Jesse Thomas, Heather Jackson rule 30th anniversary Wildflower long course
Jesse Thomas defended his title and became the 5th man to break four hours while Heather Jackson won her first half Ironman and set a course record at the AVIA Wildflower long course triathlon Saturday.
Posted: Saturday, May 5, 2012
LAKE SAN ANTONIO, California -- Jessie Thomas of Springfield, Oregon ended all talk that his 2011 longshot victory at Wildflower was the flash in the pan of a one hit wonder. With his 3:58:59 finish that topped runner-up Jordan Rapp of Thousand Oaks, California by 1 minute 23 seconds, the former Stanford NCAA All-American steeplechaser joined an exclusive club of five men who have broken 4 hours at the ultra tough Wildflower half Ironman layout. In fact, Thomas is now the second fastest on that short list, behind only Terenzo Bozzone's supernatural 3:53:43 in 2006. He was 5:46 faster than his time last year and faster than fellow sub-4 hour Wildflower winners Michael Raelert, Simon Lessing and Andy Potts.
Heather Jackson's breakthrough win at Wildflower was equally dominating and slightly more impressive as the Carlsbad, California resident's 4:26:29 time broke Julie Dibens' 2010 race record by 1 minute and 24 seconds. The 28-year-old's road to athletic success began playing NCAA ice hockey for the Princeton University women's team and her hockey leg strength has now translated to one of the top cyclists and runners in her new sport. Underlining her remarkable development into a world class triathlete, Jackson's closing 13.1-mile run time of 1:21:08 broke the Wildflower run course record set in 1999 by another Heather, 1997 Ironman World Champion Heather Fuhr, by 1 minute and 50 seconds.
Under bright blue skies and mild temperatures, the world class elite endurance triathletes started with a 1.2-mile swim in the waters of Lake San Antonio. Former University of Florida NCAA swimmer Dustin McLarty, who just won the USA Triathlon National Collegiate title, hit land in a sizzling fast 21:01, just a few strokes ahead of last year's Wildflower long course runner-up Clayton Fettell of Australia and a daunting two minutes-plus ahead of Thomas, current ITU long course world champion Rapp, and last year's third place finisher James Cunnama of South Africa.
Fettell quickly dropped McLarty and took the lead on the bike through 30 miles. Just as quickly, strong cyclists Paul Matthews, Rapp, Thomas and Cunnama chased hard and caught a fading Fettell at Mile 32. Cunnama made up ground after slightly slower swim with a race-best 2:27:28 bike, slightly better than Rapp's 2:27:32 and Thomas' 2:27:35.
Matthews, Fettell, Thomas and Rapp ran close together in the opening miles. But by Mile 6, Fettell fell off the back, and Thomas passed Matthew to take the lead while Rapp settled in second for the chase.
While Thomas seemed to have the race in hand, things were more difficult than they appeared. "I think I ran that first six miles really hard," he said. "Probably a little too hard. Because I had a rabbit in front of me, I chased down Paul Matthews and got the lead about Mile 6. Then I tried to relax, and I'm glad I did. Because even relaxing a lot I was really hurting the last mile and a half or two miles., If I'd kept trying to go as hard as I could, I might have lost it all. I wasn't thinking about anything but just being conservative and hanging on for the win."
By the end, Thomas ran as fast as his pedigree, closing with a second-best 1:14:38 half marathon run to hit the line first in 3:58:59 - the second fastest time in the 30 years of Wildflower long course triathlon. Rapp, whose 1:16:11 run could not match Thomas, finished second, 1 minute 23 seconds back. Cunnama matched his 2011 third place finish another minute and 39 seconds later.
Defending Wildflower champion Leanda Cave of Great Britain led all the women out of the swim in 23:58, roughly three minutes faster than the three women who would be her most serious rivals on the day -- Linsey Corbin of Missoula, Montana, Magali Tisseyre of Canada, and Heather Jackson of Carlsbad, California.
Corbin pushed hardest and posted a women' race-best 2:33:44 over Wildflower's unrelenting hills. But she was just a minute quicker than bike chargers Melanie McQuaid and Jackson. Wilting under the pace, Magali Tisseyre and Leanda Cave surrendered four minutes to the leaders.
Running with ferocity fueled by the insecurity that comes with several close second ;place finishes, Jackson took the lead from Corbin at Mile 5 and kept the pedal to the metal the rest of the way to hit the line in a course record 4:26:29 and a whopping 5 minutes margin of victory over the Montanan. Tisseyre closed ground on everyone else but Jackson with a third-best 1:27:01 run to take third - 8 minutes and 1 second back of Jackson.
Jackson fought tears of joy at the finish. "I am in shock right now," she said. "I often lay in bed thinking and picturing finally winning a big race. But first I always picture that Oceanside race that I led until the final mile before Mirinda Carfrae ran past me right at the end. I was still new to the sport and I yelled "Good job Rinny!" Then my perspective shifted. 'No, Heather! You have to go out there knowing that you can win them too!'"
This, the 30th anniversary of the world-famous Wildflower triathlon, honored all past winners with plaques placed a Stairway of Wildflower Champions unveiled in a ceremony Friday. In her excitement at winning, Jackson said "Now I will get my name on the Stairway of Champions, too!"
AVIA Wildflower Triathlon
May 5, 2012
Lake San Antonio, California
S 1.2 mi./ B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.
1. Heather Jackson (Carlsbad CA) 4:26:29
2. Linsey Corbin (Missoula MT) 4:32:09
3. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 4:34:30
4. Leanda Cave (GBR) 4:36:24
5. Charisa Wernick (Carlsbad CA) 4:38:42
6. Rachel Challis (Carlsbad CA) 4:>39:25
7. Rebekah Keat (AUS) 4:39:55
8. Melanie McQuaid (CAN) 4:41:15
9. Jennifer Tetrick (Millville CA) 4:44:31
10. Julia Grant (NZL) 4:44:43
1. Jesse Thomas (Springfield OR) 3:58:59
2. Jordan Rapp (Thousand Oaks CA) 4:00:22
3. James Cunnama (RSA) 4:02:01
4. Paul Matthews (AUS) 43:20
5. Christopher Legh (AUS) 4:04:56
6. Clayton Fettell (AUS) 4:07:35
7. Trevor Wurtele (CAN) 4:07:44
8. Dustin McLarty (Irvine CA) 4:09:46
9. Stephen Kilshaw (CAN) 4:11:08
10. Nicholas Thompson (Danville CA) 4:11:41