Logan, Ohio, about an hour drive southeast of Columbus, was the venue for the first of five sprint triathlons to be completed in the same number of states on successive weekends of September and the first weekend in October. Read More
From her earliest memories of growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne Minder has been active. Her love for moving, whether through biking, running, swimming, walking, skiing, or you-name-it, has led to impressive accomplishments in triathlon.
Following is Jeanne’s triathlon story and information about triathlon training for seniors that she shared with Joy and me over coffee.
Accomplishments On and Off the Course
I was first introduced to Jeanne through an article in an online newspaper covering the northern suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota. However, when Joy and I met with Jeanne over coffee and tea at the Caribou Coffee in Arden Hills, Minnesota, we learned a whole lot more about her.
A sampling of her accomplishments tells part of the story:
- Over 400 triathlons including three at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
- Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame inductee
- Gold medalist in triathlon at the 2015 National Senior Games
- Mother of an active son and daughter
- Leader of the County Cycles Triathlon Club for 24 years
- Personal trainer for 28 years, including 23 years with the New Brighton Community Center
- University of Minnesota graduate
- High school track & field and cross country skiing coach
- And, an on-going participant in endurance events involving running, skiing, and biking.
But that’s not all. In talking with Jeanne, we were able to see her personal side – her passion for endurance sports and her love for helping people, especially seniors, “make fitness a lifestyle”.
“Anybody who does triathlon or any sport is doing good. As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.” Jeanne Minder
Getting Started in Triathlon
Jeanne did her first triathlon, the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview, Minnesota, in 1982.
“I had been training with local athletes Mary Lou Schmidt and Roy Carlsted and they encouraged me to do a triathlon.”
Like so many of us, she caught the ‘triathlon bug’ after completing her first. There was no turning back.
A Mother’s Example
But the seed for her triathlon excursion started years earlier. Jeanne credits much of her love for being active to her mother. Growing up in South St. Paul, Minnesota, Jeanne’s mother taught her and her three sisters how to manage without a second car.
“We walked or biked everywhere that we needed to go.”
During the summer, they made the daily bike ride to the pool where they spent their afternoons. Swimming, biking, and running were a natural part of her lifestyle as a child.
“When we were at home, my mom would tell us to ‘Go outside and play’. So we would go outside, ride bike, swim or play kick the can in the summer, and go tobogganing in the winter. We were literally outside whenever possible.”
Even though she did not participate in organized sports in high school, the foundation for future activities had been built.
Triathlon and More
Since 1982, Jeanne has done over 400 triathlons. These have included six Ironman distance races of which three have been at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Qualifying for Ironman Championships in Hawaii meant that she won her age group at qualifying Ironman triathlons in Lake Placid, New York; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Along the way, she has amassed a large number of interesting stories. The first one which she shared during our conversation was from the Ironman Cape Cod.
“Cape Cod was tough with 40 miles per hour winds in every direction. Oh, yes, and they forgot to tell us until the next day during the awards ceremony about the sharks that had been around the swim course.”
She has also completed 26 marathons. These have included the iconic Boston Marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota.
On top of this, she has finished countless long distance bike rides across her home state of Minnesota (TRAM, Bike Across Minnesota, MS150), the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, and bike rides across long stretches of the USA and Canada.
And then, there was her 2015 first-place finish in women’s triathlon at the National Senior Games.
Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame
Despite this fantastic list of accomplishments, Jeanne told us that she was surprised to receive a call from a representative of the Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame one day in early 2016. The caller informed Jeanne that her accomplishments had been noticed and that she had been nominated to the Hall of Fame.
“When the caller told me that I had been nominated for the Senior Sports Hall of Fame, I asked ‘For what?’. ‘For triathlon’ was his answer.”
On May 13, 2016, Jeanne received the award recognizing her accomplishments in a ceremony at Jimmy’s Food & Drink in Vadnais Heights, Minnesota.
The Minnesota Senior Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Minnesota Senior Sports Association. According to their website, the Association is “dedicated to encouraging and supporting men and women from Minnesota in their pursuit of competitive athletics.”
Triathlon Training for Seniors
There are several approaches to training for a triathlon. These include self-training (developing a training plan on your own), training as part of a triathlon club, and training under either a virtual or live coach.
While I have used self-training based on research and reading from a select group of books and websites, I have never been sure that this is the best approach or that it has helped me to be the most competitive.
Since Jeanne has been a personal trainer for 28 years and is an accomplished triathlete, I decided to get her thoughts.
Frankly, I expected that she would recommend hiring a trainer or triathlon coach. However, this has not been her approach nor one she recommended. In fact, I left feeling hopeful since she has followed a self-training approach with 2-3 group workouts per week.
