I have really enjoyed being able to do this entire “Ten Questions With…” series. Many of the folks I’ve been able to interview have been so very interesting and have had such compelling stories to tell. I’ve got to be honest with you, though, that I am tremensously honored to bring you today’s interview.
As you know, today is Memorial Day in the United States. It’s a day in which we honor servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate price in the defense of our country. Soldiers, Sailers, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have died.
It’s my true honor to share with you today an interview with Jessica Jones Myers – herself an Army veteran. This interview carries a little extra specialness for me today because of her (and countless others’) volunteer service in our military, and the knowledge that without patriots like Jessica and so many others before her, our country would not be what it is. We are indebted to folks like Jessica.
And so, without further ado, I bring you Ten Questions With….Professional Triathlete Jessica Jones Myers:
TM: You come from a really large family (3 brothers and 1 sister). What was it like growing up with all those siblings – were you guys competitive against each other? Tease each other?
JMJ: I can’t tell you how great my childhood was. Obviously with that many kids we didn’t have a lot of “material” things. But at the end of the day we had each other, as corny as it sounds. I wouldn’t say we were super competitive with each other, but we did build each other up and give confidence. I remember looking at my siblings and they’d say, “If I can do this, you can do this…” On the flip side, you have to have thick skin coming from my family. Teasing would be a mild term. We went for the jugular as far as making fun of each other–picking out imperfections or whatever to get the other going. But in the end my parents always taught us that at school we were a unified front.
TM: Each of the Jones kids went into a service academy (all West Point except your sister – who went to Annapolis). Could you share with us the background of what compelled you all to go that route? Do you come from a family of veterans?
JMJ: Great question! My dad had always wanted to go to Annapolis, but he was medically disqualified because of his eyesight. This is ironic because he ended up doing ROTC at the University of Houston, and was a forward observer in Vietnam! My mother was an Air Force brat and her father flew bombers (retired as a LTC.) When my sister (the oldest) was in high school, my dad told her she would be great for Annapolis. This is a little funny because my sister was a bit of a southern belle. She’d get up early for school to curl her long beautiful, blonde hair. My mom also wasn’t into it. Her response was, “No daughter of mine will ever be in the military.” But I have to hand it to my dad. He had a vision and he was persistent. Eventually he got my sister to go visit, and the rest is history! My two older brothers ended up at West Point. When it came down for me to choose I was torn. I was always set on Annapolis, but then this great coach from West Point kept after me. He was the great Jerry Quiller and I just loved him. Finally I said, “Whoever wins the Army/Navy football game is where I’ll go.” I was so nervous watching the game that I went and took a nap. When my dad woke me of course I asked, “Who won??” He said, “Army.” I said, “Sh!t.” I reported on 1 July 1996 to West Point.
TM: What can you share about your military career? What did you do, where did you go? What is your favorite memory of being in the Army?
JMJ: I graduated and was commissioned on 27 May 2000. I decided that I wanted to be an Engineer Officer. I first went to Fort Leonard Wood for my Officer Basic Course. Then I posted to Fort Hood, Texas. Why you might ask? The hardest part about West Point was being so far from home. Fort Hood was less than a 3 hr drive. I held jobs as platoon leader, S-1 (admin), Executive Officer, S-3 (operations). During this time I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq from 1 Jan 2004 until 9 Feb 2005. I worked mainly in operations during this deployment. When I got back, I decided to go do the Armed Forces Triathlon in June. I ended up winning and doing very well at the Military World Triathlon. I submitted an application to the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) and was accepted. I went to Fort Carson, CO in September and was there until February 2007.
As far as my favorite memory–this is a tough question. I loved being with troops. I loved being a platoon leader and XO. Staff Officer, not so much!! The interaction, the feeling of motivating soldiers to do more and be more than they thought possible gave me the most satisfaction. When I took over my platoon, I was 22 years old. I had the largest platoon in my company, nearly 40 soldiers. I also had the highest number of failures on the PT test (physical test) and the most on the over-weight program. By the time I left I had none on either. I was darn proud of that, it was hard work!!
TM: You’re involved with Team Red White & Blue. Could you tell us what that organization does and how you’re involved?
JMJ: Team RWB is a grassroots program for veterans and their goal is to reassimilate veterans back into society through sports. I got the opportunity to go to the first tri camp in April. It was amazing to see these guys. Some had very obvious wounds. Some you would never be able to tell. But they all got out there and are or on their way to becoming triathletes. It allows them to have goals and to strive for something they might not have thought possible. My role is an ambassador. Obviously I’m a triathlete, but I’m also a combat veteran. These issues and wounds are very real for me, and I love that I can share my experiences in both arenas.
TM: OK….let’s shift to “triathlon related questions” now. You seem to race mostly 70.3 distance races. What is it about that distance that clicks for you?
JMJ: Well, my swim was not quite up to snuff in the ITU racing. Also, after I had the twins my heart just wasn’t into going all over the world trying to get these ITU points. The 70.3 distance was taking off and I thought, “Great, double the distances of something I actually like to do (bike and run) and not much more swimming, sounds great for me!” It’s been a good fit, but I think if I can keep a healthy body the full distance will be my best distance.
TM: When you’re deep in the pain cave, how do you push through? Do you have a song on repeat in your head – do you repeat a phrase?
JMJ: The pain cave. Can I tell you that I would gladly take the pain over some of the other stuff I’ve endured? hahaha! But seriously…mental pain I think is much harder than physical. I think, “This too shall pass.” And I think about the time I’m away from my kids to train, or the soldiers, sailors and airmen who don’t get this opportunity because they are overseas somewhere or out in the field working and I say to myself, “This isn’t bad, you get to do this, so get after it!” As for the song, probably whatever I heard last–which can be a real curse!!
TM: You’re not only a triathlete – you’re a mother of young twins. So what is a “typical” day like – when do you fit in training with the already full-time job of being a mom?
My kids just finished Pre-K, which is a whole new world. Now they are in school 5 days a week, which really is completely different for my training. I actually get to rest now! Typically I drop the kids off at school at 730, then have some variety of swim/bike/run, pick them up at 230 and that’s it. Once I pick them up training is done, full time mom. So I get my workouts in during that time or they don’t happen.
TM: Do you have a diet indulgence – something that you just can’t do without?
JMJ: My latest is greek yogurt. And coffee!!
TM: Speaking of food…what is a typical day of meals like for you, and how do you fuel for hard workouts/races?
A lot of my meals seem to be on the go. So I’ll usually pack some sort of nut butter sandwich. I also take a lot of Power Gels during workouts and some sort of Powerbar immediately following to hold me over until my next meal. Dinner is usually some sort of salad and meat, chicken or beef. I have two five year olds, so our meals are planned so that they’ll actually eat what’s prepared!
TM: What is your best moment as a triathlete? Your worst?
JMJ: I think winning my first 70.3 (Augusta 2010) was pretty special. Also, my first 70.3 when my twins were 18 months old. I knew I wasn’t in contention for a win or anything, but I’m proud I had the courage to start. I think my worst is anything out of my control–like a mechanical that you just can’t avoid.