Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

2015 70.3 Worlds Race Report

Oh boy.

By now, most of you know what happened on Sunday. I want to sincerely thank everyone for the awesome notes, comments, pictures, smoke signals, etc. It’s been amazing to see and hear your support and makes the entire experience worth it, regardless of outcome on paper.

It’s been about 72 hours, so I’ve had some time to digest and evaluate the race, here’s how it went down from my perspective.

Swim: Solid. Good Enough.

I swam super hard, what a surprise. It wasn’t rock star, but it was solid, and good enough to do the job. I came out of the water with Sebastian Kienle, Tyler Butterfield, and Cody Beals, a great group of cyclists to emerge with, and less than two minutes behind the leaders.

Bike: Penalty and Crying

I was first on the bike but was passed by Tyler as I put on my shoes. I rode behind him for a mile or so until Sebastian came by and passed us both. I passed Tyler and moved behind Sebastian.

I rode behind Sebastian for the next few miles and as you might expect, we passed lots of guys pretty quickly. Near mile 5, Sebastian passed the lead of a small group and continued to pull away. When I passed the same lead guy and pulled over to the right, I heard a whistle. The ref pointed at me, said something I didn’t understand (German, I presume) and waved his hand to the right and then a small circle. I was shown a blue card – a penalty.

In the moment, I was shocked, and in denial. I looked over at him 3 or 4 times to make sure that he was actually talking to me. I honestly couldn’t believe it.

I rode for the next few minutes cycling through some crazy emotions – disbelief, rage, sadness, shock, you name it. All the while debating what to do. What could I do? Should I drop out? Should I continue riding? Should I cry? Ok, I’ll cry. I let up a bit and a couple of guys passed me.

But after a couple miles of contemplation, I still wasn’t sure what the penalty was, and I had real hope that it was a mistake, or at the minimum some small penalty that would require a stand down or just two minutes. None of which I would find out until the penalty tent.

Bike: Do What You Can Because That’s All You Can Do

So I decided that I should, ultimately, test myself as best I can – execute the plan I trained for and see what happens, even though it likely wouldn’t end as I’d hoped.

So I snapped back into it, picked it back up and eventually reeled back in Sebastian and Tyler. The pace was solid, but I felt good and mostly comfortable. As planned, I’d wait until the long climb at mile 14 to make a move.

At the base of the climb, I got after it. I passed Tyler and Sebastian in the first mile, riding about 400 watts for the first 7-8 minutes. As Tyler said after the race, “Jesus, for a big dude with three water bottles you were climbing like a madman!”

11942157_701406396660065_163196840809726983_o

Head down, hammering solo. Thanks Swim Bike Run by Katrien Decru.

I then settled into a more manageable pace, but kept the pressure on the pedals. It was during the next 4 miles of climbing that I realized I was in fact having the best ride of my career. I caught and passed guys like Tim Reed, Sam Appleton, Tim Don, Leon Griffin and Terenzo Bozzone. My effort was high, but the pace felt smooth and sustainable.

As I crested the top of the hill Sebastian came by me, maybe sensing that I wasn’t going to take the crazy descent at his speed. And as soon as the turns got nasty, I thought of Jude, hit the brakes, and he put about 20-30 seconds on me in the next 3-4 minutes.

I was pretty tired from the climb, so I let myself recover a bit on the long downhill and Sebastian continued to pull away. But after a few miles, I turned it back on, passing Joe Gambles and others one by one, keeping Sebastian mostly in my sights way down the road. And after about 20 long and hard miles solo, I caught and passed a group that include Michael Raelert and Javier Gomez. I was alone in 5th place, 7 places better than I’ve ever been at any point in a World Championship, and in amazing position to achieve my goal of top 10.

Penalty Tent: House of Heartbreak

But as I dreaded for miles, just a few hundred meters from T2, I pulled into the penalty tent. I still hoped that my penalty was a mistake or minor. The woman in the tent had no record of my penalty, but asked me what I saw. When I said “blue card,” she said “five minutes,” thus initiating a slow cracking process in my heart as I watched the timer count down and guys go by – 30 seconds, Javier’s group, 2 minutes, Tyler, 3 minutes, Leon and Tim, 4 minutes Joe & Terenzo, then a whole bunch of other guys. 16 in total. 21st place.

