Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Wildflower a Year Later – Expectation vs. Reality

When I crossed the finish line at Wildflower last year, I celebrated, did some quick interviews, shook hands with my competitors, and then walked over to my family. And in the midst of their congratulations, I pulled up my aviators, and said through a half hearted smile, “I think I broke my foot.”

In the weeks following, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of what to expect: have surgery, use crutches for 4 weeks, swim and bike in 6-8 weeks, and run at 14-16 weeks. It was a big blow, but not completely devastating. I’d miss Worlds, but could finish off the year with some late season racing.

But here I am, a year later, attempting to race for the first time since I crossed that finish line. WTF happened? Well, a lot of stuff.

When I got injured, I promised I’d tell the story of my “comeback,” the rehab, the ups and downs, etc. And to be honest, I didn’t do a very good job. As the setbacks mounted and the months went by, I lost motivation. I lost my own story line, at times struggling to see an ending that wasn’t the end of my career as well. It was hard to stay positive and spend time writing when I felt like I was getting continuously kicked in the balls.

Just to be clear, I don’t consider my injury completely gone – I’ve been running for about 2.5 weeks, with a longest run of 8.5 miles – there’s still a long way to go. But, since I’m attempting to race on Saturday, I do want to “finish” what I started so we (I, mostly) can move on from here.

So below is a table of dates from the last year, with what I expected to happen (Expectation) and what actually happened (Reality).

Expectation vs. Reality





Wildflower – Go for the win!

ThreePeat!…But my foot hurts a lot. Hmmm….


A few weeks off?

My foot is broken. Surgery time.


2 wks Post Op

Start the comeback train. 16 weeks to running, just in time for late season races.

Pretty much the same as expectation. Looking good!


5 wks

Off crutches. Walk, swim & bike in the boot.

Still on crutches, no swimming or biking. I Stay positive and do what rehab I can.


9 wks

Swim and bike like normal. Start some Alter G running!

Tendonitis, can’t even ride. Shoulder hurts so can’t swim. No clear path to running in foreseeable future. I’m angry, have a lot of fear and doubt. I realize I’m way behind and do my best to reset expectations.


12 wks

Originally, start to run. But after resetting my expectations, I think I’m about 2-3 weeks from running.

Cautious Optimism and some lessons learned. Still have some “post tib” issues, but can swim, bike and elliptigo. I’m way behind but things look up.


18 wks

Even with reset expectations, should be running.

Still not running. Tried 5×1 min a couple of times and still have pain. Rehab my ass off.


21 wks

In full training mode. Get ready to defend my Rev3 Florida title in 2 weeks.

Clearly, my season is over. I do my first run outside since surgery – 2 miles at The Underpants Run in Kona.


23 wks


Separate my shoulder in a MTB crash. Foot starts hurting again as well. WTF. I give up blogging about it.


27 wks

Clearly, I thought I’d be back 100%, even with setbacks.

I finally do 4×5 min run, 4 months after surgery. I try to stay positive and make a ludicrous calendar for charity.


8 mnths

Gear up for 2014 & train in Kona.

I’m FINALLY starting to run a fair amount. Still having some pain that keeps lingering doubt in the back of my mind.


10 mnths

Race Panama 70.3

After feeling a lot of pain, I get another scan on my foot. It is determined that the screw is trying to work it’s way out of the bone. I will need another surgery to remove it. I am bummed.



Surgery #2 to remove the screw

I contemplate if my career is over in a Triathlete Magazine article. I don’t believe that it is, but it’s a fear that pops into my head every day now.


4 weeks

Race Oceanside 70.3

Another low point – miss one of my favorite races. But, foot is finally pain free, and rehab is going well.


6 weeks

Run a little bit?

My first run outside since early February. 5×3 min run, 1 min walk. Progress!


9 weeks

Race Wildflower

With 2 weeks of running and an 8 miler under my belt, I decide to go for it!

So, yeah. The last year has basically been a long list of failed expectations. But, this isn’t meant to be a sob story about how tough my year has been – considering I became dad and Picky Bars is killing it, in some ways it’s been the best year of my life. What I hope this shows is that, sometimes, even when you have incredible resources and support, and it’s your job, your #1 priority every day to get healthy, it takes a lot freaking longer than you think it will. I hope that helps all of you who go through something similar to feel a little bit better about your experience, no matter how tough it is.

So as I head into the race this weekend, even though I may be the defending champ, I carry no expectations for myself. With the last year in mind, I’m just excited to be at the start line again at a race I love for the first time as a dad. I’ll be happy with whatever happens as long as I walk away healthy. It will simply be the first step of (hopefully) many in the second act of my career.

IMG_0264 copy

The year hasn’t been all that bad. Looking forward to racing for this little guy.

Finally, a huge thanks to my wife, family, coach, each and every one of my sponsors, and of course, the Crazy Ass Fans for the incredible support over the last year, and hope to see you out there having fun on Saturday!


22 comments to Wildflower a Year Later – Expectation vs. Reality

  • George

    Jesse, I have been following your blog closely for the last year or so. It is inspiring and humbling to watch how you have handled the injury. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation.

    Obviously I hope you get the win this weekend (how cool would that be?), but mostly I hope you enjoy the race and set yourself up for a great year. You are a credit to the sport of triathlon and we all need the happy, laid back Jesse Thomas around for a long time to counteract the far-too-serious triathlete types.

