides to get involved in,” said Tanner. “San Diego Bicycle Club is a huge club that I used to race for, and they have skill levels from just riding a bike to “A” racers who are racing pro races. They have multiple different rides that they lead each Saturday throughout the year from UC Cyclery in La Jolla. You can do group rides, you can do stuff solo, and then figure out if you want to start doing more group riding, racing, or if you just want to meet people who are interested in the same hobby. San Diego Bicycle Club is a great place to start.”

Tanner, who recently competed and won the California Masters Criterium State Championship 2022 and 2023, looks forward to his upcoming competition with confidence and zeal.

“Am I gonna win?” said Tanner. “I'm gonna win.”

NMRTC San Diego's mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high quality healthcare services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training and research. NMRTC San Diego employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California to provide patients with world-class care anytime, anywhere. (U.S. Navy story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raphael McCorey)

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