We have another Everyday Inspiration interview! As you know, an Everyday Inspiration is someone who inspires me (and likely others!) to keep pushing on in my quest to live a healthy, whole, happy life. These inspiring folks are day in, day out living their lives with an extreme investment in themselves, and are committed to healthy habits that work for them. Every single day.
You guys, I found this awesome lady from my amazing daycare provider. You just never know how you will cross paths with people, you know? She was telling me about her cool friend who was in Australia about to compete in some big race, and how she was so proud of her. Then she keeps telling me about this lady, and you can tell she is SO PROUD because she was just going for it, this Lady Beast duathlete she called her friend. I think I heard “My friend is a BEAST!” at least 10 times that night via text message. It was AWESOME.
So, of course, I had to ask my dear Megan (daycare provider) if I could be a creepo and stalk her friend and ask her to do an interview for us.
I mean, we had to meet this Lady Beast, right?
So, here we go. Time to meet Lady Beast Extraordinaire, Jenn Scudiero!
Jenn, have you always been an athlete?
I think that depends on your definition of athlete, but I have been active most of my life. Sort of a tomboy when I was younger, I always wanted to go run around. My neighborhood played a lot of games: two hand touch football, sign tag, running around in the woods, biking, night games, etc. I started official sports with dance and gymnastics when I was really young. I eventually started playing softball and running in both track and cross-country. In college, I mixed it up a bit by playing rugby. After college, I went back to running and then eventually got back into biking. Oh how I love biking…
Tell us about your athletic endeavors! We hear you “do” duathlons. What exactly IS a duathlon?
Duathlon has been my sport of choice for the past 5 years or so. It consists of a run-bike-run format similar to triathlon, except replace the swim with a run. With duathlon, every day is leg day! I was a runner from a young age. I used running as an escape from the challenges of growing up. It’s my emotional release and helps keep me grounded. After college, I got back into running and thought I should try a marathon. I enjoyed it, but after 7 marathons, I figured I should add in something else for a little cross training. That’s when I fell in love with biking, again. I feel like a little kid when I ride my bike. It’s so freeing and such a great way to experience new places. I sure hope that I can take my bike with me on some (or all) of my future trips. But enough about how much I love my bike (seriously, I love my bike)…back to duathlons. I was a bit intimidated to try my first multisport event, so I found a women’s only duathlon in the cities and decided to just go for it. I am so glad I did! It didn’t go perfectly, and I definitely should’ve trained more before hand, but I loved it so much. I was addicted and started doing more and more. So many, in fact, that in 2013 I actually raced in 11 duathlons.
Um, recently you competed in Australia. Like…..you actually qualified to compete there. Amazing!! Tell us the story of how you got there, and how did your event in Australia go?
In 2011 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, so I didn’t really race much that year, or sleep for that matter ☺ I spent most of 2012 trying to get my bearings back and get back into training/racing. It was also the year that one of the Minnesota races was lucky enough to be selected as the Duathlon World Championship qualifier. I had always wanted to go to the World Championships and this was the perfect opportunity to try for a spot on Team USA. I raced and qualified to represent Team USA in 2013 in Ottawa, Canada. The year 2013 was pretty crazy for me. I raced 11 duathlons. One of those was the ITU Duathlon World Championships. I placed 5th in my age group and 13th overall female. Later that year, I also raced in my first USAT Duathlon National Championships. It was the last race of the season, and it was quite the finish to 2013. I was the overall female national champion! It was also the year I was named US Female Duathlete of the Year. After capping the season off winning the national championships, I had qualified to represent Team USA in 2014 at the World Championships in Spain. Unfortunately, my first run after returning home from the National Championships, I ended up tearing my soleus muscle. With the World Championships in 2014 being so early in the year, I had to pass on my spot. I was still able to race in 2014, but it was a frustrating year. I was lucky enough that St. Paul had been selected to host the National Championships and it was a bit later in the summer, so I was recovered enough to race. It was there that I qualified for the 2015 ITU Duathlon World Championships in Adelaide, Australia. I didn’t think I would be able to go, as I wasn’t going to take a 4-year-old on a trip to Australia and it’s also a very expensive trip in general. I’m not sure how I got so lucky in life to have such amazing people in it, but I am an extremely lucky person in that regard. I have the most incredible friend, she’s been through thick and thin with me pretty much all of my life. I was telling her about my doubts on the trip and she offered to watch my daughter for 2 weeks! After figuring out a few more details, the trip was a go. And what a trip it was! The trip was an adventure in itself. But the icing on the cake was taking 22nd overall female and winning a bronze medal in my age group!
