Sunday, October 20, 2013
When I first turned professional in triathlon in 2006, I had been accepted to the National Resident Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I was also still in the Army, but as a new member of a small unit called the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), which was for soldiers who had Olympic potential. Prior to my admittance in these programs, I was a “full time” soldier stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. I held positions as Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Assistant S-3 (Operations). This included a 14 month deployment to Baghdad, Iraq from Jan 2004 to Feb 2005. From the time I graduated West Point in 2000, to when I actually turned pro; I had qualified for my pro card every year in-between. But I always held back from taking the leap because in my mind that wasn’t what a pro looked like—having a real job living in the middle of nowhere, Texas. My Army time didn’t afford a lot extra time to train, and most of my jobs required me to be on my feet long hours, often in the heat. But when you get right down to it, all of these reasons for not going pro are excuses. The truth is the real reason I never took the plunge was I was afraid to. Professional triathletes weren’t Army Officers working long hours at Fort Hood, Texas. They lived in Colorado Springs or Boulder or San Diego and had the best facilities at their fingertips and oodles of time at their disposal. How was I going to compete with that?
Monday, April 1, 2013
In an effort to keep this blog more interesting and to keep a record of some of my past experiences, I've decided to share some of my stories. After all, it’s not all swim, bike, run in life, right? Growing up my family, mainly my mother, coined me "Sensational Jessica." However, I've come to realize some of this stuff you just can't make up and need little embellishment. This is the good, the bad, and the often ugly of Jessica. I don't know why, but this story came to mind this morning.... "Jones, you look like butt." 1996, first semester plebe year. I made it through Beast Barracks, the West Point equivalent of basic training. Back then (wow, that makes me feel old, I'm an "old grad" reminiscing about how tough the Corps used to be) the women still cut their hair to two inches above the collar. We were not allowed to use any sort of hair ties or clips, nor could we "make an adjustment" without the permission of an upperclassman. In other words, if your hair got in your face, which it inevitably did, you couldn't just use your hand to brush it behind your ear. We also still wore our socks up to our knees, and of course our shirts tucked in tightly, also called a dress off, into our shorts or pants. West Point is located about an hour from New York City and none of the barracks had air conditioning. As you can imagine, it got pretty warm, especially with the bodies constantly hustling and bustling about. Later as an upperclassman I would realize just how badly plebes smelt. They are constantly sweaty, and I swear the sweat coupled with their anxiety and general unhappiness produced the worst musk known to man. Any cadet knows what I'm talking about--probably it’s at its worst after the march back from Lake Frederick. However, that day is truly deserving of its own post. Back to the story at hand....so I'm 18 years old. I'm of similar height and weight as I am now, despite most claiming how much weight you would lose during Beast. I'd been assigned to company I-1, The Fighting Irish, with the motto, "Get Lucky!!!" During beast I had lived on the 5th floor of Eisenhower Barracks. There are 6 floors total, and I pitied the new cadets that lived on the top floor. It was bad enough constantly racing up & down 5 flights, not only because of the physical demand, but also because of the chances of encountering more upperclassmen. The faster you could get to your room and out of the critical eye of these disapproving upperclassmen the better. Imagine my surprise when I was assigned to my new academic company that I would move up to the 6th floor for the next two years. Great. How about them odds? I, along with every plebe or cadet for that matter, had a rigorous academic schedule. One of the many things that make West Point tough is that there is just not enough time in the day. Time management is essential. This semester I had classes most of the morning, formation and lunch with the rest of the Corps, a class after lunch. I would rush back from my last class, change into my cross country uniform, and rush to Arvin Gym for practice. Being late was simply not an option. There was no, "Sorry, I was a little behind." There is strict accountability and tardiness was met with demerits, walking hours on the area, and enough of these could mean expulsion. Bottom-line, you just don't show up late. So I've been trying to set the stage for this particular day. The month was August and it was still quite warm. I finished my last class of the day and I was racing back to my room to change for practice. Our first football game of the year was against Miami of Ohio. We would greet upperclassmen not in our company with, "Beat Miami