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2016 Kona Preview, Thoughts, and Thanks

Aaaaaaalohhhhhhhhhhaaaaaa Crazy Ass Fans!

The time is finally upon us….Ironman World Championships on Saturday! Whoa.

Some quick info to get out to you all before I start the pre-race deep psychological dive and answer the questions I know you’re all yearning to hear:

What: 2016 Ironman World Championships

Where: Kailua-Kona, HI

When: Saturday 10/8, 6:25am to ~3:00pm or so local time (9:25am to ~6:00pm Pacific)

How to Watch/Follow:

And Now For Deep Thoughts on Kona, by Jesse Thomas

This Jack Handey Deep Thought seems appropriate for Kona.

This Jack Handey Deep Thought seems appropriate for Kona.

Some of you may have already read my article in this month’s issue of Triathlete Magazine about how I wanted to approach my training and general build up into Kona, which I wrote a couple of months ago, after I knew I’d qualified for the race. If you have some time, I’d encourage you to read it. But in short, here’s what it says:

  • I never expected myself to be an Ironman athlete. I always thought the training required was too long and made racing too focused on just 1-2 events a year. Furthermore, I thought Kona was the absolute pinnacle of the “be all end all,” super extreme, semi-cultish infatuation that I viewed as the crazy-but-not-in-a-good-way end of the triathlon spectrum.  
  • But after spending 5 years as a pro, I needed a new challenge and decided to try an Ironman. And as you all know, it went well. And so did the second one. So now here I am, racing Kona. It’s a career “bucket list” race, but I never expected Kona to be the main target of my career and I still don’t.

So in the article I promised myself that regardless of the industry hype, buildup, and what feels like over-fascination with this race, I would do my best to treat it just like any other race. I’d prepare for the race in my own way, set my own expectations, and most importantly race and experience the day on my own terms – in a way that made sense for me, my family, and my business.

So now, 3 months later, did I fulfill my promise? Did I refrain from overdoing it and wrapping myself up in the hype? I won’t know fully until after the race is over, but as of now…I think so.

Looking back, here are some things I did and didn’t do the last few months:

Things I didn’t do:

  • Skip Work – In the last 3 months Picky Bars added 3 new employees, had a number of big marketing programs, and, (surprise!), launched in all the Oregon & Washington Whole Foods! So even though I’m a pro and had Ironman-freaking-Kona, I was still in the office a lot doing hours of things every day a pro triathlete probably shouldn’t be doing.
  • Go Somewhere – I didn’t travel anywhere to prep specifically for Kona (Kona, or some other hot place). It just felt like too much to ask of my family & business to leave Bend for an extended period of time. 
  • Nail All My Training – To be honest, There was a lot of adaptation to the plan as I got tired and felt like I needed to bail or rest. A complete blowup/meltdown on one of my Ironman simulators, bad swims, shortened rides, and skipped runs.
  • Get Divorced – Haha, it’s a harsh way to put it, but you get the picture. Ironman training – particularly for Kona – can have disastrous effects on partner relationships. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but I feel like Lauren and I managed this prep really well. She definitely supported me when I needed it, and I feel like (to know for sure you’ll have to ask her) I reciprocated when she needed it – regardless of if it was “best” for my training.


Things I did:

  • Trained Hard – While I backed off when I needed to, I did put in a lot of work for this race. I don’t track metrics too precisely, but think my overall “load” in terms of cumulative stress, miles, yards, whatever, on my body was the highest ever. At least it felt like it. I don’t feel like I had the same “breakout” workouts I had before Lanzarote, and maybe that’s because after having those workouts, nothing felt like a breakout. But I still did a few things I’ve never done before – long rides, big bricks, some solid double runs and swims that mostly point in the right direction.
  • Worked Less – Even though I definitely worked, I have to credit my Picky Bars team with taking over the reigns more than ever, particularly the last 4-6 weeks or so. They gave me more freedom (and confidence) than I’ve ever had in the business to operate without me. I really appreciate that, and the extra rest between sessions a couple of days a week made it actually doable without a complete meltdown, and gave me more time with family when time was hard to come by.

