Cystic fibrosis has been no barrier to success for Jake Gawn.
The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil is competing in next weekend’s Challenge Wanaka to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis NZ and awareness of the condition he and his twin sister, Emma, have been living with since birth.
It is the first time the 21-year-old will attempt the half ironman by himself, after doing the run and cycle legs in teams in previous years.
To prepare for the 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run, Gawn has been training 12 hours a week with Olympian Tony Dodds in Wanaka, where he is working during the summer.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder. The condition often means constant shortness of breath, chronic cough and repeated chest infections. The lungs and pancreas of many with the disorder become clogged with a thick mucus and vital enzymes are not released to digest food.
Gawn also has cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, which shares some features with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Sport had always been a big part of his life, he said – it was something he enjoyed and it helped him maintain his health by keeping his lungs clear.
To counteract his symptoms, he needed to keep his lungs clear and take enough salt and food on board to replace the energy he burned while training.
But it was a constant juggling act.
“I have to take enzymes when I eat, and eat quite a lot, which can bring challenges,” he said.
“The nutrition is a really big thing to do with it. I try not to lose too much weight and stay hydrated the whole time.”
Gawn hoped he was setting an example for younger people with cystic fibrosis.
“I think it’s pretty important to get out there and do it.
“It does make the training harder, but then the training gives you benefit.”
Gawn is studying towards a bachelor of applied science in sport and exercise at the University of Otago.
“I’ve always had an interest in that kind of area, which ties in quite well with the challenge.
“It’s quite good to be able to put some of the theory into practice.”
Gawn has already raised more than $4800 for Cystic Fibrosis NZ through his Givealittle page. His partner, Kate Nally, will also be competing in the half ironman to support the cause.
To donate to Gawn’s Givealittle page, visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/using-my-breath-for-cf.