by Heather Jackson

Ed. Note—Heather Jackson, of course, needs no introduction in these pages, but we are lucky to have her as a regular contributor. Today she continues our series on the pre-race habits and general practices of our professional athletes.

Pre-race routine—do you have a set schedule you do every morning before a race?

Nothing crazy. I mainly work backwards from race start time to calculate everything I need to be doing down to the minute that morning: lining up about two minutes before the gun goes off, swim warm up of 15-20 minutes (if allowed at the race) back from that, five minutes further back to get into wetsuit, two minutes back to walk from transition to the swim area, 20 minutes back for pre-race jog and stretch, 20 minutes back to set up transition. It's pretty standard now that I've raced for so long—it just varies depending on how far away we stay from the race site. 

Is there something you do in racing or training that you view as sacred but someone else might think of as strange? Would you mine sharing it with us

There's nothing that I really consider "sacred" but I used to have some pretty serious OCD behaviors that have seemed to have faded over the last 3-4 years. For instance, I used to count every pedal stroke over and over on all of my rides. I would count up to 44 and start over again. Always the even numbers on my left side. Just a few things like that, haha. Always left shoe on first. I don't find myself caught up in these with such obsession any more, although I will find myself randomly counting from time to time.

Something you wish all age-group triathletes did or understood:
No watches at the pool! I don't understand that one. I get it for open water/lake swims but you are in a pool. Aren't you counting how far you are swimming? Or is it because you can't see the clock (which I totally get, as I am blind as a bat)?

Piece of gear/purchase (other than big ticket items such as bikes/wheels) that you couldn’t live without—doesn’t have to be racing/training related:

A super comfy big mattress with incredible pillows, haha. I'm a sleep princess. 
Book/movie/music you have recommended most to others and why:
Oh good one...I love sports biographies just to learn about the backgrounds and where different athletes have come from. The Tiger Woods book, or the Rhonda Rousey book (My Fight Your Fight(, as another example. Otherwise I've just been reading a lot of cheesy murder mysteries: anything by Lianne Moriarty for example. I always watch Cinderella Man before big races.

The most important thing you’ve changed in your approach to the sport in the last eighteen months:

I think I'm just really enjoying the process more than I ever have before, rather than getting caught up in numbers. I also stopped using TrainingPeaks about two months ago and it has been so freeing. It had stopped being about my training and more about what the file would look like when it was loaded, or what the numbers were, or what my charts or graphs would look like, or if my skipped session was going to stay red. Now I just train and write down in a journal what I did and how I felt and I don't even upload anything. I just know how I felt. It's been amazing!