WOODLAND FINISHED FIRST PLACE OVERALL AT THE ROLF PRIMA TRI IN THE GROVE ON JULY 21, 2018. Photo provided
Triathlons: to most, just hearing the word brings on uneasy thoughts of muscle fatigue, side cramps and shin splints.
Before May 2016, Jonathan Woodland, 32, of Creswell was no exception.
It was actually his health that prompted Woodland to lose weight and train for triathlons.
Woodland had played sports in school, and in his teens and college years Woodland had weighed right around 170 pounds, a lean weight for his six-foot three-inch frame.
However, after his son was born he noticed a change: What was once 170 turned into 212 pounds and increasing.
That’s when Woodland decided he needed to turn his life around.
When Woodland met his wife, Jennifer, in 2010, she had already completed a few triathlons. In fact, Woodland purchased his first triathlon bicycle to impress her.
So, to lose weight, Woodland made the lifelong change in May 2016. By September of that same year, he had raced his first sprint triathlon at The Best in the West Endurance Festival, placing first in his age group and qualifying for the Age Group National Championship at the Olympic distance.
Woodland grew up in Creswell, graduating from Creswell High School in 2005 and attending Willamette University where he received a bachelor’s degree.
For work, Woodland has been a full-time firefighter and paramedic with the Eugene Springfield Fire Department for the past four and a half years.
Woodland started his firefighting career as a volunteer with South Lane County Fire & Rescue before going full-time.
Initially, Woodland had only planned on volunteering to help him get into medical school but decided he loved it enough to make it his career. Woodland said he hopes to continue firefighting for the next 20 years.
Besides working with Eugene Springfield Fire Department, Woodland also owns and operates a small farm in Creswell, where he grows organic vegetables and raises chickens and pigs. He sells his produce, pasture raised chickens and grass-fed pork at the Creswell Farmers’ Market.
What attracted Woodland to triathlons, particularly over standard endurance races, was the diversity. Triathlons consist of running, cycling and swimming, thus breaking up the monotony.
In April 2017, Woodland competed in the Beaver Freezer and again won in his age group. Two months later, Woodland raced at Blue Lake Triathlon & Multi-Sport Festival, his first Olympic style triathlon.
This, however, is where he realized he needed help. To improve his game, Woodland hired a swimming coach, where he said he ”learned the difference between swimming and ‘swimming.’”
At this point, he swam twice weekly on his own and had sessions with his coach every other week.
What started out as a way to lose weight, quickly turned into an exciting and engaging new path.
Not only did he get back down to 170 pounds in less than 12 months, but he also found he had a talent for triathlons.
In August 2017, Woodland competed in the 2017 USA Triathlon National Championships, where he finished about midway in his age category.
Even when things were difficult, Woodland’s wife and children, Addison and Owen, supported him along the way, following him to Nebraska and cheering him on.
For all of his determination and hours put in with his swimming coach, Woodland returned to The Best in the West Endurance Festival in Sweet Home in 2017, placing fifth overall.
In September 2018, Woodland raced there again, placing second overall and first in his age group. The following month, Woodland competed in the Amateur Draft Legal National Championship in Florida.
Due to Hurricane Florence’s impact on the coast, the water was unsafe and the swimming portion of the triathlon was canceled.
Even though Woodland had been working with a swimming coach, he still felt that’s where he was lacking.
To make up for the dropped swimming portion, a second running segment was added, playing into Woodland’s strengths.
Although this was his first experience with draft-legal racing, Woodland held his own by finishing seventh overall and second in his age group.
The October National Championship was important to many competitors, as it was the last chance for them to qualify for Team USA for the World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2019.
The World Championship is a draft-legal setup, meaning each competitor will swim 750 meters, cycle 20 kilometers, and run five kilometers.
To prepare for the World Championships in Switzerland from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1, 2019, Woodland has a rigorous training regimen in place.
Around 15 to 20 hours every week until the World Championship, he’ll be cycling, swimming and running, in hopes of standing out from 30 competing countries.
Woodland can also convert his bicycle into a stationary bike in his garage. With this contraption, he uses his smartphone to create virtual hills and valleys, essentially mapping out his upcoming race in Switzerland.
His smartphone also has the ability to map his distances, calories and time; he can even compete with other racers from all over the world, in the comfort of his own home.
”Kind of makes you forget you’re in a dark garage staring at the wall,” Woodland said.
Although he hopes to win, he said he would like to at least finish within the top three. ”I would love to stand on the podium and bring home a medal.”
Woodland will take his Cervelo S5 cycle with him to Europe. This very specialized cycle was obtained from Life Cycle Bike Shop on Pearl Street in Eugene, who also is sponsoring Woodland during the World Championship. Woodland’s family will also follow him to Switzerland, attending the triathlon and support him every step, pedal and stroke of the way.
Woodland still does most of his training solo, but he has met many people along the way and has several close friends he now trains with from time to time.
Woodland plans on competing in triathlons for at least the next six years and would like to start ‘Elite’ racing by next year. To be considered ‘Elite’, a competitor needs to accrue a certain number of points and qualify for, and compete in the ITU Continental Circuit.
To chronicle his achievements, Woodland’s website thereallifetriathlete.com logs his journey and helps him stay accountable.
Additionally, he hopes it will help others along the way.
”Triathlons are intimidating, but my goal is to help inspire others by breaking down the sport into manageable chunks,” Woodland said. ”It’s a lot of fun and there’s a camaraderie to it.”
For more information about Jonathan Woodland and his journey, visit thereallifetriathlete.com.