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Vineman 70.3 Race Report

Pre Race – Vineman Man Van Competition (MVC)

While there was all this pre-race hullabaloo about how stacked the field was at Vineman, what the triathlon media failed to report on was the Vineman Man Van Competition.  Three competitors – myself, Graham O’grady, and of course, Matt Lieto – were eligible for this years competition after cruising down to Sonoma in Matt’s 1974 Chevy Van.  All geared up for a big weekend of crude jokes, farting, and a bit of racing, it was obvious that this competition would be one of the best in decades.

Take that Matt & "Other"!

Event #1 – Inside Tri Pre-Race Poll

Two days before the race, Inside Triathlon asked readers to vote online for who would win Vineman 70.3.  I checked the site and was flattered/amazed/laughed out loud when I saw my name listed among the options.  Those emotions escalated when I saw I had 7 votes (let me guess, thank you Mom, Dad, Janna, Lauren, Joel, Liz, & James).  But then, to my dismay, I saw that Matt was also on the list…with 8 votes!  So I voted for myself, hit refresh, and we were tied.  Then, like any reasonable person, I voted for myself again, hit refresh, and…we were still tied.  WTF.

So I posted a request for votes on Twitter and Facebook.  Not trying to win the poll, but just to beat Matt Lieto.  Even though Matt attempted his own response to his 5 times more followers, my crew held strong and I finished ahead, a crushing 83 to 37 victory.  Ironically, Graham, who won Rev3 last week in convincing fashion, wasn’t on the list.  But we all assumed he was “Other,” (13 votes), and even gave him the votes of his buddy who wasn’t racing (Kieran Doe, 2 votes).  Still, he finished way back.

Event #2 – Pre-Race Dumps

Now, I’m normally a lock to win this one, but for some reason I was off my game on race day morning.  Buoyed by the coffee he bought the night before to drink that morning, Matt went out strong and built a 2-0 lead on Graham and I by the time we showed up to the race.  I’ll try and maintain this blog’s last shred of decency by sparing you the details, but let’s just say my trusty stomach came through in the clutch and in the last 75 minutes of competition, delivered me a 5-4 win over Lieto, with Graham way back at 2.

***Ok, decency is gone, a funny side story – On my #4, I heard someone enter the porto-potty next to me.  He started making some pretty intense grunting sounds.  After about 3 or 4, I started to get suspicious, so I let out a massive grunt as well.  Then there was a pause, silence, and then a giggle.  An unmistakably familiar giggle.  Matt Lieto, you trickster.

The Race

Don't worry, I put a swim cap on. (Thanks Larry Rosa for the photo).

Swim 2k: 10th, 24:02, 1:15/100m

With a 2-0 lead in the MVC, I was pretty fired up going into the actual race.  I went out hard as usual, and remember thinking that if I could come out with Matt on the swim, I might get towed along on the bike a bit..  A couple hundred meters in, I saw Matt in front of me, and tried to swim on his feet.  I don’t know if he knew it was me, but damn, he was kicking like a maniac.  It was like swimming in washing machine.  After choking for a couple hundred meters, I said forget this and switched to someone else’s feet.

On the turn around, it was shallow enough to do a few dolphin dives, and literally walk around buoy.  I saw Matt to my right, did a few dives, may have slightly cut him off, and rounded the corner.  On the last few dives I noticed that I was right behind Chris Lieto.  After peeing in my wetsuit with excitement, I calmed down and stayed in his group.  I exited the swim just behind Chris, hands down my best swim ever.  Yes, it wasn’t Chris’s most stellar swim, but I’ll take it anyway!  Matt came out behind me, the first time this season.  He said he cramped walking around the buoys, I say he’s a whiner.  Graham, swimmer extraordinaire, crushed us both out of the water to take the MVC win.

Matt Dixon found this picture of me during the race. I blame my bad ride on unshaven legs.

Bike 56 mi: 12th, 2:16:03, 24.7 mph, Garmin File

I might have let the excitement of my swim get the best of me, as I’m fairly sure I sprinted all out through the long transition.  The spectators were probably thinking, “Oh, that poor chap, he thinks the race is finished.” (all my fake spectators have English accents). Anyway, I managed to get on my bike before Chris and started pedaling pretty hard to build speed, hoping that I could stay with him for a bit when he inevitably passed me a couple minutes into the ride.  Surprisingly, 4…5…6 minutes passed without him going by.  I actually remember thinking, “maybe I’m riding about the same pace as him.”  I mean, it did feel like I was going fast.  Then about 20 seconds later this gigantic gust of wind almost knocked me off my bike.  When I regained my composure and looked up, Chris was in front of me.  Yes, the gust of wind was him.

I remembered horror stories of people trying to ride with Chris only to never ride a bike again, so I “let” him go.  A few minutes later my arch nemesis Matt passed me, and I tried to ride with him for about 30 seconds before I came to same conclusion (turns out he actually caught Chris about 6 miles into the ride, damn!).