  • Don

    Ditto what George wrote. All the best to you.

  • Alison

    I’ve come to realize that the athletes I admire most are the ones who go through these ups and downs and keep going after it. Though it would be nice for you if you won everything all the time, constantly improved, and never got injured…it would be boring for us. It’s so much more rewarding for all of us when you eventually kick ass again *after* you’ve been through these tough times. So though I would rather wish away the tough times for you, all of your struggles make the winning sweeter and make your fans love you more…if that’s any consolation. That said, you’ve earned a stretch of smooth sailing, so I hope it’s already under way.

  • dan c

    Good Luck, Jesse. WSC will be following you.

  • JT

    I tore my pec five months after you broke your foot; surgery, rehab, self-doubt. I have quit mulit-sport about a dozen times in the last few months, only to be inspired by your witty and humorous blogs about your rehab. I’m finally starting to see the results I want and I know the same will happen for you. I couldn’t wash my pit for a month, try dealing with that. You’ll do great, and if you don;t achieve the results you want, that little dude on your back will think you’re superman, regardless. Good luck!

  • Eric E

    Best of luck! Enjoy the experience and we will all be following you!

  • Ben-jammin

    I don’t know what sigil flies above House Thomasman (or is it House Fleshmas?), but geographically speaking, you and L.F. are Lions of the West, a gentler but still totally badass derivation of House Lannister. This means your strength lies in your cunning, and your ability to draw upon the strength and loyalty of your bannermen (crazy ass fans, among other peeps). No matter what happens this weekend, I know that you’ll let everybody hear you roar! And sure, Saturday isn’t going to be 100%, but a Lannister always pays their debts, and we all know you’ve got a lot of juice left. Good luck Jesse!

  • cynthia

    you rock! I LOVE that picture. little dude is SO, SO CUTE!!!

  • Jesica

    Looking forward to watching you this weekend, and cheering loudly whether you break the tape or not. Your humor and honesty have given us all great perspective on why we do this. You’re going to kick some serious ass no matter what.

  • Kim

    Good luck this weekend! I hope your efforts are smooth sailing from here on out and the injury from hell is behind you now! I think you have a lot of races and accomplishments ahead of you yet, and I think this past years setback will make you stronger than ever.

  • Jesse, as always, thank you for being so open and honest. You give me hope and perspective as I come back from an injury and train for my first Ironman.

  • Dan

    Best of luck this weekend and the rest of the year Jesse. I am slowly coming back from Achilles stuff, and I could probably make a similar expectation vs result table to the one you did. Some opportunities may be missed but others present themselves and training is never lost. Remember that you’ve come back before from breaking your spine! Just like Batman!


  • Your Mom

    So proud of you Jesse!!! Can’t wait to get one of those big sweaty hugs at the finish line tomorrow!!
    Your Mom

  • Jomo

    Hey Jesse, it makes me glad that you are recovered enough to run this weekend. Even if it has taken way longer than you wanted, even if you aren’t 100% back. Go kill it, whatever that may mean for you this particular weekend. As you mentioned in another post somewhere, there is a certain poetry in this being your comeback race; Wildflower, where it all kind of started for you. And where it all, hopefully, begins again.


  • Good luck at WF Jesse, I love your story having had knee surgery a few years ago and doing 2 Ironmans in that same year probably not a good idea I am still dealing with some knee issues. Hang in there and good luck!

  • Will be rooting for you at WF! Enjoy the race buzz and if you can swing it, kick ass and take names! 🙂

  • Aleks

    What an amazing comeback! Congratulations on your four-peat today!

  • And you win! AND this is exactly what I needed to read right now as a hip injury is taking way longer to heal than expected. Congrats on a great race.

  • Mike

    Congrats Jesse Bieber 2.0 on the big win and 4-peat!! Looking forward to reading all about the win in your next entry.

  • sandra sharma

    Jesse you are a champion!!!! When I read that you were victorious and had prevailed ,I screamed aloud in excitement “He won. He did it!.” to an empty house. Team Sharmellini shares the delight/ amazement of your tenacity and competitiveness.
    Seeing the smiling photo of you, in second place at the start of the run, reminded me of a Sri Lankan cricketer who was named” The Smiling Assassin”. You own Wildflower Jesse. All that skill, hard work ,frustration , will power and sheer determination fueled you for the win. Heartiest congratulations to you and the family.

  • Josh

    Wow… What a come back! Congrats Jesse. I need some of your crazy fans to help me flood ESPN with emails to get your story covered for Best Comeback ESPY. Let’s make it happen!

  • Jesse…. I will continue to re read your timelines and how long it took and how you felt . I sustained two sudden onset stress fractures in my pelvis/hip joint on Mother’s Day during a downhill 10 km race. I just found out that I have two ( we thought it was one ). I am so frustrated and scared. I had intended to cut back distance ( had dropped out of Syracuse the week prior as I was coming off some foot skin loss and had to stop running for a month) .
    I need to find the silver lining but right now it is hard. I endured a brutal Canadian winter dying to get out and ride and run in the warm sun. I know this will take a lot of patience and it’s great to know that one comes back string after set backs. I know it is all part of being an athlete. Just tough when you are in it . But out of it comes some hard fought lessons .
    Congrats to u!

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