Throughout our lives, we endure a lot. We all endure hours of studying growing up to become a “professional”. We endure our parents telling us what to do and not to do. We are told to endure hours of trivial nonsense in order to show obedience to our employers’ day in and day out. Today, people pay to endure mental and physical challenges that test their limits. When a person registers for these events they are expected to train and prepare for anything that will be put in their path to make them quit or possibly 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 start doing 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 I have more coming up.
WOR: What is the most challenging race that you have completed?
Jennifer: I really like the GoRucks because they are team-oriented. It’s less about speed and more about getting the team to the finish. I have a couple of friends 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. It also depends on why they say they “can’t” race. If they are injured, I’ll see if we can modify something. Usually, it’s mental. I tell them, yeah, I’ve had that problem. For instance, my friend did a road race and she said that she hated herself for the entire 3 miles. I told her that, yeah I’ve done that. After the three miles is over you have to stop hating and let it go. You finished it and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if it was ugly or not.
WOR: You say “ugly”. When racing and feeling like your performance is “ugly” how do you find that way to get over that feeling? What motivates you to not care? OR with time has that feeling just disappeared for you?
Jennifer: It’s constant. There is always going to 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 a couple of other people decided to bring our headlamps and we knew we’d be out there late. My friend Chris and I know we are both bigger, we both were injured, but we have done other races before; so we knew we would be slower than we usually 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. For the most part, the community is really 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 went out and did the event. Even if I thought about quitting, it was more about proving this guy wrong. I sprained my ankle before the event, so I had to get a brace. The whole nine yards! 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 thinking, I’m not quitting now.
WOR: How do you feel about going into Brutality? I’ve heard this one is pretty extreme.
Jennifer: I am not going to race in order to place, but I have looked at the other competitors and they are smaller. I think my advantage is my size because I can carry the extra weight. They might not be able to carry all that weight as easily as I can. I’m hoping.
WOR: What are you doing to prepare for Brutality?
Jennifer: Rucking a lot. This past weekend I tried to do a 20 mile and I only ended up doing a 12 ½ mile ruck. It was 9 degrees and my water bladder froze and I got blisters. I know 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. I learned what freezes a water bladder and what doesn’t. I learned about pacing myself and that changing my socks doesn’t make a difference. I need to look more into using moleskin to prevent blisters.
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 really supportive and I was really out of my comfort zone being alone.
WOR: What kind of support did you receive from the people you didn’t know?
Jennifer: It was pretty good. I was slower on things and I struggled a little bit, 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 do it.” He was like a sophomore in college.
WOR: Can I ask how old you are?
Jennifer: 37, I think. No, 38.
I still think I surprised the guy though. When he was encouraging me, I had to tell 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 it in 8 hours. When we finished, I was surprised, I was like, we are done already?
(Jennifer did compete in the Brutality. It was her first DNF in her obstacle racing career.
“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. I had surgery for a lateral release on that knee several years ago, so I know it well and it is a bit hypermobile. My first DNF…it was a good one. I felt horrible about it. I felt like 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 really just want to work on getting faster and stronger. I would love to get across the monkey bars by myself and it would be really nice to be able to do the rope climb. I just don’t know if I can, but I’ll keep trying. I just don’t know if it will happen this year.
WOR: What are you doing to train for rope climbing?
Jennifer: My gym is now relocating, but they used to put up a rope just for me. I would lay on the ground and just work on pulling myself up for about 5 to 10 minutes after boot camp. I still can’t pull myself up, but I can from laying down and up to standing. I was going to start trying the “J Hook” but I sprained my ankle before I could give it a try.
WOR: How did you sprain your ankle?
Jennifer: It was the Chicago Super. I tripped over a rock. I stood there for about 30 seconds and realized I rolled it good. I went down. I knew I could finish though. About a quarter-mile later, after my fall, I ran into a friend who had lost a shoe in a mud pit. I ended up giving 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 never perceive anything as unconquerable. How are you not afraid?
Jennifer: You will always have fear. It’s conquering that. I acknowledge they are going to 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 rarely post about their finish time when they are out there for hours. How do you feel about that? Honestly, 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 actually kind of annoyed me. I wasn’t going to quit and I wanted them to quit acting like I was going to quit. I was several hours in and I was not going to quit.
I appreciate them being there and checking on me, but there were a couple of times I was upset because it felt like they were assuming I was going to 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 I was upset 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 constantly 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.