Coming off of Vineman 70.3 which took place 20 days prior to Ironman Vineman I had a pretty good idea of what to expect course-wise and weather-wise. What I didn’t know was how my body would respond to Ironman racing. I had raced 70.3’s in Victoria, Coeur d’Alene, and Vineman since my last full Ironman attempt in Australia which did not turn out too well. The 70.3s were complete different efforts than I would have to put out on Ironman race day, but I knew that the length I would have to hold the scaled back effort and the heat of the day(90 degrees expected) were going to be the variables I would have to deal with. I was determined to stick to my race no matter what was going on around me. I have had plenty of disasters by letting others dictate how I execute on race day. I know what I am capable of, and if I go outside of that effort I cannot succeed.
Upon arriving at the Russian River on race morning we(the professionals) were informed that it would be a nonwetsuit swim. I had been mentally preparing for this since Vineman 70.3 so it was no surprise to me, but knowing how much a wetsuit helps my swim I still had to mentally grasp the fact that I would be coming out of the water WAY behind the leaders.
I threw on my swim skin and headed to the water. There were 14 professional men hitting the start line. We got in the water to warm up. It was COLD. We were all shivering and our teeth were chattering. I am not sure where they measured the water temperature but I am positive it was below 71.9 degrees (wetsuit cut-off temperature) where we got in. After a few minutes of warm up we lined up and were sent off. As expected, I was way off the back really quick. Coach David and I had talked about staying to the outside on the way out as to stay out of the center of the current. I stuck to my Ironman pacing I had practiced time and time again at the Tower 26 workouts and kept my mind present on the process. As soon as my thoughts started to wander toward the negative, I refocused back onto the process. There were a few spots throughout the swim course where the depth was less than 2 feet deep. Because of all of the work I have done with Coach Gerry and my team at Tower 26, I was no stranger to the heart rate spike you typically get when going from swimming to dolphin diving back to swimming. This preparation allowed me to keep moving forward through the shallow spots without missing a beat. I came out of the water feeling good and fresh. I did not pay attention to the clock I just kept moving forward. It was a 1:07 swim split.
I grabbed my helmet, stayed calm while I dealt with a wardrobe/zipper malfunction in T1, fixed it, and headed out onto the bike. Like I said earlier, the Ironman effort is scaled back which means it is approximately 10% less than my Half Ironman effort. Instead of pushing 90% of my threshold I was targeting to hold 80%. In terms of numbers this meant instead of 335-340w I was aiming for 295-300w of normalized power. As I settled into this pace, it felt easy compared to the effort I had been accustomed to putting out in the previous three races. I had to keep telling myself to hold back. 112 miles is a long way to ride. In order to keep the average watts where I needed to the entire way and still run well I was going to have to be patient. I like to learn from past experience and I know at Ironman Australia I “overbiked” which means I pushed too hard, way beyond what I was capable of. At this race I found the groove, and once again, focused on the process. Every 20 minutes I took in calories and I consistently hydrated the entire ride. Here is a link to my Bike Profile if you are interested in how I rode the course. I biked the course in 4:47 with a normalized power of 298w.
I knew I was making up a bit of ground on the field that had swam away from me. I pulled up to and past 3 guys while on course and came into T2 with 2 other professionals, Colin Laughery and Nick Granet. I stripped off my one piece speed suit and threw on my 2 piece race kit prepping for the heat, laced up my Skechers GoRun 4’s, and exited T2 with Nick and Colin. We exchanged a few pleasantries and headed out on our way to a 26.2 miles grueling heat and hills.
As I came through the initial turn on the course the race announcer (and one HELL of a guy) Dave Latourette informed me that the “money” (eight place) was about 2 minutes up the road. I turned to the first road which was LONG and HILLY and I could see a speck of a human running WAAAAAAAY in the distance. I couldn’t fathom how that was only 2 minutes but I put my head down and stared to click off the miles. Once again my legs wanted to GO, but I had to put the reigns on. In marathon running I know how important it is to stay within yourself, especially at the start. I wanted to take it out and hold 6:30min/mi pace through mile 13 then turn off the watch and RUN the last half with what I had left. Around mile 7 I passed my good buddy Doug MacLean who swore at me a few times. This moved me into 7th place. Doug was the runner I saw WAAAAAAY off in the distance at the start of the run so over the course of the 7 miles I ran at a much quicker pace to catch him by mile 7. I thought that was the last I would see of Good Old Dougie Boy. NO WAY! Every turn around that guy was behind me digging deep. Even if I wanted to let off the gas for a minute I couldn’t do it because he was pressing. He pushed me for a long way. I was settling for the fact that I had run up to 7th place and would finish there being that the top 6 guys were way too far ahead to catch, when at mile 19 I heard someone yell “I think you’re still in 6th Jesse!” To which Jesse replied, “Not anymore, by about 6 feet.” I hadn’t even realized I had just run past Jesse Vondacek putting me into 6th place. Once again he didn’t let up, I could hear his footsteps behind me. This pushed me through the last 10k. It was hurting and hot but I knew the end was near.
With 2 miles left I finally realized that I was in 6th place and that was where I’d stay. It was a fun run to the finish, lined with spectators all of whom were very congratulatory to the effort laid out on that course. I stopped to give my Mom and Dad a hug as I came down the finishing shoot. They were so excited for me. Their smiles made all of the deep digging worth while. I crossed the finish line in 8:57 with a race best 2:56 marathon. Here is the link for a breakdown of my run.
I think my main take away from this race is how important it is to stick to MY plan on race day. We all get our hopes up which might make us overly ambitious, but I have learned time after time that I am only capable of what I am capable of. If we are training and living right those capabilities continue to grow. Honesty is how true greatness is achieved in this sport. If we aren’t honest with ourselves disastrous days happen. I am sure I will make this mistake again in the future but hopefully I can quickly correct it by recalling this race and what it took to have a result.
On to growing my capabilities…..
Thanks to everyone who was shouting for me on course, my parents for making the trip out to support me as they have throughout all of my crazy endeavors in life, to my wife, Megan, for dealing with me which is not easy, to my coaches David Tilbury-Davis and Gerry Rodrigues-you guys have faith in me and that is what it takes to keep me moving forward, to Skechers for being there with me from the start, to Altus Sports Institute who keep my foundation STRONG and able to accept the punishment I give it, to Giant Bikes who do what it takes to make help me take my cycling to the next level on quality equipment, to Infinit Nutrition for getting me the calories I need in a smart manner that is suited to ME, and to all of the athletes I coach at Red Performance Multisport- All of the support you guys give back to me means SO much. As I push through barriers I think of all of the efforts you individually put in and the commitments you make to become the best you can be. This inspires me to be the best I can be. Thank You.