Author Archives: Jennifer Harrison

Sick in San Juan

2015 marks my 20th season of racing. And, if it is one thing I have learned in these 20 years of Triathlon is that we cannot have wins without losses. Nothing improves an athlete more than losing or facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.

I had absolutely no control to what happened to me on Friday night in San Juan. But what I had absolute control over was my attitude and the way I would handle the next 48-72 hours.

Let’s step back to my preparation for my race:

To kick off my 20th season, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone AND something out of my comfort zone.

With that in mind, I signed up for Puerto Rico 70.3 that was slated to be on March 15th. There are a lot of reasons why this is not a good idea..I have not been on a bike (apart from a few days in Tucson) since November outside, I would be far from acclimated – and I would probably be a bit heavy coming out of Chicago’s winter. Oh yeah, and the course was hot, humid and hilly. Considering Eagleman 70.3 is my favorite half ironman, this was a stretch. I hit the enter button for this race on December 15 before our real winter hits.

I came off a bigger year in 2014. I raced a lot. I did well. I had fun. What I wanted in 2015 was simpler. I wanted to go “big” early and then race local. I wanted to be around in the summer while my kids are still around and while we are selling & building a new house.

On February 2nd we got an offer for our house after 3 years on and off the market. Jerome was in China and then next 30 days were insane. Alone, I got the house ready for a house inspection (not easy we live in an 1880s house), looked for a rental and fought our new house plans in front of the Village Board of our new town. (we won). I was privately barely holding it all together. On top of this, of course, being mom and coaching full time. AND training for a 70.3 without any reservations. I was ALL IN.

I loved the training – I worked hard, trained hard, ran hills, ate hills, I did everything right to prepare for San Juan. I was lucky enough to be in a great relationship with Element Multisport in Chicago and Chris put me on a new PINK Trek Speed Concept TT bike and Rob put me on SPARKLY PSIMET wheels. I was so excited to race.

Elizabeth and I headed to San Juan on Friday. I ate normally – did not eat anything on the plane and brought my own food for the traveling. We arrived in San Juan at 2pm on Friday, took a van to our hotel and started to put our bikes together and got ready for dinner. Easy peasy.

At dinner we joined some friends and ate in the hotel, a Hilton – I had chicken and pasta and water. Many of the athletes ate similar food. Elizabeth and I went to bed at 9pm or so and talked about our next day and plans and that was it.

I woke up at 1am thinking I was going to VOMIT all over the place. I tossed and turned to fight that urge. I felt so miserable. BUT not flu -like – it was something I had never really experienced. I got up, went to the bathroom – back to bed, repeat. I was SO tired. I felt like shit.

We got up the next morning and Elizabeth wanted to go for run. I really could not get out of bed. At this point, I am thinking, “this will pass.” And, a little bit more personal information is that I was getting my period and ALL I kept thinking of is “god this is a bad one.” I could not really get out of bed. Elizabeth ate a bar, and went outside. I laid in bed. She came back and wanted to swim – so did I. I got up, we went down to the water and my stomach was a mess. We swam 15 minutes and my body did not feel that bad but I just swam super easy. I was thinking, “oh I just need to eat and then I can do this.”

We then went to Denny’s for our big pre-race breakfast. That is when I realized the extent of my problems. I could not eat – I could not talk to Elizabeth and lost my entire personality. I had to go outside to get fresh air and I just wanted to go to bed.

We went back to the room and I went to bed. I just had to sleep. I just laid there thinking, “I can do this if I just eat.” I still had not thrown up – just the other issues but nothing violent at all.

When it was time to check our bikes in, we rode our bikes to transition and my legs felt good! But, I knew it was bad. My stomach was like a vice. I checked my bike in and was solo (and Elizabeth was at the expo fixing a flat). The moment of truth was when I was walking back to our hotel, I just could not do it. I had to stop multiple times to take a break. I was dizzy, ill and exhausted and well, sick.

I got back, went to bed and slept.

Elizabeth went down to meet with an athlete and (probably get some fresh air) and she asked if I wanted anything to eat – I said, “Pasta, salad and chicken.” She brought it to me and I wanted to eat it so bad so IN CASE I woke up a new person, I could race because I was fueled. I was able to choke down some of the salad, but the pasta and chicken was a no go. AND when I went to bed that night (Elizabeth fell asleep at 7:45pm – she’s nearly 40 now you know…) I knew that was it. Even with a miracle, I was not fueling at all and that would not work.

I did not sleep all night – and I was paranoid that I was keeping Elizabeth up, so I went into the bathroom and was texting Dr Mia and Jerome as I laid on the floor in the bathroom. Dr Mia said it was probably some food or water bourne bug (like Ecoli). I kept things VERY low key with Elizabeth all weekend because I did not want her to worry or it to effect her race, so I downplayed it all. No need to ruin two races.

Elizabeth was up on race morning at 4am and I did not feel worse – but my stomach was a disaster – like someone was stabbing me with a hot knife. I wished Elizabeth luck and told her I would be down at the swim exit.

I could not go back to sleep. In fact, when it hit me that I was not racing, I started to cry. I can easily keep perspective and absolutely realize this is just a race – but it was more the prep, the hard work, the travel, the money…..and well, I was in shape and wanted to race! And, it was all out of my control. Just bad, shitty luck.

I got up and walked to the start of the race (it was right outside our hotel) and was looking for Elizabeth. I found Joel and Ali Rutledge and wished them luck – and Ali blew me a kiss (she knew I was sick). Then, I gave Elizabeth a hug, said a few private things to her and started to cry. I did NOT want to do that – damn it! It was not about me at this time! I apologized but it was just my disappointment that overtook my emotions.

I decided to be the uber spectator and friend after that. If I cannot race, well, then, let’s cheer for everyone I knew there and I did. I was able to get around OK and sat on the roads and cheered, was able to give Elizabeth splits and who was in front, in back, worked out nicely! Elizabeth ended up getting 3rd in the AG /7th OA 6 months after baby #2. Impressive.

And, yes, there was a shooting on the course. I was worried because I never heard who was hit. Two athletes got hit by crossfire between two cars. One was hit with a bullet; one with shrapnel. Elizabeth saw some of the aftermath of this tragedy. How awful.

After the race and showers, we got some food – I finally felt OK to eat something and ironically, I just wanted to drink. I had two mojitos with Elizabeth and that made me very happy; I was finally getting my personality back.

I was able to eat 1 ½ tacos and that allowed me to turn around a bit and after the drinks and some food, I was feeling much better. Funny how quickly these things come and go – and no sooner was I feeling better when it was time to get ready to come home.

I spent a lot of time in bed these past 72 hours. And I had on a lot of mindless TV on. Poor Elizabeth is scarred for life now. I watched more hours of “Married at First Sight” than any normal person should ever watch.

The good news of this whole thing is that in 20 years, this has never happened to me. I have never gotten sick at a race and not raced. And, it is just, like I said, shitty luck. And, OF COURSE I was upset – of course, I cried privately a few times – I will not sugar coat this and say it was easy. But, perspective is everything and as I said to myself and others I talked to, “It is just a race!” And, I meant that.

Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.


  1. I know that must have sucked after all that training! You’ll kick butt the rest of the season! xoxo

  2. Oh! I’m SO sorry that this happened Jen! That is really really awful :( . But I have to say – there is a lot of really good info in your post about overcoming adversity and learning. Not only are you a great athlete, but great coach and teacher as well. Heal & recover quick! Xxoo!!

  3. Jen I am so sorry! Sounds so much like my Kona 2013 … and I would not wish that on anyone!! Glad you are feeling better…hope to see you at a race or two this year!

  4. Jen,
    I’m so sorry this happened to you but thank you very much for sharing what you took away from it. “Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you choose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.” So, so, true. It also makes us appreciate the times we CAN race that much more. I bet you CRUSH your next race. :)

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Pay it Forward Contest – 2015!

