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Weekend Cycle: A Birth, a Death and a Bodybuilder in a War Zone

Three pieces of news crossed the Pump & Circumstance desk this week represented kind of a cycle of life thing, although they were not related. The first was the sudden passing of designer Tony Nowak, who made the custom leather jackets given to winners at the Arnold Classic and Ms., Fitness and Figure International competitions and who was known fondly to anyone who’s been around the big Columbus, Ohio, weekend for any length of time. The other was the announcement that ’08 Figure Olympia champ Jenn Gates had had her baby, a boy, Jaxon Michael Latimore—the baby she was expecting when she announced that she would not defend her title last year. For Tony’s family and friends, a great sadness; for Jenn’s circle, a bundle of joy. “O-bla-di o-bla-da life goes on.” A little happy news along with the sad is always welcome.

The third news was a welcome note from Nola Trimble, a Southern California–based figure-competitor-turned-flexer who’s on assignment as a contract firefighter in Iraq. I ran a photo segment about Nola and her colleagues in the April ’10 IRON MAN. As that issue recently went off the stands, it seems like a good moment to shine a little light on an athlete I really admire.

Nola, a firefighter,  EMT and hazmat tech, has appeared in IRON MAN numerous times, including a Michael Neveux Hardbody layout a couple of years ago and, more recently, in Jerry Fredrick’s Serious Training segment in the November ’09 issue. I’d last seen her at the ’09 USA in July, when she made her national-level debut as a middleweight bodybuilder, and I kind of expected she’d enter the Nationals. Instead she went to a different kind of war zone.

Nola was at the base exchange, leafing through IRON MAN last fall, when she discovered that Jerry’s photos of her, taken months before, had been published, and she dropped him a line. We set up an interview, which led to the photo spread.

“I can’t explain in words what it means to these guys over here to be recognized in your magazine,” she wrote after the Iraq photos in Pump & Circumstance came out. “It makes me happy to recognize them because they do so much for our country.”

Nola and her fellow firefighters—”a great group of guys I would call my brothers anytime”—put in a lot of heavy specific training, including drills for structural egress and aircraft egress and live-fire training. Gym time is in addition to all that.

Here’s my complete update interview with Nola:

RS: The obvious question: how did you get to Iraq? The last time I saw you, you were onstage at the USA and working at March Air Reserve Base.

NT: I had been at the March ARB F.D. for 2 1/2 years, and although I enjoyed living in L.A. and training at Gold’s Gym in Venice, I was not feeling a sense of accomplishment at my job, so I needed a change.  I was in the U.S. Air Force for seven years and never got the chance to deploy—I was always stationed state-side, in South Carolina, Maryland, Texas and Florida. So when I saw this job opening it was the perfect opportunity for me to experience a deployment to Iraq. It has allowed me to meet and work with a special group of people. I am fortunate to have made good friends here while seeing and doing things I never had the chance to before. So far it has been a great experience.

RS: Where exactly (or inexactly) are you? How long have you been there—and how long will you stay?

I am at an FOB—forward operating base—in northern Iraq. I have been here since August 2009. I will be here until August 2010 for a total of one year.

RS: Is it noisy or quiet there?

NT: Things here where I am are pretty quiet for the most part.

RS: You obviously have a huge spirit of adventure. What was the deciding factor that got you on the plane?

NT: Several things actually. I wanted to change my life for the better, and this gives me the opportunity to do so. Also, I wanted to make a small contribution to our country in some way, especially in honor of all the fallen firefighters from 9/11.  I have always had the dream of opening my own gym and starting my own workout clothing line, so coming over here sets me up to get that started when I return to the U.S.

RS: I have to ask: what’s the male-to-female ratio in your unit?

NT: For the first two months I was the only female in the F.D.; however, now there are two of us. As far as the base itself, there are far more men than women, but I have seen an increase in women lately (mostly Army) with the new units that have arrived.

RS: Did your coworkers know you were a fitness model before the training layout in IRON MAN?

NT: Yes, they told me they had looked me up on Facebook and checked out my Web site,, before I arrived. They made the comment that they didn’t think I was real.  They wondered why in the world I would want to come here to Iraq.  :)

RS: When did you shoot with Jerry Fredrick?

NT: I shot with Jerry in March ’09, just prior to my first bodybuilding show, the San Diego Championships, where I placed second in the women’s division. I was in the best shape of my life at that show thanks to my trainer and friend, Dave Palumbo.

RS: At that time you were weight training six days a week, basically one bodypart a day, and doing cardio seven days. With all the occupational training you’re doing  now, are you still keeping up with that schedule?

NT: For the most part yes. There are days when I cannot get to the gym due to workload or manning issues, but I make every attempt to continue training six days per week.  I do my cardio at 5 a.m. every day before my shift begins at 7 a.m.  That way I can just focus on my training in the early afternoon and the cardio is already out of the way.  Sometimes I am able to do additional cardio in the evening.

RS: What what have you encountered on this tour that’s made the greatest impression on you or maybe changed your perspective on something?

NT: Over here I am fortunate to work with people from all over the world.  I have met some great people and learned about many different cultures. I am honored to work closely with the military members that give so much of themselves for our country. Being over here has also really made me appreciate the small things (that are not available to us here) that I didn’t think about while living in the states.  I am very grateful to my family for sending me nice things in the mail.

RS: Any thoughts about your next appearance on a bodybuilding stage?

NT: I would like to compete again in the near future, however, at this time I am focusing on my job and my duties here in Iraq. So the competing may be on hold for a bit but not forever. I love training and staying in shape and I love this sport, so I guess you could just call my tour in Iraq a little break. I am, however, continuing to train hard and eat right over here.

Also, I’d like to send a special thank you to all of you out there that support us over here.  It is greatly appreciated by so many.

Photos (from top):

Middleweight Nola at the USA.

And on a Blackhawk.

Structural-drill prep (from left): Avery Hanoumis, Nola, Doug Withers, Eric Wiser and Tyler Gilbert.

Army Captain Jason Bruno saw Nola’s shots in IM and came to the F.D. to meet her.

On a tour of a monastery. Back row: Chiefs Ziegler and Van Boerum; middle row: Eric Thompson, Carlos Corum, Tamarcus Parks and Merritt Henderson; front row: Eric Wiser, Christopher Russell, Tim Spencer, Johnny Owens and Nola.

Carlos Corum and Tamarcus Parks.

Blackhawk training with Sarah Goldman and Doug Withers.

Wiser, Hanoumis and Withers wise off.

Nola on a tanker.

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