ACTIVE: Can you walk me through the days leading up to race day? What were you doing for the 10 days beforehand?
HJ: Leading in, obviously different athletes approach it differently. I put all the work in--all the training and all the hard, long miles in in Tucson. Then in Kona, I was getting used to the time zone and getting used to the humidity.
I think my longest ride was just under two hours and I went for a 45-minute run. To a non-triathlete, that's a lot of training, but to an IRONMAN, that's a very light day.
Race week for me is extremely light; I don't do much at all. I might do a 20-minute swim, 20-minute run and a 45-minute bike on separate days, then I'm at the condo with my feet up. I have a very extreme taper. We call it 'caging the beast.' You're ready on race day to let it go cause you're so bored with yourself.
ACTIVE: What were you thinking when you crossed the finish line? Did it hit you immediately or did it sink in a few days later?
HJ: It didn't really sink in. The final few miles I realized I ran up into fifth, and I crossed the line and I just really appreciated that the day came together. The placing didn't really sink in, and it still kind of hasn't. For me, I was just ecstatic that it came together. I was so happy.
ACTIVE: Was there anything that surprised you on race day? Anything you didn't expect?
HJ: The only thing that surprised me was the last 20 to 30 miles of the bike. You can prepare mentally, and plan to be strong through those final 30 miles because that's where everyone starts to fade. But as much as I prepared for that, it was brutal. You're alone, it was a complete headwind, so you're barely moving.
It was the same for everyone, but you feel like it's only happening to you cause you're so alone. It's hot and you're sore, and even when you reach the airport you have 10 miles left. You just want to get off the bike so bad.
ACTIVE: Is Kona going to be the main goal next year as well?
HJ: Yeah, totally. I wanted to come in this first year and set a benchmark...do the race and see what happens. This is my goal for my triathlon career--everything is pointing towards Kona. I know what I need to work on and what I need to improve, so the whole year will be focused on bettering my race.
ACTIVE: When you're preparing, do you keep people like Daniela Ryf and Mirinda Carfrae in mind? Do you target your competitors or is it all internal for you?
HJ: Definitely keep them in mind--the training is what I can do and I can push myself as hard as I can. Daniela is incredible, she set the bar for all female pros right now across the board for swimming, biking and running.
For me personally, I'm a mental trainer. When I'm doing my hard runs I picture getting chased down by Rinny, and when I'm biking I try to picture myself keeping up with a Daniela-caliber athlete. She's the best, so I try to train mentally to reach the level they're at.
ACTIVE: Do you have your race schedule all set for next year?
HJ: I have a general idea. I will hit Oceanside, either (or both) Wildflower or St. George in May, Escape from Alcatraz and IRONMAN Lake Placid. I spent six years training in Lake Placid for ice hockey with the women's national team, so I've always wanted to race there. This year it's a women-only pro field.
ACTIVE: How do you feel about the professional gender separation? Will that help promote gender equality in the sport?
HJ: I think it's huge. Obviously people were complaining, and there were some issues at a few races. (At) some races, they're making the start gap larger, but to actually separate the men's and women's racing completely is a huge step for IRONMAN. They responded to complaints, and it's a good change. A female will cross the line first, and for women, that's huge.
ACTIVE: So are you doing any more racing this year or are you calling it?
HJ: I had to do three full IRONMANs in about eight months just to qualify for Kona, so I called it after that. We're going to be at IRONMAN Arizona and I signed up just in case, but I'm not going to start.
ACTIVE: Did you do anything fun after Kona?
HJ: Wattie, my husband and I, got married right before Kona, so we had a week in Oahu for our honeymoon. We went back to Arizona briefly, but we're down in San Diego at our apparel factory, Wattie Ink., getting stuff ready for next year.
- VIDEO: Heather Jackson Takes on Kona 2015
- 2015 Triathlon Running Shoe Guide
- Indy 500 Winner Tony Kanaan on Triathlon, Training and Driving