Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

California 70.3 Race Report

One word for this race, boomshakalaka! A solid swim and my fastest bike ever to set up a chance for the win at one of the biggest races of the year. It’s all in there, so I’ll just leave you to it!

It’s San Diego, on a military base, Aviators. A PERFECT soundtrack to this race report.

Swim: Chillin to a Decent One

As I put my 2nd cap on (no Costa Rica repeats), Matt gave me crap about how much of a pansy I was for complaining about swimming without a cap last race. Words of encouragement from a true friend. (Thanks Larry Rosa for the photo).

The gun went off and I went out super…easy. WTF?!? It was so crowded that I lined up behind the first row and just chilled out. After my Costa Rica freak out, Gerry told me to take 5% off my speed in the first 200 meters so I could stay relaxed and react when the pace dropped. He was right. About 500 meters in the pack accelerated and I stayed with it without a problem. I honestly never felt crazy uncomfortable during the swim, mostly relaxed, working hard, but smooth. The water got a little gnarly outside of the harbor, feeding me a few salt-water smoothies, but no biggie. I knew I was with Matt Lieto, Jeff Symmonds, and Leon Griffin, and any time I come out of the water with names I recognize, that’s a good swim. I still have a minute to go to front pack, but considering the sucktasticness of my other swims this year, I was stoked with 2nd pack.

Bike: 3rd fastest – Holy SHIV! My best bike ever!

I had a fast transition (long run to the bikes) and was first on the bike of my group. I didn’t want anyone to ride my wheel so I gunned it pretty hard for the first 15 minutes until Griffin pulled up in front of me. We rode together for a while, then Matt joined us and the 3 of us hammered for the next 20 minutes to catch the front group of 8 other guys – including all the favorites outside of Andy Potts, who was riding alone in front after his typically dominant swim.

Ok, Matt Lieto, I guess you can lead. (Thanks Larry Rosa for the ridiculous photo).

When we caught the group, I’m fairly sure I let out a small fist pump and low-volume, but audible “Booyah.” It was a lot like Tom Cruise on his motorcycle next to the fighter jets about 20 seconds into that Danger Zone video. This was the first time I’ve ever ridden with the main group – which has been a huge goal of mine. Plus, I felt fairly decent. I was pumped.

Feeling about as good as I look while making a move on the hills. Thanks to Larry Rosa for the awesome shot.

Mental Games Subsection:After I took a minute to catch my breath, I started evaluating where I was, how I felt, and who was in front of me. Front group, check. Feeling decent, check. Solid runners but guys I can run with, check. It all added up to one thought in my head, “Dude, if you hold it together, you could win Oceanside!” I know it sounds exciting, but honestly, it scared me. A lot. I got incredibly nervous and doubtful. I was so excited at the possibility of a great finish that I began to fear losing it. What if my legs feel flat? What if I get a flat? What if I have to take a dump on the run? Seriously, it was crazy. It’s a weird feeling to describe, but it happened. These races are sooo long, you have to accept and weather a number of emotions that come and go throughout the race.

Anyway, about 65 minutes into the ride, we hit the big hills and I didn’t have time or energy to continue thinking. I was towards the back of the group, and saw a few strong runners break off the front – Ambrose, Cunningham, and Griffin. Then Kemp (another great runner) took off to catch them, and I decided if I didn’t go, my chances of a podium were lost. So I made a big move on the last couple of hills and hammered. Kemp and I worked together and put a bit of time into the guys up front. Then Matt came up to us and the three of us charged forward. I gave basically everything I had to stay with Matt, and eventually, we reeled them in just before T2. I was super beat and worried I’d burned my legs, but excited to start the run in the thick of the race.

Run: To Go or Not to Go? That is the Question. 

Starting off way too hard. (Thanks @hschamp13 for the twitter pic!)

