Monday, August 10, 2009

Results are in...Cda Olympic Race 4, Roger Thompson 1. Finally!

In order to appreciate what this race meant to me, you have to understand its history. When I first started doing triathlons, this was my first Olympic distance race back in August, 1997. I had done a sprint the week prior (Medical Lake Mini) and won that, so I thought an Olympic couldn’t be that much harder. I gave it my all, and looked the part wearing only a black Speedo for the entire race. I suffered on the run, but at that point, I knew I had found a new sport that I loved. I finished 6th in my age group in a time of 2:21:13 (swim 26:01, bike 1:10:38 run 44:34). Other local notable entrants were Sam Picicci (2:48:44), Martin Scates (2:18:37), and Michael Bergquist (2:41:39). In 1997 Matt Seeley won the race (2:01:39), and he would win many more in subsequent years. I had a VHS recording of the race (that I had a few cameos in) that I watched over and over. They showed the results at the end, and I thought that one day I had the potential to be on that list.

Here are a few pics from 1997, my first Oly race.
Photos by Jessi Thompson

Coming out of the swim in 1997 in my Performance wetsuit

On my 1988 Pinarello Montello with downtube shifters. Very retro, but still quite fast.

Struggling on the run sporting nothing but the banana hammock. I wonder what those people in the yard are thinking?

I doubt Chip n' Dales will be calling me anytime soon, and I am sure Oakley discontinued those glasses as well. I am not sure, but that may be Denise Austin behind me.

I raced triathlons into November in 1997 traveling to California for many of them. I got bit by the bug late in the season and wanted to race as much as possible. In 1998 I started in March and raced through June where I completed my season at Nationals in Florida. In 1999 I did not race again and went to grad school and that is where my “job life” got into full swing.

In 2003 a little event called “Ironman Cda” was going to take place in Coeur d’ Alene. What the heck, with less than 50 slots still available, I threw my hat in the ring. That started a whole new triathlon pursuit. But this blog entry is not about Ironman, it’s about this other race in Cda. In 2003 I would race the Oly race as well, but I showed up to the start line after having the stomach flu. I was up all night on the toilet. Enough said, but I was very dehydrated race morning. I stumbled to a 3rd place finish in my age group, and I don’t recall what I was overall. Needless to say, I would not see my best performance that day.

I would return again in 2004 after racing IM Cda again and preparing for IM Wisconsin about 4 week away. That year the bike course was a little longer and I ended up 2nd overall to none other than Matt Seeley. I took that as a win. I was able to hold off a very fast Brian Hadley on the run, which was a huge success for me. He is a far superior runner.

In 2005 I was at the National Championships in Kansas City, MO. I was in amazing shape for Oly distance racing and was bummed to miss the Cda Oly. I was especially pissed when Nationals were cancelled the day of the race because of weather…whole different story. That year Brian Hadley came away with the win.

In 2006 and 2007 my training was not in line with the Cda Oly since I was racing IM and what I was doing just did not seem to fit with the race.

In 2008 I found myself on the start line again with an amazing race base with a lot of success. I felt that this year was going to be good. It was a stacked field and I was ready to race. From the start, the race went to shit. You can read my blog post on that event if you want, but the summary is this: too little calories, too little fluids, and was getting the flu…again. Struggled on the bike, barely made it in from the run, and sat there with my head in my hands wondering what was happening? Why now? It just was not to be. Again, for a detailed report, scroll waaaaay down.

So that brings me to 2009. This year was about putting together a solid race for me. I was not focused on a “place” or an overall win. I was focused on a better bike and a better run than I had last year. If I did that, I would be happy and I knew my “placement” would be fine. Many of my close friends knew I had a bone to pick with this race, and my immediate family knew what this day meant to me. It wasn’t about “who” was there, it was about me being there and overcoming crappy races in the past. I knew my fitness was where it should be and the 2 weeks leading up seemed to go well. You know, you train, feel like mud, second guess what you’re doing, get more rest, still feel bad, and wonder if you should even do another race this season…those feelings. But having done a ‘few’ races before, I knew that these feeling are all connected to races that you put a large importance on. And this race would ultimately be attempt number 2. If I did not put together a good race this time, I would probably start making voodoo dolls or something.

