Ironman

American Heather Jackson Shares Her Kona Favorites

In honor of what would have been Ironman World Championship race week, we're checking in with former podium finishers to find out some of their Kona favorites.

As racing slowly returns around the world, we’ve been checking in with a pro every week to see how they’re coping with this strange year—and hopefully learn a couple of fun facts. This week, in honor of what would have been Kona race week, each day we’ll be checking in with a former podium finisher to find out how they’re spending their time and what they’ll miss most about the iconic race. Today, we’re hearing from American Heather Jackson, who has finished third (2016), fourth (2017), and fifth twice (2015 and 2019) at the Ironman World Championship.

Instead of traveling to Kona, this week I’ll be…
Looking at pictures of Kona on my phone all week when I’m not training for Belgian Waffle Ride, Ironman Arizona, and Challenge Daytona.

My favorite Kona race-week tradition is…
Usually Wattie [her husband] and I fly over and we get right off the plane and go straight to the pool or the harbor and I try to get in a quick 15-20 minute swim just to move the body and flush out all of the time on the plane and then we go straight to Kona Brewing for dinner. Wattie gets a Kona Longboard and I get a Hanalei IPA and the same salad and pizza and then we eat in the rest of the 8-9 days leading into the race. It’s like our own little kick-off to the best week of the year!

The thing that surprised me most about Kona my first time racing was…
How hot and windy and hard that race is—I think the hardest there is.

My favorite part of the course is…
Running down Ali’i drive.

The thing I’ll miss most about traveling to Kona is…
All of it! I just love the entire race week—the nerves, the hype, the media, the interviews, the short and sweet workouts, and then putting my legs up and laying around “caging the beast” all week. The nervous energy, waiting for the inevitable, the Island vibes, and music and fresh fruit—I really do love it all.

My favorite off-the-beaten path spot in Kona is…
I’m not really sure there are any of those left… haha. I don’t want to say because then it won’t be a secret anymore.

My race morning breakfast in Kona is…
Two to three pieces of sourdough toast with peanut butter and banana and two bottles of Herbalife24 CR7 Drive to pre-load electrolytes.

The biggest mistake I ever made racing Kona was…
Trying to stay with certain people out of the water and then the first 40 miles of the bike and completely forgetting about my nutrition plan and throwing my own race out the window.

My Sunday post-race routine is…
Ideally, I’ve made the Top 5 Champions Edition of Breakfast with Bob where he has a car pick you up first thing in the morning to bring you to the Four Seasons for an amazing breakfast and interview. Whether that happens or not, I go to the beach with my entire family for the day and just lay on the beach/kick the swollen legs out in the ocean until mid-afternoon. Then usually it’s an early happy hour somewhere before awards, awards dinner, party, after-party, after-after-party… haha.

The things that make this race so special are…
I think the biggest thing is the location. The Big Island of Hawaii is so special and has such good vibes and good people and it makes the race what it is. Then you add in the best athletes in the world at their fittest of the entire year all going to battle and that makes it the best week to 10 days of the entire year (for me).