Merry Christmas!

I am excited to announce I will be doing Pay It Forward for 2015 again! I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the past winners: Dan M, Cathy, Courtney & Alisa D.

If you are interested, I encourage you to apply. Here are the details:

1.) Applicants can apply via email to: from December 7th – December 31st 11:59pm CST. Feel free to be as creative as you want in the email application. (I do accept bribes. I love Chocolate & anything pink.).

2.) For the Pay it Forward Athlete, I am looking for athletes that have overcome any type of hardship This can include , but not limited to: illnesses, financial or personal issues. This is also open to athletes who may not have any hardships but just have not been able to put together a solid year (s) of training due to inconsistency, lack of motivation, lack of focus/structure and need something new and challenging.

3.) You CAN re-apply if you applied before!

4.) You need to have at least one “A” race in 2015. Can be any significant race, but we need to have goals for 2015. All levels of athletes are fine.

5.) The coaching will start between 1/15/15 -2/1/15 and last until the end of your “A” race or 12/31/15, whichever one is first.

6.) You will have to blog about your experience and be an active member of social media (FB or Twitter).

This year, the 2014 Pay It Forward winner, Alisa Dunlap had a great year finishing with a 1+ hour PR at CIM Marathon. Alisa kept a blog and you can read about her experience here:

I encourage you all to apply, if interested. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this blog or send me an email. I will announce the winner on January 5th, 2015. Looking forward to another great year of paying it forward to our great sport!


  1. I will forward this on! Love that you do this! xoxoxoxo

  2. so……did you pick a winner? Im interested to find out.

  3. YES I picked JEFF VANIS as the winner!!

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Off Season & Cross

I took a little break. I ate Reese’s PB Cups in mass quantities mixed with pounds of M&Ms. I dyed my hair brown. I co-coached 75 kids to an undefeated Cross Country season. I spent an exorbitant amount of money on MAC makeup and Roden & Fields face creams. I spent some much loved time with my nearly 13 year old twins. I ate a lot. And, lastly I have been navigating myself through the start of a mid-life crisis. I will be 44 in January so I am truly in mid-life. None of this “I am turning 40 BS.” Please. The shit is getting real as I hit my mid-40s. I look in the mirror and think “WHO is this person?” The wrinkles, the dark circles. All there and all real. I know it is just a number, blah blah blah. The good news is that I FEEL GREAT. I may look like a hot mess, but I feel awesome.



Of course, this was much needed break and I was able to re-charge myself a bit. After my last race of the season (September 7th), I was desperately in need of a break from Triathlon. I took a few weeks off where I did not do too much of anything at all. FULL rest for 7-10 days and then more rest for another 10-14 days and then I slowly got back into things. I took 7.5 weeks off any structure, which, I think is a bit on the long side, but this year I needed it a bit more. In fact, I took 5 weeks out of the pool and that I have not done in eons. I just could not get myself to the pool and in fact, had no interest. So, clearly a big break was needed.

After my little break, I got back into the swing of things and that really meant MORE strength for me and NO TT BIKE. In fact, my TT bike is still in the bike box. Instead, I got out my Cross bike again and start exploring trails and different areas on it. I love my Cross bike. And, after doing 3 Cross races last year as a CAT 4 after I was done with Kona, I wanted to do the entire series this fall as a CAT 3.

The Cross scene here in Chicago is great. There is a race every weekend and there are a ton of talented riders who come out and race from Iowa, Wisconsin and all over Illinois. Making the shift from Triathlon to Cross racing is like watching an Elephant run versus a Cheetah. For me, I was the Elephant on the course. After last year I was thinking, “I am not too bad at this.” I got 2nd at State and naively thought I would just roll into the series and do OK. I was so wrong. I got hammered. In fact, the best I have finished this year is mid-pack. Racing in the Elite women’s race (CAT 1-2-3) is humbling to say the least. At first I was so frustrated with myself because I could not get rid of my fear. I was just so scared. NOT nervous. There is a big difference there. Fear limits you. Nerves drive you. I was afraid because my bike handling skills were so sub-par compared to the girls I was racing against. AND people crashed. I crashed.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The first Cross race I cold barely continue to push the gears on my Cross bike through the sand, mud and grass my quads would NOT respond at all. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. I was breathing like I was racing a 5k run race…I was working that hard from start to finish. AND I was still in the back. In fact, one time I looked right after the start and I was DFL.

But, as the races went on I got a wee bit better (not much) and I started to have some fun with it and started to develop a camaraderie with the other riders that are always near me in races. They would scream behind me, “JEN, wider on those turns! STOP braking!” They were traumatized by my lack of bike handling skills but what I lacked there I made up in my strength and aerobic engine on the courses. In typical fashion, I got better as the the race went on.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Many courses I would pre-ride and I could not even make the sharp turns in practice – but when the gun went off, my fear melted away and I was able to “fake it until I made it” out there. I will probably never be great or even good – but it has been fun racing with these girls and it has helped my bike handling and anaerobic threshold tremendously. And, the others had fun at my expense. I ride on the PSIMET team – super fast girls who are winning these races. At one race the Team Manager screamed at me while I was dismounting and carrying my bike over a barrier: “There are NO words.”

Suffering.  Photo courtesy of Warren Cycling.

Suffering. Photo courtesy of Warren Cycling.

Apart from not killing myself at Cross, I eventually did get back into the pool. After 5 weeks out of the water I really could not fit into my shirts and bras anymore (too big!) – I thought about not swimming again ever, in fact. My muscles decreased and my lats and shoulders went down (yay!). The first time I swam after the break I was like Gumby in the water – I was awful. Could NOT engage my core. Reminded me to remind my athletes to always engage their core in swimming. I was so disconnected and therefore fighting the water. Not good! While I do not have my speed back yet- after 3 weeks of consistent swimming I am starting to feel normal in the pool again.

I also added MORE strength to my weeks – I never stopped Pilates (except for my few week break), which I do every Monday. Then I am now doing a TRX class this fall/winter every Wednesday that I love. And, then on Fridays I see Kate (strength trainer). Between Cross racing and strength this fall I am sore a lot. In fact, because of all the breaking and shifting on my bike hard and fast, I literally have an elbow and forearm that kills me. I am sure it is tendonitis at some level but some nights it just aches (back to my mid-life crisis here with achy bones).

And, during this time, we have had some fun times apart from sweating. We had an impromptu 25th High School Reunion (back to my mid-life crisis) this past weekend. It was hilarious. One of the many reasons I like Facebook. We all just picked up like we see each other every week. They were playing Journey & big hair bands all night; I had too much to drink. It was a good time. In addition to partying like it is 1989 (the year I graduated HS), we are breaking ground this fall on a new house. I am SO excited. We need a change and while the house/lot is only about 1 ½ miles away, it will be a welcomed change and I have spent more time on Pinterest this fall than I care to admit as I Pin all my favorite bathrooms, toilets and kitchens. In fact, I need HELP (anyone an interior decorator?) But, fun and refreshing indeed.

Dark Hair & My 25th HS reunion!

Dark Hair & My 25th HS reunion!

I am off to Arizona this long weekend. Jerome is “participating” in Ironman Arizona. He has been in China for the past week and literally comes home and turns around to head to Tempe. Brutal! So that is why he is participating :).  It will be fun to get into the sun again and spectate some athletes I coach, friends & Jerome.  And, I may take a 90 minute detour south to Tucson for Thanksgiving & fly the kids out!


  1. Middle of the pack? Never would have guessed it. My ignorance tells me riding a bike is riding a bike, so I just assumed you would kick butt.

    I learned the age thing between girls and guys. I don’t care, and it effects girls a bit different. You maybe even more than some for whatever reason.

