Heather Jackson joined the newly formed Trek / K-Swiss team this year but this young Pro is still relatively unknown. We had a few words with her after her 2:15:17 bike split at the Ochsner Ironman 70.3 New Orleans.
Slowtwitch: It appears that you had a good experience in NOLA.
Heather: NOLA was a great experience for me. I had never been to New Orleans and so it was just a really fun city to have the opportunity to visit and race in. Bill Burke put on a great race and everyone at PEM and Ochsner were extremely helpful and friendly, as were all of the local triathletes that I met. I’ve been on antibiotics for about two weeks from some parasites I got in Abu Dhabi and just finished them 2 days before NOLA, so I knew I wasn’t in top form. I wanted to use the race to get some confidence back after Abu Dhabi, as well as set a baseline for where I’m at for the rest of the season and just have some fun out there and I was able to do all of these things, so it was a really great week for me.
ST: Your 2:15:17 bike split was very impressive. Were you surprised?
Heather: Thanks Herbert. Surprised? No. Based on my training and the course in NOLA, we were actually thinking it would be a little faster. There was a pretty strong headwind on the way out though, which you can never judge/plan for, and my stomach is still really messed up, so I wasn’t able to get many calories down and could feel that near the end. I was extremely happy with the 2:15 though and where my bike fitness is.
ST: Well how fast do you think you can go on a bike in a Half Ironman if the course suits you? Or should I say how fast did you think you were going to go in NOLA?
Heather: Hmmm... We were thinking 2:10-2:12ish. My goal for this season is a sub-2:10 bike but that goal includes a good run off. My issue during the bike is remembering, "ok, I need to run after this..."
ST: Didn’t you just get a new bike?
Heather: Oh yeah! I just got a new Trek TTX, which is by far the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Last year, I could never get comfortable on the bike I was on. It was a constant struggle and it got really frustrating. I’ve had the TTX for two months now and with the help of Jim Manton of FinalFit in Irvine, I get on it and it feels like an extension of my body, that’s how comfortable it is. I can get my ISM saddle far enough forward how I like it, since the bike is small enough for me and actually fits correctly. Trek, Bontrager, Sram….all of the products are so great. I am so thankful and grateful to have been taken into the Trek/K-Swiss family and have the opportunity to use such great products.
ST: You had quite a bit of time to make up after the swim. How much of it was due to the conditions?
Heather: Can I say it was completely due to the conditions? Just kidding. The swells and waves definitely slowed me down quite a bit more than usual but fortunately they affected everyone (or at least most people). There is usually quite a large gap I have to make up so the 5-7minutes or so back to the majority of the girls wasn’t that bad for me, considering the conditions. I think it was 9minutes back from Dede, who was first out. It’s frustrating for me because I really, really have been working on my swim and then the swim in NOLA was really crazy. It was like Katrina in the water. I don’t think it started that way when the guys went, but by the time we got in, the wind had created these huge waves and swells. You couldn’t see any of the buoys and people were going way off course. It was a good learning experience though, because not only do I need to be putting in a lot of pool time, I also need more open water experience. You don’t get waves like that in the pool. It also didn’t help that they didn’t allow wetsuits for the pros, so I couldn’t wear my Aquasphere.
ST: Are you working with anyone on your swim??
Heather: Yeah, I started working with a swim coach a few months ago down in San Diego. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose his name right now because he’s my secret weapon and is going to make me swim like Michael Phelps. He was recommended by my teammate, Joe Gambles, and the guy is just amazing. He’s so good at explaining everything and giving funny descriptions about how your arms should look or how they should enter the water. I feel bad because I’m not sure my time in NOLA reflected all the work and effort he’s put in with me, but I know learning how to swim is a long process so it will come. I guarantee you it will come. If I get in the 27’s for a half, Aquasphere has promised me a custom Flabongo wetsuit☺ (you can ask Justin from Aquasphere).
ST: So what did your swim coach say to you after NOLA?
Heather: Oh, he always says that he's proud of me no matter what happens during the swim:)
ST: What is next for you??
Heather: I’m going to do the Florida70.3 at Disney.
ST: How about the rest of the season?
Heather: After Florida, I think I’ll do Mooseman, Providence, and Timberman. I’m also going to race the National Time Trial Championships in June to give that a go. My focus is still triathlon, so I won’t switch up my training for it, but I just want to see where I stand with that. Then the last part of the season is still a bit up in the air but definitely 3-4 more 70.3s.
ST: You also do some road racing and I believe you won a crit earlier this year?
Heather: Yeah, I actually do quite a bit of road racing. I won the Pro 1,2,3 Roger Millikan Valentine’s Day crit and then the San Dimas stage race a few weeks ago (cat 3-4 so I could get my upgrade). Wattie is a cyclist and he’s the one that got me into it last year. He has taught me everything about cycling and for a while last year I thought I would take the cycling route. Then he got me on the velodrome and I got two bronze medals at the National Championships and was training with the National team to race some of the World Cups for team pursuit, so I got on this trackie kick. Ultimately, I love the challenge of 3 sports that you get with triathlon and have dedicated myself to becoming the best triathlete I can be, but we work cycling into my training and it mixes it up and keeps it fun for me. He races most weekends, so I go and race the Women’s1-3 race and then race 2 or 3 of the guys’ races. I use the girls’ races for intervals and just attack hard every lap for a minute or so. If you do that the whole crit it’s like 20 HARD interval efforts and then sitting on the back of the guys’ crits is almost like motor pacing for a couple of hours. Then I get off and do my run workout, or if there is a break in between races I’ll run and then get back on the bike and race more. I come from an ice hockey background and so crits bring the hockey atmosphere I’m used to- girls talking sh**, elbowing each other, etc., which is fun for me. You don’t get too much of that in triathlon.
