At the 6th issue of our digital magazine (greek edition) and second of the english edition we have the honour to present an exclusive interview from the athlete who “almost died” and only one year after he has many chances to win the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii, altough this year Kona it’s not one of his “sport destinations”. Whenever he steps in Hawai it will be very difficult to be beaten.
Jordan Rapp was one of the best Ironman athletes on earth until the moment he had a terrible accident that had threatened his life. To be able to do sports after this accident is a miracle by itself…But Jordan is very…very exceptional athlete and a unique personality. Altough he almost lost his life, he wanted to compete again and he wanted to compete at the highest level. He did it. He won Ironman Canada and right now he is probably the biggest threat to Europeans and Australians in any race he will be present, Kona included.
Jordan was born on July 28, 1980 in Sleepy Hollow, NY (about 60km north of New York City). He was involved with sports from an early age, playing recreational soccer, basketball, baseball, and many other sports. During his high school years he was most involved in lacrosse and squash. Then during college, he began endurance sports when he discovered rowing. He has started to get involved with triathlon when he got injured rowing and was looking for a way to stay active and fit while taking a break from crew. His biggest achievements are Ironman Canada winner (2011 & 2009) and Ironman Arizona winner (2009), where he set both the bike and overall course records. He is married to Jill Savege, and they gave birth to their first child, Quentin Thomas Rapp, on June 21st, 2011.
Read his interview and get inspired…
Read his interview and learn what it takes to be a top athlete in Ironman.¨
Triathlon World : Triathlon magazines readers adore to read the training schedules of the elite Triathletes. Could you please give us a typical training week of Jonathan Rapp at a build up week? What is a typical week at the intensity phase week?
Jordan Rapp : The structure of my weeks is quite similar throughout the year. Obviously the specificity changes to meet the needs of a race. For example, before Abu Dhabi, my focus was more on a lot of bike mileage. For Wildflower, which is a very hard course, it was on shorter durations at higher intensity. For Leadman, more big bike mileage. For Canada, a focus on bike and run. So the training is always tailored to the race, though obviously for some races, I keep a bigger focus on the long-term goal. When I raced the Calgary 70.3, my focus was on Canada, so I did not shift my training to the specifics of racing in Calgary, meaning that I neither focused on the higher speed and intensity required for half-Ironman nor the specific demands of that race course. To give some more specifics, on Mondays and Fridays, I either only swim or take the day totally off from training. Then Tue/Wed/Thu are big days and Sat/Sun are also big days, usually with all three sports trained on each day.
Triathlon World : How do you test the progress of your training? Do you use a GPS, Watt instrument on the bike, heart rate monitor?
Jordan Rapp : I use GPS for running, a Quarq powermeter to measure watts on the bike, and the pace clock in the pool.
Triathlon World : Who is your coach and what is his/ her training philosophy?
Jordan Rapp : Michael Kruger, who is also the head coach of the Danish Nat’l Federation and coach to Dirk Bockel, Martin Jensen, and Jimmy Johnsen. He previously also coached Rasmus Henning to two Olympic games and numerous World Cup wins and also Torbjorn Sindballe. I think his philosophy is that we should train hard and win races! He certainly recognizes that we are, to some extent, individual. Martin and I train more similarly, with a higher consistent load. Dirk and some others seem to do better doing a big build-and-peak. I don’t think he has any overarching philosophy other than that we need to train with intelligence but also be willing to take calculated risks. I try to let him make the important decisions and not ask “why?” too much, though sometimes I do. I think his “philosophy” could be best summed up by a discussion we had after Andreas Raelert set the fastest time for Ironman at Roth this year – “Andi Raelert went 7:41. Why shouldn’t you go faster?”
Triathlon World : Do you think that one triathlon coach is enough or there is a need for a coach in each single sport?
Jordan Rapp : I think one coach is the best. I think one coach is actually superior to three coaches. One coach understands that swimming affects your biking which affects your running which affects your swimming, etc. I think it’s very hard to make sure that there is adequate communication between three coaches to ensure that each understands the load of the other sports. Plus, a swimming coach has no real concept of what running does to the body, and vice versa.
Triathlon World : What are you doing in terms of recuperation/ recovery?
