Jessica Deree

Jessica Deree on the run at 2014 TriRock San Diego, the first Age Group win of her career.

I had the pleasure recently of sitting down, 6 feet apart of course, and talking triathlon with TCSD member Jessica Deree.  Jessica is an amazing athlete and a great ambassador for TCSD.  I predict her story will inspire you to go just a bit further in your next workout. 

Craig: What sports did you do as a child? 

Jessica: Growing up in Massachusetts, I did seasonal sports as a child.  I played soccer and softball for a season and hated them both.  I would ski throughout the winter, but I really had an undeniable love for the water. I would swim all summer and go to the YWCA/YMCA during the winter.  I started swimming for school and club teams at about the age of twelve and began to swim year-round at that point. My sister was a breast stroker and I naturally wanted to follow in her footsteps.  I initially started as a breast stroker and qualified for YWCA Nationals at the ages of 13 and 14 in the 100-yard event but wasn’t fast enough to place. I went to high school in 1994-1998 and continued with breaststroke at the start but I really fell in love with the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard individual medley (IM) and the IM become my favorite event.  I qualified for sectionals and states each year in the breaststroke and the individual medley. I placed in the top ten at sectionals in my last two years of high school in those events but not very high at states.  After high school I went to the University of Miami in Florida.  They were a division one school and were very, very good at the time. I knew if I had any chance to walk on there, it would take a lot of work.   At that point I really didn’t have the drive or the motivation to put the work into swimming, so I decided to focus on academics instead since I had an academic scholarship, and I really wanted to make sure that I got into medical school.  During my college years, Miami had a smaller “junior club team” which was kind of like a master’s team but only for college kids and I did that for a couple of years and really enjoyed it since it was a low stress environment.

Craig: When did your running career get started? 

Jessica: To be honest, I disliked running growing up.  I avoided it at all costs and would only do it when it was necessary for my job as a lifeguard during high school summers. When I moved to San Diego in 2002, I started sporadically running a couple times a week only because it was the most time efficient. I was working between 80-100 hours per week as a surgical resident and did not have any time to go swim somewhere.

When I completed my surgical residency in 2009, I started my job at Kaiser Permanente and my work hours dropped drastically. With a lot more free time, a coworker of mine, Jeffrey Farrier, was training for a half marathon and asked if I was interested.  I was not interested until he told me it was in Las Vegas and it started at midnight at Area 51. I thought this sounded really cool and to be honest, who doesn’t like a reason to go to Vegas? So, I took up an online training plan and maybe completed about half of it. I “ran” the Extraterrestrial Half marathon in August of 2010 and had a fun time doing it, despite having to walk the majority of the last 4 miles. I found a real inner peace running out there in the dark and a camaraderie with random strangers, all followed by the joy and satisfaction of the finish line. I was pretty much hooked on running and racing after that event and started to run on a more regular basis. I would race any distance I could find in San Diego on the weekends. I think the fact that I could see myself improving with more consistent training was really rewarding.  I ran my first marathon, the Surf City Marathon, in 2011 and it took me about five and a half hours. My friend Jeff Farrier ran the marathon as well. He was and continues to be a great mentor of my running career. Since this time period I have run 90 half marathons and 45 marathons in slightly under a decade and have covered about 30 states. I qualified for Boston in 2016 with a PR of 3:38, taking almost two hours off my first marathon time.  My eventual goal would be to run a marathon and a half marathon in every state, but I have put that on hold for now to pursue triathlon full time.

Craig: What was your first triathlon experience like? 

Jessica: After running my first half marathon, my coworkers at Kaiser said to me, “Well you can swim right? You should try a triathlon”.  So, I looked online and noticed that the San Diego TriRock 2010 sprint race was about 5 weeks away, so I signed up, not really knowing anything about the sport. I was the epitome of a deer in headlights, a true beginner.  I figured I could wing the swim since it was only 500 meters.  The only problem was that I did not own a bike, nor did I know how to really ride one!  So, I remember going to a bike store and buying an aluminum road bike and a kit off the rack. When the employee asked me if I wanted to test ride it, I told him I didn’t know how so he put me in the parking lot where it was safe.  I ended up hitting one of the building walls since I didn’t know how to turn. He sold me clips that day and shoes as well.  He was obviously delusional. I also bought these cool plastic clips on things that go around clip in bike pedals, so they were like standard bike pedals and used those with my running sneakers until I learned how to clip in safely.  This took months by the way, well after my first race experience.

