• 01 Team
  • 02 Verna
  • 03 Tony
  • 04 Tony Jackson #28

Looking for Ironman coaching? If you’ve always had a yearning to complete an Ironman, I can help.

Whether a keen and avid athlete or someone who has to fit exercise into a busy lifestyle of work, family and other interest – I can help.

If you’ve always had a yearning to complete an Ironman but haven’t had the confidence or knowledge on how to reach that goal, you are the perfect athlete to coach. And if you regard yourself as a ‘back of the pack’ person, I am really interested in helping you. I can help you set goals and challenge yourself to improve. I promise you’ll achieve goals you may consider too difficult or possible to set.

I specialise in…

  • triathlons, marathons, half marathons, swim/bike/run, multisport
  • first timers (in any event or distances – 3km fun run or Ironman event)
  • age groupers (for any event or distances)
  • lifestyle change

1st Kohi Swim Swimmers 2014

Not just Ironman coaching & mentoring…

  • lifestyle rearrangement (includes dietary & physical but not necessarily for any fitness event)
  • a half marathon
  • a marathon
  • a first time triathlon
  • to improve your present running or triathlon capabilities
  • a half Ironman
  • an Ironman
  • general swimming
  • general running/walking
  • general triathlon training
  • strength training

If you have been wondering about having an Ironman coach or coaching and mentoring for any other event, contact Verna to make a time for a no-obligation, one-off meeting where we can discuss your goals and plans and find whether we move forward as a team for the long-term goal.

Always enjoy meeting new people and spending time to discuss goals, whether big or small. However taking specific time out of the day to drive to, meet and discuss thoughts and plans can take anything from 30 minutes to 3 hours. This is valuable time so do need to ask for a one-off meeting cost of $50 (plus you buy the coffee!), deductible from the initial set-up fee should you decide to go ahead and sign me up as your coach and mentor.

Actual costs of any training programme is determined by the type of programme requested, the length of the programme and for what event. There is always a one-off initial set-up fee as the time involved in setting up a personal programme is considerable as much time and thought is put into every individual and their abilities, lifestyle and available training time. No training programme for any one person is the same as anyone else’s.

For further information: Contact »

Verna at Rotorua Marathon

Ironman Coaching Stories

Mark’s story

Early in 2012 I set myself a goal to complete a triathlon. With no particular experience or capability in athletics or competing in these types of events, I decided it would be worthwhile engaging a coach and one of my colleagues recommended Verna.

After meeting with Verna and her taking time to understand my current fitness levels (I had been cycling to work and back), my goals and what time I had available with a young family, Verna worked with me to set up a training plan. She met with me to review my technique in each of the three disciplines and provided tips for me to work on improving my efficiency.

Over the following 3 months, Verna set me up with a food diary and provided advice on nutrition, fluid intake and monitored my resting heart rate on a regular basis.

Verna developed weekly training plans that fit in with my working and social life with supporting advice and guidance. Verna encouraged me to enter race series in swimming and running to orientate me to race conditions in less crowded race than the one in Mission Bay I was to compete in. I trained in the location that the race was to take place and Verna set out the equivalent to the race course so that I would have a good idea of the layout on the day.

Most importantly Verna ensured I trained in a positive and supportive environment, providing motivation when I needed it. As a result I over achieved my goals for the race by 20 minutes and had a fantastic first triathlon experience.

– Mark Chelton

Annie’s story


In 2009 I approached Verna Cook-Jackson to be my coach for Taupo Ironman 2010. I had had an unsuccessful Ironman in 2008 with a DNF. It was important for me to complete the Taupo ironman with a positive outcome.

I did achieve my Ironman goal in 2010. I also trained with Verna again this year for the 2012 Taupo Ironman. Verna has been my coach for my successful Ironman entries.

Coaching difference
Verna is a focussed but fair coach. Her approach – if you want to succeed in your Ironman event you need to follow the programme for training, nutrition and body maintenance.

The training programmes I have worked to have been very {specific. They have acknowledged I am in my late 50’s and have an injury to my right knee which needs to be managed.

My swim programme included a weekly technique session plus two other sessions for strength and endurance. Swim training was group focussed to make the early morning starts enjoyable, social and motivating.

My cycling programme included wind training sessions with longer rides and/or events on the weekends. With a focus on technique, events, regular group riding and achievable distances cycling was a pleasure and was always enjoyable.

