Friday, August 23, 2019

Kona Profile #1: Jake the Pepper Snake Barnes

The Ironman World Championships ("Kona") will be here before we know it, taking place Oct. 12th. As you know, it's incredibly competitive to qualify and a major accomplishment to do so. As we've done the last 3 years now, we'll be catching up with our local Cinderellas... getting to know them better as a tri community and cheering them on as they get ready for the ball!

Name:     Jacob Barnes

Age Group:    M2529

Qualified:     Ironman Boulder

Qualifying AG Place & Time:   1st   9:12:35

Splits:     Swim 1:03  Bike 4:46  Run 3:16

Standard question: what’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon? What was your first race?

I grew up playing your usual basketball, baseball, football, etc. In middle school I decided to join cross country in the fall and track and field in the spring. I continued to run cross country and track in high school and college. During my sophomore year of college, I tore my labrum in my right hip and my collegiate career ended shortly after.

In the years between then (2012) and my first triathlon (Brineman 2016!) I was unable to do much because of my hip. Triathlon has been a perfect fit for me because I love endurance sports and the cross training of biking/swimming allow me to train full time while not stressing my hip too much.

From Facebook we see you went to school out of state. Where did you grow up and what brought you to Utah?

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. Stayed there for college where I ran cross country at the University of Toledo where I met my wife, Kristal. After graduation in 2014, we bounced around the country following job after job. We lived in Ohio, South Carolina, North Carolina and Indiana in the span of those two years! In November of 2015 my wife accepted a job at the University of Utah working with the football team (go Utes!).

Sorry Dwight, not this pepper snake!

I had never been to Utah before, but she promised it was beautiful and I would love it. That was good enough for me, so we sold most of our belongings and packed up our 2002 Ford Focus wagon with what we had left, plus our dog Dakota and cat Luna, and drove across the country. We are coming up on 4 years of living here in Utah and we have loved being here.

You finished 17th OVERALL, including pros, at Ironman Boulder, but had to run down a guy to win your AG. How many spots were awarded for your age group, and how aware of your position were you throughout the day? When did you know for sure that you had KQ'd?

Boulder was a really fun, rewarding day. There ended up being 3 slots in my age group, but going into the race we thought I’d have to be top 2 to feel comfortable about qualifying. The good thing is that when you win your age group you do not have to worry about how many slots there will be :). If you are going for a Kona slot it is so helpful to have someone out on course giving you updates on where you stand.

I always say my wife is the best Sherpa in the biz, and at Boulder she definitely earned that title. I think I saw her 8-10 times out on course. Once right out of the swim, four times on the bike, and another four or five times on the run. Every time I saw her she told me what place I was in and how far back from the leader I was.

Ironman Boulder Overall including pros 
(click to see more clearly)

The guy who ended up getting second in my age group (David Born) had a MEGA bike split of 4:24 and when I got off the bike he had a 27 minute lead on me. Absolutely felt insurmountable at first, but the Ironman is a long race and legs tend to fall off in those final 10 miles of the run, especially when you split 4:24 on the bike.

Being in second place off the bike, I asked Kristal where 3rd place was with the thinking that I needed to be top two, and 27 minutes was a long way. She was on the phone with 2016 Olympic distance Utah State Champion, Brian Botts, and texting local legend Andrew Hall at the same time. Both of them told her to tell me to focus on the person in first and that I could catch him. They instilled confidence in me that I did not have early on in the run, and instead of worrying about whoever was in third, I put my head down and went chasing first.

The funny thing about it all is that even though I ended up winning the age group by a little over 7 minutes, David actually crossed the finish line before me. The start corral was packed by the time I made my way over so I started the race about 10 minutes behind him and many others up front.

At mile 24 of the run I saw Kristal for the last time before crossing the finish line and she told me I had finally got into 1st at the last timing mat, but only by about 30 seconds. Those last 2 miles I really focused on getting everything out of my legs that I could. Within about 30 seconds of crossing the line, I saw Kristal and she told me the IM Tracker app said I had won. I knew that I had my Kona slot at that moment.

Are you feeling burnt out and ready to get’er done or still enjoying the process? Which of the 3 disciplines do you hate the most right now and which is most fun?

Absolutely enjoying the process. I actually wish there was a bit more time before Kona! Triathlon has become so much of a lifestyle for me that swim, bike, and run workouts feel almost as crucial to my day as eating and sleeping.

Ironman Boulder M2529 Age Group
(click to see more clearly)

I have a love/hate relationship with all three disciplines. There are weeks where there is nothing I'd rather do than get on my bike and ride up every canyon I can find, and at the same time it takes every ounce of effort to get in the water at the pool. Then other weeks I want to swim every day and leave my bike in the closet. I think that one of triathlon's biggest weaknesses is also one of it's greatest strengths.

We as triathletes are constantly sacrificing one discipline for the other. If I choose to swim and bike today, my run fitness is being sacrificed for the day. If I choose to do a brick workout, my swim is being ignored. While that can be viewed as a negative, I look at it with a lot of positive light. I think both mentally and physically triathlon is great in the sense that we get to work on different disciplines every day and every week.