    Have fun, and stay fun. :)

    You have a great personality. :)

  2. Yay, a blog post!!! I’ll admit I was loving the admission about not wanting to get back in the pool 😉 Want me to send you more pictures of my staircase? As for building advice, after going through an extensive remodel, you can NEVER have too many pull-outs (in the kitchen, pantry, closets, bathrooms….seriously. never), built in spice racks for kitchen drawers are GREAT for makeup in the bathroom (all those little MAC gems will fit nicely) so if you’re planning bathroom drawers, throw one of those in and it’ll keep your counters clear…

  3. Thanks for saying you love my Wed. TRX class – “skinny one”! ha!

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September already?!

I cannot believe it is September already!  This fall I was asked to co-coach at Graham’s middle school for Cross Country.  I was so excited and I did not hesitate to say YES.  Graham, on the other hand, not sure he was as excited.  Having MOM there all the time really puts a crimp in his behavior and social life. Oh well…  I know that I only have a few years to do stuff like this with my kids, so even though I knew it would be a lot, I am so glad I decided to join the coaching team.

We practice every day – PM or AM for 60-90 minutes and meets are 2x/week!  However, it just lasts until October 10th, so it is a short season at this age.  We have 50+ 7th and 8th grade boys/girls.  There is just something so refreshing with working with kids.  And, they think I am cool (most of them) because I work with the U of I kids too – so at least there is some respect level – because we all know that there is NO way I could run fast or race fast at “my age.”  :)

I was brought in to write the workouts and help lead all the workouts.  On the first day we did a super hard workout – hill repeats into 300m sprints.  I thought we would lose them all.  But, instead, they stayed and came back.  The next day,  I had them all write down their top 3 goals on an index card and share it with me.  I read them all and wrote a personal note to each of them AND a famous motivational quote on the other side – laminated them and returned them to each kid.  I wanted the kids to know that if they are going to make BOLD goals – we need to train hard to have a chance at hitting these goals.

Speaking of goals, my last Triathlon of the season is Sunday at Worlds 70.3 in Mt. Tremblant.  I am excited to race and am ready.  And, I am looking forward to an off season of Cross and pumpkin spice donuts starting on Monday.

After Muncie 70.3 I have raced a few times.  I raced a local, smaller triathlon:  Manteno Sprint Triathlon a couple of weeks after Muncie to shock my legs back into short course racing.  I love this race and did it the last time they had it in 2003 after having the twins.  So, when the re-instated the race this year, I jumped at it.  Here I am exiting the swim at Manteno.  Glad I was not serious or anything.

 "        Swim at Manteno                       "

"                               "My friend and OA Male winner, Louie at Manteno Triathlon.

Then, I raced USAT Nationals Olympic and Sprint in Milwaukee in early August.  I was excited to race short course and race some friends and an uber competitive race.  Nationals is always competitive but then add in that this race qualified the top 25 in each AG for Worlds, which is taking place next September in Chicago.  How fun!
I spent the weekend in bed with Chris Wickard.  Well, only 1/2 the time.  We both raced the OLY on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday.  I was nervous for the race but also excited to race some super fast women and see some old friends coming in to the race from all over the US.

For the OLY race, I came out of the water in the top 5 – felt great, fast and smooth.  I could only see a couple of girls up front – one of them Megan James – and I worked super hard to close the gap.  I loved the swim there – and LOVED having others with me.  Off on the bike – I felt good – worked hard and tried to keep things under control and keep myself in the mix.  I got off the bike still in good position and felt great.  My goal was top 10 and I was in the top 10.  I started running and felt great – then it felt like I was suffocating.  I was wheezing and not sure why?  It was humid but not deadly out there.  I just could not breathe well.  I have horrible hay fever and it usually starts in Mid-August – so who knows, all I know is that I was gasping for air but not running as fast as I could be.  AND if you are 1% off at Nationals you will lose your position in a heart beat.  AND that is what happened to me.  I went from top 10 to 14th in a snap.  I ran slow for me – 43 minutes – and if you run that “slow” at Nationals you will get swallowed up.  I managed it best I could and when I crossed the finish line I was disappointed but there was NOTHING I could do or would do differently – first time I had that issue.  And, on those days you just hold your head up high and move on.  And, get redemption at the next race.

Lucky for me the next race was the next morning!  Many of us decided to do the double.  Chris and I rested, ate and walked about 10 miles after our OLY race.  Ha!  The next day we did the same pre-race prep and lined up with a few hundred of our closest friends again.  This time, I felt like shit on the swim.  Ironically, the swim is where I felt the OLY race fatigue.  WEIRD — but it has been years and  years since I have raced back to back (for obvious reasons) so I had a handful of girls in front of me and I was swimming fine but had no snap.  So, I tried to draft and got out of the water in top 5 again.  One of my friends, Frank, shouted “she is 90″ up!”  NINETY SECONDS in a sprint race?  GOODNESS…this will be rough.  AND how did that happen?  WOW.  (Later I found out it was Heather W, who I have raced over the years and is a superb swim/biker).

I had way more fun at the Sprint that day – less pressure and while I was pissed about my OLY race, I still felt pretty darn good on Sunday.  I was able to maintain contact with the top 5 and came off the bike panting for my placement in 6th.  I was not afraid of having the breathing issue again.  Sure, deep down inside I was a little worried but it is so rare for me and it did not seem as humid that morning, so I went for it and if I blow up, then so be it.  But, in a Sprint race at Nationals, you have to take the gamble – if, not you will get hammered in a blink in an eye.  It is just so fast.

I got off on the run in 6th and I could see 5th place in front of me.  I had ONE goal….top 5 (Podium).  I was going to ruin myself to get that spot.  I hunted her down.  I knew who it was and felt like she was not running as well as she usually does… I calculated my position, my pace and effort and made my move after mile 1.  I knew I would have to REALLY go or she would latch on to me and that would be more painful.  I heard her breathing – I was too but kept it silent as I passed her – and went by her and I was now in 5th at mile 1.5 of the 5k.

I had another painful 2.5 miles to run.  I was running probably 6:40s, maybe 6:30s to make the pass and on the 2nd day of racing, that was not easy.  However, I felt way better today than for my Oly  race (grrrr)….Behind me were literally hundreds of fast girls charging us down.  I could see Chris Wickard about 45″ in front of me ….I focused on her while I did my best to hold these girls off.

I could see one and she was flying – WAY faster than I was running.  I literally had to find another gear or she would catch me within yards of the finish line.  She looked about my age and I was doing everything I could not to vomit all over myself.  I sprinted to the finish line and held her off and ended up 5th in the AG!  I was SO happy and redeemed my bad self from the OLY race.

Lo and behold the gal behind me was the 45-49 AG winner – so she was not in my AG but she was flying and did look my age, I was right!  Glad she kept me honest!

Here is the 40-44 Top 5 Podium.  I am in 5th and Chris Wickard in 4th:

Sprint Nats Podium 2014

What a great weekend of racing!  I had so many friends and athletes race so well there and q-fy for Worlds in Chicago.  I will race both the Sprint and OLY next September and I am looking forward to it and not traveling!

It took me awhile to recover from that double.  My chest hurt.  My heart hurt and every muscle was fatigued.  I was exhausted.  I got some good rest and pushed into my final prep for Worlds 70.3.  I went up to Madison and rode the course, I ran hills, I swam hard.  Personally, I was getting the kids ready for school and getting athletes ready to race & started coaching XC and the U of I was back in session.  AND Jerome was in China traveling this whole time.

Then, I had a little “HELP ME” moment.

I had to step back for a couple of days or risk getting sick.  I know when I hit my limit and I needed a couple of days to re-group.  I had to cut back on my social obligations (boo) and just focus on myself, my work and my family.  After a few days of getting my sh*t back together I was fine and bounced right back to carry on with my bad self.

