By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 18, 2018
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On a sunny morning at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, groups and individual Airmen are warming up at the outdoor running track.
Off to the side, a quiet unassuming Airman puts on a pair of sunglasses and begins lightly jogging; the jog turns into a run and the run into nearly three miles of sprints. As others are gasping around him, 1st Lt. Nicholas Ruiz, executive officer with the 50th Mission Support Group, is barely sweating.
At 38 years old, Ruiz recently scored his 11th consecutive 100 on his fitness assessment, a rare and difficult achievement.
“When someone scores a 100 for the first time it’s an awesome sight to see,” said Natalie McCoy, fitness assessment cell manager with the 50th Force Support Squadron. “For Ruiz, that’s become the norm, but he never stops working to be better or beat his own time. He’s never scored anything but a 100 in his career and that’s a completely different level of accomplishment.”
Ruiz’s first 100 came in 2000 when he enlisted in the Air Force, but his running journey began at age 10, while in fourth grade.
“One of my teachers said ‘We’re going to race one mile,’ but all I heard was ‘race,’” Ruiz said. “I discovered I loved competition.”
Ruiz began exploring other competition avenues and discovered he loved wrestling.
“I didn’t have great form, but I could often outlast or outhustle someone due to my conditioning, and I got hooked on that,” he said. “I thought ‘if I just start running year round I’ll be better poised to compete in whatever I want to compete in.’ I’ve run year-round ever since.”
When he joined the Air Force, Ruiz focused his competitive fire on himself. He spent six years as an enlisted member before a break in service, and then returned as a commissioned officer in 2015.
“I’m competitive, but it’s mostly internal,” he said. “I like to test and push myself. I like to set new, realistic goals. The 50th FSS does a good job of providing opportunities to compete. I’ve never been at a base that has this many sponsored events that allow me to test myself in new ways.”
Ruiz acknowledged the run is the most difficult portion of the Air Force physical fitness assessment for most people. To obtain maximum points, males under 30 years of age must run 1.5 miles in a time of 9:12 or faster. For males 30-39 years of age, the time to beat is 9:34. In his “worst ever time,” Ruiz once ran a 9:03, his best time was an 8:07.
“That nine-minute time was five months after knee surgery, so I knew it was going to be close,” he said.
Air Force Space Command recently took notice of the speedy lieutenant and selected him to represent the command at the Air Force marathon in September. He’ll be running with another Schriever Airman, 1st Lt. Veronica Leddy, chief of operations engineering with the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“I was humbled to be selected,” Ruiz said. “I’m representing our command and I think it’s awesome.”
As others around him praise his consistently high scores, it’s never been about being able to brag for the humble lieutenant.
“It’s never really been a thing until they put my name up on the 100 board at the fitness center,” Ruiz said. “I’ve never done this to be able to say I did it. I simply compete against myself every time I have to test.”
The Schriever AFB fitness center has a “perfect PT score” board hanging outside the gymnasium. A perfect score gets a person’s name put on the board. Consecutive 100s start earning a corresponding color for names. Once a certain color threshold is reached, stars are added. Ruiz’s name has four stars next to it.
“When you score a 100 for the first time you get a blue plate, but to stay on the board you have to continue to score 100s,” McCoy said. “If you score a 99.9 you come down off the board and have to start over. We have about 3 percent of our base military population that has a 100 on our board. That is a small number but it's an elite group of folks that put in the hardest work to stay at the top.”
Ruiz has three pillars he advises others to focus on if they want to score a 100 or simply be a better version of themselves: training, longevity and nutrition.
“Everything starts with your core,” he said. “You have to have a solid base to be able to tap into in order to max the strength and cardio portions of the test.”
Ruiz trains with weights three days each week and does cardio work on the days in between.
“If I’m not training for anything, I’ll usually just do a 5-7 mile jog,” he said. “If a PT test is coming up, I don’t run farther than three miles, but I’ll do speed work for those three miles. Speed work is huge. I’d advise people to do two miles minimum, but you have to train hard for those two miles.”
For anyone looking to improve their score or obtain a good speed training plan, Ruiz said he’s more than happy to help and they can contact him through the Air Force global email system.
At 38 years old, Ruiz tests in the 30-39 year old category. However, his scores are high enough to score a 100 in the under 30 category.
“I’ve been doing this consistently for so long, my body is able to maintain at a high level so it’s much easier,” he said. “There’s a longevity factor. If I was just now starting to try and score a 100 for the first time, it would be much more difficult.”
Ruiz said each fitness journey starts with a first step; each step builds on the other and creates momentum.
“The first step is signing up for something,” he said. “Start with a 5K run. Signing up commits you and now you have to train for it.”
“Nutrition can be very hard for people because we naturally want to eat things that are bad for us and limit our physical capabilities,” Ruiz said. “If you start training and eating right you’ll find eating better comes much easier when you see how it impacts your training.”
“It all ties into Comprehensive Airman Fitness,” he continued. “You feel so much better when you have a consistent training and nutrition regimen. I feel like a better version of myself and I’m able to perform better at work.”
As one of the fastest Airman on Schriever AFB, the title comes with a fair amount of good natured heckling from friends.
“People will roll their eyes and say, ‘you think you’re going to get another 100, Ruiz,’ and I’ll just laugh and say, ‘it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t, but I’m sure going to try.’”