Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

2016 Ironman Kona World Champs Race Story (Epic)

Oh. My. God. That. Was. Hard.

In my preview & Triathlete Magazine article I said that when I first watched Ironman Kona from the sideline, my gut reaction was, “This looks miserable! Why on earth would anyone do this?” Well, turns out most of the time, your first instinct is right. But…of course, in the end I’m still glad I did it.

The “Executive Summary”

Below, I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules for race “stories” and make it longer than it should be, mostly for myself, but also for those who are crazy ass enough to want every detail, movie quote, and engineering analogy. For those of you who want the quick hits, here you go!


Main Takeaways:

That was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I remember Lauren saying after labor that it was clearly a level of pain and mental strain beyond anything she’d ever experienced in a race, workout, or training block. I am NOT saying this was hard like labor, but that’s basically the way I felt about Kona – physically, mentally, psychologically – so much harder than anything I’ve ever done.

Am I happy with it? Hell yes I am. I had no idea what to expect going into this race. Based on my training, I thought I could go about 8:30. And I said top 15-20 would likely be a good performance depending on how well I raced. Well, even though I made it harder on myself by abandoning my race plan early and suffering the consequences later (see below), I pushed every ounce of effort I had out of my body for the next FIVE FREAKING HOURS when all I wanted to do was stop. And not only did I finish, I still passed a bunch of people, climbed as high as 12th with 8 miles to go and kept running as hard as I could through cramps and fatigue every agonizing step home.

Is it a “dream” performance? No, but it was THE MOST I could have gotten out of myself, probably the most I’ve ever gotten out of myself, and I am supremely proud of that. I also think as a rookie, it was super solid – but that doesn’t mean I’ve committed to coming back again…gonna take at least a few weeks before making that decision!

A hard earned finish line. Supremely proud...and tired!

A hard earned finish line. Supremely proud…and tired! Pic Saltstick.


Swim – Hold on to Your Sea Horses

No way to hide it – the race went out really fast, and the deepwater start didn’t give me my usual short beach run + dolphin dives to gain a body length or two early. Matt and I talked about it being “worth it” to swim as hard as I could to stay with the group, which I did for about 500-600 meters. Not sure if I slowed or they put in surge, but around that point I got popped and there was nothing I could do about it. Having no idea where I was I began my usual “I’m screwed, this is going to be the worst race ever” swim crying. But within a minute or two, I saw Sebastian come by me and knew I was likely swimming on par with my normal group.

The rest of the swim wasn’t too bad to be honest. There were parts of it that were a little surge-y and physical, but there were also parts that felt too easy. Mostly though, it just felt looooong (you’ll see this is a theme of the day). The other Ironmans I’ve done with two laps broke up the swim nicely, but man, this was a mental game. I tried counting strokes, counting the buoys, singing 80s hits, whatever. It just felt like forever. Eventually though, we closed in on the beach and I geared up for what I knew would be a massive bike and run.

Bike First Half – I’d Say It Was “Strong” to…“Quite Strong”

I came out of the swim in a big group, and rode agressively the first 5-10 miles to establish a position at or near the front, mostly with Jordan, Sebastian, and David Plese. The pace was stiff but felt manageable, so I eventually just relaxed and settled in. But it wasn’t too long before two other super strong riders, Boris Stein and Michi Weiss, joined the front of our group, and the pace quickened noticeably. It was at this point, about 30 minutes in, that I had my first decision to make – stay conservative and “ride my own pace” or use the horsepower surrounding me as a carrot/motivator/push to help bridge up to the main group. In the (literal) heat of the moment, the competitive/racer brain won out and I decided to stick with it.

Matt and I talked about having 60 minutes of “hard riding” (above or significantly above Ironman pace) that would be OK and not too damaging if it made strategic sense, so even though it was early, I decided this was the time to go for it. While the pace was certainly hard, I kept a check on my power meter and it didn’t seem crazy, (at or even a little below most of my Lanzarote efforts). But looking back on it, I think I underestimated the impact of the heat, and was working a lot harder than I realized.

