Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

Ironman Kona 2018 Preview – Balance & Honor


Most of you know I’ve been writing a mostly weekly blog for Triathlete Magazine in the 8 weeks leading up to Kona this year (tomorrow, 6:30am Hawaii time!). Here is a link to those blogs! Below is the most recent one reposted for those of you looking at the site tomorrow. Here is a link to all the ways you can follow the race. As always, massive thanks for the support! Will be thinking of you all out there tomorrow! See you on the other side.



Kona 2018 Preview – Happiness Through Balance & Honoring Those Who Got Me Here

When I somewhat randomly started my triathlon career 8 years ago, I had no idea what it would lead to. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. So I started writing a blog to journal my experiences while simultaneously entertaining my mom and a few of her friends that read it. I called the blog “The Triathlife,” which at that time I thought was an INGENIOUSLY WITTY way to interweave the word “tri” into some other word! Get it!?! Clearly, I was new to the sport.

Anyway, after spending my teens and early 20s pursuing sport as my clear top priority, I viewed “The Triathlife” as an evolved perspective. As a 30 year old, newly married entrepreneur and MBA, I was as a going to not only pursue sport at the highest level, but also pursue balance with equal excellence in my other two life “disciplines” – work, and family. Sport, work, family – Triathlife. When I started writing for Triathlete magazine 6 years ago, it became the title of my column. I’ve succeeded and failed and written about it all during the last 8 years.

And now, in the face of my second Kona, it defines my life. In the last 20 days I (with lots of help from others, see below):

  • Won Augusta 70.3.
  • Closed a successful Kickstarter for Picky Performance Oatmeal, Picky Bars first new product line.
  • Helped Lauren build a new baby room and basically redo our entire house because you know nesting.
  • Got my son Jude started on “Ninja” lessons and played 49 games of Trouble.
  • Completed my final training block and heat prep for Kona.
  • Had a baby girl, Zadie! (The “press release” is worth reading, IMHO).

And 25 hours after Zadie popped out, here I am, writing this blog on a plane to Kona for the Ironman World Championships. If that isn’t Triathlife, I don’t know what is!

And of course, since it’s Kona and it’s the World Champs, it always means something special to all those competing. But to me this year, it actually feels even bigger than that. It feels like the culmination of my intent behind “Triathlife.” Like, I’ve found my juju, my zone, my flow. I’m in my element. In a weird way it feels like I’ve already done it, I’ve already won. And what’s crazy about this feeling is that obviously I haven’t won (and don’t anticipate I will, but you never know!) In fact, I haven’t even raced yet! But for some reason it feels like it almost doesn’t matter how it goes, I’m #winning.

And in this moment, I think maybe I’ve discovered the point of “Triathlife.” The maximization of your happiness, your “flow,” across competing aspects of your life (sport, work, family) allows you to define your own success in each of those disciplines, as opposed to defining that success in a typical measure, ie. your place in a triathlon, how much money you make, or what others think of your relationship, etc. I guess what I’m saying is, my pursuit of happiness in work and family takes the pressure off of singular results in triathlon. Of course, I want to compete well, but regardless of what happens on Saturday, right now I feel legitimately happy with my life. And that’s pretty awesome, right? Isn’t that kind of like…the point of everything? I’m not a giant nervous bomb waiting to implode who’ll be devastated if the race goes poorly. I don’t know for sure (I’ll tell you on Sunday) but I feel like that’s a pretty good head space to occupy going into a big race.

The only potential problem I see is that if I feel too content, how do I find the motivation to push through the pain when the going gets super-duper-ridiculously-lava-melting-your-bones tough? Well, for me, I think the answer is HONOR. And I don’t mean “honor” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart – though that’s cool too.