Just like Costa Rica, a had a terrible T2. My hands were cold and my mind-jacked fears escalated when my right quad cramped badly while putting on my shoe. I lost 15-20 seconds to the guys I rode in with, and worried that the group in front of me (Kemp, Cunningham, Griffin, and Ambrose), all solid runners, would run away from me. So I HAMMERED until I caught them. My Garmin showed a 5:10 first mile, not a smart way to start a half marathon after the fastest/hardest ride of my career and a quad cramp. Worried about my energy reserves with a long way to go, I relaxed and tried to catch my breath. I ran hard, but within myself with the group. We whittled away Pott’s 2 minute lead for about 6 miles on the long out and back of the first lap and dropped a couple guys off the group.

As we came back in to the crowd to start lap two, it was obvious we were stuck about 90 seconds behind Andy, and not making up time. But I was hurting, knew we had a long way to go, and honestly was VERY HAPPY finishing in the top 3 (where I also get most of my bonus $). I worried that if I went for it, I might cramp/tire/die before the finish line and lose the podium. But as we passed through the crowd I heard a bunch of “Go Aviator!” and “Catch him Jesse!” cheers. And unless my mom had learned how to teleport, they were coming from other fans, urging me to go. So in a flash of adrenaline/bravado/oh-what-the-hell-ness, I went for it with 6 miles to go. I dug deep and put in a huge move, gapping Richie and Leon, and putting Andy in my sites.

From my Twitter Feed. Absolutely love it.

The doubled-armed-whoop-whoop-3rd-place-over-celebration. Thanks Larry Rosa for capturing the moment.

After 3 TOUGH miles, I actually saw him at the tail end of the last long out and back. Depending on which split I listened to, I was between 45 and 60 seconds of Andy at about 10 miles. But then, my fears started to sink into reality, and the wheels started coming off. Each step felt harder and harder and was slower and slower. By 11.5 miles, I had given back everything I gained. Richie passed me at mile 12, and I stuck to his shoulder, repeating to myself over and over, that NO ONE can beat you in the last 600 meters! I was wrong. Richie is a tough dude, and pulled away from me in the last half mile or so. It was full burnout/bonk/lactic/Bieber-Zombie mode. As bummed as I was to lose 2nd place by so little, I was still pretty freaking stoked that I was in 3rd place at Oceanside 70.3!  So embarrassingly, I finished with about as much excitement as if I’d won, including some high-fives and Arsenio style whoop whoops! It was rad.

I don’t know if it’s whoop or woof. Either way, the crowd does it for 2 minutes straight.

Overall – The Risk of Going For It – FULL RESULTS

For those of you who aren’t as familiar with triathlon, this is a big result for me. It feels almost equivalent of winning Wildflower last year. Not in the excitement and exuberance I felt, but just in terms of putting me in the mix with the “big dogs.” It’s a great step in my career, it gives me confidence, and I think will make me part of the conversation in races down the road.

Yep, I’m also bummed I gave up 2nd place (between prize money & bonuses from sponsors, it was a COSTLY 11 seconds). BUT, I had a shot to run down Andy Potts for the win, and I went for it. I talked to coach Matt afterwards and he said, “If you’re ever in that situation again, you do the exact same thing.” And he’s right. If I hadn’t have taken the shot, I’d regret it, and Richie very well could have beaten me anyway. You don’t race for 2nd place, you race to win. Most of the time you don’t, but every once in a while, hopefully you do.

Random Post Race Story

Chilling with my #1 fan (mom) post race. Thanks @SDTryathlon for tweeting the photo.

I have to specially thank my Mom, Aunt Terri, Jakob (my mom’s exchange student) and Zach (his buddy) for supporting me before and during the race. I stayed at my Aunt’s place in Laguna Beach before the race and had dinner with them. I gave Jakob and Zach specific instructions to give me the split between me and 6th place when I was out on the run – my goal was top 6. When I came by in 2nd/3rd after the first lap Jakob started frantically asking my mom “What should I do? What should I tell him? Ahh!” Randomly, my cousins Aly and Lindsey were down in the area, saw there was a race, decided to watch for a few minutes, and saw that I was in 3rd place! They started texting my Dad asking if I had a race today, and basically everyone started freaking out for the next 70 minutes. Regardless of the splits, I heard all of them every single time I went by, and it was awesome. Thanks guys!