Everything was packed and ready to race 2 days before…2 DAYS BEFORE! That’s how prepared I was. Jessi would not be racing in this race because she wanted to be out there on the course cheering me on and there to support me in any way she could. Jessi’s dad Tim, was out there with the video camera to document this event along with his wife Kris, daughter Anna, and mother in law Phyllis. Tiffany was in the car cheering her ass off as was Quinton. Tons of friends (literally, if you were to have placed them on a scale, I think you would get over 2 tons) were there giving their positive thoughts to not only me, but to many of the other athletes racing. I think they all had more faith in me than I did. But I also knew the history of this race and what it has had in store for me.

My morning started at 3:45am with the alarm welcoming me to the day. 3:45…are you kidding me? That’s earlier than I have ever got up for an IM! I thought I would probably run into ‘bar traffic’ on the way to the race. I picked up Steve and Tim and we were off to Cda…in the dark. We arrived about 4:55am and incidentally were not the first people to get into transition. It was a cool and overcast morning and I quickly got my area set up and just stood there and stared at it. I’m not too sure what I was thinking, or doing, but I wanted to be ready. As people started to filter in, it was good to calm the nerves with friendly chatting with many of the people I knew racing. It’s always nice to connect with people before you race. It creates a sense of comfort knowing that no matter how tough it gets out there, you have friends out there too.

It’s kind of funny that no matter how early I arrive to a race, I am always rushed as the start nears…always. This time I found myself in the bathroom waiting for a stall. I kept watching my watch to see if I had enough time. It would be close, but I thought I’d be okay. I ended up getting to the start in plenty of time. Enough time for a short 100 yard warm up. Don’t think I have ever done that. Steve was standing near, so it kind of felt like a Master’s swim morning, just with a lot more people. Ben Greenfield joined us and it was starting to feel a little more local, or homey. We stared at the somewhat rough water and were welcoming the cooler temps and overcast skies. We got the 30 seconds to go call, and about 2 minutes later, we started…. and heeeere we go. I HATE the start, or actually ‘before’ the start of races. Once we take 5 strokes in the water, I feel comfortable. But the 15 minutes prior, I am anxious. Anyway, I took off and settled in. I felt people all over my legs and feet and that soon disappeared. The waves were bigger than I thought and had to be careful when breathing. I took in a few mouthfuls of water but it was something that you simply adjusted to. I kept a steady controlled pace, and made it to the first turn. I could see someone off the front, so I figured it was a young club swimmer since Kalen Darling (winner last year and phenomenal swimmer, was side lined and cheering today with 2 stress fractures…major bummer). So I kept sighting and moving well. As I crossed the far end of the swim, the waves were not as bad because they were on my left side and I normally breathe on the right. I hit the final turn and was headed for the arch that indicated the swim end. The waves were helping to push me in, but I was still swimming hard. I could see that the person in front of me was still up there and getting a little further ahead. As I approached the exit, I was already excited to be done and hit T1. As I got out of the water, I was greeted by a boom of cheers. It was like I was the first one out of the swim. Pretty cool.

Photo by Rory Buck

Out of the swim into T1
Photo by Rory Buck

As I headed up from the water I heard someone yell 1:17 down on the leader. Way better than being 3 minutes down on Kalen last year. I wasn’t too nervous because I did not think that the person that was first out of the water was an overall contender…I could be wrong though. I had the fastest T1 of the day and was out on the bike. As I exited T1, I heard that I was 24 seconds down. Well, I just closed almost a minute on him in a VERY short amount of time.

