Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

70.3 Liuzhou Race Story

Nǐ hǎo fēngkuáng de pìgu fěnsī! – (Someone told me this translation is off, but I can’t find it. It does say something about crazy and ass, though, so we’re mostly good).

Success, my crazy ass fans! Success! That’s the overall takeaway from the weekend. As I mentioned in my pre race blog, the reason I went to China was:

  • Get points for Kona – Check! A solid swim, my fastest half bike ever, and my fastest half run since I broke my foot (and fastest run of the day!) to finish 2nd place, which earned me an extra 340 Kona points. I now can get 1st or 2nd at IM Lanzarote and likely still qualify for Kona. Still obviously anything but a guarantee, but it’s better than only being able to get 1st!

Fast swim, fast bike, and fast run led to a big Half Ironman PR on a fast course.

  • Hang out with Descente China – Check! I was there to“Awaken Beijing” on Monday after the race, and I had an absolute blast. I met some great people, spoke about my experience with the sport, demoed an indoor triathlon with rowing and burpees, and of course ate some awesome local cuisine.

An awesome time with John and his team at Descente China after the race!

  • Try something new – Check! I was bummed to miss Oceanside of course, but honestly this race far exceeded my expectations. I knew the hosts would be super accommodating, and that the lodging was going to be beautiful. But the race itself was top notch. The course was beautiful and spectator friendly, the local police and volunteer support was incredible, and the race organizers had it absolutely dialed, particularly for a first time race. I’m excited about the potential of the sport in China and am honored I could be a part of the first race in Liuzhou.

Definitely tried some new stuff this weekend.

Here’s a quick rundown of how the race went down:

Swim – Downriver Wetsuit Swims Are My Jam (GPS/Strava File)

It’s no secret I like wetsuits swims. It’s no secret I like downriver swims. The commutative law of addition would therefore dictate that I also like downriver wetsuits swims. And while I didn’t completely enjoy it during the actual swim, the result was certainly enjoyable.

After feeling my face freeze off (~55 degree water temp!) I had a decent start and was with the lead group around the first turn buoy, but didn’t quite have the speed I needed to stay with them past about 300 meters (is it just me or do I write this every single time?). Since it was a relatively small field (only about 15 pro men I think), it got pretty lonely pretty quick. I’m proud of myself for staying calm and swimming solidly the rest of the way solo. Exiting the water, I couldn’t see the group (despite an 80 stair climb right out of the water!), so I thought I’d lost my typical 2+ minutes, but turns out I was only about 75 seconds down! So overall, a solid swim for sure.

Body is fine under my ROKA wetsuit. Feet, hands, and face….not so much.

Welcomed by just a few stairs out of the swim….

Bike – Flat Course + Smooth Road + Aero Gains + Hard Pedaling = FAST (PowerTap/Strava File)

I told Matt when I rode the course on Thursday that it would be “ridiculously fast.” During that ride, I was going 21-23 mph just spinning easy! When I got up to speed on Saturday, that was certainly the case. I told myself I would pedal hard (above sustainable pace) until I either caught the group, or saw them at the first turnaround about 14 miles down the road. To my surprise, I rolled up on the main pack about 15 minutes into the ride. I asked Justin Metzler who was left up the road and he said just Brad (Kahldefeldt) and Tim (Don). So I put my head down and kept pushing. I passed Brad a few miles later. My power was high and speed was fast, so I felt pretty good about my chances to reel in Tim.

But when I hit the turnaround, bam! He was almost 4 minutes up! Then, despite thinking I was alone in my pursuit, I saw I was leading a train of about 5-6 guys. I knew I’d ridden harder than I could maintain on the way out there, and I didn’t want to continue to drag anyone else up the road with me, so I decided to not worry about catching Tim, and focus more on breaking up the group behind me.

Over the next 20 miles I put in some strong surges with Justin to break away from the pack and about 5 miles later after one short gradual climb, I looked back and Justin was gone as well. From there I kept up a hard but more sustainable pace, and actually put a small amount of time back into Tim. I finished the bike still about 4 minutes down, but with a 2:02 bike split, my fastest half ever!

Didn’t get a pic of me on the bike, but did get a pic of my bike next to the river the lines the course. The Dimond/PowerTap/Knight setup rode well on Saturday!