My running programme included an emphasis on technique/posture and achievable distance for my right leg. The inclusion of Yoga and Abs classes worked to increase my core strength and flexibility to ensure there were no injuries.

Verna has always been clear about th e benefits of good training nutrition and a work log was kept as a food diary and general health diary.

As Verna has experience in massage, a weekly massage allowed her to assess the tightness and/or improvement in my legs and general posture. This time allowed for discussion on my training programme and would include reference to articles of interest.

Having Verna as my Ironman coach gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. My programme w as designed specifically for me and tailored to my needs. My programme, while demanding at times, was always achievable and the decisions she made always correct.

Verna also provided:

  • information on up and coming events;
  • organised events for our group to enter;
  • always followed up on event results;
  • had regular contact to discuss and make alterations to the programme if required;
  • always forwarded my programme on time;
  • weekly massages which provided an overview on progress;
  • support and a belief that I would achieve my goals;
  • additional social events for the group;
  • a fun and enjoyable environment;
  • a genuine caring environment.

Verna is knowledgeable and practical in her approach. I knew I would succeed under her watchful eye and knew further that anything she expected me to do she would be doing as well.

Verna has been an excellent coach for me.

– Annie Meates

Annie and Murray 2

Becci’s story

Becci at Ironman registration just an hour before starting her very first Ironman event.

Only 14 months earlier Becci had her first sea swim and experienced panic attacks. 14 months later she became “an Ironman”!

“I would not be able to say ‘I am an Ironman‘ without the coaching and advice from Verna & Tony. With Verna’s training programme she took me, over just a one-year period, from someone who could barely swim, bike or run to actually complete the NZ Taupo Ironman. For that I will be eternally grateful. Their in-depth knowledge of the training that someone like me needed was invaluable, and their support was constant. They are now both very good friends and all of the Once Were Runners crew have become an extended family.”

“If you are prepared to stick to your programme and put in the effort, the rewards will be great!”

– Becci Lampard

Becci and pooch

Jacque’s story

Verna Cook-Jackson coached me from July 2009 until May 2010.

During that time I had locked in two events/goals I wanted to achieve…

1. December 2009 – Taupo Half Ironman (first triathlon)

2. May 2010 – Rotorua Marathon (first marathon)

What makes Verna an effective coach?

Verna’s 360 degree approach to coaching is very interactive. She takes it upon herself to get to know the athletes she is training inside out, something that I was not expecting but her 360 degree approach was excellent which helped me progress and complete both events within the times I aimed for.

Her powerful positive attitude, her knowledge and experience of all the elements of sport, nutrition, human anatomy and her continued commitment to every athlete no matter what level they are at. The programmes were/are planned around my professional and personal commitments and sent in advance so as to discuss in detail prior to the weeks training. I had daily interaction with Verna, whether it be by phone, email, sms, specific training session that we did together or massage. Verna’s attention to detail is what set her aside from anyone else I have trained with.

I left NZ at the end of May 2010 and had already entered the 2011 Taupo Ironman – had I stayed in NZ I would have continued training with Verna but due to the distance and the intensity of the training required, I opted for a local trainer in Dubai. Whilst Verna was not actively coaching me for Ironman, we were always in contact, updating her with my programme and all the events I entered on route to IMNZ and to discuss my progress regularly. When I arrived in March to participate in the event Verna was there to support and encourage and coach me till I crossed the finish line.

This is what sets Verna aside. I am blessed to have had the privilege of being coached and continued support from Verna Cook-Jackson, she is an asset to the sports world!

– Jacque

Jacqui, our very own IronChick

Ironman 2014

Following is a reprint of our Ironman 2014 blog article…

[Ironman 2014 blog article starts]

This is a special edition of the Blog to celebrate the efforts of our finely tuned athletes. A big thank you to all of the contributors. Thank you too to Veronica and Phil, Barb, Natalie and Danny for the photographs.

Below – Verna and Team Verna.

Vernas IM Team 2014

A word from the athletes


The swim was a rugby game without the ball, the ride was just long (and windy!) and because I went “hardcore” my shoes still smell like pee! The run was actually fun, all those people cheering you on, there were really only a few dark moments. The most distributing thing about having all those people round was that I really needed to fart and had no privacy to let rip! I am really am all class…

Crossing the finish line was nothing but pure joy! All the training, hard work and planning all coming to fruition! I was just stoked my race went to plan… still on cloud 9.