Now, we are at race week for Worlds.  I went camping this past weekend with my family and we had a great time. I am in a good place and ready to race on Sunday and then ready for some R&R afterwards!

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Muncie 70.3!

I am so glad I went down to Muncie 70.3 and raced.  I cannot believe I have never done this race and it is only 4 hours from me.  It falls at a weird time of the summer with my kid’s activities & camps – and it is usually 100F degrees in the shade…But, this year I really wanted to race a 70.3 in mid-season and Muncie scared me a little bit (which I need).

Matt Peterson & Jenny Hayes, two friends and athletes that I work and I with stayed with Matt’s parents who live about 45 minutes from Muncie.  I was so glad I had the opportunity to stay with them.  They were SO accommodating, super supportive and hospitable.   It was so relaxing and set us all up for a great race day.  Here is Jenny with Matt and Matt’s dad.

Jenny, Matt and Matt's Dad

Race day:

It was a good weather day in Muncie.  For once it was not 100F or scorching.  We got a gift and it was upper 70s….very humid, but not oppressive.  I registered for this race late, so I was not racked with the girls in my age group and that was FINE with me.  I had no idea who was there as I never looked at the start list.  I wanted to just fly in, race hard and see where the cards land.  I was super excited to race and woke up on race morning before my 4am alarm SO excited to race!


Unfortunately, the water was wetsuit legal.  Really, it was so hot I almost ripped my wetsuit off in the lake.  Honestly, it does not matter to me if we wear a wetsuit or not.  I just want the swim to be hard and aggressive and fair.  The wetsuit surely makes it 100% easier and I can just drag my legs thru the water so I always feel so much more fresh on the bike after  a wetsuit legal swim.

My goal in the swim was to come out of the water in 1st.  Didn’t care what time that was.  I lined up just to the left of the start buoy – picked my line of sight and when the gun went off I went out HARD.  200-400 m as hard as I could swim (well, within reason) and we still had clear water until we caught the other waves.  I wanted some feet so I could chill and draft, but I was solo.  No one went with me.  So, I relaxed a little bit and keep swimming strong.  I felt SO good – fluid, light and feeling like I was not putting out a lot of effort.  Then, I got REALLY hot.  I had to grab my wetsuit at my neck every couple of minutes to put some of the water into my wetsuit so I would not over-heat.  And, then I purposely slowed down even more – super easy.  I kept it chill to keep my core body temp under control.  If I had to go with another swimmer, I would or could, but I just held my position and got the hell out of the hot tub.  I was out in 30 minutes and did not see anyone behind me – I ran like hell into T 2.


I was having one of those days where it was all coming together.  One of those race days that are almost magical.  AND when and how these happen, we never know 100% why.  But, when they happen, you go with it and capitalize on it…and know you can take some risks!

I loved this bike course.  Sure, some of the road conditions are really crappy.  AND they changed the bike course so there were 40 miles OF TWO loops with 2000 riders on it.  AND my Age group was in the 2nd to last wave…so the bike course was a HOT MESS.

I got out onto the bike and knew I was leading my AG.  I rode hard but smart.  By the time I hit 50 minutes on the bike I had gone through 2 bottles on my bike alone.  I had to drink a ton to ensure that swim did not catch up with me later in the day as it got hotter.  We had some cloud cover on the bike and I knew that was my “get out of jail” pass to take some risks and push this course harder than I could if it was super hot.

At mile 15 the 2nd place girl went by me.  Ok!  Time to race – I kept my legal distance but kept her in my sights.  She was riding very well.

Around mile 30, I heard the Marshalls driving up.  I was passing a ton of riders – and this is tricky.  Some of the riders were riding 3-4 abreast AND I had no room to pass.  AND if I did pass a man, he would re-pass me and that did NOT help the situation at all.  I was riding as clean as I could – we all were.  I did not see any major drafting out there (I am sure there was some though) on a course that is silly for 2000 athletes.

Then, BAM….the Marsall flashed his RED card at me.  Then, drove up and did the same to others.  Then, others…it was really the silly.  I even said to him, “WHAT do you want me to do when I don’t have ‘clear line of sight!!?'”

As an age grouper, we do not have “clear line of sight” – this  means you can ride to the LEFT of the athletes (think more middle of the road) and go by everyone faster & NOT get called for BLOCKING.  PROS have this.  BUT I was doing this but then getting over to my right as quickly as I could.  I was in and out of people all day.  ANYWAY, I got a red card for this.  AND because this was my 1st penalty ever, I did not remember (remember I am racing and not thinking clearly) what a RED card meant.  I just had to report to the penalty tent and stand down for FOUR minutes.  I thought I was being DQd.

TO SAY I WAS Pissed would be an understatement.  I went through the initial PISSED OFF emotion & then the “NO way I can have a good race now – FOUR MINUTES is a lifetime!”  I thought about stopping and saving myself for another race the next weekend.  SILLY things that you think about.  THEN about 2 minutes later I re-grouped, put my head down and used that set back to ride even harder.

I will show HIM (aggressive, I know b/c “HE” doesn’t care)…..!   About 20 miles later I got to the penalty tent (it was packed) and I started my FOUR minutes – Tick tock tick tock…..I ate, drank and peed while standing there.  I refused to look at anyone passing for fear I would see 10 girls in my AG pass while I stand there and pick my ass!  AFTER 4:23 (that is the total time I was idle) I took off.  AND goodness did I ride hard.  I knew I was taking a gamble but I was going to kill myself to re-gain my lead OR die trying.  I had nothing to lose now.

I averaged close to my Olympic watts on the miles after my penalty.  AND my ride was 22.8 mph on the way home, which was not flat like the loops.  Again, I was taking a gamble.  I came off the bike 3rd in my AG and was on a mission to go and find these girls.Bike time was 2:34 with penalty.  2:29:xx actual ride time.


I FELT amazing.  Another “Oh my gosh I feel amazing!”….There are just not too many long races where you feel unstoppable – IN YOUR WHOLE season or seasons – but I was feeling like that so I went with it.  I was confident in my fitness and preparation and knew I could run hard and be fine.  And, my head was in the game.  I had fought the vomit coming up on the bike several times on the bike – and am feeling the same thing on the run – but I was in control of this – so was just over/under that magical red line.  It is a slippery line, but I was loving it and having fun.

The run at Muncie is rolling.  It is a hard run and open and in between corn fields with NO movement in the air – humid and suffocating.  I had my salt, gels and flask to drink.  I took ice at every aide station.

Then, it started to happen.  I see 2nd place up the road and she is not looking good.  It is like the switch – that was already flipped to crazy – went DEEPER into the crazy pain cave and went after her.  I passed her hard and went to find #1.  I am at mile 5 now, so it is all fun and games thus far.

I get to the turn around at 6.5 miles and I see her coming the other way.  She has at least 2 minutes on me.  THAT is a lot of time for a 10k…..but she did not look that good.  And, that is all I needed – a glimmer of hope that I was running faster than her.  I counted her foot strikes & it was low – she was suffering more than me.  AH!  I will get her.

I dug deeper – the hills coming home were brutally hard…now I am at mile 8, where in a 1/2 IM you are really just wanting to vomit or die.  But, I wanted to win more.  I went to Muncie to win or kill myself trying.  I had almost given up.  I had almost resigned to 2nd place because “that is good enough – I did have a 4 min penalty after all” that is the shit that goes on in your head when your mind does not want to suffer anymore.

AND that is when you control what you can and forget the rest.  I AM in control of my mind and that mind controls my body.  SO once I told my legs and lungs to shut up, I picked up my cadence and took pop at every aide station (suffering now) and went to a very dark place.  Honestly, I may have been foaming at the mouth.  I could not talk – I just grunted at anyone that said HI.

