Growing up on a farm riding horses just outside of Alberta, Canada, professional triathlete Jenny Fletcher’s main sport was the modern pentathlon, an event inspired by the ancient Greek Olympics. Consisting of five different events--fencing, a 200m freestyle swim, show horse jumping, and a combined pistol shooting, 3,200m cross-country run event--it required most of her time to perfect the different skills necessary to compete at the highest level. The Olympics was always her goal.
After being discovered by a talent agency at the age of 15 and moving to New York City to pursue a career in modeling, she set aside her athletic ambitions, but only temporarily.
DESIRE FOR CHANGE
A decade into her modeling career, the innate desire to compete in sport came calling; spurned by getting a bike through the encouragement of one of her friends. Despite being clueless of all the details of the sport, she instantly fell in love with triathlon because of the three different events that required proficiency to succeed, much like the modern pentathlon she grew up training for.
Although she has memories of donning a bandana in T2 (transition two) while sliding running shorts on over a swimming suit, it’s those early moments that cement her dedication to the sport now.
“I had been modeling since such a young age, that I was itching for a change and a different passion. Before modeling, my passion had always been in sport, so the move into triathlon felt natural,” she said during an interview last week.
MAKING THE COMMITMENT
For a few years in her late 20s she raced off and on, mostly doing sprint triathlons (shorter races) before finally jumping headfirst into the sport by coincidence during a work trip in Miami.
“I was down in Miami modeling and I wasn’t planning to race, but ended up sitting down at this table with a few triathlete acquaintances. I had just lost my wallet on a trip to Texas and was not feeling the most inspired, but this group of people were so encouraging. We talked for a long time and they could tell I was looking for a change in my life; they wanted me to take triathlon to the next level,” Fletcher knew it was the right decision she said.
The next day was the South Beach Triathlon and with the encouragement of her newfound friends, they convinced her to sign-up to race, day of. A completely spontaneous moment that ended up being a turning point in Fletcher’s life.
“Anything I do, when I have those support teams, it just keeps me going. When people believe in you, it’s impossible to not believe in yourself.”
JUMPING TO THE PROFESSIONAL RANKS
A few years later at age 33, she got her professional triathlete license and has spent the last five years of her life building her endurance while honing her skills to take her to the next level, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
2016 saw her complete her first Ironman and earlier this year she claimed the biggest win of her career at the Israman half-Ironman, “Even though it was only a half, it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. At the end, my body felt like I had just completed a full Ironman,” she said.
With dreams of Kona in her system, she headed to Ironman African Championships in South Africa at the end of April, finishing a disappointing 17th in a stacked pro field.
“You put your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t always show on the day,” she reminisces, “It’s such a long race and sometimes all it takes is one thing to throw your rhythm off. I hit a hard bump early on in the bike leg, felt my saddle slip and over the course of the next few hours my quads just blew up, unaccustomed to the altered position.”
Halfway through the final leg, the 26.2 mile run in hot and humid conditions, Fletcher said, “I felt like quitting.”
But she didn’t.
“It’s like a battle going on in my head. I’ve only not finished one race before and that was really hard,” she quit that race so she could come back for a race only a few weeks later. “It’s just one day, onward and upward I say.”
SO CLOSE TO QUALIFYING
She came back to take 11th at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship on an off-day earlier this month, an improvement, but not good enough to punch her ticket to Kona. Regardless of how she felt on race day, she was able to appreciate the the value of her trip in other ways.
“The trip over there I met amazing people and was in another beautiful place. After a few days of recovery from sore quads and puffy ankles, I was able and to turn my mindset around as my body came around. Topical Edge definitely helped with my recovery process.”
Fletcher has learned that it’s key to just let the bad races go. Once she’s back in the water or on the bike, she remembers why she fell in love with the sport in the first place, “Triathlon is timeless,” she says, “I can compete in this sport for the rest of my life.”
Although she won’t achieve her goal to qualify for Kona in 2017, she’s already looking ahead. She’s planning a trip to Colorado to train with a group of friends to not only push herself, but the camaraderie and support she needs to up her game, specifically on the bike. “I want to be so strong on the bike, that when I get off the bike I feel as fresh as possible for the run,” she said. “Using Topical Edge in T2, although it takes maybe 30 seconds to apply, is totally worth the time for the marathon run. The last half is so much easier, there is a freshness in my legs that I’d not felt before using the product.”
“As soon as I got back from Australia I was online looking at the calendar; I’m already gearing up for bigger races in the Fall. Time always heals and I’m ready to move on to the next challenge.”
It’s never a guarantee, but when you work as hard as Fletcher does, a spot at Kona in 2018 is there for the taking. There’s no question the heart and desire is there, once she puts it all together, she’ll no doubt reach her goal of earning a spot at the most competitive triathlon in the world.
Photo by Peter Morning