Conquering Ironman Cozumel, Mexico 2012

In November 2011, I made the decision to sign up for my third Full Ironman in Cozumel, Mexico on November, 25th 2012. For those who have never heard of the Ironman, it is a long-distance triathlon which includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full marathon consisting of 26.2 miles of running, one section after the other without rest. This extreme endurance event has been held around the world since 1978.

I knew that training for Ironman Cozumel, Mexico was going to be a really tough journey for the next year or so while managing two Roworx facilities, training 20 hours a week on average, and doing all the work behind the scenes in order for my fitness center to flourish. Throughout the past year it has been a massive journey indeed.

More Than I Expected

The Cozumel Full Ironman was in one word ‘unexpected’ and MUCH harder than I ever would have imagined. I prepared sooner, planned my workouts, and had better equipment suited for this race more than any other event I have ever trained for in my entire life. Due to my ‘unconventional’ yet very effective indoor training program for this Ironman, I felt like I could train harder and smarter without the risk of injury.

Previous studies found that 75% of Ironman Distance triathletes have reported an injury that has caused them to miss at least one day of training and the most common site of injury in these athletes was at the knee. Long distance triathletes did have a higher tendency for Achilles tendon injuries, which was proposed to be caused by more hill and speed work while running. Triathletes also have overuse injuries of the Achilles tendon sooner than single sport runners because triathletes excessively use their Achilles tendon in swimming to point toes and during running and biking their Achilles is excessively stretched.

How I Used Indoor Cycling to Train

Throughout the cycling community in the U.S., each year more than 500,000 people in the US are treated in emergency departments, and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries. Since cycling is the longest and most time consuming event during an Ironman I decided to focus more time in training towards that event indoors for safety and effective training sessions while teaching hundreds of indoor cycling classes.

The workout plan, consisting of more than 300 hours of training over a period of four months prior to the event, included over 70 hours of training indoors on a fitness bike. During the entire Ironman I should note that I was not passed once by other competitors. I would stand up often and push and pull my way through the high winds and when I wanted to keep my average speed up. My training program with Roworx indoor rowing classes alongside riding on the indoor bike really helped prepare me for this Ironman.

While it was one of the most difficult, I was able to post my best time. The entire time before this event I never felt more prepared. I was prepared, highly trained, and experienced now that this had been my third Full Ironman. As I approached the start, we walked on one of the docks and a part of the pier we were all walking on all of a suddenly collapsed. As 3,000 competitors made their way into the in-water start the organizers were counting down the minutes until the horn blew.

The swim was hectic to say the least! People were swimming in every direction and there was a huge current which made my swim extremely slow. There were approximately 300 people that didn’t make it out of the swim section of the race. Besides the currents slowing me down and the fact I couldn’t wear a wet suit due to warm water temperatures I actually was also stung by at least five jelly fish during the swim which all felt like intense bee stings. All I could think about was finishing the swim and getting on to my fast and much anticipated bike ride.

One of the Hardest Bike Rides I’ve Ever Done

I was incredibly fit and ready to attack the infamous windy Cozumel bike ride due to all the positive training effects of indoor cycling. The long 112 mile bike ride took you three loops around the island of Cozumel, Mexico. On the bike the winds were so bad that I was averaging 25 mph through the downtown portion of the race, but as I endured the back side of the island I slowed to 16 mph. I fought the winds but ironically felt that the condition of the gravel and rough roads were worse on my body. Throughout the entire bike ride I felt like I was being jack hammered into the ground for over 2 hours. Rough roads plus lots of gravel equals a very uncomfortable bike ride.

I must have seen about 30 competitors with blown tires and the whole time I was scared of having a flat as well. I also lost about 4 water bottles because of the high winds and rough roads. Needless to say it was very stressful but I managed to finally find my training zone and mentally focused at around 50 miles into the bike ride.

Looking through my results, I was 20 minutes faster on my bike ride portion in relation to my last Ironman bike ride portion in Brazil which had better weather and road conditions. Unfortunately, due to multiple circumstance in the weather and road, heat, and water conditions I felt very uncomfortable during the entire time of the race. I was able to push through all of these obstacles and accomplish my goal of going faster and beating my previous two Ironman finish times. I averaged a speed of 21mph during the biking portion.

When looking at my results, it is important to note that at 6’ 3” and 210 pounds, I was one of the largest competitors. The winners between 2001 and 2010 had an average weight of about 160 pounds and height of 5’ 11”. This means that I was pushing more mass throughout the entire event and still performed admirably. Overall I ranked around 60th in my age group and 260th overall. Not too bad considering I barely ran nor swam. And I really didn’t see anyone larger than me finish ahead of me. All the triathletes are very skinny and somewhat small.

The Roworx Indoor Rowing Classes have also been a massive part of my success in training and fastest finish throughout my third full Ironman in Cozumel. Due to the non-impact nature of rowing, the legs, back, and core are constantly working through every single stroke. It is the perfect cross-training workout for any sport, especially Ironman distance triathlons.

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Jack Nunn

Jack Nunn is the head trainer and owner of Roworx. Jack is a former national team rower who has competed in more than 100 triathlons, including 9 full Ironmans. He has created a system of rowing that prepares the whole body for both competition and fitness longevity.

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