If you have the privilege of knowing my good friend Jennifer Veak, you know her energy is very infectious.
Jen has a knack for getting people to reach out in fitness endeavors in ways that folks never thought they could (For example, I competed in my first triathlon with Jen). It wasn’t until this year that she opted to put herself to a physical ultimatum – the Half-Ironman event.
After testing the waters in a variety of sprint and Olympic distance events, Jen decided it was time to do a Half-Ironman. She opted for the Pigman Half-Ironman in Palo, Iowa. She and her friend Heather Myer-Davis began training early this year for the Aug. 17 race. I see Jen probably four days a week, so she is not lying when she tells you that she’s up at 4 a.m. most days preparing and training.
She and her support team traveled the day before the race to Cedar Rapids. Loaded with bikes, goggles, wetsuits, shoes, gels and other gear, Jen and Heather watched the Olympics as they waited in anticipation for the race. “I was still a bundle of nerves when I woke up that day. I had to tell myself, ‘Settle down, Jen. This is what you’ve trained for.’” Jen’s husband Ed had given her a wetsuit for her birthday, so she was excited to reach the race site and find the water temperature at 77 degrees – just enough to allow the suits for use in the race!
Even though she stood with 700 people at the start of the race, she felt lonely. The threat of the swim in a triathlon can be described as “waiting in fear” because of the mob scene that ensues in open water. But with a “time trial” start, every person started singly every 10 seconds as opposed to a group start. “I could actually breathe during the first 10 minutes of a triathlon event and this made me feel calm and comfortable with long, lean and smooth strokes,” she said. The best thing about a triathlon is exiting the water, but you have to consider that 56 miles on a bike and 13.1 miles on foot still await you. But Jen was up to the task. “The bike went well, but I wanted to get off at mile 36. After eating a peanut butter sandwich and a gel, I felt better, but I was dreading the run,” she said. “You should try eating a peanut butter sandwich on a bike sometime!”
It was warm by the time the run approached and fatigue eventually set in, but Jen is not one to give up and she forged onward. “The sun was beating down. There were hills and I had to walk some,” she said. But there were little details that helped push her along. She stopped at each aid station for water and gel. She stuffed ice down her sports bra and listened as the cubes “clinked” together. It’s the little things that keep you moving forward in a grueling event like this. “When I heard the announcer at the finish, I thought, ‘I’m almost done; just get done,’” Jen said. “So I did.”
After six hours and 15 minutes, Jen completed the race. She was thrilled. Believe it or not (I do because I saw Jen very shortly after the event), she was back to her normal self right away. “After two hours, I was back to myself again.”
When she finished, she thought, “never again.” But “never again” is not permitted in Jennifer Veak’s psyche. Now, you just need to ask her, “When again?” “I’m ready to start training for the 2009 race now,” she will answer.
I’ll be taking the next few days off for the holiday. If you think of any other individual inspiring stories you’d like to share, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll write about it.