It’s awesome that Marc had a similar experience as I’m picking we’ll be back in 2015 to do it all again!

Mt Maunganui 1 Leticic and Lesa


Doug was supported all day, including the bike course by Gaye, who as you will see below (or more to the point not see) was a bit camera shy.

This is Doug receiving his award for 2nd in Age Group

IM 2014 Doug


My day was full of amazing highs and moments of pure relentless challenge.

One such time was on the final hour of the run where the body was starting to wane. I was on the seafront walkway and far away from the cheering crowds, it was dark, cold, lonely and the finish seemed a very long way off.

From the depths of my inner thoughts came the below poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. This poem rolled through my mind and taunted me. It reminded me of why I was there, at that place, at that very time and what it was I was trying to achieve. It sat with me to the finish line.

I believe Henley’s words pretty much sum up my day and my entire journey towards Ironman…

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Bike the Bridge2


My first Ironman. I was told to have fun, and to be sensible, to aim to finish. After the months of training it was fantastic to reach the start line (thank you Verna J). The week before the race I felt strangely calm, totally relaxed – there was nothing more I could do. Thankfully race day was cool. Slow and steady in the swim – yes Leticia, I am a diesel.

Tried to spot items of interest on the bottom of the lake, to sing the occasional tune, and of course to sight the buoys! In the cycle the headwind never seemed to go away, so focus was to spin and try to save the legs. Slow to adapt to the run, but by 2nd leg had “found my legs” and settled into the Ironman shuffle.

The supporters and volunteers “made my day”. Every lap they were unbelievably still there – hunched against the cold – waving, cheering, shouting my name, urging me on.

On finishing I felt a huge sense of gratitude – to my coach, to my training buddies who were there over the preceding months and on the day – either as competitors or supporters.

For me Ironman was a humbling experience – I realised that while we do the race without outside support, the relationships and the sense of camaraderie developed during the build-up are what got me through the day. Thank you Coach, thank you all.

Kath is on the left receiving her award for 3rd in Age Group.

Ironman 2014 Kath-300x225


A beautiful day dawned but not until we were almost ready to get into the water, our day actually started considerably before that. I would like to say that I woke up at 4:30 but in reality, I hadn’t slept at all the night before which is pretty much normal for most Ironmen I think. When I eventually give up playing this silly game, the thing I will remember is being nervous, tired and cold in the early hours of the morning when any sane person is tucked up in bed enjoying the slumber.

From that point on my erstwhile support team (Jane, Barbara and youngest son Cameron) took over and I simply did as I was told until I got to transition. I owe them a great vote of thanks.

I enjoyed the swim and although I knew it wasn’t going to be a great time, I didn’t realise how slow I was going until I realised that I was being tailed by a rubber ducky which I took to be the tail-end charlie boat. I had trouble sighting on the way down but my group of three trees on the horizon stood me in good stead on the way back.

I saw Brian as I came into transition and knowing what a lean mean speedy machine he is, I felt a little more confident about my time. However, coming out of the tent was a shock, my bike looked awfully lonely. Well at least I wouldn’t have any trouble finding the bike.

The cycle leg held some fears for me as it was only my second ride on the new bike occasioned by some “nice young ladies” who broke into our apartment complex garage and relieved me of my trusty old GT. I owe Ben Marshal a big vote of thanks for an amazing job, sourcing and setting up a new bike in about 3 days.

Having said that it was like the swim… an enjoyable if very slow ride. I was very concerned that I might miss the cut-off time. Unusually I didn’t see many of the OWR crew and/or friends. I later heard that Verna had ridden most of the ride with her wheel rubbing against her frame having the same effect as riding with the brakes on. All I can say is respect, respect, respect.

There was the usual headwind in the afternoon but we were mentally prepared for that and just went down a gear or two and kept on grinding

For those who have done Ironman, have you ever noticed how in the last hour(s) of the bike ride you would give a million dollars for the ride to finish and be able to get off that bike seat, then an hour or so later while on the run you would give another million to be able to get back on the bike to finish the event?

As I came out of the transition one of the officials said “you will have to keep up a 6 km/hour pace to finish before midnight”. This was a bit of a worry as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run very much (if any) of the course. As the daylight slowly faded and darkness came, I managed to keep up the required pace and to actually gain a “cushion” of 15 minutes.

