Exclusive Interview with Triathlon’s Power Couple Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack: Double domination at Xterra Malaysia
Double congratulations are in order to Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack who commemorated their engagement with a double win at Xterra Malaysia.
In addition, Ben won the Asia Pacific Tour Champion title while Jacqui finished in second place in the women’s standings. They are not just skilled off-road but also dominate the road triathlons in Ironman 70.3 races and World Cross Triathlon as well.
We met up with the Power Couple to gain an insight to this dynamic duo, and how Jacqui’s history as a firefighter helps her gain an advantage in triathlon.
TA: What’s the advantage like having someone else understand the race, racing and supporting you in Xterra?
Ben: It’s a unique situation that we’ve learned to face, it can be challenging at times. We’ve been together now for 5 years, we’ve found the perfect recipe so that we can both focus on what we want to achieve and have a relationship as well. It’s been going really well at the moment.
Jacqui: We make a really good team, you have to communicate really well with each other. There are bad times, but the good times outweigh the bad times, and we always want to make sure that we save time to do things with each other outside triathlon.
TA: It must be hard when you’re racing on the same day at the same time.
Jacqui: Yeah, we don’t get to see each other or support each other. We just get told in the middle of the race, Ben’s doing this, Jacqui’s doing that.
Ben: Aside from the race, we try and find the balance between our relationship and training because we do that a lot more than racing.
We also enjoy sharing the opportunities together, and are grateful for our families who pave the way for our success.
TA: And just sometimes, you don’t want to talk about triathlon, right?
Jacqui: Exactly, sometimes we struggle for things to talk about outside of triathlon.
Ben: We do talk about the weather a lot!
TA: Between road and off-road triathlon, which do you prefer and why?
Jacqui: Definitely off-road! It’s just a personal challenge and you’re one with nature, it’s not just a race where you’re competing with each other. When you nail that downhill, or that section, it just gives you a sense of achievement before you even finish the race.
Furthermore, in off-road triathlon, you get to visit places off the beaten track. We’re not city people, and prefer going back to nature.
Ben: We also like to do road triathlon to keep us honest and fresh, in that we can still compete with quite a good success.
In off-road triathlon, we compete not only with each other, but we tackle the toughest competitor on earth which is Mother Nature.
TA: Are you a speed demon?
Ben: I reckon Jacqui is, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve trouble keeping up with her on some descents. She’s a pretty mean bike rider, and she showcased her skills at Xterra today.
Tell us something no one knows yet about your other half.
Jacqui: He’s really afraid of cotton wool or cotton balls in jars or vitamin bottles. He’ll ask me to take it out of the bottle.
Ben: Jacqui’s terrified of worms. We have 9 or 10 of the deadliest snakes in Australia, but she’s not too worried about snakes, but she’s scared of worms. Go figure!
What’s your best memory or moment from the Xterra Malaysia race?
Ben: Just overcoming all the challenges out there. It’s not the obstacles like getting up the wall because I’ve trained for that.
It’s the little things that you don’t expect like I’ve ridden the course before, but during the race in the heat of the moment, you make some mistakes, so it’s how you bounce back from those mistakes that matters to me.
Jacqui: I think it’s special when you win a race, especially when you win together, it seldom happens. It’ll be something we’ll both remember and where we raced to our potential.
What bike are you riding?
Jacqui: I’m riding a Liv Obsess, 27.5 inch wheels on a carbon fibre hardtail, running on SRAM groupset.
Ben: I’m on a Giant XTC 29er running on SRAM groupset.
How do you encourage new friends take up Xterra ?
Jacqui: I guess through mountain biking as it’s the most appealing though it might also be intimidating, but it’s something you can do as a group. I always say to someone, join a mountain biking group and you will find people of your ability and ride together.
Mountain biking is about fun and it’s a challenge. You can stop after a technical section and discuss it a little, it’s so social. Ladies can see that maybe they are better than they think they were, and can learn more skills and get a triathlon coach and go from there.
TA: Do many girls mountain bike in Australia?
Jacqui: In Australia, we have Liv Cycling which organises mountain bike rides in different areas. Some of the girls are amazing and have good skills, the scene is getting bigger now.
TA: How do you inspire young ones who want to be the next Ben Allen?
Ben: I think the best advise to give young ones coming through, is just to be patient. When I was a young one coming through, I wanted to be the best and win straight away. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen over night, and I raced for 5 years before I figured it out, and compete at a high level now.
Take your time, enjoy the ride and don’t rush it, because there’s a lot of times when you get caught up in the moment in not winning or succeeding, and you put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Thank the people around you who care the most – your family, sponsors, friends and let the result take care of itself.
TA: Are there more programs for youngsters or young adults to come through?
Ben: In Australia, we have a good development and a series of National Off-Road Triathlon competition which encourages a lot of participation, there are different events for different abilities. Triathlon in Australia have really come aboard due to the ITU World Cross Triathlon Championships in November on our home soil so for us Aussies, it’s a really big event and the next wave of future tuckers are coming through and hopefully knock me off my pedestal.
TA: You’re really good at World Cross Triathlon as well, so you must be looking forward to it right, Jacqui?
Jacqui: Yes, definitely. It’s on home soil. So what better opportunity than to win a medal at the ITU World Cup, on our training ground with home support.
TA: Jacqui, you’re a firefighter as well before getting into triathlon. Does that help with your decision-making skills on the go?
Jacqui: Probably a little bit, it’s been about 7 years since I was a firefighter now.
Being fit and healthy, and with the right skills and attributes, I enjoyed dealing with situations and the community, so I applied and I got the job. I think I’m stronger to do the job now with all the training as a triathlete.
TA: Did that intimidate you at all, Ben?
Ben: I was just as shocked as everyone else when she revealed that she used to be a firefighter. It’s actually a pretty cool job, and you’re very well respected in the community and many people look up to you. I’m proud of what she used to do.
Communication is key to Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack’s mutual yet competitive understanding of each other which enables them to perform to their full potential. Watch out for more of this dynamic duo as they blaze their way through the Xterra, ITU World Cross Triathlon Championships, as well as Ironman 70.3 races around the world.
Follow Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack on Facebook as they journey towards conquering the triathlon world.
This article was first published on Tough Asia here. All photos were taken by me for ToughAsia unless marked otherwise.