age group pro­file Jim Sun­ners

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Contents Volume 8 Issue 6 - By Roger Hospedales

Any­o­netry­ing to make a break for it if they saw Jim Sun­ners ap­proach­ing in his Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice uni­form might stay clear for, oh, maybe 200 m. Af­ter that they should just give up – they’re never go­ing to out­run, swim or bike this guy. De­spite his long days in uni­form, Sun­ners man­ages to find the time to fit in the train­ing to be one of the fastest 50-year- old triath­letes in the world.

“The funny thing is, when I look back at my times over the years, I am faster now,” said Sun­ners who started rac­ing triathlons in 1987 and reg­u­larly bat­tles for the top-10 over­all of any race he en­ters. “I com­pleted my first full dis­tance race in South Aus­tralia in 1989 on a steel frame road bike and fin­ished in 10: 25. Last year I did a 9: 38 in Cozumel.”

That age- group-win­ning per­for­mance at Iron­man Cozumel al­lowed Sun­ners to punch his ticket to the 2013 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship – his sec­ond ap­pear­ance in as many years. How­ever, in case he did not earn his slot in Cozumel, he en­tered Iron­man Switzer­land as a backup. With­out any real mo­ti­va­tion to race, he used Switzer­land as a long train­ing day, went in with a re­laxed ap­proach, didn’t bother ta­per­ing and en­joyed the sites, food and drink of Switzer­land. That turned out to be a recipe for suc­cess.

“I came out of the wa­ter feel­ing good and planned to ride just a few per cent be­low what I knew I could hold. I rode ex­actly five hours and got off the bike feel­ing de­cent. I was sur­prised to see there were no bikes in the racks near me,” said Sun­ners, who ended up riding 20 min­utes faster than the sec­ond place fin­isher in his age group. “I felt good on the run un­til the last 15 km, when I walked a few aid sta­tions and re­ally slowed down. I crossed the fin­ish line in 10:12: 48. I was very sur­prised to see I won my age group.”

As a life­time ath­lete who has played many team sports, done Surf Life­sav­ing in Aus­tralia and who al­ways com­mutes to work on his bike, suc­cess for Sun­ners should be no sur­prise.

“My train­ing is about con­sis­tency. I don’t think I train a lot. I try to get 300 km each week on the bike with at least one solid tempo ride of around 80 kilo­me­tres each week. I be­lieve the con­sis­tent vol­ume and years of train­ing are the key com­bi­na­tion to be­com­ing a re­ally good cy­clist,” said Sun­ners, who loves the chal­lenge of try­ing to beat the younger guys in the shorter races. “I cy­cle through­out the year, even in tem­per­a­tures down to - 15 C. I keep these rides to around 25 km and, over the years, have learned the tricks to dress ap­pro­pri­ately.”

“I don’t ac­tu­ally swim much, maybe twice a week. In re­al­ity I would be lucky if I got 4 km in each week,” con­fessed Sun­ners. “I run three times a week with a longer tempo run of about 15 km, nine km easy, and 6 to 8 km with some in­ter­vals or a fast sec­ond half.”

Af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing 3:52 marathon at the 2012 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship, where he fin­ished in 10:13:59, Sun­ners has treated this en­tire 2013 race sea­son as his Kona buildup. He in­creased his run­ning mileage up to a 26 km long run. Rac­ing shorter races be­fore­hand was im­por­tant, too, since it forced him to get in in­ten­sity.

“My goal in Kona is to hit the podium, which means run­ning a solid marathon, around 3: 25. I have to del­i­cately bal­ance the amount of run­ning I do with not get­ting in­jured,” said Sun­ners who has suf­fered Achilles is­sues in the past. “I try to have a pur­pose in ev­ery run and have been work­ing a lit­tle more on speed. I’ve tack­led the course twice be­fore and I know I can run de­cently if I’m not in­jured.”

Sun­ners feels that be­ing con­sis­tent in train­ing and be­ing pre­pared men­tally are key to per­form­ing well in Kona. The men­tal edge for him comes from know­ing he had great lead-up train­ing ses­sions, visualizing the race over and over and hav­ing a plan to stick to on race day.

“I am hooked! It is a mag­i­cal place. I want to get back there next year so I have en­tered Iron­man Mel­bourne to qual­ify. It will give me a chance to catch up with fam­ily and also do a qual­i­fy­ing race.”

Jim Sun­ners at the 2012 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona, Hawaii

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