Heading out of T1. Feet still not in shoes.
Photo by Jessi Thompson

As I mounted my bike I could see him not too far in the distant. But I also knew I needed to get me feet into my shoes, so that would slow down me closing time on him right away. As I was doing this, I could hear Sam Picicci yelling at me at the top of his lungs, at 7:20 in the morning in downtown Cda, “Thompson, stop fu#$ing with your shoes!” I had to smile, but I also needed to get going too. After about 1.5 miles on the course, I was in the lead. I never passed 1st place because he went straight through a turn and kept going (he eventually turned around). So now I was in first and had open road, and volunteers that “might” not be ready :). After about 4 miles I saw the black excursion go cruising by with screams and yells coming from it. To my surprise, I saw Tiffany yelling out the window. I did not know she came, and it was nice to see, and hear, her since she was there last year when things went to, well, not well. Also in the car was Jessi’s dad Tim, Quinton, Emma (love her voice), and Jessi at the wheel—God help us all. I hit the first of 2 out and backs and was able to take a split on 2nd and 3rd. In second was Ben and it seemed like I had a bit of a gap on him. Charging close behind him was Adam Jensen. Adam is a friggin’ amazing cyclist. He biked faster than IM World Champion Craig Alexander and a couple minutes slower than uber cyclist Chris Lieto at Boise 70.3 early this year. So this guy can ride. He passed me last year at about mile 10 on the bike. In my mind I was thinking it was not “if” I was going to get caught by Adam, it was “when” was I going to get caught. But I wanted to make it harder for him. I was worried about Ben too because he has these ‘breakout’ races and does things that he has not done all season. He raced Troika last week (local ½ IM) and got second, so I was not too sure what he had in his legs for an Oly race this week. There was no doubt that they knew where I was and what kind of gap I had on them. My goal, increase it.

Heading up Bennett Bay hill. The run turnaround hill in IM Cda.
Photo by Jessi Thompson

As I started the series of climbs, I saw my peeps on the hill cheering me along and telling me things I needed to hear. I love to hear Emma’s cheers. Her voice always makes me smile and makes me realize that this is “just a race.” The truly important things in life are right there on the side of the road. It helps me to take a deep breath and gain control, or perspective. Jessi always knows how I am doing just by looking at me. The position on the bike, my eyes, movement, drooling, whatever it is, she always seems to know. If she asks “how are you doing,” I know she already knows the answer. I continued up the climb and really felt like I was in a good rhythm. I was watching my power and keeping it where I needed to.

Climbing the hills
Photo by Jessi Thompson

Adam and Ben at the top of a climb
Photo by Jessi Thompson

I built a cassette for this race because some of the climbs were kind of unique, yet you needed some big gears for the descents. It worked perfectly…actually better than I thought. I was nearing the half way point and getting over what felt like a 15% grade, and was feeling good. I pressed on and knew the second half of this race would be where time would be made, or lost. I hit the second ‘out and back’ and knew that Adam and Ben were not closing fast, if at all. Adam had passed Ben and was now in second. The last 4-5 miles were relatively flat and I knew at this point I would be able to tell if I put too much out on the hills or not. I was able to still move along quite well and was heading into T2…and the run.

Coming down Sherman into T2
Photo by Rory Buck

Dismount and into T2. That is Kris, Anna, and Grandma Phyllis behind me
Photo by Jayne Anderson