ST: Has any women’s road team approached you?
Heather: Not officially, but we've talked to Kristin Armstrong about some guest appearances with her PB and Jelly Team, as well as Dotsie (Bausch) who runs the InCycle/Time To Track Presented by Empower Coaching Systems team. My focus is on triathlon right now, but who knows what the future holds.
ST: How well do you get along with all your new team mates?
Heather: The new Trek/K-Swiss team is so awesome! Everyone on it is so nice and supportive of one another, and it has seriously already become like a little family. Julie has been so supportive of me and always checks in on how I’m doing. She and Joe and Fraser were all in Abu Dhabi, so when you’re stuck in the desert at one hotel it is great having friends and support there. Then I saw Michael and Yoder at Oceanside. I wasn’t racing, but it was just as fun getting out on the course and yelling for them and giving them time splits. Before Abu Dhabi, we talked to Chris a little bit about bike tactics, not that they really came into play for me, but still… It’s just an indescribable opportunity for me to have access to people who grew up racing and have years of experience and can share little tips with me. I learned so much from Fraser and his brother Blair, who have been racing for years, just by talking and listening to them. I think the team is such a great idea within triathlon, just because it can help people new to the sport get to the next level via little tricks that people who’ve been racing much longer have already learned.
ST: Is there a lot of pressure to perform with so many fast athletes around you?
Heather: Wow. You nailed it. Haha. The pressure over the past few months has definitely been my biggest challenge. Last year, the only pressure I had was the pressure I put on myself to do well. I raced three races as a pro last year and the mentality was: “Oh, this is my first one…no expectations…just give it your best.“ And now all of a sudden there are sponsors, and teammates, and needing to make a paycheck at a race, and no excuses that it’s your first race as a pro, along with the pressure you put on yourself… So YES. Dealing with the pressure mentally is harder than any of the training I’ve been doing, even swim training! I know a lot of it isn’t really there - my teammates and sponsors are so supportive and just want the best for you, but then Fraser won his first race of the year at South Africa70.3, and Julie won Abu Dhabi, and Michael won Oceanside70.3... There’s definitely a lot of pressure to do well.
ST: What custom hairstyle did you get during the Trek / K-Swiss team camp?
Heather: Haha. I just got a little chunk off the back. I’m not sure there was a name given to it… It definitely was no cul-de-sac (Matt), which was the best. Chris was born with so many natural talents, it really amazes me. He’s got options after he’s done racing, that’s for sure.
ST: Are you saying you would have wanted a cul-de-sac haircut?
Heather: Haha, probably not the cul-de-sac. I mean, Chris is really the visionary - he saw Matt and the cul-de-sac on him before he even did it. It totally worked for him (sorry Matt) I think the same went with Fraser's Flock of Seagulls and Joe's chic euro K-Swiss Lightning bolts. Chris saw it, and created it. I don't know that he has as much experience with females, so I think Dibens and I will wait for our own personalized creations.
ST: How did you stumble upon triathlon?
Heather: Basically, I had done a few local tri’s with my parents in college but that’s it. I grew up playing soccer and ice hockey and played D1 ice hockey at Princeton. I graduated in 2006 and moved to Thailand for a year to work for the non-profit, Princeton-In-Asia. When I was there, I met some people training for Ironman Malaysia, so I was like oh, I totally want to do that! So I “trained” for a few months and went and did Ironman Malaysia in 2007. Then I was hooked.
ST: What does your training look like as we speak?
Heather: As we speak, a good 2-week hard block starts before a taper for Florida.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Heather: Cycling. I love cycling. Paris-Roubaix was on the weekend before New Orleans and Cancellara is one of my favorites, so it was awesome. I think the month of July is the absolute best. When you’re training hard, it’s tough to find things to do when you’re resting hard. I have difficulty reading because my brain just doesn’t function after a hard workout. But in July, you can train your butt off and then rush to the couch and lay there for 3 hours watching a stage of the Tour and be resting properly and also getting inspired for the next day’s workout. Also, I just like to listen to Phil Liggett‘s accent. I also like to watch ice hockey when it’s on.
ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?
Heather: Right now, I’m eating a lot of spinach, garlic, and yogurt to really try and wipe out any last parasites in my stomach. In general I eat pretty healthy - lots of veggies and grilled chicken. Who am I kidding, I eat anything.
ST: What music do you like?
Heather: Pink and Beyonce! Angry girl music. Lady gaga, kelly Clarkson, rihanna. How long will I get comments about that? Actually those are mainly for my running play list. Then I have a completely different angry cycling play list that is more like- Rage, Anthrax, Ramstein…like screaming it‘s-time-for-you-to-put-the-fu**ing-hammer-down. That’s way better for cycling.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Heather: We Might As Well Win by Johan Bruyneel.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Heather: Hmmm, I’m 25, so I will be 30. My goal is to establish myself as a half-iron man triathlete and be able to make a living racing primarily 70.3s over the next five years. Around that time may be the jump up in distance to Ironman. My other goal is to make a bid for 2012 for the time trial in cycling. So in five years- racing, loving the lifestyle you get as a triathlete, with a gold medal around my neck☺
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Heather: Hmmmm. Just that I am so thankful for all of my sponsors this year that are supporting me - a huge shout out to Nick Howe, Mark Andrews, and Chris Clinton at Trek/Bontrager; Erik, Ivette, and Ben at K-Swiss; and everyone at WattieInk, ISMSaddles, SRAM, Aquasphere, CEP, Compex, NPN, SpiderTech Tape, Smith Optics, Jim at FinalFit, K-Edge, Skip at Nytro, my secret swim coach….and everyone that has sent support and encouragement. See you at the races.
Pics 1-4 courtesy of WattieInk