As I jumped back on the bike and rolled into T2, I knew that I’d dug deep, but there was part of me that thought, maybe if I have an amazing run…I could get back into it. And for the first couple of miles I tried to hold onto that thought despite clearly fatigued and cramping legs. I even passed a few guys, eventually moving into 16th. But when I hit the halfway turnaround and saw I was still 5 minutes behind 10th, I cracked physically and emotionally.

Run: You Guys and ‘Merica.

It was a long and painful run to the end. I’m glad my GPS didn’t work. It was super hot, I was wrecked from a big effort, massively disappointed, and had nothing material to gain by finishing – no points, no prize money, no glory. I wanted to quit. But luckily, I didn’t. And thinking back on it, there were two main reasons why:

  1. For better and for worse, I’ve got dozens of fans, most of them my mom and her friends but a couple of them them are aspirational triathletes young and old trying to get better in the sport, and one of them is my son, whether he likes it or not. And ultimately, if I quit for all those material reasons I mentioned, I would be letting them and myself down, and not setting the example I think should be set. So there you go, sometimes I hate this freaking blog because it makes me do stuff I really don’t want to do. But in hindsight as always, I’m supremely thankful for that.
  2. I had on these special American flag aviators that someone gave me after Worlds last year. I’d waited a whole year to wear these things. And damn it, for some crazy reason I was still the first American in the race. I thought to myself, “I can’t quit, I’ve got American flags on my freaking face!”

Scenes from #IM703WC | American Aviator by @jessemthomas #LegitGlasses #Statement #StylePoints #ZellKaprun

A photo posted by Nils Nilsen (@n2photoservices) on

So for 40 painful minutes, I mentally and physically cycled between thoughts of this blog, cramping, what ifs, my son, massive disappointment, wanting to quit, and American flags on my face. And eventually, finally, thank God, I stumbled across the finish line 18th in 4:05:27, first American, 5:12 behind 10th place.

Takeaways

When I first started writing this recap, I had lots of details about my penalty, interaction with the official and appeal process afterwards. I actually took notes so I would remember it all. But after a few days to chill, I decided that it’s just not worth it to go into all that stuff because it’s beyond the point. The important takeaways for me are:

  1. I 100% believe I didn’t commit a penalty. And after encouragement from my family and coach, I did file a formal “appeal.” But I quickly found out there is no real appeal for bike penalties – your time, place, etc, can not be changed regardless of circumstance. This sucks a lot because in a race like that one, it costs you big time. But I’m still glad I did it. After lots of back and forth conversations with the head official, the appeal official, and through them, the field official who made the call, I solidified my belief that a mistake was made.
  2. Every officiated sport has good calls and bad calls, and most of the time, your perspective dictates the goodness and badness of that call. Was it on your home team, the visiting team, a superstar, a benchwarmer, etc? I’ve been on both sides of it all. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.
  3. When it didn’t go my way, I didn’t quit. As my Dad always told me, “You can’t dwell on it.” I’m proud of myself for executing the plan I trained for, even though I knew it wouldn’t end in the result I wanted. That was really hard to do. Really hard. And because I did that, I was rewarded with finishing top American, and proved to myself, my competitors, and others that I am capable of being in that top 10 on the right day. There’s always another race.

Thanks Again:

Honestly, I can’t thank you guys enough. Damn. The comments and feedback I got after the race has been absolutely amazing. You made me laugh and, I hate to admit, cry. I really, really appreciate it.

Sponsors: As always, massive shout out to my sponsors who’ve been just as supportive, and all of whom are with me for all the reasons you guys mentioned in your comments. They are a great group of companies, and people. Please go out and buy all their stuff.

Thank you family. Thank you mom, dad, Janna, Darren, Courtney and Patty for the cheering and support in person on the weekend. You guys were awesome and made it so much better in the hours after the race.