However, as I was heading out to Wharewaka Street I was suddenly seized by a bout of the dreaded stomach cramps (yes poor nutrition). I managed to sprint to the Portaloos and what followed was less of a “grunty” and more akin to a small tactical nuclear explosion.

The reason I mention this is that with such a slim cushion, I had hoped I could hold out until I finished, no such luck. Although I lost probably close to 10 minutes by stopping, once I was appropriately relieved and more comfortable I was actually able to make up time. Lesson learned; letting nature take its course is a good investment.

It is inspiring to be a tail-ender, I saw a number of folk on their hands and knees throwing up then getting back on their feet and finishing. That to me is the real spirit of Ironman.

Well, Ironman number six down and I still love this sport as much as when I was first inspired to give it a go. Doing Ironman is like hitting yourself on the head with a hammer; it feels sooo good when you stop and there is nothing on earth like running that last two hundred metres down the finishing chute.

Once again, thanks for your support and hard work for me and all the other OWRs.


A word from the supporters…

IM 2014 Support Team


17hrs of: keeping your eyes peeled for the athletes, checking the updates to figure out where they are, the cheering, stamping, honking, waving when you spot them, and the “swooshing” them on to the finish line in those final hours of the slog.

Supporting my first full Ironman as a grown-up was an emotional one for me. Aside from focusing on spotting all the current athletes there were also moments when I thought I spotted the absent ones too, resulting in a moment of sadness followed by memories of the happy times cheering them on too.

I am so proud of all our finishers and of our slick support crew as well.

Maybe someday I’ll be on the other side of the barrier…

Ironman 2014 Veronica Team Verna

Barb & Jane

Ironman 2014 Barb Jane


It is wonderful to see such exuberance from such young(er) talent as well as supporting the die hards that were fighting the clock. Being a supporter is a humbling experience on many levels. Well done “all ya’ll” and look forward to ringing you all home next year! (Even though Shelley almost took my bell away.)


This year was my first ever experience at Ironman NZ. Supporting team Harrison arriving just after 6am with an amazing atmosphere at the swim start. Bang the canon is fired and they are off for the long Ironman swim. From then on it was a case of supporting everyone from Team Verna.

And in the unwritten rules it is as important to support the strangers because they too get a lift.

So all in all I loved my weekend and I got a huge boost from supporting in my uniquely vocal, manic style, swelled with pride for the team and ached at the gap in the field.

[Ironman 2014 blog article ends]


—–Original Message—–
From: Veronica Ruddenklau
To: Tony & Verna Jackson
Cc: Others
Subject: Re: Thanks Verna… That bacon and egg pie was the best.

Hi all

We have the best coach! Got us to do the Hamilton 80k ride yesterday. Showed us what pacing yourself looks like, reassured us we would benefit from the ride, even though we began in and rode in for some time, pouring rain. And to cap it all off she whipped out after the race a bacon and egg pie, and some without bacon for the veggies among us – then produced gingerbread and a flask for hot drinks.

As my Phil said, she is so good to you all!

Thanks Verna


—–Original Message—–
From: Charmayne Johnstone
To: Tony & Verna Jackson
Cc: Others
Subject: Re: Thanks Verna… That bacon and egg pie was the best.

Aaaah you got to experience the Verna special. After our long ride prior to Ironman this year she produced the same pie. After 8 hours on the bike that pie was the perfect meal and disappeared fast. Plenty of protein and salt.


Charmayne and Gary

—–Original Message—–
From: Natalie
To: Tony & Verna Jackson
Cc: Others
Subject: Re: Thanks Verna… That bacon and egg pie was the best.

Yes we are lucky lucky to have such a great coach… Was reading through the nice emails from your ride on Sunday…

Natalie 🙂

—–Original Message—–
From: Melanie
To: Tony & Verna Jackson
Cc: Others
Subject: Re: Thanks Verna… That bacon and egg pie was the best.

We definitely have the best coach… I still can’t believe Verna brought along a hard-boiled egg for the non-bacon eating weirdo… 🙂

Thanks, Coach! Mel

—–Original Message—–
From: Charmayne
To: Tony & Verna Jackson
Cc: Others
Subject: Re: Thanks Verna… That bacon and egg pie was the best.

Yep, definitely the best… anyone who can get me to the Ironman finish line with over an hour to spare…


If you have any question or queries, please email or phone.