Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

TX3 Kemah Triathlon Race Report

I’ll take it!

As reported last week, I had no idea what to expect for my pseudo pro-debut.  A lot has changed since my last race 7 months ago.  But here’s the bottom line, and the gist of this report:

  • Finished 5th – my highest finish ever in a pro race.
  • Fastest run – 1:47 faster than next fastest Pro.
  • The most prize money I’ve ever earned (5th place + Run Bonus).  Let’s be honest, basically the only prize money I’ve ever earned.

So as hard as I typically am on myself, I’m happy with those stats for a season opener!  Here’s how it broke down:


Swim: 12th fastest (out of 15 pros), 23:57

Yeah…not so happy with the swim.  I did a ton of swim work over the last 4-5 months, and made significant gains in the pool.  I just didn’t translate those gains to the open water.  There were factors that didn’t help – no wetsuit allowed, I didn’t have a swim skin (didn’t even know those existed until right before the start) and the swim course was supposedly a little long.  But none of those factors makes even close to the 3-4 minutes I lost on most of the pro guys.  I certainly didn’t expect to be swimming with the lead pack, but I did expect to be much faster than last year, and that didn’t happen.  However, in a glass is half full kind of way, it’s encouraging, because my training tells me I’m faster than that, and when I put it together in open water, I’ll have a shot at some great results.

***Low Point of the Race – Already pretty bummed, the women’s leader (who started 2-3 minutes after me) passed me with about 200 meters to go.  Even Lower Point of the Race – when I realized what was happening and tried to catch her draft.…but couldn’t.  Now that, my friends, is demoralizing.


Bike:  5th fastest, 55:48 (Garmin File)

First off, I’m proud of myself for following my plan and not getting too down mentally after the swim.  After passing the lead woman shortly out of transition (booyah!) I did exactly what I was supposed to – ease into the first 5-10 miles and go hard from there.  My wattage splits for each third of the race were roughly 330, 350, 360, with an average of about 345.  That’s a HUGE improvement from my last olympic race,  where I averaged less than 310.  For those of you who aren’t wattage geeks, or have no idea what I’m talking about, my speed increased as well – 25.5, 26.2, 28.8 mph (bit of a tailwind on that last one).  And yes, my new Rolf Prima wheels were crazy fast!

I know I can improve both my power output (I probably went out too easy, was about 320W after first 10 minutes), but I think there’s also room to improve my aerodynamics.  While talking riding position with Andrew Yoder (a really nice guy and the men’s winner in a stellar race) his first question was, “Were you the guy wearing the blue helmet?”  After saying yes, he said “Yeah, I noticed you out on the course because you’re head was so high.”  Point taken.

***High point of the race – at 6 miles to go I passed 3 guys in a row and felt pretty good.  With the next guy way down the road in my sights, I used my Stuart Smalley-esqu positive affirmations, but with the energy of a rock band lead singer, and literally yelled to myself “You’re killing it dude!  Keep it rolllliiinnnn!”

Run:  1st fastest, 32:19, Garmin File

At the first turnaround near mile 1, I clocked the 5th and 6th place guys about 1:40 in front of me.  I’m confident in my run, but that was a big gap to make up in 5 miles.  I picked it up (dropping from 5:16 first mile to 5:04 second mile).  Then my stomach told me that it would throw up if I kept running that pace.  So I slowed down, settled in and kept taking splits at every opportunity, hoping to reel those guys in.  I passed 6th at 4.5 miles, 5th at just over 5 miles.  The prize purse payed to 5 places, so at this point the motivation to catch 4th (~40 seconds up) was counter-balanced pretty heavily with the desire to not die.  I gave a solid 2-3 min push, but he saw me coming and picked it up.  When I felt it wasn’t in the cards, I cruised in (aka gave up) the last .3 miles and made a half attempt at a fake relaxed smile across the finish line.


Overall – 5th Place, 1:53:51, Full Results Here (scroll to bottom)

Like I said, all things considered, I’m pretty happy with it.  I haven’t done much (if any) Olympic speed training, and I had my fastest Olympic race ever.  Even with a bad swim, I was fairly close to some big names in the sport.  Certainly a great place to start, with some obvious places to improve.

Next Race: This Sunday, April 10 at the Galveston 70.3.  You can check Ironman Live for race coverage/updates, or of course, follow my twitter or facebook for all things Jesse.