of Ohio, Sir!!" or "Beast Miami of Ohio, Ma'am!!" Yeah, trying saying that a few times! I raced up the 6 flight of stairs. I'm sweaty and frazzled, my hair is in my face, and I have to pee like a race horse. I dropped my books in my room and took off pinging down the hallway (pinging is how plebes walk, imagine a race walker but with elbows locked out--pretty much like an idiot) to the "latrine." Ahhh yes, on the toilet now, upperclass can't get me here. I use this opportunity to push my hair behind my ears and wipe the sweat from my brow. I finish my business and go to tuck my shirt back in, making sure I dress it off correctly--which means a straight line with my buttons and belt, flat in the front and folded back. Here's the thing about West Point--you adapt quickly. You learn to move quickly and think on your feet while in constant chaos. It seems so ridiculous at the time, but you learn attention to detail and how to rise above stress. And if you don't learn to do this, along with many other rigors, then you don't make it. It's that simple. I think quickly if I have done everything to make it the 50 feet back to my room without being hazed. I have. I take off down the hallway and see one upperclassman. Cadet Rodriguez. Ugh. He's a cow, or a junior, and probably the meanest in the company. And I really get the feeling he doesn't like me much. But no worries, I'm squared away. I'll greet him with and a loud and thunderous, "Go Fighting Irish!!" and we will both go about our merry ways. I do just that and make it 4 steps past him just short of my room when I hear, "Cadet Jones, halt!!!" Crap. Crap!!! What did I do? I keep going over in my head and I know I'm squared away. I quickly about face, and he's walking towards me with a look of general disgust on his face. Maybe he's going to quiz me on knowledge. Boy I hope he doesn't ask me “The Days”...maybe it will be to recite the newspaper. Or it could be tomorrow’s lunch. Plebes must know the next three meals on board at all times. Just go with pizza pockets and congo bar, Jess. Or perhaps he will ask Schofield's Definition of Discipline. Oh, I hope it's that. I'm actually good at that one. He gets closer, his lipped curled up as if my general presence was offensive. "Jones, what is that in your pocket." My mind starts racing. We only have back pockets. I wasn't sure if I sat on something, rendering my uniform anything less than impeccable, thus unacceptable. I stuck to one of my four responses, "Sir, I do not understand." Rodriquez moves closer, now we are face to face, probably 6 inches separating his nose from mine while I stand at attention. "No really, Jones. What the hell is in your pocket?!" So I tell him the truth. "Sir, I do not know." Rodriguez is officially annoyed, "So use your hand and feel!!!" Keep in mind, he has to give me permission to move out of attention. I reach back and realize it's a pen. As I pinged (or is it pung?) from the bathroom it must have shimmied out of my pocket and about a half inch of the white top peeked out, of course at the precise moment I would encounter the meanest upperclassman in my company. "Sir, it is a pen." "Well, Jones, then fix it!!!" "Yes, sir." He moves in closer, head cocked and lip snarled even further. He raises his eyebrow and he looks even more disgusted with me. He's about an inch from my face and I'm bracing myself for him to lay into me. He opens his mouth and I'm surprised by flat and calm tone, as if he's letting me in on a secret that the entire Corps knows and he’s annoyed that he has to take the 3 seconds of his precious to let me in on the punch line. "Jones, you look like butt. Now get out of here." That's it? He's not going to yell at me for awhile? Or rip me a new one? Or ask how I even got into this place? Or how I’ll never make it? Or that I better get my “sh!t” together? Or that’ll he be waiting for me after practice so get ready? "Yes, sir!" I quickly acknowledge him. I about face and move out as fast as I can to my room. I get inside and can't help but smile. My hair is everywhere. I'm pimply. I'm sweaty. Yep, I look like butt. That would have hurt my feelings a few months ago. Now I'll go on to tell my teammates and we will laugh about it all afternoon. I still look in the mirror in the morning and when I look rough, like this morning and smile. "Jones, you look like butt." Thank you, Cadet Rodriquez.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
My apologizes for a tardy race report. I had heard that the soreness after your first 140.6 can be pretty rough so I assumed it was just something I had to suffer through. It wasn't until I sat at the Dr.'s office with Gwyn on Wednesday that I realized I was feeling especially bad, which I explained felt like getting hit by a truck. It finally dawned on me that maybe this wasn't post-race soreness, but something else. Sure enough, I picked up a nasty case of strep throat on the journey back to Tulsa!! Well, at least I have good timing? In any event, I wouldn't have done my race report justice as I was barely forming complete sentences. So here I sit before the kids wake to bring you up to date. Apologizes again as this could be a long one!