Coach Matt, thanks for the guidance. I think we did it on Sunday, regardless of result. Was awesome to see and feel it come together. On to the next challenge.

Lauren and Jude, I miss you guys so much. Can’t wait to see you. Thanks for everything.

Ashley – massive thanks for the support this weekend! It was awesome to have you there, and rad to see Red Bull HQ and the coolest dude garage of all time. An awesome way to chill post race.

CRAZY ASS FANS. I love you. Seriously. Don’t ever stop. Ok. I’m going to go now.

63 comments to 2015 70.3 Worlds Race Report

  • Javier Romero

    Jesse,

    Congratulations on your performance, in all senses. As you said there are fans (like me) who are new to the sport and will stay because of you. The way you combine the sport, “work” and family is really inspiring. I relate to you when you say that you can finish a race with the thought of your family. I recently bonked and crawled the last few miles of a race with my wife and daughter in my thoughts. There is always another race. Good luck and God bless.

  • Dude… You are one of my favorite pros without a doubt. You have a way of writing and capturing the emotions of racing like no other. You are real and leave everything out there. That’s damn respectful. I have no doubt in my mind you were a top 10, hell id say top 5… Sometimes the refs also get caught up in the emotions of such a big event.

    Never the less. Well done, you’ll be back next year!

    • Jesse Thomas

      Thanks Ryan! Appreciate it, man! Sometimes tough to write about and relive it a bit, but always worth it for hindsight perspective and learning. Thanks for reading.

  • Guillaume

    CRAZY ASS TRIATHLETE: We love you back. Seriously. Don’t ever stop.

    Most pro triathlete are down to earth people. You’re certainly the funniest of the bunch though. Solid report, awesome that you stuck to race plan – not all days go according to plan, the result on paper might not be the one you wanted, but it was otherwise a very strong performance.

    PS: I need more Picky Bars. Seriously. I’m addicted to that stuff.

  • Benjamin Bostrom

    Duder, that is so legit!!! Your gayme is so on right now. Stoked for you!

  • FR0STY

    Hey mate, awesome to hear that race report.

    Sounds like your are making awesome progress, despite some muppet giving you a blue card – some haters going to hate.

    Best of luck in th coming year mate – you knoow now you belong at the pointy end of the world champs. If it’s any consolation, not only were you first American in the field, I suspect your are the first person who can do a discounted cash flow model for a start up in the field too.

  • Simon Long

    Jesse, thanks for the honest insight into your race. Been following you for a while now on Strava and love that you post all your training, instagram etc. It’s great to see just how much dedication you put in, but still remain down to earth. After being in Zell am See a few weeks prior to the IM 70.3 I was even more interested in following this race in particular. Really disappointed for you with the penalty but massive kudos for keeping it together to finish strong and surely great motivation for what you could achieve in the future!

  • Tiana

    Wow…Jesse, you are such an inspiration to so many people out there, triathlete or not. I admire your commitment to stay in the race and your general commitment to the sport. You inspire people to want to be a better version of themselves!

    Also, thanks for being approachable. I am one of your crazy fans that walked the beginning portions of the parade of nations with you on Friday. I was so happy to see you out there holding our flag. I hope that you recover quickly and have much success in your next adventure! I’ll be cheering for you from back in the U.S. and hoping you get some redemption.

  • Laurie Williams

    Hi Jesse,

    great write up. Good job out there. Big amateur runner here, but I know little about triathlons. I’m fascinated as to what you got the penalty for. I get that you don’t think you made an infraction (and it sounds to me like you didn’t) but can you explain what the penalty MIGHT have been for?

    • I’d also be very interested in hearing for what the alleged penalty was given (so we crazy ass fans don’t also run the risk of getting it)? As always, I’m impressed by your mental toughness; it is a great victory to continue to suffer through this race after that disappointment so early in the race. Cheers to you, Jesse!

