After a couple years of competing at half distance events, Jackson Dovey came to Ironman Texas with high hopes, but they quickly were deflated with an unfortunate puncture. He then shifted his focus to Ironman Coeur D'Alene where he grabbed the golden Kona ticket and we chatted with this Every Man Jack team member.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Jackson.
Jackson Dovey: My pleasure! I am a loyal ST follower and love reading all your interviews. To be honest it’s a little surreal to get this opportunity.
ST: Interestingly enough I actually learned about you several weeks ago when I interviewed Brian August, and he spoke highly of you and your enthusiastic support in Texas.
Jackson: Brian is an amazing guy and one of the toughest athletes I have met. There is no way I could think of a scenario where I break my arm, then go out and complete the race and qualify for Kona. He is a warrior!
ST: If he is a warrior, how would you describe yourself?
Jackson: I’m just an ordinary guy trying to extraordinary things.
ST: You reside in San Jose, California. Is that also where you grew up?
Jackson: No, I actually grew up near Seattle in the small town of Federal Way. I moved away to attend to college at Santa Clara University and play collegiate soccer. I loved San Jose so much that I decided to stay. I don’t mind the Seattle rain but I like sunshine a lot more.
ST: Do you know anyone who doesn't like sunshine more?
Jackson: True, if anyone says they like the rain more they are lying.
ST: Your season did not start well as I understand.
Jackson: After a successful 2014 I went into the off season trying to carry that momentum and work on areas where I knew I needed some help. The bulk of the off season was spent building bike strength with an early season test at [70.3] Oceanside. Unfortunately I suffered a calf strain two weeks before Oceanside and wasn't able to run leading into the race - a less than ideal prep. In Oceanside I had a great swim bike combo and found myself near the front of the race coming out of T2. But right out of T2 I felt my calf turn from a nuisance to a sharp pain. With IMTX only 6 weeks out I took a DNF and hoped I had not done any serious damage. Doctors confirmed that I had a partial tear in the calf muscle and for the next 6 weeks I spent a lot of time in rehab and water running (not fun!). Any time you are forced to change your training plan there is nerves involved and with my “A” race for the year right around the corner I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a little doubt and uncertainty.
ST: At 31 you are still reasonably young, but have you had any calf issues before?
Jackson: No, this was the first, and hopefully the last time I will have calf issues. Once you pick up an injury you are always a little more aware and I like to think I learned something from the whole ordeal.
ST: Were you patient with that rehab process?
Jackson: Patience was the key to recovery. Having a great medical team is also a huge benefit. My doctor, Cody Fowler at Symmetry Sports, got to know me very well in those 6 weeks! Rehab is tough to swallow as an athlete no matter what the extent of your injury is. Hearing that you can’t do something you love made me want to get healthy that much more. But then there was my coach, like a bird on my shoulder, giving me workout after workout…..running in the pool.
ST: Talk about that race in Texas.
Jackson: Heading into that IMTX my longest run was 1:15 but I was able to make it to the start line in one piece and felt my preparation and fitness were good enough for a solid race. After coming out of the water 2nd overall I moved to the front of the race within a couple miles and settled in for the long day. All was going well until mile 37 when I picked up a safety pin in my rear tubular tire. When the foam didn't hold I desperately tried to call for neutral support but with the way the bike is set up in Texas it is very difficult for support to make it back through the race. As the minutes turned to hours and I watched thousands of people pass by I knew my race was over. There is so much time and energy that goes into an Ironman that when something like a flat tire ends your day it is hard to wrap your head around it.
ST: Were you angry or reasonably calm, or was it a variety of emotions?
Jackson: There was definitely a flurry of emotions but anger was not one of them. To be honest I felt like I had let people down. My family and friends made the trip to Texas, braved the sweltering heat and to not finish for them tore me up. When you race there are always risks associated but to flat going 25mph and not end up in the ditch or worse was a victory. My focus immediately shifted to those out racing and I wanted to do anything I could to help them get through the day. Seeing the other EMJ guys out there killing it fired me up and I was so proud of the races they put together.
ST: After you got back to transition, when did the Coeur D’Alene chat come up and why that race?
Jackson: Haha, probably before I even made it back to transition I started to think about CDA. I knew CDA was still open and with the fitness and motivation I had, it seemed like a no brainer. Obviously, I had to make sure my wife was on board but once she gave me the green light it was game on. Having raced CDA in 2012 I knew the course and the timing was right so we decided as a family that we would make the trip back.
ST: The last few years however you had not raced long. But prior to that you had only raced two full events.
Jackson: That’s correct. After racing Arizona in 2011 and CDA in 2012 I took a break from full distance and focused on long course. After two straight years of Ironman training, I needed a break to spend more time with my family and career development. At the time I thought I was well prepared to race full distance but looking back I realize I had a lot to learn.
ST: Did your 2013 and 2014 middle distance quest go well?