Saturday, August 18, 2012
It's obscenely early as I sit and wait for my plane home Tulsa, so I figured I'd be productive and knock out my race report. This weekend I had the opportunity to race another Rev 3 event, this time in The Dells, Wisconsin. Without boring you with logistical nuancies of the race, let's just say that after my Quassy fiasco I was unusually anal about my travel arrangements. I arrived to the hotel around 8pm on Thursday after encountering only a few hick-ups. I built my bike while I waited for my food to be delivered and tuned into some Olympics. Overall it was fairly uneventful, which is just great in my book! The following morning I linked up with the Rev3 crew as I really wanted to meet everyone behind the scene. I have to tell you that it was quite humbling. I feel like that saying, "they work so hard" is an understatement. By the time their boots hit the ground, it's non stop to put on not just a race, but a weekend of events for athletes and family to enjoy. And what impressed the most is the interaction within the staff; they seem more like family. I can't say enough to sing their praise. If you haven't done a Rev3 race, you are missing out plain and simple! I linked up with The Mary Miller to check out the bike course. How many blondes does it take to read a map?? Ironically we both pride ourselves on being good at directions. Turns out two blondes don't make a right. Unless that's a right turn when you should be turning left! Once we figured out the course, I was pleased that this was going to be a hard, fair course. There were two substancial climbs, with the rest being undulating hills. Also, the wind was going to pick up as the day went out, which was another element to factor in. The run course was also quite hilly, overall the course was deceptively difficult. Afterwards I had a quick pre-race interview which got me thinking even more about my race strategy. When asked about predictions, I stated that it would be foolish of me to make any. The truth is we all train hard and you just don't know what each person is coming into the race with. Some might be in a build for an iron distance, others tapered and ready to go. Some might be recovering from injury...the point is you never know, so never count anyone out because anything can happen, especially on a course like this! Once I got back I chilled back in the room with my trusty Recovery Boots until dinner. I got to catch up with my teammate Richie and his wife Melissa. I've said it before and the same applies to Richie--it's great to see nice people do well. He didn't get to this point overnight and he is a great example of years of hard work paying off! Saturday morning I met up with my other teammate Malika for my usual swim/bike/run. I had a little bike drama with my wheel rubbing, which I was stressing about. However, I looked over at Malika who calmly told me she broke her seat clamp, and would have to borrow a bike to race on Sunday. Suddenly my bike drama didn't seem so dramatic! After the pro meeting it was back to chilling, a little dinner, then an early night to get ready for an early morning. Race morning finally arrived. The hotel was walking distance to transition, so I took my time to head over there. The weather was quite cool and once I got my bike set up and warm up complete, I headed down to the swim start. I got a little worried because I felt a little too calm. So times those nerves are good to get you going yet I seemed to have none! Once the race started I immediately felt strong and was in a good draft. However, they distinctly told us to keep the buoys on our left and this draft was heading down the center of the swim course. I sited a gal to my right who was keeping the buoys on the correct line, I jumped behind her but the realized the other gals were aiming towards the very last turn around buoy, and we were on a longer course. Turns out later I was following Malika, as we were both confused at the other line. I tried to hop back with the pack but now I was gapped. Doh!!! Dumb dumb!! I stayed strong and a couple times thought I could catch back up. No bueno! I felt great and strong and kicked myself for my tactical error, but focused on minimizing the gap I created. Once out I heard 1:52 down on the leader wasn't too bad. Once I got to the bikes I focused on staying patient, trusting my training, and be confident that the girls would come back to me. I'll admit, a few times I started to worry. But finally at mild 40 I saw a speck ahead, then another at 47, then finally Malika in the final few miles. Wow, I guess it worked because a few times I worried I was out of it and now I was headed into T2 in 2nd. I ran out with Malika and got an update that Nicole was 3 min up the road. What an outstanding ride she had! My run legs felt strong, not necessarily "fast", but good enough to hold on to 2nd. Overall I was pleased with my effort. This year I've walked away from each race with one (or two) discipline that was absolutely off. I felt strong the entire day and proved myself that the work eventually pays off. Once again I have to thank my incredible sponsors and supporters! Rev3, Recovery Pump, Powerbar, Pearl Izumi, John R. Jones, PC, Kestrel, Challenge Tires, Rudy Project, Blue Seventy, and to Team Red White and Blue! Coach Kevin for his always level head and encouragement. And to my family and friends for your constant love, help, and sometimes a swift kick to my arse!!
