The Washington Post

Becoming a world-class runner and triathlete: Columbia Triathlon winner Lindsey Jerdonek

May 27, 2011

Whether you're looking to become a marathon runner, just want to compete in a 5K or want to become a better cyclist or swimmer, chat with Washington, D.C., resident and winner of the 28th annual Columbia Triathlon Lindsey Jerdonek.

She will chat about what it was like winning her first professional competition, how she trained, what's next on her plate and more, all while giving you tips to succeed at your own events and races.

Have a question? Ask now. Jerdonek will be online Friday, May 27 at 1 p.m. ET.

Thank you for having me participate in The Washington Post Q&A. I'm looking forward to answering your triathlon questions.

At what point did you realize you had the wherewithal to be a top-notch triathlete?

This is a great question because believing that I can compete with the best is something I must work on all time. I showed that I had the 'potential' to be competitive a few years ago, but truly believing that doesn't come easy and it requires lots of work. Last year I took a break from the sport when I lost confidence in my abillities to compete. This is changing.

Lindsey, you are an incredible athlete...but for everyday people like me how do you even begin the process of training for a triathlon? It is a daunting task and hard to even imagine...but very intriguing! Thanks. John from Ellicott City, MD

Thanks, John. We all start somewhere. For my first sprint triathlon, back in 2006, I only tagged along with my friend for the training and the race. I had swum competitively before this, but the land sports were new to me. Find people who you can learn from. The DC Tri Club, for example, has a New Triathlete Program that helps 'newbies' prepare for their very first race.

Lindsey, how much time do you spend getting prepared for a race? When does it all begin and how much prep time do you typically need? Do you ever take time off?

I plan to do a fair amount of racing this season and started working with my coach, Margie Shapiro, in February. We prioritized training for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in early April, then focused on getting ready for the Columbia Triathlon after then, which was a 6 week training block. I'll take off a day here and there, but my down time will be in the late fall, after racing season

Hi LLW, Congrats on the Columbia TrI! What other events will you be competing in this year? xxxooo A.L.

Hi Aunt Laurie! Next up is the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. I will either do the Life Time Fitness series races or the USAT draft-legal races after then.

What is the best piece of triathlon or life advice anyone has ever given you and why?

It's hard to think of one thing in particular, especially when my father is doling out the life advice around the clock (I need it). Right now I'm working on letting go of the small things and keeping everything in perspective.

What is a differentiating factor between CTAs events compared to other triathlons you have been a part of?

I like that Columbia Triathlon Assoc. events have a small race feel (low stress--good), but draw an amazing group of athletes.

Lindsey, how often do you train each week, swim, bike, and run? Do you lift weights?

My totals for a training week are: swim - 20,000-25,000 meters bike - around 6 hours (with ample intensity) run - approx 5 hrs I do not lift weights but I have a core strengthening routine 1x-2x per week.

Age groupers always struggle with the energy balance - job, family, obligations, etc., get in the way of sleep and training. Do you have tips on how we age groupers can keep our energy balance in check?

Though I race in the pro field, I have a similar balancing act with work, training, commuting, seeing friends, etc. I believe that sleep deserves to be a higher priority than we make it. With enough sleep I become a MUCH more pleasant and productive person. I always joke with my coach that we need to 'sleep our way to success'. :)

Lindsey, Congratulations on a great race. You looked cool and relaxed and finished strong. How do you pace yourself during a race like this?

Thank you. Learning how to pace properly is practiced in training. On the bike and run you have to constantly monitor your effort. I think the swim, however, is more tactical. You need to pay attention to holding onto the feet in front of you, even if it feels like you're hanging on for dear life!

Lindsey, is there an Ironman in your future? And can you talk about whether or not a triathlon club is a good idea for a person interested in triathlon? TJ

Hi TJ, There's not a half-ironman in the immediate future, so I do not see an Ironman on the horizon. I'm sticking with the short events. Joining a triathlon club is an excellent way to learn more about the sport. I met many of my first training partners after joining the DC Triathlon Club a few years ago and I continue to attend club events.