Group Training Options
“There are plenty of options for group training. Most running stores offer group runs. Masters swimming clubs (such as U.S. Master Swimming) provide group swim training. And many bike shops put together group rides.”
“Or, you can do what I did this morning. When I got to the community center pool at 6 o’clock, there were already eight people in the pool. I asked them if they wanted to do a workout, which they did. So we ended up swimming 3,000 meters using a workout that I quickly put together.”
“As you get to know people in each of these, you will inevitably find those interested in triathlon. You can put together triathlon specific sessions such as brick (e.g. bike followed by a run) workouts with these new found friends.”
“For example, we would bring our bikes to White Bear Beach (in White Bear Lake, Minnesota). After a swim (in White Bear Lake), we would bike from the beach to Somerset, Wisconsin; eat lunch; and return home, having biked roughly 70 miles round trip.”
While triathlon is an individual sport, triathlon training provides plenty of opportunity for being social.
There can be no question that one factor in Jeanne’s success is her love for being with people. She told us repeatedly of the thrills that have come from meeting and spending time with people, whether training together or camping at a multi-day biking event.
“Triathlon has allowed me to meet some really neat people.” Jeanne Minder
It’s Not About the Competition
If we are truthful, we all want to be competitive and even win some races, or at least finish in first place in our age group once in a while.
However, most seniors who do triathlon or are active with other sports – Jeanne Minder included – mostly want to see others share in the benefits of being active. Not just as validation for their sports activities but because they (we) have seen the benefits of it.
“Anybody who does a triathlon or any sport is doing good. As a personal trainer, I try to get people to work out three times per week and make it a lifestyle.
Let’s Not Forget the Volunteers and Race Directors
On several occasions, Jeanne stopped to point out the importance of volunteers and race directors to triathlon.
“Triathlons wouldn’t even be around were it not for the volunteers. And, as for the race directors, most people do not realize the amount of work that goes into a triathlon. There is not only the race but the work to organize the volunteers and all of the pre-race and post-race activities.”
Jeanne singled out Randy Fulton for his support of triathlon:
“For a while, Randy was running every triathlon around here (Minneapolis-St. Paul area). He was really great for promoting the sport and giving us great races to do. He was a great person.”
By the way, next time you are at a triathlon, thank the volunteers.
Jeanne loves being with people. She has high energy and loves to be active.
She also loves her dogs.
“Today, my inspiration for running comes from my three Golden Retrievers. Goldens are runners. They love to run.”
“After coming home from a hard day, these guys give me a look that tells me ‘You need to take me for a run’. How can I say ‘No’?”
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- ‘Gotta Tri’ – Triathlon in The Villages, Florida
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- Aging Athletically: Becoming a Sexagenarian and a Triathlete
- 15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons
Harmon Lake Park, Mandan, North Dakota, July 18, 2015 – Bismarck Triathlon
What is it like to do a triathlon in winds gusting to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour)? The 2015 Bismarck Triathlon showed us just how much wind can influence a race.
Planning the North Dakota Triathlon
How to Choose Your Next Triathlon highlights factors we typically consider in selecting a triathlon, especially those involving overnight travel. For Joy and me, one of the keys to out-of-state triathlons has been to combine travel to the event with a visit to friends or family or a place of special interest (e.g. Savannah, Georgia – Hilton Head, South Carolina). Sometimes, we manage to accomplish more than one of these.
North Dakota was unique in this respect. Here’s the reason.
In 2015, North Dakota had among the fewest triathlons of any state. On top of this, one of the three scheduled triathlons involved kayaking and mountain biking as an alternative to swimming and road biking.
Frankly, I was concerned that the one conventional sprint triathlon in North Dakota might eventually become extinct.
So, in February, we decided that this would be the year to complete the North Dakota triathlon and put behind us concerns about completing a triathlon in this state.
A Pleasant Surprise at Registration
During registration for the event, I learned that I could save $2 on the fee if I shared news of the registration with my Facebook friends. Of course, I took advantage of this.
After sharing the post, I learned that one of my friends, Tom Lipp, had completed the Bismarck Triathlon the prior year. I also learned that Tom was now training for Ironman Wisconsin.
You can read about his experience training for and racing in Ironman Wisconsin here.
Getting to Bismarck
Bismarck is actually a twin city with Mandan, North Dakota, home of Harmon Park and the Bismarck Triathlon. The two cities are separated by the Missouri River with Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, on the east side of the river. Mandan is on the west side of the Missouri River.