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Buffalo Springs looked like it was not going to make it on my schedule this year. I'm focusing mainly on Rev3 events with Portland coming up after Quassy. However, I have a family reunion the week of Portland in Knoxville and logistically getting to the race and back home to Tulsa looked to be a little tougher than I first anticipated. Plus, I would have to cut my family time short and it's not very often I get to see my siblings(been 2 years since I've seen 2 of my bros) and while I love racing, I stand firm with...family first! So a week after Quassy I got to do my first century ride of the year with Tulsa Tough. I talked it over with Kevin and threw out the idea of taking a short trip to Buffalo Springs instead a few weeks later. It would be perfect because it's logistically an easy trip, plus we had a few Tulsans making the trip. I decided to throw my hat in the ring, and suddenly our Tulsa roster grew and before we knew it we were loading up the bikes on Friday to make the nearly 8 hour drive to Lubbock. This trip was also in conjunction with "girl’s weekend" with Gywnnie. This would the first time she had ever spent any extended time apart from her twin brother. To say she loved all the attention is a bit of an understatement. I have to throw a huge "THANK YOU" to my friends. I know you guys aren't completely used to 5 year old antics, so thanks for your patience the whole weekend! This race had a completely different objective for me. Yes, I always want to show up to the start line and give my very best effort. But sometimes as Professionals we can forget to enjoy the experience around us. This race I wanted to savor the experience; savor having fun with my family and friends and take a step back and remember why we get into the crazy sport to begin with. Buffalo Springs is the perfect place to do that. It just has the low key feel to it and Mike and Marti put on an outstanding race that presents little fuss going into it. Saturday rolled around and our crew made its way to the race site to check it out. We did the usually swim/bike/run and we were joined by my Mom, who drove in from Houston on Friday. We also brought the trailer bike so Gwynnie was able to go out on our pre-race spin and run with the whole gang. Huge thank you to Ray. Obviously for taking care of all of us the entire weekend, but for hauling Gwyn up and down those hills. She had a blast and looking over at her on our spin, I felt like I had to pinch myself on how lucky I am. She makes you look at the whole experience differently. When I was standing up going up a hill on the bike, she looks over at me and says, "How do you do that Mommy?" The next day during the race she hopped on the bike and started shaking the bars left and right, explaining, "This is how my Mom does it!" It's the little things that make up the good stuff in life! Joanna (a new pro in OK) and I hit up the pro meeting that afternoon. It was short and sweet, but best of all entertaining. Immediately following the meeting Gwynnie and Kasey Jacobs (Jessica's daughter) got a quick hair-do from Amanda Lovato. I joke that you can't be around Amanda without something coming out pink. The girls loved the pampering!! That evening Joanna cooked up a storm in our hotel. We were joined by Jess Jacobs and her family, along with my Dad's high school football coach, Coach Ragus and his wife Maragret. I'm sure most people know what a big deal football is in Texas. My Dad's high school team was a two time State Champion under Coach Ragus. My Dad went on to play and start for the University of Houston and was also the Captain of the team. To hear stories about my Dad's work ethic made me really proud. Also, talking with Coach Ragus and Margaret made me realize why they played such a pivotal role in my Dad's life. To say he was progressive during my Dad's high school years would be an understatement. It's amazing how in tune he is with all of athletics. In fact, they even named a Natatorium after him in Lubbock! Finally race morning came bright and early. Before I knew it we were lining up to race. The water was deemed wet suit legal and unfortunately I only have a full sleeve Blue Seventy. The wetsuit is very comfortable, but once we started swimming I realized I was just