Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Surprise! I’m racing an Ironman. In 5 days.

First things first, MASSIVE thanks for all your crazy ass comments on my last blog about 70.3 World Championships. You guys were kind, funny, nerdy, and incredibly motivating. It meant a LOT to me to read through them all. You made the past week 1000x better. Thank you so much. And as I said, on to the next challenge….

Speaking of next challenge…I’m taking a lesson from all you crazy ass fans and doing something equally as 100% crazy ass. I’m going to do an Ironman! In 5 days! And it’s a super hard one! Booyah! I’m scared! Awkward smile.

Before I get into the why – here are the details so you can follow along if you like:

What: Ironman Wales – my first Ironman! And, turns out, a really hard one.

Where: Tenby, Wales, UK

When: Sunday, September 13, 7am local time (Saturday 11pm PST, finish – hopefully – 8-8:30am Sunday PST)

How to follow / watch:

Why I’m doing an Ironman: You Don’t Know Until You Tri ← that’s terrible.

  1. Matt and I made a 3 year commitment to the 70.3 World Championships, which extended 4 years after my injury in 2013. That phase ended last weekend, and while I don’t know exactly what my plans are for next year and beyond, I’m intrigued by a new/different challenge, and definitely want to TRI an Ironman, see what I think, and how I respond to the distance.
  2. I’d eventually like to go to Kona. Maybe next year, maybe the year after, but sometime, I’d like to do it if possible. It’s a challenge/check box I’d like to tick before my career ends. In order to do that, I need to do an Ironman, probably many of them.
  3. My season is going to end anyway, and I don’t think I have it in me to do a massive training block for another race. I will go into this one clearly underprepared, but hopefully still able to gather lots of information and insight to help my training and prep for another one down the road.
  4. This is all assuming, of course, that I don’t suck terribly, that I somewhat like it, or at least enjoy the challenge, and want to do another one afterwards, which may or may not happen!
  5. You don’t know until you tri!

Why am I doing Ironman Wales? Logistics, Family, And this way I don’t have to actually train for an Ironman. Booyah!

Well, when Matt and I looked at the schedule, I had a few options:

  1. Come home after Worlds, rest, and train for a late season Ironman (Arizona, etc).
    1. I’ve been racing since late March, and the last few months I was very focused on preparation for World Champs. As you guys know, I balance this “triathlife” with a wife, son, and a business. I asked my family and Picky Bars staff for a LOT of support, time, and energy to cover my needs. I simply couldn’t ask them, or myself, for the leeway to train hard for another 2-3 months this year. I need to swing that balance back to the other side.
  2. Come home and race right away (IM Chattanooga or other).
    1. The travel, stress and detraining involved with flying back to the states, readjusting to time change, trying to train for another 2 weeks, and then traveling again to the race just didn’t make sense.
  3. Race IM Wales two weeks after Worlds.

With Wales, I could take a short flight here straight here from Austria. I’ve been resting up, chilling out, and taking a bit of a mental vacation post worlds. Plus, Lauren, Jude and Lauren’s mom Joyce will come out and watch and we can vacation for a few days afterward. My season is done two weeks earlier. Finally, this way, I don’t have to actually TRAIN for an Ironman. That’s a win, my friends.

A view of the beach where I'll swim in Tenby.

A view of the beach where I’ll swim in Tenby.

The Course is Gonzo and other adjectives!

Also, the more I looked into this course, the more intrigued I got. I’ve typically bagged on “flat and fast” courses, mostly because to me that’s code for “boring.” I’ve always said, why would I want to go race an Ironman and sit in the aero position for 4+ hours on a flat road? I would NEVER do that for fun or training. I like the hills, the crazy roads, the challenge, etc.

Some scenes from the bike course.

Some scenes from the bike course.

And let me tell you, from what I’ve seen the last few days, IM Wales is DEFINITELY is going to be a challenge. In fact, I honestly may have bitten off more than I can chew. The fastest pros each year finish around 9:05-9:10, an hour slower than most professional IM courses!

The swim is a two lap ocean swim with some big ass pink jelly fish that scare the living crap out of you if you are me. It’s very very cold, but beautiful when it isn’t super windy – which it may be.

I’ve seriously seen like a dozen of these things and I crap my wetsuit every single time.

The ride is absolutely nuts. It never climbs more than a few hundred feet at a time, but it climbs almost 7000 feet total! So what that means is that you’re literally just going up and down the whole ride. I love the course, you can never see farther than 20 seconds down the road, and it winds through some amazing country and tiny Welsh villages. I’m a little worried about some of the technical downhills, especially if it’s rainy (as the weather is calling for), but overall, it’s the type of ride I would go do on my own for a fun and challenging day – and that’s what it will be, and that’s what it’s all about anyway.



The run is the same. I would call it “bonkers.” It’s four 6+ mile laps that basically go up for 3 miles, down for 3 miles – over 2000 ft of climbing total. I like that it’s looped so I will be able to see Lauren and Jude lots, which will be key inspiration/energy/motivation when I feel absolutely terrible doing the longest run of my life after the second longest ride of my life.


So all in all, it’s going to be a very tough course, which is awesome because it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d like to do on my own outside of a race…but also kind of a bummer because I’m already under trained for an Ironman, and having it be so hard/long will further test my limits.

The Field is Good

From the bit I’ve heard, there are some really solid guys, lots of experience, and a few previous IM champions, 25 guys in total I think. But to be honest, I haven’t looked too deeply at it, because this race, for me, is about getting myself to the finish line, regardless of what other guy are doing.

My Hopes, Dreams, and Fears: To Finish!

My hope and dream is to finish this race in one piece. If I accomplish that, it will be a great step forward for me, and an awesome end cap to the season. I’ve only ridden 112 miles once in my life – 12 years ago – and only run over 20 miles three times – 15 years ago! Hahaha. Just writing that makes me feel like a lunatic for trying this race! I’m definitely underprepared and a little scared that my body won’t be able to handle it, but coach Matt believes I can do it, and I won’t know until I get out there on Sunday.

And as scared as I am (and I am legitimately scared), I’m also looking forward to it. After having trained so hard and so specifically for Worlds for so long, and the disappointment of the result, it feels kind of perfect to do something with absolutely no pressure and little to no preparation. As crazy as it sounds, I’ll do this one for fun. On Sunday I’ll go “play” triathlon for 9+ hours, say goodbye to the season one long discipline at a time, hopefully cross the finish line, be with my family, and finally be able to call myself an Ironman.


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