Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

2011 Escape From Alcatraz Race Report

Soooo many potential captions, but...I'll play it safe: I need a new left sock.

Good race, good times.  No easier way to sum up it up.  I’m very happy with my result, and had an awesome time hanging with friends and family.  Thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement.  The full recap below includes a hungry fish, fighting ladies, and of course, The Pointer Sisters.  Hope you enjoy.  As always, comment as much as your heart desires!

The Skinny:

  • Finished 4th Overall, behind some top notch competition – World Champions, Olympic Medalist, serious dudes.
  • Solid, much improved swim.  Improved bike.  Solid run, but eased off the gas the last 3 miles after I knew I wasn’t going to catch the top 3.
  • Very happy with the result (top 5 was the goal).  Faster time & higher finish than last year, solid improvement.  The never-satisfied athlete in me would like to have challenged for top 3, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Overall it was a great result and an awesome step forward.

The Deets:

Editors Note – If you look at the official results, you’ll notice I don’t have any splits.  My name just magically appears at the end, yay!  This is because a fish ate my timing chip during the swim.  At least that’s what I thought until I found it in my bag after the race.  Then I remembered that after my usual rush-back-into-wetsuit-after-unanticipated-last-minute-bathroom-break, I forgot to put it back on.  My bad.  So my splits are based on a very sophisticated algorithm that includes Garmin data, friends’ observations, and my best guess.

Swim: ~28th out of water, ~25:20, 1.5 mile swim

In my late-to-the-start frenzy, I lined up primarily in the women’s field without noticing until right before the gun went off.  So after I dove off the boat I tried my best to “scoot” to my left to be with the guys, but the ladies weren’t having any of that.  In fact, a couple of those ladies were far more physical than any guys I’ve ever swam with.  Luckily I practiced being mugged by extra feisty women at the purplepatch/Tower 26 swim camp (thank you, Sarah Pampiano, Jenn Tetrick, and Kelly Norsworthy), so I just punched ‘em back.  Just kidding, kind of.  Eventually things spread out and the men’s & women’s groups melded together.  I tried to stay with the lead pack, but they started to pull away so I just relaxed and got into a rhythm.  I think a couple of the ladies felt bad about beating me up in the first few minutes, so they swam in front of me for the last half and gave me a nice draft.  Thanks ladies, we all became friends in the end!

Watch out ladies, I'm coming to get you. Thanks Larry Rosa Photography for the spectacular shot.

Bike:  ~8th fastest, ~10th off the bike, ~48:40, 22.2 mph, 18 miles, Garmin File

I took off excited about what seemed like a good swim, but unfortunately the legs weren’t feeling the same sense of booyah.  I worked the hills as planned, it just took a long time for them to wake up and get going.  I first realized I was having a decent race when I was given my only in-bike data point – passing the lead female – which last year happened around mile 10 and this year happened at mile 5.  Boomshakalaka to that.  I continued moving up, never got passed, but couldn’t quite gas it like I hoped – or at least what was required to contend for a top 3 finish.  Near the top of the last hill I caught a group of 4 guys, had no room to pass on the steep descents (and was pretty tired), so I just eased back and cruised in with them.

Run:  ~3rd fastest, ~44:20, 5:33/mile, 8 mile run, Garmin File

My “San Fran Support Crew” told me I was about 2:45 behind 2nd & 3rd (henceforth known as 2/3) so I knew I had to punch it if I had a shot at top 3.  That combined with actually seeing Craig Alexander (Ironman Legend) ahead of me resulted in an adrenaline induced 5:02 first mile, not a particularly smart move on this course.  After seeing my split, I freaked out, and then came down to Earth and settled in to an aggressive, but sustainable pace, hoping I could make up enough time to catch 2/3.  Following what seems to be my 80’s theme this season, the Pointer Sister’s classic, Jump (For My Love) popped into my head, and bebopped me all the way to 4th place at 3.5 miles.  On the beach turnaround, I got a split on 2/3, and they were still ~1:45 up.  At that point, I doubted whether I was capable of catching them.  Then I hit the very sandy and laddery sandladder, felt how hard I’d run the first 4.5 miles, and knew it wasn’t in the cards.  Bummed I wouldn’t catch, but happy with my current position, I ran strong but uninspired until I saw Matt Dixon at mile 6, who told me to shut it down and run smooth and relaxed into the finish (the other factor here is that I’m racing in 6 days at the Boise 70.3, no need to push).  As encouraged, I smiled with a shaved face as I ran through the chute to a happy 4th place finish.

The people in this video literally jump.  It’s awesome.

Somehow Larry Rosa kept me from looking like a drunk homeless guy. The man is a genius!

Overall:  4th Place, 2:03:35

I’m very happy with this result.  My swim was MUCH faster and more competitive than last year.  My bike (even though it felt weak) was still ~30-45 seconds faster, with 15 watt higher average.  My run was a bit slower, but I ran the last few miles much easier than last year.  My goal was top 5, and 4th place is in the top 5, in fact, it’s in the top 4, so booyah #3.  Plus, these are the guys that beat me:

  • Andy Potts – 70.3 World Champion, Olympian
  • Bevan Docherty – ITU World Champion & Two-time Olympic Medalist
  • Matt Chrabot – Pan Am Champion & contender for 2012 Olympic Team

They beat me by a few minutes, but it’s still a huge result, and great company to be in for a first year rook, so I’ll take it.