I finished the bike with the fastest bike split of the day and rolled through T2 with the fastest T2 of the day as well. I guess I was in a hurry. I headed out on the run to mobs of cheers. It was unbelievable! I did not know what kind of gap I had on Adam at this point so I kept listening to the crowd to see if I could hear when the next person came in. After a minute, I left the park and could not longer hear the announcer. So I knew it was more than a minute. I was feeling pretty good on the run but knew I needed to settle in and not run “from” people, rather run what I can. I would save the running from people until later. I saw Jess, Tiff, Emma, and Quentin at about mile 2 and they were cheering like I was on fire…literally. This was the exact same point last year when I was not doing too well. Actually, totally imploding. So they were pretty excited to see me running well to that point. Curt was also out there stopping from time to time cheering and giving words of encouragement. When you are in the lead, it’s pretty quiet out there. It’s kind of like a training run. Then when you get to the aid stations, it’s kind of like you have to ‘teach’ them how to give you water, or you simply attack them and get it from them. I saw Tim out there too shooting some video and cheering me on as well. When I see that early on in the run, I often think, “I wonder if I will look back on this section of video and say, “Oh, that’s when I was feeling good.”’ As I passed the 3 mile mark, I was feeling pretty good. Time to head home. It’s always easier mentally to feel like you are heading back. Not always physically, but mentally. I eventually saw Adam and he looked like he was flying. Fast turnover, smooth, solid. No matter what kind of gap you have on people that look strong, it always looks like they are going to catch you. Even if you have a mile to go and they have 5, it seems like they will catch you. At about the 3.75-4.25 mile points, I started to feel a little rough. I knew I had a good lead…one that I could give up a minute per mile, but I did not want to do that. I started to reassess and figure out what was going on, got things under control, and was going well again.

About mile 2...where I blew up last year
Photo by Jessi Thompson

Feeling a little rough...and alone
Photo by Jessi Thompson

With about 1.5 miles to go, I saw Curt again and he said, it’s not going to be puke finish. I had told Curt I like to know what kind of gap I have at the end of a race to know if I need to bring it up to puke speed, or photo speed (photo speed is where you look good for the cameras at the end). He said that it would not be a puke finish. But I still needed to make it to the finish. The stream of athletes were on the run now and I was trying to run the shortest line, but the people coming out were obviously occupying that. So I hugged their shoulders. I saw Jessi and she was reassuring me that it all looked good. Run strong to the finish and enjoy this. I got my Timex tri suit zipped up and was a half mile out.

Coming in on the run with about 1/2 mile to go.
Photos by Rory Buck

I was pretty excited about this. All I wanted to do was put together a good race…to have a better bike and run than I did last year. I did not care if I was 5th, 8th, 3rd, …it did not matter. In the past, this race has been a series of disasters for me. Today, it would not be, and I would win it as well. I simply could not believe it. The demon is looking me in the eye, and I am smiling and peeing on its foot. I entered the park and started to get into the crowds. I saw Sam and Rick Phillips sitting on a bench, and Sam was saying, “Oh, wouldn’t ya know it, here comes Thompson…big surprise.” Sam knew that I had something to settle with this race, and he predicted that it would be a good day for me. It was. I rounded the final turn into the finish and I absolutely could not believe it. I had done it. The crowds were packed, the announcer was booming, and the cameras were flashing, I had done it. I raised my hands to the sky and was relieved and damn proud.

This series of photos by Rory Buck says it all

Photo by Rory Buck

I asked Jessi if she could recall a better race experience I have ever had. She and I could not think of one. I have done well at Nationals, Worlds, Ironman, Wildflower, many races that I was excited about. But I have to say, this was the one. I think it was so special because it was more than the race itself, it was the race within me. As I have said before, that’s the race I want to win. The race I am at is simply the venue, I bring the race with me.

Done...time to exhale
Photo by Rory Buck

Adam Jensen and me after the finish
Photo by Rory Buck

Congratulating Haley on her first overall win at Cda
Photo by Jessi Thompson

Cda Press interview
Photo by Rory Buck

I am out there racing, but the reason I am able to do that is because of such amazing support from my family. I cannot even start to explain what a gift Jessi is to me every day. Not only is she so incredibly gorgeous, she is an amazing athlete that pushes herself as hard as I do (I know this because of her powermeter data :)). She has seen all the good times and struggles I have had with racing, the politics involved, and balancing life. We are an amazing team that is blessed with a child that is also involved in all that we do. We are a family that shares this healthy sport called triathlon. But no matter what we pursue, we will all share it together. In the past year we have exploded as a family becoming even more of a unit. We are so fortunate to be able to share this together.