Do you feel like you really "sent 'em" at Columbia, or were you holding back a little bit? I ask because you're smiling at the finish line.

If by sent 'em, you mean did I push myself, then yes. I did not hold back during the race and it was a very rewarding moment to cross the finish knowing that I had given it my best.

Lindsey, as a DC area triathlete as well, I'd like to know your favorite places to ride in the area.

My favorite bike training near DC has been riding the Columbia Triathlon course because it's so tough. MacArthur blvd and Falls Rd are good options, too. Hains Point is convenient--just be mindful of all the buses/cars/you name it that zip around.

Hi Lindsey. Fellow Cleveland-area native here (Strongsville). My question is this: what advice do you give to those who aren't strong swimmers? Since you swam competetively, I would imagine the swim portion gives you a leg up on the other competitors. I've always had an interest in triathlons, but the swim part worries me and keeps me from ever seriously considering entering one.

Hi! Swimming is a challenge because there is a lot of skill involved and requires LOTS of practice (I spent hours and hours of my youth staring at the blackine at the bottom of the pool). If doing a triathlon at this point is too big a stepping stone, you can lower the bar to make it more manageable. Put in enough pool time to where you are comfortable in the water, then you can think about swimming in open water down the road.

Lindsey are there any gender specific events geared solely towards women or are they all mixed? Which do you prefer?

The Iron Girl races are women only events. It's a good way to... get your feet wet.

Was anything different about your most recent race and/or the training and days leading up to it that caused you to perform so well and win? Or was this just the natural progression of years of work and dedication?

Without a question, performing well requires years of work and dedication. I am definitely in better shape than when I first started racing pro, but I also have a better understanding of how to be competitive and stay in race mode even if I can't see my competitors on the course. The mental aspect of triathlon (and all sports) is very important.

Do you have a full time job or do you train full time? If you work full time, how do you find the time to train at the level you need to successfully compete? Finally, what's your strategy to balance non-athlete friends and family...and a love life?

I work full time and train as much as my body can handle. You just have to make the time--I don't have a TV so that probably adds a couple hours to my day that I might otherwise not have! I love spending time with my friends and family and seeing them keeps me sane. Dating is a challenge when you miss happy hours to train. :) Let me add that my office closed an hour ago in light of the holiday weekend so I'm chatting on my time.

I appreciated this opportunity to answer your questions and thank you for the support!

From the producer: For more info, check out Lindsey's blog, The Slog, to read about her training and future triathlons. 

In This Chat
Lindsey Jerdonek
Lindsey Jerdonek is a 26 year-old professional triathlete currently residing in Washington, D.C. She was the top female finisher in the 28th Columbia Triathlon on May 22 with a time of 2:09:07. The Columbia Triathlon - produced by TriColumbia - is one of the most challenging and longest running triathlons in the United States. The Olympic distance race - which attracts world-class professional and amateur endurance athletes from across the country - starts and finishes in Howard County, Md.’s Centennial Park and consists of a 1.5K swim – 41K bike – 10K run.

A Cleveland, Ohio native, Lindsey graduated from the University of Maryland in 2006. While at Maryland she was a member of the swim team for two years specializing in sprint freestyle and breaststroke events. Post college she became more interested in triathlons and competed in her first Olympic distance triathlon in 2007. In 2008, she finished first in her age group and eighth overall in the Ironman 70.3 Florida as an amateur. After a successful amateur season in 2008, Lindsey received her Pro Card in 2009. The next race Lindsey will be competing in is the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon in San Francisco, Calif. on June 5. In her spare time, Lindsey enjoys contributing to her blog, The Slog, which she developed with fellow professional triathlete and friend, Lauren Harrison.

Photo by ASI Sports Photography
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