      • Hey hey hey, take a gaendr at what’ you’ve done

      • Non riesco a dare una spiegazione alla situazione dell'Oro , in teoria se il ribasso continua dovrebbe cominciare ad essere venduto per dare copertura alle posizioni chiuse in perdita, probabilmente a questi livelli i grossi investitori stanno ancora chiudendo le posizioni  in profitto e spostano il ricavato delle vendite sull'oro crando una bolla speculativa che necessariamente deve scoppiare.Andrea cosa ne pensi?

  • Incredibly inspirational – first American ain’t shabby, especially with a 5 minute penalty. Love the sunglasses and sharing your crazy (and awesome) mid-triathlon thoughts with us!

  • chris

    Hey Jessie,
    Great write up and job!! You rocked those glasses, can you explain how you modified the BTA bottle a little

  • Liana

    Great race and great write-up. You’re so freaking awesome. We’re lucky to have you represent the U.S. as a top-notch competitive athlete, but more than anything, your honorable and all-around-epic character is straight up unmatched. Thank you for that, and congratulations on so many levels.

  • Timo

    Congratulations on your effort despite the frustrating penalty! I was actually there in Zell am See cheering for you (I hope you heard some “hang tough” shouts). I’ve seen you at 60k on the bike when you were really close behind Sebi. On the run, I was wondering what happend since it took forever that you came around. At first I thought you quit, but then figured that you got a penalty. Such a pity… Still, you can be proud of your effort (you really hung tough!). Keep up the cool blog entries and communication with your fans. I realy enjoy following your journey since it is not only triathlon, but also picky bars and your family. The combination of all three makes you a standout in the pro triathlon community. Good luck for the next challenge!

  • Paukene

    Very inspiring, Jesse! Thank you for being such a great role model. First American is awesome and you made us all proud! you make us, your crazy ass fans, proud every single time you toe the line!!!

  • Dawn

    It’s all been said but you are a class act, proud American, every thing that is right with this sport. What an example for your son and young aspiring athletes. Plus you write well and are funny as heck.
    But I do have one serious question which I hope you will see and answer because I really have to know as my curiosity is killing me. . You have written in other blogs that you are a “crier” are you being silly or do you really cry on the bike? Just wondering. .

  • Nicole

    Congratulations on your finish, even though it wasn’t what you had hoped for. You are one of my favorite athletes and one of the few I follow closely. I appreciate how honest you are with your emotions/feelings in your blogs. We often look at professional athletes as superheroes )and you totally are in my eyes), but it’s refreshing to hear that there are obstacles, challenges and frustrations for you guys too. And you are such an inspiration because you never give up and keep pushing, no matter what your set backs are. You also rock because you started one of the most awesome companies ever. I heart Picky Bars and am a proud member of the Picky Club 🙂 Keep on keepin’ on!

  • Josh Williams

    Pretty standard response when someone gets a penalty. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone being penalized in a race and saying: “you know what? I deserved that.”

  • Gabe DakowicZ

    Yo JT! You are the man! Keep your head up ! And you know what’s the best part about this sport? Payback feels soooooooo good! #nextyear.

  • Heath Packard

    Great recap, as always. Congrats on your performance. Despite your final standing, this race indicates you remain one of the best pros in the world. That said, thanks for setting an inspiring example by completing the race. It’s noteworthy that someone would care enough (1) to be gutted by anything and, despite that, (2) to finish strong anyway. Best of luck through recovery and the end of the year.

  • David R

    You suck…. How am I ever going to have an excuse to quit on a bad race after I read this? 🙂 you’re the most inspirational tri guy I’ve ever known. I had the pleasure of meeting you at CA 70.3 a couple years ago and you were the most humble, approachable and cool pro triathlete. Thank you for inspiring all of us and making us realize that there’s more than just placing well. Forever your real fan!

  • Ben-jammin

    Hey Jesse – I’m really proud of you man. Congrats on being the first American and having the strongest spirit and biggest set of balls out there. I don’t care if this sounds cheesy, but what you did out there represented the best of America. You could have quit, but you didn’t. You could be bitter, but you’re choosing to move past it. You could have left a bag of burning dog poop on that official’s doorstep, but you didn’t. I did. You’re welcome! Anyway, I’m truly sorry that what happened happened. I hope you have a strong and peaceful off season. I’ll be looking forward to your next post! You should take a vacay to New Orleans! Your bro you don’t know – Ben

    • Jesse Thomas

      Hahaha. Literally LOL at the dog poop thing. That’s awesome. Thanks a ton, Ben. We’ll try to make New Orleans happen at some point. Love it out there!