At mile 9-10 I see her and she is the only thing between me and my goal.  AND today is the day to make this happen – I still felt awesome (all things considered) and I had other gears on that run course still, I was not maxxed out quite yet.  I had no idea what paces I was running – I did not have a watch.  I mean, who cares – as long as I am in the lead, it doesn’t matter.

I came up on her shoulder, drafted on her for about 1 minute and listened to her breathing.  IF she was not breathing I would have to run with her to the finish line (UGH).  IF she was suffering, I would go past her so hard so could not go with me.  It ended up being the latter.  My fast at this point was probably not that fast really, but I felt it BIG TIME.

I surged (I did say something nice to her) and went by her right up a hill.  I continued to put time on her and was never so happy (always) to see the finish line.  I was a little sad this race was over though because I know that races where you feel THIS good are rare and happen so rarely you want to bottle it all up.   I felt almost unstoppable.

I ran hard through the finish line and was DONE.  I wanted to vomit, but instead I had this huge sense of relief and was like: ” YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Complete satisfaction.  I was SO happy.  That is why I race – for that competition and to bring out the best in myself and see where that best leads me.

I ended up 1st AG/1st Master, 4:50 (that includes the 4 minute+ penalty).

And the first text I saw post race was Elizabeth’s –> “You are the grittiest person I know.”

I thought it was “prettiest” at first…and I was like, “she is losing her mind!”  – (when in fact, I was!).

I stayed for Awards because Amanda W (2nd AG/2nd OA), Jacqui G (2nd AG/4th OA), Jenny Hayes, Ali R (4th AG) did so well… and I got to catch up with Beth Shutt who was 3rd PRO  (she has a fun pic of us on her blog –  I don’t have it b/c it is on her phone)!   I also took the Worlds 70.3 slot.  I did not take it at Eagleman, mainly because it is IM WI weekend and I have never missed IM WI – but this year, it is time for a change.

jen and ali muncie 70.3Here is Ali Rutledge and I getting our awards.

Great times in Muncie and a hard reminder on NEVER EVER give up because you just NEVER know. :)

Thanks Lululemon and PowerBar for the support!



  1. Awesome race report! Congratulations, Jen!! Rock star!!! :))

  2. You are the grittiest person I know too! :)

    Oh man did I also want to rip off my wetsuit in the lake. I was SO freaking hot!!!!

    Anyway, congrats again on your awesome win and even with that crap penalty (really, just no where to go)!!! Great seeing you again!

  3. THIS is awesome!!!! Reading about your toughness and yes, grit, brought tears to my eyes. What a great race you had!! Well done, Jen!! And you are the grittiest person I know as well. But I just had a good laugh at the thought of you thinking Elizabeth said prettiest. You must have wondered why she took That moment to tell you how pretty you are. :) And, MONT TREMBLANT!!!! You will LOVE IT! Great job Jen! Congratulations!!!!

  4. Amazing! And I’m glad to hear you say that run course is hard (its one that makes me want to cry). Congrats and all the best for the rest of the season!!!!

  5. Wow! Awesome race report…. I felt like I was there! I cannot believe you raced like that with a penalty! You just continue to amaze me…Congrats my friend!

  6. As usual, I really enjoy your blogs. I almost feel as if I’m out on the course with you! Congratulations! I love your mental toughness. :)

  7. Jen, I always love reading your race reports!!! I feel like I was right there. Way to be pretty! I mean gritty:) Your time is super impressive especially with the penalty but your attitude is what is truly inspiring. Makes me want to go race right now!!!

  8. Wow, what a lucky weather weekend for sure! As you know, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be 100 degrees there with 100% humidity any given year. You’ll love the MT course for worlds! Thanks for your help earlier this week!

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It is Race Season!

Goodness, where to start.  I have not been good at blogging for many reasons.  I love to write and love to journal (my blog) but as the years go by I struggle with IF people are really interested.   I think everyone blogs now – so the “uniqueness” of the blog is gone.  And, I struggle with laying out my races and “I kicked ass!”  or “I had an off day.”

And, I spend my days & nights talking Triathlon – and keeping athletes focused on what really matters –>  Progress, growth, consistency and accountability.  So, when it comes to me blogging about ME.  I am light on ideas and excitement.  Internally I am driven and motivated, that is not what I mean.  But, as I get older, I almost become more private and selfish on WHY I race.

Let’s step back…In May I did one of my all time favorite races in Galena, Illinois.  My sister’s BF and a sorority sister of mine has a house there and a few of us head up, race and have a nice little overnight trip.  I am not sure, but think this is like my 10th year racing Galena.  I was SO excited to race.  It was cold, water was COLD and after our winter, I could have raced naked and not noticed.  Also, it is so good to see so many friends and athletes here – It is what makes me come back every year.  I felt AWESOME and had a good race finishing 2nd OA to my friend, Jenny Garrison.  And, the comments continue with the Garrison/Harrison connection.  We have fun with it.  As Jenny and I cooled down we were laughing that a few years ago we finished 1-2 as well.  JUST a fun race and I was super happy with my day.

I continued to train and train through the Elgin 10 miler.  I did a long brick (swim,bike, run) the day before and wanted to execute a solid run on tired legs.  On race day I accomplished what I wanted to do and it was a great confidence boost for my “A” race of the early season:  Eagleman 70.3.  I ran this course as fast as I ever have – another confidence boost in my race prep for EM.

This year has been odd for me.  I realized that in 2015 it will be 20 years of racing for me and only ONE  year I did not race & that was in 2001 when I got pregnant and was pregnant w/ the twins.  Every year I have to decide IF I am going to race some of the same races I do frequently.  And, Eagleman is one of them. Can you imagine doing races for 20 years – and a lot of the same ones – AND trying to maintain that edge?  HA.  That is my private challenge within myself.  I don’t necessarily feel slower and my times are not that much slower and this year I was only 6 minutes off my all time PR at EM…. & I PRd my IM at age 42….so it is NOT time that motivates me nor is it a PR – could care less.  What motivates me is competition.  I crave head to head racing.  I always want to race the best 40-44 girls – ALWAYS.  That is what drives me to races like Eagleman, which are fiercely competitive.  Or Kona, Or USAT Nationals….if I want to rise to the occasion and challenge myself, I want to race the best.

I was uncharacteristically nervous for Eagleman.  Weird because I was prepared 100% perfectly with Elizabeth’s help…and I was injury free, excited, etc.  But, I did feel a little pressure coming off 2nd last year & the Kona slot.  This year, I have no interest in an IM, but my desire to win is never gone, of course.  I knew a few girls competing and frankly, that is all I needed to know.  The reigning champ was racing (Kristin) and so was Ange B, a good triathlon friend of mine and an athlete I coached for a couple of years – so I KNEW exactly what she was capable of.  If I wanted the competition, I was going to get it.

I had a hard time sleeping into Eagleman.  Just this pit in my stomach for most of the week.    I think one thing that athletes do is chase times on specific courses.  When I put together my race plan, I barely mention times.  Instead my focus is –>  BE IN THE MIX and race the best I can that given day – so that I can walk away and say, “I DID my best.”  Whether that is the pointy-end of the podium or not.  In 2013 I had a magical day, everything was easy and I felt AWESOME.  This year, I felt tired – not because I was not rested, but because I needed to take a nap!  :)  Regardless, I kept to my plan and besides a slower bike for me than usual, I gave it my 100%.  It was a real nail biter of a race!  I wanted to come out of the water with Ange or keep the gap 30″ and I did that – I was happy with that.  I had to swim hard to do that, but that was the plan.  I felt a little flat and hot on the bike…but managed it best I could.  And, I felt AWESOME on the run.  I was hotter than hell, but nutrition was great and I ran as hard as I could – even negative split my 1/2 marathon by 2 minutes – I was definitely chasing these girls.

