Who is Jenna Caer Seefried? She’s a former motocross racer, a weight loss challenge winner turned runner and now a competitive triathlete. Jenna became a mother two years ago and continues to train and race at an exceptional level. How does she do it? I’d say along with fierce determination, commitment and a discovered hidden talent; her humble, unassuming attitude and mental strength serve as major forces that no doubt have brought her a lot of success in life and sport.
Text by Nicole Elliot | Images supplied
WITSUP: Hey Jenna, we love your story! How did you discover and get involved in motocross, a sport that is very male dominated?
Jenna Caer Seefried: I’m from Calgary originally and got into motorcycle racing because my boyfriend (now husband) had a bike and I spent the summer of 2008 on the back of it. I finally decided I wanted my own and bought one the next year. After riding a bike for about a month, and seeing friends at the race track, I thought racing looked like fun. I ended up playing around with motorcycle racing for just over a year – I trashed my first bike on the racecourse. It was such an adrenalin rush – So. Much. Fun! There’s nothing like the feeling of your knee scraping on the pavement as you’re going around the corner. Two wheels and carbon fiber seem to be my thing!
W: Were there very many women in motocross?
JCS: No, I was usually the only female.
W: Did you feel accepted by the men?
JCS: In an odd way, I think it was such a surprise to them that there was a female there. Everyone was really friendly in the group I was a part of. There were lots of women riding motorcycles recreationally and they would be often be trackside cheering. There were a few ladies nights as well where there would be two to three other women out there, but it was definitely a boy’s game, especially when it came to racing.
W: So do you come from a sporting background?
JCS: Not at all! I was definitely the overweight bookworm type. I tried a few sports here and there but I just sucked at everything so nothing really stuck.
W: What changed for you that made you tap into your physical strength?
JCS: I joined a gym in my early twenties. I knew something needed to change. I gained a bunch of weight so I joined a weight loss competition and lost about 50 pounds through strength training, not eating crap and drinking less beer. That is what kind of led me toward triathlon.
Then my husband’s work transferred us down to Midland, Texas. There was nothing to do there and I find a running club that had just started up. After I had lost the initial weight, I started gaining and losing 20 pounds here and there. I’d workout hard for a couple months and go back to eating crap and not working out again. I thought maybe a running club would be a way to meet people and keep myself consistent. I hated every step for about the first month but there was nothing better to do so I stuck with it and ended up getting hooked. I did my first half marathon two months later but then I got a stress fracture trying to train for a marathon right away.
That led me to thinking about some cross training. I was still riding my motorcycle but not racing – there weren’t many tracks around where we lived, unfortunately. There was a local sprint triathlon in Midland three and a half months away so I ended up signing up for that with some of the other members of the running group. I never really had swimming lessons so I learned how to swim and bought a bike. In my usual fashion, I found out there was a half iron-distance a month before the sprint tri so I signed and up did that race 10 weeks later. After the panic of the swim, thinking I might die in the first 50 meters, I loved it! I just thought, “I’m here and I said I was going to do this so get it done!” I was totally hooked after that.
W: Wow, you are one determined woman! That is a big leap to do a half iron-distance with only 10 weeks of training. You obviously have a gift of endurance and mental stamina.
JCS: After Texas, we ended up moving to Scotland. I did a couple local races there and then did a half iron-distance in Spain, another race in London and then Ironman Sweden, which was my first full iron-distance. I loved it, it is my favorite distance! I was 12 minutes off qualifying for Kona at my first Ironman. I had a mechanical on the bike, my seat post slammed to the bottom. I spent ten minutes on the side of the road trying to fix it and rode the last 30 minutes with it all the way down.
I’m still working on getting the athleticism and the speed since I didn’t have a background in sport but the full iron-distance is so much of a mental game, which I think is a strength of mine.
W: You never know what you are truly made of until you try, right? You also became a mother two years ago and you trained and did a few races while pregnant. What was that journey like?
JCS: We then ended up moving to Denver after Scotland. We started trying to get pregnant and it hadn’t happened after six months so I signed up for Ironman Boulder. Two weeks later I was pregnant – go figure! I worked with my coach at the time, Tim Luchinski, who had trained several other women through their pregnancies. He got me in touch with pro triathlete, Beth McKenzie (nee Gerdes) who had recently had a baby. I was able to ask her several questions on training while pregnant – she was super friendly and helpful. I trained all the way through with no problems. It really helped with a lot of the symptoms which was awesome. I did a few races while I was pregnant including Ironman 70.3 St. George. My coach set very strict restrictions on my heart rate, which was the hardest part. It was one of the few times I finished a race feeling so good!
W: And how about post baby? What has the come back been for you?
JCS: I had my son in December 2014 and unfortunately I tried to do too much too soon after giving birth. He wasn’t sleeping for more than an hour at a time for the first eight months so I ended up burning myself out. I took three months off to get myself back to a baseline. This past season was the first season back racing. We also moved back to Calgary from Denver. I joined a local tri club here and had a really good season this year. It was so fun getting back into it.
It’s almost like coming back with an entirely new body. You have to learn how you recover, how your body moves and everything works again. The lack of sleep is still a struggle. I have noticed my lungs and aerobic capacity are better than they ever were before though. I’m just trying to figure out the balance between motherhood and being an athlete. I do some training before he gets up and fortunately he loves the jogging stroller. He’s the cutest little training buddy! I’ll do nap time workouts including strength training and stretching. He gets used as a baby weight. He also has his own tiny barbell and will copy what I’m doing.
The years with my coach taught me so much and really made sure I was set up to figure things out for myself afterwards so now I follow my own plan. Before I was a mom I had written out plans and that’s where I burnt myself out. Now I have a skeleton plan set up, an idea of what I want to accomplish, and key things, but everything else can be pushed back. That has really helped my mindset.
W: I see you are on the Betty Designs Team. It must be motivating to be part of such a strong group of women athletes.
JCS: It’s such a cool group of women who are empowered, strong and motivating for each other. We have an online community where we share ideas, we organize get togethers, volunteer at races and encourage other women to get into the sport. I think I underestimated the barriers to women with kids getting into the sport. If I hadn’t been involved in it before I had my son, it would be tough to get into now. I want to encourage other women to get into it because it’s done such amazing things for me just being part of this community.
W: What are your plans for 2017?
JCS: I did Challenge Penticton in 2016, the three quarter iron-distance. I qualified for the long course ITU worlds in 2017, which are also in Penticton, British Columbia. I’m still debating if I want to do an iron-distance or not. It’s my last year in the 25-29 age group and I know the women in their 30s get a lot faster! I have a good shot at qualifying for Kona if I can show up to an Ironman healthy and fit – that’s the goal! Since I never did sports as a kid, I’m pretty young as an athlete. It’s been very cool to discover what I’m capable of – I never knew it was in there. I would like to get the Kona itch off my back and then go into some shorter stuff to try and get a little faster but I really want to try and make that Kona bid again.
W: I have no doubt we’ll be seeing you in Kona sooner than later. Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenna, best of luck in 2017 and beyond. We’ll be cheering for you!