Heather Jackson visited our Montreal office following her big win at IRONMAN Lake Placid. We took this opportunity to sit down with her for a talk about triathlon ahead of the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii.
When you got started in triathlon, what aspect did you find most difficult to master?
HJ: I think the most difficult aspect to master has been the swim and I still haven't! It's still a huge work in progress. I think if someone doesn't grow up swimming and is into triathlon now, it's very difficult to learn. It's so technical... You're out of your element in water, so you have to figure out how to breathe effectively, which we are not created to do. It's not natural in the water. Just learning how to do that and then put yourself in a race environment where you're surrounded by thousands of people and, you know, you're still trying to breathe and survive…
How do you manage competitors, swimming so close to each other?
HJ: If you're not comfortable with that, it can freak you out! And again, you're out of your element. Trying to stay above the water, you're combining survival with a sport, I guess. Trying to master that can be daunting.
What is the longest distance you have ever raced?
HJ: The longest is a full IRONMAN™!
What is the key for successful transitions?
HJ: I think the key is to practise it as much as you train and go into transition knowing exactly what you're about to do. You approach it the same way you would the swim, the bike or the run. You keep in your head exactly what you're going to do and just concentrate as much during transition as you do during the other three disciplines. Treat it as another discipline, really.
What is your favourite E-119 Tri+ feature?
HJ: It's hard to name only one! (Laugh) Everything! I think it's a perfect triathlon bike. It's light, but it's aero; you can climb and still be super aero on flat. It responds to rollers and it's got everything you need for triathlons with the bento box. It's just really well thought out for our sport. For me it's huge that a company wants to be in the sport and make products meant for that. The bike is incredible.
What are your tricks to get past the pain during a race?
HJ: I try to think that if I'm hurting, my competitors are hurting more. It motivates me a little bit more, and it gets me fired up to push even further.
What motivates you on tougher days?
HJ: I think, on the toughest days, I just try to keep in mind the people that can't do what I get to do. Right now, I have a couple of people who always pop into my head like the guy that married us, Wattie and me. He has cancer and he's in his early 40s. He would give anything to get out there… On the days where I don't want to go for a run, I think to myself that I get to go for this one. There are so many people out there who, for many reasons, if they are sick or injured, can't go out and run, bike or swim. It's almost a disservice to them to think I don't want to do an easy run when they would do anything to do it. I usually try to think of that.
What is the best advice you ever received?
HJ: I think the best advice I received...It was phrased differently but it's really « at the end of the day, no one gives a ****! » (Laugh) Meaning that, you know, we can get wrapped up in training. Sometimes a session goes horribly, and you struggle to hit your numbers. If you're having a bad race it can come off as if everyone is disappointed, but at the end of the day no one really cares. You still have your friends, your family, everyone still supports you, whether you do well or not, if you have a first place or a tenth place. It's a sport, don't take it too seriously mentally, because at the end of the day, you're still going home to your loved ones, you still have your friends and it's not the end of the world.
What are your sources of inspiration?
HJ: I'm probably one of the luckiest triathletes in the world. I have everything. I don't have to work; my husband gives me more support than anyone out there and I have it all. I just have to race and be my best. There are thousands of triathletes out there who work ten-hour days and still get out of bed at 5am in the morning to go swimming and then go off work to train. I can't imagine that. That is a huge inspiration to me that people are still doing that! I always try to do it for them, for the people that have so much more going on.
Are there other athletes that you admire? Who inspired you to get into the sport?
HJ: My parents got me into this sport. My mom was a Phys ed teacher. She got me into every sport I did. It's huge! My parents gave me more support growing up, making it possible for me to do anything I wanted. I wouldn't be here without them. They drove me to thousands of hockey games, soccer games… I attribute so much to them. It's funny because growing up my role models were hockey players and soccer players...! (Laugh) Coming into triathlon though, I think my favourite was Natascha Badmann. She always has a smile on her face and she's very gracious! And she was a uber biker! AND she couldn't swim, and still won Kona so...! (Laugh) HUGE inspiration! :)