Jackie Hering just couldn't stop winning in 2019, her most successful year to date with three IRONMAN 70.3 titles. She even became US Snowshoe Racing National Champion as well.
She's been a full-time triathlete since 2011, but it is since the birth of her second child in 2018 that she has hit new heights with a series of inspirational performances.
"I'm better since I've had kids," acknowledges the 35-year-old, who is now a multiple IRONMAN and 70.3 champion.
She qualified to race professionally for the first time at Racine in 2008 but, juggling a full-time job with training, didn't take up her card straight away.
When she took the plunge in 2011, there were two second places at the full distance (St. George and Louisville) but she had to wait until 2013 for the first victory, appropriately close to home in Wisconsin.
The next breakthrough came in 2015 by which time her focus had switched to 70.3 - with the first victory coming at Buffalo Springs.
She married in 2014, and 2016 saw the birth of her first child, Hunter. His sister Skylar arrived two years later.
On each occasion Jackie worked hard to regain race fitness and by the end of 2018 her results suggested she was right back to her best, with a second-place finish at IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead and then 13th in the 70.3 World Championship in South Africa.
All the hard work really came to fruition the following season as she collected those three 70.3 titles (Steelhead, Traverse City and Waco), with the run extending into the start of 2020 with victory at 70.3 Campeche.
Better than ever
Jackie did swimming and track running at high school and college and started to "dabble with sprint triathlons" in her sophomore year in 2005.
"I was naturally competitive with the swimming background and loved the challenge.
"And after watching IRONMAN Wisconsin happen practically outside my back door, I caught the bug to push to the longer distance and do some actual training."
On the back of that, her first half-distance race at Racine in 2008 saw her come fourth in the female standings, while her first attempt at the full distance wasn't going to be anywhere other than Wisconsin.
Straight away it was clear a bright future lay ahead for Hering as she won her age group (20-24) in record time, which qualified her for Kona, though she admits "without even knowing what Kona was at that point!"
"Needless to say, I was hooked. I applied for and got on the Timex Team, which was huge in fostering my growth in the sport and providing me with gear to be successful.
"I raced with Timex from 2009-2017, completing 24 iron-distance races, many half distance and have raced four times at Kona (two as an AG). They supported my transition to professional racing in 2011, and I have been racing ever since!"
Looking back on her earlier career, she highlights that win at Buffalo Springs in Texas as crucial in giving her the belief she could race with the very best.
"My favourite 70.3 win was my first one back in 2015. I had to absolutely battle on that run. It was head-to-head and super hot.
"It was my first time beating some faster ladies and realising that I could race at the top. I also happened to be a tiny bit pregnant!"
Three years later, as she started to work her way back to that level, she would enjoy an incredible run of four 70.3 victories in the space of 12 months.
She started 2019 with a runner-up spot at Campeche, a third at Texas and a fifth at St. George.
It all meant she headed into 70.3 Steelhead full of confidence and the day's fastest split on the bike saw her leave T2 just a second behind Meredith Kessler. When Jackie then produced a 1:18:11 half marathon (which was two minutes faster than the day's men's winner Andrew Starykowicz) there was only ever going to be one winner.
There were lots of similarities in her next race at Traverse City - a second behind Kessler in the swim, then a tightly-bunched lead group on the bike before Hering blew them away on the run with a 1:16:20 half marathon and a winning margin of close to six minutes.
On to Waco in October, and the hat-trick, where she had a 1:37 deficit to close on the run but transformed that into a two-minute winning margin by the line.
The 2020 season started in the same fashion back at 70.3 Campeche - another first place and the fastest bike and run splits. Jackie is going from strength to strength as she balances the demands of training with looking after her two children.
Her running has always been strong but the addition of the snowshoe work in winter - not to mention lots of jogging with a double stroller - has added an extra dimension.
She upped the volume of her swimming in 2019 too and in 2020 concentrated on her cycling, with that best-of-the-day bike split at Campeche something of a rarity but one which suggests more exciting times lie ahead.
She's continued that work during the enforced break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: "I'm seriously focussed on getting my biking to a place where I'm competitive and where all the other top women are. Since the winter I've had a bike project going. I literally ride my bike every single day now, which I've never done in my life before - and I'm seeing gains every week.
"And I guess that is keeping me motivated, seeing the consistency and that the hard work is paying off.
Change of perspective
It is an inspiring story and while Jackie is not alone in having children and returning to the sport better than ever, it shows again just what is possible.
"Triathlon is a thing that's important to me, but having a family was something I knew I wanted for my life - and your life is just so much bigger than triathlon," she explains.
"The breaks to have my two kids made my passion double over for the sport - you have to work so hard to get back, but it makes you appreciate it so much."
Jackie has been coaching since her swimming days and continues to do so. She also works with husband Mark in the local community by putting on events such as open-water swims, runs, snowshoe races and fundraisers.
"I have many things going on, but it is the daily training that keeps me on track. I am driven by the motivation of feeling fit and strong on a daily basis, setting a good example for my kids and family, and reaching my potential on the race course. "
Or as she puts it another way: "Don't worry about the past, don't dream about the future, concentrate on the task at hand."