By the way, did you know that the Missouri River is the longest river in the United States, beating out the Mississippi by 21 feet? And, that’s before it joins the Mississippi River just north of St, Louis, Missouri.
Driving to the Bismarck-Mandan area from our Minneapolis, Minnesota area home was about as easy a trip as one can make – start the audiobook, get on Interstate 94 West, and stay on it for just under six hours past the Red River Valley and some of the flattest parts of the USA.
We left home on Friday around 10:30 am and set our GPS coordinates for Epic Sports in Bismarck, location for race packet pick-up. After collecting the packet, including the race T-shirt, we checked into the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
We then headed downtown, taking a short detour around the North Dakota State Capital building along the way.
Following a short walk around the renovated downtown area, we stopped at one of the restaurants recommended by the hotel desk clerk, Blarney Stone Pub. Dinner tonight consisted of authentic Irish food – creamed cabbage and corned beef for Joy and fish & chips for me.
11th Annual Bismarck Triathlon
The Bismarck event included sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. There was also a sprint distance relay option in which three members of a relay team each completed one of the legs.
Distances for the three legs of this USAT-sanctioned sprint triathlon were:
- Swim: 0.31 mile (500 m)
- Bike: 12.4 miles (20 km)
- Run: 3.1 miles (5 km)
The 10 am starting time for the Bismarck Triathlon was the latest of any I have raced so far. The transition area did not even open until 8:30 am, a time at which most triathlons are starting or already underway.
Because of the later start, I had been concerned about the fact that the average high temperatures during the week before the triathlon had been just under 100°F. (I am not a fan of running in extreme heat.)
Today, however, the air temperature at race time was a chilly 60°F (16°C). On top of this, the wind was howling, with an average speed of 25 miles per hour (40 km per hour) and gusts to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour).
It quickly became apparent to the poor souls who were assigned the job of placing the race buoys for the sprint and Olympic distances that the wind was too much for the anchors meant to secure the buoys in place. The buoys simply would not stay where they were placed.
On top of this, the volunteers in kayaks who were supposed to provide a rest stop along the course for swimmers needing a break during the swim leg had to spend all of their time paddling to trying to stay near the course. With the wind today, it was not possible for them to provide the support for swimmers that race organizers intended.
So, just before the start of the race, with the wind clearly in control, the race director decided to shorten the swim course, creating one that ran parallel to the shore a few yards away from it.
The revised course, reported to be 250 m by one swimmer with a GPS watch, was judged to be safe for the conditions of the day. Fortunately, everyone was safe through the swim and the remaining legs of the race were completed as planned.
For the bike leg, the numbers on my bike computer tell the story. The average speed was 14 mph (23 km/hr) while the maximum speed was 37 mph (60 km/hr).
While biking uphill, into the wind, the speed was incredibly slow at between 9 and 11 miles per hour (14-18 km/hr). For most of the ride, I avoided the aero position for fear of being blown off the road.
After the initial approximately two miles into the westerly wind, we turned. Now, the wind was from the side making the ride even more treacherous.
Triathlon training tip – While we may be inclined to avoid inclement weather when training, we should take advantage of these opportunities, at least some of them. Training in conditions, such as rain or wind, which could be experienced on race day, helps to prepare for these when we eventually face them during a race. Reminds me of James 1:2-4.
The maximum speed came on the return of this out-and-back course where we road downhill with the wind at our back.
I prefer that the run course not include a hill immediately out of transition. The legs are already struggling to adapt to running after biking.
But today I was not getting my wish. The run out of transition involved a significant hill on the same road within the park that we had just returned from the bike course. And, with the wind today, my legs were more tired after the tough bike ride.
The run was also on an out-and-back course, sharing a section of the bike route. The initial portion took us past the campground within Harmon Park where campers turned spectators cheered us on.
As with the bike, we ran into the wind for the major portion of the first half of the run. But just as with the bike leg, the wind helped us back to the finish line after the turnaround.
I ended the race with the second best time of five participants in the 60+ year Age Group in which I raced. Nothing to brag about, but no injuries.
Another state closer to the goal.
- First race in which strong winds forced a change in the swim course.
- Latest start time; first race with a start time of 10 am.
You may also be interested in these posts
- Triathlon Across the USA: State #2 – South Dakota
- Triathlon Across the USA: State #19 – Wyoming
- 15 Reasons for Those 50 and Older to Do Triathlons
Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 20, 2014 – City of Santa Fe Triathlon
The news of wild fires in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado during early July 2018 brought back memories of our trip to the area in 2014. Read on to learn about the visit in the story of the City of Santa Fe Triathlon, our New Mexico triathlon in the ‘Triathlon Across the USA’ adventure.