Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

I am Officially a Pro – My First Sponsor of 2012!!

T-Bone is right, I’m well off pace. I promise to make it up to you, you raving lunatic starving fans. I absolutely LOVED your feedback on the survey I posted last blog (if you haven’t, fill it out!). Awesome. Full recap coming soon. Other upcoming features include my schedule, first race, and yes, my very own bike…But first things first….

I am soooo stoked to announce my first new partnership for 2012 – non other than PEARL IZUMI!!!

It took me a few months to figure it out, but if you look close, there's a "P" and an "i" in there.

I honestly can not express how excited I am to partner with Pearl. Just imagine me screamcrying at my computer like an 11 year old girl at a Jesse Beiber concert. Actually, that does express it. It’s an incredible opportunity and an honor. I feel fortunate and thankful to be a part of their team. Here’s the story of how it all went down, and what it means to me:

How We Met

The kit that started it all. (Thanks Jay Prasuhn for the photo).

Last fall at an Oregon MBA Alumni Event, I met Ian Jackson. Ian’s one of those guys that doesn’t sleep. In addition to starting an MBA, organizing races, and playing with startup ideas, he was a rep for Pearl Izumi. When we met for a bike ride, he commented on my duct taped cycling shoes, ripped jersey, and crotch worn bib, saying “Dude, I’m not judging, but please come over to my place so I can give you some gear.” By the end of the next day, I had a couple of his hardly used cycling kits, a jacket…and a certain black and green tri suit.

I wore that same black and green tri suit when I crossed the line as the “Mystery Man” winner of Wildflower. The next day, Ian called his boss (Geoff Schaffer, Global Marketing) at Pearl and proclaimed, “Jesse Thomas just won Wildflower in the Pearl kit I gave him….I am a marketing GENIUS!!!” Needless to say, I heard from Geoff the following week and the relationship was born.

The Courting Process

Geoff and Kody Riley (Interactive Marketing) sent me some gear to try out, upgrading me to from old & crotchety to slightly used to new & rad in a matter of weeks. Booyah! Throughout the year I “tested” their stuff (I may have won an “outfit of the day” or two), stayed in contact with their staff, and did my best to back up Wildflower with some respectable results. I met/interviewed with Geoff at Interbike, Tim Deboom (the Ironman legend and “captain” of their athlete team) in Kona and Geoff again in October at Pearl HQ in Boulder. But with November and December spent evaluating other companies, traveling for Lauren’s races, and cramming in tons of Picky Bar stuff, the process took much longer than expected. I finally committed to them about a 10 days ago, and just about peed my pants I was so happy.

Why I Chose Pearl Izumi

Two time outfit of the day winner - the Green Goblin. If you think this is awesome, wait until you see this year's ringer - Snow Tiger.

Product – Since I consider the run “kind of my thing, you know?” (Goldmember, had to do it) my biggest fear in taking on a shoe sponsor was how the shoes might impact my ability to train and run fast. I’ve trained in a Nike Pegasus for the last 15 YEARS and it’s no secret that my running days had a fair number of injuries. Bottom line, it was a big risk to switch brands. I tried a TON of shoes during the evaluation process, and Pearl’s were hand’s down my favorite. Their Syncro Fuel RD shoe is my trainer of choice, it feels a lot like the Pegasus (a good thing for me), but even a little lighter and more responsive, which I like. The transition has been easy, smooth, and awesome.

In addition to having some bombdiggity shoes, Pearl’s bike apparel enables me to do something I couldn’t do all last winter – bike outside. Yes, I love me some trainer, but it is rad to be able to put in some miles outside regardless of Eugene’s schizophrenic torrential downpours. On Saturday I rode 4.5 hours in 45 degree, mostly rainy conditions…seriously. I felt like a wild animal on the outside, but dry and toasty on the inside. I actually enjoyed it. No way I could have done that last year, and I know it’s making a big difference in my bike fitness.

Kody (left), Geoff and I at Pearl HQ in Boulder last week.

People – Honestly, the people were just as important to me as the product, and Pearl’s entire staff was professional, courteous, responsive and just plain easy to talk to throughout the entire process. Geoff was awesome, spent a ton of time talking with me, answered all my questions/concerns, and was incredibly patient as I took a REALLY long time to evaluate other opportunities. Kody was eager and willing to help me out, he hooked me up with all the product info and demo stuff I needed to make a decision. Tim was invaluable in the process, not only helping me understand the opportunity with Pearl, but helping me evaluate other opportunities with some incredibly valuable, unbiased perspective and advice.

My First Official Visit

Last Tuesday I flew to Pearl HQ and made it official. I am beyond stoked, like 13 out of 10. I met with designers & product developers. Mike Thompson, their lead shoe developer, showed me their prototype racer coming out in the next couple of months and all I can say is that they are going to be awesome! Mike is eager for my feedback. It will be awesome to be part of their product development process.

The highlight (and primary purpose behind the trip) was getting fitted for my very own Jesse Thomas Special race kit for this year. The Pearl Speed Shop can literally create a custom kit soup to nuts in their facility in about 24 hours. That includes custom fitting, materials, graphics/design, sewing/construction, and sublimation. I spent a couple of hours with Ron Rod, the custom kit product developer getting measured, talking about my preferences for pockets, zippers, butt padding (lots) and anything else you can think of. The demo custom kits I tried on felt like they were part of my skin, except tighter and slipperier (that is a word). I can not wait.

Lauren says I've gone from what looks like a homeless man in cycling clothes to Sir Match a Lot. Well put, wif.

While on the trip, Geoff told me that Pearl will be taking me and the 5 other athletes to San Diego wind tunnel in March. Holy Mole, does it get any cooler than that? You can rest assured there will be a full report on that experience.

A Dream Come True

As I flew back from Pearl, I made the slightly sappy, and very surreal realization that I am now a legitimate professional athlete. It still sounds crazy for me to say it. I got flown to Boulder for the day to get fitted for a custom kit, got sent home with a bunch of gear, and am going to be representing a totally awesome brand and great group of people. Ever since I was an 8 year old practicing my jump shot for my future as an NBA superstar, being a “pro” has been a life-long goal and fantasy of mine. I’m no Lebron, but I’ll tell you what, it is finally happening, and I am psyched!

Thank you all for your help in making this dream come true. My friends, family & coach Matt (who were a huge help in evaluating opportunities), supporters, and of course the guys at Pearl. Thank you for believing in me, encouraging me, and helping me achieve this dream of mine. I’ll do my best to keep it rolling and keep you all in the loop!