Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Introducing Jennifer Lentzke - Professional Triathlete

Endurance Sports Travel welcomes its first-ever female sponsored athlete. We plan to follow Jennifer as her 2013 professional campaign is underway. We will provide race day coverage, results, interviews, photos, videos and more insights into her up-and-coming pro season! Get to know Jennifer as we ask her some basics.

Jennifer, tell us about yourself and how you got into triathlon.

“I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spent my childhood living in Canada, Mexico and the United States. I spent my teen years dancing with a professional ballet company, which I would credit for helping me learn discipline, develop endurance, and create a work ethic that has shaped me into the athlete I am today. Once away at university, I decided to focus on becoming a registered dietitian and gave up dancing. I quickly turned my athletic pursuits to distance running and walked on the Baylor women’s cross country team. After a great learning experience on the team, I took up marathon running my senior year of university and quickly realized that I had a propensity for “going long.” As my marathon times dropped, I began to truly realize my potential as a long distance athlete.

During my first year of graduate school at the University of Florida, I met my husband, Jason Lentzke, and was introduced to triathlon. The swim/bike/run lifestyle came naturally for me. After the rigors of gradate school ended and I was better able to focus on training, I began to complete triathlons “just for fun.” On a whim, I signed up for IRONMAM Cozumel and, with very unstructured training, I completed the event in 11 hours and 9 minutes. Upon the urging of my husband and closest friends, I decided to see how good I could become with some formal training. I began to work with professional triathlete and coach, Hillary Biscay for the 2012 season. Within months I found myself winning my age group at long course events and had qualified for the 70.3 World Championship and the IRONMAN World Championship. Over the course of the 2012 triathlon season I began to realize that I wanted to pursue a second career as a professional triathlete.”

Jennifer currently splits her time between racing as a professional triathlete and working with athletes in her own private consulting company, Toro Performance Nutrition, LLC. She is a registered and licensed dietitian and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She attended Baylor University where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Sciences. She then went on to obtain her Master’s degree in Dietetics with a minor in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology at the University of Florida.

Jennifer lives with her husband, Jason Lentzke, and weimeraner, George, in Austin, Texas. She enjoys cooking, traveling, blogging, drinking coffee and has an extreme infatuation with peanut butter.

When did you turn Pro and what was that “shining” moment that you decided to go from Age-Grouper to Pro?

Deciding to go pro was a culmination of many different and amazing moments in my 2012 season. The first time I began to realize that I even had the desire was after Ironman Canada when I placed high amongst the women’s field and the 70.3 World Championships where I realized I had what it took to begin the work towards racing some of the best young women in the sport. Winning an iron distance race last December sealed the deal for me. Now don’t get me rong. There are many amazing young women out there who are perhaps more prepared and more developed as triathletes in terms of being fit to race professionally. So I’m definitely not taking this opportunity for granted and I realize I’m starting at the bottom of the totem pole. The good news is, there’s only way to go from here...up!

2013 Race Schedule?

IRONMAN San Juan 70.3 - March 17th
IRONMAN South Africa - April 14
IRONMAN Texas - May 18th
IRONMAN Buffalo Springs 70.3 - June 30th
IRONMAN Calgary 70.3 - July 28th
IRONMAN Canada - August 25th
IRONMAN Lake Tahoe - September 22nd

What, in your opinion, is the most inspiring thing about IRONMAN?

What I find so inspiring about the IRONMAN is how it can push you to new levels mentally and physically. IRONMAN is so empowering in that it takes everyday people and turns them into athletes. Once you realize how special this event truly is, you look around and think “even if you’re a 14 hour ironman or the IRONMAN world champion, it takes guts, grit and determination to get to that finish line.” And this truth is what creates such a great community amongst triathletes.

How do you think IRONMAN has transformed you as a person?

It’s funny because not only has IRONMAN shaped me as a triathlete in terms of my physical strength, but it has created this fire, this passion and drive within me that compels me to continue to see just how much more I can ask of my body. In my head, in my mind, it’s this amazing world of possibility, risk, opportunity and adventure that I am starting to live out. It’s turning into quite the journey!