On actual race day, I was nervous as heck, but they had a rock band out on a boat in the middle of the swim, and I thought this was the coolest thing ever.  As far as the swim went, I did not understand why everyone was wearing wetsuits.  I just thought they assumed the water was cold. I came out of the swim at the top of the field and thought to myself, well this is going to be easy. Flash forward to the bike where I dropped to the almost bottom of the pack, but I was having a blast. I was baffled at the bikes whizzing by me with the aero bars, and the fact that people could actually grab and drink from water bottles while they were riding.  I didn’t even have a bottle cage on my bike at that time. The run was a sufferfest for sure, but I had a smile on my face the entire time. I finished in the bottom quarter of the age group, but I was completely hooked.

Craig: What is it about triathlon that intrigues you so much?

Jessica: I think triathlon became an obsession in the early years for me for two main reasons. One, it reminded me of competing in the individual medley event during my swim career, since you had to excel in multiple strokes rather than just mastering one.  Second, the sport was completely foreign to me and I wasn’t good at it when I started out, it was the ultimate challenge on both a mental and physical level.  Triathlon is such an interesting sport. It’s not just a swim, bike, and a run.  Being able to race multiple sports in one day is appealing, but there are so many other aspects of the sport to learn and grow upon that I don’t think you can ever actually master it all. This leads to endless ways to work on and improve one’s performance.  Whether it’s the streamlining the organized chaos of the transitions, fine tuning nutrition, mastering the bike fit, improving running mechanics, or experimenting with different styles of training periodization, there is always a way to better yourself.  It’s an opportunity for endless learning and I really like that.

Craig: Your focus has really been long course racing.  Why do you love the ultra-distances so much? 

Jessica: I think for me, long course racing is more of a mental sport since you must deal with the ups and downs of the day. You must learn how to cope with the low points and adapt either your pace, nutrition, or just your general attitude. There is a lot more strategy and planning involved in long course than say in a sprint where one wrong move or a flat takes you essentially out of the entire race. That’s why I don’t really like short course racing, its over too fast and you don’t get the time to work through any bumps in the road that are thrown at you. I moved into long course racing quickly, I did my first full Ironman in 2012 in Panama City, Florida. Since then I have done roughly twenty 70.3 races, twelve 140.6 races, and four Ultra triathlons which are defined as anything over the 140.6 distance. I have done Ultraman three times, where the total distance is 321.6 miles, and was the female champion in Florida in 2016. I just completed and won the overall title at the 2020 Double Anvil in Florida, which was 281.2 miles. 

As I progressed to longer and longer races my coach and I discovered something very interesting about my specific performance. I am definitely not the fastest person out there, but I don’t really slow down as the length of the race increases and I don’t fatigue as fast as the typical triathlete. Normally people will get slower on the bike and run from the half Ironman to an Ironman distance.  For me, my sprint bike and my 112-mile bike paces are within less than one mile per hour of each other.  I am probably one of the only people you will meet that has an Ironman PR (11:09) that is faster than if you double my 70.3 PR (5:33).  I’m a zone two all day kind of racer. We have an ongoing joke that I am more like a pack mule than a thoroughbred horse.

Ultra triathlon is the first type of race that I felt has pushed me toward any type of physical limit, although I haven’t quite hit it yet.  There are some amazing isolated moments during those long days where it is just you and your brain. I have had some of the most enlightening moments of personal inner reflection during those times, and this is unique to the long race experience. The other unique part of Ultra triathlon is the small athlete pool, so you really get to know a lot of the other participants on course during the race as well as their support crews. Everyone is there for the common goal of finishing and helping each other is the norm rather than the exception.  There is no ego there, no prize money, no notoriety to be claimed.  Instead, there is a special bond that form when you are racing alongside the same people for a number of days.  They see you at your best and your absolute worst.  I have formed really some deep connections with my fellow racers, crew, and staff over my career and these have become some of my most cherished friendships  We call this Ohana, and it’s what makes these races so special.