Over the next 40 minutes I doubled down on my “go with them” bet another four to five times with bigger and bigger efforts to stick with that group. Some of those surges into a super stiff head and cross wind felt ridiculously hard, particularly as I bridged around other guys who got dropped. But by just 40 miles into the race, the effort showed as the six of us caught the lead group!


Taking a big bet – head down chasing into the wind on the way out. Caught the front group…then paid for it! Photo TriMax Magazine.

With some adrenaline and still reeling from the effort, I climbed into the group and situated myself near the front around some of the guys I knew – Ben, TO, Luke, and Terenzo. Compared to the effort to get there, and with the excitement of being in the FREAKING LEAD GROUP IN KONA, the pace felt fairly easy. But I knew I’d put in some serious efforts already, so I just tried to relax.

Bike Second Half – “I saw everyone…and you looked the worst.”

I had my first sign of “uh ohs” when my left quad started cramping as we neared the long gradual climb to Hawi (only mile 50 or so). And as the grade increased, so did the pace. Not like a hammer dropping, but like a wrench slowly tightening every few minutes. I started to realize that maybe I’d used more matches than I thought on the way there. Half way up the climb, I just couldn’t hang, I came off, shelled, popped, dropped, whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t super fast or hard, looking at my power meter it was actually fairly manageable, but my legs just couldn’t go. Uh oh!!

Nobody over-shifted my gears or through a pump in my spoke, but I faded just the same.

A couple of minutes later a small group – Terenzo, Tim Don, and Marko Albert passed me, and I couldn’t stay with them either! Oh boy. I was full on hurting. My legs were toast! The severity of my situation started to sink in. Like every single person had told me before, “the conditions of this race sneak up on you. And before you know it, you’re F’ed!” And they had. And yep, I was F’ed!

I hit the turnaround at Hawi solo, and as my buddy Chris Corbin put it “looked by far the worst of anyone I saw.” He was right. I remember looking at my bike computer thinking, “I could stop right here and this would be a really hard race effort. But I still have 50 MILES TO GO….and then I have TO RUN A MARATHON.” For the next few minutes, I was maybe the most depressed I’ve ever been in a race.

But as I stared blankly through sweat and wind down the road I made a realization – this is actually, exactly, what I trained for. I did every single super long hard ride with no company, no music, no distractions, no selfie sticks even (Ok, not every time without a selfie stick). Just plugging along staring ahead by myself. This is what it’s about. I had to make those count for something. I’d made my move, placed my bet and it cost me, but that didn’t mean I had to throw in the towel. So I made a commitment – that I wouldn’t look at my pace, power, speed, or anything, and I would just go an appropriate effort to get me home and “potentially” run. (I honestly couldn’t commit to running at that point, it just seemed to awful to imagine).

If you think I look tired, you're right.

If you think I look tired, you’re right. Photo Richard Melik.

It was a REALLY really really really long long long long solo ride back. There were a number of times that I was passed and I tried to stay, but my legs were jello. I passed a couple of others who had blown up also. I did my best not to project how terrible I was going to finish. I just kept pushing, watching the markers go by every 5 miles. By the time I rolled into T2, I felt like I was barely pushing the pedals. Man, I was happy to be done with that ride.

Run Start – Just. Keep. Running.

When I got into T2, I wasn’t thinking AT ALL about “running down” a bunch of guys. I was thinking – how the hell am I going to RUN 26 miles? I took a very long transition, (ironically, the next two guys in front of me were within our time differences in T2, so transitions do matter, people, even for Ironman!). But I needed time to relax, collect my stuff and thoughts, and I asked and waited for a couple of HOTSHOTs to maybe subdue the cramping I’d had for the last 40 miles!