No matter if I win or lose, I still get a kiss. This kiss was just a little better
Photo by Rory Buck

My beautiful (and fast) family
Photo by Alex Endo

Congrats to Haley Cooper as well for winning the women’s title. This was the first time she won here too after a couple attempts. There were so many Tri Fusion members racing out there too that shouted words of encouragement along the way. I never felt like I was alone.

Haley and me at awards.
Photo by Jessi Thompson

There were some great cheerers out there too. One of my great swim coaches, Rory Buck and his girlfriend Carla where there in transition. You can thank Rory for some of the great pics…especially the finish ones. Some of my other WAVES friends, Arianna and Kalen were there to greet me at the finish too. Kalen won this last year with a stellar race.

There are very few races that make me content. I normally finish a race and want more…race harder, better, faster. I have now closed this chapter. Time to start a new one.

Make sure you win the race you set in front of you. The blue ribbon is not always in the hand of the winner.

Front page of the Cda Press. You can read the entire article HERE.

Though he was not there because he lives in another state, I have to say a big thank you to my coach John. John has been my coach since late 2003 and has got me to ITU World Championships, IM World Championships multiple times, podiums at IMs, podiums at Nationals, etc. Every year he sets me up to succeed in races that I deem important. Some loftier goals than others, but every year, when I look back, I accomplished exactly what I set out to do. We placed more emphasis on Cda Oly this year, and it seemed to work. So thank you for all your time, advice, scheduling and foresight.

A huge thank you to all my sponsors that have helped me get to this point. It's more than the products, it's the people:

TIMEX and the staff they provide the team. I cannot say enough thanks to these guys. This has been a great team to be part of and I know I have become a better athlete because of it. They not only help and support me, but provide nice swag for so many events I am a part of.

Trek: I am so happy with my arsenal of bikes that are all Treks. This is by far the best bike company out there. Their R&D is unsurpassed and it shows in their product. Get on and hold on. The small chainring is just an ornament.

Fitness Fanatics: Robin and her staff blow me away every time I am in there. Her honesty and support after the sale is unsurpassed. She takes care of me and my family. Emma is now cruising on her new “skinny wheel” bike…at age 6.

Ben at Kswiss providing me with phenomenal training and racing shoes. They have blasted into the market and are raising the bar.

John and Blueseventy who have been with me for almost 4 years and getting me out of the swim on top.

PowerBar keeping my calories up and well hydrated in racing and training. Also providing product support in races that I help coordinate.

Thanks to ARX (Faster Tomorrow) for their daily supplement that aids in my daily recovery. New for me this year, and making me better too.

Wicked Fast and their pre race/workout supplement Energ Ease and their post workout supplement Recover Ease. I have loved their product since 2005.

Rudy project has been keeping me safe the last 4 years while training and racing with their great products. I am looking forward to the new Wingspan aero helmet soon. Looking great with technically cool eyewear.


Anonymous said...

What a cool report Roger. I really enjoyed hearing about your history with the sport. You really deserved to win and it has been great to get to know you a little bit. I am sure you will have continued success. I appreciate your honesty and your willingness to help athletes of all levels. I am glad you got the monkey off your back!

Derek G.

jessithompson said...

I am so proud of you... and beyond thrilled that I got to see this race unfold the way it did - I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I admire that you race against yourself and don't set your goals based on other people that you have no control over. I respect that you work so incredibly hard in your training - when it feels good and when it feels like total crap. I appreciate all the sacrifices you make to be just as good of a husband and father as you are a triathlete ("thirst" place is the only way to roll).

Even though you are tough as nails in every way, I love that you couldn't read the paragraph about our family in your blog post aloud to me without getting choked up. I feel that same way too, baby.

I love you with ALL my heart.

