By Tom Hill
I visited the Singletrack offices yesterday. We sat down over a bag of doughnuts and some coffees and just talked about Jenn. It was a lovely way to spend a few hours and a reminder that Jenn’s work colleagues were more than just that – they were friends of the most important kind – riding buddies. In fact, they were and remain a cliched family… the kind that can frequently argue, but look out for each other and support each other. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to call them my friends too.
Jenn felt that working at Singletrack was one of the most rewarding things she had done. It was, in turn, one of the most exasperating, frustrating and down-right stressful things she’d done too… It wasn’t in her nature to accept anything other than excellent, and she expected that of everyone. At times I know it tested the friendships above, but once deadlines were over for another few weeks, or bikes were being ridden instead of written about, the day-to-day stresses that come with most jobs were forgotten about. Most importantly, I know Jenn was rightly proud of what she helped to create at Singletrack.
Jenn had no desire to be in the public eye, in fact she would actively avoid it if at all possible, and saw it as a necessary evil of what she did. She once told me that as much as she loved racing, she hated crossing the finish line (especially those regular times she did so in first place) and even more so, standing on the podium, all eyes on her. She struggled to balance her love for writing about riding bikes, with the recognition it brought. It was so typical of Jenn that while privately she might have felt a little baffled and embarrassed, publicly she always had a smile and the time to talk, whether that be at races or out on the trails.
In the end Jenn was able to rationalise this paradox by accepting that if she was inspiring others to try something new, to challenge themselves, to look at riding bikes in another way, or simply pick up their bike on a day that they otherwise may not have done, then it was more than worth being centre of attention every now and then (although it didn’t mean she had to enjoy it, thank you).
Jenn inspired in a very quiet way. She simply got on and did things. There was no shouting about it, no hint of an ego. It was just what she did. What felt like sometimes superhuman exploits were conducted by this modest person with a wicked cute smile, the bluest of eyes and time for everyone. To me and many others, this made her exploits all the more powerful.
And so it was when we sat in a room in St James’s Department of Oncology in early 2014. Our lives changed in an instant. We stepped outside and chose to walk the couple of miles home. By the end of that walk, we knew how we would face the prospect of a vastly reduced time together and the stupid fucking cancer. With typical bloody mindedness Jenn fought to make sure we packed in as many experiences – and as much love – as we could in the short time we then knew we would have with each other. We did way more than even we thought we would get to do. It will never be enough. I will always treasure each one of those days, every mountain top we stood on, every muddy smile, every sip of whisky before falling asleep in the back of a van or in a tent.
By just doing what she does, my wife managed to inspire those around her again. The support that Jenn received when she finally took the decision to step down from Singletrack overwhelmed her – again the shy and private girl was a little baffled and embarrassed. She was also touched and moved though, as were her family and I. Seeing the #jennrides taking place #forjenn felt a little like she was back on the podium, but she was happy that people were getting out, riding with others and having fun – and if she had played a small part in that, then maybe that wasn’t a bad thing after all. Now that she isn’t here, it has been lovely for those of us left behind to see Jenn living on through other people’s rides and adventures. So keep getting out there for Jenn, keep riding, keep smiling. Keep using hashtags if you’d like to. More importantly though, keep doing it for you, keep doing it for those that you are close to.
Finally, our families and I would like to say thank you for the incredible support shown to us by colleagues and friends at Singletrack, all of the readers of the magazine and site and anyone who has sent messages of support. Each and every one has helped, every anecdote has kept her alive in our minds a little longer. Thank you too to all of those who have bought Issue 100 products and donated to Jenn’s nominated charities.
Jenn’s funeral will be held on the afternoon of Wednesday 28 October. Our families have decided to say a final goodbye in our own small and private way. We will also celebrate Jenn’s life with her friends on a larger scale in the near future. In the mean time, if you ever needed an excuse to get out on your bike, then maybe choose to do so on Wednesday afternoon. I can’t think of a better way to remember a remarkable human being.
Tom Hill is Jenn’s husband, and a frequent Singletrack contributor.