When I crossed the finish line I was HAPPY.  And, it is VERY important that you keep that feeling as you digest the race as the days go by.  I worked hard to get on that podium and once I knew 1st and 2nd were out of reach for me – it was a race between 3-6th and I absolutely gave it my all.  It was the best I could do on that day and for that, I was satisfied.  I was on the podium with some great competition and left Eagleman as, “that was the best I had that day.”  I could not have given more.

As the days went by I grew frustrated with my 5th place and had a few blah days.  To keep it in perspective, it is NOT that 5th is not good.  But, it is funny because even though I like to win – I really hate to “lose” more.  And, my goal for EM was top 3 AG.  And, I fell short of that goal.  I can’t remember the last time that has happened.  It has been years and years.

Jerome kept it real and was like, “really Jenny,  Please.  Get over it. It is ONE race.”  And, I did.  I rolled right into my favorite race of all time – Lake in the Hills Triathlon.  It has 400 athletes and is run on the course I swim on, bike train on, it is awesome.  I was super tired coming off Eagleman so I knew this was going to really hurt.  But, it is a local race with a LOT of my friends, athletes and even neighbors there.  I look forward to it every year.  Lululemon even came out and had a full support /cheer section.  It was awesome.  I felt like ass most of the day but rallied and was the first woman across the finish line.  It was like I won Kona.  Seriously, everyone was so fired up and the crowds there are awesome.  (After the race was over one girl (literally a 14 year old) ended up going faster (20 seconds) than me but she did not race in the Elite wave).

It has been a fun couple of months of racing.  My goal is to keep healthy and race super hard and try to always be competitive.  I do a lot of things right.  In fact, I do most things right.  And, let me tell you, it is never easy.  It is not easy for anyone.  Competition gets tougher and it is all the little things that REALLY matter as we try to compete at a high level.

After this cycle of racing, I had to decide what I wanted to do next.  I am signed up for USAT AG Nationals and am excited to race there (talk about competition!) but I really LOVE the 70.3 distance (my fav) so I changed to race to Muncie 70.3 in July.  I have always wanted to do Muncie – god knows why it is hotter than hell…but it is a midwest race and I am excited to race next month there.

Here are some pics from the last few races.  They make me happy.

IMG_0737 IMG_0752

Ange and I day before Eagleman

Ange and I day before Eagleman

EM 2014, chris, AW and I podium 40-44 EM 2014The last 2 are from Eagleman – Chris W, Amanda and I at awards and the last pic of the 40-44 AG Podium minus Ange.  I like that podium pic because I worked my ass off to get my ass up there. :)  Animals.  And, I will always remember the PURE satisfaction of that moment.  And, that is why I keep going back.  A huge sense of accomplishment, even if you are a little short on your goals.

Like I always say, “Onward and Upward!”


  1. 20 years of this!!! You are the animal, Jen!! HA! Always at the top of your game…just awesome and amazing!

  2. 20 years is AMAZING! Your posts are always so insightful! I really want to do Muncie. . . hate how far it is for me!

  3. I too, struggle with the whole blogging thing these days….NO TIME and while I love to go back and read my thoughts and I know my family reads it, I’m not sure it is worth the effort. I couldn’t give up instagram though =). Pictures say a lot!

  4. hey Jen! I love this. I love how you are able to still be very competitive and work hard and efficiently day to day. Of course, as a new mom, I have spent 90% of the year doing everything wrong wrong wrong for racing…bad nutrition, low strength, no consistency, etc. So, it inspires me to see that it can be done. And, keep blogging. I agree- I have trouble blogging these days too. Who cares about my race? there are so many tri, food, mom blogs out there- it is too much. BUT, I do still read and learn from my old faithful bloggers, and that includes you. So don’t stop!

  5. “I crave head to head competition.” This is what makes you a bad a$$ because you don’t just say it – you DO IT. And I enjoy your blog. There are a lot out there and I only keep up with a few, yours being one of them. You walk the talk and I learn from your experiences. Congratulations on all of your recent race accomplishments and best wishes for MUNCIE!

  6. Keep posting! I never comment, but love reading, and have read all your posts. As an often-injured, amateur age-grouper, I always learn from what you write. :)

  7. Yikes I have raced as long as you, or more! Sometimes I wonder why I still get out there, especially this year with a different perspective….but I truly love to race, big or small races! Congrats on all your races. I also feel the same about blogging, sometimes i wonder who really cares!!!! I just try to share the good bad and ugly that can go into training and racing and keep it in perspective

  8. Always look forward to your blogs! Always inspiring!

  9. Hello Jenn – My husband and I met you at The Abbey in Tucson. We really enjoyed our stay in Tucson and enjoyed meeting you at dinner. Your story about your bike descent from Mt. Lemmon is amazing! Thanks for taking the time to share a little about your life as an athlete and coach. I am going to share this webpage with a friend of mine who, like you, participates in triathlons along with marathons, biking events, and hiking (and additional seasonal sports). She loves to read blogs and learn from women like you and herself. :-) Enjoy the moments ~ Dawn

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April Opportunities!

April will go down as one of the best months of my professional life. While it was fiercely busy, it was worth it all. Ironically, as I type this blog, I am on my way from Chicago to Whistler, Canada for the Lululemon Ambassador Summit. I am honored to have been chosen as 1 of 4 from the Chicago region to attend this Summit with 120 other Ambassadors from all over the globe.

Back up to the first week of April. As I blogged about, I went with the U of I to Collegiate Nationals and spent a few days with some of the hardest working, never complaining athletes ever. Like I mentioned, it was a breath of fresh air for me and a huge opportunity to experience triathlon through the eye of collegiate kids. Both refreshing AND fun for me. I look forward to the 2014-2015 school year (yes, they are almost done with school!) and 2015 Collegiate Nationals!

From Tempe, Arizona, I decided to go straight to Tucson to start my JHC Camps. Our twins are 12 now and in school from 8am-4pm and then Jerome is home after that…so while I missed my kids terribly, it is a new chapter in our lives and something I could NOT do in the past with smaller kids, I can most definitely do now. And, with SKYPE and they text me 100000x a day, it is like I never left. (And, honestly, they are never home when I am home anymore!).

It is good for the kids to have some freedom and for them to understand that Mom does travel for her work too. And, while it is Triathlon, it is not any less important than what other professionals do. I just have more fun. :) It is a good life lesson for the kids – LOVE your job and have a passion in life!

JHC Camp was a blast. I always am a hot mess of worry leading into camp, but this is my 6th or 7th year and I have things running pretty smoothly. There are always insurance issues and stuff like that, but otherwise, I have the routes, safety things taken care of…plus, being in Tucson for a few days before camp really allowed me to focus on camps (& step away from mom stuff) to be 100% prepared.

The group of JHC athletes that come to camp are so fun. Every year, we have several repeat campers and then several new to camp athletes. I try to keep it at 12, but I always seem to include a few extras – this year we had 18 that included Jerome & I. I rent them all condos in my condo association and it keeps everyone together – but gives them a kitchen and some privacy as well.

Camp is non-stop. We had a couple of free hours one day and I said, “WE SHOULD BE SWIMMING!” The thing I like best about camp is it gives me time to get to know these athletes personally a bit better. I like to see how the athletes respond to the over-load in work, the heat/conditions, the climbing we go (especially Mt. Lemmon) and to see how far they can dig and still come out alive on the other side. Camp is not easy. In fact, each year I work hard to make it even harder.

We had one little fall while running Phoneline Trail this year – the camper is fine but it did require a visit to Urgent Care. Nothing 22 stitches could not fix! Accidents are bound to happen with big groups in aggressive scenarios, but we were on it, got him taken care of and he was riding the next day.

