I recently had a few moments of clarity and it has changed the way I have worked.  Moments of clarity are really hard to come by in our busy lives.  Like you, I get bogged down in the day to day activities of work, family, running kids to their activities and surviving this winter.   So, when we went to Florida last month, I was able to get away from my computer for a bit – and let the kids and Jerome spend some quality time with their grandparents…I was able to step away and reflect.

My moments of clarity were nothing earth-shattering, but more of a re-set of what is important to me in my work.  Being a coach is not easy work.  Not many talk about it because, well, frankly, it is a profession that is not all that respected in the real world.  People ask me all the time to “do this or that” and I say, “I cannot; I have to work.”  And, honestly, they think I ride my bike all day for my work.  Clearly, that is farthest from the truth.  I train like anyone else holding down a full time job.  Sure, there are perks.  I can ride at 10am, if I want, but I am still working all day and nights and various times over the weekends.

Speaking of coaching, communication is key to the athlete-coach relationship.  As I take on new athletes, I really think this is the biggest change from their past working relationship.  OF COURSE there are exceptions to everything, and there are some fantastic coaching out there – but I am talking about the others.  The coaches who are not responsive, not writing specific workouts, not asking for race plans, race re-caps, checking in on you when you are sick…all the details that go along with making you the best you can be.  Frankly, they are lazy.  It is important to not get complacent.  Challenge yourself.  Challenge your coach.  If you are not getting what you want, ASK questions.  Email your coach.  Set up phone calls.  No one is perfect, but make sure your coach has that fire for your success.  This is what keeps me up at night – worrying about X athlete or Y athlete….trust me, if I didn’t worry, I would not care and WHO wants a coach that does not care?

Speaking of clarity – I also had a nice moment of clarity from an athletic standpoint.  There are a few reasons I do not do the Ironman too often.  One is time –  I would rather coach my athletes and Graham’s basketball team, etc. than be on my bike for 6 hours.  That is just where I am at in my life now.  I did just race Kona in October, but that will be it for a few years, for sure.  So, coming off an Ironman, we are SO fit.  However, we are incredibly slow.  Our aerobic engine is so top-notch, you almost forget how poor our anaerobic engine is.  Even though I know this, it was not until I raced this winter, that I shocked back into reality.

This winter I have done 2 Swim Meets.  I am a swim meet freak.  I love them.  I cannot do the big State Championships this year due to coaching U of I at Collegiate Nationals that same weekend, so I am doing as many “smaller” meets as I can to get my fix.  The first meet I did was 2 weeks ago and it was a brutal day we got hammered by snow and I am still in shock I got to the pool alive.  (nothing really stops in Chicago thankfully) I did the 400IM, 100IM, 50F, 100F, 200F, 2 x 50 Free in Relays. That doesn’t sound like much, but damn if I was absolutely a hot mess after that.  I was slow.  I was sluggish and sucked.  My body was completely freaked out.  On Monday I woke up and felt like I was hit by a truck.

Fast forward to just this past Sunday…another Swim Meet and I swam very much the same except they had a 500F, so I added that.  AND, I felt awesome.  Great pool, great swimming friends and I had shocked my body into that effort again, so I was ready for that anaerobic effort at this meet.  I improved my times by seconds and that is rare for me – I don’t really get faster in the pool anymore. J  It was like my body remembered how to SUFFER again!  And, I woke up Monday morning, feeling FINE!

Then, earlier this week, my old running coach, Dave organized a hill run.  He invited all the fast runners and then me.  He failed to mention that to me in the invite (sneaky bastard).  The run was 1 hour south of me starting at 6:15am.  I used to do this all the time and when I got the invite, I jumped at the opportunity.  I had to mentally prepare for this run and try to figure out how to manage the shoes.  We were under snow and it was 7F degrees at run start.  (See, these fast runners are all in racing flats – I cannot train in these conditions in racing flats, so I wore trail shoes – eeks).

The runners included a runner who just moved back from the NIKE Oregon project run team….a 2:20 marathoner…and then a gal who is a 2:4x marathoner…and the list goes on.  THEN me.  Gulp.  The good news is that I may not be that fast, but I am a great faker and I am tough.  And, I like to be scared; it is healthy and refreshing.  I woke up feeling like I was heading to a race.  I even ate my pre-race meal on the drive down.

The run was 11 miles and included 12 hill repeats…it was dark, snowy, cold and fast.  I did not wear my watch.  I never do when I cannot control the workout – no point.  So, I gradually looked at one of the guy’s watch as we were warming up:  6:40 pace.  Yep.  That is NOT a warm up pace for me.  EVER.  He was talking to me and I was doing the best job I could do to talk and not die of effort OR have him think this was hard.  I have not run that fast in a VERY long time….especially when it was 7F degrees out.

As the workout progresses – I am last.