I want to honor the sacrifices and support that enabled me to accomplish all those things I listed, while simultaneously delivering me to this starting line as fit, healthy and happy as I am. When I inevitably start to hurt on Saturday, feel failure looming physically or mentally, or encounter a setback of some kind, I will think of the people that got me here, and how I can’t let them down. This race isn’t about me, it’s about them:

  • My wife Lauren, who encouraged me to race despite knowing I would miss some portion of the events around our second baby’s birth.
  • My son Jude who puts up with a “grandpa-dad” who’s too tired to play outside, so does lots of reading and legos instead.
  • My family, who do everything from help watch Jude during Sunday long run to allow me to show up to family dinner late, low energy, and contribute nothing but hunger after a long workout.
  • My employees who literally make Picky Bars happen when I’m not there (which is a lot), and also make it do all the things we want to happen, which is a lot!
  • My sponsors, for the equipment and financial support that provide for my family while I race for living, legitimizing the “cost” of the time I spend away from them exercising, racing, and traveling.
  • My coach who provides the smart, flexible athletic framework necessary for me to compete at the highest level while also trying to be a dad and business owner at the highest level.
  • Many many others – PT, massage, business mentors, friends, industry contacts, .
  • You! Believe it or not. My literally DOZENS of crazy ass fans who encourage, support, and give me reason to strive, fail, succeed, and tell stories.

I’m willing to bet that you, whether you’re racing Kona on Saturday, or in the hunt for some other goal, have a similar set of feelings about balancing the pursuit of your goal with other imporant factors of life. And I bet you also have list of people who help you do it. So my advice to you (and to myself), is on a day when it feels like it should all be about the race, remember your family, friends and colleagues. HONOR them on Saturday (or whenever). I’ll honor those people, honor all they’ve given. I feel ready and excited to do so. Thank you all for reading and supporting. And as always let me know if you have any questions via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Strava. I’ll see you on the other side!

3 comments to Ironman Kona 2018 Preview – Balance & Honor

  • Michael Keene

    Congratulations , Jesse, on arriving to the Kona starting mat as happy and balanced. I wish you the best that the Island has to offer. Michael #IMKONA #flatbruce

  • Marshall Ellis

    Hi Jesse –

    Just watched your post-Kona video, and I want to tell you how much I appreciated your honesty and humility. Some days you’re the hammer, and some days you’re the nail, eh? I had a similarly bad day last weekend at my end-of-season tri, where the 40 mile ride should have been in my wheelhouse, but instead it turned into a miseryfest. Tried every trick in the damage control manual, but alas, to no avail. My fitness was really good, but there’s not much you can do when it’s not your day.

    Beyond that, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and I wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoy your writing and how refreshing I find your perspective to be.

    I’ve been racing bikes for a long ass time (since the 1980’s, which I guess makes me feel old some days), and once I finally got tired of getting the snot kicked out of me on a regular basis at bike races, I switched to triathlon about eight years ago.

    I still mostly get the snot kicked out of me on a regular basis, but on the whole, triathletes are a nicer crowd than bike racers, so at least it feels like a polite ass kicking.

    All to say…..I’ve spent a lot of time around a lot of pro riders, most of whom were the worst sorts of one-trick ponies you’ve ever met. But you are in all ways a different sort of pro, and I only wish that there were more like you. You write extremely well, and your perspective is honest in a way that is very revealing. It’s nice to meet a pro who realizes that there is more to life than whatever it is that someone does for a living. If I was a high bucks corporate type, I’d send you some sponsorship cash. Unfortunately, I’m not, so in lieu of cash, it makes me want to support your sponsors. Who sells those badass Descente skinsuits that you’re wearing> I’m a long time devotee of Descente, but it’s hard as hell finding their stuff these days.

    All to say: Keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t let Kona get you down. You did the best with what you had, and that’s all you can ask for. There will be better days.

    Best regards –

    Marshall Ellis
    Troutman, NC (a 2-stoplight town north of Charlotte)

  • Monica Cook

    Hey Jesse! Been reading your stuff and following you for a few years, after fangirling for your wife for ages. The honesty and emotion that you guys share is rare and unrivaled; it helps us normies/weekend warriors feel a little more badass ourselves–if even fasties like you guys have struggles, it makes us feel like we can overcome our own. Thank you for that. Your legacy as an athlete is already incredible, and your legacy as a human is outshining it. I love reading your blogs, I love eating your Picky Bars, and I will continue cheering you on loudly from Chicago. Congrats on grinding it out at Kona. Keep on keeping on!

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>