Craig: Congratulations on being the overall champion at the Florida Double ANVIL Triathlon.  You beat everyone, including all the men!  And you even set the course record!  What was this race like for you? 

Jessica: The Double Anvil is part of the USA Ultra Triathlon Association, an organization dedicated to races beyond the Ironman distance.  For the Double Anvil, it is a continuous race.  The 4.8-mile swim consists of 12 laps of an out and back lake swim marked by buoys, a 224-mile bike of 37 (plus a little extra) laps of a 6 mile out and back course, and a 52.4 mile run on a 1-mile loop.  With each lap you go through an athlete village where you are free to have whatever you need to complete the race. The race does not have aid stations, you must bring everything you might need, including crew.  The total distance is 281.2 miles, equal to 2 Ironmans.  The time cut off is 36 hours, but once the race begins, the clock continues even if you decide to rest, go to the bathroom, eat, etc.  It took place in Clermont, Florida, just outside of Orlando. We started the morning of Friday, March 13th.  Luckily, the race was allowed to proceed since the COVID restrictions on that day still allowed gatherings under 250 people in Florida. It wasn’t until the day after the race ended that they closed the state park where the race was being held.

The swim was in beautiful Lake Louisa.  We had flat conditions and a perfect temperature that day.  Thankfully the resident alligator that lives in that lake decided not to make an appearance.  I swam in a sleeveless wetsuit. I find for these longer swims the sleeveless helps keeps the shoulders loose.  There was an inflatable aid station raft at the turn around buoy so you could stop for nutrition whenever you wanted. I ended up stopping every 2 laps for about 15-30 seconds each time. I was really happy with my swim and clocked a 2:12 putting me in first out of the water by a couple of minutes.

For the bike since it was a six-mile loop, you cycle through the crew area every 20 minutes.  When you hit this area, my friends resembled a NASCAR pit crew.  They spaced themselves about 20 feet apart.  The first would give me a water bottle without a top so I could dump water on myself.  The temperature reached a high of 88 degrees that day. I would grab food from the second person, and discard bottles at the third all without stopping. It was pretty fun. One of the questions I get a lot is if I was bored due to the looped format.  I actually really love loop courses and it did not feel monotonous at all, it felt more and more familiar as the race elapsed, so I had small little areas on the course to look forward to like certain trees and signs.  There were also great volunteers to chat with and all the athletes would wave to each other and were very encouraging.  Since I was on the bike for quite a while, I would hit my lap button every time I came through the electronic counter and then my goal would be to try and get within 30 seconds of the last lap I did. It became kind of a mental game for me to pass the time.

Despite all the good things I remember, I had my first low point during the bike leg.  At mile forty of the bike, around the peak of the heat, one of my bottles tasted very dilute so I am not sure what had happened to it. I almost instantly bonked and started hallucinating. I could see little candy cartoon M and Ms in the road like the ones on the commercials and was afraid I was going to run them over. Seriously!! I then realized I still had 180 miles of biking left and started overthinking and panicking.  I told my pit crew I felt very confused.  They made me take a salt tablet “every 10 minutes until they (The M and Ms) were gone”. It took 4 salt tabs, but I was feeling great by the time I saw them on the next loop. They then modified my sodium intake schedule, and all was good for the rest of the race. I think I took a total of 45 salt tabs for the race if that gives you any perspective.  I never unclipped from my bike for the entire 224 miles, but I did have to make about 5-6 non rolling stops to put more bike lube on. I would definitely have to say that the hardest mental part was sitting on that bike seat for 12+ hours. I really wanted to get off.  I had to ride about 2 hours in the dark with the Florida bugs, and I was very much over it.  I was fortunate enough to extend my lead over the field to about an hour and had the fastest bike split of the day, at sub-thirteen hours.

