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A Day in the Life with Jessie Donavan: 24 Hours of Winter

Written by Jessie on . Posted in Blog

A Day in the Life with Jessie Donavan: 24 Hours of Winter

Over the next six months, Vermont-based IRONMAN pro Jessie Donavan will give us a monthly “day in the life” glimpse into her training as she aims for a Kona start.

Friday, February 8th


Training details

I woke up knowing today wasn’t going to be easy. On top of an already tough training day, I had a sore throat and that sneezy, congested, achy-everywhere kind of cold. The absence of a fever and cough meant I could suck it up and train through it. I was up at 5:45am and out the door by 5:50. It was snowing heavily and 7 degrees—just another typical winter day in Vermont.

On Friday mornings, the Masters swim group I train with plays water polo. This means that until my coach starts putting water polo on my schedule, I’m swimming on my own. I’ve been swimming a lot these past two months, so my arms were tired heading into Friday’s swim. Pretty much everything was feeling tired and I was missing the energy of the group. Today’s workout was a speed set, with 20 x 100 at best effort thrown into the middle of 4,000 yards.

I talked to myself as I warmed up. I’d started the morning full of excuses. I was tired and sick—maybe I wouldn’t even look at the clock. I do almost all of my training on my own so it’s me against me, or me against the numbers. Most days it works well, allowing me to execute workouts exactly as planned. It also provides plenty of real-life experiences for practicing mental strength and focus. I gave myself a few laps to just enjoy the sound of the water and to turn off my mind. Then it was time to refocus and think about how good it would feel to post my fastest 100’s ever. Before I knew it I was half way through, swimming well and feeling good despite my tired arms and congestion.

When I walked in the house the kids greeted me: “Mom, it’s a snow day, what do you want to do today?”  They were full of ideas from sledding to skiing to building snow forts. Normally I plan my long ride days when they are in school but here we were, my long ride day falling on a snow day. Thankfully my husband was flexible and could be home by noon. The morning flew by with the usual kid activities, some house cleaning, and watching the snow fall. There was lots of sneezing and nose-blowing, and I started to question the long ride. After a quick check-in with my coach I decided to go for it.

Five minutes after my husband arrived home I was pedaling. This was my first winter training session with a Computrainer and power, and I can already tell the difference. Having the constant feedback and the goal of beating numbers during intervals and long rides has brought a new level of focus to my bike training. On the day’s schedule was a five-hour ride with the first 200 minutes at just below my Ironman heart rate and the next 100 minutes at and above my Ironman pace. This is a long, focused effort for me on the trainer. I’m always amazed at how much easier it feels on race day.

It was dark by the time I finally finished. I checked the temperature and it was 18 degrees. I bundled up, tucked my soaking wet hair under a thick hat, pulled on my jacket, reflector vest, and headlamp, and headed out the door. After staring at numbers for the past five hours on the trainer I decided to do my run unplugged. No watch, no monitoring, just by feel. The switch from blasting music to a peaceful run in the falling snow was the perfect mix. All I could hear was the crunch of my feet in the snow. There was no wind—just the soft quiet of a snowstorm. The only thing missing was a friend, my husband, or one of my kids beside me on their bike to share this amazing night with.

When I was about half a mile from my house I saw a few lights bouncing in the distance. As I got closer one started coming towards me and I heard “Mom!” The whole family had come out to meet me. My youngest was flying down the road on her cross country skis smiling ear to ear. It was the perfect end to a long day of training.

A year ago a day like this would have seemed epic. I would have gone to bed amazed at what I had accomplished. Now, this has somehow become just another day. On the plan tomorrow, more swimming, a shorter bike with some low cadence intervals mixed in, and a two-hour run.



I have always made healthy choices and eat almost exclusively local organic products. I also follow a comprehensive fueling plan through all of my workouts. Here’s how things stacked up on the training day outlined above:

-1 granola bar and a bottle of EmergenC on the way to the pool

-Swim: 1 bottle of Ironman Perform, cup of chocolate milk after

-Breakfast/Lunch: grapefruit, toast with cottage cheese, bowl of blueberries with kefir and chia seeds, clementine, sandwich with turkey, cheese and spinach melted on pita bread, 2 beets, handful of walnuts, handful of pretzels

-Bike: 1 Chocolate Brownie Powerbar, 5 Vanilla Power Gels, 11 bottles of Powerbar Perform and a large handful of pretzels

-Before run: 2 fig newtons, glass of water, 1 banana

-After run: 2 scoops of Endurox

-Dinner: 1 cheeseburger with local grass-fed beef, 1 sweet potato, big pile of collard greens and kale cooked in coconut oil with walnuts and garlic, toast with almond butter

-Dessert: big bowl of mixed berries with soymilk and granola

-Supplements: 8 Zone fish pils, 1 multivitamin, vitamin D.



The first race of the season is coming up quickly. I’ll be racing IRONMAN Los Cabos on March 17 and then a few 70.3’s. I feel really good about where I am in training and look forward to hitting the start line in just five weeks.


Coach’s Report (by coach Jesse Kropelnicki)

After a stellar first season as a pro in 2012, Jessie is in a great position this year to step up another level. (See our article after her win at Lake Placid, “What a Difference a Year Makes“.) Last year was all about gaining confidence and consistency. With that in mind, we chose races that played to her strengths—we had no focus on Kona qualification. The concept was to create a solid foundation, and then make a serious run at Kona in 2013.

As Jessie approaches her second season as a pro, the race schedule and training approach is all about getting to (and competing well) in Kona. Because we’re looking for Jessie’s first Kona qualification, she’ll be racing often and early. With Los Cabos right around the corner, I’ve pushed Jessie pretty hard for this early in the season. Living in Vermont, much of her training has been indoors and intensity based. We head to our QT2 Systems PRO camp in Florida for most of February which she will welcome with open arms. She’ll come off the camp, recover for two weeks and race her first IRONMAN of the season in March. Stay posted here on her journey.

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