Pete Jacobs may have earned the bridesmaid spot last year in Kona, but he did so with the fastest run split of the day – the second year in a row he’s achieved that honor. With three top ten finishes in Kona (he was 2nd in 2011, 9th in 2010 and 8th in 2009), Jacobs has both the experience and the confidence to contend for the win. We caught up with the laid-back Aussie to get his take on the competition and the likelihood of another lightning-fast run on Saturday.
Triathlete.com: You are without a doubt one of the best runners in the field – if not the best. You proved your prowess with the fastest run splits in 2011 and 2010, and your 2:41:05 in 2010 was the 3rd fastest ever men’s marathon in Kona. But these days in triathlon, if you don’t improve each year you can easily be left behind. How much faster do you think you can actually run here – and are you injury free and ready to do it on Saturday?
PJ: In theory and on paper, I should run faster than I have. My run training has been a lot more consistent for a longer time, so I’ve had another six weeks or more of miles. Because of that I was able to do not just one big week of 95km, but three weeks in a row of just getting over the 100km mark. Those sort of miles accumulate. Last year I fell apart at the back end of the marathon and my quads shattered, and I can easily go back and say that’s because I only did about six weeks of good running when I was coming back from injury. I had nowhere near the kilometers I needed in my legs. And the previous year when I ran the 2:41 I was running well and I’d built up through from July, because I’d had an injury earlier in the year. I’d done more consistent running and I was running better. This year it’s been like 2010, but I’ve been running longer. So in 2010 I got a lot of confidence in the fact that what I was doing worked, and now I’ve pretty much just done what I did then but with a little bit more. A few more kilometers in each session, a little bit more tacked onto my warm up and cool down and in between the efforts. I’ve just accumulated more miles in my legs. I’m injury free and I’ve been loosening up really well the last couple of weeks. Things did get tight about a month ago – my feet and legs a bit – and I started to get a little bit of that feeling that I had earlier this year, a twisting of my body putting pressure on the outside of my left foot. But I’m really aware of that problem and it cleared up really quick. So now, in the last couple of weeks everything’s been loosening up and feeling really good. So yeah, on paper I should be able to run faster. But you never know and you’ve got to do another five and a half hours work before you get to the run. That does affect what happens!
Triathlete.com: You recently tweeted that you “get scared of the road this close to the race.” Will you do your final rides in Kona on the CompuTrainer, or will you get out on the Queen K?
PJ: I’m out on the Queen K. It’s a pretty good road here, a pretty good shoulder, and traveling with a CompuTrainer is a little bit bulky!
Triathlete.com: Tell me honestly: when you see your main competitors out there running up and down Ali’i Drive before the race, do you try to analyze them based on these brief glimpses of their fitness and physiques? Do you guys size each other up? Or do you shut all that out and simply focus on yourself?
PJ: A little bit. I look more at people’s technique, their running style. And it’s obvious that the guys that have better technique are running quicker times. But in terms of just seeing how fit someone looks, this year particularly I’ve come here saying it doesn’t matter what you look like. I’ve tried to eat as much as I can for the last month! If I’m hungry I’m eating. I’m not thinking: Hang on. If I eat this food I might end up weighing an extra 100 grams. I’ve been just trying to load my muscles up for the last several weeks, to replenish them as much as I can with as much food as I can. With all the training though it still strips off anyway. I’ve eaten as much as I can eat and I still end up weighing under 70 kilos. So if I see someone else and I think they look really trim – because my mindset is that you want to be really full – maybe that gives me a little strength. I’ll tell myself: They’re too skinny. They’re too trim. So maybe I’ll use that in reverse to give me a bit of confidence. That’s how I’m coming into the race. You need a lot in reserve. You’re going to burn a lot of fat out there, so if you’ve got zero fat on your body you’ll have nothing left.
Triathlete.com: Aussies are generally known for enjoying a good sense of humor. Are there any funny comments you’ve heard from spectators in years past here in Hawaii that have made you laugh and given you a lift during the race?
PJ: I’ve got an American guy on video footage from Kona last year and everybody laughs when they see it, so I guess in hindsight it’s funny. When I was in a world of pain and walking through an aid station, and Raelert was catching me up again, this guy that I had never met was out there on the Queen K. He said, “Start running! Start running now Pete! Eat the pain! Eat the pain!” That has caught on a lot. Whenever I show that footage everybody’s like, “What did he say? That’s hilarious!” They find it really funny. But in the moment I was just out of it. It did help, but it wasn’t funny.
Triathlete.com: Increasingly, half and full distance triathlons are won by just a few minutes, if not mere seconds. Given that trend, it’s only a matter of time before the winner in Kona, after a grueling 8+ hours, is determined by a sprint finish. What I want to know is this: If you and Crowie – and let’s throw Macca in the mix as well – were running stride for stride for stride down that last stretch of Ali’i Drive, how do you think it would play out?
PJ: I’d like to think that I’m a good runner. I like to think I’m the quicker runner of the bunch. There are times when I’m in training and it’s the last kilometer of my effort or the last 500-meters of my effort and suddenly I picture Crowie in front of me or chasing me. And suddenly I get self-doubt in training, just picturing it. But then I tell myself a few other little mantras and he just disappears and I get strong again. So I’ve practiced that in training – what if he’s there and how will that affect me? Will that make me weaker, having competitors around me? I think because I’ve practiced that, if I’m in that position I’ll be able to deal with it. It’s not going to come down to who physically has it so much as who has it mentally to push themselves and hold their body strong over the last 500-meters. It’s mental and I’ve practiced it so I’d back myself to be close and have some speed in the legs. With the extra kilometers I’ve had in my legs, I’ve pictured it and thought that the last 10km could be close. It could be a sub-37-minute or sub-36-minute 10km. And I’ve thought: Yup, I can do that. You tell yourself you can do it and that’s sort of what motivates you in training, just building confidence.