Every night we do a group dinner and it is fun to see the athletes, socialize a bit with everyone and get to de-tox from a long day. I am sure many campers just wanted to lay in their beds, but hopefully everyone had a good time at dinner and got to make some new friends. I am grateful for the athletes that come to camp and put their trust in myself and Jerome to run a fun but hard camp. Thanks to my SAG support of Jen L and Cindy P – without them, everyone would be in big trouble in the Tucson heat.

The long term plan is to run camps all Spring once my kids are in college. AND I am still young enough to do it. HA. (not funny)….Jerome & I still lead/participate all the workouts (except swimming) and work hard at sweeping the rides, riding with all levels of riders – I think that is important for me as their coach. So, I come home from camp mentally & physically drained.

As soon as I returned from Camp, besides back to normal coach work, I needed to re-group with the kids and do Doctor appointments, do Easter with my family, GETTING BRACES OFF for Morgan, and sports and activities. Normal mom stuff. Even this past weekend, Jerome’s dad and uncle were in town so they could go to DLD (Dark Lord Day) – this is an ALL DAY beer event in Indiana. Tickets for this event are harder to get than into the Ironman. And, Graham was asked to play “UP” with the big boys for soccer – so we had double the games this weekend far away. AND then I wanted to include Morgan in some fun this weekend, so I took her and her friend shopping – the BIG thing now is Bethany Moda…and anything she makes Morgan goes ga ga over. We also went to see the kid’s middle school friends on Saturday night in the Suessical play – so cute. (And then I passed out).

And, because I was not busy enough, I added a Triathlon this past weekend to my calendar. I do it every spring when I can. The weather is notoriously shitty. And, this year, was no exception. I drove up to Wisconsin and it was raining (no, pouring) and 37F. AND so windy I could barely keep my SUV on the road. Oh lovely. The swim is in a pool (our lakes are still 40-45F!) for 1000 yards and then a 27 mile bike and an off road (and wet) 10k. I suggested a few of my local athletes go up there with me and race (they hate me) and they literally thought I was NUTS when we arrived at the race site and we were freezing cold AND wet. Our bikes would barely stay on the Transition racks.

We had a good time at the race and everyone lived to tell about it. I was able to work out some of the rusty things in transition, work on riding hard aero again (outside!), nutrition and everything else as we get into race season. It was also nice to walk away with the win – no matter how small or big the race is, I surely don’t take anything like that for granted, ever.

And, today it is Monday. I am sitting on plane on my way to Whistler, Canada. I am looking forward to a few days with some great & fun people. As I reflect on my April, I had amazing opportunities with amazing people and it is months like this that remind me of what life is all about – Do what you love with the people you love.


  1. I think one of our Ambassadors is headed that way too, Jason Sani. You would LOVE him – he’s a cutie and has personality out the wazoo! Have FUN!

  2. I love this! So much respect for you Jen. You set a great example for your kids. My new mantra is ‘the more you give, the more you receive’. I am trying to live it every day. I think you already do. have a great time in Whistler!

  3. Camp is getting harder each year but bring it on:) And we complain more than college but that is bc we love you:) Have fun in Whistler!

  4. Great update on an awesome month. Congrats on your race and have a great trip

  5. Great update on an awesome month. Congrats on your race and have a great trip

  6. We complain more than college kids? No, we just complain to your face and not behind your back…well, because we’re older and wiser now. AND because we love you! If we didn’t complain…you’d know something was wrong! HA! Camp was great as usual! Fun, fun! Great month and great life lessons! Live life large! :)

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USAT Collegiate Nationals – U of I

This past weekend I was in Tempe, Arizona with the University of Illinois Team for Collegiate Nationals.

It was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. This season I have been lucky enough to coach this great group of kids. To my knowledge, it was the first time they have ever had a coach writing workouts for them, analyzing their data & answering all their training/racing questions.

The whole school year has been focused on one race: Collegiate Nationals.

Jennifer, the President of the U of I team and I talked constantly about the workouts, kids, schedules, school and getting ready for Nationals. One of the issues was our brutal winter. I had to really think about how to best prepare these kids to peak for an early April race when they were not able to ride their bikes outside all winter. A rarity even in Champaign, IL. Apart from Spring Break, which was the week prior to race week, most of them were never outside on their bikes.

I was excited when Jennifer asked if I would go to Tempe and coach/support them for Nationals. I even moved my JHC camp around so I could attend Nationals – I wanted to be there!

We flew out on Thursday – U of I is a massive team. There are hundreds of kids that are part of the team, but U of I only took their top 25 athletes. And, the way Nationals works is that there are waves and the kids are placed in waves based on seed times from past Nationals or races.

It was funny, I did not know what to expect. Sure, I talk to these kids and see them, but travel with them for 4 days? I was stuck in between trying to be coach and not a mother. Little did I know, but I really did not give these kids credit for being so smart and frankly, mature.

I don’t spend a lot of time with college kids. My kids are 12. I don’t have friends that are in I am stuck in the child world OR adult world above 30+ years old. So, I think back to my college days and assume that is how kids are now. THAT is the farthest from the truth. Kids are smarter now, incredibly tech savvy and relevant. I was mesmerized by their explanations of their Masters and PhD programs and how they go to school AND AFFORD Triathlon. (I graduated with $11.00 to my name, no way in hell I could do this $ sport).

There are so many good stories from this weekend – but here are the highlights:

