How a triathlete balances life and training
by Anica Graney
After two decades of continuous workouts, three kids and running a business with her husband, Mandi Jacquinot knows a thing or two about time management and motivation.
“I’m almost always doing something all the time. I probably have some difficulty relaxing. It’s not my forte,” Mandi says as she works toward her goal of completing a marathon in every state and making it to the Kona Ironman World Championships. Mandi and her go-getter personality have been working toward these goals with a contagiously enthusiastic attitude. Despite her small stature, you get the feeling nothing can stop her.
To most, Mandi is a superwoman. To Mandi, she’s just a regular person making time for the things she loves most. Exercising, in any amount she has time for, is what makes Mandi feel alive.
In her hometown of Decorah, Iowa, Mandi, 42, grew up casually athletic, having participated in multiple sports but never really sticking to or excelling at just one. However, this is exactly to what she attributes her success in competing later in life.
“I think being in high school with team sports, there’s a lot of pressure to do well,” Mandi says. “Part of me thinks that if I had run a lot in high school, I wouldn’t run today.”
She picked up jogging while in college, mostly for fun and to get exercise, but soon found herself wanting to complete a marathon, which she did at age 23. “After that, I tried to do a marathon a year. I probably got more into it once my kids were born.”
Mandi’s husband, Joe, is also a marathon runner, and their love for endurance and extreme fitness is something they’ve been able to share over their 17-year-long marriage. The couple moved to southwestern Platteville in 2009, where they started a dental practice and had their second child all in the same week. A team in marriage and business, Joe works on people’s teeth while Mandi runs the practice behind the scenes.
In 2011, Joe signed up for a mini triathlon in Platteville, which was Mandi’s first introduction to the three-sport competition. The next year both Mandi and Joe competed in a sprint triathlon in Galena, Illinois. It was raining the day of the race, but that didn’t stop Mandi from experiencing her first open-water swim and a hilly bike course that she rode on her mother-in-law’s bike.
In 2013, Mandi ran the Boston marathon in three hours and 42 minutes, a huge accomplishment for her and something she had been working toward ever since her first marathon. Shortly after finishing, Mandi and Joe heard what they thought was thunder.
“It was the bombs going off,” Mandi says. The chaos and confusion that ensued after the Boston marathon bombing meant Mandi had to walk nearly four miles back to her hotel, totaling around 32 miles on that day.
Mandi competed in her first half Ironman — swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles — later that same year. “That first half Ironman was probably the hardest swim I’ve ever done,” she says. “There were these huge swells going up and down. But I didn’t know any different. So we just got in, swam it, and it was actually not even a bad swim time.”
She continued racing in half Ironmans the following year and even completed a 99-mile mountain bike race. Mandi says that accomplishment is what propelled her into her first full Ironman.
“It gave me the confidence in my bike to move to the next level. That was when I was like, ‘All right, I can do an Ironman,’” Mandi says.
Before signing up for her first full Ironman, Mandi and Joe competed in a half Ironman during the summer of 2014. While going down a hill on her road bike, Mandi flipped over her bike and broke her collarbone, a common injury for cyclists. The break was bad, almost piercing through her skin, and Mandi was taken to a nearby hospital.
“I couldn’t finish the race, but I didn’t want them to call Joe because he was also racing. I wanted him to finish. They left a note on his running shoes, so once he got off the bike, he came to the hospital and got me,” Mandi says. “And it was just depressing because Joe didn’t finish either. I wish they would have just let him run, like at least one of us. It was such a bummer.”
Mandi had surgery on her collarbone once she was back in Platteville, which added two more weeks to her recovery time. She had signed up for a marathon in November but wasn’t going to let this injury stop her from competing in another race.
“I started running with my sling on, and it wasn’t that big of a deal to run with it. I just kept it still, and I did end up running a marathon by myself around Platteville in November,” Mandi says.
After that, Mandi hit another busy point in her life. Her family was living with Joe’s parents as they built a new house, she became pregnant with her youngest and she was still recovering from her injury.
“I hadn’t really been racing for a while after my last race ended in failure,” Mandi says. “Anyways, I’m like, you know what, I’m doing this. I’m sick of waiting to go after my goal, and I really wanted to do a full Ironman. So, I signed up for the Ironman while I was pregnant.”
Mandi went on to train for the Ironman while pregnant and competed in it months after giving birth. “That turned out to be a great race,” Mandi says.
She attributes her success in that race to how well she trained for it. “I would get babysitters, and I would just work out the whole time, like a five-hour bike followed by an hour run.”