I started my run at what felt like a really painful jog, and to add insult to injury, I dropped one of the HOTSHOT bottles running up the first little hill right out of T2, so I stopped, turned around, and ran backwards to get it as it rolled down the hill! I literally heard the “Go Jesse!” cheers turning to “Oh, noooooo….” I did my best not to get discouraged – this wasn’t a race anymore, it was just a long run. Just go do a long run.

Heading out, hoping to finish. Pic ROKA Sports

Heading out, hoping to finish. Pic ROKA Sports

Within a mile or two of the run, any hope of “something magical” happening faded as I realized, there was no way around it, I was cooked. This was just going to be a really long, ridiculously hot day. I was somewhere between 25th-30th place, and had to find SOMETHING to get excited about, something that I cared enough about to MAKE ME FINISH this damn race.

And like most of my hardest workouts, or deepest, scariest, saddest moments, my thoughts drifted to my family. First to Lauren and Jude, then to my mom, dad, step dad & mom, brothers, sisters, friends, coach, sponsors, and even you guys. As I mentioned before the race, more than anything I wanted to honor the support I’d received from all of them and from you guys. It would have been devastating to me otherwise. So even though every ounce of my body said quit, I said one more mile, every mile.

I didn’t let myself look at my watch at all. I didn’t want to get discouraged. I ran a pace that felt “too easy” because I knew it would eventually feel too hard. And over the next 14 miles, I not only didn’t get passed, but I actually passed people. I knew I wasn’t having a run anywhere close to what I’d had in Lanzarote or Wales, but I was running and that’s all the mattered.

Run Finish – Discovering a New Universe of Pain

It was around mile 15 that things entered a new universe (my “labor”) level of pain and fatigue. Damn it, my quads hurt so bad! The one that cramped all ride was shooting pain with every single step. It was hard to think of much else. My right hamstring started cramping, and for some reason my HANDS, Oh my God my HANDS felt like they were on FIRE! I don’t know if I was going delirious or what, and I was too tired to even think about it. It was the weirdest/hardest/worst thing ever.

This is what my hands felt like, and how I reacted, from mile 15 onwards.

This is what my hands felt like, and how I reacted, from mile 15 onwards.

As I FINALLY came to the last turnaround in the energy lab around mile 18, I counted my place – 12th! As excited as that should have made me, I honestly was too wrecked to get stoked about it, and I knew that 8 more miles of running was going to take everything I could give.

On the way up the climb out of the energy lab my hamstring seized, I had to stop and was passed. After a minute or so I was able to jog again, but the next four miles I was passed by 2 other guys and couldn’t do anything to stay with them. Then Ronnie passed me with just a few miles to go and Lauren said there was another group just 20-30 seconds behind me!

Grimacing through the last 3 miles!

Grimacing through the last 3 miles! Pic Jaybird / BreedFreak Photo.

Thinking I maybe had a chance at top 15, and not wanting to slip any farther, I ran the last 2 miles as hard as I’ve ever run or exercised or done anything in my life. If I had run my other Ironmans that hard, I honestly would have finished 5 minutes faster. It was full depth, 100% everything I could possibly give. I know this because with about 500 meters left, the gas ran out completely. I got dizzy, I had trouble keeping my eyes open. My hands and feet were tingling and the numbness was moving up my extremities – my body was protecting its vital organs! I was fully lactic and felt like the T2000 in Terminator 2 when he’s being frozen. It was brutal. I couldn’t even High 5! It was everything I could do to take those last few steps.

When I half collapsed across the line, I was caught by a staffer and carried to the med tent where I spent the next 30 minutes under medical supervision before I could stand on my own. When I finally saw Lauren, I just hugged her and all I could do was cry. I felt like I’d been in battle, like I’d seen and done things I never wanted to see and do again.

Epilogue – So Hard, But Really Proud (and maybe, more there later…)

After finally regaining some strength to stand and walk on my own, the pride of accomplishment set in and I came to the conclusions I wrote above – I’m pushed my limits to new levels, I didn’t give up, and man, I finished 16th in the freaking Ironman World Championships! When Chris Corbin saw me finish, he called it, “The greatest comeback in the history of sports.” Hahaha.

