My oh my oh my oh my. What to say about this weekend? We ventured back to what some would say is the birthplace of crazy ass fandom. You’ve been using the term all year to lure me back…and it worked. So brutal, but so happy. Let’s begin.
Heard one word tossed around a whole lot the last year. Will say it one and only time now myself. #Threepeat!
— Jesse Thomas (@jessemthomas) May 4, 2013
A “Good” Challenge I knew this would be my toughest Wildflower as I’d be race three guys who’ve consistently beaten or finished near me the last two years – Aussies Joe Gambles and Leon Griffin, and Canadian Jeff Symmonds. Race morning they declared that it would be a non-wetsuit swim, which was another knock on my confidence. I’ve had all my wins, and my best overall results in wetsuit swims, particularly with the Maverick wetsuit I’d developed with Roka guys over the last year. But Matt framed it perfectly by saying, “This is a good challenge. It’s what World’s will be. You have to be able to win without a wetsuit. You’re swim has evolved. Have confidence in that.”
I Eat Fish All The Time
So as we started the swim, I focused on those words, and stayed as positive as possible. There were moments when I felt like I was suffocating, struggling, getting dropped, my race was over and I think I just swallowed a small fish, but I told myself I eat fish like two to three times a week, no big deal. After all the doubts and what felt like the longest swim of my life, I came out with the main group and all the guys I was keying off of, 2:20 back from the lead swimmer, Aussie speedboat Clayton Fettel.
Bike Party – Strava / PowerTap File
We jumped on the bike and the usual Wildflower “who cares that this is one of the hardest & hottest courses in the world let’s ride our balls off for the first 10 miles” Party ensued. I usually avoid that party and reel those guys in later, but I was fairly sure that the crazy dude hammering in front of me with no shirt on was Jeff Symmonds because he had a “Canadian” skin tone – haha, sorry for the racial profiling Jeff. Jeff is a fierce runner, and I didn’t want to let him go, so I went too hard also to stay with him. Then Leon joined us, and before I knew it, crazy shirtless dude (actually Paul Ambrose) and I were leading a massive group of probably 12 guys, including, Jeff, Joe, and Manvan buddy Matt Lieto.
Then We Stopped for Pancakes
Just kidding, but the next 25 miles were…frustrating, boring, weird, contemplative, take your pic. The pack stayed grouped the entire way out, with Ambrose and I riding up front for the majority. I don’t know if it my mind was playing tricks on me or what, but it felt like the group was just following my lead. If I went slower, we went slower, if I went faster, we went faster. So I oscillated between telling myself I should sit in the back and save energy and telling myself I should go make a move. I sat up a few times and chatted with Joe and Leon, but non of us knew of any good breakfast places on Jolon road, so we decided not to stop. At a few points, it was almost comical how easy we were going. Our gap to the leader grew to almost 3 minutes.
My plan was to make a move at mile 40, where the tough hills start. But as we made a turn at mile 35, something came over me. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I got a little momentum, passed Ambrose, started riding hard and said to myself, F&*$ beet juice. Yep, sounds random, I know. You see, one of the MANY pre race BS sessions in cabin 10 between Matt, Jen, Joe, Lauren and I was the benefits of beet juice and how my race was screwed because Matt and Joe brought some and I didn’t. It’s the type of good loving crap that we all give each other in the days leading up to the race. So anyway, that’s randomly what popped into my head at that moment. I didn’t even care about the damn beet juice, but that’s what happened. I probably repeated it to myself every 45 seconds or so for the next 15 minutes or so as I put in a massive effort. By the time we hit Nasty Grade I looked back and only Joe and Leon were with me. We’d cut our deficit to the lead to 1:15.
The three of us rode the rest of the way in hard, and caught Clayton about a mile before T2. I prepped myself for what I knew would be the hardest run of my Wildflower career with Joe and Leon, two of the best runners in the sport.
Run – Strava / Garmin File
We started the run a lot like the bike, way too hard. I could tell all of us were pretty spent on each uphill, but that none of us was going to admit it. Clayton dropped back about a mile in, and Leon and I eventually floated away from Joe on the trail section at mile 4 as we headed into the hills.
Miles 4-8 were bad news. I felt like doo doo, and had a lot of doubt that I could stay with Leon. It was hot, I was cramping, the road was kind of sandy, and he was running the hills like a mad man. There were a couple of times I asked myself, “How badly do I really want to win this?” Like I’d said in my preview, winning here this year was important, but didn’t carry the same emotional weight as 2012. Last year, it meant everything to me to “legitimize” myself in the sport. This year, I needed another motivator that was bigger than the win to help me push through the pain.
I know it sounds corny, but deal with it! Around mile 9, a song came into my head that Lauren has been listening to and that makes her do what I call her “pregnant dance,” where she makes small movements with everything but her belly. It’s like her stomach is anchored in space and the rest of her is free to move at will. Anyway, it’s hilarious, and it popped into my head, and made me think of Lauren pregnant, which of course made me think of Lima Bean, and then the phrase “Daddy Strength” just popped into my head. That honestly started turning it around for me. I had to earn that diaper money, because if baby is like daddy, it’s going to need lots of diapers.