On the run, since it was a one-mile loop in the dark, I saw my crew every 10 minutes or so, and I had a music playlist they were blasting through a speaker which really helped as a distraction.  The run also gave me the opportunity to run and chat with other athletes to pass the time.  My second lowest point of the race occurred at about 9 miles into the run.  I really started having abdominal cramps and could not take in any more solid food, but I still had a long way to go.  I can usually eat like a garbage disposal during the run, so I didn’t know what I was going to do.  My coach and crew did a great job of watching fluid and sodium levels and getting me through the entire run only on ginger ale, salt tabs, chewable tums, coca cola, and chicken broth with pretzels soaked in it so they weren’t solid anymore.  Mind you I hate pretzels, but it was working so I went with it.  Mentally, I would say the 2 hours before dawn were hard, as well, because that’s when you’re tired and just really need the sun to come up since I was at miles 30-40. You must try hard not to think about the fact that there is still 12-20 miles to go because those thoughts can break your spirit.  I was also not allowed by my coach to sit in any chair or stop forward progress during the run (aka beware the chair); I sat on a cooler twice for about a minute each time to change my sneakers.

During the last 10 miles of the run, I was told I had the overall win in the bag.  The female course record was also in my crosshairs, but I had to pick up the pace. Easier said than done after 23 hours of racing. I did shave about ninety seconds off each mile until the finish.  I completed the race in 25:16 and took the female course record by about thirty minutes.  The finish of this event was something I will never forget. The sun was up, and they allow your crew to accompany you for the last mile of the run.  You get to run the final tenth of a mile with your country’s flag as they play the national anthem for each finisher.  I was crying by this point. Once all the hugs were completed, you get a very heavy hammer and must hit an Anvil.  I was supposed to hit the Anvil twice, but I was so tired the hammer bounced the second time and made a third sound, and they were joking that I owed them another 140.6 miles.  The race director, Steve Kirby, really put on a top-notch event and made everyone feel like family. I cannot say enough nice things about him.  There was an awards banquet the following day at a nearby golf course. It was nice to see all the racers showered and in normal clothes reminiscing about what we all just went through.

A lot of people are curious on how to train for an event like this.  My physical training was not much different than usual long course training as far as the setup of a standard week, it was just that everything was longer in duration and lower in intensity.  My long swims would be about 8000 yards rather than 5000, it was usually split into 1000-yard sections, with my other swims during the week were about 4000 yards. This helped me mentally get ready for the loop course.

My long bikes would be 150 miles – all trainer mind you- at race wattage without breaks, my three “short rides” during the week were 2-3 hours.  So, if anyone else has done 150 on the trainer, you know this mentally will drive you crazy, but you just must commit to sitting there all day.  I think my max week I biked 18 hours, most of it before or after work.

I actually had a knee injury that bothered me most of training, so I backed off on the run mileage quite a bit to let it heal. This was very hard for me because I really wanted to get long runs done but my coached pulled them all off the schedule, so mentally that was very hard on me.  My longest run going in was only 15 miles (eek) and that was only once. All the rest were between 8 and 12 and they were almost all set up as walk-runs. Luckily by race day I didn’t have any knee issues, so the plan worked.

The other question I get a lot is how truly painful is it to stay up and race for twenty-five hours in a row.  To me, that was the easy part. When I was a surgical resident in training, it was before the work hour restrictions so I would work up to 100 hours a week with very little sleep.  I would stay up 24-36 hours at least once a week, and the longest I stayed awake was 40 hours without any nap.  So, I am very aware of how truly awful staying awake that long feels on the body — mentally I had an edge on everyone else in that regard.  That being said, the hour before dawn always sucks but once the sun comes up there is a renewed energy in everyone which helps.

Craig: What have been some of your favorite destination races?

Jessica: I think traveling for races is one of the best perks! My first race ever was a destination race in Las Vegas.  I’ve been to a number of amazing places both in and out of the United States that I probably wouldn’t have visited if it wasn’t for the sport. I will be very clear that I’ve never had a particularly great destination race result because I am much more into enjoying the trip and the experience.   The race is secondary to the travel experience for me. 

