I have had the extreme pleasure to be working with Jennifer Harrison as my triathlon coach since the beginning of May. Strangely enough, the connection was made through my sister who ran cross country with Jennifer in high school and graduated a year behind me. Though I knew who she was I didn’t know her personally back then so this has been fun making a connection from the old days with someone as passionate about triathlons as I am. The last 60 days have proved to be some of the most beneficial training weeks I have had preparing for the Louisville Ironman this upcoming October. I thought it appropriate that I introduce her to the dEVOLVE Nation and let her share with us why she is so driven and subsequently such an awesome and accomplished coach and athlete.
Name: Jennifer Harrison
Hometown: West Dundee, Illinois
Occupation: Full time Triathlon Coach – and Triathlon Coach for University of Illinois
ME: What kind of hobbies do you have to help balance your life out…if any?
JH: HA. Very funny. I swim, bike, run. I love being with my kids, family, friends. LOVE to shop. Love to go out to eat – love to travel.
ME: When did you start your fitness journey?
JH: I have been a life-long athlete. Always super intense and competitive. Played basketball my entire life, swam thru early HS and ran my entire life. I wanted to do ALL sports and be the best from day 1.
ME: Why do you train?
JH: I am always trying to find the BEST of me. I like the “me” time. I enjoy the process. I like to challenge myself. AND every year, while I don’t get faster any more at age 44 and doing Triathlon for 20 years – I like to stay strong and competitive.
ME: What do you hope to accomplish with your training/fitness?
JH: I have very specific goals every season. I have THREE every year and write them down on an index card and put it someplace I can see daily. Some years are BIG and scary goals. Some years are tamer – it all depends on where I am with work, kids, life. AND it is fun for me to mix it up from year to year so I do not get bored and keep constantly challenging myself.
ME: What do you think a healthy lifestyle has added to your life?
JH: Living a healthy lifestyle is all I know. I have been healthy, fit and active my whole life. It has afforded us the opportunity to travel the world and race and see the world on our bikes and running legs!
ME: Do you subscribe to any particular nutritional philosophy?
JH: I see food as fuel. I look at food as WHAT is the best thing I can eat to fuel and recover from workout to workout. This is very specific around my “A” races and loose in my off season. I eat everything in moderation and do NOT feel guilty about choices. A strong body is fueled well by good food and plenty of food.
ME: We all have a cheat food…I’m a slave to M&M’s…what is your cheat food?
ME: There are differing opinions on training with or without music…what is your take on it?
JH: Never. I don’t listen to music. SOMETIMES on the trainer, yes. But I ride the trainer A LOT living in Chicago and for a long time – but never outside. I think it is important to be one with your mind and body. Listen to your breathing, your head and sort out all the issues so that on race day, you are free.
ME: I’ve been lucky to stay pretty injury free these last few years. Have you had any injury setbacks?
JH: I have only had 1 injury in 20 years. Achilles. I still was able to – with a strong team – race Ironman Arizona and get 3rd in 2010, but after that I took 8 weeks completely off to heal it 100% and it has not bothered me since. I listen to my body and do not mess around. Especially at 44 and with all the miles on my body.
ME: Can you name some of your biggest race accomplishments?
- PR of 4:32 in the 70.3 distance.
- Top 10 at Worlds Short Course (OLY).
- Top 5 at Nationals (OLY and Sprint).
- Qualified for Kona multiple times. Raced there 3x. (ME: This is beyond awesome to me!)
I have raced in over 250 triathlons since 1995. (ME: #verycool!)
ME: Have you ever wanted to quit? If so, what kept you going or did you quit and why?
JH: Hell yes. But, living with the brief pain of finishing, even on your worse day is way easier than dealing with the LONG term disappointment of a DNF.
ME: What is your next race or fitness goal?
JH: So far this season, Triathlons only:
- Jhawk Triathlon – 1st OA female
- Memphis in May – 4th OA female, 1st
- MastersLake in the Hills Triathlon – 1st OA female
- Leon’s Oly Triathlon – 5th OA Elite; 2nd Masters
- Twin Lakes Triathlon – 1st OA Female.
- Lake Zurich Oly Triathlon 7/12
- USAT Nationals – Sprint and OLY distance 8/8-8/9
- ITU Worlds Sprint and Oly distance – 9/15 weekend
ME: What kind of advice do have for beginners?
JH: HIRE A GOOD COACH! Ha ha – no, honestly, FIND a mentor and follow a plan. DO NOT wing it. 99% of the best have coaches…you need someone to help you. Do your research and interview coaches to find the best one for you.
AND, after a coach, if you are a weak swimmer – best money is spent on SWIM LESSONS.
ME: One fun fact no one would guess about you!
JH: 1- I LOVE LOVE TV. I am addicted to the TV – it is on most of the day while I work from home.
Favorite show of all time: Breaking Bad.
Recent obsession: Wentworth (netflix) and Broadchurch (netflix)
2- I am a HUGE KID ROCK FAN. Like would follow his tour if I was 20 years old and single/no kids.
I want to thank Jennifer for taking the time to share with us a little about her athlete and human sides! It’s not easy to train and compete and to do it at such an accomplished level is so impressive. I will throw a little plug in for her coaching www.jenharrison.com.
Her advice is well worth the time and the money. Thanks Jennifer…and yes I am heading straight to the pool…:(