This is the second installment of my series on Team USA members. I suspect there may be a lot more, as TeamUSA people tend to be interesting. This story is so unique that it deserves its own blog post.
Before ever meeting Jenna Hay, I met her mom and dad. Her parents were travelling with her as her support staff. Jenna was a recent college grad (like, in the last few weeks). Her trip from Duathlon Nationals (Long Course) to Worlds has already been published by local TV in Dallas. I met her in Zofingen, but not until I first met and had breakfast with her parents. They were both proud of their daughter and were excited to be watching her compete on Duathlon’s biggest stage.
Two days before the race, a group of 30 of us took a test ride on parts of the course. Jenna, another young man named Bryce (no photo) and I did the entire 50km loop. Although Bryce and I had nice aero bikes, Jenna was riding a road bike and was happy to do so. Her advice for newbies included, “hold off on buying all of the fancy equipment. It is 100% the athlete that wins races, not the bike, or aero helmet, or fancy clip-in shoes. Before dropping tons of cash, make sure multisport is something you are passionate for and want to pursue.”
When I asked Jenna what goes on inside her head during a long distance event, she offered some thoughtful advise. She shared, “I never consider myself to be suffering during a race. Even when I am in pain, being smothered by the heat, or reaching a wall in my strength I am still having the time of my life. I love racing, and it’s hard to be sad when you’re doing something you love! But when the going gets tough, I think about friends and family. I have been blessed in my life to know people who inspire me to push myself, whether it is because they have forced me to or because they have set a wonderful example. I am also a fairly imaginative person, so entertaining myself during the long runs and bike rides is not too hard. I typically imagine myself being cheered on as I cross the finish line, and if I’m feeling really loopy, I’ll imagine myself in funny situations. That has caused me to burst out laughing in the middle of a race, which definitely freaks out those around me. You could say it’s a race strategy! The final method I use to keep a positive attitude is to smile. Spectators love to see a competitor, someone who should be miserable and exhausted, jogging by with a huge smile and pep in their step. I love waving and joking around with people watching the race. Making them smile makes me happy, which makes it easier to run through discomfort.”
The ladies start the course an hour ahead of the boys, preventing a lot of log jams on the course. After the race started, I didn’t see Jenna until the final run was nearly over, and the rain was pouring down. She had a big smile on her face and laughed out loud. She had a great 150km bike and was enjoying the final run, as best as her body would let her.
After my race was over, and I took a warm epsom salt bath to ease my muscle pain and headed back to the stadium. As Jenna entered the stadium, the crowd roared like it had for no other competitor up to that moment. Her smile and look of happiness were compelling. People naturally love Jenna. At the awards ceremony when she was crowned World Champion for the women’s Under 25, you could only sense that there is a lot more racing ahead of Jenna.
After the event, I strongly recommended that she reach out to Kristen Armstrong about learning road cycling from the best. America needs a new Elite cyclist to take up the torch as best in the World, and Jenna has it in her to be that girl.
Image…all at 23 years old.