Thomas Three-Peats, Jackson Repeats At Wildflower

Both defending champions took home wins at the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon today.

Photo: Rocky Arroyo

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Both defending champions took home wins at the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon today, with a history-making three consecutive wins for Jesse Thomas and a repeat for course record holder Heather Jackson.

Men’s Race
A non-wetsuit swim started off the race, with Clayton Fettell and John Dahlz leading out of the water. Thomas exited with Joe Gambles and Leon Griffin a little over two minutes behind the leaders. Fettell held his bike lead throughout the 56 miles, at one point opening the gap up to 2:45 ahead of the chase pack of nine, which included Paul Ambrose, Gambles, Griffin and Thomas. With 20 miles to go, Thomas put in some effort off the front of the chase group. By the time they reached Wildflower’s infamous “Nasty Grade” around mile 34, Thomas had gained on Fettell to close the gap to 1:15 at the top. With 10 miles to go, the chase pack had lessened the gap to 75 seconds and by T2 they had narrowed in on Fettell.

Shortly into the run, Griffin and Thomas passed Fettell and started the battle that kept them running shoulder-to-shoulder for most of the half marathon. Around mile 10, Thomas started to pull ahead and cruised down Lynch Hill and into the finishing chute to take home his third Wildflower victory. Griffin followed and Gambles held onto third.

Photos: Thomas, Jackson Repeat At Lake Nacimiento

Women’s Race
Tenille Hoogland and Kristen Peterson led out of the swim closely followed by Laurel Wassner (the only woman not wearing a swim skin). Returning defender Jackson came out in sixth, about 1:30 down from the main trio. By the halfway point of the bike, Aussie Kat Baker was dominating the bike course in the lead with the women spread out behind her. She kept Jackson about four minutes behind her, and held that gap into T2. Baker has battled injury for the last five years and said she was unsure of how she would run today, and around mile six, Jackson—who ran a fast 1:21 on the hilly course last year—caught her. Jackson continued to extend her lead going into the finish and crossed the line in 4:43:47. Baker followed, and mother of two Elizabeth Lyles came in third.

Photos: 2013 Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
Lake San Antonio, Calif. – May 4, 2013
1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run

1. Jesse Thomas 4:02:19
2. Leon Griffin 4:03:36
3. Joe Gambles 4:04:44
4. Jeff Symonds 4:07:59
5. Josiah Middaugh 4:14:04

1. Heather Jackson 4:43:47
2. Kat Baker 4:45:16
3. Liz Lyles 4:48:00
4. Jennifer Tetrick 4:50:33
5. Tenille Hoogland 4:50:51

Top Wildflower Pros Talk About Their Races

Jesse Thomas

“It was way different two years ago. There’s a lot more people who know my name and are cheering for me. This year was even significantly different from last year. last year I felt a ton of pressure internally to legitimize the first win—to prove that I wasn’t a one-hit wonder. So I didn’t feel that pressure this year. I wanted to win very badly, but it honestly didn’t’ mean as much to me as it did this year. I feel legitamized as an athlete. What meant a lot to me was beating the field that showed up on the day that we had here which was a tough day for me with a tough non-wetsuit swim—that definitely puts me more at a disadvantage than the other guys—and then I’ve never beaten Joe Gambles and I’ve just barely beaten Leon once and Jeff Symonds…so all those guys were on my radar and I knew it was going to be a tough day.”

Leon Griffin

“It’s a hard game, this triathlon game. Maybe I was getting a bit ahead of myself thinking I could just back in to where I left off, but last year was a bit of a building year. I came here really fit, I did a couple Ironmans early in the year to build up some big miles. Second today, I just didn’t have that speed. I have to find that speed and I’ve got four weeks before the next race to find a minute. I definitely had a good race in Geelong [in a half-iron distance in February], I ran a 1:12 half marathon, and that was pretty on par. Jesse, myself and Joe ran side by side for five miles. Up a steep hill we got a lead on Joe and we ran together…I knew he’s a surging kind of athlete so I just kept waiting for him to surge. Then he surged downhill—I’ve got short legs and he’s got long legs and he kept on gapping me own those hills. At 9 miles he put in a gap I couldn’t match. It’s my third time here, and second place is fantastic, but hopefully I’ll come on better next year.”

Joe Gambles

“It was six weeks [since Ironman Melbourne] so there was no fatigue in the legs. I had a couple weeks off after Ironman, traveled back from Australia and settled into Boulder for a few weeks of training.  I haven’t had a chance to do any real intensity or change of speed in my running, and that’s where those guys ran away from me. They were in and out of the corners around the lake and I just couldn’t accelerate. They just kept getting a bunch of seconds and before I knew it, they were just out of sight. I’m really happy—I’ve had four pretty bad races with 12th in Vegas, a DNF in Kona, 12th in Auckland with a flat tire and a DNF in Ironman Melbourne, and I’ve been training harder than ever and doing all the right things, but it just hasn’t been coming together for me. It’s a good result and I can build on this.”

Heather Jackson

“I was in third for a while with no one in sight. I kept hearing ‘three minutes’—I actually didn’t know it was Kat or who she was, so my plan was to attack the hills and I thought I would bring some time back there…but I was losing time and started freaking out a bit. I think it was up to four minutes by T2, so I just headed out hoping she couldn’t run. A few miles out I started hearing ‘about a minute’ so I knew I was bringing back time. I got her about mile four on a big hill, the same place I got Linsey Corbin last year. I do a lot of hill repeats so I just thought to myself, ‘okay, one hill repeat,’ and I pushed it up the hill pretty hard and got a bit of a gap and settled in for the rest of it.

This is huge. It was a tough decision for me to come here versus St. George, but the heritage here, the history…to be able to defend, I was just so happy.”

Kat Baker

“I haven’t raced in the U.S. since 2009. I didn’t know what to expect but I wanted to be first off the bike. The run isn’t my strength so I need a lead if I’m going to challenge. I keep getting running injuries so I keep going back to cycling just because I enjoy it and I’m good at it. I came [to Wildflower] in 2008 and got 10th, and really enjoyed it, so I really wanted to come back. I wasn’t sure how far I had off the bike but when she got me I kind of expected it.”

Jesse Thomas’ Triathlete Magazine Triathlife Columns
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