Thus far in your young career, if you had to pick one of your "IRONMAN moments" as your favorite or most powerful memory, what would it be and why?

You know it’s funny because I have so many powerful memories from IRONMAN, from the time I first crossed an IRONMAN finish line to the last few seconds of my race in Kona running down Ali’i Drive. But there is one memory that sticks out in my mind. It was mile 18 of Ironman Canada and I was in what I like to call the “hurt box.” I was digging deep into the depths of my soul to keep running the pace I needed to run to secure my spot to Kona. And wouldn’t you know that Ken (Glah, owner of Endurance Sports Travel) had found a way to get out to that point on the run course to cheer on his clients. As I approached him with practically no runners around me, he called out my name, “Jennifer!” And the most I could do with what strength I had left was to look him straight in the eyes and nod my head in acknowledgement. The look he gave back to me said it all. It said “I’ve been there, Jennifer. I know what that feels like. Push on. Be strong and push on.” It was just so awesome to have that unspoken connection with an amazing athlete who was winning races well before my time. This is the spirit of IRONMAN.

Introducing Greg Close - Professional Triathlete

Endurance Sports Travel welcomes its first-ever male sponsored athlete. We plan to follow Greg as his 2013 professional campaign is underway. We will provide race day coverage, results, interviews, photos, videos and more insights into his up-and-coming pro season! Get to know Greg as we ask him some basics.

Greg, tell us about yourself and how you got into triathlon.

I'm a 29 year old triathlete, living and training in Brooklyn, New York. My wonderful wife Robin and I (just married in August!) are parents to three adorable cats that dominate our Facebook pages. I graduated from Rutgers University in 2005 with a BA in Political Science and History, and finished my MA at Lehigh in 2007. From high school through grad school I was a rower which served as the athletic foundation for my triathlon career.

In addition to racing and training, I own a multisport coaching company, TriBy3 Performance Coaching, which I started in 2010. I coach a number of athletes spanning a wide range of disciplines and abilities, and I love having the opportunity to share my passion with such a great group of individuals. Basically, I have the greatest job in the world- I get to ride bikes, run, and splash around, and when I get tired I get to tell other people to do the same!

Training 30+ hours a week and coaching doesn't leave a lot of time for other hobbies, but I am an avid baseball fan and never pass up a chance to watch the Phillies win or the Mets lose.

I rowed for 7 years and absolutely loved the sport, but one of the things I personally found in big boat rowing (I rowed in an 8-person boat) was that personal responsibility is somewhat lacking. When you have 8 people all trying to do the same thing, it's really easy to pretend you're the best and blame everyone else when things don't go well. I was a champ at this. So when I finished up at Rutgers and was reflecting on my time as a rower, I didn't really like the athlete I saw. I went to Lehigh where I was coaching rowing and doing my graduate studies thing, and I wanted to stay fit but do it on my own terms. I had a bike, I had been running for a while, and figured swimming couldn't be all that hard, so I jumped in to a triathlon. It was the "Give it the 'Ol Philly Tri" sprint triathlon, and I loved every second of it. I won an age group medal and was instantly hooked.

When did you turn Pro and what was that “shining” moment that you decided to go from Age-Grouper to Pro?

I earned my pro card at Ironman Lake Placid in 2011, and officially took my license at the end of that season. I was 3rd amateur at Placid but wasn't entirely sure whether to transition from age-grouper or not. Kona 2011 was the "shining moment" that convinced me to make the move- I was in the top 75 overall, did a 9:11, had a strong run, and felt that I had earned a spot in the pro ranks

2013 Race Schedule?

Its a little tentative at this point as I had some pretty serious sinus surgery in January, but the plan is-
March 17th - Ironman San Juan 70.3
April 14th - Ironman South Africa
May 5th - Bassman triathlon
June 23rd - Rev3 Williamsburg/Ironman Mont Tremblant 70.3
August 17th - Ironman Sweden

The schedule will fill out more but those are the big races so far.

What, in your opinion, is the most inspiring thing about IRONMAN?