Next Race:

I’m taking a second shot at the old 1-2, and race Boise 70.3 on Saturday.  Not sure I’ll have anyone on twitter for that, so best to check out Ironman Live for race updates.


Two key members of the SF Support Crew, my mom (sporting some aviators of course), and James the Tweetmaster.

My San Fran Support Crew:

  • James & Elia, for the room, bed, food, car, rides, anything else? Oh yes, the pictures (the fun ones here are from Elia) and the tweets (James was the race day tweeter).  You guys are the best.
  • My Mom & Aunt Terri – for coming all the way to San Fran to watch, and take us to Bridesmaids (if you haven’t seen that movie, oh my god go see it, hilarious).  Love you guys.
  • Daniel, Naseem & Tbone for braving the weather and coming out to watch.  Daniel was money telling me my place and gap to the next guys at multiple points in the race.  Thanks guys!
  • Tom & Michelle, Miriam, Katherine, Brian, Tom & Jacquie, for the post race burger, beer, and fries.  Thank you especially for the fries.

Not afraid to rock some Picky Bar Stickers & Tats!

Brian & the team at Rolf Prima for the last minute 85 so I didn’t try to ride Disc on this crazy course, and for the even more last minute 58 after my 85 was damaged on the plane.  And thanks to the mechanic at Above Category in Mill Valley who fixed my Rolf Prima 85 so quickly I got to use it anyway.  Ironically his name is Rolf, no joke.

Loren Polster for designing last minute Picky Bars stickers and tattoos so I could shamelessly promote the best gluten free/dairy free energy bar on the planet!  They looked both ridiculous and awesome, which is definitely my style.

Of course, my coach, Matt Dixon at purplepatch fitness, the big strides forward are a result of his plan.  Also Gerry Rodrigues of Tower26 who is helping me become a swimmer, another step closer!

Larry Rosa of Larry Rosa Photography, who supplied the amazing pics framed in the Golden Gate bridge.  Great times hanging with you this week man.

My wife, family, and the rest of my Support Crew, for all of the love & support, couldn’t happen without you guys.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank all my Twitter followers and Facebook friends that gave me shout-outs before, during, and after the race.  I seriously store all those comments in my brain and use them as energy when I’m suffering out on the course, you guys keep me going!


19 comments to 2011 Escape From Alcatraz Race Report

  • That picture of you and James…awesome. You could write an entire blog post featuring ridiculous photos of you and James. Please, for the love of San Francisco, write that post.

  • Zach Kerns

    I was searching the results on the web and was concerned on race day cause it had you like 25th. But turns out yep still the MB. Nice race… I hear that Potts guy is really somebody. Better yet all the best for Boise this week.
    Oh and for our sake remember the time chip!

  • Tbone

    Really solid race. Another thing I would add for perspective on how strong this performance was is that among the guys in front of you, not only do they have stellar resumes, but they are all focusing on shorter distance races (at least I think Potts is back to short course focus, although I have no doubt he could still blitz a half-IM). There was at least 1 other guy who focuses on longer races in the field. He might win Kona this year, and he finished 13th.

    Oh, also, your swim was within 3 minutes of 2 guys who were Olympic trials finalists in swimming without biking and running afterward. You’re doing something right.

    On to Boise – keep it steady, keep it strong, and stay healthy!

  • Way to go Jesse! I was cheering for you all day from Eugene. See you in Boise.

  • S. Piampiano's Mom

    Pretty impressive results—-and fun recap. Loved the Pointer Sisters Video! Good Luck at Boise…bring your best game.

  • Picky Bar tattoos – love it.

    Congrats on another great race Jesse, but we gotta get you some new tunes. 😉

  • Tbone

    Hey, could you post links to your Garmin files for the nerds out here in the audience?

  • Dan

    Great race Jesse! you gave me a meaty high five at the beginning of the finishing chute. BAM! made my day!

  • Jesse Thomas

    Tbone – thanks man! can’t wait to see you race. I posted the garmin files with the blog, but as a FYI, all my garmin files are available via the widget at the right of the front page.
    Dan – I remember you! It was a great high five, love doing that, thanks for finding me here and at the race!
    Heather & S.P.’s Mom – not sure what it is, but 80’s stuff has been my racing soundtrack this whole year. I literally hadn’t heard that song since 1986, and BAM there it was.
    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  • I am incredibly jealous of your sweet new tat and bike adornments.

    Congrats. You’re on a roll, chief. Keep it up. That way, I can say I know the WINNER when you race here in NYC. We don’t have sand laddery sand ladders here and plenty of real drunken homeless people so no matter what you look like in the August heat, you will have someone who looks worse than you.

  • Jeremy Bloom

    “The Magnificent Bastard” strikes again. Well done man, well done.

  • Nice job! You and James — that’s priceless. You guys were quite the pair back in school, glad to see things haven’t changed (and nice results in Boise, BTW — just saw those results come through the pipe).

  • Breyer Barkman

    Wow, I love your reports. Your swimming skills just keep getting better and better. What a great reason that people should train to swim to roll over and maybe under other swimmers. Thanks so much for having this newsletter for us little people here in Eugene.

  • sandra sharma

    Congratulations on your 5th place finish at Boise.Great overall time improvement from last year .Your bike time was far faster than 2010.Well done!!!
    Jesse, you are certainly in the big league now and revealing your talent to the world.Thanks for allowing the Aussie fourth place,very gentlemanly of you.Seriously ,a really solid performance after the 4th place Alcatraz result.
    Await your report with keen interest.

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