Honestly, in a race that exposes many of my weaknesses, on a day that in some ways didn’t go my way, I accomplished something that I never thought I’d ever accomplish up until maybe a year ago. If you had told me that I’d have that result on that day doing what I did a couple of years ago, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you. I achieved a lifelong dream of a solid performance at a World Championships at the highest level of professional competition. That’s pretty freaking awesome.

And of course the obsessive compulsive in me asks…is there more there? Sure. I think so. I haven’t let myself evaluate too much too soon, but it definitely wasn’t my best day. I think I could race and even approach the race differently with more success. But, I’m also not sure I’ll want to come back. It was an amazing, bucketlist experience, but there are many more in triathlon I’d like to check off, so we’ll just have to see how it goes. If that’s my one and done, I’m happy with it.

Massive Massive Massive Thank You

Even though this race “story” breaks my rule for brevity, I’m going to say a lot of thank yous to the people who helped me the most and are maybe even still reading this sentence.

Lauren and Jude – No way I could have done any of this without you guys. I love you. Tears are filling my keyboard right now thinking about it. You guys are the best.

Family – Mom, Dad, Jeff, Janna, Joyce, Joel, Liz, Waylon, Darren, Lindsay, James, Elia, Nicki, Theo, Isla, Grey, Terri, Jim – thank you, so much, for your lifelong support. All of this extends from you. All those F’ing workouts on every single day every single weekend every single vacation. They add up. Wouldn’t have been here without you.

Coach Matt & Kelli & Baxter – What a journey. You told me I could do this race successfully years before I ever believed you, and we made it happen. Thank you so much for the guidance, mentorship, and friendship. Thank you Paul and Gerry for your invaluable technical expertise as well!


The things you do for the World Championships!

Friends & Bend Peeps – Ellie & Jay at Rebound and Austin at Recharge – thank you so much for keeping me healthy all year long. Boone, Matt, Ben, Jamie, Hardy, Brett, Jason, Richard, and other off and on “training buddies” thanks for keeping me company on lots of hard miles/yards. And of course, Matt Lieto, you won’t read this but you know I love you buddy.

Sponsors, You are Awesome

Descente – Johnny, Catherine, and the many design team members who supported me this year, allowing me to race less than I ever have and focus on this event. It was incredibly valuable and I’m so stoked for the next couple of years with you guys.

Jaybird – Jason, Jeff, Craig, Rene, Judd and many others. You guys have been on this journey for 4 years now, crazy! Thank you so much for helping make it possible.

ROKA – Rob, Kurt, Ryan, Tbone, and the rest of the gang. Crazy how far we’ve come. You guys are a massive piece of my career and I’m so proud to play a small part in yours also. Thanks so much.

Picky Bars – Matt, Nadine, Sarah, Liz, Braden, Ben, Mike, Collier, Mel, and others along the way! You guys took some serious load off my shoulders the last 8 weeks. Thank you so much for giving me the space needed to do this full gas. Beers on me!

Red Bull – Ashley, Josh, Per, Sky and the rest of the team! Thank you so much for all you’ve done over the last 3 years to make this possible. I sincerely appreciate your support and encouragement!


Dimond – TJ, Brad, Matt, Reed, and the rest of the team. 2 Years ago I met you guys in Kona and was inspired by what you were doing. Pretty stoked to bring it around full circle and race a great, handmade bike in the US in Kona. The “Space Lava” Dimond Marquise really was an all-you-need tri bike, carried all my nutrition, flat stuff, handled the cross winds amazingly, and was fast! Can’t believe I still rode a 4:34 on smoked legs! Haha. Thanks guys.

ReFuel – Maurice, Mark, and the rest of the digipower team. Thanks so much for you support all year long! The Intrepid was invaluable over the trip and in Kona – especially for Lauren live tweeting my progress on her phone for almost 9 hours! Thanks so much for all your help, you guys are awesome and I’m stoked to be part of your team!