What does your training look like when getting ready for specific events? How about off-season training? Do you have a coach or do you coach yourself?
In 2013, I knew if I wanted to have any semblance of sanity, I needed to hire a coach. I did a lot of research and found Jason Digman and Dig It Tri. Having a coach helps me in so many ways. He knows all of the field research and focuses my training accordingly. He has talked me down from a few freak outs before races (wait, did I just say that out loud?!). He plans my workouts for me, gives me feedback, motivation, checks in, dials in, and gives me a piece of mind about my training, so I can focus on other things in life. Speaking of training, I’m in training most of the year. Unless I’m sick or injured, I typically only have a few weeks for off-season. Those weeks are a great mental break, I will usually still work out, but nothing is structured and it’s whatever seems fun on the day, even if it’s nothing ☺ After those few weeks, it’s back at it. I have phases of training I go through depending on when my races are falling in the year. My workouts will get more sport specific as a competition gets closer. Workouts will focus on more race-paced intervals and brick workouts. Brick workouts focus on getting your body used to the multisport transitions. For example, warm up with a run, and then go straight into short race-paced bike-run-bike-run-bike-run sequence, with a bike cool down.
Nutrition….I assume that eating food is important for your training (ha!). I mean, you can’t be a beast if you eat only 7 almonds everyday, right? Tell us your approach to nutrition and making sure you can be a beast when you need to be a beast.
Ha! Let’s see…7 almonds a day…I’m trying to imagine the hanger that would go along with that, yikes! I’m a very food driven person. My husband jokes that when I say, “I’m hungry” it means we should probably find some food, in the very near future…better yet, now! It’s also fairly well-known among my friends and family that I will usually finish my meal and I guard food. You may lose fingers, a hand, or worse, if you attempt to take food off of my plate without asking first. All joking aside though, I do need to eat at fairly regular intervals. That usually means I have to be bringing food with me places in case I need an emergency snack. I try to eat fairly clean, but I’m not perfect. I do make sure to fuel myself properly before workouts, but it is a learning experience to find out what that means for each person. I have learned some lessons the hard way on what does and doesn’t work well for me before/during a workout or before/during a race. I guess I see nutrition as a journey. Each step you learn something new and adjust if needed. Food is definitely fuel; I can tell the difference if I haven’t fueled properly. It really can make or break a workout and definitely make or break a race.
What do you do on days where you “don’t feel like being a beast” but you know you need to train? How do you maintain your training program but also listen to your body and take a break when needed?
Another great thing about having a coach is you have to answer not only to yourself, but also to someone else. You know when you miss a workout, but now someone else does too. It was motivation enough to get me working out consistently. In that process and through my coach, one of the things I’ve learned is consistency really is the key. Being consistent in your workouts will make more of a difference than pretty much any other variable. Eventually, it became such a habit that it’s not even a question anymore. It’s part of my plan for the day. When am I going to get in my workout? It is always a priority for me. It’s not always easy; I have done workouts at 4am (I’m not a morning person) and at 11pm before. There are definitely days when I’m tired, or my legs are tired, or I just don’t feel like it. Those days are tough. I don’t have any magic advice, but I have sat down and thought of all of the reasons I work out and pull them out when I don’t want to get out there. Sometimes I have to tell myself that it will wake me up, help me level out my emotions, take a break from it all, get my alone time, enjoy nature, enjoy time with a friend, help me feel better about myself, etc. Of course, I will try to think about the next big race. If you don’t put the time in for training, you won’t get any of the rewards from it. Training also helps me be a better mom, a better friend, and a better person in general. But I am pretty careful about when I’m feeling sick, or way too tired because my 4-year-old was up multiple times at night. I do try to listen to my body and run it by my coach when I am just too run down or overwhelmed. He is pretty cautious and likes to play it safe and take rest if needed, so I can come back to training faster. I know myself fairly well, so I can usually tell if I’m just feeling unmotivated (usually the case) or actually need to think about a day off.
