Into The Stratosphere Through Triathlon
Age group world champion Jenna-Caer Seefreid shows us the only limits that exist are the ones we create ourselves.
Multiple 70.3 and Ironman finisher medals and podiums. Qualification to the Ironman 70.3 and full Ironman World Championships. First place at the WTO/ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships. World renowned strength and conditioning coach for Team Mauna Endurance. Top coach for Ironman World Champion Chris McCormmick’s MX Endurance. North American head of social media marketing for L’Etape du Tour de France cycling races.
With a list like that, it may come as a surprise that Jenna-Caer Seefreid started her athletic career well into adulthood. This resume has only been built over the last several years, and it did not come easily or naturally. It was through happenstance, determination, trial and error and eventually, a steady commitment to the sport that she achieved these high accolades so late in the game.
A World Champion Looks Back
Seefried did not have an overly athletic childhood, in fact, the first real exposure she had to fitness was in her mid 20’s.
“I never played sports as a kid, I was always overweight and non athletic,” she admits.
This trend continued through university and into adulthood.
“After school I started working in the professional world. Constant work events, social beverages and a sedentary lifestyle led me to gain even more weight quickly.” Seefried continued, “My ‘aha’ moment came one day when I noticed I was getting stretch marks on my thighs that I’d never had before.”
That afternoon, she went to her nearest gym and signed up for a membership. Conveniently, it just so happened they were doing a weight loss competition and the grand prize was a trip to Las Vegas.
The contest was fairly robust. Each contestant was assigned a dedicated personal trainer and given a nutrition assessment and training plan. A heavy emphasis was put on strength training. Contestants had two months to see who could lose the most weight.
“I tend to be a bit extreme with things so I dove right in head first.”
At the eight week weigh in, she had lost 30 pounds, and came in just shy of the first place grand prize. Leaving the contest behind, she continued down this newfound fitness path with vigor.
Progress is Never Linear
She lost an additional 20 lbs (50 pounds total) and was feeling great. However there was a chink in the armour she had built for herself: her motivational system.
Purpose, consistency, motivation and belief systems are crucial for success, especially when it comes to physical fitness.
Seefreid admits, “At the time my primary motivation was just what I looked like.”
With this loose objective to motivate her, and a major move to a new state, Seefreid’s commitment to fitness would eb and flow.
“Over the next few years I would gain and lose those same 30 lbs.”
The Humble Beginnings of a Future Elite Athlete
Seefried and her husband were living in Midland Texas. New to town and looking for a way to meet people and stay active, she joined a local running club.
“I had never run a kilometer in my life before,” Seefreid remembered. “I hated every second of it but I stuck with it.”
Through the club she ended up signing up for her first race, a local 5k.
“It was a small town and a small race but I ended up winning the race. That started it for me.”
Ten weeks later, Seefried did her first half marathon. She loved the rush and registered for a full marathon to race later that year. Unfortunately, she sustained a serious stress fracture in her hip and would never make it to the marathon’s starting line.
But every setback is an opportunity. “My physio recommended I start cross training as part of my rehabilitation.” So she started cycling on a stationary bike to stay fit.
She caught wind of an upcoming short distance triathlon and figured she would give it a try.
While training for the local tri, Seefreid learned of another “slightly longer” triathlon happening 10 weeks earlier: the Buffalo Springs Ironman 70.3 (now called the Lubbock 70.3). Not one to pass up a challenge, she registered for the 70.3, and come race day, Seefried underprepared and undertrained, managed to complete the race.
“My training leading up to the race was low. The farthest I had ridden was 45 miles, it was my longest run since 2012 and I panicked in the water, but got through it,” Seefreid remembers.
Ironman is Calling
After completing her first triathlon, she boldly signed up for a full Ironman: Ironman Kalmar in Sweden. But to be successful in this race she knew she would need some help.
After listening to the Endurance Planet podcast with Tim “Lucho” Waggoner (formerly Luchinske), Seefried knew she wanted him to coach her. “His style was very personalized, only giving workouts two to three days in advance to maximize whatever you had to give,” she said.
They say on race day to ‘prepare for the unexpected.’ In her first ever Ironman she was on pace for a remarkable finish until a major mishap occurred on the bike. She recalled, “In the last 30 miles of the bike, my seat post screw must have broken which slammed my seat down to the frame. I spent the rest of the bike leg pedaling with knees in my chest.”
This came back to get her on the run. Most of the muscles on her left side seized up, causing her to run hunched over. “People thought I was collapsing, I wasn’t, it was just that all my muscles stopped working and couldn’t stand up straight,” she shared.
But despite the horrible mishap on the bike, she did exceptionally well. She was just 14 minutes out of first for her age group which is more than remarkable for her first full Ironman.
It was at this point that Seefried decided to get her personal training certification. “I know how much personal training changed my life and I wanted to share that with others,” she acknowledged.
All the Pieces Fall into Place
Shortly after her Ironman, Seefried learned she was pregnant. She worked closely with her doctor and coach and focused on low intensity training. In 2014, Seefried and her husband welcomed a son. After pushing too hard, too quickly, this sleep deprived mom burned out and ultimately ended up taking three months off from training to give her body time to heal. Eventually, she was ready to get back to training and racing.
She started with some local sprint distance races and eventually built her way up to the Calgary 70.3. Her performance here qualified her for the Canadian Long Distance Nationals. More fired up than ever, she dialed in her training and placed third, earning her a spot at the WTO (formally ITU) Long Distance World Championship in 2016.
A Mogul in the Making
It was at this point in time that Seefried decided to get into triathlon coaching and leveraged social media to connect with other athletes and potential clients.
In 2017, Seefried became the F25-29 ITU Long Course World Champion and her coaching business took off.
“I filled all 15 athlete slots I had in the first three months after the race.” She continued, “The biggest thing has been social media and race results.” In 2019 she won Ironman Ireland and qualified for Kona, seeing another big influx of athletes come her way.
Her performance on the race course and success in the workplace was skyrocketing. She joined former Ironman royalty, Chris McCormack’s coaching group, MX Endurance and earned her post on the famous Mauna Race Team as their lead strength and conditioning coach.
Most recently she joined l’Etape du Tour de France’s (the world famous cycling race series) team to help launch their North American race series.
Through her business, Jenna also helps female athletes navigate the specific issues women face in running and triathlon, such as training through pregnancy and postpartum, balancing training and family, and responses to training and nutrition during specific times of their monthly cycle.