  • Craig

    Tough break JT – I was watching the leaderboard during the race and was stoked to see you climbing up the rankings, then mystified when you were in freefall- I thought you must have flatted. Anyways, great stuff soldiering on to the finish – and we’ll hopefully see you this time next year on the Sunshine Coast here in Oz! It’s a bit different to Bend, but not a bad spot!

  • Kris

    Jesse, I’m one of those crazy fans who takes inspiration from pros like you. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want them to – but you took a bad event, and did the best you could with it, turning in a race performance you can be proud of. All this says is think about how awesome next season will be!

  • sandra

    Hi Jesse,
    Great write up. Jesse ,you are an honorable ,honest guy and the last person I know who would not accept a true penalty. This huge disappointment tested you to your inmost fibre and you came through as the champion you always have been. I know your parents were unbelievable proud of your effort. I support you wholeheartedly in your appeal, so the officials realized their mistake. You won the battle as a warrior. Well done

  • MIke

    Awesome job and THANK YOU for not quitting. It makes a big difference to us amateurs when Pro’s stick to it on the bad days instead of dropping out. Enjoyed the race report.

  • Randy

    Great write up, and glad you’re on team USA. BTW – i quit a race once a few years ago, and have never forgotten it. Don’t. Ever. Quit. Best wishes for the remaining year!

  • Hector. G.

    Absolutely brilliant post-race report. I’ve followed your work for some time now by way of your monthly in Triathlete and events overall – Thanks for sharing an insightful journey through your process.

  • Chris

    Penalty or not, top 10 (or 5) or not, you’re an inspiration. Thanks for the report, and even more thanks for sharing your life. I’m a fellow young father working hard to support my family while also trying to get the most out of myself in triathlon. You’re giving guys like me a great example to follow.

  • Jordan Sandberg

    Jesse- many times in life you draw the biggest crowd, inspire the most people, and more importantly you find out who you are when faced with unfair circumstances but push forward with the same effort and gusto as you would had you not been penalized and leading the pack.
    I know my most proud moments won’t be the times I won the biggest paycheck rather the times I faced an unfair situation and made the best of it. You represent the sport well, you add value all over the place with your writing and insights and you keep doing what you are doing and you will have your day in the sun, too much talent and heart to keep off the podium for Worlds. You are the man. Booyah.
    Jordan

  • Dean

    I saw you Monday morning at Zell train station not looking so happy. Thought about saying hello but you looked like you just wanted to leave town quietly. I didn’t have a great race either so not a lot of joy. My fallback as an age grouper was what a wonderful experience to race in that setting with that caliber of athletes. For you, even an unfortunate race is better than a desk job. I think you do a good job of keeping things in perspective. Keep up the good work and keeping us laughing

    • Jesse Thomas

      Thanks man! No worries about ever stopping me to say hi. I think I was as tired as I was unhappy. Didn’t sleep much that night! Hope you’re recovered more than I am.

  • Jeffrey Kozimor

    Some takeaways one might see from this are: Character. Courage. Perseverance. Mental toughness. Confidence to hang with the best in the world. And the list goes on.

    We’re all so proud of you – good job!

  • Phil Stewart

    Jesse, you are one of my favorite pros. I follow one person on twitter and you are the “man”. Thanks for giving it your all, even when you didn’t have to, total respect! Keep up the hard work for next year. And I can’t agree with your reasons why triathlons suck article anymore, when you said you have to get up early and then swim. No words were ever more true!

  • Kim

    Jesse,
    You are truly an inspiration! Your tremendous character shines through your blogs, and this one in particular. When Jude is old enough to read this, he has a lot to be proud of his father for.
    I am sorry you didn’t get the place you wanted and deserved, but congratulations on your winning a mental triathalon of a different kind.

