A Q&A with Jackie Arendt
The DeForest native and Ironman champ is back for the triathlon challenge on her home turf
PHOTO BY TIMOTHY HUGHES
How did you get into triathlons, and specifically the Ironman?
I grew up swimming and running. With the help of some friends, it seemed like a natural progression to get into triathlons. I got into the Ironman mostly because of the race held here in Madison. I had some friends racing, so I went to watch and thought it looked like a crazy challenge.
Have you always been an athlete?
Yes. My mom is very sporty and I grew up biking next to her while she ran, running with her and swimming. My mom set a good example of a healthy lifestyle and got me into sports at a young age. I swam and played soccer until I got older, when I moved to track and swimming.
Explain your job in one sentence.
I am living my passion every day by wearing many hats as a professional triathlete, coach and race director.
What’s for breakfast on a race day?
Oatmeal with a hunk of peanut butter and banana.
What is your most memorable experience during a race?
I have many, but winning Ironman Wisconsin [in 2013] is clearly on top! I was in complete disbelief coming through the finishing chute and completely over the moon crossing the finish line in first place in my hometown! Seeing all of my friends and family all day long and hearing all the cheers gave me the push I needed all day.
Are you approaching this year’s Ironman differently as you’re defending your title?
I am feeling a little more serious about my training this year. Not that I will approach the race differently, but I believe I am training at a higher level than last year. On race day, I will still have the same plan as last year: to put together the best race that I can.
What other Ironman races have you competed in? How about other triathlons?
I have completed sixteen Ironman races and have been lucky to travel all over to do them! I have raced Ironman Wisconsin three times; Ironman Louisville, Ironman St. George and Ironman Cozumel twice; and Ironman Florida, Ironman Texas, Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I have been to the Ironman World Championships in Kona three times. I also race three to five Half Ironman races per year and a handful of smaller, local triathlons and running races.
What made you decide to go pro?
I qualified to race professionally at my first half Ironman race in Racine in 2008 and a handful of other times before I actually took my pro card. For me it wasn’t about achieving the criteria to race in the pro category. Instead, it was about gaining more racing experience and getting some training volume under my belt on the bike so I could be competitive at the pro level. I started racing professionally in 2010, while still holding my full-time job (well, they let me do thirty-two hours to allow for training). It was a tough year (I didn’t get much sleep!), but a very successful racing year. It was after this I decided to quit my job and pursue triathlons full time!
What scares you?
Putting all my time and energy into something and having it not work out.
How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by reminding myself how lucky I am to have a body that allows me to do this and the opportunity to truly live my passion day in and day out. There are plenty of days, especially in the dead of winter, when workouts don’t seem fun, but there is always a way to remind yourself this is a special opportunity.
What is your favorite leg of the race? Which is the hardest?
The run is my favorite leg of the race and the hardest. This is where you get into your head, sort out your motivations and sometimes have to push beyond where you thought possible to reach your goals.
What’s on the top of your bucket list?
I don’t really have a bucket list; I’m more of a go with the flow type. But I would like to eventually race on every continent.
What music gets you pumped?
Anything with a good beat. And some good country.
Where or when are you the happiest?
Camping or biking with my fiancé, Mark!
Tell us about your coaching work.
I formed a few different groups to share my love for triathlons. The first is my individual coaching group. Through Jackie Arendt Coaching, athletes of all levels receive an individualized plan through an online coaching program tailored specifically to their schedule and races. The second is an open-water swim group called Tri-Swim Madison. We meet four times per week in the lake to work on open-water swimming skills, ease anxieties and work on speed and sighting for triathletes and swimmers. The third group is the Fourier Fitness Kids Tri Team, which is a great group of kids ages ten to fourteen that are working on growing their triathlon skills and love for the sport. We meet twice a week for biking practice, running on the track, open-water swimming or transition work.
How do you spend an ideal day off?
Catching up on computer work … Oh wait, that’s still work. Boating with friends is great, and anything outside!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Ice cream and cookies.
Who do you admire most?
My grandpa. He was a very positive, hard-working and Godly man. He had great advice on life and the best jokes around.
What advice would you give to a first-time triathlete?
My first-timer advice: Find a group, mentor or training partner to work with you. Learning from someone with experience is much quicker than the trial and error method. Second: Have fun!
What other goals do you have?
I would love to get on top of the podium again! I want to continue to grow my races and coaching businesses and I also eventually want to have a family.
What’s been the key to your success?
Keeping everything in perspective. I don’t put too much stock in any one thing, workout, race or result. Everything is a learning experience and there are no excuses. There are good days and not so good days; the ups and downs are part of the journey.
Arendt will compete in Ironman Wisconsin on September 7, 2014.