My favorite destination marathon race was the 2013 Leading Ladies Marathon in Spearhead, South Dakota. This is a very small, women’s only marathon with about 150 competitors through a canyon surrounded by the Black Hills. It was absolutely serene and breathtaking. Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, Sturgis (the motorcycle spot), and the town of Lead are all within a short drive from the race site and are great tourist destinations.

My favorite triathlon destination race in the United States by far was Alaskaman in 2017. This was a self-supported full Ironman distance that ran point to point from Seward to Girdwood, Alaska. I went for the inaugural year after I was lucky enough to snag a lottery spot.  This was, by far, the hardest one-day triathlon event I have ever done. It involved a 2.6-mile swim with a 52 degree start temperature that dropped to 44 degrees mid-swim due to glacial run off. The bike was 114 miles down Seward Highway with about a 4000-foot elevation gain and was beautiful. I had to stop for moose traffic at one point which was awesome. The run was the icing on the cake of that day. It started off reasonable, but the last 7 miles of the run are an up, down, and back up Mt. Alyeska, a ski resort, totaling 5000 feet of elevation gain. Due to the rugged conditions, steep terrain, and threat of bears, you were required to have a run pacer with you for the last 10 miles. I could think of no one better to accompany me for this journey than fellow TCSD member, Bessy Leszczynski. We had so much fun that day even though I was riding the struggle bus pretty hard.  Some parts were so steep that you had to use chains on the side of the mountain to help keep the forward progress going.  Bessy did an awesome job keeping me motivated and keeping the bears away by ringing bells and singing. We also had some time to sight see and hike the glaciers before the race.  Sadly, Alaskaman has been discontinued due to low race numbers so I was one of the few fortunate ones to experience it.

My favorite race experience outside of the United States was definitely the infamous Challenge Roth in 2016. This was a truly epic race, with perfect conditions, and it was the year Jan Frodeno broke the record. The course is packed with over 200,000 spectators that cheer you from the start of the swim in the canal, through the countryside bike course with the infamous Solarberg Hill, and the flat run that ends with a stadium finish. I feel like this race should be on every triathlete’s bucket list, you feel like a celebrity with all the fanfare and unwavering support from the crowds.  It’s also the only race I’ve ever seen a Bier garden at registration, and I took full advantage of that. I extended this trip a few days to sight see in Berlin and Munich to eat and drink some more.

Craig: The TCSD is run by volunteers.  How have you served as a volunteer for the TCSD and how has that enriched your membership experience?

Jessica: I started volunteering a few years ago but was sporadic about it. I really enjoyed giving my time at the beginner triathlon races and as a swim buddy.  I think it’s pretty cool to watch people who aren’t familiar with the sport as they shake off the nerves and just have fun. Plus, there are a lot of tips and tricks you can give them to make a huge impact, like how to rack your bike or set up gear correctly. I know when I was starting out, a smile and some help from a volunteer really worked wonders and put me at ease.  The fact that I now can pay that forward is very gratifying.  Since I am so comfortable in the water, if I can make another athlete enjoy the swim well then, I’ve done my job. 

This past year I really jumped on the volunteer train, working with Steve Fink and helping with registrations for the aquathlon series and a couple of the duathlons. Trying to get 200 people registered and chip ready in about 45 minutes is really hard work but totally worth it. Plus, I get to meet new and old triclub members of all ages this way.  Hopefully, I plan to do this again this year (COVID permitting of course).

If a member is reading this and hasn’t gotten out there and volunteered at least once, DO IT! You will love it!

Craig: What are your favorite benefits of TCSD membership? 

