3X Ironman Champion Blazes a New Path

3X Ironman Champion Blazes a New Path

ON 4. November 2016 by Kate Veronneau

Zwift Academy is a community of fun-loving, competitive women from all corners of the globe. They are moms, daughters, doctors, lawyers, caretakers, entrepreneurs, bosses, and more, who remarkably balance training with all of life’s responsibilities.

Each week, we’ll tell one rider’s story to uncover a little bit more of the motivations and personalities behind this inspiring group of women.

Jessie Donavan’s massive engine is only out-shined by her fierce determination. With 3 Ironman Championships and 3 children on her resume, she was searching for her next challenge. That’s when she heard about Zwift Academy. She made the Semi-Finals and is charging ahead. Here’s her story…



Why did you join Zwift Academy?

I have been racing as a professional triathlete for the past 4 years with a few bike races sprinkled in for training. Cycling has always been a strength for me and I always wondered, “What if I just focused on cycling?”

Zwift Academy provided the perfect opportunity at just the right time for me. I had been recovering from getting hit by a truck while biking, and then a running injury popped up and my husband showed me the announcement about ZA.

The opportunity to compete with women around the world for a professional cycling contract from the comfort of my own basement and training roads, I’M IN!! I signed up the first day it opened.


How has the training impacted your life so far?

I have always spent a lot of time on the trainer but my triathlon training was a lot of steady state training staring at my heart rate and power. The ZA workouts have really been fun and so much more dynamic.

I love the group rides and races offered on Zwift and completing the structured sessions has pushed me out of my comfort zone more than once. Those extended over/unders are still haunting me!

What I wasn’t expecting when I signed up for ZA was the true sense of community I would feel with all of the other ZA women out there. It has been great to connect with female riders from around the world.

What do you do when you are not riding your bike?

I am a senior analyst at the University of Vermont and I have three active kids. When I’m not on my bike on my own I might be out mountain biking with one of them, hiking a mountain, swimming, running or driving around in circles to their various sporting events. Life is full in a good way.


Do you have kids or pets? How do they feel about your Zwift station?

My three children are all cyclists and they are excited to get on Zwift this winter. We have three trainers ready to go now, but we need to set up the computers.

The kids have grown up used to a mom who is drenched in sweat at all times of the day and bikes for hours in the basement. They weren’t really surprised when I told them about ZA and that I was going to try to become a professional cyclist. They have seen me set some pretty lofty goals for myself over the years and now they are setting similar goals for themselves.

Cyclists have to replace a lot of calories. What is your favorite post-ride treat?

One of my standards is toast with cottage cheese and fresh fruit on top, strange but good. If I don’t feel like eating I also will just do a quick smoothie or a chocolate milk. I’m pretty anal about nutrition, it really makes a big difference in being able to get the most out of myself day after day.


What’s one of your most memorable moments on a bike?

In one of my first bike races I made a small break at the top of a long climb. We went bombing down the other side of the mountain doing everything we could do build our lead on the pack. I remember just thinking “this is so crazy fun!” as we took the sharp corners at top speed. For the next 2 hours we worked together in a paceline to extend our lead.

There was something so thrilling and empowering about working with this group of strong female athletes, pushing ourselves to our own individual limits as a group.

Cycling is so unique in it’s combination of individual and team sport, definitely something that draws me in.


Where has your bike taken you, physically and/or mentally?

I have been lucky enough to race triathlons all over the world including South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and all over the U.S. I love arriving at new places and setting off to explore on my bike.

I have also climbed every possible mountain pass in Vermont – we call them “gaps” – ridden across the state, down the state, around Lake Champlain, pretty much anywhere I can think of!

Describe Zwift in 5 words

Fun, Competitive, Addicting, Safe, Real