  • Walked into hotel and the front desk manager looked at me – figuring out if I was someone’s mom. Put me in a room right next to the kids…pool side. I got to my room and realized quickly this was going to be a hot mess. The entire hotel was 4 colleges – and unbeknownst to me, planned by the kids year after year who they will lodge with. Universty of Arizona was there and Jimmy Riccetello – which was nice for me to catch up with him (He coaches U of A). I go back to the front desk and ask the kid at the front desk if they can move me to the other side of the hotel. I had to move. I was either going to get arrested OR not sleep. Both, of which, would not be good. He took pity on me, upgraded me to a Suite and in the “old” people’s section. Perfect! I slept awesome.
  • There are a ton of takeaways from this past weekend, but the main one was: 1.) I did not realize it at the time but these kids never once complained. NOT once. Looking back, this was the most refreshing part of the weekend. Working with adults, this is always something I help manage on a daily basis. When I had time to reflect on the weekend, this is the biggest takeaway. Frankly, they were just so grateful to be there, to race with the best in the country, be away from the daily grind of school and be with one another. They are a true team. I was so impressed by this!
  • I rented a car while out there – the kids, for the most part took a Shuttle every where. At first, the kids would all take the Shuttle, as the days went by they would start to ride with me and we had some hilarious discussions in the car. I had to remind myself I was not 20-25 and don’t pretend to be. I had the music in my car on the 70s (Classic Rock). I knew the kids would needle me for this but one guy said, “Oh, I love the Oldies.” Um, no…these are Classic Rock songs. We were laughing so hard. Then one asked who my favorite band/singer was. DAMN I knew I had to say Kid Rock…and I did….some of them just laughed others were in shock.
  • These boys can eat. Of the 25 kids there, 16 were guys. And, you know what is “in” for college kids now? Mustaches. So, imagine hundreds of guys between the ages of 19-25 in speedos or too small shorts and mustaches. It was like bad 1980 porn show. Thankfully no one from the U of I had a stache…but there were many there. I had to really watch myself when we ate out – the boys EAT…and plates and plates of food. This is not news, but a friendly reminder of youth.
  • They asked smart questions. How to warm up, when to warm up…there were 8 waves of men/women and we had someone in almost every wave. So, the timing of food, warming up and all of that good stuff was critical. The women raced first and ALL the boys watched the girls race – then vice versa later in the day. The college teams were fun. They were all dressed up in their college kits and mascots. They all chanted their school fight songs all day. They walked around in school pride and colors all day – it was FUN! By the end of the weekend I knew the Illini fight song as well (I went to Illinois State).
  • These kids are fast. I knew many of them were speedy. But, EVERY single kid (except 1) Prd. 24 out of 25 kids. The weather is Tempe was ideal. But, most of these kids raced last year too and they all Prd. In fact, one of the guys ran a 33:23 off the bike for the 10k! Watching these athletes race was refreshing and inspiring! Many rode sub 1. One female rode the just short of 40k in 1.01. It was fun to watch and I could not help be so proud of these kids all day & weekend.
  • One of the girls had a bike accident the morning of the race. The kids had to ride their bikes to transition in the morning and she got her bag stuck in her spokes and flipped over her handlebars. She fell on her arms and her elbow was swollen. Thankfully, I was driving by – hoping the accident was not the U of I kids, but it was. I stopped and tried to console her – put her bike and her into my car and drove her to the race site. I assured her that it was not broken, just a strain of the tendons and while she was incredibly strong (I know she just wanted to break down and cry), she showed amazing composure. AP is a 5th year senior and swam competitively for U of I and was a butterflyer. So, she can handle pain. She raced, did awesome, Prd and was overjoyed with her race. When she got home she got X-rayed and I will be damned if she did not break her radial bone. See! TOUGH as nails these kids. WOW. SHE NEVER complained once.
  • You know what else was refreshing? These kids NEVER once compared themselves to the other kids (at least not in front of me). They were surrounded by thousands of their peers. NO mention of being fat, not eating this or that…they were so confident and comfortable in their own skin. Like I said, wise above their years. Many adult triathletes can learn from them.
  • The kids were pretty focused and reserved until post race. After the races we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for the Awards Party. I was corrected when I said it was an Awards “Ceremony.” No, no….it was most definitely a party. The kids were not SUPER interested in it but we were there and it was all you can imagine it was – it was outside too, which was just awesome. My eyes hurt from just watching some of these kids dressed up in god knows what and drinking.
  • I found that the kids are genuinely interested in triathlon life post college. Once the race was over the kids were able to relax and since they were all on CLOUD 9, they were asking me a ton of questions….How did you meet your husband? How do you have kids and race/train and work? You started in Corporate America but now work solo? They said they don’t know much about me because the focus is always on them and racing/training. So, after the pressure of their races were over, they were inquisitive. Honestly, I think they were just trying their hardest to figure out HOW in the hell someone my age has done this as long as some of them have been alive and have raced in Kona. They were interested in Kona and what it takes to qualify and go faster while not being 21 years old. I talked about balance, sacrifices and priorities as you get older, etc.
  • On the way home after the Awards “Party” on Saturday night Dan asked me if I wanted to come back to the hotel with all of them and join their “RAGE.” I looked at him and said, “Not sure how that will end up for me OR you guys.” I was afraid of what this entailed so I voted to go back to my room. They partied on. I was so exhausted I would definitely have brought down their party in many, many ways.
  • These kids can recover! They woke up on Sunday morning fresh as daisys. I, on the other hand, felt like I was hit by a truck and I did not even race. Goes to show I cannot train and party like a rock star at 43 years old, but you surely can do it at 21 years old (as we know!).

I was so proud of these kids. I got to meet some very, very smart young adults. Many are getting their MBAs, PhDs, etc. (USAT does NOT have an age limit for Collegiate Nationals – you just have to be taking classes!)….so the oldest was 25. Youngest was a Freshman. I laughed hard all weekend. I felt like my Triathlon life had come full circle. Tim Yount, who has worked at USAT for 20+ years announced the race – we had a few minutes to catch up and he said, “I remember when you were this age, Jennifer and racing….Funny how it all comes full circle.”

Yes, it is. And, I would not have it any other way. I look forward to my continued partnership with the U of I and some of these kids individually as they get ready for race Ironmans and the such this summer!!

I drove straight from Tempe to Tucson after the weekend. I am here now preparing for my Annual JHC Camp that starts tomorrow! Cannot wait – THIS is the way to live.

U of I Nats 2014


  1. wait, you have a blog?? Since when?? 😉

  2. Awesome race experience! All of those are the same reasons I love coaching college kids, for the most part they are very dedicated, passionate, and still a lot of silly fun! Congrats to all!

  3. You went back to your room?!?! Not buying it!!

  4. Ah-mazing!!! Soooo glad to read this post, for many reasons. And GLAD you had such a great time. Encouraging to read this perspective of a group of college kids.

  5. LOVE this post! Totally enjoyed reading about that weekend and can envision all of it. Especially the part about no complaining… Very nice. made me want to go to the Athletics Director at UH and see if we can’t start up a program there! :)

  6. Dont get too used to it we (I) need you here!

  7. Wow what an amazing experience! Congratulations! and how cool to see kids so motivated and appreciative, I’ve seen too many pros and elites complain about too many things or when workouts don’t go right etc. And, I have to also remind myself I’m not 25 !!

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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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Pay It Forward Winner 2014!

Every year I am really humbled by reading all the Pay it Forward entries.  I receive hundreds and to read them as they come in to my email – I swear, I have been in and out of tears for weeks.  I finally had to just file them away and then read them all at once because I was a hot mess at various times every day.

I get entries from some very amazing people.  It is good to be reminded that everyone has a story.  Everyone is so similar too and that people just want to have an opportunity to pursue their dreams and goals.   And, if I can be involved in a very small way, then, I am all in.

Determining a “winner” is really not fun.  Every year I do this I tell Jerome, “Can you work more so I can just coach pro bono??”  Someday, I promise I will do more.  But, right now, I am happy to announce the 2014 Pay it Forward Winner!

Alisa Dunlap!

Alisa had to overcome a very unfortunate 2013 season.  She was in an accident that broke part of her foot.  Then, she developed blood clots – and DVT (deep vein thrombosis).  She was so determined to not let this get in her way of competing at Ironman Arizona this past  year.  SHE did.  And, went 14:xx.

In her words:

Looking back at my other races—I don’t think I was grateful enough; not grateful for the ability to be out there, not grateful for the support I have from my husband and family and friends; not grateful enough in life. While breaking a foot and developing blood clots isn’t beating cancer or dealing with a significant loss, it was my own little wake up to start being more grateful in my life and to truly believe in my own abilities. I’m ready for 2014. My body is ready, my mind is ready but I think most importantly, my attitude is ready!

Alisa is inspiring and something about her pulled at me. (I am a huge fan of gratefulness).  In fact, my top 5 were absolutely riveting stories.  Some came from domestic abuse, some had twins or triplets and then their wife or them go ill after delivering (!!!) (soft spot for that) and some lost jobs….some recovering from horrific ailments such as cancer or MS.  I was paralyzed in my decision up until the last minute.

At the end of the day, I asked my sister and a good friend who are not triathletes to read some entries and help me narrow the top 3-5 down.  I asked non-triathletes because there would be no bias and I wanted to keep some of the entries private in our community.

I am excited to start working with Alisa!  You can follow her progress on her blog and her other social media sites:

Instagram @dunlapam0723; Twitter @dunlapa; FB @ Alisa Houghton Dunlap.

And, thanks to all who entered.  Thanks for sharing some of your very private entries with me.  They will inspire me all year as a coach & athlete to always remember — WE ALL HAVE A STORY.

Please feel free to enter for 2015 again!


  1. Congrats Alisa, you are in great hands. Cant wait to read you journey with my favorite coach!

  2. I have no doubt this was an incredibly tough decision for you. I’m still shocked that I’m in the position I now find myself. It all comes back to gratitude. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and I know that 2014 is going to be an incredible year! I look forward to working with you and all the potential that 2014 holds!

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