Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

2014 70.3 Worlds Race Report

Well Crazy Ass Fans, that was quite the journey. From a broken foot, two surgeries, separated shoulders, wrong turns, and lots of highs and lows to 12th in the World (2nd American!) in arguably the most competitive Half Ironman field ever.

In all honesty, if you had asked me before the race if I’d be stoked with 12th place, I probably would have scrunched my face, thought about it and said, “Honestly?…I’m hoping for more.”

You see, I knew I was fit coming into this race. Yeah, maybe a little tired from a lot of racing, maybe a little under-trained on the run, but no matter what your prep, there are always a list of maybe’s and my list was as short as I could’ve asked for. I was confident, excited, and ready to race my heart out.

And I raced my heart out.

I swam competitively, intelligently and to the best of my ability, coming out in the front of the second pack. Facing about a minute gap to start the bike, I led the charge and rode in front as hard as I could trying to catch the group. And after riding the best ride of my career – nearly 3 minutes faster than I did in my win here in June – I ran with everything my legs would give me on the day.

And so because of all that, I am happy with 12th. In fact, I’m very proud of myself for that finish – not only because I kept myself in it mentally and physically when it became obvious my goal of a top 5 or 8 or even 10 was out of reach, but also because, as my family and friends said afterwards, “Dude, you are freaking 12th in the World!” I said in my preview blog that the field was so strong that I could have a good day and finish in the top 15. And that’s what happened. I had a good day, I gave it my all, and that’s where the chips fell.

There are some great things to build on as well:

  • I received over 800 points for next year, meaning I now have the same number of points for next year’s Worlds that I had at the end of June this year. My season will have much more flexibility to pick and choose only the races that will best prepare me for this race next year, and won’t leave me injured or over fatigued going into my final training block.
  • I swam very well – maybe my best swim ever in a super competitive field. I’m getting closer to that front pack – which is becoming more important by the year (see below) – and I believe with another year of consistency (read, no shoulder separations), I can be there.
Solid 2nd pack swim. - credit Julien Heon

Solid 2nd pack swim. – credit Julien Heon

  • I PR’ed on the bike – my best half ironman power ever – 345W normalized and 331 average watts. And like I said, even though my dream race of catching the front group never materialized, I kept my heart and legs in it and never gave up.


And, of course, some areas for improvement:

  • I’ve got to swim front pack. The influx of ITU (Olympic, non drafting) athletes, even just in the last two years, has fundamentally changed the sport. While it’s still technically non-drafting bike ride, when groups of 25+ exit the water together it’s near impossible to catch that group alone. I think that was shown on Sunday, when myself and great bike/runners like Bart Aernouts, Lionel Sanders, Jordan Rapp, and even Sebastian Kienle in pursuit, not only couldn’t pull back that initial group of guys, but lost a minute or two with super strong bike rides. Only four non front pack swimmers finished in the top 20 on Sunday. It’s just becoming too big a group and too solid of riding. For me to have a shot at a podium in this race, I’ll have to come out with the front pack of the swim or very near it.
Trying to push the bike solo.

Trying to push the bike solo.

  • My run is still on the comeback train. Between the surgeries, the late start to the season, and the back to back races, I never got a chance to really train my run this year, and that definitely showed on Sunday. Yeah, I rode really hard, which I’m sure sapped my legs, but I was outran by a number of guys I historically have beaten by a minute or more. I ran a 1:15. Javier Gomez ran an otherworldly 1:09, and number of guys in the field ran 1:13-1:14. A 1:13 makes me top 10, a 1:12 top 8. I know it’s in there, and I’m a little bummed it didn’t materialize Sunday. But it’ll come back with a year under my belt, and is something to build on for next year.
Run legs still need some time to come around.

Run legs still need some time to come around. – credit Julien Heon Photography.

The Gift of a Dream:

Now that I’ve had a few days to digest the experience and result on Sunday, it’s impossible to isolate it from the full journey of the last 18 months, or even the last 4 years. When I started this sport, I honestly never expected to ever even finish in the top 15 of the World Championships. I just wanted to have fun and see what I could do. Add to that the turbulence of all the $h!t I’ve gone through the last 18 months and to get 12th place in this race is pretty damn good. Sure, I wanted to be a World Champion, that was the long term plan. But plans never go according to plan, and I feel proud for the way I adapted and persevered.

And maybe the coolest thing was that on Saturday night, I went to bed believing I could be a World Champion. That feeling, that dream, in and of itself is a gift. It’s a gift you contribute to yourself with weeks, months, and years of hard work, dedication, and focus. And it’s a gift your friends and family contribute to with encouragement, support, and love. So more than anything, I’m thankful for that feeling, and the journey that brought me there, and the help you all gave me along the way. And I’m thankful for the fact that despite the result, that feeling still exists in the back of my mind, and is waiting patiently for it’s the next opportunity to surface.

Thanks Thanks Thanks!

Thank you Wif, Jude, Mom, Dad, Janna, Jeff, Joel, Liz, Waylon, Darren, Courtney, Lindsey, Frank, Joyce, James, Elia, Terri, Polster and the rest of my family for all the support this year and every year. Thanks Matt Dixon for guiding the journey. Thanks Matt Lieto for keeping me company on it in the pool, road, and trail. Thanks to the Picky Bars crew for keeping that $h!t running while I train and race like a crazy man this year, you guys are the best and I’m stoked for big things coming in 2015.

 

Was fun having these goofballs around all week.

Was fun having these goofballs around all week.

And of course, thank you to the best sponsors in the biz. I got calls and emails from each one of these guys individually before the race wishing me luck and offering their support. Thanks for enabling this dream.

  • Geoff, Don, Kody, Mike, and the team at Pearl Izumi – Kit and shoes were awesome as always, and I you guys have been with me from the start. Thanks for all the support these last few years.
  • Gavin, Eric, Mark, Chris and the Specialized Team – In case you guys didn’t notice, I had a new ride for this race and it was fast. Bam! Thanks for the help, and congrats on the Shiv going 1, 2, 3, in the race!
  • Rob, Kurt, and Tbone at ROKA – My swimming progression started with you guys. Thanks for believing. Thank for the support on and off the course!
  • Ashley, Josh, Steve, and Per at Red Bull – Thanks for the support guys, you’re the best! Was great to see Red Bull on the run course as I didn’t have to bring any myself this time!
  • Justin, Julie, and John at Accenture. – Thanks for the support that allows me to do all this fun and crazy stuff. So happy to have you guys this year, means a ton!
  • Rene, Craig and the team at Jaybird. Thanks so much everything guys, excited for the new stuff coming down the road!
  • Brian, Brooke, and all the guys in Eugene at Rolf Prima, the new wheels were dialed, really appreciate it!
  • Tim and Mary at Powertap, thanks for all the last minute help (and all the help in general, ha!)
  • Alyssa and Larissa at Strava – you guys are the best and I owe you a blog, coming soon I promise!

Finally, thank you Crazy ASS Fans for the scream-crying love that keeps me going when my body says stop. You guys are the best! Until next time!