Steve said...

About damn time! What took so long? :) Congrats on a perfectly executed race. You looked strong and fast the entire time.

You were able to excel when history was against you and come out on top.

Just one more stop on a "phenomenal" season. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...


More than being proud of you and your results (which I am, undeniably), I am so, so happy that you rewrote your own history with this race into a success you will always be able to draw from and cherish. Placing first is the cherry on top.

This report read like an epic, with its hero and his believers... you and your amazing family. Gotta admit, I was choked up reading your tribute to Jessi and Emma. Beautifully written.

Congratulations, my friend!



BRFOOT said...

Pissed on the demons foot....pretty much sums it up. If you look real close at the pic of you raising your arms in victory, you can see my butt as I'm running the other way, starting the run.
Good Job!

Spokane Al said...

Roger, what a great, great race report. Even though I already knew the ending, I was still gripped by your narrative.

Congratulations on a solid win.

Sometimes the demon pees on you and on Saturday you definitely peed all over the demon.

Tiffany said...

Wow, Robbie! What an AWESOME race report! It seriously gave me chills!

This race was definitely one of my absolute favorite ones to watch for a couple of reasons. First, I love watching you race shorter distances because you just absolutely fly! Too bad you can't be out on the road to watch yourself. You'd be impressed! ;) But more than that, it was just incredible to see the race you put together this year unfold. It was so cool to see you cruising on the run and to know what a huge lead you had. I was absolutely thrilled for you during the entire race.

I think the best part about this race report was reading how much that finish line meant to you. I think that people just assume that you are so used to winning that you just expect it of yourself; that it must not really be a thrill for you any more because you do it so often. I love that after too many first places to count, you still don't have that attitude.

Congrats on an amazing race and a sweet win! You deserved nothing less! You are a truly incredible athlete and I am so proud to know you!

Ben Greenfield said...

This was a SWEET race report. As a matter of fact, when I post my race report, I'm just going to say "I got my ass kicked." and put a link to your blog.

Anonymous said...

Terrific pics, narrative, historical sharing and credits, Rog! You so deserved this sweet victory, and I am so proud of you and all your supporters, who admire and love you.

Thanks for an exciting and very moving morning in CdA!

I can't wait to see the movie!


Linda Seppa Salisbury said...

I loved the old stories you told in this post and the pictures you showed that went along with them.
This part of your post brought back lots of fun memories of races I saw you run and trips we all made (like Florida) as you pursued this dream some years ago:)

I loved your detailed description of this race and all of the history surrounding it. Your story helped me to better understand the "inside" journey of this race for you. What an incredible play-by-play narrative you described of the time leading up to this race and the time during the race. It is such a well earned and deserved victory!!! You ROCKED this race and, as someone said in a previous post,rewrote your story with the Coeur d'Alene Scenic Challenge with a brand new chapter! The picture of your face when you crossed the finish line says it all!

But most of all, it really touched my heart to read your descriptions of what Jessi and Emma mean to you, how you love to hear their cheering voices, and how much their support matters to you!

And now all three of you are doing this together (and excelling at it!!)and this fills your heart!!

An amazing post, an amazing season, and you are an AMAZING athlete!! I can only imagine all of the hours and hours you put into training for the kind of spectacular triathlon season you've had!! Your dedication and self discipline really came together for this race! Congrats!!

I'm really proud of you!
Love Linda

M-Dot said...


Your report is an inspiration and a realization as to why I love this sport. You do not just talk the talk you walk it and live what you say. It is appreciated by all us "age groupers" that support the sport and show up just for a shirt or swagg.
Your face at the end shows it all and that kiss from Jessi shows the happiness and realization of a year of compromises and struggles to bag this b*&^h!
Congratulations to you you are an amazing athlete, husband, father and friend I wish all athletes in this sport could embrace the ideals and spirit that you and your family exude and live on a daily basis.


Our Family said...

Way to go, Roger!