Episode 18: Jesse Thomas - How a Borrowed Bike and Cheap Sunglasses Catapulted a Career


In 2011, Jesse Thomas was a new pro triathlete. He was so new, in fact, that when he decided to race the Wildflower Triathlon at the last minute that year, there were no real pro spots left, so he ended up with bib number 87, the first number behind the female pro bibs.

Picture this: He was on a borrowed bike and, fellow pro triathlete, Matt Lieto, let him borrow an aero helmet. Jesse slept in a closet the night before the race and he even stopped at the drug store at the last minute to pick up a pair of cheap aviator sunglasses because he didn’t even have sunglasses to wear.

Literally, no one knew who he was; not even the race announcers who had to ask him his name as he crossed the finish line, much to everyone’s surprise, at the front of the stacked pro field.

In part one of this special two-part interview with long-time Coach Matt Dixon, Jesse walks us through that magical day, which was, indeed, his catalyst into triathlon stardom.

He was a true “newbie triathlete” competitor who won this legendary race which seemed downright unfathomable. It is, as they say in the interview, one of the most authentic moments in sport, a true Cinderella story, and there are many lessons of process, expectations, and performance to be absorbed throughout this conversation.

Some may call it a fluke, but what makes this story and coach/athlete relationship so special is that Jesse defended his title successfully for the next SIX consecutive years and now he’s back in 2018 (along with the return of the race) with a different lens on the sport, but, still, with big expectations and a true desire to win.

He can’t wait to bring it all back to where it started and we can’t wait for you to listen to this amusing, funny and inspirational account of the non-glamorous start to a pro triathlon career that has turned into one of the most successful.