Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

High 5 for FIVE: 2015 Wildflower Race Report

Heyo all you handful of Wildflower wins holding crazy ass fans. Boo….yah!

Win #5. It’s kind of crazy. Maybe more crazy to think that I’ve been doing this as a job for 5 years. I think that’s the longest I’ve ever done anything. And while the big deal is 5 wins in a row, it strangely doesn’t feel like that. It feels more like 5 separate wins, one a time, each a totally different and unique experience in it’s own time, and only loosely connected to each other…if that makes any sense. This one was special in it’s own way because I got to share it with my training buddy and mostly buddy in general Matt Lieto, who finished 2nd. It was a truly special day in a string of special days here at Wildflower. Thanks to all of you guys for the support. Here’s how it went down:

Swimming To Create Massive Discomfort

After my race at Oceanside, I told Matt at our next workout together that I was disappointed in my swim, he paused and asked me one question – “Were you bleeding out of your ass after the first 400 meters?” I said no, I don’t think so. And then he reminded me that that’s the only way I ever have a good swim. Sorry if that’s gross, but that’s how we roll. So this time at I swam waaaaaay harder the first 5 minutes, and while I felt like my race could have ended about 8 minutes into the four hours, it seemed to work, as I uncomfortably stayed with the second group and “only” gave up 2.5 minutes to fish-men John Dahlz, Davide Giardini, and Brian Fleischman.

Notice Matt's comment on my good swim at World's last year.

Matt knows what it takes for me to have a good swim.

Matt Reed is Very Fast and Very Tall

I started the first run just behind the biggest target in all of triathlon, 6’5” Olympian Matty Reed, who took off like his lycra skinsuit was on fire. I honestly ran as hard as I could and didn’t gain an inch on him. I think I averaged 5:30 miles for 2.5 miles of mostly uphill, soft, and windy dirt (Matt ended up having the fastest run of the day by a ways). I again felt like my race could have ended as I reached my bike.

Google also knows how tall Matt Reed is, and apparently a lot of other triathletes as well.

Google also knows how tall Matt Reed is, and apparently a lot of other triathletes as well.

So Lonely

I had a good transition and started the bike strong. I couldn’t see anyone, and after chaos of two mini transitions and one all out 2 mile run, I didn’t know where I was in the race. It was kind of a bizarre feeling being so alone as every other time heading out on the bike I’ve been with groups of guys. I had this really weird lonely and depressing thought that I was all of a sudden in the middle of a super long solo training day, with 3 hours to go and very very very tired. So I just sang a Stars song to myself, looked at my power meter, grinded on the pedals, and tried to think of something to think about.

Alone early on the bike, trying to think of stuff to think about. Pic by Kaori Photo.

Alone early on the bike, trying to think of stuff to think about. Pic by Kaori Photo.

About 20 miles in I saw two dots way up the road and started to take splits on them to keep myself motivated. 80 seconds…75…68…52…45, etc, for about another 40 minutes. If that sounds exhausting and kind of boring, you’re right. I eventually passed Brian and asked him if the other guy (who I assumed was Giardini) was the lead, and he nodded. One more to go.

Some Friendly and Tired Chit Chat

I hit the turn at mile 35, where I usually “make a move,” and put a little extra pressure on the pedals to try and reel him in. I caught Davide at the base of Nasty Grade and we rode hard together all the way up. As we crested the top he told me “good job man” and I told him “this $h!t is super hard.” Seriously, that’s what we said to each other. Davide told me afterward that he “cracked” after I passed him, which isn’t surprising considering he he rode a 1:59 at Galveston just 6 days earlier. Talk about a tough way to get ready for a course like this one!

Brian and I in pursuit of Davide. Photo Tim Carlson / Slowtwitch.

Brian and I in pursuit of Davide. Photo Tim Carlson / Slowtwitch.

I admittedly let up a bit on the last part of the ride, experiencing my first ever lead on the bike in the race. I didn’t really know what else to do, admittedly didn’t feel too great and was worried about my legs cramping on the run. As I dropped off my bike in transition and headed out the run, I had one thought in my head, which was, “I wish the race was over now.”

Here’s Where I Complain About Leading a Race

Winning races is awesome, but being in the lead sucks. Especially if you’re tired and have 11 miles with a bazillion feet of climbing left to run. If I had it my way, I’d always win every single race in the last mile. I’d also be able to teleport. But I can’t teleport and when you’re in the lead it’s very hard to stay positive as most thoughts that pop up are about guys coming up from behind you, or potential cramps, or sprained ankles, or other things that might take away the win from you.

Logically, I knew I had a gap, and that it was unlikely someone in the field would run me down on that course, but emotionally, and physically, I was still in a lot of pain and it was hard to stay positive. I walked the steep uphills throwing myself a pity party until I made a conscious realization that most likely everyone else was suffering just as much as I was, each of us unknowingly throwing tiny little pity parties just minutes away from each other.

