Kirsty Jahn’s Big Year
THE CONCIERGE AT the Smetana Hotel in Prague couldn’t have been happier.
“You’re looking for the world-famous triathlete, Kirsty Jahn?” he asked. “You are here to do an interview with her?”
It’s obviously not that often that the Smetana staff sees their guests on live television, which is exactly what they saw lots of on race day as Jahn contended for the win at the Czech Republic’s biggest triathlon, Challenge Prague. In the end the Canadian came up just 31-seconds short after a two-port-o-pottystop run, but there was lots of TV time for her hosts to see her as even the awards ceremonies were shown live to the nation.
While she didn’t get the win in Prague, Jahn is certainly in the midst of the season of her life, having taken two Ironman titles already – Brazil in May and Boulder in June. She could actually arrive on the Big Island for the Ironman World Championship with three Ironman titles to her credit if she takes the day in Wisconsin in September.
Originally from North Vancouver and with her pre-married last name of Smith, Jahn was heavily recruited by American colleges after a stellar high school running career. She ended up at Villanova, running both track and cross country. After graduating from Villanova she was recruited to be part of the Brookes Marathon Project in 2005 and moved to Toronto to work with coach Hugh Cameron. Despite making the Canadian team that competed at the world cross country championships in 2006, Jahn spent much of her short time in Toronto injured and
eventually moved back west. Realizing that since she spent so much time on a bike and in the pool when she was injured, she contacted the Triathlon Canada training centre in Victoria on a whim and asked if it made sense for her to pursue triathlon. Patrick Kelly, then Triathlon Canada’s performance director, invited her to Victoria for a weekend to evaluate her swimming and promptly invited her to join the training squad in Victoria – suddenly she found herself training in the same group as two-time Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield.
Not exactly the most patient of athletes, Jahn balked when she learned that there was little chance she’d make the 2008 Olympic team and gradually eased out of the sport, taking a full-time job with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Vancouver in 2008. A few years later, she returned to school to do a master’s in mathematical finance at Columbia University in New York. It was there that she met husband, Rob Jahn, and also got back into triathlon after spending some time running with the New York Athletic Club. After graduating from Columbia in 2012, she worked for a few years on Wall Street doing quantitative finance. In 2014, she decided she wanted to get back into triathlon. She enlisted Jesse Kropelnicki as a coach and turned pro after her first race back.
In 2016 Jahn moved to Boulder – Rob moved himself into a home office in the training mecca and travels back to New York when needed – to enjoy a better training environment than that afforded by New York City.
Jahn’s breakthrough year can most likely be attributed to her new coach, Brett Sutton. Initially hesitant to work with the controversial coach who was convicted of five sexual offences with a teenage girl he was coaching in 1999, Jahn finally took the plunge and signed up with the Australian who worked with Chrissie Wellington and now coaches Ironman world champ Daniela Ryf, not to mention countless other Ironman, WTS and Olympic champions.
“Brett has made me slow down my runs so I can handle the mileage,” Jahn says. “I seem to be able to handle a lot more training. He’s also got me swimming a lot more – I’m doing 30 km a week, but less bike mileage. We do a lot of low cadence work and he’s got my race cadence down to 80.”
The changes seem to be working. While Jahn laughed when she heard about my conversation with the hotel concierge – “I’m not a world-famous triathlete; Javier Gomez [the men’s winner] is a world-famous triathlete” – her two Ironman titles this year and sudden ascent through the Kona Points Ranking is certainly making hers a recognized name in the world of triathlon. Even though it will be only her first appearance in Kona, Jahn could very well be the top Canadian finisher on the Big Island.—KM
Kirsty Jahn takes the win at Ironman Boulder