Overall – I’m Pretty Happy With My Prep

Physically, emotionally, psychologically – nothing is perfect, but no prep ever is, and I really can’t complain with where I am. Like I said, I didn’t nail all my workouts in the lead up, in fact, there were probably more that were sub par, but I did have some great ones. There were times during this prep that I felt the most tired I’ve ever felt in my triathlon training – an obvious response to the increased overall load. I was a little worried coming out of Santa Cruz that I’d overdone it a bit, but I seem to be bouncing back well after some rest.

My Expectations, Hopes & Goals:

I expect to win this race in record time, become World Champion, and continue my undefeated Ironman streak for always and forever into infinity. Hahaha, I know some of the craziest ass of you do expect or hope that I win, but honestly, that’s like a one in a million chance, or at least like one in 1000 according to the odds makers. Yes, it’s possible, and I know that on the right day, anything can happen, but I know it’s also super duper long shot.

So honestly, what are my hopes? When Phil at First Off the Bike asked me this question, he said I can’t give him some weak-ass answer like, “I just want to do my best, yada yada yada.” So even though all I really want is to just do my best yada yada yada, I’ll give you guys, like I gave him, my best shot at a concrete goal and expectation:

Straight off – anything inside the top 10 would be an absolutely fantastic dream result, almost regardless of how it goes down. My best worlds result is still 12th in the 2014 70.3 World Champs, so any improvement on that is great no matter what. But that’s the dream. I’d likely be very very happy with a top 15 or 20 or even 25 depending on what happens out there and how I respond. I really don’t know what to expect, so it’s pretty hard to set a real goal.

So that’s my way of giving you a real goal but also doing a ton of hedging. Pretty awesome, right!

Here’s what I do know. The Pro Start List is a who’s who of triathlon. Which shouldn’t be surprising, it’s the World Championships. It’s kind of crazy, you forget how many great guys there are in the sport until they ALL show up at the same race. Every single one of those guys believes they are top 10, and probably 30 of them believe they are top 3. Sure, I’ve beaten a lot of those guys at one point or another, but most have beaten me consistently, and nearly all of them have done this race before and more Ironmans in general. Unlike Wales and Lanzarote, which combine attributes that suit my strengths – wetsuit swim, small fields, SUPER tough hilly bike, milder temps – Kona has the opposite of most of those factors – non wetsuit swim, crazy big group that’s hard to catch if you aren’t front pack, mostly flattish bike course, and RIDICULOUSLY hot, which I’ve always struggled with.

So given all the challenges of the course, the environment, and the race dynamics, that’s how I feel about it. Top 20 is a solid day, even lower depending on how it goes. A top 10 would be unbelievable.

Check out the video above for a great interview with Bob Babbit this week where I talk about my expectations and basically everything you’re reading right now!

Looking Back – Thanks, a Dream Come True

As much as I’m approaching this race mentally like just another race, I know it’s more momentous than that, and like usual it’s hard for me not to get a little reflective and sentimental. And what I’ve felt most the last few days is that, this is a dream come true. I don’t mean racing Kona specifically because that was never really my dream. I mean more generally – being a professional athlete, publicly supported to pursue something I love, and lucky enough to compete against the best in the world. That really is a dream come true.

And I owe a massive thanks to all you guys for supporting me in the various ways you do throughout my career and throughout my life in general to enable this dream to materialize. To a certain extent, regardless of how it goes, whether it’s the first of many, or the one and only, I feel very very fortunate to be able to experience this week and this race. And on Saturday, as the miles add up, the heat pours on and any number of likely things derail my plans, I’ll do my best to remember that feeling, that thanks, and the energy from you guys all the way to that last, thank God this is over, step on Ali’i Drive.


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