In Profile: Hay heading to Switzerland for world championship in duathlon
When JennaHay's legs feel like rubber because she's been running for so long, she's found the sweet spot. And she keeps running.
Hay, a senior in Texas Tech's Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, knows at some point in her next race her legs are going to feel like jelly and she'll have two choices: stop or keep running. Considering how hard she's worked to get there, how far from home she'll be and whose colors she's wearing, finishing is her only option.
"I want to represent the U.S. well, so I want to finish with my head held high and with a smile on my face," said the agricultural communications major from North Richland Hills. "I might crawl, I might even log roll, but I'm going to make it."
Hay, a triathlete with the Texas Tech Triathlon Team and national champion in long-course duathlon, is going to Switzerland in August to compete in the Powerman Zofingen Duathlon which includes a 6-mile run, 93-mile bike ride and what she called a "nice, gentle 18-mile run" to complete the event. She'll push her way up the Swiss Alps on a bike and run through the Swiss hill country in the mid-day, early September heat.
Becoming a Triathlete. During summer 2014 as a river guide in West Virginia, Hay saw a flier for a triathlon while she was out shopping. River guides, she said, operate with an air of devil-may-care invincibility, so she was pretty sure she could handle this race, despite having never done a triathlon before. Instead of swim-bike-run, this race was kayak-bike-run.
She was so green she showed up with an old, inexpensive bike and in a swimsuit and Spandex shorts. "I looked like an '80s nightmare," Hay admitted. The Spandex and invincibility worked out for her, though.
"I showed up with a great attitude, and I paddled and I biked and I ran, and I ended up getting third in my age group," she said.
She came back to Texas Tech that fall and joined the triathlon team, competing in her first race in spring 2015. She continued to compete throughout 2015 and 2016, adding it to her already physically demanding schedule of practicing and performing with the Goin' Band from Raiderland, in which she played clarinet, and the Mixed Martial Arts Club and playing ultimate Frisbee recreationally.
Hay improved noticeably as the races went by, said Jessica Wolfe, president of the Texas Tech Triathlon Team. Much of that she attributed to Hay's commitment to training. "I once ran into her at the aquatic center and she said she had a 30-minute break between classes and she wanted to get a workout in," Wolfe said. "Situations like that show Jenna's dedication to triathlon and have helped her become a lot faster in all three aspects of triathlon."
Path to a National Championship. On Nov. 13, 2015, Hay made a decision: She was entering the Long-Course Duathlon National Championship. She knew a good finish could qualify her for the world championship in Switzerland, and she wanted to try it.
She had just one issue "" she was in Lubbock, it was 10 p.m. and the race was the next morning in Dallas. She and her bike took a red-eye Greyhound bus, arrived at 6 a.m. and headed to the Texas Motor Speedway, arriving moments before the starting gun.
Hay heard about this race at a triathlon in San Antonio, so she knew the stakes and had her eye on Powerman. Finishing in the top nine in her age group was all she needed, and she kept that in mind through the 6-mile run, 26-mile bike ride and 3-mile run.
She did a little better than that, crossing the finish line in first place in her age group, officially making Hay the long course duathlon national champion. The email inviting her to Switzerland followed. She thought about it for a while; Hay is graduating in August, so this would put off finding a job, and she has to pay to her own way. Plus, it's really hard work.
However, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to represent Team USA in a worldwide competition. As for the rest of it, she figured, why not go now? "I'm young, I'm not tied down to anything," she said. "I've already been able to push myself so far in triathlons and duathlons, I feel like this is the next step. I feel like I can do it."
Switzerland & Beyond. Hay leaves for Switzerland the last week of August. She wants a few days to get over her jet lag, do some workouts in the higher elevation and do a little sightseeing before the race on Sept. 4.
Hay's training will get even more difficult this month (July) when she goes to Washington, D.C., as part of the congressional internship program through the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources.
Meanwhile, she's had time to make a few plans for her first trip abroad. She will tour the country, and Hay's made several friends on the team either through her race or on social media, so they'll hang out. She's also looking forward to the local delights.
"I'm really looking forward to the Swiss chocolate that I can eat after the race," Hay said.
Beyond the finish line, her plans are a little hazy. She's hopeful an opportunity will arise during her time in Washington. She wants to apply for a public relations internship with Southwest Airlines or with the U.S. Olympic Committee. She's looking around at job opportunities in Lubbock. It's all the "right" next steps.
"Actually my dream job is to lead biking tours through Napa Valley," Hay confessed after a short pause. "That's what I really want to do, but everything else sounds better when you're about to graduate."
Written by Heidi Toth
CONTACT: Steven Fraze, Chair, Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2816 or firstname.lastname@example.org
0712M16 / For a full text of the story and a video produced by TTU Communications and Marketing, click http://today.ttu.edu/posts/2016/07/jenna-hay
Editor's Note (Update Sept. 6, 2016): North Richland Hills' Jenna Hay, who graduated in August, was the Female World Champion in her age group of 20-24 for the Long-Course Duathlon on Sept. 4 at the Powerman Zofingen Duathlon World Championships in Switzerland. According to the International Triathlon Union website, Hay finished with a time of 10:42:46.