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Athlete Spotlight: Jon & Alyssa Ylinen

Name | Jon and Alyssa Ylinen

Tell us about your family/careers.

We met in college at the University of Wisconsin Madison. After dating for 7 years we got married in 2015. We completed our first Ironman in September of 2016, and then set our sights on starting our family. We had 3 kids in the span of about 2.5 years. Our daughter, Claire (3), was born 1/1/18, our son, Connor (2), on 3/18/19, and our daughter, Reese (7 months), arrived on 9/4/20. We decided 3 was quite enough and now (foolishly?) signed up for Ironman 2021. Alyssa splits her time between staying at home herding the circus animals a few days a week, and on her "off" days, she is a nurse in the operating room at United Hospital. Jon has his own financial advising practice.

What is your personal favorite sport/activity?

Sports have always been a huge part of our lives. Alyssa's favorite is basketball. She played in college and professionally in Germany for 2 years. Jon originally went to Wisconsin Eau Claire to play football, but after a sport injury, transferred to Madison. His football skills did not go to waste, however, as he led his coed intramural flag football team to 4 consecutive championships by recruiting Alyssa and her abnormally tall basketball teammates to the cause.

Outside of training with Tri Fitness, what are some of your favorite hobbies?

Hobbies? We faintly remember those. We find most of our time is accounted for between our careers, kids, and training for Ironman. If extra time presents itself, we enjoy hiking, traveling, golfing, and spending our summer weekends at our family cabins.

What is your favorite motivational quote?

"God invented the marathon to prevent people from doing something more stupid. The Ironman event must have caught him totally by surprise."

Favorite gear for summer/winter racing?

Jon is the gear man of the two of us. He swears by his Normatech machine and Alyssa often catches him on client calls while using them.

What keeps you going when you really don't want to?

This past year we lost our 17 year old cousin unexpectedly to complications of type 1 diabetes. We decided that for the Ironman effort we would take the opportunity to do it as a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund in her name. When things get hard, thinking about her makes whatever workout we are struggling through just a bit easier.

What got you started with training/racing?

Jon has a sports/activity bucket list, and "complete triathlon" was on the list. So, he did a sprint race, and at the time, the experience confirmed it was kinda fun, but longer distances seemed like they were for crazy people. But, here we find ourselves.

When Alyssa returned home from playing basketball in Germany, finding opportunities to play as an adult were pretty hard to come by, so she had her sights on something different. Jon had been doing triathlon for a few years and was thinking about attempting Ironman, and somehow talked Alyssa into doing it with him. We can't imagine what Vicki was thinking when we first approached her about training us. Alyssa didn't have a bike, hadn't ever run more than 5 miles, and probably hadn't swam competitively in about 10 years. Thank god Vicki is a miracle worker!

When you told your friends/family about beginning your journey, what was their reaction?

Their first questions was, "Who is going to babysit?" After that, reactions were all over the place—ranging from "why do you guys hate yourselves" to "what a silly way to spend your free time" to admiration.

How long have you been training/racing?

Jon started some fairly amateur training efforts in 2014 and has pretty much trained for some sort of race yearly. Alyssa started training in 2015 for the first Ironman attempt, but has pretty much been on the sidelines (besides some casual running) while having babies. She got off her bike on Ironman day in 2016 and didn't get back on until training started about 2 months ago. Again, thank god Vicki is a miracle worker!

Best tip for a newbie?

Per what Mary said last month, SWTFP (aka just do what Vicki says)!

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Dick Hoyt (if you don't know Dick and Rick Hoyt's story, type "Dick Hoyt Ironman" into YouTube—you will never complain about a hard workout again).

Our kids also give us inspiration, or maybe more motivation. We try to live by the parental motto that if we want our kids to be extraordinary people, we need to try and give them good examples of how to be that. Kids are often a product of their environment. Although we are far from extraordinary, it's amazing how having kids pushes us to try and be the best versions of ourselves for them.

What is your biggest struggle?

Time is currently our biggest struggle. We would love to prioritize time for the "other" things like excess stretching, yoga, adequate sleep, etc., but the reality is, between our careers, very hands-on kids, and getting in our core training, those other things are harder to fit in.

What is your pre-race routine?

Jon analyzes every detail and Alyssa just shows up and beats him.

Goals for the upcoming year (2021)?

Jon would like to PR IMWI and Alyssa would like to complete Ironman after giving birth 3 years in a row.

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