MX Endurance coach Jenna-Caer Seefried has had quite a journey in triathlon. Like many age groupers, she came into endurance sport as an adult looking for a way to keep weight off and meet people. What she found was life-changing and so much more than she ever imagined it could be.
Before you got into triathlon, what athletic background (if any) did you have?
Before starting in triathlon I really didn’t have an athletic background. When I was a child I was terrible at sports or anything with hand-eye coordination, so I didn’t pursue any. I was always a little chubby and more likely to be found with my nose in a book.
I gained significant weight after school and while working in Project Management. I was overweight for years before finally deciding something had to change. I remember the moment very clearly, I noticed stretch marks on my thighs from gaining so much weight. That day I went to a gym near my work and signed up for a weight-loss competition. I lost 50 pounds during the competition and afterwards would gain and lose 30 pounds every year working out for a while, then giving up and going back to bad habits.
What point in your life were you at when you got into triathlon?
Discovering endurance sports and triathlon broke the seemingly endless gain-loss cycle. When I moved to a small town in Texas - Midland - and was looking for a way to meet people, I saw a running club was starting up. I had never run a mile in my life but was searching for a way to keep the weight off and meet people and that seemed like a great way to do both. I hated running every step for the first month but there were some great people there so I kept going.
I have a bad habit of jumping all in when I start anything. So when I started running, I signed up for my first 5km then first half marathon soon after. I raced a half marathon about 10 weeks after I started running and right after that started ramping up training for a marathon. Unfortunately, my head was more motivated than my body’s ability to handle the mileage and I ended up with a pelvic stress fracture.
I was worried about regaining the weight so I started riding the spin bike at the gym. Someone suggested swimming was good for recovery as well. It was during that time I heard about the one local triathlon coming up in a couple months. I had never swam, and didn’t own a bicycle at that point, but a lot of my running friends were doing it and I was at the point I could start running again so I decided to sign up.
I swam a length for the first time and thought I would drown causing me to seriously reconsidered my decision, but I had already committed so I was going to figure it out. I bought a cheap used tri bike off eBay and was terrified to clip in to pedals -- it took me over a week of having the bike to actually take it outside and try to clip in.
When I got into the training though, once again I jumped all in. I heard there was Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs happening a month sooner than the local triathlon. To this day I could not tell you why, but I decided to sign up for that and do a 70.3 as my first triathlon instead.
How did you wind up with MX Endurance?
I first heard about Kona and Chris McCormack while I was injured with the Pelvic Stress fracture. I couldn’t run but was fascinated by endurance sports and was reading all the books I could get my hands on about running, ultra running and triathlon. Reading Macca’s book and learning what Kona from it inspired me to get into the sport.
Later that year Macca starting an online triathlon team and it looked like it had great resources to learn more about triathlon and training. After that first triathlon I realised had little to no idea what I was doing, so I joined up.
The next year I would meet Macca and a number of teammates at Challenge Barcelona Half. At every race I raced that year around the world there was a teammate there, which was so cool to have that sense of community.
You very nearly qualified for Kona at your first Ironman. What did that feel like and did that open you to the possibility of turning this sport into a career?
About 15 months after my first triathlon, I did my first Ironman. I had a lot of people tell me it was too soon to try to race an Ironman, which only made me more determined. One of the biggest factors was I started working with my Coach Lucho and had someone help me avoid the pitfalls of many first-time Ironman athletes so I could maximise the fitness I had going into the race.
It felt incredible to see the hard work pay off; it was the first time I really thought I could do something in the sport. I had had some doubts earlier in the year if long distance triathlon was something I wanted to do. At that Challenge Barcelona Half race, I was still doing six-hour half Iron distance races and was starting to doubt myself, but I learned from the mistakes there to get 3rd place at Ironman Kalmar, though the mechanical that had me 12 minutes away from the win haunted me for a while.
A few major life changes later (several moves across the globe and a baby), you finally qualified for Kona. How did that feel?
It was surreal when things came full circle: getting a pep talk from Macca before Ironman Cork, racing in the MX Endurance Team kit, representing the team as an athlete and Coach and finally getting that Age Group win. It felt incredible to finally have that dream realised. After that first Ironman and getting so close it was a driving force for me from that point.
It was a long time between Ironman finishes with moving countries every few years and having my son but its what kept me motivated to keep training through all of it. I didn’t find out I had won until about a half hour after I crossed the finish line, I thought I was trying to hold off 3rd place I didn't know I had run into the lead. When I found out I burst out in tears it meant so much to have finally reached that goal.
How did you get into coaching? And how do you ensure you continue to grow in your abilities as a coach? How would you describe your coaching style?
I decided I wanted to get into coaching after my experience with my own coach - Lucho. I saw success early in the sport with no athletic background or idea what I was doing because I had a great coach that was knowledgeable enough to make sure I was doing the right quantity and quality of training. My training was written custom for me, not a copied-and-pasted plan. He prepared me mentally and physically for the rigours of training and triathlon ended up changing my life and my own perception of what I was capable of.
That inspired me because I want to help others do the same. Triathlon has been such a positive in my life in so many aspects I want others to see what they are capable of as well.
I also love the data and geek out on the numbers and analysis that goes into figuring out what makes and athlete tick and what their body responds to. Like the racing I don’t do anything in half measures so I’m constantly continuing my education, I have done mentorships with great coaches to expand my knowledge base and have had access to world class athletes to learn from.
My style is all about writing custom plans for athletes based on their strengths and weaknesses. Even more important though, I work with athletes to see what time they realistically have available to train. Most of us don't have the time to train like professionals so its important to make the most of the time you do have.
From new athletes doing their first triathlons to those who have been in the sport for a few years and are trying to take their performance to the next level, Jenna loves to guide her athletes through all the barriers of getting started and show them no matter what their current fitness level or time restrictions, triathlon is within reach. Get in touch with Jenna.