Lessons in Defending a Win, and Succeeding
The Jesse Thomas Repeat. Coaching Thoughts:
In any athletes career there are important events that can determine a path that will be taken, in either a positive or negative light. This past weekend Jesse Thomas faced one of those challenging events, or crossroads, that presented itself as both a burden and an opportunity. Following last year’s breakout victory Jesse had to return to this historic event and attempt to repeat a win. It was important on many levels, some important to Jesse himself, some to the media and triathlon world, but for the coach (that be me!) it was a development opportunity.
I think an important thing to understand is that neither Jesse nor I view Wildflower as a defining race in his overall triathlon career. I do not mean this to belittle this amazing race, it is a very special and historic event, but Jesse and I have had a long term vision and career plan since we began working with each other 18 months ago. Wildflower has now become a special event on this journey, but we have not and will not build a season around it. With this being said the 2012 Wildflower event became important on this journey. His 2011 result presented a chance, or risk, in his development and progression; a chance and risk that had to be embraced and taken. In my mind, Jesse had to face the internal and external pressure of returning and repeating. The experience of dealing with this pressure could provide invaluable in future challenges and races. Before this weekend Jesse didn’t have the tools to deal with such pressure as he had never truly faced such pressure and limelight. Having an experience like this, and having to go through it for the first time, should surely equip him for future potential. This past weekend Jesse got a small taste of the type of pressure and external burdens the most successful in the sport face.
Leading into the race: I was lucky enough to be at the event this weekend, and got to see the buildup into the race. I was amazed at how much focus and pressure was laid on Jesse leading up to race day. It was certainly ‘on’ and I could see in Jesse’s eyes that he was partially enjoying the carnival attention, but also feeling the weight of the expectation building on him. Luckily he had good company with the wisdom and encouragement of Matt Lieto, Linsey Corbin and Chris Legh, which surely helped keep him on earth! My words were few, saving them to be meaningful and precise as too many words and statements seldom help. Jesse had to step up on his own.
The curtain of opportunity was there for Jesse to walk through, and he did just that. The win at any race doesn’t make any athlete, and a double victory at Wildflower does not define a career, but the fact he walked through the curtain of opportunity and succeeded in such an environment will allow massive growth.
A win was nice, but the growth that comes from that experience cannot be put into words. Is Jesse among the very best in the world? No. He isn’t. Not yet. He still needs to develop across all three sports, and needs to develop more wisdom, experience and racing specific experience. He is not there, yet, but this weekend was a great move in the right direction. He will never experience something quite like this again, as familiarity breeds more comfort. He won’t be immune from pressure, but at least he has a few tools to manage it and still perform.
Jesse’s thoughts: I can never compete with Genesis, teddy bears of the sheer honesty and openness of Jesse’s thoughts on the day. Well worth a review if you are interested in hearing Jesse’s thoughts on his win:
Lauren’s thoughts: An important part of any athletes career and success is their support network. Jesse has a tremendous support crew, including his Mom (yep, met her this weekend... lovely girl!) and his wife Lauren. Luckily Lauren has more experience and athlete success than Jesse! She had some wise and insightful thoughts on his repeat success: