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Ironman redemption

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  • | 11:00 a.m. May 22, 2015
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Executive: Jason Gunter

Title, company: Owner of Jason L. Gunter, P.A., Fort Myers

Age: 50

Fitness passion: Ironman triathlons

How he got started: Gunter's right arm and left leg were amputated in a boating accident in 1992, but he bought a prosthetic running leg to regain his fitness in 2009. On a whim, Gunter entered the lottery for the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, that year. He earned a rare spot by lottery, leaving him just five months to train for the grueling event that combines a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. But he collapsed three miles from the finish line, unable to complete the race.

Redemption: Every year since 2009, Gunter has entered his name in the lottery to earn a coveted spot for redemption at Kona. “Since that time I've had to live with that,” says Gunter, who has completed three Ironman races since then. On March 17, Gunter learned he had won one of five lottery spots reserved for disabled athletes this year at Kona. The race takes place Oct. 11. “I just want to finish,” Gunter says. “It's all about redemption.”

Core fitness: Gunter admits he wasn't prepared for Kona in 2009. “I wasn't fit,” he grumbles. In particular, Gunter says his core muscles such as his abdominals weren't strong enough to keep him from collapsing near the finish line. This time, he's incorporating squats and planks a couple times a week to strengthen those core muscles. Gunter is 6 feet tall and weighs between 175 and 180 pounds, he says.

Keep it simple: An electronic suction pump that keeps his prosthetic snugly fitted is leg is a new development since his 2009 race. A company called Ohio Willow Wood built the prosthetic. But other than the prosthetic and special cycling shoes developed by Simmons Racing in Cape Coral, Gunter says he doesn't want an equipment failure at Kona to derail his effort. “I started simplifying everything,” he says. “I thought I needed special gadgets,” he says of his previous races. Now, if there's a problem with the bike, anyone can fix it.

Run less, bike more: Gunter has cut back a bit on the runs and boosted the miles on his $10,000 Trek bike. Weekend long runs range from 8 miles to 17 or 18 miles and a bike ride might reach 90 miles. Midweek runs average about six miles, three times a week. “You can't just be a weekend warrior,” says Gunter, who gets up at 5:30 a.m. and bikes to his office every morning. Gunter doesn't take anything to ease pain, including a herniated disk recently. To the amusement of his neighbors, he fills a big recycling bin full of ice and water on his front porch and bathes in it to ease any swelling.

Balancing work: A short commute is key because there's no time wasted to get to work. “I've always lived a half mile from work,” Gunter says.

But running a busy law firm requires order. “I have to have exceptional organizational skills,” says Gunter, who has three computer screens on his desk so he can alternate between tasks such as emails and cases without clicking through windows. “Everything here is cloud-based,” Gunter says. “We've been paperless for five years.” Gunter's firm has one other attorney and a paralegal. “I keep it small because that's why I'm in business for myself,” he says. A large couch in his office allows him to steal a quick nap if he needs it.

Still, life remains a tough balancing act. He and his wife, Loree, who accompanies him to his races, have contracted to build a new house in Fort Myers this year, and he's volunteered to chair a new solo practice and small-firm section of the Lee County Bar Association.

Publicity: Gunter appears ambivalent about his fame as a disabled athlete and admits he's somewhat media shy. He was the grand marshal of the Edison Parade in 2010, and his exploits were widely celebrated in the local press. Still, he enjoys speaking to groups about the effort and runs with other attorneys in town. “Relationships bring you business,” he reasons.

Nutrition: “You can't out-train a bad diet,” Gunter is fond of saying. “One of my deficiencies is my everyday nutrition,” he admits. He's replacing the carbohydrates at lunch with more fruits and vegetables, but he packs kid frozen breakfast favorite Uncrustables on his long bike rides. The peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches thaw while he's riding in the summer heat.
On race day, Gunter will drink two bottles of Ensure Plus, a chocolate-flavored nutrition shake, for breakfast. He'll also eat a bagel or some cereal and drink Gatorade with two salt pills. The swim portion of the Ironman burns 1,000 calories, so pre-race nutrition is critical, Gunter says. He uses Gu gels for nutrition during the race. Chocolate Outrage is his favorite flavor.

Cost: Gunter estimates the weeklong trip to Kona will cost about $10,000. That includes shipping his bike, hotels, race entry fees and other expenses. “I'll work right up until I go,” he says. “It's going to be a long, hot summer.”


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