too warm. On the flip side, I finally had a great swim, catching a ride from new pro Christine Anderson who I know is a great swimmer. Unfortunately we went off course for a bit. I realized what we were doing so I yelled out to her, but she couldn't hear me. I got back on course and the paddle boarder rounded her up. By the final turn buoy she had caught back up to me and we made our way back. When we ran out of the water I realized my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest and I was completely out of breath. Yes, I had swum a bit harder than usual, but I realize now this was the first sign of me getting dehydrated despite massive amounts of fluid intake prior to the race. I was out on the bike after a quick transition. I chose a different wheel set up, opting for front and rear Zipp Firecrest 808 outfitted in Challenge Tires. Last year I used a disc, but lately I've been having a real problem with the disc rubbing my frame when I stand to climb. We are still trying to get the disc right in the "sweet spot." With all the climbs here I just wanted to put my mind at ease. I will say that the 808s felt a lot more agile cornering and climbing. However, on the flat, windy sections I was kind of wishing for my disc! Ahhh, the grass is always greener, right? I got water at every station. I diligently took my nutrition and salt. I rode in no man's land nearly the entire ride, except for the few age group men that passed me. The winds kicked up and I was ready to get off my bike in 2nd and ready to crack out a good run. I ran out of T2 and knew immediately I was in trouble. I have never felt like this. I went between wanting to throw up to pass out. I felt short of breath and had no sweat coming off my body. I focused on getting to each aid station and wanted to stop the entire run. Gwynnie was out on the course on the trailer bike cheering me out and I'd flash a smile to her each time I'd see her. Jess passed me pretty early on. I also knew there was no way I'd be running down anyone. This race became one goal...survival!! At the turn around I saw I had a nice cushion on the rest of the field, so I just tried to put one foot in front of the other. By the final 2.5 miles I thought, "I don't think there is any way I can finish this." I will say the power of the mind is incredible because I made it, and immediately went to get my first ever IV bag in a race. But let me tell you, that IV is worth its weight in gold! I felt like a million bucks shortly after! Gwyn was a little freaked out by the whole thing, but I assured her in didn't hurt. Pretty soon she was all over my while I was getting the fluids in, so she obviously got over it! We collected Duncan, Suzie, and Joanna after a brutal day. We went back to the hotel and had a birthday celebration for Suzie. We loaded up and checked out of the hotel, but had 4 hours to kill before awards. We hit up Target to shop where Gwyn exclaimed, "Where's Duncan? We lost the old man!!" Luckily we found him and headed to Starbucks where we ran into the champ, fellow Oklahoman Amanda Stevens and her awesome hubby Randy. Gwyn got a new tattoo hit and tried her hand. Thank you Amanda for letting my daughter practice on you. This is what you get for beating me!!! hahaha!! We hit up awards and then hit the road for our drive home that night. Gwyn was out within the first half hour. I was jealous!! We finally got home around 3am. A huge "thank you" again to Ray for driving the grumpy triathletes home after a really long day! This trip was one of the best I've ever had. As for the race, I'm taking home some real positives. Things are going in the right direction. I had a great swim and bike, both faster than the year before. I finally took a look at my run time and will admit that I shuddered a bit at first, but I have to be proud that I stuck it out because God knows I didn't want to! Thank you to my incredible sponsors: Rev3, Powerbar, Kestrel, Pear Izumi, Recovery Pump, Rudy Project, BlueSeventy, Challenge Tires, John R. Jones, PC and Team Red White and Blue. To Kathy at Runner's World for being one the most generous, kind hearted people I've ever met! To Coach Kevin for sticking with me, to my amazing friends for taking this trip, and to my Mom for always being such a support! Love you all! Until next time!
