My First Ironman
Ever since I could remember, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps as an Olympian. My father, John Nunn, won a bronze medal in rowing at the 1968 Olympic Games held in Mexico City. He was also the Head Coach for the Men’s Olympic Rowing Team for the United States in the 1976 Olympic Games held in Montreal.
Before the Ironman
I began my athletic adventure while playing almost every sport imaginable. I had a taste of what it was like to be on an Olympic Team while rowing for Cal Berkeley from 1998-2001 alongside former Olympic rowers from across the world. At one point, I was the only American born rower to be on the Varsity rowing team out of eight guys. I ended up winning four Pacific-10 Championships and three National Championships in four years on the rowing team.
When I was invited to the US National Team in rowing, I had immediate success and won a silver medal at the World Championships my first year on the team in 2001. From 2001-2005, I won multiple US National races and competed all over the world including England, Austria, Germany, Japan, and Canada. I was an Olympic hopeful for many years, but after a few knee surgeries, the priority of making an Olympic Team and the pressure became too much to handle. After that dream ended for me, I decided to move on to my next adventure, the Ironman Competition.
The First Adventure
I decided to sign up and go abroad to do my first Ironman after only doing one Olympic distance triathlon. I was up for the challenge. I decided to compete in the Nice, France Ironman which is considered to be one of the toughest courses out of all of the current 30+ Ironman’s held across the world including Kona, Hawaii because of the huge mountains you have to climb during the bike ride.
Along with training on the National Team and being an Olympic hopeful in rowing…. completing an Ironman was a lifelong dream! I was in, and come June 2008, I finished the adventure of the Ironman race and heard those amazing words from a man with a thick french accent “Jack Nunn…You Are An Ironman!” It was the most amazing feeling I had ever felt in the last mile of that race. It was the most incredible experience of my life.
After the race I said to myself that I didn’t think I would ever do that again. When I got home there was a couple of things my father told me. First he asked if he was on steroids, which he thought was hilarious because he really didn’t think I could swim or handle the bike ride.
Later, he wrote me a note saying how proud he was of me. He admitted that he too wanted to do an Ironman but he couldn’t fathom the distance and didn’t have enough time to train to accomplish that race. Coming from an Olympic Medalist, that was very cool.
Almost exactly one year later, I decided to race for charity and put even more meaning into my Ironman adventure. I competed in Ironman Florianopolis, Brazil on May 31st 2009 and raised $5000 for charity with money earned from my rowing members at my Roworx Facility in Long Beach, CA in order to build schools for children in Brazil.
Training for an Ironman
Indoor rowing consisted of nearly 90% of my total workouts leading up to both of my Ironman’s. I did only a few ‘brick’ (cycling/ running) workouts and almost no swimming practice. Due to the muscles used in rowing and the muscle endurance in the latissimus muscles, I was never tired while swimming and pulled my way through the swim in just over an hour.
I practiced my swimming in the protected waters around Naples Island in Long Beach which is ironically 2.5 miles (the same distance as the Ironman swim section of the race). My challenge in the swim was learning how to breath and the rhythm of swimming while trying to steer a straight course. Focus and persistence are totally involved at the the start of any Ironman due to the large volume of Ironman athletes that start at the same time.
Rowing and cycling long distances has taught me how to harness that focus over long periods of time and overcome many challenges that the Ironman had to deliver. Over the years rowing and cycling has enabled me to work on my muscle endurance in order to handle the grueling challenge of completing two Ironman’s.
I figured it was all about putting in the hours during the week of hard cardiovascular training. Combining the use of the H.I.I.T. (High Interval Intensity Training) workouts, I averaged 15 hours a week. It has allowed me to get into the best shape of my life. Rowing uses nearly every part of your body and if you can find the right routine and workouts on the rowing machine it will be one of the best training tools you can use for triathlon training.
How Other Rowers Have Paved the Way
I was also inspired by this Three-time Olympic rower, Miroslav Vrastil of the Czech Republic that has taken his love of competing to a new level. Vrastil, 58, plans to break a world record by completing 22 Ironman triathlons in one year and the father of five has already begun. Vrastil started rowing when he was 12 years old in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia.
For 18 years he competed in rowing while representing his country up to the age of 35. After competing at three Olympic Games (1972, 1976 and 1980), Vrastil was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in his leg.“I was not sure if the doctor was telling me or somebody else,” says Vrastil. “I could not believe it and my hands started shaking. I was only 30. Their final diagnosis was a necessary amputation of my right leg. I made my decision of not having my leg amputated even if that meant living for three months only or less.”
Vrastil received no cancer treatment, opting just for surgery to remove the tumour. He estimates he stepped back from training for just six months.” Then triathlon entered Vrastil’s life. After more than a 20-year period of doing very little physically, Vrastil was persuaded to try triathlon. His first race, a duathlon, is memorable in his finish. “The result was horrible for me, in fact I was nearly the last out of 130 competitors of all age groups. It was there (in 1988) that I decided to change it and go for it with all that it takes,” says Vrastil. “My rowing experience and sports experience in general have helped me in life. To strive, to compete, and not to give up, and that reflects in triathlons too,” says Vastil.
Then along came the idea to beat the world record of doing 20 Ironman races in a year. Vrastil has set a target of 22 races and his list includes races around the globe. An Ironman consists of a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42.2km run and to reach the target of 22 Vrastil will be doing two, sometimes three, in a month.
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