Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Eagleman 81.3 Champion!

Now before all you crazy ass fans start dancing in the streets, raiding drug stores for aviators and throwing Picky Bars from the rooftops, please reread the title. You should notice something fishy.

Sometimes in racing, $h!t happens. Sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. Maybe you did something wrong, or something out of your control happened to you. It doesn’t really matter. What happens, happens, and you have to deal with it and get the most you can out of the experience.

Hammering to Make Up Time

On Sunday, I had a crappy swim, bad transition and had my work cut out for me on the bike. It took a while to get my legs going, but I eventually started making up ground on the 2nd pack of pros. On the twisty Eagleman bike course, I caught quick glimpses of them 90 seconds up, then 70, then 50. Then, around mile 20, I came cruising up on the penalty tent, and saw a racer and a few volunteers in it. As I went by, I looked to see who it was, but didn’t recognize him, so just kept hammering, thinking I must be getting close to the pack.

I rode hard for the next 15 minutes as the road I followed became windier and more remote. About 7 minutes in, I started doubting I was on course, but I’d heard there were country roads with no center line, and didn’t know the course well enough to know for sure I was going the wrong way. But after about 12 minutes, I saw the first and only “dead end” sign, about 200 meters before the road literally went straight into the water. Oops.

It’s pretty easy to tell where the “Special Jesse Section” is.

Wah Wah

I turned around, angry, frustrated, and very tired. I’d rode the last hour HARD trying to catch the group, and I didn’t even know where or how far I had gone off course. I tried to keep up the pace for a few minutes, hoping the mistake wasn’t far back, but as the time edged up and it became apparent I was out of it, I deflated.

After 5.5 miles (11 miles round trip), I came back to the corner, which was just past the penalty tent. Sure enough, there was a flagger waving people through. I can’t imagine how I missed this, but somehow I must have. Regardless, it’s on me to know where the hell I’m supposed to go, a mistake I won’t let myself make again.

Pressing the Reset Button

The toughest thing about when races go to crap is the internal tug of war you face as your mind tries to deal with your new reality. For that first 45 minutes, I wavered between riding hard and angry, and sitting up and spinning, realizing there was no point in pushing it. I came to Eagleman to get points, and now I wouldn’t. I wanted to test myself against a solid field on a flat, hot course, and now I wouldn’t. I was angry. And that’s ok.

Eventually though, it’s best to reset your expectations, let go of anger, and find a way to get something positive out of the experience. You can’t change what’s happened, so why dwell on it? And when I finally took a step out of my mind and thought about the big picture, here’s what I came up with:

  1. I’m racing in 2 weeks. If there is no reason to crush myself, I’m best to just keep it endurance based the rest of the way in.
  2. I don’t know how many guys will drop out, or how many points I can get for 20ish place, so maybe I can get something out of it.
  3. It’ll be a good workout, and “practice” opportunity.
  4. As long as I don’t feel any pain, I’ll keep going.

So that’s what I did. And after resetting the plan, I let myself enjoy the rest of race. I’ll admit, I got a little bored on the bike the last 30-40 minutes – it was beautiful, but it’s so flat, and I’d already ridden the last 20 miles of the course and at that point so I just wanted to be done riding. I kind of wished I’d had my GoPro with me or something so I could at least take some epic pics with the selfie stick :). Anyway, once I started running, I enjoyed being able to just relax – it was a very pleasant and well supported long run – my longest run in over a year, actually. It was a blast to hear cheers from a lot of you out there and actually be cognizant/rested enough to cheer back. Thanks for that.

Cruisin' it in, about 30ish minutes late. Thanks Steve Venett for cheering &  the photo!

Cruisin’ it in, about 30 minutes late. Thanks Steve Venett for cheering & the photo!


Fingers Crossed

For those following my season, you know this is a pretty big setback. Unfortunately, I think I only got about 10 points for 70.3 Worlds, and I’ll likely need about 1200-1500 to qualify. This means I’ll have to race three more times before Worlds, maybe four, which decreases my chances of actually being fit and fresh at Worlds.

But, I can’t change what happened. Like I said, sometimes $h!t happens and you just have to deal with it. As my season has also shown, good stuff can magically happen too. So I’ll just go one step at a time and continue to do the best I can. Regardless, I will forever be the 2014 Eagleman 81.3 Champion.


Thanks as always to the crazy ass fans who didn’t give a crap that I was 30 minutes behind and cheered me on in person and on twitter, facebook and instagram. Thanks to my wife, family, friends, and coach for guiding me through. And big thanks to my sponsors, who make all of these shenanigans possible – Pearl Izumi, Specialized, ROKA, Red Bull, Picky Bars, Jaybird, Rolf Prima, PowerTap, Strava, and Accenture.

Next step is Mt. Tremblent 70.3 on June 22. Talk to you then!

14 comments to Eagleman 81.3 Champion!

  • Josh


    Great outlook on it all. When following online I thought you had a mechanical, or worse yet, an accident. Good to see your upbeat perspective! It will all work out. Good luck in two weeks.