Appreciate the enthusiasm, fellas. Please send the ladies also next time. Pic by Kaori Photo.

Appreciate the enthusiasm, fellas, but next time please send the ladies also. Pic by Kaori Photo.

Mom’s B Day Present!

The last few miles I pulled back, trying to save my legs from the weeks of recovery necessary after Wildflower. But I discovered running that course “relaxed” is just as hard as running it hard, and oh my god my legs are sore. I gave some high fives, crossed the finish line and got to receive my finisher’s medal from CRAZY ASS FAN #1 (my mom) on her birthday.

Happy b day, mom!

Happy b day, mom! Photo courtesy of Tri California

The Best Part – Bro Hugs 4 LIFE

A few minutes after finishing, the second place guy started coming down the chute. It took me a while to recognize the “lumbering gait” of this gentleman, non other than Matt Lieto. When I finally did, I was so stoked I could barely contain myself, and after he crossed the finish line we shared a most epic bro hug, rubbing our full spandex racing kits all over each other.

Most of my crazy ass fans know that Matt brought me down to Wildflower 4 years ago, lent me his helmet and gave me all kinds of help to win my first big race. Since then, he’s been a massive part of my progression in the sport as a friend, advisor, training buddy and Wildflower cabin mate. And while I had great days at this race the last 4 years, he went through injuries, illnesses, and tough performances, but always kept a massive smile on his face, sincerely stoked for my success.

I am sincerely stoked on his performance, more so than my own. I’ve seen the time he’s put in over the years and to see it finally pay off is, as I say with my GoPro, #SOLIDGOLD. In many ways, that’s what sport is all about, having those ups and downs and races to measure our ability at moments in time. It doesn’t always go your way, but when it does, it’s worth all the effort. To share the podium with him on a breakthrough day was something I’ll remember for a long time.

We're touching as much as it looks like we are. Kaori Photo.

We’re touching as much as it looks like we are. Pic courtesy of Kaori Photo.

This New Course Awesome

One more parting thought. We don’t know how long the drought in California is going to last, and when the lake levels will be back to “normal” for Wildflower. But I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t matter! This course and this event, AS IS, is freaking awesome. It’s beautiful, festive, has great people, and it’s really freaking HARD. It has swimming, biking, and running. I’ve mentioned before that our sport tends to get too focused on standardized distances and times, PRs on flat fast courses, etc. Well, I’d strongly encourage any of you to come out and try this event in the format that it’s in. It’s a straight up challenge worth trying and something you’ll feel awesome about accomplishing at the end of the day. Do it!

Strava Files: For those interested in the nerdy details of power, splits, heart rate and segment KOMs, check out my strava page knock yourself out!

Thanks as always to the many supporters I have that make this possible, including:

Mom. Thanks for coming! Happy birthday! Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for being crazy ass fan #1!

Family – Lauren, JtD, Joel, Lis, Nikki, Waylon, Darren, Courtney, Janna, dad, Jeff, James, Elia, Isla, Grey, and Jess!

Coach – Matt Dixon, Kelly, Anthony and other purplepatch staff and athletes. Thanks for the guidance, training, support, and laughs. You’ve kept the road always awesome.


Jaybird – Top billing this week! Thanks for all the support and coming out to support this event as well. Stoked to see some of the video and images we got! You guys are the best!

In case you missed it, a video Jaybird put together on family, work, and sport.

Dimond – also thanks for coming out to the event, and on site support. My first fastest bike split on the new bike. Hopefully one of many to come.

Pearl Izumi – Thanks as always guys! Kit and shoes were fabulous as usual. Super stoked for your long time support.

ROKA SportsMaverick and goggles were top notch this race. Finally did them justice! Used the F2 with the grey dark tint for direct sunlight and was bueno, awesome visibility the whole way. Thanks guys!

Good thing I've got that wetsuit to cover my chest's all natural drag suit.

Good thing I’ve got that wetsuit to cover my chest’s all natural drag suit. Photo Rocky Arroyo / Triathlete Mag

Red Bull – Would NOT have gotten through that run without some wings as a pick me up! Thanks a ton for all the support guys, looking forward to camp in a couple of weeks!

Refuel by Digipower – Thanks for the support, guys! Got some great shots before and after, loving your products.

Rolf PrimaAres 6 clinchers were awesome again. Definitely loving these wheels, super fast and easy to maintain. Thanks for the continued support guys, 5 years now, wow!

PowerTap – Thanks guys, gave me something to look at and focus on the whole race out there by myself on the bike. Really appreciate the support and stoked for the new products coming out soon!

Accenture – Thanks for the support, guys! See you a little later this summer!

