Heather Jackson Reflects on her first Professional Ironman Win
"My first professional Ironman win in Coeur d’Alene this season was an amazing experience, and one of the highlights of my athletic career."
I started making the step up to the full Ironman distance early last year with the plan to have raced Ironman Coeur d'Alene LAST year, 2014. Suffering an injury 2 weeks prior to it, my Ironman debut as a pro was pushed to IM Arizona last November and then I attempted IM Texas early this season, both with results I wasn't really happy with. I truly believe things happen for a reason and my Ironman journey came full circle with me being able to execute in Coeur d’Alene and realize my dream of becoming an Ironman Champion!!!!
It took me a year of stepping up in training distances, learning new ways to pace myself at the longer distances, nutritional lessons on how to get my body best fueled through IM distance training and racing, and a different mental approach to both IM training/racing that took me awhile to accept. You can't go all out from the gun! haha. I know I have a long, long way to go in improving at this distance but this race was a huge moment for me in just putting a full distance race together across the board and I am so, SO ecstatic and happy I was able to execute on the day!!
Thank you to those of you who have followed my journey and sent love and support and encouragement- thank you. I appreciate every message, email, tweet, post, etc. I am so grateful to everyone for taking time out of their day to do that. Thank you to my family, friends, the Wattie Ink. team, everyone who sends me kitty pictures... :) You guys are amazing- thank you for your support and friendships.
Thank you to everyone who cheered for me on race day- both people who were racing themselves or were out there in the heat cheering on friends and family. The support on course was amazing! An especially big Thank You to all the volunteers handing out fuel and hydration and to the Base Salt guys for your support!
Thank you to my sponsors who make chasing my dreams a possibility. I couldn't do it without you and I am so grateful for your support.
Thank you to my coach, Cliff English, for his guidance and support especially in my step up from the 70.3 to full distance races. We've been progressing slowly and patiently to the longer overall training over the past year. I've been healthy and injury-free all of 2015 and my body is getting used to the longer stuff. I'm starting to understand the process:) Thanks Cliff!
In Coeur d’Alene, I swam a 1:02, biked a 5:08:31 and ran a 3:08:54 for an overall time of 9:23:27.
Swim: I actually found some feet (thank you Amber Ferrira and then Laura Siddall!)! Most races I find myself alone and solo after the first 300 meters but I actually made a pack on Sunday! Yayyyyy! 1:02 is definitely my slowest Ironman swim to date but we were non-wetsuit at this one and absolute all-star, stud swimmer Amanda Stevens came out in 54minutes, so it wasn't that quick of a swim at CDA. I've been looking at a 6-8minute deficit to the lead for my full IMs. Still lots of room for improvement! :)
Bike: I didn't go out as hard as I could from transition when I heard "8 minutes down".... I stayed calm and eased into the bike all day, focusing on my fueling and nutrition pretty much the entire bike. This was an awesome bike course with a little bit of everything! Having two loops was great because it broke it up and the part through town was awesome- thanks to everyone for cheering through there before we headed back out onto the highway.
Run: The run stayed pretty steady for me....I have been slowly increasing my mileage and have way more longer runs in me now than a year ago. The distance is getting less scary!!!! With a couple of 22mile runs leading in, I felt way more confident in getting through the whole run. The goal with the heat on the day was to also ease into the marathon concentrating on keeping the heat off and staying cool... any and every way possible. This meant that instead of going just sports bra, I kept my Wattie Ink. aero jersey on and every aid station I was filling the front with cupfuls of ice. I also filled the back pockets with ice, as well as doused myself with water constantly and found every hose spraying on the course. This really helped keep my overall temperature down.
I've been asked numerous times what I changed since Texas, as I completely blew up in the heat and humidity there. Many have asked me what I did on Sunday for fueling and getting through the heat, especially as the biggest limiting factor for me has been my nutrition on race day. At both IM Arizona last November and then Texas in May, my fueling and electrolyte/hydration intake did not work. I had put in the training for the Ironman distance to be disappointed not by my fitness but either from cramps or stomach issues.
After Ironman Texas, I reached out to Jesse Kropelnicki of The Core Diet/QT2 Systems, as he helps two of my good friends and training partners- Chris Bagg with nutrition, and Linsey Corbin with full-on coaching, and he also coaches Angela Naeth who had just performed brilliantly in the heat in Texas to take the win. He agreed to help me and since Texas I have been working with him on my pre, during, and post-training nutrition. This has led to some night and day results in my training, recovery, and now, obviously, my race results. I got through the entire race fueled and hydrated and with no stomach/bathroom issues. SUCCESS! Thank you so much for your help Jesse!
A HUGE, HUGE congrats to all who finished IMCDA on such a hot day! Especially to all the pro women: Amanda, Kim, Amber, Katy, and everyone else, amazing racing! Thank you for pushing me. To Dede, coming to the awards and saying "Congrats" was above and beyond. THANK YOU. I am thinking of you and wishing you a speedy recovery.
If you’ve had a resent race that didn't go as you had hoped...don't stop trying! I promise it will come together for you:) Evaluate what went right and where you can improve and then work on your weaknesses.
Thanks so much for reading!!!! Dream Big! Happy training+racing! -hj-