Featured Athlete, May 2020 - Jennie Zinchuk

Female triathlete about to rack her bike for an Ironman race
May 22, 2020

D3 Staff




Jennie has completely embraced the reality that triathlon and racing are modified for the foreseeable future. However, her love of the sport and the pursuit to continue pushing herself is evident in her willingness to adapt to the new racing format - virtual racing.  

Coach Mike Ricci shared her nomination because right at the onset of the pandemic, Jennie has made adaptations that have given her the space to continue pushing herself.  Jennie has adapted her goals, her training, and even her racing.  She's embraced it all head on and she is persevering!  

How she's managed to shift gears is something we can all learn from, and in her Q&A you will come to understand that when you embrace the reality you can set new goals and refocus your efforts to achieve them.  

1. What races were your planning to race this spring?  When the news of reschedules and cancels started to present themselves, how did you manage those emotions? 

I had a really fun 2020 year planned, which would have kicked off with Oceanside 70.3 and Santa Rosa 70.3 a few weeks later. I chose these races because they were close to home and close to friends and family, so we had mini-vacations planned around both races that I was really looking forward to. Interestingly enough all the cancellations and postponements started happening when we were all at D3 Training Camp in Tucson, AZ.

We all felt like we were away in our own bubble while the rest of the world seemed to be crumbling. I was really bummed when Oceanside was canceled while we were in AZ, but remained hopeful that my other races would happen. I just took it one day at a time because everything was so unknown. Now that we’re over 2 months inside this pandemic and both Santa Rosa and the 70.3 WC are postponed, I’ve just accepted that 2020 racing is canceled and is now a year dedicated to training and getting stronger.

I’ve had internal moments of “What’s the point?” but I’m looking at this as an opportunity for more time to train so I can achieve the really big goals that I was hoping to accomplish in 2020, which are now 2021 goals.

2. As Ironman ramped up their VR style racing, what/why did you leap into it?

I really enjoy racing and having a goal to strive for. Training is fun (most of the time), but I think it’s important to put the work you’ve put in to the test every now and then. So when Ironman started the virtual races, I was all for it. While Mike and I have been putting together “races” of our own to keep things interesting and fun, these virtual races give the opportunity to compete against athletes around the world and see how you stack up. 

3. Have you had to make any modifications to your training to compete in those races?

I treat the virtual races like I would a regular race with tapering the week before. I want to go into these races feeling like I am physical and mentally able to give my best effort so I can see how much I’ve improved and what I need to work harder on.

4. Describe the experience you've had in a VR race?  Any standout situations or moments that feel like a real race?

I did the IM VR5 race, which was a 70.3 simulation but with a 5k in place of the swim. I had the option to split up each leg in multiple days, so I did the 5k on Friday, ride on Saturday and 13.1 run on Sunday. I’m not sure if that actually helped me or not, but it was different! Lucky for me my husband is an endurance runner, so he paced me for both of my runs and it was really fun to have him there to cheer me on, just like he would have if it were a real race. My two sons came into the garage to cheer me on when I was on the bike, just like they would have if it were a real race. And at the end of the race, I got to see my name on the leaderboard and all the athlete times from around the world, just like a real race.

5. You've had amazing success in these races and even PRs.  Describe those feelings and how they translate to your motivation right now.

My 13.1 run and bike legs were both personal PRs in the IM VR5 race, which was exciting. Even more exciting is I know I have a lot of room for improvement. Knowing that I have a lot more potential is what keeps me motivated and excited about future races to come. My overall time in this race was my dream time (but let’s not forget this didn’t include transitions and a 5k run instead of 1.2 mile swim). So now if I could just work on making my transitions as fast as possible and swim 1.2 miles in 20 minutes, I’m golden!

6. Is there something that stands out from the D3 training and/or community that has helped you stay focused on your goals?

I really enjoyed meeting some of the D3 team at camp this year. Everyone is so nice and encouraging and I love the community on Facebook. The D3 Coaches have all been amazing providing weekly workouts during this pandemic and keeping everyone motivated. I love the team challenges too, like the upcoming “Everesting” Challenge. This challenge would not have been something I would have considered without the encouragement from the D3 Team. I also really appreciate Coach Mike, who keeps me grounded, healthy, and is making me a better triathlete.

7. What advice can you share with other athletes who have had race cancellations and have not tried VR racing yet?

If you are questioning your training or lacking the motivation to train, I highly recommend putting a virtual race on your calendar. It really does help give your training purpose and it’s something to look forward to in these challenging times.

Jennie has accepted the circumstances around the race season and that has allowed her to adapt her mindset, keep training to reach personal bests and keep testing herself through the virtual racing scene.  We are proud to have her part of D3 Multisport!.

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