Jordan Greenwood Had to Learn How to Walk Again – and Now She Races Ironman Triathlon

by Zach Nehr

Blog ▸ Jordan Greenwood Had to Learn How to Walk Again – and Now She Races Ironman Triathlon

Jordan Greenwood believes that if she can be an endurance athlete and compete in Ironman triathlon, anyone can. 

She crossed the finish line of IM 70.3 Augusta in spring 2022, just two years after a life-saving surgery forced her to learn to walk again.

If she can overcome an obstacle like that, Jordan says anyone else can do it too – and with the proper training, she says endurance sports are not remotely as difficult as you might think.

FALLING OUT OF ATHLETICS

Jordan grew up in a tremendously athletic family. She was even good enough at basketball to be offered a college scholarship, but a herniated disc in her back put a sudden end to her basketball career only a couple of months after she started college.

Despite physical therapy and many treatments over several years, the herniation caused such constant and intense pain that Jordan had to give up all activity. She even accepted that she would probably never be truly active again.

She dealt with the pain as best she could as she finished college and became a professional photographer.

THE CRITICAL SETBACK

Jordan and her husband, Mark, eventually had two children, and after each pregnancy, she became increasingly more exhausted. She wasn’t regular-tired or even new-mom tired; she was debilitated by crushing fatigue, and it was challenging to do the simplest tasks. 

For five years, she saw doctors who said she was fine, but she knew something was terribly wrong with her body.

Ultimately, Jordan was proved right: an enormous tumor was found growing on her liver, causing the unusual fatigue. Due to the size of the mass and its location, a surgeon would have to open up Jordan’s entire abdomen to perform surgery, removing half of her liver along with the tumor.

The procedure was a success, and as soon as the tumor was gone, Jordan says she was shocked to find the fatigue had instantly lifted.

However, because her abdominal muscles had been cut through as part of the open abdominal surgery, Jordan could no longer hold her body up and had to slowly re-learn to stand and walk. But having normal energy levels again gave her a glimmer of hope that she might be able to be a little bit more active in the future.

RUNNING HER FIRST 5K RACE

After five months of intense physiotherapy, Jordan was back on her feet and moving around normally. A friend asked her if she’d be willing to try running in a 5K race.

Although she still experienced back pain from the herniated disc, not wanting to take her newfound energy for granted, she decided to give it a shot and see how her body would feel.

The short running race went well enough that Jordan and her husband decided it would be safe to attempt something much bigger.

BECOMING A BEGINNER IN TRIATHLON

Jordan registered for a Sprint triathlon followed by a half-IRONMAN race – 2022 IM 70.3 Augusta. Still, she was nervous and unsure if she had made the right decision to sign up.

“I didn’t know if I could trust my body to complete a long race. And I didn’t want to take time away from my kids and put effort into training for something if I couldn’t trust my body to complete it. But one day, something just flipped in my brain, and I knew I had to prove it to myself that I could do it,” says Jordan.

Inspired by Taren’s MoTTIV Method YouTube channel, with 20 weeks to go before the half-IRONMAN, she and her husband started to train.

USING THE MōTTIV TRIATHLON TRAINING PLANS

At first, when she looked ahead at her training plan to see what would be required, Jordan had moments when she felt it would be too much.

“Starting it, I was just terrified. I looked at my whole training plan, and I thought to myself, there’s a training ride that’s 4 hours long; I don’t think I can do that. I can’t sit on a bike for four hours. But you know how training plans go. Step by step, you gradually get there,” she says.

With her recent medical issues weighing on her mind, Jordan wanted to play it safe with her training. Research told her she could still complete the race by doing her training at a low heart rate, and she decided she would skip any intense efforts that were prescribed in her plan (80% low intensity with 10-20% intense efforts is a central tenant of the MōTTIV training method.)

Much to her surprise, Jordan’s body continued to feel good, and she saw her fitness improving as the sessions ticked past. Those terrifying long training days gradually became less and less daunting.

HALF IRONMAN 70.3 AUGUSTA

When IM 70.3 Augusta race day arrived, Jordan’s nervousness was at a fever pitch. She still had nagging doubts whether her body — which had betrayed her so many times — would be up to the task.

But much to her surprise and delight, her body came through and carried her to a 6:09 finish.

Jordan triathlon finish

“Honestly, it’s so funny because I look back at the photos from the race, and I’m literally smiling ear to ear in every photo, and I think, why do I look like that? I look so happy! I didn’t feel that happy out there because you are suffering! A 70.3 race is not easy. But every step of the way, I was so proud of myself for doing it,” she says. “I was just so dang proud of myself.”

Post-race, Jordan says she knows her decision to stick to only low heart rate training sessions and no intense workouts means she didn’t race at her highest potential; a plan that focuses on low intensity still requires 10-20% of high-intensity workouts to teach the body how to kick into a higher gear. 

“If you asked me on the day of the race, I would have said I’ll never do this again. One is enough. But the next day, I thought to myself, if I had done a few of those sprint sessions and hill sessions, I really could have gone sub-six (hours),” she laughs. “When I was out there, I didn’t have that extra gear because I didn’t train for it. So now I’m like, I’ve got to do it again because I have to do better. I definitely have the bug.”

FUTURE MARATHON RUNNING GOALS

Before she does another triathlon, Jordan will use the MōTTIV training app to train for a full marathon in November 2022, something she could never have imagined when she was learning how to put one foot in front of the other again.

She wants to tell her story to let everyone know that if she could do it after all she’s been through, they most definitely can too.

“I know it’s so intimidating for people who haven’t experienced athleticism to take on something like a triathlon or a marathon. But I would just ask someone, do you have a body? Because if you have a body, you are designed to move! We should not put limitations on ourselves, because when we do, we don’t achieve anything, and we lose our self-confidence. We’re holding ourselves back from such exciting times.

If I hadn’t overcome my fear and signed up for this race, I would have probably still been sitting on the couch, doubting my strength and my ability. Even though I was feeling better physically, having surgery, and finally not dealing with fatigue, I still wouldn’t have known what my body could do.

So I would say to someone who’s doubting if they can: get out there and try it because you never know!”

Zach Nehr

Zach Nehr

Zach has a degree in Exercise Science and Psychology. He is a certified coach, Cat 1 cyclist, and is a freelance writer having been published in many of the worlds largest endurance sports publications.