Kicking Back With Jackie Hering

Wisconsin based Jackie Hering managed to win a 70.3 race before the COVID19 shutdown and more recently raced the PTO Championships. But she has much more on her plate than just racing as a professional and we had a chat with her about racing, training, family, baking, beer and much more.

Slowtwitch: Well hello Jackie.

Jackie Hering: Hi Herbert and Slowtwitch, thanks for chatting with me!

ST: How is this off-season treating you, or is there even an off-season for you?

Jackie: Well, the off season was a bit different this year! I took my main off-season in the month of July as it became clear we weren’t going to have much for races before the PTO Championships in December. I also took a couple weeks off in December, following that race. So those breaks were very nice, and much needed. I enjoy the down time from training!

ST: How do you spend time off?

Jackie: I mostly get to spend more time with my family and friends doing fun, normal things without having to worry about when and where I will do my next workouts. It makes for a great time to do some family travel, camping, visiting with friends that may not live as close by and catching up on things that don’t get as much attention when I’m in the thick of training. I’ll also be found baking more bread and drinking more beer, that's for sure!

ST: What is one of your favorite breads you bake, and what about the beer of choice?

Jackie: A standard sourdough loaf is my go-to, which I bake 1-2 times per week. I also eat English muffins daily, so I bake those at least once a week too. As for beer, my personal favorite is Fantasy Factory, which is an IPA brewed here in Madison, WI. Generally I like most any hazy IPA.

ST: You mentioned the PTO Championships in Florida. Was that your most recent race and what was the last one prior to that event?

Jackie: Yep, my last race was the PTO champs, which was awesome! Before that I was a part of all of the Zwift Pro invite races, which were great to improve my cycling and stay motivated through the year. As for real races, I was able to sneak in a win at an actual 70.3 event at Campeche 70.3 last March - just before the shut-down. In hindsight I’m so glad I went to it!

ST: Going into the PTO Championships how did you feel, and what were your thoughts on the format?

Jackie: I was very focused and excited for the PTO champs! I felt I had a very good shot at top 10 as cycling was near the best of my life and swim, and running were also feeling good. I liked the format and I usually do well in lake swims, non-technical bikes course, and I also enjoy looped courses where I can see other racers. It was exciting dealing with the unknown of so many athletes we had never raced before and racing after such a long break.

ST: As you arrived in Daytona was it as you had imagined both in general feel and in terms of COVID19 precautions?

Jackie: They did an excellent job in Daytona with the COVID precautions and making us all feel very safe. There were a lot more age-group racers than I realized would be there, but that gave it much more of a normal race feel! With the PTO involved, we had a very elevated pro experience which gave it the feel of a championship event. They really rolled out the red carpet for us. It felt amazing!

ST: Talk about your race.

Jackie: Whew, where to start! The swim was pretty terrible for me. I don’t know if I was just a bit rusty from not racing all year or what, but I was caught off guard by the starter and then couldn’t get into the groove for the first stretch. Unfortunately, that first stretch is when it really matters, and I was left behind the groups I would normally find myself with. I’m not much to dwell, so I hopped on the bike and went on to have a great ride, passing people the entire way. I think I moved from 25th out of the water to 17th by the end of the bike. I rode completely by feel and enjoyed having people to catch the entire way, it made the 20 laps go by very quickly!

Getting off the bike and onto the run I settled right into what ended up being 5:55 min/mile pace. I was feeling great and picking people off on the run. By the second lap (of 4) of the run I had moved into 9th place. Just as I was completing that lap I saw my race number on a board at the penalty tent and realized I somehow had not 1 but 2 penalties. I could seriously not believe it. They were able to tell me that one penalty had something to do with the dismount line, but they had no idea what the other penalty was for. I was completely in shock! It was terrible to stand there for 5 minutes - 2 minutes for the first penalty and 3 minutes for the second one. In the middle of an awesome run and painfully watching everyone I had passed and then some go on past me just standing there.

I started back out on my run feeling awful after standing there for so long, but I was determined to get back into the top 20. I think I started back around 25th after standing there for 5 minutes. I did it and managed to squeak into 19th by the end of the last lap.

I finished the race feeling satisfied with my efforts but completely confused, mad and still shocked by the penalties. I set out to figure out firstly what they were for and then how I got them. I finally got a hold of a USAT official and they informed me 1 was for taking a few seconds too long to pass - with the 20-meter draft zones we were allotted 45 seconds to pass. The other was for going over the dismount line. Both of these did and still don’t sit well for me as neither aided my performance in any way! The second penalty is supposed to be a ‘warn and amend’ penalty where we are meant to be told we made an infraction and be able to fix it by running back to the line with our bikes. The thing is, I was never told or given the chance to fix it. This could have been a 20 second fix, instead it cost me 3 minutes! The PTO is working with me and USAT still to address this. I’m hopeful as those 3 minutes would take me up to 11th place!

ST: Were there any lessons you learned from that day?

Jackie: Well, it was my first time in 12 years of racing to get penalties and I guess I learned that although I thought I was being careful I guess I need to be more careful. Also, as one of the penalties is still under investigation, I have also learned patience and to let things go that are out of my control even if they are unfair or unjust.

