The world champion recently returned from a three week stint in Johannesburg and expressed surprise at the times posted while training at altitude in South Africa. Added to his fifth place FINIS at Lugano last month, and the Cork native is on course for a podium placing at this summer’s European Championships in Zurich.
Short-term focus, however, is centred on next month’s World Cup in Taicang, China, where Heffernan is targeting a top ten finish over 20km.
"For this time of year I’m as good as ever," he smiled.
"Johannesburg is one of the toughest camp of the year so I was delighted to get it done and get home. I had three of my walkers out there, Luke Hickey, Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright, and it went superbly.
"Some of my training sessions went better than ever before out there. I am kind of defying my age. I did a 20km on the track there last week in Johannesburg in 3km reps and I did it in 84 minutes, faster than I have every done at altitude.
"Prior to that I posted one of my fastest 20km times in Lugano. I was really happy with my attitude in Lugano. I was really competitive. My second half of the race was faster than my first half and I have only done that once or twice over 20km. To be competitive over 20km at world level is great for me. I was less than 40 seconds behind the winner."
Heffernan accepts a medal is unrealistic at the race walking World Cup, but is determined to prove wrong those who say he can no longer compete over the shorter distance.
"Going to China, if I post a good time I would be happy. If I could finish top 12 in China that would be great. The World Cup is cut-throat. Take your eye of the ball and ten lads could pass you in a second. A World Cup is almost stronger than the Olympics. People tell me I can’t compete over 20km. I can. The more competitive I am over 20km, the easier 50km will be.
"Looking to Zurich, the 20km isn’t an option because I want to be 100% on the starting line for the 50km. The Russias will be after me from last year, there is a Slovakian and a French as well who are really strong. I am going to have fellows out for me so I need to be in top gear."
Heffernan was speaking at the UCC sports awards which honoured the achievements of the university’s most talented students. Hurlers Conor Lehane and Seamus Harnedy were acknowledged for their exploits at club and county level, while Paul Geaney and Conor Dorman were recognised for their respective roles in UCC’s Sigerson Cup triumph.
Award winners: Phil Healy (Athletics), Josh O’Shea (Soccer), Aine Curran (Hockey), Adrian O’Sullivan (Basketball), Paul Derham (Rugby), Emma Cassidy (Swimming) and Abigail Cronin (Powerlifting).
Dr Eanna Falvey was the Hall of Fame recipient.