Monday, June 11, 2012
I'm on my trip back home to Tulsa. My adventures began on Thursday afternoon. I was due to arrive in Hartford, CT at 11pm, where I was to meet up with some more Rev3 folks for the drive to Southbury an hour and a half away. However, my connection in Dallas was delayed for 3.5 hrs because the flight had no crew. I let my travels buddies know to go ahead without me since I would be getting in so late. I called a cab service while waiting in Dallas since I figured I didn't want to be sorting that out at 2:30 am. Once I finally got in, my driver met me but he was standing with another guy. This kid was going to visit his girlfriend in Hartford, couldn't get a cab and was hoping to share my vehicle. By this point I was tired and stressed about how late I would be arriving to the hotel--the last thing I wanted to do was extend the trip another half hour. But then I felt bad (darn conscious!) and agreed while gritting my teeth wondering why the kid couldn't a. Have the sense to line up his own travel while we waited over 3 hrs in Dallas or b. Get his girlfriend's butt out of bed to come get him. What can I say, I'm a little less tolerant when tired! I finally arrive to the lovely Heritage Hotel. I get to my room and fall into bed, glancing at the clock and wincing at the sight of 4:02. Ugh. I try to sleep in and make it to around 10. I remind myself that this is more hours of consecutive sleep than I got for the entire first year of my twins' lives. I ended up doing absolutely nothing Friday besides building my bike and dinner with friends. Saturday was the usual pre race swim, bike, run and pro meeting but with the challenge of pouring rain. That evening my best friend from college drove in from NYC to watch the race. Of course we chatted a bit, then lights out at 930 in preparation for an early wake up race morning. Unfortunately the drunken wedding guests below my room decided to replace my alarm and woke me up at midnight. Looking back I should have objected right then, but kept thinking "they will leave soon." Finally a little after 2 I called the front desk, where they profusely apologized and told me that security was on their way. Apparently I wasn't the only one complaining! After getting back to sleep my alarm went off 1 hr later and I woke without my usual excitement. After reflecting on the whole weekend I realized I was just plain tired and grumpy. These feelings were temporarily masked with pre -race excitement. I knew I was coming into this race a lot fitter than a year ago, which made me really excited to see my progression. I had a great swim & bike last year & exited t2 in 5th, where I basically ran gingerly due to my soleus tear 6 weeks early. This year I was ready to run fast, and to mix up with a world championship field. It's funny how things can work out. You can have sub-par preparation (like last year) and really surprise yourself. On the flip side you can have great preparation and really surprise yourself--in not such a good way!! I started the swim and just lacked any opening speed. I felt very strong through the whole swim but missed my pack and swam a pretty lonely race. I started the bike and heard time checks throughout and was not giving any time back and closed to within 30sec of the girls I had hoped to come out of the water with. But somehow from mile 40-56 I gave up 2.5 minutes to everyone. I didn't feel bad. I actually felt quite strong. This particular part of the course is quite technical with a lot of turns making it difficult to see anyone, even if they are only 30 sec in front. I realize now how vital these visual ques are because really I was just in la-la land. Yet again why racing as a pro makes your swim position imperative! I started the run feeling strong and knew I had the run fitness to be competitive. Each mile I got closer and closer but ran out of real estate to change my position, landing in 10th. Of course I'm disappointed--not with my place but that I know I didn't have the race I'm capable of. But what I can take away from this is that I'm very strong, I just lacked that upper intensity needed to be competitive in this field. And also to be smarter with my traveling. Expect delays--don't plan on coming in late because that can quickly become tooooo late! With these women you can't give up 1%!! They truly are something else! Again, a huge thanks to my sponsors and supporters! Rev3, Powerbar, Kestrel, Pearl Izumi, Recovery Pump, Rudy Project, Challenge Tires, BlueSeventy, Team RWB, HammerHead (formerly 918xc) Bike Shop. To my coach Kevin P for helping me see the big picture. And to Jenn Delaney for making the trip and not letting me wallow. We've literally been through the best of times and worst of times--from WestPoint to Officer Basic to Fort Hood to Iraq and back. What a reminder of how lucky I am to have people like her in my life!