PowerTap – Justin and team – as always, the Pedals and Joule were incredible, and your support for jeez, almost 5 years now has played a big part in me getting here. Really appreciate it guys!

Knight Composites – Bev, Scott, Kevin, Mike, and the rest of the team. Those wheels were HOT! AMAZING! Seriously, the coolest looking and of course the fastest wheels I’ve ever had. Thank you so much for your help, stoked to be part of this Bend company!

Others – I owe a ton of thanks as well to supporters – Nick from TriRig who provided me with the awesome Alpha X bars I use, Michael from IceFriction for the friction free chainrings, chains, and cassettes, Ben & team from Ceramic Speed for the bearings, bottom bracket, and crazy oversized pulley and help with the bike on race week.


I write the story in my head while I’m experiencing the journey. Ultimately, it’s hoping for a happy ending to that story that keeps me going. Thank you so so so so so much for your many emails, texts, messages, comments, kudos, likes, hearts, whatever. It makes it all worth it. You guys are the best, I love each and every dozen of you.

Until next time!


74 comments to 2016 Ironman Kona World Champs Race Story (Epic)

  • Mollie

    Amazing!! My husband and I watched the live feed while on vacation in Punta Cana. I cheered for you the whole time and hoped for a solid race! Congrats!! I’ve been a huge fan for years when my husband started racing Ironmans and I love that you keep it real!

  • Alex.

    Epic! What a race report -and what a crazy race! So glad you had all the gumption needed on the day 🙂 Enjoy your rest!!! You are amazing

  • Susan

    Congratulations!! Watched the live stream and was rooting for you the whole race! Your commitment to give it your best, and finding it within yourself to push through to finish like you did is so inspiring! You’ve got some proud fans!

  • Joe Terry

    Epic! Damn amazing story, could picture it all, that’s what makes this sport so aluring, to go places you never thought you would, could or ever wanted to. What a fantastic expirience, thank you for sharing it with us. Hope to see you soon (not too soon) at your next Ironman. Cheers mate.

  • Phil S

    Cheers, kudos, hearts, whatever… great report as always, even better race, tracked you like a true stalker on race day. Way to keep it together after your ride. #mentalgame

  • KP

    I hope it matters to your sponsors that because I admire you so, I tried Red Bull for the first time this year (used it to power me through a ten-mile swim race last weekend) and I bought a Roka wetsuit. You are the bomb-diggity.

  • marian

    you did it! was thinking of you while trail running in eastern oregon. you are inspiring! great race report.

  • dyarab

    Congratulations. So happy for you. I predict you will go back to Kona. And be better. You are one of the reasons I love this sport so much. Triathlon can chew us up and spit us out… yet we still come back for more. It’s crazy… and I don’t think any triathlete would have it any other way.

    Rest. Relax. Recharge… you earned. 16th Best Ironman in the world… let that sink in!!

    • Jesse Thomas

      Agree, it is crazy. We will see. I can feel myself thinking about ways it could have gone better, but gonna keep a lid on it for now. appreciate the support and confidence!

  • Anj Kern

    An epic race certainly deserves an epic race report. (Complete with ‘Breaking Away’ reference). 16th is a VERY solid performance, and it was very exciting to follow on the live feed! As always, you provide so much inspiration, not only with your performances, but with your attitude. It makes all the difference. When you watch the pros, they can make it look easy. Knowing that the suffer-fest that is endurance sports is universal is what keeps some of us going. Well done! Now off for a well deserved vacation.

  • Vannack

    Congrats Jesse! You are truly an inspiration.

  • Lucas

    Thank you, sir, for keeping it real… Congrats on a great race!

  • Chiyoko Washburn

    Congratulations!! I write this through tears because I can’t even imagine……You should be so proud of yourself and you are truly an inspiration to me!! I have even more respect that you look to your wife, son, and family with such devotion, love, and your own inspiration. May God bless you and keep you and your family!!