You are a mom!! How do you balance mom things, family things, work things, downtime, AND being a competitive athlete?
I am very lucky to have a fairly flexible work schedule. Most days, especially in the summer, I am able to get my workouts in over lunch. On the days I can’t, I try to fit my workouts in so they cause the least disruption for the family. My daughter is so used to me working out. If I’m working out inside, she will sometimes bring me snacks, dance for me, or be my cheerleader. She’s a pretty neat kid ☺ It’s hard admitting this, but we also forgo things like cable television so we can get the house cleaned. It really frees up so much time so I am able to enjoy family and free time. My schedule is still super busy, I’m not going to lie. I have multiple Google calendars: one for my workouts, my calendar, my husband’s calendar, and our joint calendar. It makes it easier for everyone to see what is going on when, and to plan out days. I was once told that you should pick three things to focus on at a time. Right now those things for me are family/friends, workouts/my health, and work. I keep those three things in mind while planning my days; right now they are my priorities.
Let’s talk positive mindset, body image, self-confidence, etc. You are a woman, and you are raising a beautiful daughter. Sometimes us ladies can tend to be a little critical of ourselves and our bodies. How do you approach being the best “you” you can be as a woman, AND as an athlete? How do you try to “teach” that to your little girl?
Wow, what a great question. I think it’s important to realize nobody is perfect and that is the joy of living a life as a human being. We are all different and beautiful in our own ways. Learning to love our bodies, and ourselves just as we are, in the now, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves. I have learned to love things about myself over the years that I thought were unlovable and it has changed so much for me. Learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect and use it to change for the better. Change should come from loving yourself enough to want it for yourself, not because you think you’ll finally love yourself when you get there. The process is a great learning experience and changes so much. Have I completed the mission of loving everything about my body and me yet? No, some pieces are just a lot tougher than others, but I sure hope to keep working on it and get there. My hope is I can help my daughter learn how to do this for herself. I am very careful about being critical of myself in an unhealthy way in front of her. I know that is not enough as she grows, but right now I don’t want her to learn those patterns of self-criticizing from me.
I also want to show her, by example, how to grow and be better. If I feel like giving up during a race, skipping a workout, skipping out on plans with friends or family, etc. I think about what it is teaching my daughter. I want to be a positive role model. She is a motivation to do better and be better, even when I don’t feel like doing it for myself. Children watch what you do and learn from your actions so much more than they ever will from words. I want her to know there will be failure, set backs, and mistakes. Without those, you can’t learn to grow and better yourself. It’s how you handle them that make all the difference.
How do you take the struggles of everyday life and use them to make you better? I mean, everyone has bad days, life is GREAT but it can also be MESSY. How do you use that “stuff” to learn and grow?
It’s true everyone goes through big and small struggles in life. I may get stuck in down place for a little while, but eventually, I need to pull myself out of it. I am ultimately responsible for myself, my actions, how I treat others, and for the most part, the things that happen to me. When I am tempted to make an excuse for anything (big or small) or blame someone else for something that happens, I try to take recognize my part, apologize if necessary, and figure out how to keep it from repeating. Sometimes the things that happen are truly out of the blue and I have no control, but for the most part, it is usually a result of some decision I have made, and it’s up to me to learn and grow from it. I just made that sound so serious, but great things can come from messy situations.
I have talked a little bit about the awesome outcome of the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Australia, but it was quite the adventure of challenging events that led up to it. On more than one occasion, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to start the race…the race I have been training for and focusing on for a year and a half.
