Rachelle Jensen is an athlete in Austin, TX. Rachelle has a trophy-case full of accomplishments as a swimmer and triathlete- and at 63-years young, she's not done yet.
Jensen describes herself as "forever on the run," because military relocation has plopped her every point on the map. I'd describe her as that for other reasons: it got to be a weekly occurrence in 2020 that I would go on a jog and I would run into this woman. If you know Austin, TX, you know that there are a lot of jogging trails around here. Yet, whether I was at Garey Park, Williamson County Regional Park, Brushy Creek Trail, or Town Lake, I would inevitably run into this woman. I didn't know who she was at the time, but it seemed inevitable that we were running the same circles and were meant to bond.
In 2021, we bumped into each other at Life Time Fitness. It was one of those 'you look familiar but why' moments. Then the realization hit that it was "forever on the run" lady. Turns out, she's also forever on the swim and bike, too. I was training for a triathlon at the time, and Rachelle gave me some tips:
1. Practice swimming in open water. I decided nah, I'll just train in a pool.
2. If it's wet suit legal, wear a wet suit. I wore a bikini.
3. Limit your transition time. I stripped butt naked and changed clothes.
You can lead a horse to water. Rachelle tried to make my triathlon-dabbling experience less goofy, but I did it my own way. Rachelle is full of wisdom. Listen to her story and glean inspiration. Trust from my ill-fated triathlon, if Rachelle gives you advice, you should take it.
BB: Tell us about your early life. Who inspired you to be active, as a girl in sports-- in pre-Title IX times?
RJ: My father was in the Air Force, so we moved quiet often. I was born in Roswell, New Mexico. As a baby, we moved to North Carolina, which is a beautiful state. I remember doing lots of tent camping. My dad taught my two sisters and me to swim and water ski at an early age- I was 5. He was an outstanding swimmer- he was going to Olympic trials via Navy but got sick. He was my swimming idol. Because of my dad, I started swimming competitively at 10-years old. After wonderful years in North Carolina, we moved to Michigan and was there from 3-6th grade. Playing in the snow was what I really remember there. But my most memorable times were when we moved to Ohio. That’s where my competitive swimming really took off. Competing every summer: up early to practice and returning to the swim club daily for more.Our summers were spent practicing and competing for several years. After leaving Ohio, we moved to California- my absolute favorite place! If you've never experienced swimming in the ocean, it's really something!
BB: So triathlons were a natural progression from swimming?
RJ: Oh no. I did my first triathlon because someone dared me to when I was beach life guarding in San Diego. I won, so that was surprising and- awesome! It was like whoa- I must be good at this. I should do more. I was young (I had recently graduated with a degree in Child Development from San Diego State University), single, and had plenty of time to train. In my opinion, San Diego is the best place to train with world class athletes. I started performing really well and was hooked.
BB: There's a lot of hype about Ironman triathlons. Tell us what that means and your experience- as an Iron-woman!
RJ: An Ironman consists of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike followed by a 26.2 mile run. My first came a year and a half after I had had a skiing accident and tore my ACL. Doctors didn't think I would ever run again after that accident. Nope, I refused to accept it. I had to do an Ironman to show the medical world and myself what's possible with relentless determination. Since that first Ironman race, I did 9 total. 6 world championships in Hawaii, placing 4th, 3rd and 1st in age group. I did 2 in Spain and 1 in Japan. The one in Spain was my most rewarding accomplishment. I led the women's race until I was passed on the ride. Several women passed. I was able to catch most of them on the run to finish 2nd female overall. The comeback was exhilarating (the $5,200 cash prize was nice, too). I loved traveling the world, some of the best years of my “single” life.
BB: What came next on your journey?
RJ: After I married and had a son, I kept doing triathlons, but the distance lessened. My (military) husband deployed often & Ironman training and single-parenting just don't go together. We've lived in Florida, Washington, Hawaii (oh, the culture and climate!), back to Washington, back to my heart of hearts: San Diego, then, alas, to Texas to be close to his family. Family is always a good choice.
BB: When's your next race?
RJ: I'll be running a 5K Fun Run in Georgetown, TX next week. And I was signed up to run a half marathon in Austin later this month, but have decided to make it just a 5K. I don’t need to push my body too much. I just want to be proud of myself and an inspiration to those looking to do something fun, challenging and memorable.
BB: What advice would you give to women who are just contemplating dabbling into the world of triathlons?
RJ: Just do it. It’s okay to be in the very back. But just try so that you can say, "I did it, I gave it my all." I love triathlons because its a multi sport event. It takes you to new levels that you have to overcome fear to even try. I always coach "JUST TRI." The camaraderie is amazing and no one judges you. Just have faith in yourself. Only your can do what you set your mind to do. I turn to faith, and repeat, especially when things get hard "with God all things are possible." Have faith!!!
BB: Anything else you'd like to add?
RJ: Just that this is my passion; I welcome you to contact me if you have questions or you'd like to chat. Also, thanks for taking the time to read my story.
BB: Where can our readers find and connect with you?
RJ: Email me at Rachelle.firstname.lastname@example.org.