CRAZY ASS FANS: Many of you introduced yourself this weekend, so many that I think our numbers are growing to multiples of DOZENS. It was awesome to meet you all. I hope you enjoyed the festival as much as I did. Thanks to the many of you who followed along online, I could feel your positive energy during the race keeping me going. And huge thanks to all of you who’ve followed this story from whenever you first came across it, glad we can continue to add a new chapter here and there. Good luck, and see you next time!

Thanks for the many hi 5's along the way! Photo

Thanks for the many hi 5’s along the way! Photo Rocky Arroyo / Triathlete Mag

24 comments to High 5 for FIVE: 2015 Wildflower Race Report

  • d

    So serious these days. Would appreciate some of the more important information about your race like which song was stuck in your head. Thanks in advance.

  • Jomo

    Awesome job Jesse! Long time CAF here, really happy that this year shaping up so well. Way to bring the pain. And congrats to Matt Lieto; you guys are like the Bend version of the Splash Brothers. Or something.

  • Roo

    5 in a row at WF….that is truly EPIC. No wait, as one would say, that is re-donk-ulously EPIC! Congrats on the win (again)! Thanks for sharing. Will you be at Vineman this year?

  • Mom

    So proud! You’re an awesome son Jesse! xoxo

  • My biggest question after reading your recap: what Stars song did you croon to yourself?

  • Elisabeth

    Wildflower is truly one of a kind (and was way before the drought), I hope people come back to it next year, triathlon (and May) wouldn’t be the same without it. I didn’t race this year, but was there supporting, cheering and coaching and it was just as amazing as ever. My friends and I were at the finish as you were running down the chute and it was awesome to witness. Congrats!

  • The Ricker

    Great write up, thank you.
    As a fellow Stanford grad, I hold you to a higher spelling/grammar standard than most other triathletes (except maybe Rappstar).
    First paragraph, “its own time”, “its own way”, not “it’s”.


  • Tibor Fabian

    Congrats!! The Jaybird video is fantastic, it makes me cry thinking about family in our lives …. what a wonderful kid.

  • Kate Urban

    Congrats to you and Matt!!! So awesome and so happy for you both!

    Also, I did the bike leg of the relay, and I shamelessly confess to stalking your bike in T1B while I waited to start. I guess you must have been tired, or you definitely would have been frightened by the crazy girl jumping up and down three feet away yelling “GO JESSE GO!” and then chasing you in her flip flops through transition…

  • sandra

    Congratulation Jesse!
    I think Wildflower should be renamed JessePower. How wonderful Mum was there to celebrate your win and her birthday. Please share our best wishes.
    The Canadian contingency salutes your performance, sportsmanship and character
    The video by Jaybird is awesome. It is so great to see you with Jude, being the Dad I imagined .All our love to you ,Lauren and Jude.

  • Jason

    You were the reason I picked WF as my first Olympic last year, and after it kicked my ass (Beach Hill is not a nice surprise on the run), I came back even more determined this year. Your wins last year and this year are nothing short of epic on that brutal course, with all of the other pressures you’ve been facing, and I’m sure the huge impact to your training. Thanks for sticking with Wildflower. I think it shows great loyalty and character.

  • So awesome! Congrats on a wicked 5-peat!

  • Rhonda Strunk

    I was so very excited for you, Lauren and Jude who daily contribute to your success mentally and emotionally I missed seeing Jude’s support, the cry and support as Lauren pushed on, but so glad Carol was there how exciting for both of you. Jess you are amazing and i couldn’t be happier that Matt did so well. Only person I can think of you would feel ok if it were reversed. You work so hard and it is with admiration that I watch. Congradulations Jess and family because you all work hard for this.

  • Kristen Godfrey

    Once again on the trainer reading one of your race reports- inspired and totally stoked for you & Matt. Cheers!

  • Daniel Thomas

    I remember reading your first post about winning Wildflower #1. Nuts to think it’s been 5 years. Continues to be exceptionally sweet to watch you pursue truly exceptional results, even at a distance. Thrilled for you and your family!

  • Matt

    First, congratulations on a terrific win and a great start to the season.

    Second, what…what? You walked the steepest uphills? Can you say a bit more about that. Asking because I alternate walk/ran minutes up Beach Hill at the Olympic and feel a bit loser-ish about it. Curious where/why/how you walked.

    Cheers on a great race.

    • Jason

      Can’t speak for Jesse, but that’s typical… just about everyone walks a bit of Beach Hill. And most trail racers walk the steepest parts to keep the HR from spiking. I walked twice on Beach and still had a big PR on the run and overall.

  • Erik

    Hey Jesse,
    I was one of the SRDs this year and I just wanted to say thank you for sticking with Wildflower through the changes and adaptation. That was pretty inspiring to see you come across that line and seeing the way you and Matt were so genuinely stoked for each other! You are a legend and thank you for the awesome race report for those of us who only get to actually see portions of the race. Keep up the great work and I wish you continued success this season until we can see you again at WF next year!

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