We run all the hills:  LAST again.

We cool down:  DFL.

I say, “Don’t wait for me!”

We do 11 miles and 12 hill repeats in 1:19 in snow and bitter cold.  AND ALL I wanted was a gel.

We get back to the car and Dave says, “Ok, in the field house for drills.”  Secretly, I was so glad we could do them – not many indoor tracks up near me.  But, I could barely lift up my legs.  AND I was hungry.  I quickly went to my car, got my drink and bar and brought it into the track.  We all know the runners don’t eat, but it has now been 90 minutes and I need SOMETHING.  They all made fun of me.

So, not only was I last, I am now the Triathlete who has to eat.

The good part is that they all know me and really don’t give me shit. One of the guys and I used to train together all the time (I would chase him around the track) before he went to NIKE in Oregon and he said he remembers me wearing socks that said, “BITCH” on them.  Yes, that is true.  I did own a pair of socks that said that on there.  Crack me up.   Funny what people remember.

One of the girls running with us just graduated college and is going after the OTQ marathon time.  She is fast and 23 years old.  I took a phone call from Graham on the track and she asked how old Graham was.  She looked puzzled.  I told her I have 12 year old twins.  You could see her try to do the math – so I said, “I am 43 years old.”  Her reaction to that was worth the 1 hour drive in itself.  She said, “I hope I look like you and run as fast as you at 43.”

Too bad I don’t have her email.  Because today I would write this to her:   “Thank you for your nice comment about my age and all…but today I cannot walk normally.  I am SO sore.  Even my feet are sore.  I had to have a time-out today because I was eating Kit Kats and M&Ms while trying to maneuver around my house like I was 83.  I could not really go and swim at Masters because I would drown.  So, while you hope you look like me at 43, enjoy your youth and ability to recover like a 23 year old now.”  Love, Jenny

(She was probably out running a tempo run this morning as I was pulling my sorry ass out of bed.)

But, the run was worth it – for many reasons.  It reminded me how to really suffer again.  Again, I think we get too complacent – afraid to take risks and afraid to say “why not?”  We feel sorry for ourselves in this horrific weather. (Trust me, I have had a few pity parties myself).   OF COURSE it sucks – but that is what I like about our aggressive winters – it makes us even that much tougher.  And, come spring time, the athletes that had to work hard to even RUN outside….really shine.


  1. Really making me feel like a sissy since I haven’t run outside once in this weather & really have no plans on it…..I want spring! :-)
    oh, & 6:40 pace….yeah right!

  2. I always love me a good JH blog. Tells it like it is and never ceases to inspire! Keep on being your awesome self (coach, athlete, mom, etc…)!!!

  3. What a great post and a good reminder that sometimes it’s worth getting out of our comfort zones to see how hard we can push! And FWIW, I hope I look like you & run as fast as you do at 43 too :)

  4. Oh! I love this post! I cannot imagine you EVER being last at ANYTHING!!!! Those hill repeats are soo hard …and at that pace….I can certainly relate at a different, much lower level…enjoy your youth…even at 43! It only gets harder…ha!

  5. Ha that made me laugh:) as I lie on a bed with a heating pad on. Yup. I can’t even remember 23 yo bc I was too busy doing it over and over and over day in and day out. Quality not quantity as we mature:)

  6. Great post. I totally understand/agree about people not getting coaching being an actual job, sometimes with even more stress since a coach often is much more involved in the athlete’s life than just writing their workouts. And you go on those tough workouts – hopefully your super aerobic engine helps get the speed back quicker like “they” say it will!

  7. Awesome, inspiring post! If I weren’t pregnant it would have totally fired me up for an awesome workout. I’ll have to bookmark it for when my regimen is more than 1000 yd swims and an episode of Breaking Bad on the elliptical:)

  8. I was sick with a cold this past week and I always struggle with when to resume training: am I still sick or am I being lazy? What do you look for when checking in with your sick athletes to help get them back on track? Thanks!

  9. Jen- you are just the best. I love what you said about Coaching and how it really needs to be for athletes. The communication is key. You are the BEST out there for that. I talk about it all the time. You are the most in -tuned caring coach who is THERE For your athletes. I am very lucky to have worked with you. And, I just love hearing about that badass hill run ( 11 mi in 1:19 in 7F and snow!!). wow. You are so inspiring. Yes, get out and do things that are hard and scary. THat is how to stay on top of the game. thanks for all this…

  10. “Like” :)
    Great post, Jenny! Made me laugh. I hear you with being 43… a few more weeks and I’ll be joining you. And yes, you (we, ha!) certainly look younger than your (our) age!!! 😉 Way to go kickin’ it with the youngsters. I saw coach Dave at the Naperville Marathon… looking good! Congrats to him on his winning athlete too!
    Take care & *just keep swimming* :)

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