Bonus Fun Fact: Song in my head during entire race – “Invisible Touch” by Phil Collins.  Random? Yes, but it was actually a decent song to race to.  Let’s just say if it happens again, I won’t complain.


First and foremost, Eric & Betsy Von Dohlen for their super generous hospitality over the weekend.  They’re even letting me stay until I head down to Galveston.  They’ve been fantastic hosts, very kind, taking me swimming, biking etc. Eric is an accomplished triathlete and has a very cool tri-coaching business anyone in the Houston area should check out (one of his female athletes was the 2nd overall amateur at this race, solid!).  Thank you guys soooo much.

Aaron Palaian, Greg Johnson, Brad Stevenson and the rest of the Kemah Tri crew for a fantastic event.  They treated me very well, calmly dealing with a multitude of random questions from a newbie pro.  If you can ever make it to one of their races, you will not be disappointed.  I’m certainly planning on coming back next year.  Thanks guys!

Rolf Prima guys Brian Roddy and Joel Wilson for getting my new wheels up and ready before this race.  Brian delivered the wheels, and Joel patiently taught me how to glue tubulars over the course of 2 days.  Thanks guys!  They also raced well (Joel’s first tri) at the Beaver Freezer.

22 comments to TX3 Kemah Triathlon Race Report

  • Meggie

    Because I don’t have a triathlife and am uneducated in things triathlife–how far is each part?

    Good job, Jesse! Please tell me you aren’t doing an ironman like where it ENDS with a marathon?!? If so, that’s insane. But, good luck, regardless!

  • James

    your bike data is nuts! not bad for the guy with his head too high (and the guy who got smoked by a girl in the swim, and, even worse, the guy singing Phil Collins).

    maybe you will swim faster if you gain some weight. i suggest girl scout cookies.

    ps: i love you!

  • Tbone

    Totally inspiring dude! I am super pumped to see what you do this weekend! Your running has gone from crazy to nuts.

  • Jesse Thomas

    Thanks guys! Meggie, should have put that in there, it was Olympic Distance, so 1500m swim, 25 mile bike, 10k run. No plans for Ironman yet. Tbone, you know you could come out here and smoke me if you wanted to, any time I need to go faster, I just imagine what it feels like to ride with you. James, I love you too.

  • Geoff D

    That bike data is tres impressive. Nice work bud.

  • Awesome job dude! Keep in mind tons of guys get “chicked” during the swim. Now if it happened to you on the run. . .

  • Lauren

    I “chick” dudes like Jesse all the time! Hurts, don’t it?

  • Tony

    Glad that you had a great time. The Houston area has some great race organizers. Good luck in Galveston and hope to see you race Sunday.

  • Ryan

    Nice work Jess. Hope the Galveston race goes great.

  • Sounds like a good start to me. You and Phil killed it together. 🙂

  • Joel

    Good work excellent report. Sounds like you have a solid start to build on. Keep it up!

  • D Floyd

    Way to go lil bro!!

  • Tbone

    I couldn’t smoke you even before you learned to swim. I would be lucky to get a slap on the ass from you more than a mile into the run now.

    BTW I’m doing Boulder in August.

  • That leap-year kid I met as he entered Stanford???

    Smile! Honored to be included, Jessie..

    Ken in Munich this week, Budapest next
    meaning, will you race abroad?

  • Albert

    First of all, awesome race in Kemah! You were insane on the run. Not that I actually saw you. I’m pretty sure you were already showered, stretched, and collected your prize money when I finished.
    I had no clue y’all couldn’t wear wetsuits. I bet that was fun being on a boat full of age groupers in wetsuits.
    And how could Phil Collins get stuck in your head after they blasted the hip hop dance party music on the boat?
    Best of luck in Galveston! I’ll be out there cheering for ya.

  • Lis

    Really great bro! Glad to be able to keep tabs on you this way 🙂

  • Don Quixote

    Jesse, Congrats on a great start to this season! No doubt your swim work will payoff on the longer 1.2mi swim of 70.3s. Then you’ll ride that two-wheeled stallion like the man of la mancha set free to the prairie, and as the great Tbone mentioned your running has progressed from great to insane, so you got that going for ya.

    Trust in your training; you’ve been killing it. I look forward to chasing you across the Iberian Peninsula and beyond!


  • […] kick and body position, giving me more benefit than a true swimmer.   If you remember from my first race this year, I discovered at the swim start that there was such a thing as a swim skin, which is a hydrophobic […]

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