  • Huge shout out to Aaron, Willow, and Keith for letting me crash with them at the Carlsbad Resort. I didn’t have a place to stay, and they graciously invited me to stay with them. When we discovered there were two double beds , Willow and Keith shared a bed, and Aaron insisted on the blow up mattress, giving me the only solo bed. I felt like a complete A-hole, wanted to fight Aaron for it, but decided he’s likely much stronger than I am so it was a bad idea. Ultimately, Aaron had a stellar race, a 20 something minute PR of 4:31 and 5th in his age group. Willow and Keith weren’t as stoked with their races, but they both had solid first outings for the season. They’re all gearing up for Ironman St. George in a few weeks. Good luck guys, and thanks again!
  • Joe hard at work on the Shiv. He wasn't even phased by my picture. The dude is a Machine!

    Mallory and Joe at Specialized – Mallory gives me crap because after every race I say, “that was my fastest bike ever!” Well, it has been my fastest bike ever, every single time! The Shiv is fast and there’s no secret to why I’m cruising this year. Joe (Spider Monkey), assembled, disassembled, cleaned, lubed, tuned, and set up my bike entirely before and after the race. Again, I felt like an A-hole watching him do it all, but it was a HUGE help and decreased the stress around the event. Both of you guys were awesome this weekend, and Mallory, I’m sorry I made you drive back with my shoes!

  • Goeff, & Kody at Pearl Izumi. Another fastest run split in Transitions! Thanks a ton for the support guys. Kody expedited some shoes to me for the race to make sure I was set to go. As always, awesome stuff, really appreciate it.
  • The guys at Rolf Prima. Thanks for the gear and support guys. Great stuff cruising along on those TDF 60’s!
  • Robert at First Endurance – Nailed another race day nutrition plan – EFS on the bike, and Liquid Shot + Pre-Race on the run. Awesome stuff, thanks a ton for the support.
  • Yep, that's a gigantic bear on a Shiv. What Matt always tells me to visualize when I'm scared of the competition. Thanks to Phil Maskiewicz for the awesome photo.

    Coach Matt Dixon – As always, I keep your guidance in my head during the crazy times in the race. Thanks for keeping me in the game mentally and physically. Really excited about the next few races down the road.

  • Gerry Rodrigues of Tower 26 – Gerry, thanks for the swimming tips. I think the work is starting to show. Definitely a step in the right direction, appreciate it!
  • My wife, my family, the rest of my support crew, my newsletter subscribers, twitter and facebook peeps. It was so much fun to read through all the activity on Twitter post race. So many people rooting for me to go, so awesome and motivating, thanks a ton guys.

28 comments to California 70.3 Race Report

  • HUGE. Frickin’ HUGE!!! Dude, you are seriously running with the big dogs now. Congratulations! Enjoy some recovery before you do Wildflower with a huge-ass target on your back. 😉

    Great write up too – thanks for letting us into your head.


  • Jesse! You are awesome. I, for one, didn’t realize what a big deal it was because, to me, you always place. Or it just seems that way.

    Fear of losing – yeah, I’ve been there is so many races because I come close to winning a good many of them. Ok, not. BUT, with tennis, I had to work really hard for a while on “playing to win” vs “playing not to lose” as well as not freaking when I would go up 5-2 or 5-3 and realize I was soclose to winning that set (I had a string of matches where I fell apart and would lose that set 7-5).

    Anyways, FANTASTIC JOB! I wonder if aviator sales have gone up in the tri world. Still trying to figure out what “run within yourself” means — it’ll make sense one of these days…

  • Randy Becker

    Congratulations, outstanding race and result. As always, great write up.
    Enjoy the time between events.
    See you soon!