Before I even realized it, I started to float away. It wasn’t a conscious move, I just kind of let my body do what it felt like it wanted to do. I opened up my stride, relaxed, and just went. I heard Leon’s footsteps farther and farther away, and by the time we hit the turnaround at mile 10, I had a decent gap. I hit the next two miles hard, with basically everything I had (which wasn’t much), and crested the final hill out of breath but out of sight. As I cruised down Lynch, I let myself relax and begin to enjoy the moment, feel the weight of the pressure lift from my shoulders. Nothing beats that last 200 meters at Wildflower. The crowd was amazing, the high 5’s plentiful and my wife and family were there. Pure bliss.
Range of Emotions – Find Your Mantras
I know I’ve harped on this before, but it is still remarkable to me the range of emotion you can go through in a 4 hour race. There were probably 5 times in the race, 3 on the swim, 2 on the run, that I thought it was over, that I was blowing up and my competition was gone, or that it would be impossible for me to push through the pain. It’s tough to find the appropriate mantras to help you get through those times, but its so important, because you never know what can happen. This time, I used stuff like EFF Beet Juice and Daddy Strength, I also used Remember Stinson and Trust Your Training to recall some great bike and run workouts I’ve had over the last 4 weeks. This race was yet another reminder to me of the importance of having those phrases handy to deal with the inevitable doubt that arises during a race.
Mind Games? Nope, Just Fun Times
— larsfinanger (@larsfinanger) May 4, 2013
Even though I felt like butt, Leon and I did chat a bit during the race, but it was hardly mind games. I definitely got a bit of a home course advantage thanks to you guys. Leon’s a big name in the tri world, particularly in Australia, but at one point he said, “Geez man, you have a lot of fans here, huh?” We also got a nicely timed topless flash and scream from half a dozen lovely ladies around mile 8, which made us both perk up quite a bit. I believe we both said thank you. Then no less than 200 meters later we got another flash, this time full frontal…from 5 dudes. I’m pretty sure Leon and I were the ones that screamed this time. We chatted about how we appreciated the effort from both parties, but we would have preferred the surprises in opposite order next time.
— Jesse Thomas (@jessemthomas) May 5, 2013
— Cal Poly Triathlon (@CPTri) May 6, 2013
- Super Wif (& Lima Bean) – Even though Lauren was 36 weeks pregnant, she drove down (with Polster, while I flew), stayed in my cabin, cooked me meals and kept me relaxed. She was supporter number one this weekend hands down. Thanks wif, I love you and the tiny bean.
- Family & Friends – Joel, Liz, Nikayla, Mom, Terri, Loren, James and James. You guys were awesome, and it meant so much to have you there. As my brother said, I’m REALLY glad I didn’t totally mess it up and lose the only time you all came down.
- Terry, Dixie, Kendra, Colleen and the entire Tri California family. Thanks so much for having me, and putting on this incredible event with unmatched passion and support for the sport of triathlon. I’m honored to be Wildflower Champ and to be a small part of an emotional time in your history. Thank you so much for all of your support and love! You guys are the best!
- Leon, Joe – You guys made it hurt big time out there. Great race pushing us all along. One of my toughest races ever. Thanks for the awesome work.
- Cabin 10 roomies – So much fun. Enough said.
- Coach Matt Dixon – Continuing to evolve. New things learned this weekend, new accomplishments achieved, new confidence built. Thanks so much for the guidance.
- Rob, Kurt and TBone at Roka Sports – You guys get top shout out today for all the support on site. Huge thanks, bummed I couldn’t use the suit, but hey, the skin worked great! Thanks so much for all the help guys!
- Patrick & Loren at Picky Bars. Dudes, you guys have been working your ass off on a ridiculous number of projects while I prepped for this race. It allowed me to do what I did. Big big thanks guys, I really appreciate it.
- Mallory, David, Aaron, and all the guys at Specialized – The big bike set me up for that run, and I couldn’t have done it without the Shiv. Thanks so much for the incredible support and seriously amazing equipment. You guys rock!
- Geoff, Don, Kody & all the guys at Pearl Izumi. Thanks as always for the HUGE support this year you guys. I appreciate the quick send for all the last minute stuff I always ask for just before the race! Thanks so much dudes.
- All the guys at Sony Medical and Carestream! Really appreciate the support this year.
- Jason and the Jaybird guys. Thanks for being so flexible and making everything work with a good prep at home for this race. Really appreciate the support!
- The guys at Rolf Prima. The wheels were smoking once again! Thanks for the continued support and getting everything dialed before race day!
- Steve at CycleOps – Whoa! Huge power PR on the bike this week, over 330 for over 2 hours, also something I didn’t think was possible this year. Thanks so much for the equipment necessary to train and progress my way there.
- Gerry Rodrigues at Tower 26 – Your framework guides my open water progress! Thanks so much Gerry!
- Stacy Sims – Nutrition seemed super dialed, thanks for the help!
- Dr. Mitchell Greene – Used a couple of our phrases many times during the race, thanks for all the help keeping me calm and confident.
- Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY the newsletter, twitter, facebook and in person people otherwise known as the CRAZY. ASS. FANS. Many of you started following this journey 2 years ago this weekend. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to meet you at these races, to hear you cheering, and for some of you, showing me your naked parts while I run by! Seriously, your energy is a HUGE part of the motivation to not only finish the race, but keep training and writing and doing what I do. I love it. Thanks guys.