What are you most looking forward to and most terrified about thinking ahead to your first go at the Ironman World Championships?

I’m most looking forward to racing against the best age groupers from around the world. Racing against the best brings out the best in you and I’m looking forward to seeing what my best is on October 12th.

I’m nervous about the normal things going into Kona: the mass start swim, albeit a dumbed down version this year, the wind on the bike course, and the heat wave on the run course.

In his Kona Profile from last year, BJ Christenson said "I’m coaching a young kid, Jacob Barnes, and at his first Ironman this year he knocked it out of the park. He’ll be someone to watch." What are the top 3 practical pieces of advice BJ has given you about racing on triathlon's biggest stage?

I am so grateful to have BJ as my coach. He saw potential in me that I didn’t see 3 years ago when I started doing triathlons. I am trying to follow my own path in my triathlon career, but many of the things I do are following BJ’s example. And what an awesome example to follow. As a 10-time qualifier, BJ obviously has all the insider tips to racing on Ironman’s biggest stage and I think for now I will keep those to myself ;). But a few things that I think he would say for racing at Kona or racing at your local tri would be these:

1. Trust your training and ability.
2. Put in the work, no one is going to do it for you.
3. Bike for show, run for dough :)

Don't be modest here - if things go according to plan will you be Utah's fastest finisher on the day? Who are some of your friendly rivals that you foresee for Kona, and also in general on the local scene?

If everything goes to plan (famous last words of any Ironman athlete ha) I absolutely plan to be the fastest Utah finisher at Kona. I don’t know the entire list of Utah athletes going to Kona this year, but I think that title will come down to myself, Utah Tri Buzz sponsor Brice Williams, or Skye Moench.

I don’t know Brice personally, but from racing him a couple times and seeing race results, the guy doesn’t seem to have a bad race and he is so strong across all 3 disciplines. Skye’s results this racing season speak for themselves. Ironman Frankfurt Champion (European Champs) and a crazy impressive 4:09 half IM at Boulder just a couple weeks ago. Both of them are going to be tough to beat and it will likely come down to who feels best on the day.

As for local rivals, I don’t think I’ve raced enough to have created a real rivalry yet (I think Kona will only be my 12th triathlon), but there are so many great triathletes in the local area that I love racing against. Over the sprint and Olympic distances, I don’t think there is anyone who can beat Nick Dorsett right now. Dude is on another level right now with those short distances. Over the 70.3 and 140.6 distances, I’ve mentioned Brice and Skye, but if you could get us three along with Andrew Hall, BJ, Jorge AKA Doctor Delicious (who I still consider a local even though he’s in Idaho), I think that would be one hell of a race.

Speaking of the local scene, what are your top 3 favorite races and why?

1. St. George 70.3. If you love triathlon, you have to love the challenging course at St. George. Red rocks and the climb up snow canyon are iconic. So pumped to have 70.3 worlds there in 2021. Count on me being there.

2. Jordanelle. I love the steady climb heading out on the bike and driving the big ring all the way back into the park on the descent. Followed by a run with winding boardwalks and trail, brings out the cross country feels for me. Also I crashed there in 2017 going about 30 mph and still got up to win the age group.

3. Spudman. Does this count as local? Haha. If not, it should because out of the 2200 people who raced this past July, over 1400 were from Utah. Downriver swim, flat and fast bike and run, and my coach is from Burley. It is everything that is awesome about triathlon.

Do you see Kona as a yearly quest? For example, will you be gunning for it next season or have different goals/focus in mind? Signed up for St. George?

I do see Kona as a yearly quest. I am already signed up for St. George in 2020, with plans of getting my Kona slot there. I’m hoping that all the people I listed above in the “rivalries” section are racing! I already know that Andrew is signed up and that will be his first full IM. Can’t wait to show him what REAL long course racing is all about ;).

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jake also confirmed he'll be repping the SLC East squad for our fun St. George team competition, which anyone and everyone is welcome to participate in. The teams are expected to break down something like this:

  • "The North" (Idaho and/or separate Northern UT team?)
  • Davis County
  • SLC West (of I-15)
  • SLC East
  • Wasatch Back
  • Utah County
  • "The South" (St. George/Southern UT)
  • Possibly others as well

Lots of interest so far, message us if you want to join the fun and we'll connect you with others on the teams!

In 2021, I will focus on the 70.3 distance for the 70.3 worlds in St. George, but since it is local and it will not be as big of a time/financial commitment, I will likely go for a Kona slot somewhere.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to say that the local triathlon community in Utah is second to none. We are so lucky to have so many awesome people and events in a close area, and communities like this don’t happen by accident. I specifically want to give shoutouts to Rory Duckworth with Salt Lake Tri Club, Wes Johnson at BAM, Nat Harward with all the work he is doing with Intermountain Tri, and of course Utah Tri Buzz for hyping the local scene. These guys have all played an instrumental role in creating this awesome community and I’m thankful to be a part of it.





Below are links to all the races in the 2019 Championship Series:
Below are links to all Challenger Races:

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