In her first Kona appearance, Heather Jackson surpassed expectations with a fifth place finish at the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship. We caught up with her a few weeks after the race to talk about her impressive performance and future plans.
ACTIVE: How did it feel to finish fifth in Kona, and how does that result compare to previous successes in your career?
HJ: It's funny because I'm still in shock. I've won Wildflower, and I've won 70.3 Oceanside. It was only fifth, but it was fifth at Kona, so comparatively it's up there, if not higher than my other accomplishments for sure.
It's the IRONMAN World Championship, so it's huge and I went into it hoping for a top 10 finish. I thought I could finish 10th or ninth, and I would've been ecstatic about it. So for fifth, I was so happy.
ACTIVE: So, top 10 was your ultimate goal? That's pretty lofty for your first time in Kona.
HJ: It's tough, right? It's the best girls in the world. You can be so far back from the lead and it may seem impossible, so you set smaller goals for yourself in the race.
I got off the bike maybe 14th or 15th, so initially I thought 'I have five girls to pass and I'll be in 10th.' So you focus in on those smaller, short term goals and you tick them off until you realize you're moving through the field. So yeah, going in, it was to finish top 10 and anything more than that was awesome.
ACTIVE: Was that when you realized you were doing well, when you were passing people on the run?
HJ: It was like almost through each sport during the day, it got better and better. But you never know how it's going to go. Some days I've had not amazing swims, but amazing swims for me, and I get out of the water and I'm not as strong on the bike or run. For me in Kona, I had a horrible swim. I didn't think I'd be that far back.
It started out pretty bad. I was down on myself. Then, the bike got a little better. When I got to the run, my legs felt great. It was one of those 'Wow, I can do this,' moments. That positive mentality and the momentum kept going all through the run.
ACTIVE: How do you change your mindset when you exit the swim so far behind? How do you turn things around to finish fifth?
HJ: Going in, I knew the swim would be a struggle and a low point, so getting on the bike helped me forget about it. I think going in mentally prepared, and knowing I would hear a huge time gap as I exited the water, I was ready for it.
I had a little more work to do than I thought, but I can always find the positive in it. I thought, 'I know I can bike with the top girls, time to do it.'
ACTIVE: How did you prepare for the harsh conditions of the big island? What were you doing to get ready for the heat and the wind?
HJ: My husband and I packed up from our home in Bend, Ore., and drove down to Tucson about four weeks leading into the race. Tucson is super windy and in the 100s everyday. It was hotter than Kona, but didn't have quite the humidity--I didn't think Kona felt that hot to me.
We went to the Big Island about 10 days before the race, to get used to the humidity. You can only familiarize yourself to the humidity; I don't think you can ever adapt to it necessarily.