It's hard to imagine, but Jennifer Imsande of Baxter has participated in just two triathlons in her life.
Judging by the results, it appears as though she has found a new sport to excel at.
After capturing first place in the women's sprint division in the Young Life Triathlon on Aug. 18 at Detroit Lakes, Imsande followed with another first-place finish in the women's division at the Lakes Country Triathlon in Baxter last weekend.
Imsande, a Brainerd Warrior Hall of Famer and former Division I athlete at the University of Minnesota, said she planned her training schedule so that she would peak at the two August races.
"I don't consider myself to be a gifted athlete," she said. "I just think that I train smarter and a lot harder than most people I know."
Jennifer Imsande of Baxter bicycled during the Young Life Triathlon on Aug. 18 at Detroit Lakes. Imsande won that triathlon and the Lakes Country Triathlon in Baxter last weekend.
Imsande, however, did not come into the recent triathlons with no competitive experience.
In 1995, she finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships in the 400-meter hurdles and has continued to run in races of various lengths ever since.
Imsande, now a professor of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, said it was not the running that would be an issue in her triathlon competition.
"I toyed with trying triathlon, but resisted because running is not the most important event," she said. "In order to be a good triathlete, I needed to become a better cyclist. Also, I'm not a swimmer."
But Imsande was a quick learner after a wide variety of motivating factors occurred during the last year.
The first was her participation in the swimming and running portions of last year's Lakes Country Triathlon as part of a relay. Second was a tri-bike, specialized for speed rather than distance, that she received as a Christmas gift.
Another occurred when she met Michelle Andres of East Gull Lake, who won the 2006 Lakes Country Triathlon and was named the best female triathlete in the 2006 Tri-Minnesota Racing series.
Imsande said their respective strengths helped improve and motivate each other.
"I like and I'm good at speed; she likes and is good at muscular endurance," Imsande said. "A good triathlete needs both."
The final motivating factor for Imsande came in the form of taekwondo, which she takes classes under the instruction of Master Jon Engum in Brainerd.
Imsande said Engum motivated her to once again compete at a high level.
"Competing at a Division I level really had burned me out," she said. "I lost my love for competing and for training hard. I found it again when I started martial arts training with Engum."
With her motivation fully restored, Imsande turned her attention to the diligent and difficult training that would be required to excel in triathlons.
Imsande said triathlon training is something unique.
"Remarkably, I can increase my training load with triathlon and stay healthy," she said. "When your Achilles feel tight from a run, you can swim or bike. When your shoulder is tight from the swim, you can run. It's a fantastic sport."
And, Imsande has thrived in it. But she said she is careful in her competition planning, choosing only races that she is highly motivated to partake in, known to her as "A" races.
"I probably won't do more than four a year because I know it's hard to train effectively and peak for more than four "A" races and in part because I want it to stay fun," she said. "And, the mind needs time to forget how bad the hurt is while you're finishing the run."
For now, Imsande is done with competition as her focus shifts to the changing seasons and future ambitions.
"I'm looking forward to some long bike rides through beautiful forests this fall," she said, "and training for some Olympic distance events next summer."
TY RUSHMEYER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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