  • Rebecca Bruce

    Great narathon. Very heartfelt and funny. I enjoyed reading so much. I loved the family references, especially words for your mother. I had asked Ben earlier if he knew how you felt, and you shared with your fans the answer. Thanks.

  • Helena

    Thank you for sharing this with all us crazy ass fans!! Read right to the end and love you keepin it all very real. My husband races tri and I love running and I am amazed and inspired by how you, Lauren and Jude make family the priority even at the pro level, while supporting and nurturing each other through all these crazy amazing experiences. Nothing but utter inspiration that you dug so deep in yourself and produced such an amazing result. Enjoy the after glow. And rest and recover. Love from your Aussie fans.

  • Grant Nesbitt

    Cray cray cray…you put me right there in the lava fields with you. I’m guessing that TSS score has lots of numbers in it! I’m so impressed with your mental toughness Jesse. I love your grit and the way you dig yourself out of those dark places. Congrats on an amazing race. You have a lot to be be proud of with that gutsy performance.

  • JP

    Congrats and thank you Jesse…for the extended report for all your crazy ass fans that do read it! I was so bummed after following the race all day, mainly on twitter bc it appeared faster, and following you and other racers to not see you cross the finish line. Then I read later they were away on break as you had come across – maybe that was a good thing after reading this but Ben came across and went right down as well and they moved the cameras up so we wouldn’t see his pain…its been an awesome journey and huge accomplishment. Keep up the writing and sharing as your crazy ass fans love it! Also was wanting to see who won your time contest for prizes…and wish I would have marked mine down…I definitely had you slower in the water….great race and enjoy the break for now.

    • Jesse Thomas

      Thanks! Appreciate you following. I think they announced the winner of the contest, someone that guessed within 25 seconds or something! Pretty good guess!

  • Sandra Sharma

    Jesse,I watched the live feed cheering for you.
    When you came into T2 I saw your face and body language that revealed your effort.I am super proud you finished the race,16th in the world is amazing!!!.
    However I more proud of your desire to complete the 26.2 miles ,hurting as you were but soldiering through the pain,heat and a body that was experiencing severe conditions.Your mental toughness,humility and perseverance is an indication of your champion heart and mind.WELL DONE!!!

  • Kristen

    Jesse, you inspire me every day! I’m proud to be your C. A. F. and I look forward to what you do in the future.

  • Kiki

    Busting a gut here over your hilarious use of movie clips and gifs! Can’t quit laughing over the dog photo. What a great race report, and an even greater race. You’re the bomb!

  • Brad Schildt

    I’m one of your dozens of fans, and you are my favorite pro triathlete. You are such an entertaining writer because you write from your heart. Epic race, epic story! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Truly appreciated.

  • Juan Rodriguez

    Massive congratulations and well done! Spent Saturday glued to the computer and the phone following your progress. Heading to Athens for the marathon in three weeks, and as I was watching I kept thinking “if Jesse can run a marathon after THAT ride you can get this done!”. Been long 4 months of training. Thanks for the inspiration and motivation! Look forward to more battles!

  • Jeff Stevens

    Congrats to you dude. Amazing effort. Nice to know how crappy pros feel too. You mean your a normal human being (sort of)???!!!? Hope to run into you on one of my many trips to Bend in the future. All the best in the off season and into next year.

  • Matt Mills

    Incredible Jesse. Huge inspiration to see you pushing yourself to new levels and not giving in. Keep doing what you’re doing and look forward to see you race soon.

  • I have a lot of respect towards pro’s when they complete and finish the race. I think it’s important for growth of the sport. To know you struggled out there this much and put up this performance shows that Anything is Possible.

  • Craig Jiminez

    Congrats, brudda. You must possess epic-level testicular fortitude to post the bike and run times you did in Kona, while enduring the suffering you describe. Your “Regular Guy” persona, sense of humor (I too don’t take myself too seriously) and willingness to respond directly to age groupers and fans serves as encouragement for those of us trying (tri-ing) to go faster, farther and reach new hights.