  • Keep that chin up. Anyone who can dominate Wildflower the way you have should never get down on himself. Glad your getting past the tough breaks/bad officiating. Your race reports are always inspiring to get outside and suffer.

  • You killed it despite unfortunate and unfair circumstances. It’s hard to keep going after something like that happens, but you did, and did awesome. It’s inspirational for us age groupers; I got my first penalty at AG Nats and it destroyed my soul (phantoms still have souls), so reading this really helped put my head in the right place. Keep on keepin’ on for all of us! -Phantom X from NYC Tri

  • James G. Johnson

    Fantastic recap of your thoughts, efforts, disappointment, resilience and gratitude. Keep at it, Jesse. You are the best that America has!

  • Kristen Salk

    You’ve been an idol and role model of mine for a long time, but this race really solidified that for me. You’re Jesse Freaking Aviator!! And you don’t give up even when every sign in the universe tells you you should! Onto the next goal… whatever the next one is, you’re going to crush it.

  • Steve B

    Did you at least pee in the penalty box?

  • Dan

    When I heard about the penalty I was gutted and confused for you VERY early in the morning. As you no doubt saw, there were a lot of guys blown to smithereens in that race, that’s how it is in big ass races. Anyway, it’s been awesome and inspiring to watch you progress. I hope you continue to push and climb your way up. You are definitely capable of getting up there in the mix! Best of luck with your first ironman. Can we get a live program of you announcing what ironman you are going to do? “I’m going to take my talents to…”. Also, this is one fan that would love to hear you on TRS radio.

  • What a great race you had, penalty and all. You’re still the rockstar triathlete we know, now more than ever.

  • Eugene of Oregon

    I’m really glad you pushed on following the penalty. You wouldn’t have gathered even half the writing material for this blog. Love your self-deprecating sense of humor. Your column is the first thing I turn to in Triathlete Magazine.

    Good luck this weekend in Wales, and stay warm in the water! I had a big fat DNF on my first tri (stole that) at the 140.6, IM Canada in July. Shivering uncontrollably at mile 1.7 of the swim, boated to shore, unceremoniously stripped of my timing chip, and led to the medical tent to get warm. Short, ugly day. I’ll be closer to home this Saturday at the Best In The West 70.3 near Sweet Home. Water 72 F, and a new, better-fitting wetsuit, Rolf Prima wheelset. No aviators, though. That’s your thing.

  • danny

    hey jesse, i just read your full IM announcement. Sounds awesome…but the first thing I thought of was the marathon your wife did in nyc after her very successful world championship season that finished in korea (2010? 2011?). I don’t know how much of an athletic career in triathlon you want to keep maintaining, but I would hate to see you suffer through 2-3 seasons with crappy injuries because of a random desire to do a full at the end of a long season. Have fun, go all-out, and be smart!!

  • Clare Lintereur

    Hey Jesse, I was standing with you behind the American flag for the Parade of Nations at the Worlds. I loved reading your account of the race. Super bummer about the bad call, but as you seem to already know, just remain blameless and you may always, proudly, hold your head high. I’m kind of a ‘nobody’ in the world of triathlon (49 y.o.suburban dentist with six kids, can only train at 4am with my absurd schedule – perfect, right??) but your thoughts really resonated with me. I’m glad you’re representing America. I never follow professional athletes but I will be tracking your progress with interest. Glad to see you’re handling this well. Go CRUSH IT in your next race!!!

  • Mike

    Great race report and pics…damn those American Aviators are super cool (wonder if they make those with a maple leaf). Enjoyed reading all the comments too…you do have a great following of crazy ass fans. Congrats on the victory in your maiden IM.

  • alistair

    i met Jesse outside the appeals tent

    several words spring to mind

    A true gent
    a veritable pro
    a credit to the sport !!

  • Karen Able

    I love your blog, love your race reports, love your spirit and your sense of humor, but most of all I love that you’re such an unapologetic crybaby!!!! Keep it up 🙂

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>