Jess is a Colorado native who grew up in Grand Junction and then moved to Denver in 2009. She is currently gearing up to compete at IronMan 70.3 St George. Jess, from the ages of 4-19, competed in gymnastics up through Level 10, which is the highest level in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program, and was at one time the tallest level 10 gymnast in the country. Once her gymnastics career ended, she found that she missed the structured training and the motivation that comes from working towards a goal, and thanks to a random flyer about a local triathlon, she found an opportunity to race in her very first sprint triathlon in 2006.
Both of her parents were swimmers and swim coaches, so she knew how to swim, but never did it competitively. Her Dad was a runner, so swimming and running were in her DNA, but she had no experience biking. Looking back, she remembered thinking about her first race and that “the 12 mile bike ride sounded really far!” But borrowed her brother’s mountain bike for the race and off she went!
After doing that race, she was “bit by the Tri Bug” and shortly thereafter, she moved to Denver. She immediately joined RMTC and went to their first workout the very next day. In RMTC, she met a bunch of awesome people and was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of them were training for various iron distance races. She always thought that the IronMan was something that only the professionals on TV did and had no idea how far the distance actually was. But she was inspired to learn more about it and meet people who were doing it, and she found a new goal to focus on.
In 2010, she signed up for the Boulder Race Series which was a Sprint, Olympic, and Half-Iron distance that occurred throughout the summer. Being that the longest event in gymnastics was only 90 seconds, it was inspiring for her to learn about endurance events and to learn how to push her body to complete different kinds of challenges. She also recalled a particularly inspiring memory of racing alongside a man who had his leg amputated below the knee; this reminded her of the IronMan motto that “anything is possible.” Completion of the 70.3 distance gave her the confidence to tackle her first full 140.6 distance race at Vineman the next year in 2011.
However, a couple of years later, Jess had a major physical setback and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. But with a mindset of Relentless Forward Motion, she was eventually able to continue to train and race. See her IronMan Minute Story
This led to her most memorable triathlon moment which was at IronMan Arizona in 2016. Due to her health setbacks, her goal became to simply get to the start line. Throughout her training, she really learned to listen to her body. This meant that training started very gradually with slow walks around the park which eventually turned into running, then she gradually built up to swimming, biking, and running longer distances. It wasn’t until a couple of months before the race that she actually believed that racing and finishing was a possibility.
Though she thought just getting to the start line was a huge task, she was faced with multiple challenges both before and during the race. Two weeks prior to the race she got into a minor car accident, but it sent her neck into spasm. On the eve of the race, with her neck in spasm, she wasn’t sure what the day would bring, but she knew she was going to give it her best.
Race day came, and she survived the swim by breathing to one side only. However, the bike presented additional challenges as she ended up getting 5 flats in the first 12 miles! But with a lot of support and eventually a new wheel from the race support team, despite the first 12 miles taking almost 3 hours, she was able to finish the race. It was a long day, but she not only made it to the start line but the finish line as well. Though it wasn’t her fastest IronMan, it was by far the one she is most proud of.
Her most recent race was IronMan Chattanooga in 2019. And with races canceled last year, she spent last summer enjoying long road rides with friends in the beautiful Colorado mountains while tracking her progress with her new Power Meter from RMTC Friend POWER METER CITY.
This year she has gotten into a steady, consistent training plan and is looking forward to being able to race again. Her first race is IronMan 70.3 St George, where she’s excited to use her new ROKA wetsuit for that chilly swim.
Her parting words were to remind us all to find joy in the training process to remember your WHY.