The rest of the bike was remarkably bad.  I don’t think I went out too hard or anything, I just felt like bollocks.  The legs weren’t there, no excuses.  I pushed hard, but nothing came out.  I went by Matt Dixon about half way into the ride, and he said I had to pick it up as the front group was pulling away.  So I mustered a 10 minute effort that did absolutely nothing.  Honestly, it was frustrating.  I turned around my watch, didn’t look at power, and just made it my goal to stay with my group.  My average power was 305 watts, the lowest of the year by far, on a hilly course that should have matched my strengths.  I just had a bad day.  Bummer dude!

When I hit the transition, the announcer said Chris had come in 12 minutes earlier, a 2:03 bike split, the fastest ever on the course.  Wow.  Matt ended up riding a 2:06, the third fastest ever on the course to move up to 4th place off the bike, and more importantly, take the MVC win.  Graham rode strong and was in 7th off the bike.

Run 13.1mi: 1st, 1:11:12, 5:25/mile, Garmin File

Knowing I was way back after a sucky bike, I tried to refocus and run hard to salvage my race.  I had two goals in mind, 1) get the fastest run split, and 2) catch Matt Lieto.  Goal #1 would be something I could be proud of in this stellar field.  Since Graham was a lock to win the MVC with a stellar performance (he finished 4th), Goal #2 would at least give me a MVC US Championship (Graham is Kiwi).  So I set out hard, thinking, here I come Matt Leito!

I got off to a better start than last week by going the right way in transition.  A few guys hung with me going through the first mile in 5:19.  I had “New York” by Jay Z & Alicia Keys in my head, though I’m pretty sure it was the Glee version (closet Gleek, don’t hate!).  Not sure if it was keeping the pace consistent, or humming “New York”, but the other guys in my group dropped eventually dropped off.

I don’t care what you say, those kids can sing and dance, damn!

I saw Matt Dixon at about 3 miles, asked him if I was around anyone.  He said that I just needed to back half it and the guys would reel in.  So I kept charging, telling myself to stay relaxed AND press the pace.  I saw Matt Lieto at the turn around, checked my watch, and didn’t even say hi.  What’s up now!?!?  I thought, if this turn around isn’t too far, I might have a chance of catching him.  But holy cow that was a long turn around.  I passed my split spot, and he was still 6 minutes up, with less than 6 miles to go.  Damn.

I saw Dixon again at mile 8 and he told me to keep it going, that I was reeling in Matt (he apparently told Matt I was only 2 minutes behind, scaring the bejeezus out of him).  I picked up the pace again, running sub 5:20’s for a few miles.  I kept seeing people up the road, thinking they were Matt.  But each time, it ended up being a pro woman on her way out the course.

I eventually knew my chances of an MVC US Championship were gone, but still ran my ass off.  I wanted that fastest run, even if it meant nothing in the overall.  I spent the last few miles trying to pick up the pace while suffering and worrying about surprise bathroom stops.  Not a happy place. But I finished strong, crossed the line with the fastest run, but still 1:20 behind Matt.  Damn you Matt Lieto!

Not sure how these results add up to me getting last, but it makes a better story. Barely.

Overall – 10th place, 3:53:51, Full Results

Bad news first: This is my worst finish of the season, and also the first race I haven’t gotten a paycheck (it paid through 8). But when you look at the guys in front of me, it’s not so bad.  It’s actually a decent result.  Outside of another dozen guys or so in the world, this is the crème of the crop.  US Champions, World Champions, Olympians, they’re all there.  I knew that going into the race.  Yes, I was hoping to finish higher, but it didn’t happen today.

Now the good news:  I had my best swim ever, hands down.  When compared to my first 70.3 this season, I made up 2-3 minutes on the same competitors.  In a ~24 minute event, that’s HUGE.  My run was also my best ever, on a fairly rolly course.  Not sure where it stacks up historically, but a quick search shows it in the top 4-5 runs ever on that course.  Even my overall time, despite the lackluster bike, was good enough for a top 3 finish in almost any other year.  It also was 15 minutes faster than when I raced this course as an age grouper, wow.

So overall, it’s a pretty solid result.  I’m happy with the huge progress I’ve made this season.  I can actually see myself being competitive with this group in a year or two, which I realistically couldn’t see going into this year.  I need to make some more strides in the swim and find my biking legs, and I’ll be ready to go!

Next Up:

I’m happy to “announce” that I’m racing the Philippines 70.3 in 4 weeks!  Despite the heated MVC US competition, Matt put in a good word for me, and the race directors have invited me out to compete.  It will be my first time in that section of the world, I can’t wait.  Lauren may even be able to meet me over there on her way back from Europe.  Boomshakalaka.  Until then, I’ve got some solid biking to do, so if you see me on the road, say hi!  Thanks for following!