    I met you before IM 70.3 Santa Cruz (which was my first HIM). Do you feel doing that race so soon before Kona affected your race in Kona, either positively or negatively?

  • roberto vittori

    grande Jesse e grande Alessandro De Gasperi !! 2 posizioni dopo,Italian Style!!))

  • great job for your first time at Kona!!

  • Sam Edwards

    Amazing Read. Watched you at IMWales 2015 which made me bite the bullet and sign up and complete my first Ironman this year (which had to be Wales). Nice to see an elite Ironman Athlete be so down to earth and chilled. P.S love the scenery in your Insta pics. I’m trying to rival your pics @samlank but I don’t have a selfie stick…….. yet

  • Dessy Richardson

    Having raced IM Wales 2015 with you, well you finished way before I did. I’ve followed you ever since.
    Hats off to you Jesse, tough day at the office at times but amazing how you overcome those challenges with an epic top 20 finish.

  • justin model

    Congrats Jesse.

    Unlike may rookies, you did not give up (check Kona history and sure you can find at least one champ who gave up their first year racing. You never know, but even if it’s one and done, you have done more than most will every do.

    Hope you get to enjoy some of the off season some.

  • Mark Fletcher

    Great post, greater day for you! Really an unbelievable description of the iron man. I was glad to read it ….and I’m really happy because now I dont have to do an iron man to find out!

    Thank you for a great insight into your training life through your posts and blogs. You guys (you, Lauren, and others) help me explain to others about balanced training while avoiding injury. It has been invaluable in my practice taking care of athletes!

    Jesse Thomas….YOU are an ironman!

  • Dusty

    Remarkable, Only a few know the devastation one feels when you are cooked in Hawi. The heat steals your energy and the lava steals your sole. Onward ever onward looking for that next glimpse of hope, of energy to return. To rise from the ashes and again fuel the flame of resurrection. Congratulations on your finish. Thanks for the ride.

  • Brendan Hurd

    Hey Jesse, thanks for the awesome race story. I was away this weekend in my own training paradise and there is no cell service within about 50 miles of my hideaway in the Adirondaks so I missed the race entirely. Getting to read your report made me feel like I was there (and hopefully will be some day).

    I’ve got a long way to go in my triathlon life, but as always I find you and your writing inspiring. Keep on keepin’ on

  • Ericka

    So incredible, Jesse! A truly epic journey and story! I too, just watched my first in-person Kona and had the same thought -these people look F-ing miserable. No thank you! But the sport, the distance, and that island have their seductive ways about them.

    I don’t know if someone already commented, but fire hands is likely due to the cayenne pepper used in the HOTSHOTS. I can hardly hit my mouth standing still, so running in a state of delusion, I’m guessing it wasn’t a clean, 100% in the mouth delivery.

    It was great to scream my lungs out and cheer as you took the corner off of Makala just before T2. EVERYONE looked destroyed by that point…inspirational crazy motherf-ckers!

  • Beth

    This is amazing. I was so excited for you to compete in Kona after watching you move up to Ironman last year. What I appreciate about your report is that you tell it like it is and don’t leave out the suffering. To us age groupers, you, as pros, make it look so easy out there (seriously, I could only shake my head in awe watching Patrick Lange on his epic marathon), but we can’t see the mental and physical suffering. It’s helpful to know that you all feel the same pain that we do.
    Enjoy the much-deserved rest and time with your family, and we fans will look forward to seeing you next season in whatever races you decide to do.

  • Publius Valerius

    Great report, Jesse

    I’m curious if you still think your P1s read high. It doesn’t look they do based on what you rode for your power compared to what others rode for theirs. But I know you said after Oceanside that you thought they read high.