The most inspiring thing about Ironman, and the thing I love about coaching and racing, is that we all share the same course. From the 8 hour winner to the 17 hour finisher, we all toe the same line, complete the same 140.6 mile course, and experience the same highs and lows. There's no other sport where you can say that.

How do you think IRONMAN has transformed you as a person?

Ironman has made me take ownership of everything I do. When you win in Ironman, you share those victories with the people around you (your coach, your loved ones, your support crew). But when you lose, it's on you- you swim, you ride, you run, and if you aren't where you want to be at the end of the day, you get back to work and do better the next time. It's a good life lesson- share your wins and own your losses- and something that Ironman helps me appreciate every day.

Thus far in your young career, if you had to pick one of your "IRONMAN moments" as your favorite or most powerful memory, what would it be and why?

My favorite moment in my racing career so far has to be the last mile of Ironman Lake Placid in 2011. I went in to the race looking to earn my pro card, but 25 miles in to the marathon I was sitting in 5th. Some hard uphill strides and a big sprint bumped me up two places and earned me that license with less than a minute to spare. I was really proud of that race because I went in with a plan, faced some adversity, executed, and came out with the result I wanted.

Adventures in Pucon!

 by Lauren Detoro

After completing my first Ironman in 2010 (Lake Placid), at age 45, I realized 2 things. 1 - There is very little that is more gratifying than crossing that finish line, and 2 - Despite how much I loved it, this Jersey girl can realistically probably only handle one or two more.

After coming down from my Ironman high, I called Ken, who I had hired to manage the logistics of my Lake Placid race. Obviously, with his experience, he was the right guy to ask about options for my next big race. I asked, “So Ken, what is the best Ironman? - I may only have one more in me.” Without hesitation he said, “Pucon.” I said, “No, no...Pucon is a 70.3, I want a full.” He said with a smile, “No, no you WANT to do Pucon...most fun you’ll ever have!” Flash forward two and a half years and I was on my way to South America (yeee ha!!)

My Lake Placid Ironman experience with EST was perfect, so I knew I would be in good hands in Pucon. I rounded up 3 of my friends to join me; one from Colorado, one from California, and one from North Carolina. Collectively, we entered and exited 13 airports before reaching our final destination. EST staff was there to meet us at Temuco airport and take us to Pucon. We pulled up to the beautiful host hotel and checked in. The weather was perfect and the sand was HOT! EST greeted us with a nice welcome package including a clear schedule of the many adventures that were ahead of us. Ken worked hard helping all of the athletes and family members who joined them get situated. Over the next several days, he organized group swims, bikes and runs. We got to know each other and prepare together for the big day.

I awoke on race day, after having my usual meltdown the night before, to the sound of crashing waves on the lake beach (yes, waves!). Not exactly the greatest feeling, but what can you do... Athletes wandered into transition one last time before heading to the beach.

The race was a challenging one, but for me, went pretty well. Swim was one of those “just get through it” swims. Rough and cold. Having spent 3 days there, I looked forward to what was sure to be yet another great weather day! The bike leg was incredibly beautiful - a 2-loop out and on a mostly flat road with a few rolling hills. The volcano was in full view, and had started to smoke (which initially scared the crap out me - until I learned it’s actually a good thing...). The views were incredibly beautiful and the ride back to transition was FAST!!!!

It was now time to put on the sneaks and head to the peninsula for the run. Three laps of many, many hills, lots of flowers and (thankfully), some shade. The sun was unbelievably strong. Not a cloud in the sky. Spectator support was fantastic. Was so great to see my friends many times who were sipping their yummy coffee drinks, in the shade. On the racecourse, there was an abundance of water, Gatorade, food, gels, ice, sponges...pretty much anything you would want. Crossing the finish line was awesome! I grabbed a banana, then headed 100 meters down the beach for a quick soak in the lake.

