Monday, December 22, 2008

5 Questions With A Lineman/Ironman

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Fellow Los Angeles Native Jody Van Zanten is a soon to be 40 year old that has what she describes as the best jobs in the world…wife and stay at home mom of three. She was born in downtown LA, grew up in Whittier, CA and now resides in South Orange County. Oh, and she loves sports! Everyone will really enjoy today’s five questions!

1. How did you first get involved with sports - as a young child, teen, etc? What organized and recreational sports have you been involved with throughout your life?

I grew up in an athletic family and got involved with sports at an early age. My dad was an exceptional athlete throughout high school in various sports (baseball, football, track) and carried over that love of athletics to our family. I am an only child so I had a lot of opportunities to try different sports. I was swimming competitively by age 6. I was dirt bike riding, snow skiing, and water skiing throughout my elementary school years. I started playing volleyball competitively in 5th grade and continued that for the next 20 or so years. I swam and played volleyball in high school, played club volleyball throughout my teens, and then played a couple of years in college. I even got to travel to Australia to play volleyball when I was 18, it was great!

2. How did you come to start competing in the Ironman competitions? How do you train for these events and what are the most rewarding benefits to participation?

I grew up watching the Hawaii Ironman because of my dad…he enjoys watching various sports on TV and I remember watching the race in the early 80’s and I knew I wanted to someday try it…to test myself, to push my limits. I got into the sport of triathlon when I was in high school. My dad started participating in some sprint (shorter distance) triathlon races and got me involved in a few. Kind of funny as back then the swim was last, not so good when you are tired. We did a few as relays and I did a few individually. I really enjoyed the sport but looking back I think I was a bit too young to appreciate the opportunity at the time. This first foray into triathlon only lasted my last couple of years of high school then I continued on with volleyball, college, and work. After about a 13 year hiatus I got back into the sport again because Ironman brought an event to Oceanside in 2000. I volunteered for it and knew before race day that I was signing up for the next year. I had run a few marathons by this time so I knew I liked the endurance events so I went for it; I bought a bike and a wetsuit and started to train. In 2001 I raced at Ironman California and Ironman Canada. In 2003 I participated in Ironman Revisited Oahu which is a fundraiser event for Challenged Athletes Foundation, and in 2008 I raced at Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Arizona. I am currently signed up to race at Ironman Canada again in 2009.

I love this sport and I love the Ironman distance. It is hard and challenging but I have learned so much about myself. I am not super fast by any means but I have a strong endurance base and love seeing how far I can go. Ironman training is crazy busy and lasts about 6 months but because I am a mom of three I don’t do as much training as most Ironman triathletes. I have really tried to balance my training time with my family time so that everyone is happy and so far it has worked. The only downside is I am not as fast on race day so my Ironman finish times are slower than most. I figure it is worth it though because I am able to continue to participate in a sport I love and my family continues to support me. During training I usually do everything twice a week: weights along with a shorter speed workout and a longer workout per swim, bike, and run. By the end of training my swims cover 4000 yards, my bike rides about 7 hours, and my runs about 3 hours. It’s a lot but Ironman is 140.6 miles (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run) so the training has got to be there or I won’t make it to the finish line.

As a wife and mother, I spend a lot of my time taking care of others. I would say that the biggest reward for me of doing these events is doing something for myself, something that nourishes my soul and the need to challenge myself, to push myself physically and mentally, and to see what I can do. It makes me a happier, healthier person which makes me a happier, healthier wife and mom. Of course, hearing “Jody Van Zanten…You…Are…An…Ironman!!!” being announced as I cross the finish line roughly 15 hours after the starting cannon went off and getting the finishers medal put around my neck are pretty cool too!

3. How long have you played professional football? What has been the most challenging thing about participation? What have you gained by participation?

I started with the OC Breakers in the fall of 2006 and played half the year for the SC Breakers in 2007-8 and it has been a blast. It is so great to be a female and have an opportunity to play contact football…it’s empowering and exciting. For me, the most challenging thing has been my knee. I have a bad knee from an old injury and sadly my knee just doesn’t like me playing football. I have gained so much from playing football and being involved with this amazing group of women athletes. My confidence and belief in myself and what I can do have grown (especially after going up against those 280-350 lbs girls of Phoenix). I have made some great friends and I am inspired and motivated by these women to work hard and be the best I can be in sports.

4. Who have been the role models in your life and why? Do you consider yourself a role model? Why or why not?

Two main role models in life have been my Grandpa and my Dad. Their personalities, their passion for sports, their continued support of my adventures in athletics and throughout life, their unconditional love and shared wisdom have helped mold and shape me into a big part of who I am today. Do I consider myself a role model…upon first thought…no, I am just your normal person. But, when I think about the things I have done, my positive attitude, my determination, my desire to encourage others to go after their dreams, my philosophy of “Why not…Anything is possible”, my love of adventure, my lack of fear in pursuing my dreams, I think…maybe. I would hope that my attitude, my accomplishments, and my willingness and constant dedication to making my dreams come true will and do inspire and motivate others to do same. Going after a dream no matter how large or small is invigorating, inspiring, amazing, educational, and exciting. Making them come true is the icing on the cake and something that molds you, becomes a part of you, and stays with you throughout your lifetime.

5. What would you share with young people about pursuing their goals in sports (or in general)? What are your best bits of advice for the good, bad, and ugly of competitive sports?

Just do it! Pursuing goals take perseverance, hard work, dedication, and drive, and we don’t always know where it will lead. But, if we didn’t try, we would never know and I would rather try my hardest and not succeed than to not try at all and regret it. I always think that when I am older and looking back on my life I want to look back and think, Wow, I did some pretty neat stuff, even if they didn’t turn out perfectly or the way I wanted, instead of looking back knowing I let my fear and insecurity dictate my decisions.

Bits of advice…

Always show good sportsmanship: it’s respectable and admirable and no one likes a jerk.

The older you get the harder team dynamics can be due to various personalities so try to be flexible, tolerant, patient, and mature.

Competitive sports are like survival of the fittest…not everyone can be the superstar so you need to focus on yourself. Regardless of your sport, level of play or success, give it your best and be the best you can be and in doing so you can feel good about your effort and the results.


Lindsay said...

I've always wanted to try a triathlon, not sure about an ironman though. I think I'll stick with some shorter races first. Or even a relay.

I liked how Jody said that competing in sports is something that she gets to do for herself, since she spends a lot of time caring for others. That's how sports tend to be for me as well.

Apryl DeLancey said...

Same here! I would absolutely love to be and Ironman someday but will have to start with marathons first.

I also could relate to the comment about sports that I do are something for myself.