IRON MOM: Benton woman does it all in Puerto Rico competition

Josh Briggs
Managing Editor

Preparing for a marathon or triathlon involves some of the most rigorous training for an athlete attempting to better his or her time from a previous event.

Countless hours of cardio training, followed by other endurance workouts, are needed to be sure an individual is ready for the event.

While all of this may seem exhausting, for one Benton mother, the training and preparation came while she was pregnant with her second child.

Jennifer Lancaster, an attorney for Lancaster Law Firm in Downtown Benton, recently completed an Iron Man triathlon in Puerto Rico alongside her husband, Clint.
Lancaster competed in some events while she was pregnant and continued to train for the Puerto Rico event up until the time she gave birth. That is when she took six weeks off before returning to full-time training.

The event was a three-stage race that included a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike course, followed by a half-marathon run. Altogether, the race comes in 70.3 continuous miles.
“I started doing triathlons when I was seven months pregnant with my first child,” Lancaster said. She is a national weightlifting competitor, but was forced to put that on hold when she found out she was pregnant.
“You aren’t really supposed to lift when you are pregnant, so I had to give that up sometime during my pregnancy. I still wanted to maintain a healthy lifestyle so I decided to do a triathlon.”

Lancaster added that the first few events she entered were sprint-based and it wasn’t until she became pregnant with her second child that she decided to attempt an Iron Man.
“We wanted to do a destination Iron Man,” Lancaster said. “It is go big or go home. We chose one in Puerto Rico where we also could have a vacation.”

The swimming course was held in the Condado Lagoon in San Juan near Fort San Geronimo, a rebuilt battery used to aid the repel of Sir Francis Drake and the British Royal Navy’s attempt to take Puerto Rico in 1595.
Also, the Condado Lagoon was recently named one of the world’s most dangerous places for swimming by the Active Time and later republished by Fox News.

During the swim, Lancaster was pulled by heavy currents, the ebb and flow at Condado and Fort San Geronimo.
Due to the treacherous conditions, Lancaster actually swam a half-mile more than required.
“The swim really wasn’t that bad,” Lancaster said. “I did wind up swimming farther than 1.2 miles because my goggles were fogging up and I couldn’t stay on course.
“At one point during the swim there is a really strong current and they said to continue swimming into it. I pushed with everything I could at that point and ended up swimming out toward the ocean. I ended up swimming 1.6 miles.”
After completing the swim, Lancaster was preparing for the bike ride when she noticed her 8-month-old daughter and babysitter standing near the starting line. Realizing she was going to be away for many more hours, Lancaster’s motherly instincts kicked in and she stopped to nurse the child before returning to the course.

“I didn’t think she was going to be standing there,” Lancaster said. “The lady that was with her is a family friend and they were watching as the swimmers were transitioning to the bike.
“I thought ‘I’m here and she’s here, I should feed her.’ She doesn’t always take a bottle well so I took advantage of the situation and waved them over to the edge of the course and stepped off and nursed her right there.

“When you are a mom, you do what you have to for your babies. Part of why I train and do triathlons is for them. I am trying to set a really good example. I want them to stay healthy throughout their whole lives.”
After getting back on course, Lancaster embarked on the 56-mile ride, encountering some difficult obstacles along the way.
“The bike was the toughest because of the wind and I did not practice proper hydration,” Lancaster said. “I started feeling a little dizzy toward the end of the bike race and it was extremely hot. You are biking 56 miles, but you also are doing it against a very heavy wind.”

As if the weather and mild health issues were not enough to handle, Lancaster took on yet another obstacle along the way --- iguanas.
“The road was littered with iguana carcasses,” Lancaster said. “They were everywhere. At one point an iguana ran out in front of two bikers as they were passing. It stopped and I was probably 20 yards behind the racers. Like the squirrels here, it stopped. It looked at me and I looked and it and thought ‘Don’t you do it.’ I was wondering if he was going to dart in front of me and sure enough, when I got close enough he took off and I had to swerve and barely missed him. I screamed. It was at least 4 feet long and completely unexpected.”
Like the lagoon, the bike course has a history of danger as well.
In 2015, two competitive triathletes were shot while on the bike course during a gunfight over a drug deal gone bad. Both lived, but one of the drug dealers died as a result of the shooting.

“Prior to the race I was a little concerned after I read about that,” Lancaster said. “But they had beefed up security and changed the route where it didn’t go through that particular area so I felt very safe. At no point did I feel in danger.”
The final leg of the race was a 13-plus-mile half-marathon that is known for its sudden and steep grades. The run was made more famous after a professional triathlete collapsed along the wall of San Juan and nearly died after suffering a heat stroke.
Much like local marathons in Arkansas, residents of the city turned out in large crowds to cheer on the athletes. Streets of Viejo San Juan were closed for the race. Also, locals turned on sprinklers and threw ice as racers ran through the area.
Lancaster and her husband would spend up to four hours on the bike while training, immediately following with a long run. The exhausting training was done daily for about a month and a half.

“Transitioning from the bike to run is a challenge because you are using one set of muscles until you fatigue those out and then you use them in a totally different way while using another set of muscles,” Lancaster said. “It was a challenge because I didn’t like being away from my girls so I would get up between 3 and 4 in the morning and do it that way.”
Lancaster finished the event in just over eight hours. Also, Lancaster completed the Iron Man a short time ahead of her husband.

She added that while she and Clint are competitive athletes, they keep it fun, pushing each other along the way in whatever endeavors come along.