Jackson: 2013 and 2014 were good years. I raced a ton in those years trying to learn as much as possible. Long course events are great because the training volume doesn’t have to be so high and you really get the sense of “racing”. I went in with the goal of qualifying for 70.3 Worlds and was able to achieve my goal. Racing at the championship level you quickly realize just how many fast guys and girls are out there. My first go at it was eye opening to say the least!
ST: What then made you decide to race Ironman events again?
Jackson: As a kid growing up there was always the interest and desire to try and race Kona. With a couple good years under my belt with my coach I felt ready to give full distance another go. I talked with my coach at the start of this year and we worked on a plan to address what we felt I needed to do to make a serious run at Kona. The switch from half distance to full is never easy but I feel the plan and preparation that we have done put me in a position to have a great race. There is just something about setting goals just a little beyond your reach that drives me.
ST: Talk about your day in Coeur D’Alene.
Jackson: Coeur D’Alene was one of those days you always dream about, except for the 108 degree heat! The day started off really early after the start time was moved up to try and beat the heat. There was a little uncertainty with the distance of the race and it was not until about 5:00am that the athletes were notified we would be going the full distance. Once in the water I found some good feet and came out with the lead group. I moved quickly through transition with the help of amazing volunteers and was second overall onto the bike behind my teammate Brandt Champion, who had an unbelievable swim. The CDA bike course is so well set up that the miles seemed to fly by and once on the long climb up the highway I moved into the lead. As the temps climbed throughout the day I had to keep telling myself to eat and drink while sticking to my plan. Just as I was approaching the halfway point Sam Long (eventual amateur winner) came by me like a freight train and even though it was hard to let him go I knew I needed to ride my race. With 6 EMJ guys in the race it was super motivating to see everyone out there pushing the limit and it fueled me the entire day. As I came off the bike the temps had already reached 96 degrees and were climbing fast. The name of the game on the run was staying cool and hydrating. I came into the race with a very specific cooling plan and it worked better than I could have ever imagined. CDA is one of those races where the volunteers play a huge role and I cannot thank them enough for suffering through the heat with us to give every athlete a chance to achieve our goals. My run plan was to try and hold the same pace the entire marathon and I knew that if I was able to do this, good things were possible. Having Scott Frandsen, last year’s amateur winner and fellow teammate, up the road helped push me through and it was not until I made the turn down Sherman Ave that it really set in what was about to happen. I knew Kona was a possibility but to be one of the top amateurs was beyond my wildest dreams. I did my best to enjoy the finish and was even able to sneak in a kiss with my wife just before crossing the line. God always has a plan and I feel the early season struggles and disappointments led me to CDA where everything came together.
ST: So what is next?
Jackson: I’m in a bit of a recovery phase right now. I ended up racing Vineman last weekend so taking a little extra time to heal is much needed. Vineman is one of those iconic races that if you get the opportunity to race, you can’t pass it up. Being a “hometown” race and our biggest team race I gave it a go. My body was still feeling the effects of the effort in CDA but I still walked away happy with my result. From here the focus will shift to a Kona build with my next race on the Big Island.
ST: How early will you get there?
Jackson: I'll head to Hawaii the Tuesday before the race. I actually have a wedding to attend in Cabo the Saturday before so I’ll be a bit of a jet setter that week. Getting there on Tuesday will give me a few day to settle in a get a feel for the heat and wind before race day.
ST: You talk very fondly about your wife.
Jackson: My wife is my rock, my best friend and biggest supporter. Without her in my corner there is no way I would be the man I am today. No matter where the race is and through the highs and lows I can always count on her to be there to support. While we have been to some great races in amazing locations she is really really excited to go to Kona and make a vacation out of the experience.
ST: But you have other strong supporters.
Jackson: I most certainly do! “Team Dovey” is always out in force, waving signs and cheering me all the way. My parents and in-laws were all at Texas and they were the first ones booking tickets to CDA. I can always count on them to give me that little extra boost when times get tough. I also have a great group I train with in San Jose that put me in the pain cave every time we get out on the road.
ST: And hey with your first name you fit especially well into team Every Man Jack.
Jackson: Coincidence? I think not. My birth name is Jack so I guess it all worked out! Being part of Team Every Man Jack has taken my racing to a whole new level. I can’t say enough good things about the class of the guys on the team, and the way Ritch Viola runs the team is second to none.
ST: How did you get recruited?
Jackson: Having raced against EMJ the last couple years I always had aspirations to be part of the team but it wasn’t until I found myself without a team at the end of last year that I reached out to Ritch. I was blown away with his outpouring of support and acceptance. So I guess you can say I recruited myself and took a few extra showers a week to make a good case for myself.
ST: Any final thoughts?
Jackson: Too much to even scratch the surface but I'll give it a shot… Triathlon is a very selfish sport that can often be all-consuming, but as athletes we are nothing without the support system around us. I am blessed to have amazing sponsors, Teammates, training partners and coaches in my corner along with family and friends that are behind me 100%. I may be the one racing but all the thanks and praise has to go to them. Oh and I like long walks on the beach, puppies, a tall glass of bourbon, and the brighter the Speedo, the better!
All images courtesy of Jackson Dovey.