Next, it was time to head to Willie’s, in town, to get our hiking boots for the following day - Mount Villarrica, here we come! The evening of the race, all of the folks in our group (athletes, family members and friends) all met for a group dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone was happy. There was lots of energy and chatter about the race, tons of whining about the hills on the run, and more than a few high-fives from those who earned their spot at the world championships. Dinner was fun and the food was good! We headed back to the hotel for what felt like a short nap, before the next event. Ken had coordinated our first of many outings. We met in the lobby at 7am to head to the volcano.

I did question the timing, as did others. Climb a volcano 16 hours after racing. Really, Ken??! (Well, ummm okay...Here we go! Roarrr!!!!) We picked up our backpacks and hiking boots at Willie’s and climbed into one of two vans and headed to the base of Mount Villarrica where we were greeted by experienced guides, who handed us each an ice pick and gave us the run down. We were off! The group started the ascent up the volcano. We stayed together to the first rest spot. The views were amazing and the weather was beautiful. We took pictures, had a snack and continued on. We were 45 minutes into the three and a half hour hike. Following our first break, the group split up a bit. Those feeling strong pushed hard - after all, as Ken reminded us, “the quicker you get to the top, the more time you have to stay there”. Those who felt tired or who were more comfortable hiking a bit slower were picked up by other groups who were moving at a more leisurely pace. No one was left behind and no one looked down! It was a challenging hike, but worth every minute. When we got to the top, it was breathtaking. Everywhere you looked there were mountains, and other volcanoes. We took pictures and those brave enough, sneaked up towards the mouth of the volcano. It was gurgling and smoking. Words can’t describe how cool it was...really!

The trip down was crazy fun! We lined up, sat down on a small piece of plastic and slid down on our butts. We were told to use our ice pick as a brake. Huh?? Two hours later we reached the bottom. A bit bruised and very tired, but very happy. What a great day! We said good bye to Villarrica and headed back to the hotel.

Quick shower and again, we met in the lobby to head to Willie’s for “A BBQ”, an event Ken promised, would be a highlight...and it was! We laid in hammocks, rode horses, played poker and liars dice, ate and drank wine and Pisco. Lots of laughs and GREAT food! Vegetarians were missing out, big time. The beef was amazing! Some of us got back later than others, but we all had fun.

All were up early the next day for white water rafting, zip lining and a trip to the hot springs. The river was beautiful and once again, the guides took good care of us. Very fun, exciting trip down the river - class IV/V rapids. Zip lining was next - over the river and through the woods - I think there were close to 20 zip lines set up! We wrapped up a great day with a trip to the hot springs...very relaxing. Once again, we got in fairly late, slept quick, and met in the lobby the next morning.

This day, we were off to hike down a canyon to a remote waterfall that Ken had found the year prior. It was a very special place. Once again...unbelievably beautiful! The water was cold - really cold! A few of us jumped in and swam underneath the water fall to a little cave...brrrr. We dried off, hiked back up, piled back in the van and headed to another remote hot springs area. This one was even better than the first. We stayed until it closed, then headed back to Pucon. On the way back, we stopped and got out of the van to stare at the stars. Never have I seen anything like it. I had no idea the sky could look like this. Shooting stars everywhere...amazing. Our second to last night was coming to a close.

On the way back, Ken asked us what we wanted to do the next day. He said “how about we repel near these waterfalls I know about??...”. I wanted so badly to say yes, but a mojito on a lawn chair next to the lake sounded equally as wonderful and at this point we were all pretty whooped, to say the least. We said, between yawns, “No thank you. How about next year.”

My three friends and I spent our final day at the hotel, on beach chairs laughing and remembering all of the fun times we had during the previous eight days. We kept telling the same silly stories over and over again. I don’t think anyone wanted to forget even a second of the trip.

Ahhh. Pucon! The race was great. Never did we wait in one line for any activity. Ken had all of the logistics and post race activities well organized. Food was fantastic! Despite the fact that very few locals spoke English, it was fairly easy to get by, as the people were patient and friendly and wanted to help.

When we got there, Ken said to the four of us, January 13th (race day) will be one of the best days of your life. That’s a pretty big statement, we all thought...but he was right! Can’t wait to go back next year to do it all over again!