Helllllooooo my DOZENS of crazy ass like you got ants in your pants fans. As some of you (mom) know, I just finished a long trip that spanned my first 70.3 Win + 5 Year Anniversary Special Bike Packing Record, a trip to the SF Bay for a wedding/hangout sesh with some friends, and finally, Kona for the IM World Champs.
“WHAT!?! YOU RACED KONA!?!”
Silly fan, don’t fret. I wasn’t there to race. I went to Kona to watch the race, cheer on my buddies, do some fun stuff with Specialized, meet with other sponsors, and maybe drink a beer or two. In short, it’s a fun place to be, especially when you aren’t racing. So anyway, here’s a random wrap up of my trip to Kona, some thoughts on the race, and a preview for my final Rev3 Race in Florida on Sunday.
My What a Difference a Year Makes
Last year, I spent all week in Kona walking around in my iron-on Picky Bars T Shirt, saying “Hi, my name’s Jesse, I’m the kid that won Wildflower with the goofy sunglasses,” and basically spent every day following around Matt Lieto.
Well not this year! This year, I walked around with my SCREEN PRINTED Picky Bars T Shirt, saying “Hi, my name’s Jesse” then they’d say, “oh yeah, the goofy kid that won Wildflower.” I’d say, “You mean, the kid that won Wildflower in goofy sunglasses.” Then I’d pause and say, “by the way, do you know where Matt Lieto is? He won’t return my texts.” My what a difference a year makes!
Though it was the same in many ways, there were some cool differences. I got recognized/approached/stalked-but-in-a-good-way by a few self-professed crazy ass fans. It is amazing how many of my mom’s friends live in Kona. Most of them just wanted a Picky Bar sample, so no biggee. Honestly, it was hilarious that a couple of people actually told me they were “crazy ass fans.” I might have to get you guys hats or something.
Last year, I was just a wee boy introducing myself to Mallory at Specialized, promising her that I don’t suck as much on a bike as it looks like I do, yada yada yada. This year, Mallory and I were all what’s up dude like we’re friends and it’s no big deal. It honestly was super fun to hang out with some more of the Specialized crew. I got to lead some group rides from the Specialized booth, which were a blast and of course will be directly responsible for a ridiculous number of new Specialized bike sales. Can you say, ROI? Booyah!
The final “work” highlight was going to the Specialized media brunch. The house was definitely a buzz with Crowie, Macca, Rasmus, Jordan and Conrad all just hanging out. I honestly felt honored and a little out of place just hanging out with everyone. Thanks so much to the entire Specialized team for including me this week, it was a blast.
Check out the video above via the guys at TriRig.com. They’re good dudes and have a lot of great info on their site. Check it out!
Outside of “working” the other reason I was in Kona was to watch this thing called the Ironman World Championships. For those of you who have never been to Kona, I think the easiest analogy is the one most commonly used – the Superbowl of triathlon. Except, technically it’s more like the Superbowl combined with the All-Star game. The entire industry is there, media, sponsors, all the best athletes, and tons of fans. Since Kona itself isn’t a super huge place, it feels packed and you literally sense a buzz up and down Alii drive all week.
I haven’t thought too much outside of the 70.3 World Championships next year, but after seeing Kona the last two years, it’s hard to imagine having a professional career without at least taking a crack at this race. So anyway, I was interested not only to see what would happen with the many competitors I now consider friends, but also in seeing what it would take for me to eventually compete in, and even have an impact on this race.
A Tough Day To Watch:
It should come as no surprise I think this is the hardest triathlon on the planet. By far. Honestly, watching this race is probably the most exhausting thing I’ll do all year. The length alone makes it difficult, then you add the conditions – extremely hot & windy – then add the competition – best in the world – and you simply can’t understate how difficult this race is. There’s a reason it’s called the World Championship and in some ways carries a bigger title (Kona) than the sport of triathlon itself.
As excited as I was for Pete Jacobs (the winner, who I met/fake boxed in the Philippines in 2011), watching my friends struggle was not easy. I have gotten to know Jordan Rapp, Rasmus Henning, Luke Bell, and Luke McKenzie (and in the women’s race Linsey Corbin, Meredith Kessler & Rachel Joyce) fairly well over the last couple of years and, in addition to Crowie, they are the guys I was really pulling for in this race. It was tough to see them not have the day they wanted for various reasons. I was so impressed watching Jordan claw his way through that field completely solo after a tough swim, and tried to imagine myself alongside him for much of the race. When he exited the energy lab, he had a clear shot at the top-10, something I thought he would achieve at the time. It was a huge bummer to see him struggle the last few miles of the run after such a courageous effort (he still finished a more than respectable 13th). It just goes to show you how hard this race is, and how quickly momentum can turn.
