It’s been a tough month for bike racing in Southern California. Barely three weeks after losing Chris Contreras in a criterium, Jackie Dunn sustained fatal injuries while racing on June 18th. These things happen so seldom, but that’s what makes them so incredibly shocking. And while the sudden death of a young healthy person is always appalling, it only seems more so when it happens during a race. People die every day from diseases, car crashes, and in wars…..but from bike racing? That isn't supposed to happen. While losing two riders in such a short amount of time will make you question the safety and riskiness of our sport, I am confident that riding your bike is far better than not riding. Sitting on your coach, waiting for a heart attack, and letting life pass you by is far riskier than any bike race. I am going to go race my bike next week, and from what I’ve heard about Chris Cono; he would approve. I am positive that Jackie would.
If I were to describe Jackie in a few words, they would be: caring, talkative, enthusiastic, and persistent. Her loquacious nature meant that it could be tough to get a word in edgewise. But that, along with her enthusiasm meant that she could be very fun to be around. She had a passion for her (relatively new) sport that was infectious and rubbed off on others. Her persistence would sometimes manifest itself as stubbornness, but that same quality drove her to find success in the sport in a short amount of time. As a new racer, she would show up to races that didn’t have a category for her and race with the men; she wanted to race and she was going to find a way to do it. The caring part? Well, that along with her enthusiasm was one of her best assets. Racers can be very narcissistic, but Jackie was always way one to ask how your race went, or tell you that you looked good out there.
My heart aches for her husband Durward. He is a good man who lost a good wife and partner. They were a couple whose love and respect for each other was visible every time you saw them. Durward enjoys photography, and I have no doubt that one of his primary motivators was that he enjoyed taking photos of Jackie. I can’t even im
agine the pain that he is going through at the moment. If there is any good to come of this, it is that Durward made the loving decision to donate Jackie’s organs and allow others to live through her tragic death.
Honestly, I didn’t know Jackie as well as many, and I knew her for less than a year. Her coach Chris Daggs knew her better, and he wrote her featured athlete profile for the Crank Cycling website this last April. If you would like to know some more about Jackie and how she found bike racing, read the profile as it appeared just a few months ago.
Jackie Dunn might be a newcomer to cycling, but she’s in it for the long haul. Jackie caught the bike bug in late 2012 after doing a triathlon. She decided to do a criterium and immediately fell in love with bike racing. However, her road to cycling began many years ago and under much different circumstances.
Jackie landed in San Diego in 2008 with her husband, Durward, a naval officer. Her move to San Diego had been difficult initially – San Diego is an active town and it wasn’t Jackie’s scene. Like many people, she had put on some weight over the years; she’d grown unhappy about this and decided it was time for change. In early 2009 she found boxing and after a year of training Jackie dropped over 80lbs and found her inner athlete. In late 2010 Jackie took a month long fight training trip to Thailand. Unfortunately a torn ACL required surgery and she spent early 2011 recovering from surgery. After returning to training an infection in the repaired knee required a second surgery and more rehab. With the Big Sur Marathon in April 2012 Jackie had no time to waste and she went straight from rehab to abbreviated marathon training and finished the race! Now that the ‘sleeper’ had been awakened there was no stopping her! After her marathon, Jackie did her first triathlon and found the bike. But she had some unfinished business: Muay Thai. Jackie continued her fight training and won her first Muay Thai fight in August 2012. Not one to shy away from challenge Jackie did her first crit later that month and was hooked.
Jackie began working with Crank Coach Chris Daggs in December 2012. She took the dedication and work ethic she had learned from fighting, running, and triathlon and applied that to her cycling. Full of talent and enthusiasm, Jackie raced as much as she could. Her hard work was rewarded with excellent results including a few race wins(!) and a quick upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 3. Her sights are firmly set on upgrading to Cat 2 before the end of the season. Jackie recently added track racing to her repertoire. She’s had immediate success on the track and will be using track training and racing to compliment her road racing and training. Through a combination of hard work, good training, and lots of racing Jackie Dunn is looking to make her first full season in cycling a breakthrough season!
It is June 21st and I’m at a loss to describe my feelings. The sense of loss hasn’t really set in yet. It always takes time for the tears to come when I lose someone, but the tears are flowing as I write this. As a coach you form strong bonds with your athletes and Jackie was no exception. We shared victory and defeat, success and failure. We spoke almost daily. I think her loss is more shocking to me as I hadn’t spoken to her in two weeks; I was in Europe on a coaching trip and we swapped emails and texts. The last time I spoke to her was the Saturday before I left and she was fired up about her day at the LA Velodrome. Jackie had fallen in love with the track and she was destined for success. There was so much more to Jackie than we could see; she was full of emotion and energy and it shined through on a daily basis. Her husband, Durward, shared with me that she had really begun to enjoy ‘the ride’ both on and off the bike; I’m glad I was able to share this part of her journey through this world. Although our time together in this life was short, I am thankful for it. As with all my athletes, I learn and grow from my experience with them. My life is richer because I knew Jacqueline Price Dunn and I will never forget her.