Jess Anderson, a 2011 graduate and former three-sport athlete at the Coast Guard Academy, as she played volleyball, basketball and was a member of the track and field team during her days as a cadet, has found a different way to keep busy after graduation. She competed in the grueling Ironman 70.3 Miami and not only finished the race, but she finished first in her age group and qualified for the World Championships in Las Vegas in 2013.
The Ironman 70.3 Miami was held on Oct. 28th and had a field of 2,500 athletes held at BayFront Park in Miami, Fla. and sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
She started doing marathons during her the senior year at the Academy after volleyball and basketball were over. She completed her first half marathon in February at Cape Cod with a time of 1:53 and her first marathon in May, the Long Island Marathon in 4:27.
Anderson got stationed in Miami and started to sign up for more races as the opportunity presented itself. She ran two marathons in one month in January of this year, one of which was the Goofy Challenge for Disney before trying her first triathlon in Panama, a half ironman.
“I borrowed a bike and shoes from my brother, I had only ever biked 45 miles and had never swam more than a mile,” said Anderson. “Having never done a triathlon before and being in a foreign country, the whole thing was quite an adventure. My only goal was to finish, and I did that in 6 hours and 42 minutes. That was when I fell in love with triathlons. “
Anderson had completed her first triathlon, but she wanted to do better. “I had gone incredibly slow, but I had completed it two weeks after a marathon and with virtually no training. I knew I could do way better,” said Anderson.
She was determined to train for the next one, but temporarily set her goals aside to focus on the All-Navy Volleyball, a dream of hers since she started playing volleyball at the Academy.
Anderson, the Bears all-time leader with 1,649 digs, also holds the top two marks for digs in a single-season with 556 and 553. She was also an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American third team selection during her senior season as she had a 3.58 GPA as a Marine and Enviromental Sciences major and was named to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) All-Academic team for three straight seasons.
She made the All-Navy team and was on the team for all of June. At this point, she had registered for her next triathlon, the Miami Ironman 70.3.
However, she was quickly realizing training opportunities would be limited as she went underway all of August on a container ship. She returned to Miami after Labor Day weekend and registered for an Olympic triathlon (Escape to Miami on Sept 23rd). Jess spent the next three weeks training every minute she could. She would do long rides on weekends with her best friend, Hilary Grimes, and during the week she would wake up every morning and swim and bike before work.
“I would often run or workout at lunch and after work I spent several hours in the gym. I completed that triathlon in 2:39 only to incur a two minute penalty kicking me out of the top three in my age group,” recalled Anderson. “I vowed to never make the mistake again but was excited to see that I had made progress in biking from a 15mph average to 21mph average. On any given day after that I would run about six miles, bike 25-30, and swim a mile along with doing two-a-days by running the PFE too or playing basketball.”
Anderson went to school in Yorktown for most of October and realized that she would have to drive back the day before Miami 70.3, but knew driving up to bring my bike for training was imperative. Every day at school she woke up at 4:45 a.m., ran in the pitch black and swam. At lunch, she would either run or do some cardio and after class, she would hop on my bike to race through the battlefield trails.
“Doing three-a-days is not easy, but when you want something bad enough it is worth it. I drove the 15 hours back to Miami starting the Friday prior to the race and made it to Miami in the afternoon on Saturday” said Anderson. “I checked in my bike and spent the rest of the day relaxing to conserve energy. I could not sleep a wink that night, far too nervous and excited. At 4 a.m. I walked to the race and started preparing my bike station.”
The race started at 7:35 a.m. and from that moment on she pushed herself to the limits. Jess had no idea where she was at in placing or how she would do on each leg. She just did her best, and it paid off.
She swam a slow 38 minutes, (according to her), but finished third in her age group. She biked 18.5 mph avg. on the 28 miles out braving the wind, but averaged 23.6 mph. on the way back in with a time of 2:40 in the bike. On the run, she ran her fastest half marathon ever at 1:40, starting the half marathon with a 6:40 mile.
“The whole event was surreal and there were so many times I wanted to just walk or take a break, but I had trained too hard to give up,” said Anderson. “I finished in 5:06 and beat my previous PR by an hour and 36 minutes.”
She has many races to prepare for between now and championships, including the Key West Olympic Triathlon, Disney Goofey Challenge, ING Miami Marathon, Panama 70.3 and the Texas Ironman, just to name a few.
“Needless to say I will be busy, and those are just some of the big races. I intend to finish in 2:20 or below on my next Olympic Triathlon and I would like to finish under five hours in the Panama Ironman," said Anderson.
“The other races are just more training. My goal is to
qualify for Kona via my May Ironman and to represent the Coast
Guard there. I would also like to qualify for the All-Navy
Triathlon team and just continue improving my times so that I can
eventually become a professional triathlete," added Anderson. "I
have the best supporters in the world. Nothing is impossible unless
you believe it to be.”