Jessica: One of the best perks would definitely have to be the large number of races we have the opportunity to attend.  Since these races are low key and FREE, it is great to see athletes of all levels there.  It’s a great venue to learn from those more experienced and for others to fine tune some aspects of the sport that are not practiced on a regular basis, like transitions. The fact that there is no pressure or time cut offs just makes the whole atmosphere welcoming and fun. Plus, if you have a bad day, it’s totally OK.  There is still finish line food for you at the end. I think another perk of these races are the chance to try something new like a duathlon or an aquathlon without having to pay for an actual race.  The aquathlons are probably my favorite summer races. There are minimal equipment needs, you don’t have to bring your bike, and you get to watch the sunset and eat pizza, all while you get in a nice workout. They really can’t be beat.

That being said. I think the most valuable asset of this triclub would have to be its active members. I have met some of my very good friends through participation in the events. When I first started to be interested in triathlon in 2011, I went to one of the beginner’s meetings and was welcomed with open arms. Since then, between the volunteer opportunities, races, and monthly meetings, I continue to make great friends along the way.

Also, can we talk for a minute how fortunate we are to have Bob Babbitt in our triclub and at the monthly meetings?  We get the privilege to attend the interviews of some the top athletes in all distances of triathlon.  I have an ongoing joke with my friends that I will feel like I really made “it” in the Ultra triathlon world if I get interviewed by Bob. I think I will need to win a few more races though… LOL.

Craig: What are some of the funny things that have happened to you as a triathlete and what is 1 of your racing quirks?

Jessica: When I was a beginner triathlete in 2014, I qualified for Age Group Nationals and because I knew so little about bikes at the time, I raced the whole Olympic bike distance with my brake rubbing really hard against my wheel. I think the forty-kilometer bike took me almost 2 hours and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought I just really sucked compared to everyone else. It wasn’t until I dismounted, my bike immediately stopped short and I fell over did I figure it out.  I definitely did not get any bonus points for that dismount. I came in second to last in my age group that day, but it was still a great event.

I’ve also had my fair share of not being able to find my bike in T1 probably like everyone else. Not until this past year did, I have a T2 problem. At Ironman Arizona in 2019, I was having a pretty perfect race and ran into T2 feeling pretty great and was set up to go sub-11 hours which was my goal for the race. Normally, I am very speedy at transitions and have it down to a science but as I was putting my shoes on, one of my good friends I met at Challenge Roth came in. We hugged it out and off I went on the run. It took about a mile to realize I only had one sock on for the marathon.   I tried to tough it out until about mile 9 but the blisters were getting intense. I knew if I didn’t do something, I might not be able to even finish the run so I stopped every three to five miles or so and switched the sock from one foot to the other so I could give each foot a small break.  My feet were hamburger by the end of the marathon, and I missed my goal time by nine minutes, but you live, and you learn. 

I have one racing quirk that I am pretty well known for.  In Ironman distance races, I always brush my teeth during mile one of the run.  I always have one of those wisp toothbrushes in my T2 bag, the one with the preloaded toothpaste, so when I am done putting my run gear on, I just pop it in my mouth and go. I usually wait until my heart rate is in check and then I brush my teeth and get all the slimy sugary film out of my mouth.  The backside of the toothbrush has a toothpick edge so if I have any nasty blocks or bars stuck in my teeth I can get it out. I toss the toothbrush at the first aid station and rinse my mouth with water, and I am good as new. Don’t knock it until you try it, the change to mint taste is really refreshing on a long Ironman day.  It has become a tradition between my friends to always try and get a picture of me brushing my teeth at different races. I think I have four or five of those pictures by now. In Ultra racing, I always brush my teeth about a mile or 2 from the finish line.  There are so many people you want to hug and spend time with, at least I can have nice smelling breath!

Craig: Who have been some of the most influential people in your life that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

Jessica: I think this is a tough question since I think anyone you personally choose to spend time around influences the person that you are and become. From an athletic standpoint, my earliest mentor was my high school coach, Jim Medeiros. He had also coached my sister 5 years prior, so I knew him for about a decade. He taught me the value of hard work in achieving my goals, and the importance of giving my all at every practice so I could reach my potential during the early formative years. 

