We caught up with 38 year old Mountain Biker and all around adventure athlete Jari Kirkland and here what she had to say about all things racing.
TGN: Hello Jari, before we start we’d just like to say thank you for stepping into the spotlight and sharing your story with our readers. So tell us, what is your main discipline or sport that you participate in?
Jari: I participate in all three equally, mountain biking, adventure racing, and skimo.
TGN: Wow, that’s amazing. A triple threat!
TGN: Griggs Ortho seems more like a community than a team, that’s very cool! Tell us, what part of the country do you live in?
Jari: Colorado, USA.
TGN: What a beautiful state, I bet it’s amazing to train and race in such a beautiful area. Jari, share with our readers, in what class do you compete?
Jari: Professional mountain biker and Xterra triathlete, since there are no actual pro cards for either adventure racing or skimo I would say I am an elite level athlete in both sports.
TGN: Please share with our readers what is it like to compete as an endurance athlete at the professional level?
Jari: It’s awesome but also very challenging. I’m not on salary with any sponsors so I still work 30 plus hours a week, which means that I often compete against women who are professionals and don’t have to work, and that puts me at a true disadvantage. Also, if I don’t perform well I don’t get paid, which is hard on the budget sometimes but very incentivizing other times. I get to travel the world and see and do things that I would never have been able to do otherwise. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
TGN: That’s wonderful that you work so hard to do what you love, I think that makes the reward that much greater. What made you decide to be a endurance athlete and how has it affected your life?
Jari: I have always been into sports, I was an all-american swimmer at my university. However, all that time I never even thought about or knew you could be a professional athlete. It wasn’t until I started doing triathlons a few years after college that realized that I was good at them and could go pro. It has made me a better person all around. I’m patient, more loving and it has provided a way for me to see the world in the most unique (and I think) best way.
TGN: All-American? Impressive. So Jari, what are your biggest goals and aspirations for this season? Any long term goals?
Jari: I want to be in the top 5 at Adventure Racing World Championships. If I have time I would like to time trial the Kokopelli Trail. My goal is usually to be faster at a race than I was the time before.
TGN: That’s a great goal and we think it’s always possible, you’re an amazing athlete and if you put your mind to it you’ll achieve it your goal. Do you follow any strict training plans to help you perform at peak level on race day?
Jari: No, not really. I train with hard, moderate, and easy days. I can’t always rest for races and some just come up so I just do my best with training, resting, and recovering.
TGN: Well it sounds like it’s working for you. This is a tough one, what is your biggest accomplishment as an athlete? Or scariest moment?
Jari: I have been 24 hr National Champion twice, 3rd at the Adventure Racing World Championships, and Skimo Team National Champion. There are other moments that I remember well as part of adventure racing, mostly to do with amazing beautiful places. Being miles from the nearest or closest town and seeing vistas or pushing myself past the point of which I thought I could go.
But I was in Patagonia racing and we were paddling in the Ocean with icebergs and the waves were cresting and hitting me in the face faster than every minute and it was extremely windy, I knew if we capsized we were not going to finish the race. Hypothermia would be involved. I remember thinking that I hadn’t told my mother that I loved her and asking God to keep us safe and there in front of us, where we were heading was an amazing rainbow. I’ll remember that forever I think.
TGN: That’s incredible. Terrifying but incredible. It sounds like you’ve had a lot of wonderful and unforgettable experiences in life.
TGN: Often as endurance athletes we find ourselves relying on a vast array of gear. In endurance sports what are the necessities to compete at your level?
Jari: A sweet, sweet light mountain bike like the Focus Raven 29er, running shoes that fit your feet and gait are important, and light skimo gear like Scarpa and Ski Trab. And if there is other mandatory gear get the lightest on the market, this is not always possible but borrowing gear is an option also-I can’t emphasize it enough- the lighter your gear the lighter and faster you are. Do your research, it’s so easy with Google. Also CAMP harnesses, backpacks, sleeping bags, rain gear.
TGN: That’s some great insight. We really like that “the lighter your gear the lighter and faster you are.” We know when you rely on your gear so often for results you tend to become partial to certain brands or styles of gear. What are some of your favorites and why?
Jari: I love Salomon packs, they hold up well and are very functional with placement of gear. Focus bikes, because their geometry makes for a smooth efficient ride. NiteRider lights, they are extremely bright, have great battery time, and hold up well in wet conditions. Darn Tough Socks, they are super durable and I swear by wool on my feet. CAMP mountaineering gear. Recofit compression sleeves.
TGN: Good picks, sounds like you know your gear pretty well and have it dialed in. If you had to pick just one piece of gear, your one go-to item to have with you on race day, what would it be and why?
Jari: When I’m mountain biking, either my Focus Raven 29er or my Rudy Project helmet, it has kept me safe on many occasions. If I’m Skimo Racing, my Scarpa racing suit because its so functional. If I’m Adventure Racing, I’d have to say a pair of biking and running shoes that are at least one size too big, when your feet swell it makes all the difference.
TGN: We couldn’t agree more about going up a size on your shoes, that’s one that we figured out right away. Everyone knows nutrition is a very important factor when it comes to performance, what types of nutritional products do use regularly?
TGN: We love the Enduro Bites but have never tried the beet drink, we’ll have to check that out. If you could have a Jari Kirkland pro model and design your own product what piece of gear do you think you would you choose?
Jari: Mountain bike shoes for sure.
TGN: We have a feeling they’d be amazing, if it happens we want to be the first to put them under review.
TGN: So Jari, what races have you finished or are you planning on attending this season?
Jari: I did 7 or 8 skimo races including North American Championship where I placed 3rd overall, US teams National Champion and the Elk Mt Grand Traverse where I took 1st place in Women’s. I also competed in 7 or 8 mountain bike races like the Growler, Crested Butte Fat Tire 40 where I took 2nd, at the FireCracker 50 I placed 3rd, locked in 1st place Silver Rush, 4th in Leadville, and got a new course record at on the Vapor Trail 125. In Adventure Racing we raced the Wulong Adventure Race in China. A 2 day stage race around Cotopaxi-Ecuador, Adventure Racing World Champs in Ecuador, and I did a few running races.
TGN: Wow! We don’t impress that easily but I think you just found a way, that’s incredible. That’s a serious list. Are there any races that are above your radar that you’d like to compete in?
TGN: That’s wonderful, we wish you the best of luck on the road to KONA. What an amazing journey that will be, we hope you keep us informed on your progress.
TGN: Now that you’re in the spotlight, what words of advice do you have for our readers?
Jari: I’m a big believer in doing races and events outside of your comfort zone. It is good to train for races but if something comes up that you would like to do but are not sure how it would go, I say go for it. Even dead last is better than being too afraid to start in the first place. It makes you a better stronger athlete for the other events that you do participate in.
TGN: Couldn’t have said it better ourselves Jari, those are truly great words to live by. We want to thank you for again for stepping into the spotlight and sharing your story with us, we wish you the best of luck with the rest of your season and will be cheering you on all the way to KONA and the ARWS!
See you on the trails!