Throughout our lives, we endure a lot. Enduring long hours of studying growing up to become a “professional”. Endure our parents telling us what to do and not to do. We are told to endure hours of trivial nonsense to show obedience to our employers’ day in and day out. Today, people pay to endure mental and physical challenges that test their limits. Training people expect when registering for an event and preparing for anything is in their path to make them quit or fail. We salute these people for putting themselves out there on these trails and doing what most would never want to do nor pay to do it. Jennifer Jarvi is an endurance athlete who loves these challenges and seeks them out weekend after weekend and never gives up.
WOR: When did you do obstacle races?
Jennifer: September 2012
WOR: What was your first race?
Jennifer: It was a small local race called Mudstache at a ski slope in Indiana.
WOR: When did you get started in the more serious competitive races?
Jennifer: I don’t know. I think it was just a natural progression.
WOR: How many GoRucks have you done?
Jennifer: About 7 or 8 and more coming up.
WOR: What is the most challenging race that you completed?
Jennifer: I like the GoRucks because they are team-oriented. It’s less about speed and more about getting the team to the finish. Two friends are doing a GoRuck light coming up to celebrate their birthday, so I told them I would do it too.
WOR: When your friends tell you they can’t race what do you tell them?
Jennifer: I find something. everything depends on why they say they “can’t” race. Possible injuries, I’ll see if we can change something, the game is mental. I tell them, yeah, I’ve had the same problem. For instance, my friend did a road race, and she said she hated herself for the entire 3 miles. I told her, yeah I’ve done that. After the three miles is over, stop hating and let go. You finished the race and that matters. The process doesn’t matter if it was ugly or not.
WOR: You say “ugly”. When racing and like your performance is “ugly” how do you get over those emotions?
What motivates you to not care? OR when has the spirit just disappeared for you?
Jennifer: It’s constant. There will always be something, so even though that feeling still comes up, I just don’t care. I feel it, but I don’t care. I shrug it off. I did the Obstacle Course Championships, OCRWC. There was some discussion beforehand. I and two other people brought our headlamps, and we knew we’d be out there late. My friend Chris and I know we are both bigger, we had injuries, but we have done other races before; so we knew we would be slower than we are. We also were in the later heat. So, we packed our headlamps because we were Journeymen. Our heat started at about 2 o’clock and it gets dark at about 6 o’clock. Someone said to us, if you are considering packing headlamps maybe you shouldn’t be at the world championships. I just couldn’t believe it, the community is supportive, and it just took me back. I couldn’t believe there was someone who would say something like that.
WOR: Does it fire you up when people talk to you like that?
Jennifer: We still took part in the event. Even if I considered quitting, it was more about proving this guy wrong. I sprained my ankle before the event, so I had to get a brace. I hobbled the whole course and nine hours later, in the dark, I finished. But I finished! As much as it sucked, and I didn’t want to finish last; I kept pondering. I’m not quitting now.
WOR: How do you feel about going into Brutality? I’ve heard this one is extreme.
Jennifer: I will not race to place, but I have looked at the other competitors and they are smaller. I consider my advantage to be my size because I can carry the extra weight. They might not carry all that weight as well I can. I’m hoping.
WOR: What are you doing to prepare for Brutality?
Jennifer: Rucking helps a lot. This past weekend, I tried to do a 20 mile, and I only ended up doing a 12 ½ mile Ruck. The temperature was 9 degrees and my water bladder froze and I got blisters. I can go the 20 miles, but I didn’t want to destroy myself in the process and have to heal for the next week. Learned what freezes a water bladder and what doesn’t. Pace myself and that changing my socks makes no difference. Looking into using moleskin to prevent blisters is something worth researching.
The other week, I did a GoRuck Challenge. I’ve done one before, but this one I did without my friends. When I’m with my friends, they are supportive and I was out of my comfort zone being alone.
WOR: What kind of support did you receive from the people you didn’t recognize?
Jennifer: The help was great. Being slower on things and I struggled a little, but I also pointed out to one guy. “You are half my weight and half my age. Sorry, I’m a little slower, but I can accomplish this.” A college sophomore type guy would not get me down.