ST: What is next?

Jackie: For 2021 I am targeting being a part of the Collins Cup for team USA, the PTO’s first championship event, taking place in August as well as a podium at 70.3 Worlds.

First up, though, in February, is a 4-week Zwift pro series with a bike-run-bike format taking place every Wednesday. The first in-person event will be Challenge Miami in March. After that I’m hopeful Ironman will be able to pull off the 70.3 North American Champs in St. George and some other 70.3s!

ST: Talk about your training please. How much running, cycling and swimming are you doing, and how much does it change as you get closer to bigger races?

Jackie: I am on a fairly fixed schedule on a weekly basis with time as my limiter with 2 small kids (aged almost 3 and almost 5!). I swim 3 longer harder swims and 1-2 easy swims. I try to bike 6 days per week, with at least a couple of them being 2 hours or more. When the weather is good I do as much training outside as possible and include a lot of hills, riding with faster groups and Strava QOM chasing in the mix. I run 5 or so days of the week, including a mix of ski and snowshoe running in the winter and stroller running in the summer. I do 1 speed day, some tempo builds, lots of hilly running and trails. As for weekly hours, this turns out to be 12-15hrs most of the year, with a few bigger weeks 15-18hrs in the month leading up to a big event.

ST: How much of your cycling outside is done on your triathlon bike and how much on your road bike?

Jackie: It depends how close I am to a race. Most of the year I ride my road bike, gravel bike if roads are wet or weather is iffy, fat bike in the winter, and tri bike usually starting the month before a race. I’ll do the tri bike 2 times a week or so leading into an event, otherwise I’m on the road bike. On the trainer I am trying to get more used to the tri bike on there, but also still usually on the road bike.

ST: Tell us about the race bike as you had it in Daytona.

Jackie: I didn’t have a bike sponsor last year except my local shop, Neff Cycle, who has been so good to me! They set me up on a BMC Timemachine disc TT bike and I got some great race wheels from ENVE. I have Shimano Di2 and the Dura Ace power meter. I do a water bottle in front between the bars and one behind my seat.

ST: Where do you think you can still find some speed?

Jackie: Generally I am a fairly balanced athlete, but I think there is still some low hanging fruit with improving my aerodynamics on the bike. My cycling continues to improve with some more focused training the last couple years. I’m not sure I have the time available to devote what would be needed to improve my swim, but I am working on my take-out speed and general confidence in larger fields. It’s funny to think that after growing up a swimmer my swim is now where I really do lose the most - definitely something to work on! As for my run, I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully with continued work on the bike the speed will keep feeling easier!

ST: You mentioned Zwift racing. What is your setup at home like?

Jackie: I have the Saris H3 direct drive smart trainer and a Wahoo TICKR armband for heartrate as I hate the chest straps. I run Zwift from an old iPad through an HDMI to a large TV, which made a huge difference in racing as I could see everything so much easier! I have a little bluetooth speaker for music from my phone - which I also use for the companion app if I need it for a power-up during a race. There are a lot of cords and a lot of electronics!

ST: Looking back at your career so far, are there any results or experiences you are especially happy with?

Jackie: Hmm, I am happy with so much of it. Honestly happy to still be racing and enjoying it after so many years and this is my 10th year racing as a pro! Let’s see - my first Kona race in 2009 was probably what really hooked me in the sport. I was still so clueless, but somehow just figured it out as I went. I got a flat and still got to stand on the podium. It really opened my eyes to my potential in the sport and my desire to get faster! I am happy with my Ironman win at Ironman Wisconsin in 2013. It was completely unexpected and such a special moment on my home course. I also have a special memory from my first 70.3 win in 2015 at Buffalo Springs. On that day I figured out what it took to win, and that feeling has stuck with me. It was something different I had never felt before - the deep, deep drive needed to want to win more than everyone and be able to have my body actually respond.

ST: Do you have a bucket list, or is that something for when you retire from pro racing?

Jackie: Ha, well I have a racing bucket list and a life bucket list. For racing I’d like to get on the podium of a championship race. Just 5 years ago this would have been an insane thought, but I truly feel it’s possible now! As for a life bucket list - this depends on my mood! As I’ve just recently learned to skate ski, I’m thinking I’ll aim for the Birkie at some point. If the competitive instinct is still strong after triathlon, I’ll probably get into some ultra trail racing or long distance swimming. I’d like to do some long hikes and more family camping as my kids get older and we can explore more!

ST: So how is the skate skiing going?

Jackie: Well, I’m getting the hang of it, but I think I may get a bit of instruction to make sure I’m not picking up any bad habits right out of the gates. It made my arms and shoulders so sore, which makes me wonder what I might be doing wrong! I learned so I could have an activity to do with my husband and it’s been pretty fun so far since neither of us are great at it!

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Jackie: Not that I can think of! See you at the races this year!

Images 1, 4, 5, and 6 courtesy of Jackie Hering
Images 2 and 3 © Tommy Zafares / PTO