  • Jesse, your attitude and assessment of yesterday will help me write up my disappointing EM race to my coach this morning. Luckily this was not my A race for the year and I still have IM Lake Placid to bring it all together. I just know I don’t want to have a quad-locked run like I did yesterday; I came off the bike fully nourished and over electolyted….bam, quads tight and locked before leaving T2. I saw you on the run and knew something was up with your race. I’m glad for you that it was you went off course and not that you were hurting. Keep strong, Jesse, and this will all work out for you in the future. You are a Champion in many ways; believe it! mjkeene@atlanticbb.net

  • Allen

    Nice to see the great attitude. Hang in there and keep moving!

  • Schmitty

    D’Oh! happens. I feel your pain but I also love that you finished. Seriously, for all of us AGers that struggle and have our own race highs and lows it is seriously cool to see a pro stick it out and finish strong when you could have easily bailed. I know it sounds weird but sometimes that’s far more inspirational than winning. Granted, inspiration doesn’t pay the bills but it holds a ton of value for us at the back of the pack and watching from the sidelines….and you can tell your sponsors that Schmitty says so;)

  • Josh Parks

    Jesse – thanks for the positive comments during your run. I had the pleasure of seeing you twice and both times you acknowledged me. In fact, you were the only pro, male or female, who acknowledged the encouragement. Of course, when you’re running for the win I understand you might be uber focused. But how hard is it to give a thumbs up or nod? Especially if you’re closing in on 10th place or something? It’s the community of triathlon (and all endurance sports for that matter) that’s valuable and makes this craziness fun. Finally, and I would imagine that it’s easy to forget this, without us supporting your sponsors, pros are out of a job…so we contribute indirectly to your ability to lead the lifestyles that you do…

    I was sad to see that you didn’t have a competitive race. But I will always remember your fight and really positive attitude throughout my racing career. Thanks again, sorry you’re going to have to race again, but I do believe that something can happen this year for you – after all you ran really well (with your foot) and weren’t necessarily pushing it. That’s got to be a good sign!

  • Alicia

    Well, that just sucks. Kudos on your attitude. Believe it or not, it’s inspirational for age-groupers to hear when a pro has a bad day at a race, but doesn’t quit–finishes the race, no excuses. A friend who qualified for Kona last year at Mont Tremblant but didn’t take the slot because she couldn’t afford to go, DNFed at Eagleman because she shredded her 650 tire, and tech support had no 650 wheels or tires. She had a good attitude after, too, but I’m going to share this link with her.

  • Casey

    You should come up to Washington and do the Lake Stevens 70.3 in August. It’s an awesome and challenging bike course.

  • Darren


    I nearly said Hi before the race in transition but didn’t want to disturb your race – ironic hey!!

    I had a crappy Eagleman too – solid swim and transition and was hammering on the bike till mile 22 then got a flat….. changed out the disc wheel rear tubular (which is a pain in the butt equaled only by trying to pull a lump of glued rubber from a piece of carbon), and then when I went to put the wheel back on I noted my rear derailleur was mashed too and I was going nowhere! Race over!

    My daughter asked me why I didn’t run my bike to the end of the course as we’d seen someone do in Galveston, suggested the 34 mile run followed by the 13.1 was completely possible and I wasn’t as tough / fit / hardcore (read cool in her eyes) as I make out!

    I’m glad you finished – heat job man.

  • Haha! I made the same mistake! Cross over that cool bridge and it gets narrower and narrower and really windy. Luckily for me I was in a car just cheering you guys on. That sucks!

    I saw you on the run and couldn’t quite figure out what had happened. It all makes sense now. Congrats on the 81.3 Championship!

  • Holly Balogh

    …congrats on starting Ironman’s newest race distance. You should get “extra” sponsorship dollars from that one!

  • Laura Kline

    Way to turn it into a positive!

  • Jamie

    Bad luck my friend. I am very impressed that you hung in there and finished what you started knowing full well that the race was “lost” many other athletes would have packed it in and called it a day. Your love of the game is inspiring. Your positive attitude will bring you far in sport and life. I love your articles in Triathlete Magazine and I HOPE I can meet you at my second 70.3 distance race at Mt Tremblant in 10 days. Stay healthy…


  • Thanks for reflecting and sharing about what you felt AND how you responded. That whole ‘thrill of victory and agony of defeat’ thing.
    Yet you didn’t waver and call it a day simply because you couldn’t win. That deserves a BOOYAH.

    You kept hammering away and inspiring fans who came to see your dedication more than celebrate your exact time. Plus, your non-pro fans face all kinds of real-life setbacks in whatever vocation they’ve gone ‘pro.’ Like husbands, dads, bosses, etc.

    Over here I will be attempting first triathlon on the day you’ll race the Mt. Tremblent 70.3 (not to be confused with the often imitated but never duplicated 81.3). Mine will just be a sprint and hope I stick to the course as well.


  • Jennifer

    I heard about this on Zen Tri podcast and looked you up. I love this post and the positive attitude you held after great disappointment. Congrats on your 2014 Mont Tremblant win! I’ll cheering you on this year!

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