Jeff & Shannon Mitchell – For generously hosting this weeks Man Van crew.  You guys offered a great space, an awesome place to ride/run from and some superb bike maintenance!  Seriously, thank you, we really appreciate it.

My coach Matt Dixon.  Even though you told me I could catch them on the run, and you said I biked like an orangutan, I still like you.  Things are going well, we’ll keep it rolling onwards and upwards!

Gerry Rodrigues – That swim stat – 2-3 minutes closer to those competitors over my 2k swim in 4 months – huge.  Thanks for help.  Couple more minutes to go.

Matt Lieto & Graham O’Grady – Even though you both beat me, it was good times in the Man Van.  I’m happy to lose to either of you…this one time.

James, Daniel & Katherine, Michelle & Adam – for driving up early to watch my ass slog through that run and give me some props afterward.  Thanks guys!

My wife, my family, my support crew, Twitter, Facebook, & Newsletter peeps.  You guys always help me find the silver lining in every performance and keep me motivated to push on.  Thank you so much.

19 comments to Vineman 70.3 Race Report

  • Steve

    what, no song stuck in your head during the race? that’s best part of your reports! fyi and btw, every time i race wildflower (3 years now) i get janet jackson’s song “nasty girl” stuck in my head. ONly i sing it “so ya think i’m a nasty grade” drives me bananas.

  • marian

    i saw you cycling in rev3 in pdx. i didn’t think you looked like an ape!
    what is the effect of 2 back to back 70.3’s? maybe that is why you felt slow on the bike.

  • Jesse Thomas

    Steve, thanks for reminding me! I just added it, though I can’t say I’m proud of the song 😉 After your comment, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nasty Girl pops in there next year at Wildflower. Awesome.

    Marian, good point, the week before probably had a bit to do with it. Graham also felt a little flat on the bike. Who knows. This season is all about throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks!

    Thanks guys.

  • Don Quixote

    Helluva race, amigo! And as always, an entertaining blog post, aunque prefiero que fuera en español. Congrats on blasting sub-3:54 70.3s in consecutive weekends, including a great Vineman swim, another stellar run, and a top-10 in last weekend’d amazing field. That’s altogether pretty nuts and worthy of a nice recovery + momentum towards the Philippines 70.3. Keep on keepin’ on. Many of us are behind you and excited to see your success. Ándale!

  • Awesome job, Jesse! I can’t believe how you can keep going weekend after weekend. My only concern is this – if you + Lauren in Phillipines and Steph is in Europe/Arizona — WILL THIS AFFECT PICKY BAR STASHES? The thought of not having them is giving me slight palpitations.

    Phillipines! Wow! That is effin’ awesome. Why can’t I go cool places with medicine?!? Super jelz. But, you deserve it.

  • Seth

    Solid effort brother…..good blogging too. I almost feel a little bit of my office ass goes away each time I read about how awesome you are. Keep it up.

  • Tbone

    Way to go dude! That was a screaming run! Wish I could have come up to watch/race, but I’m glad my brother and sister and Don Quixote could be there.

    I still think you should post an imaginary race report every week until your next race.

  • Sam

    Awesome, funny and inspiring as always! (It’s not unusual to have fun with anyone…)

  • S. Piampiano's Mom

    Great season so far! I am one of those who has a hard time understanding how any of you even FINISH back-to-back races! So your 10th place finish seems incredible to me in such a strong field.

  • My fave blog. I laughed so hard when I saw your face on that final scoreboard. Larry Rosa did wonders with you on the other shot considering your natural state!
    Love you J-Man.

  • George

    Aye, you’re an insane person Jesse Thomas. By the way, can age groupers start registering for next year’s Vineman Man Van Competition?? I’m pretty sure I can outpoop anyone in the 40-44 category…

  • Great race! Great write up. Awesome progress. Encourages me as athlete and coach. yippee.

  • sandra sharma

    Hi Jesse,
    Best wishes for your race.What a professional year this has been for you and Lauren!!!
    Go out and have a stupendous swim , bike and race.The Canadian and Australian contigency are cheering for you mate.Demolish those teddy bears.

  • […] a year ago, I experienced the most amazing athletic adventure of my life. Through the good graces #manvan buddy Matt Lieto and the generosity of race organizers, I was invited to compete at Philippines […]

  • […] awesome sponsors, and have some solid results to start the year. I love writing about my ups & downs and other random stuff that comes into my brain. If you're interested in following, connecting, […]

  • […] awesome sponsors, and have some solid results to start the year. I love writing about my ups & downs and other random stuff that comes into my brain. If you're interested in following, connecting, […]

  • […] last time I did a “dirty double” (back to back 70.3 races in successive weekends), I told myself, that I would never do that again. […]

  • […] on the way to the house. We had an awesome Korean dinner after the athlete welcome reception with Jesse Thomas and Barney. Saturday morning, we went for a swim in the river to get acclimated, which we were both […]

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