Run – Finally, a Fast Half Run! (Strava/GPS File)

If there’s anything I’m stoked about in this race, it’s my run. It’s been almost 4 years since I ran under 1:13 in a half – something I used to do almost every race. Part of that is due to riding much harder and faster (more than making up for the difference time-wise), but it’s still been frustrating to lose my strongest weapon at the half distance. Knowing that Matt and I have put more emphasis on speed-work I was determined to at least try to get a solid run out of myself despite little chance it would make a difference in my finish (Tim is one of the fastest runners in the sport, so making up a 4 minute gap was not likely).

There isn’t much to report beyond that, other than I set out at a solid pace and tried to run evenly. I slipped up a little from mile 9-11 as the fatigue set in, but I’m super happy I pulled back the last two miles at just above 5:30 pace to finish strong (but without drilling myself, because I knew I was still ~3 minutes down on Tim). I averaged 5:36/mile and ran officially to 1:11:34 for the fastest split of the day. The course was a bit short, but from my math I would have been about 1:12:45 for a full 13.1 – a time I’m super happy with, especially off a solid ride.

Stoked getting a solid effort across that finish line.

Overall – Mission Accomplished and A Great Test of Fitness

Some good stuff here:

  • Kona points – definitely a help. That was the primary goal, so mission accomplished. Still got a lot of work to do to qualify, but in a better spot than last week.
  • Solid Run – my best in a while! Super stoked with that and hopefully means good stuff for the Ironman in 8 weeks.
  • I’m getting more “aero” – I’ve made some pretty big gains in my aerodynamic efficiency over the last 12 months, which my wind tunnel tests have shown as well. The road was fast and course was super flat, but I can feel myself getting more speed for less power than I used to – which clearly showed on Saturday. This is combination of some faster better equipment, and a ton of work on flexibility to be in a lower/flatter/skinnier position. Overall, great stuff!

Shared the podium with Tim Don and Patrick Evoe. The media coverage was awesome.

Pre and Post Race Fun

As I stated above, I got invited to the pre race press conference and things got…cultural? After some questions from media and the host, I took part in a “slow bike race” – basically ride as slow as you can without falling off the bike. I lost. And then I got to wear some awesome local apparel. Enjoy below. Overall the organizers did a fantastic job, this race is worth checking out for sure.

Slow bike race! I lost.

An awesome time with the other pros at the press conference!

Descente China Trip

When I was in business school at Oregon I met a fun, smart dude from Korea. Johnny and I got to know each other, became friends, and kept in touch as I embarked on triathlon/Picky Bars and he went home to work in sports marketing for some of the biggest global brands. Now nine years later he’s the global marketing director for Descente and I’m one of their primary triathletes, and we just met up for a super fun event with Descente China at their Beijing stores. Nine years ago there’s no way either of us would have ever expected our paths to cross in this way. Absolutely nuts how life works out sometimes!

Johnny and I in Beijing.

I had an awesome time with Descente China at their Beijing stores, thank you to John (CEO of Descente China) and his crew for being such gracious hosts. I got to meet a bunch of great people, eat some local cuisine, demonstrate an indoor triathlon and talk about my experience with the sport. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this brand and sport as it expands in Asia and beyond.

I spoke fluent Chinese the entire time. It was very impressive.

 

Up next – 70.3 Peru in Lima in 3 weeks!

Hold on to your butts, because I’m racing again in 3 weeks! Looking forward to visiting my 3rd country this year and getting another solid effort in in my final race before Lanzarote. I’ll check in before, but wanted to let you guys know now so you can block off the entire day to follow the three tweets about the race online.

Up next!

Thanks!

Thanks as always to my Lauren, Jude, my family, friends, coach Matt, and Picky Bars employees for the day to day to support to enable this job and this trip in particular. And massive thank you to my generous and supportive sponsors

  • Descente – New kit was awesome. Thinking I’ll call it bumblebee. 
  • ROKA – Wetsuit swims are the best with fast wetsuits!
  • Red Bull – Wings on the run always help me go fast the last couple of miles!
  • Jaybird – You guys are the best and you know it.
  • Refuel – Holy crap my phone didn’t die in two 20+ hour traveling days thanks to your chargers.
  • Dimond – Fast bike. So fast.
  • PowerTap – Pedals and computer are great as always.
  • Knight Composites – Wheels be rolling those roads!
  • Also thanks to supporters Zealios Skin Care, Ceramic Speed, and TriRig!

And last and most thanks to my crazy ass fans! Until next time!