Jesse Thomas is back! In a weekly series leading up to the Ironman World Championship the 140.6 champ will address training, racing, nutrition, mental prep, and gear—and how he’s fitting it all in while running Picky Bars, the business he co-founded with his wife, Lauren Fleshman, and being a dad to son, Jude, and new baby, Zadie.
When I somewhat randomly started my triathlon career eight years ago, I had no idea what it would lead to. I honestly had no idea what I was doing. So I started writing a blog to journal my experiences while simultaneously entertaining my mom and a few of her friends that read it. I called the blog “The Triathlife,” which at that time I thought was an INGENIOUSLY WITTY way to interweave the word “tri” into some other word! Get it!?! Clearly, I was new to the sport.
Anyway, after spending my teens and early 20s pursuing sport as my clear top priority, I viewed “The Triathlife” as an evolved perspective. As a 30-year-old, newly married entrepreneur and MBA, I was looking to not only pursue sport at the highest level, but also pursue balance with equal excellence in my other two life “disciplines”—work, and family. Sport, work, family—Triathlife. When I started writing for Triathlete magazine six years ago, it became the title of my column. I’ve succeeded and failed and written about it all during the last eight years.
And now, in the face of my second Kona, it defines my life. In the last 20 days I (with lots of help from others, see below):
- Won Augusta 70.3.
- Closed a successful Kickstarter for Picky Performance Oatmeal, Picky Bars first new product line.
- Helped Lauren build a new baby room and basically redo our entire house because you know nesting.
- Got my son Jude started on “Ninja” lessons and played 49 games of Trouble.
- Completed my final training block and heat prep for Kona.
- Had a baby girl, Zadie! (The “press release” is worth reading, IMHO).
And 25 hours after Zadie popped out, here I am, writing this blog on a plane to Kona for the Ironman World Championships. If that isn’t Triathlife, I don’t know what is!
And of course, since it’s Kona and it’s the world champs, it always means something special to all those competing. But to me this year, it actually feels even bigger than that. It feels like the culmination of my intent behind “Triathlife.” Like, I’ve found my juju, my zone, my flow. I’m in my element. In a weird way it feels like I’ve already done it, I’ve already won. And what’s crazy about this feeling is that obviously I haven’t won (and don’t anticipate I will, but you never know!) In fact, I haven’t even raced yet! But for some reason it feels like it almost doesn’t matter how it goes, I’m #winning.
And in this moment, I think maybe I’ve discovered the point of “Triathlife.” The maximization of your happiness, your “flow,” across competing aspects of your life (sport, work, family) allows you to define your own success in each of those disciplines, as opposed to defining that success in a typical measure, i.e. your place in a triathlon, how much money you make, or what others think of your relationship, etc. I guess what I’m saying is, my pursuit of happiness in work and family takes the pressure off of singular results in triathlon. Of course, I want to compete well, but regardless of what happens on Saturday, right now I feel legitimately happy with my life. And that’s pretty awesome, right? Isn’t that kind of like…the point of everything? I’m not a giant nervous bomb waiting to implode who’ll be devastated if the race goes poorly. I don’t know for sure (I’ll tell you on Sunday) but I feel like that’s a pretty good head space to occupy going into a big race.
The only potential problem I see is that if I feel too content, how do I find the motivation to push through the pain when the going gets super-duper-ridiculously-lava-melting-your-bones tough? Well, for me, I think the answer is HONOR. And I don’t mean “honor” like Mel Gibson in Braveheart—though that’s cool too.
I want to honor the sacrifices and support that enabled me to accomplish all those things I listed, while simultaneously delivering me to this starting line as fit, healthy and happy as I am. When I inevitably start to hurt on Saturday, feel failure looming physically or mentally, or encounter a setback of some kind, I will think of the people that got me here, and how I can’t let them down. This race isn’t about me, it’s about them:
- My wife Lauren, who encouraged me to race despite knowing I would miss some portion of the events around our second baby’s birth.
- My son Jude who puts up with a “grandpa-dad” who’s too tired to play outside, so does lots of reading and legos instead.
- My family, who do everything from help watch Jude during Sunday long run to allow me to show up to family dinner late, low energy, and contribute nothing but hunger after a long workout.
- My employees who literally make Picky Bars happen when I’m not there (which is a lot), and also make it do all the things we want to happen, which is a lot!
- My sponsors, for the equipment and financial support that provide for my family while I race for living, legitimizing the “cost” of the time I spend away from them exercising, racing, and traveling.
- My coach who provides the smart, flexible athletic framework necessary for me to compete at the highest level while also trying to be a dad and business owner at the highest level.
- Many many others—PT, massage, business mentors, friends and industry contacts.
- You! Believe it or not. My literally DOZENS of crazy ass fans who encourage, support, and give me reason to strive, fail, succeed, and tell stories.
I’m willing to bet that you, whether you’re racing Kona on Saturday, or in the hunt for some other goal, have a similar set of feelings about balancing the pursuit of your goal with other imporant factors of life. And I bet you also have list of people who help you do it. So my advice to you (and to myself), is on a day when it feels like it should all be about the race, remember your family, friends and colleagues. HONOR them on Saturday (or whenever). I’ll honor those people, honor all they’ve given. I feel ready and excited to do so. Thank you all for reading and supporting. And as always let me know if you have any questions via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Strava. I’ll see you on the other side!