Six years later, Mandi continues to compete in Ironmans around the country with the goal of making it to the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, which she can get to by either completing in 12 Ironmans and entering a legacy program or taking first in her age category. Right now, Mandi has 10 Ironmans under her belt and hopes to get to Kona before her oldest graduates from high school in four years.
Another goal of Mandi’s is to run a marathon in every state, even completing some with her friend and fellow triathlete Jen Schweigert. The two have trained and raced together for the past decade.
“Mandi’s great. And I think the big thing about her and most people in this community of triathlon and running is that we are just so supportive of everybody,” Jen says. “She enjoys it, she’s happy and she’s great to be around because of it.”
Mandi thinks of herself as the Energizer Bunny. “For me, I’m built for doing this type of racing, where it’s just long and steady,” Mandi says, but she acknowledges this extreme hobby of hers is time consuming with an already busy schedule. “I just know myself, and I know that I need to work out every day to make me feel happy.”
Bill Martin, co-owner of SBR Endurance Performance in Verona, Wisconsin and coach to Jen Schweigert and the UW–Madison triathlon team, echoes Mandi’s dedication to herself.
“There’s going to come a point, most likely on the run, when you’re over 10 hours into [an Ironman], and you go to a dark place and your body is screaming at you and it’s saying stop. If you don’t know why you’re out there, if you haven’t pre-decided, your body’s going to convince your mind to have any reason to stop at that point. So, if you have in your head, ‘No, this is why I want to keep going,’ then you can more easily mentally push through even when the pain and the difficulty level is high,” Martin says.
Mandi prioritizes taking care of her three kids and running the dental practice with Joe but says we all need to make time in our lives for the things that bring us joy.
“If I can’t make an hour out of the day for myself, something’s wrong.” For her, exercising is what relaxes her, which Joe can attest to, often coaxing Mandi into a run when it looks like she’s getting stressed out.
“What’s interesting, and maybe most inspirational, is her positive attitude all the time,” Joe says. “I feel like when I work out too much, I hit gravity. And when she doesn’t get a workout in, she’s crabby.”
Mandi hopes to pass her motivation and work ethic to her kids by leading by example. She also stresses that what she’s doing isn’t special.
“I think people don’t always understand what they’re capable of doing. We’re capable of so much. I’m just a normal person with three kids and a job,” Mandi says. “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Types of Triathlons
Three disciplines, one race. Welcome to the world of triathlons where athletes must learn to be fast in swimming, cycling and running in that order. Sounds daunting? Luckily, triathlons vary in length, allowing beginners and experts to compete in the triathlon that suits them best.
Sprint: 0.5 mile (or 750 meters) swim, 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) bike, 3.1 miles (5 kilometer) run
The sprint triathlon is a common beginner triathlon that suits the very fast. Don’t let the name fool you — typical triathletes complete this race in around two hours, while the pros come in just under an hour.
Olympic: 0.93 mile (or 1.5 kilometers) swim, 24.8 miles (40 kilometers) bike, 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) run
The Olympic triathlon is the next level up from a sprint triathlon, with double the distance from a sprint. The Olympic serves as a middle-distance race for many people who have outgrown the sprint but aren’t ready to take the next step into Ironman territory. Typical times for the Olympic distance are around three hours, while the pros get it done in less than two.
The Wisconsin Triathlon Series offers seven races each year around the state of Wisconsin. These races are held as sprint and Olympic distances starting in early June and ending in mid-September. To learn more, visit witriseries.com.
Half Ironman: 1.2 miles (or 1.9 kilometers) swim, 56 miles (90.1 kilometers) bike, 13.1 miles (21.1 kilometers) run
The Half Ironman isn’t quite double the Olympic distance, but true to its name, it’s exactly half a full Ironman distance. Also called the 70.3 triathlon, the Half Ironman takes around six hours to complete, while the pros are able to finish in a little over four hours.
Ironman: 2.4 miles (or 3.9 kilometers) swim, 112 miles (180.2 kilometers) bike, 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers) run
The Ironman is the ultimate long-distance race. Totaling 140.6 miles, the Ironman was first run in Hawaii in 1978 with the winner dubbed as the first Iron Man. Today, Ironman races are run around the world with the World Championships taking place in Kona, Hawaii, each year. An average finisher comes in at 13 hours, while professionals clock in at nine hours.
Ironman Wisconsin is run in Madison and is one of the hilliest courses in the Ironman circuit. The race is run in September and takes competitors through Lake Monona for the swim, the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin on bikes and Camp Randall Stadium in the run.
To learn more, visit ironman.com/im-wisconsin.
Featured photo by Anica Graney.