How Did Jason West Dash for Silver at Clash Miami?
The 28-year-old managed insanely hot race conditions and ran his way onto the podium through a stacked field. We’ve got two of his key race-specific sessions, his thoughts on the mental side of competing, and what’s next.
Jason West’s run coach, Bobby McGee, calls him the silent assassin. With a calm demeanor, West is someone who has always quietly put in the work, training mainly alone and going about his business. It will be hard to remain a silent assassin moving forward though, as his second place finish in Miami turned heads and pushed him into the spotlight, a place he plans to stay.
Racing Smarter, Not Harder
West had the seventh best swim, the 10th best bike, and the fastest run on Friday to earn himself a podium spot with fellow Americans Sam Long (1st) and Ben Kanute (third).
While it was his run that moved him from eighty place off the bike to second place at the finish line, he actually believes the gains made on the bike are what helped him achieve this result.
“I finally rode really well and that was a big hurdle for me,” West said. “That has always been my weakness. Performing there made the fast run actually matter.”
With a 2 p.m. start in the Florida heat and humidity, West’s plan was to be strategic in executing a smart race. After watching the women’s race unfold with much carnage—and a staggeringly high DNF rate—he knew he needed to focus on fueling, dumping as much water on his body to keep his core temperature as cool as possible, and managing his energy output.
Bobby McGee, West’s run coach, commented on their communication on Friday around his plan for the race.
“The morning of the race we were texting, figuring a plan; there’s no beating that kind of heat, there’s not even racing, there’s just figuring what kind of effort gets you through this with some semblance of fight left in the end, and boy did he ever have something left,” McGee said.
Slapping Himself Into Second
With two laps to go on the run, as West was approaching Kanute to make the pass for second place, video coverage showed him slapping himself in the face a few times.
“This is something I have done before in races,” West admitted. “Sometimes you just have to find ways to psych yourself up or bring your energy up in the later stages of the race.”
West covered the 10.3 mile (16.5 km) run course in 55:04, the fastest split of the day, averaging 5:15 pace per mile. While running is his strength, he had to dig deep mentally to stay engaged in the later stages of the run as the heat took its toll.
“Anytime you are racing and you are hours in, you want to slow down and you want to make it ok to slow down,” West said. “Sometimes you need to just give yourself a little slap to stay positive and not think that way. It snaps you back into the mindset you need to be in.”
Wrestler Turned Triathlete
Raised in Pennsylvania, West was the youngest of four boys. He started off as a feisty wrestler, and found triathlon later at the age of 16. When he began college at Penn State, he joined their triathlon club team where he continued to blossom as a multisport athlete. As a sophomore, he earned his professional license at the Philadelphia Triathlon and knew then that he wanted to pursue sport full-time after graduation. After his senior year at Penn State, where he was crowned the collegiate national champion, he moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he still lives and trains.
Although West focused mainly on ITU draft-legal racing from 2015-2020, he still competed in many non-draft events like St. Anthony’s, NYC Triathlon and Escape from Alcatraz. In 2019, Jason competed at his first 70.3 event in Santa Cruz and won.
After the Tokyo Olympic cycle ended, Jason decided to commit full-time to non-draft racing. Last year, Jason won Ironman 70.3 Memphis, Ironman 70.3 Des Moines, and the New York City Triathlon in addition to strong second-place finishes at Escape from Alcatraz and 70.3 Augusta.
A New Approach
Despite his recent success, West was close to moving on from the sport in the midst of the pandemic.
“About a year ago I was pretty close to retiring from sport,” West admitted. “COVID had been hard on me, I was working another job and everything seemed almost hopeless.”
Perhaps the breakthrough at Clash Miami is that much sweeter after persevering through a difficult time in his career. West made some pivotal changes that he believes are the reason he is still competing today.
“I decided if I was going to keep doing it, I was going to make sure I loved it,” West said. “I decided to make sure I was surrounding myself with good people—I brought on Bobby McGee. I decided to go back to the things that made me love the sport when I started at 16. For me that was finding new ways to challenge myself and get better, not just worrying about what the numbers should look like. Just good, old-fashioned hard work that would challenge me and excite me.”
Glimpses of Greatness
West’s three-week block leading into Clash Miami consisted of around thirty hours of training each week. This included six swims, six or seven bikes, five or six runs and two strength sessions.
“I think that all of my bike sessions in the last block were breakthroughs for me,” West commented. “I was hitting numbers consistently that I never had before.”
About ten days out from the race, West’s “Killer Kilometer” workout (outlined below) is one that stood out for both coach and athlete.
“Being a consultant on Jason’s run and working with him is so much fun,” McGee said. “I knew he was going to do well, we both saw something in the numbers that had me saying, ‘Here we go!’”
Whats Next for West
Oceanside 70.3 will be the next race for West on April 2, followed by St. Anthony’s on May 1. While Clash Miami was a breakthrough for West, the 2022 season is just getting started, and he has big goals ahead.
“I want to be considered one of the top ten guys in the world,” West said. “Most of the bigger races are later in the year, so I want to build momentum toward those. I think I can be on the podium at Worlds.”
On the heels of Clash Miami, McGee is excited to watch West’s momentum carry into the rest of the race season.
“Jason has won races, [he] knows how to win, but [Clash] was next level; that was giving notice: ‘I’m stepping up to the next level.’”
West’s Wicked Workouts
Total Time: 2 hours
Warm up: 20 min with 3 min build to just over threshold, 60sec. spin, 2x30sec. controlled hard effort with 60sec. spin between
Main Set: 8×8 min at threshold with 4 min recovery between intervals
Cool down: 10-15 mins
“I find with training at altitude I need to do more threshold sessions so that I am accumulating enough training time at powers similar to what I will push at sea level on race day,” West said. “A session like this I break up into a lot of smaller chunks so I can keep the output high. Then I know when I go down to sea level I can sustain that power output for that amount of time or longer.”
Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, ~12 miles total
Warm up: 15 mins with 3 min build to threshold effort, drills + 4x9sec. strides, walk recovery
Main Set: 2x3K at high tempo/70.3 effort with 2:15 recovery between intervals
3x2K at high tempo/70.3 effort 90 secs recovery between intervals
Cool down: 5 min
“The goal is to be running at a high tempo and not going over threshold,” West said. “70.3 running is more about being able to hold form and get through the distance after a long hard bike, so a session like this is more about accumulating a large amount of work and being able to walk away from the session feeling like you could do more. I always make sure to take sports nutrition during run workouts like this one to get my gut used to absorbing calories at higher intensities.”