Following a brilliant World Championship performance during which Pete Jacobs cemented Australia’s long-standing grip on the Kona crown, we sat down with triathlon’s newest superstar to hear more about his memorable day.
You’re known for your run speed and a lot was made in advance of the race about the possibility of you running a record-setting marathon. However your run (the third fastest split of the day) was actually slower than in years past, while your bike split (also the third fastest overall) was much faster than expected. Did you surprise yourself with your bike strength?
Pete Jacobs: I wasn’t surprised that I felt good and rode well, but I was surprised at
the difference to a lot of the other guys on race day. I’ve been starting to run train since May, the difference to last year being that I didn’t start to run train until about August because of injury. So to have all those extra months, my run was already really in good shape just after Ironman Lake Placid. By early August my run was in good shape and I didn’t need to do anymore building, I just needed to maintain that. So from that point on I just made sure I got in more hours each week on the ride than I had previously done. When I went out for
a long ride I would make it just a little bit longer, or get back on the bike again for a recovery spin. Getting out the door even if it was for an hour and a half or an hour to go and do a little short strength session. It wasn’t taxing but it was something. So it was just those little extras in training that I did on the bike, and then the last three weeks have been bike focused. I dropped back to running about three times a week for two weeks, and then for the last week before the race
I only run on Sunday and Wednesday. That’s it. The last three weeks have been a lot more bike focused and the bike just sharpened up! I got the balance right of when to work on the bike and when to back off the run.
AT: During the race, were there any moments when you doubted yourself? Because from an outside point of view you seemed invincible
PJ: With about 45k to go I started to feel a bit weaker on the bike. But by that point there were only a few of us there and we couldn’t really see anyone on the road behind us, so I was confident I was still going well. I led those few guys back to transition from there, and so I kept filling myself with confidence. Once we were on the run I just eased into it. When I hit the Queen K, I thought I probably wasn’t going to catch Marino. I’d only made up a few minutes over nearly half the run and I still had another five and a half minutes to make up. But then it came back very quickly, and I think by the 21k mark he was pulling out. So there was only about 4k where I thought, ‘I don’t think I’m going to catch him. It’s too hard. It’s too much’. But after that I hit the lead again and my confidence came back. From there I just needed
to stay in control.
AT: You’ve taken over the crown from a fellow Aussie whose day did not go as he had hoped. At what point during the marathon did you and Crowie cross paths, and did he offer any words of encouragement?
PJ: When I was running up out of the Energy Lab he was running down. He just said, “Relax… relax…” And I did. He could see I had a gap and I just needed to make it home in one piece. That was really nice to hear and at that point I started to realise, ‘OK, 10k to go. I’ve got this. If I just make it home in one piece I’ll be World Champ.’ I relaxed my shoulders more and just tried to relax my mind and body as much as I could. Hearing that from the defending World Champ, it started to play in my mind, ‘OK, this could actually be yours!’
AT: By the final mile or two of the marathon it was obvious that you had sealed the deal in Kona. In fact, you started celebrating with the crowd even before you hit Ali’i Drive. How did it feel, being acknowledged as the champion and allowing yourself to soak it all in?
PJ: By the top of Palani I knew I couldn’t really lose. I had a five-minute lead and 2k to go. But the biggest thing was that the crowd was amazing! It was just huge. From the top of Palani they were going nuts for me. All the competitors going the other way as well were all cheering and high-fiving. They gave me so much energy, I just had to start giving them some energy back! I really wanted to celebrate this with them. Not just the people who were on the finish line but the people 2k out from the end. So that was a big part of it, just enjoying it with everyone who was supporting me and supporting everyone else who was still competing. It was amazing.
AT: Now that you’ve had a few days to absorb what’s happened, are there any indications of how your world is about to change? Is it overwhelming?
PJ: It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s not overwhelming. I’m really a fairly relaxed guy normally, as everyone knows because I train fairly relaxed. But there are certainly a few things that have come up – a few trips that are going to have to be put in between now and Christmas, commitments with sponsors and media. But I’m going to really enjoy that! It’s a great position that I’m fortunate enough to now be in. All of that comes with it and I’m really happy that I can have that opportunity to travel a little bit more and bring Jaimie along as well. We’ve had this big payday and so we can continue down this path and keep doing what we’ve been doing, but it’s also gone up another level. There are more commitments but also more support.
AT: Does it feel like a new beginning of sorts, a new phase of your career?
PJ: Yeah, a new phase of my career and a new phase of our life together. In the last six months Jaimie stopped working and we moved up to Noosa. She did a lot for me in terms of relationships with my sponsors and she did a lot for me around the house and organising me. That was quite stressful. It was hard for her to give up her job and just take on this thing that was all about me. It was really a challenge. But to see that it worked and to now be in a better position in our lives is rewarding for us both. This has happened sooner than we ever could have hoped, and now we can plan more easily. Whatever Jaimie wants to do now – maybe start a business or whatever she wants – there’s not as much pressure now. There’s more security in our life.
AT: In your awards speech you gave a great deal of credit to Jaimie for the sacrifices she’s made for you to pursue your dream of winning Kona. What did those sacrifices really entail?
PJ: It’s very much the emotional sacrifice. Because for me, I’m doing it for me. I’m not going out and I’m not socialising. I go to bed early and I have to eat certain things and sleep in the middle of the day. But I’m dragging her through all those things that are for me also. And I get that personal reward. When I’m out training and I do a good session, I come home and I’m happy because of that. I’ve been out riding and enjoying all the training and the progress I’m making, but she’s doing all the hard work and not getting any of that emotional reward. Over the last four or five months especially there’s been no reward for her along that journey. I’ve at least had little goals along the way. I’ve been living my dream, but it’s not her dream to live and breathe triathlons! So for her to finally see that her sacrifices were worth it – to win was her win as well. In training it was all me, but this win she could feel proud of also. That’s the big difference - that we can both appreciate winning.