About a month and a half before the race, I got a cold. It wasn’t too bad, but I decided to take a few days off to try to keep it at bay. It started to subside, so I started training again, only for it to come back. This pattern repeated over and over again. Three days before I left, I had a horrible run. I could barely breathe and couldn’t even finish. It was very scary. I went straight to the doctor, where I was told I had walking pneumonia. After a chest x-ray, two z-packs, and an inhaler, I left. I had a talk with my coach about the possibility of not racing, or depending on recovery, I may have to just view the race as something to experience and not push. Accepting those possibilities was very difficult. I left a few days later for Australia. My chest was still pretty heavy, but I was excited to get out on my first bike ride. I was staying in downtown Adelaide, and I didn’t get my bike put together and ride-able until afternoon rush hour. The hotel said I shouldn’t have an issue, so I put a map in my pocket and went out for a ride. It was a horrible experience. I was brushed by a bus, knocked into a parked car, and finished sitting on the curb. Luckily, nothing was hurt other than my pride, but I was really shaken up. The next day I tried for a run, where my lungs still didn’t feel great and I slipped and fell in the dirt. The following day was pouring rain, but I had to get out and pre-ride the bike course. I was pleasantly surprised it went well, no falls, no lung issues. Finally, 2 days out from the race, I was starting to feel better.
Fast forward to race day. I already had my bike checked in, so I took my time getting down to the transition area. I tried to stay fairly relaxed, set up my gear, and get ready. About 10 minutes before transition close, I realized I hadn’t pumped up my bike tires for 4 days. I was scared of getting a flat tire, or having low tires affect my race, so I decided to go ask to borrow a pump and pump up my tires. They announce a “4 minutes until transition closes” warning. Borrowed pump in hand, I figured I had enough time. I start to get the valve ready and the valve stem blows off my tire. I’m sitting there staring at a completely dead tire. I went into panic mode. They are pushing people out of transition and down to the start line and I have a completely flat tire. I admit, there were tears and the fear that I just traveled all the way to Australia, got healthy enough to race, and now I can’t even start. A very nice fellow Team USA member came over and helped me try to change my tube. We were having trouble because it was so sticky from not being changed out in a few years. She reminded me that they had let the team mechanics into transition this year. They made her leave transition, while I ran my wheel and new tube to the mechanics. The Team USA and Team New Zealand mechanics were great; they not only fixed my flat, but also gave me a hug and tried to calm me down. The race crew was nice enough to allow me to put my wheel back on my bike, even though transition had long since closed. I was still nervous, as the tube I used to replace my blown one was the only spare I had. I was just hoping I didn’t flat during the race, or I was done. I had just enough time to run the ½ mile or so up to the start. A few seconds later, the horn blew to start my wave. I was off, and finally racing.
The first few minutes of my race consisted of me trying to calm myself down so I could pace my first run. I started that race with a kind of fire that I hadn’t had before and I had to focus the energy correctly or I would ruin the race. With everything that had happened in the week leading up to the race, I felt like there was something out there that really didn’t want me to race, but the truth is, I was able to overcome everything thrown at me. I was at the starting line when I needed to be and I was going to make the most of the opportunity. I’m glad I focused, paced, and used it to push me. I’m pretty sure I’m more proud of the accomplishment because of it.
Are some of those things a result of decisions I made days or months before? Absolutely, but when it all comes at once it can be overwhelming. You just have to focus, deal with it, and go back later to see how to avoid it in the future. There has been a lot of reflection since then and I hope I’ve learned enough to not repeat that experience leading up to a race again.
What advice would you have for someone who maybe has a little self-doubt but WANTS to do something cool like train for an athletic competition, or just find their inner BEAST?
Go for it! Seriously, there is no time like now. Want to train for something? Find a group, a trainer, a coach, a friend, or better yet, go watch a competition. You will find that there are so many supportive people out there and nothing is more motivating that immersing yourself into the atmosphere of a competition.
Have big goals, but keep changes small. Small changes and daily decisions add up and create lasting habits that produce real change. Never give up on yourself or what you want for yourself. You may stumble, and that’s normal and ok, but you have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and keep going. Try to figure out what motivates you and use it, then have a plan for days you’re not so motivated.
I like to keep quotes around. Here is a great one to remember:
“Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
If you have a little time, read the article he wrote for Michael Hyatt here, it is a very good read.
Also, here is another quote to think about:
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
I love connecting with new people and talking racing, health, motivation, anything! Feel free to follow me on my website, facebook, or reach out!
Check out Jenn’s website here: http://www.jennscudiero.com/
Jenn, we thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to talk to us and share about your racing and your life! Good luck to you in the future!