I feel a little weird for saying this, but it was also tough to watch Crowie (Craig Alexander, 3x winner) not have the race he wanted. I’ve met Crowie a couple of times over the last year and half and have been absolutely impressed by his casual demeanor, humility, thoughtfulness, and the obvious importance of family in his life. Even though he’s technically one of my “competitors,” I consider him a bit of an idol in the sport as well, someone I aspire to emulate down the road. So I was both a bit heartbroken and inspired by his performance, where it was obvious late in the bike that repeating his record-breaking victory from last year was unlikely. He battled at the beginning of the run, then slowed in obvious pain, then battled back and finished with courage, giving everything he had even though the result wasn’t what he hoped for. If I ever get the opportunity to be a champion, I hope I can live up to his example. He gets what it’s all about, and he proved that more than ever on Saturday.
Kona for Me? We’ll See.
I don’t know when I’ll race Kona – Matt says 2 years….but I want to just try an Ironman before I think about entering the Lion’s Den. But after seeing the race unfold now a couple of times, I feel like I have a sense of what it will take to be competitive there. I’ll have to be a better swimmer than I am now, which is no surprise. I think you also have to walk a fine line of reacting, and not reacting to the excitement and drama of the race around you. What happens to a lot of guys in this race is they push, react strongly to group bike dynamics, and then blow up either on the run or toward the end of the bike. If you’re a strong runner who hasn’t blown yourself on the bike, you can move A LOT in the last half of the marathon as most of the guys are literally just hanging on for dear life. I imagine regardless of what pace you’re running it probably feels like holding on for dear life at the point. Who knows, plenty of time to think about it for down the road.
The Best Part – The Final Finisher:
Honestly, my favorite part of the whole weekend was watching the last hour of finishers come down Alii drive. The mix exhausted, broken bodies carrying faces of absolute joy is inspirational. You can tell that these people have truly overcome. They’re accomplishing a lifelong goal, something they honestly weren’t sure they could do. And, they get to enjoy that moment under the lights with thousands of screaming spectators all on their feet. I dare you not to tear up just a little if you ever get to see it in person.
Other Random Funness
Don’t worry, outside of some “work” and race scouting, I did get quite a bit of fun time in as well. After being here for the last two years and not racing, it will be difficult to pass up the social opportunities, parties, and general fun of having no pressure to be off your feet, out of the sun and not drunk in prep for a race.
Having Lauren there with me was an awesome change. We went to the Competitor Group TGINR (Thank God I’m Not Racing) party. Which may have had the best party swag of all time – hat AND a belt buckle/medal, each with a bottle opener integrated into it. Yes that’s right, the hat had a bottle opener. We also went to the K-Swiss party and had a drink or many with lots of athletes and people in the sport. It honestly was a blast.
Luxury Chilling at The Mauna Lani
The smartest decision we made was to extend our trip to Wednesday, which gave us a couple of days to just relax and hang out at the Mauna Lani. Lauren was a trooper after waking up early, driving everywhere with me and supporting my workouts and appearances, so if anything, she deserved some serious downtime. The last two days were incredible with awesome brunches and even a sunset sail ride with the other athletes on the Team. I want to give a HUGE thanks to Bree at the Mauna Lani for the hospitality. We had an amazing and relaxing time there. Thanks so much Bree!
One More Race to Go – Rev3 Final in Florida
On Sunday I’m finishing the season with the Rev3 Final in Sarasota, Florida. I have to admit, I’m as excited to be done with the season as I am to race. It’s been a great season, better than expected in most ways, but it’s been a long one and I’m ready for a break. I guess the excitement to be done can still propel me to finish as fast as possible, so I’ll just look at it that way. The race will be competitive as usual with 5-7 guys who could all challenge for the win. It’s a flat and likely fast course, so will be a different challenge than many of my halfs this year. As ready as I feel for a break, my training has actually been pretty good the last few weeks, so I’m excited to see what the body can muster for one last go at it.
If you want to follow, check out the Rev3 Tri Live page, or follow them on Twitter. As always, you can follow me on Twitter for the lead up, but I’ll probably be solo so no tweeting during the race, sorry CA Fans.
I’m out until the race report on Monday or Tuesday. I’ve got a few other exciting things in the works as well which will come in next few weeks. Thanks as always for the following and support. Booyah!