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5 Questions with Ironman’s fastest women’s cyclist, Jen Annett

Super-mom Jen Annett balances a pro triathlon career with family life in style

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Penticton’s Jen Annett is one of Canada’s fastest female full-distance triathletes. Last year she placed second at Ironman Canada in Whistler and third at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt. She also currently holds the fastest women’s Ironman bike split – a 4:25:10 at Ironman Texas in 2018. Triathlon Magazine Canada‘s Kevin Heinze spoke with her about her career, both past and present.

Triathlon Magazine Canada: How were you introduced to endurance sports?

Jen Annett: Although I did participate in a lot of team sports in high school, I also ran. I always chose the longest races because, although I wanted to be that 100 metre-dash star, I just didn’t have that kind of speed.

When I moved to Penticton, the staff at the physiotherapy clinic where I worked were avid runners. They got me hooked and I found myself going for 30 km-plus runs just to see if I could.

I also remember watching my first Ironman in Penticton in 2006 and I was so touched by it. While I was watching the run, I started crying because I was so moved. The next week, I bought my first road bike.

You have been with your coach, Jonathan Caron, ever since you turned pro. What is it about your relationship with him that works so well?

It’s about having a coach that also has a family and understands how to achieve that optimal training to family life balance. Jonny is also a very supportive coach and straightforward. We’ve had great results, but are always working on improving things, so I’m very happy.

Of all the races that you have done, which is the most special to you?

It was the 2016 Long Course Canadian Nationals. It was such a thrill crossing the finish line first. I came close to winning big races several times, but never could do it, and to win in my home town of Penticton was incredible.

I was in second and in the last mile of the race I remember something snapped in my mind and it said, “It’s now or never, I am going to die trying to run this girl (Liz Lyles) down for the win.”

Jen Annett was just starting to wind things up for another of her stellar bike rides when she was cut off by a media motorcycle at last year’s Ironman World Championship. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

Last year you had good results in Whistler and Frankfurt, and you had a strong build up going into Kona, but things didn’t turn out for you that day.

Yeah (laughing) we made a lot of sacrifices to get to Kona early to do some heat and humidity acclimatization and that went well, unfortunately, a couple of kilometres into the bike a media motorcycle cut me off and I had a bad crash.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am quite stubborn. I convinced myself it wasn’t too bad. I got back on my bike only to find out my front wheel had shattered. After getting a replacement wheel, I continued on, the adrenaline from the crash acted as an effective pain-reliever… up until about kilometre 150. After that, the pain really set in and every bump in the road seemed like a stab in my wrist and my shoulder. As I rode that last part, I told myself that once I got to the run I’d feel better.

Right after transition I had a mental argument with myself. Part of me wanted to quit, but I never DNF’d a race before, so I told myself I’m not going to quit this race. The next few miles were a combination of running and walking. While walking, I spoke with my family, my coach, and some other female competitors who were also having a bad day. After that I started  bawling. I asked myself “what are you doing to yourself, you have done this course before and you don’t need to prove it to yourself.” So I guess I came to terms with it, and I pulled out.

What do you think of the changes to the Ironman Canada bike course?

I don’t think that many people are going to miss the Cawston out and back with its rough pavement sections. The new section that goes down Twin Lakes Road is beautiful, but it is tougher. The quality of the pavement and the scenery there is amazing. I think people are going to enjoy it.