In the past five years, I have been lucky enough to have two great mentors that have shaped and molded me. The first is Hilary Biscay. For those that don’t know Hilary, she is a former Ultraman World Champion and the one of the most prolific iron-distance competitors on the professional women’s racing circuit, having completed over 60 Ironman triathlons during her career. She has always been a sounding board for my triathlon dreams and has really kicked my booty past points I didn’t think were physically possible at her training camps. She is also the co-creator of the team I race for Smashfest Queen. This has to be the most supportive, humble, kick ass group of women I have ever had the opportunity to race with and be supported by.

The other mentor is my coach and friend, Chuck Kemeny, who works at Life Sport coaching. He was an All American swimmer and holds the world record for Ultraman. He coaches all distances, but his wheelhouse is Ultra Triathlon racing. Chuck lives in Florida and, despite the time change and distance, we converse daily about my training and his support of my dreams is endless. He has really taught me importance of life balance when it comes to large blocks of training and to not sweat the small stuff. He truly understands that when work or family is stressful that the training will have to be flexible and may need to take a back seat.  I’ve learned so much from him about triathlon, nutrition and mostly the importance of having a well-balanced life where triathlon is not the end all be all of things.

Craig: If you could waive a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you change? 

Jessica: Great question. First, I would bring back the mass swim start.  This was one of my favorite times in Ironman, treading water before the race start with a bunch of nervous athletes making small talk and telling jokes about peeing on each other. I loved listening to the national anthem, hearing the boom of the cannon, and swimming through a jungle of arms and legs.  Now, you are packed in a corral like sardines and the cannon and its significance is somewhat lost. Also, I think it was a great way to warm up before the actual swim got underway, you could at least get your heart rate a little elevated unlike the staggered starts of today.  The last advantage was knowing exactly where your competition was on the bike and run. You could tell exactly where you and your competitor’s places were in the race and what you needed to do to make up a couple positions in your age group or to hold someone off. Now you must get information from friends and the tracker which isn’t the most reliable. It takes away from a lot of the actual competition.

The other major change I would make to triathlon is to make it more affordable and hopefully more accessible. For someone that is just starting out in a career, those with children, or the burden of student loans, it is very difficult to take up this sport between the price of registrations and the necessary equipment. I think a lot of people are intimidated by the cost of some the bikes and running shoes that we see at races, not to mention potential travel and bike transport. This is one of the reasons I think our triclub is so great, you can race for free in an atmosphere that is opposite of elitist.

Craig: What are your future triathlon goals? 

Jessica: With the future of triathlon this year in the face of COVID-19 kind of up in the air, I am not sure.  I am scheduled for Ironman Coeur D Alene 70.3 at the end of June as an incentive to start my training back up this year after the Double Anvil. It still has not been cancelled but I am anticipating that this race will not happen. My main goal race for the year is Ultraman World Championships in Kona, HI in late November. I had an unfortunate DNF there due to wind conditions on the bike in 2017 and am ready to finally get that box checked. Ultraman is an ultra-distance triathlon of 321.6 miles where you basically race around the entire perimeter of Hawaii. Unlike the Double Anvil, it is split into three days since the race is on open roads, thus eliminating riding at night. Day 1 is a 6.2-mile swim and 91-mile bike. Day 2 is a 171 bike and the third day is a 52.4-mile run. I will be doing Ironman Chattanooga as a tune up training race prior to Ultraman Worlds since Chattanooga is known to be hot and humid.

I also have my eye on some of the more extreme triathlons like Celtman and Norsemen if I can get in. I like the challenge and struggle against mother nature much more than I like competing against other people. I enjoy races with lower participant numbers where everyone has a common goal of finishing. This way you can work together and make friends along the way.

Long term, I am tinkering with the thoughts of a triple or quintuple Ironman distance where you race one Ironman distance (140.6 miles) per day for either 3 or 5 days respectively. I think for races over 2 days I like the options of sleeping but the Triple Anvil is not out of my sights either. I think after I race in Hawaii this year, I will make a final decision as to what kind of torture sounds more fun going forward.

Craig: Jessica, thank you so much for sharing your story.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you.  TCSD is proud to count you among our many great members.  Good luck achieving all your goals. 

Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or