Jordan Rapp : I spend too much time on my computer! But mostly I focus on eating very well. I think food is the *most* important thing for recovering well. You need to give your body the right nutrients to repair itself. I eat gluten-free (no wheat), and I also try to take a nap (30min or 90min if I can) during big training periods.
Triathlon World : What is the base of your nutrition?
Jordan Rapp : I try to follow the rules of Michael Pollan – “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I do eat meat almost every day, just because the protein needs are very high for an athlete. I make dinner almost every night, using simple ingredients as much as possible. I also believe organic food is very important. For racing and training, I rely on the First Endurance line of products for sport-specific nutrition.
Triathlon World : How stressful is to make your living through triathlon and to compete under the stress that you have to perform at your best in order to make your living?
Jordan Rapp : Fortunately, I have very supportive sponsors who value my contributions off of the race course as well. Obviously it’s important to do well as racing, but I am very lucky that I now am not in a position where, for example, if I did not win a race that my family would go hungry. I would never allow that. When it was just me, that was fine. But when I got married, and then we decided to have a child, it was important that I knew we were in a good position. Of course, things can always happen that are unexpected. My accident in 2010 showed that. But my sponsors and Dan Empfield of Slowtwitch.com whom I work for were very supportive of me, and I still was able to provide for my family even missing most of the racing season.
Triathlon World : We were all impressed by your courage to return to sport and to return competing at the highest level of our sport after the accident you had last year? You made it seem so simple but surely it wasn’t. Could you please tell us what kind of effort – physically and mentally – did you make in order to return to the top of our sport?
Jordan Rapp : I think in many ways, it had absolutely nothing to do with me. I am sure that I got very, very, very lucky. Many of the things that could have seriously impaired my ability to compete did not. For example, I have some nerve damage to my left arm that, thankfully, doesn’t affect my swimming at all. I’d like to take more credit and say that it was all the hard work I did, but I know that it was largely luck. I did seek out the advice of anyone who had ideas or had experience with coming back from injury, and I hope (and think) that helped as well. But I don’t know if it was diet or exercises in the gym or patience or luck. I suspect it was some combination of all of those things. Ultimately, I think I always believed it was possible, and more than anything else, I think that was the biggest thing. I wanted to come back to compete at the highest level, and I felt I could. And so did my coach. And my wife. And I think that was essential. I never let anyone say, “you can’t do that.” Everyone said, “you *can* do that.”
Triathlon World : Some say that you have many chances to win Hawaii. What do you think? What are your plans for 2012 ?
Jordan Rapp : Making plans for racing is the hardest part of my season. There are so many great races to do. I am fairly certain I will not race Hawaii. I am interested in defending my title at Ironman Canada, as it is the 30th anniversary of the race and it is both my hometown race and my first big win; there is indeed something special about being an “Ironman.” I also very much like the Rev3 races, especially the races in Oregon and Connecticut. And I’m interested to go to Europe to try a Challenge race; my coach is from Denmark, so the Challenge in Copenhagen seems ideal, and of course Roth is an iconic race. And the most intriguing race in the entire world to me is the Norseman Extreme in Norway; that is at the very top of my “to-do” list. There are so many good races, I have started almost thinking years in advance.
Triathlon World : Could you give some tips to our readers concerning a PB at the Ironman distance?
Jordan Rapp : I think the most important thing is to be totally honest about what you are capable of. Do not expect a miracle. If you want to break, for example, 10hrs, you should focus on that time. Don’t train to go 10:30 and then hope for some magic. Likewise, don’t train to go 9:30 and then break 10hrs by blowing up. The bike is always the hardest to predict because of weather, but I think for swimming and running, you should be within 5min of a goal time. On the bike, if it’s a well-established course, you should be able to come up with some good estimates. But I think having realistic expectations – both in training and on race day – is the surest way to set a PB. Don’t be afraid to take some risks in training. But then on race day, be smart and calculating. Make intelligent decisions. Ironman isn’t a race. It’s a very long day. That means a lot of things can go wrong. But you also have a lot of time to fix them and still set a PB. Look at Chrissie Wellington. She got a flat and still won a World Championships. And that is because she did not panic. She knew what she was capable of. And I think that is how you set a PB. Know what you are capable of.