WOR: Can I ask how old you are?
Jennifer: 37, I guess. Maybe I am 38.
I still understand I surprised the guy though. When he started encouraging me, I told him, “I’m not holding back, I am doing this”. I put in a lot of effort, but I still weigh twice what he does. The GoRuck Challenge is 17 miles, and we completed the challenge in 8 hours. When we finished, it surprised me. I was not sure about being finished and asked, are we done already?
Jennifer competed in the Brutality. Javi’s first DNF in her obstacle racing career was Brutality.
“I fell a few hours into Brutality and pulled myself out to prevent lasting damage to my knee. I tweaked and bruised up my hip and knee. Because of surgery for a lateral release on that knee several years ago, so I realize my knee is a bit hypermobile. My first DNF felt like a good one. I felt horrible afterward. I thought I let everyone down.”
WOR: After Brutality, what do you think your next big challenge for this year will be?
Jennifer: A GoRuck heavy. Its 24 hours.
I just want to work on getting faster and stronger. I would love to get across the monkey bars by myself and it would be nice to do the rope climb. I don’t know if I can, but I’ll keep trying. Not sure it will happen this year.
WOR: What are you doing to train for rope climbing?
Jennifer: My gym is now moving, but they used to put up a rope just for me. I would lay down on the ground and just work on pulling myself up for about 5 to 10 minutes after boot camp. I am still working on getting to the top of the rope climb. From laying down and up to standing is how I started. I would try the “J Hook” but I sprained my ankle before I could try it.
WOR: How did you sprain your ankle?
Jennifer: It was the Chicago Super. Tripped over a rock. Stood there for about 30 seconds and realized I rolled it good. I could finish though. About a quarter-mile later, after my fall, I ran into a friend who lost a shoe in a mud pit. I gave one of my shoes because we wore the same size. We ended up completing the course with both of us wearing just one shoe. I just knew that we were better off with each of us having one shoe rather than him not having any shoes.
WOR: That’s awesome. How do you teach people to have your mentality? You perceive nothing as unconquerable. How are you not afraid?
Jennifer: You will always have fear. It’s conquering that. I acknowledge they will be afraid. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it.
WOR: Being out on a course for hours is so hard. It’s a lot of work to spend 6 or more hours on a course. I notice people post about their finish time when they are out there for hours. How do you feel about that? 6 hours on a course is much harder to endure than 3 or 4.
Jennifer: I know Spartan has sweepers to help encourage the last athletes on the course and my team Cornfeds are always out there helping.
At OCRWC, they had sweepers, and I was the last one. They were encouraging and trying to push me along and saying, “C’mon you can do it” and I felt like just saying, “Leave me alone. I’m working on it.” I was trying to climb a wall. I know I can climb a wall and I just wanted the guy to let me do my thing. They kind of annoyed me. I would not quit and I wanted them to quit acting as I would quit. I was several hours in and I would not quit.
I appreciate them being there and checking on me, but there were twice it upset me because it felt like they were assuming I would quit.
WOR: Being last is a tough spot to be in. Nobody
wants to be that person.
Jennifer: I get that. There was some fanfare when I finished last and it upset me was because I finished last. People were telling me I was such an inspiration and my friends had to remind me that only 600 people in the world did the OCRWC. It doesn’t matter if I was the one who finished last because at least I finished.
During the event, I had to battle those demons in my head. People having said I shouldn’t be competing or I should just quit now. I had to fight my “self” and tell my “self” to shut up.
WOR: You are incredible because you have never let those demons win.
Jennifer: Not yet. They may win a battle, but they
won’t win the war.
To be an endurance athlete takes stamina, mental strength beyond what most can comprehend, and an attitude the screams, “I can accomplish anything!” Jennifer Jarvi is not only an endurance athlete but a woman who reaches out to many and gives them the strength to believe in themselves. Its athletes like herself who make the normal average person step out of their comfort zone and accomplish races that most would only view from the sidelines.