  • Jen McSherry

    I’ve just started doing triathlons and following you and have to say I’m already a huge fan (of both)! Your commitment to Tri and your family is beyond inspiring! Congrats on a great race. I love your report and all of your posts. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

  • Tom Anderson

    I saw you drop your bottle on the run and felt for you. Those little things feel 100x worse when fatigued. Way to race with courage! Amazing effort!!

  • imCP

    Thanks for sharing that this also happens to you! But the most amazing thing is that with this horrible feelings you describe (I think I’ve felt every thing you say, even the burning hands!!!!!!!!! ) you managed to be the 16th of the world!!!!!!! Amazing!!!!
    You have followers here in Barcelona, we followed you all night long trying to encourage and send you energy, maybe it worked 😉
    Hope you make it up to be there again next year!!!!!!! I think that the first time Kona is hell, but the next one you can manage to play with devil!!!! (I have only raced once there, I say just what I wish!!! Haha!)
    Keep pushing Jesse!

  • Josh

    You’ve come a long ways since those days on The Farm, Jesse Big-time congratulation!

  • Judith DeZinno

    I’m doing my second sprint tri in Key West in December. I am going to sing 80’s hits the whole time. Thanks for being so inspiring!!!

  • Jeremy McNamara

    Have you thought about changing your trisuit color? Black absorbs 2.5x more heat than white clothing according to a study. If the clothing is baggy it doesn’t make a difference but if it’s tight then the additional head goes directly into your body. If you, like me, suffer more in the heat it might help to keep more heat off the body in the first place.

  • Kathy

    Loved the longer write up! I was there! Bodymarking volunteer in the morning, on the pier to see the start, on Kuakini to cheer, and then on Hualalai to cheer you going down/up/down to the finish line! Was wonderful to see our local Wildflower champ in the race and OVERWHELMINGLY EXCITING! Great racing!

  • Angelie

    As always, I look forward to your race reports. No one writes them better than you – downright honest, raw, and funny. You’re such an awesome athlete and have enjoyed following you the past 3 years now. I was rooting for you the whole way, and waited for a glimpse of you on the live feed the whole time. Stay the way you are…you’ve made us crazy ass fans proud and know you always will! You did amazing and Kona and I cannot wait to cheer you on your next race (even if it isn’t Kona, though I know you will be back…just sayin’…haha!) Major major congrats, super stoked for you! So wait, your hands were really on fire???!?! >:)

  • jj

    Amazing race, and amazing race report!, thanks for share with us your stats and your point of wiew, i know about you in Lanzarote, and since that, you were one of my bets in Kona to make the surprise.. it was lange bat in 2017 i wihs you tray it again!

    Regards from spain!

  • I was captivated… this race story was definitely just long enough. 🙂 Congrats on turning it around for a great finish on a not-optimal day. I did my long brick for my 70.3 race that day and thought about everyone sweating it out in Kona too as I hung onto race pace for my run. 🙂

  • Catiana

    I was in Kona and of course screamed my lungs at you!!
    You looked tired at mile 9 on the run, but a lot of them did!! When we start yelling at you to “go go” you had an smile back!!!
    Congratulations Jesse!!!

  • Judierose e.

    Mahalo nui loa! Your sharing, loved it…it is a wonderful share… it was like to being in your “shoes”
    Oct. 8, 2016. J.R.

  • Bo

    Awesome job Jesse! I appreciate your effort! You put it all out there giving yourself the best chance to finish well. Didn’t go quite as planned, but you fought through the day to a great finish. I understand injuries, but I hate to see people pull out when the going gets tough and their race is not going as planned. Proud of you for finishing the job and 16th is A HELL OF A LOT BETTER THAN A DNF!
    I am not a fan type person, but I AM A FAN!

  • Suzie Greengrass

    Congrats!! My husband just qualified for Kona so we will be there! I am doing my first Ironman in Lake Placid 2017, I know how much it takes with a family( we have 9 kids) again, great job, can’t wait to meet your wife when she comes to North Carolina to see the NC Oiselle birds !

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