TEMPE, AZ (WAFB) - Baton Rouge triathlete Jessica Demello Jones was the first overall female who was not a professional racer to cross the finish line at Ironman Arizona and earn a spot in the coveted World Championship competition in Kona, Hawaii.
Jones beat over 3,000 athletes who travelled from across the globe to Tempe, Arizona for the November 19, 2017 race. She won her division (F 30-35), was the tenth female to run down the finish chute, and the 47th overall finisher in the race which also included professional triathletes.
Ironman Arizona was Jones' sixth Ironman race, which consisted of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, then running 26.2 miles for a total of 140.6 miles. She finished the race in nine hours, 42 minutes and 56 seconds (9:42:56), a new personal record for Jones.
"The goal was to clock in a 9:45 which would have been over 10 minutes faster than my best Ironman performance in Florida in 2015," Jones said.
The competition was tight in the final miles of IMAZ. Jones moved from third to second place at mile 21 of the marathon. Three and a half miles later, with less than two miles left in the race, Jones moved into first.
"I really didn't know I had won until I crossed the finish line. At that point in the race, it was 100 percent mind over matter. The easy option is to stop, but the most rewarding part of racing is knowing I gave it everything I had out there," Jones said.
Jones said her coach and husband and coach at 4th Dimension Fitness, Will Jones, is at the core of her accomplishments. She also credits her family and friends who have followed her journey to many finish lines. Jones has endured thousands of hours of training along the way to achieve her goals.
"Will Jones always puts together a training plan that challenges me and allows me to gain strength each year. This year we shifted focus more to the run portion of the race since I knew that discipline needed to improve the most. I ran almost ten minutes faster in this Ironman marathon than my previous best performance," Jessica Jones said.
In the last eight years, Jones has competed successfully in sprint, Olympic, half and full Ironman triathlons across the country. She won Ironman Florida in 2015 and has competed twice in the World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii. Her performance at IMAZ earned her a third chance to compete on the island, but Jones said she won't be making the trip this time.
"Ultimately I would like to go back to Kona at least one more time and have a respectable race. I've never been happy with my performance there and I don't think that's really uncommon. The Ironman World Championship is relentless and Will frequently reminds me, 'You must respect the island and the race.' But I knew 2018 wasn't my year to go back and I wanted to leave my options open for the following year. It was certainly hard to turn down the opportunity but I'm confident I have the ability to re-qualify at some point," Jones said.
Triathlon season typically runs from the spring through fall, but Jones shows no slowing down in the off season. She has signed up to run The Louisiana Marathon in January and hopes to snag a spot in the Boston Marathon.
When Jones is not training she enjoys coaching local triathletes and works as an assistant manager at Varsity Sports.