  • A big ole congralations to you for 3rd place at California 70.3! Love your talent, enthusiasm and hard work. Thanks for writing so honestly regarding both bravado and going for it and the voices of doubt and fear! You had a BIG day…savor it and I can’t wait to see what happens at Wildflower. I think you are right..perhaps there’s some talk and I know that Scott’s comment earlier about having a target on your back is absolutely right. Keep the joy! And please keep sharing.

  • Derek Sandstrom

    Awesome Jesse just Awesome! Loved watching it unfold, told my girls to watch this guy as he can flat out run. Thanks for the report, thoughts etc. Love the bars too! Derek

  • Dave Mayer

    nice work – you da man!!!

  • Derek W

    There we go! AWESOME.

  • Kathy Nelson

    Way to go! Way to Swim! Congrats! When are you coming back to So Cal?
    Miss youse guys!

  • “What if I have to take a dump on the run?….Definitely my favorite part of this post—thanks for making me laugh and keeping me motivated…You are honest and tell it like it is which is why I love reading your blog…See you up in Wildflower!

  • sandra sharma

    Amazing effort after a fortnight of placing 3rd in Costa Rica.Jesse all yur hard work and determination is placing you in the top 3rd.Sorry that an Aussie passed you for 2nd place.Enjoy your time with Lauren and come back stronger than ever at Wildflower.

  • Rick

    It’s the hair dude! Keep it long. Congrats on a podium finish. Continue going for the win! You’ll never regret it.

  • hahah this might be the funniest race report I’ve ever read! The whoop whoops and high-fives are more than OK. I’ve never been close to the front of the pack and I still celebrate like I won every time. Congrats on an awesome race!

  • Putts

    Great job man!!! Caught up on the live race blog from ironman.com that afternoon and was reading faster and faster seeing you moving up throughout the race. Your race reports remind me of the ones that I keep in my training and racing log. Very entertaining. Keep up the good work. Soon everyone will know The Aviator.

  • Bob

    Just phenomenal. If I have a son I will name him Jesse. And yes I will be purchasing minnie aviators for him to rock.

  • Nutter

    Jesse!!! Nice work, man.

  • Brilliant. Absolutely f**kin’ brilliant. Nice job, Jesse!

  • Chris

    Great race – congrats! Gotta feel great to know you were in the mix with those guys. And did you notice what Lance was wearing post IM TX 70.3?

    aviators….’nuf said.

  • andre james garcia

    sometimes that feeling doing those whoop whoops and high 5’s givve us that extra energy to push more.let us see more of those in the coming months. Boomshakalaka!

  • Roo

    Congrats dude! Great race and awesome finish! That Shiv must be something else since Oceanside’s bike course is tough. Good work. WF here we come!

  • Roo

    Dude! Forgot to mention, congrats on getting FRONT COVER OF TRIATHLETE MAGAZINE (May 2012)…two words….Nice Shades….

  • Bob R

    Congrats Jesse! I love when you over-celebrate—the happiness just spilling out!

  • Anthony DuComb


    Racing Fit and Fresh along with brains and courage will make you a champion.


  • The Machine

    Love the reports, dude, keep up the hard work!

  • Richwood Borja

    Yo Jesse, Congratulations once again with your podium finish in Oceanside. Also congratulation on getting the front cover of Triathlete Magazine… what! what!!! You have a bright race future ahead. I’m rooting for you!!! I can’t wait to see you tear up the course in Wildflower! Good luck!!!

  • Angie

    Congratulations!! My favorite line from this post: “Like Zoolander, I also have one look, but it’s less Blue Steel and more Confused Pumpkin.” It is not true-you look great! But a hilarious statement all the same!

  • Julia Polloreno

    It’s not everyday that a legend of classic rock suggests a certain triathlete for our cover. When Neil Young speaks, I listen.

  • T-Bone

    Dude, your arms got bigger.

  • Prof Shanks

    My 4yr old son caught a glimpse of your Shiv and yelled, “Wow! That’s a cool bike!!”

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