Leanda Cave’s 2011 Ironman World Championship Race Report

By Jaclyn A.
October 17, 2011 on 9:40 am | In Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | 1 Comment

Press release from Katalist Multisport Management

October 14, 2011 – Leanda Cave can now claim another world championship podium finish to an already impressive career.  On Saturday, in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, Cave put together a consistent and relentless attack on the swim, bike and run to finish 3rd at the Ironman World Championship – finishing just behind the current and former world champions Chrissie Wellington and Mirinda Carfrae.  Cave, who has won both the ITU short course World Championship and Long Course World Championship, can now add a another world championship podium finish to her list of career achievements.

In her own words…

The reality of my 3rd place at the Ironman World Championships in Kona has still not quite set in.   In fact, over the past few years I knew I had it in me, but for different reasons I could never make it reality.

After a disappointing race at the 70.3 World Championship last month in Las Vegas, I have to admit, I was a little concerned about my fitness going into Kona.  I had put in such a solid block of training in Los Angeles and for some reason, I couldn’t pull of the race in Vegas that I thought I should have had.  But looking back, I hadn’t really tapered for that race, mentally or physically.  I couldn’t take my mind off Kona, so I kept digging deep, training all the way up to a few days before Vegas.

Right after Vegas I flew out to Kona, Hawaii.  This left me with four more weeks before the big day and my “A” race and I made the most of every day and minute.  I had a few days off after Vegas, but my coach  Siri started cracking the whip pretty quickly.  I spent every day out in Kona pushing my body through the tough hot and windy conditions of which the race is renowned for.  I was paying particular attention to my running and nutrition (I had some great advice from Brian Shea, which I wanted to practice).  In the past years I have raced in Kona, my run has always let me down.  I wanted to make sure it didn’t this year.

The day before the race I felt pretty crappy.   Heavy, lethargic, tired and grumpy.  However, all my great races over the years have happened the day after feeling like crap.  All my poor races on the other had have happened the day after feeling awesome (in other words, I peaked one day too early).  I was also full of nervous energy. I often get more nervous if I know I am in great shape, so on a scale of 1 to 10, I was up around 10!

Race morning came around.  I was up at 3am, well before my 4am alarm.  But those pesky little nerves had my heart racing.  I did a little run warm up.  Yeah, I was feeling pretty good.  Swim warm-up confirmed the same thing, and bit of the Black Eyed Peas put my head in the right place (I sang “I Wanna Rock Right Now” the entire race!).

6.30am…………the gun goes off.  Unlike last year, I had a great start and found myself right on the back of the lead pack.  I could see Julie Dibens just to my left.  Exactly where I wanted to be.  Unfortunately we have to start with the male athletes.  I don’t know any other professional World Championship event where the men and women are on the same start line at the same time, but that is an issue for another time.  But this did impact my race.  I’m a strong swimmer, so I was in the mix with a lot of the lead pro men, and they don’t cut a woman any slack.  Right around the halfway mark I had a guy who decided to fight me for the feet in front instead of fighting to stay on the feet in front.  I ended up having to swim over him as he had pushed me out so far that those feet in front were well and truly gone.  I put in a huge effort to catch back up to the lost feet, which I did only to find that guy had lost the feet and the lead pack in front of him.  I was spent, and I could not find that extra energy to bridge the gap.  In the end, I came out 2 minutes behind Julie (who I beat out the water in Vegas) and two other pro woman Lucie Zelenkova and Amanda Stevens).

This didn’t deter me.  I still came out in a pretty decent position along with Rachael Joyce.  We have raced each other quite a lot and have always had similar bike splits, so I was actually excited to be with her on the bike.  Early into the ride Rachael and I started sharing the lead and soon caught Stevens and then Zelenkova.  But at 35miles in we were both overtaken by Caroline Steffen and Julie was setting a pretty good pace out front.  We had a motor bike giving us splits and at Hawi Julie was up by 8mins and Steffen was up by 4mins.  However, the gap between us and the girls in chase was growing and I still felt awesome.  I did have a rough patch as we turned right back onto the Queen K where Rachael created a significant gap over me.  But I refueled and started to feel great again with 26-miles to go, passing Rachael and sitting in 3rd place for the remainder of the bike.

Due to past runs off the bike in Kona, I felt very nervous about setting out on the run.  But within the first mile I felt amazingly strong.  So I didn’t look at my watch and just went for it.  I had Julie 16 minutes and Caroline over 4 minutes ahead of me.  According to spectators, I was gaining on both.  At mile 6, I passed Julie and I had gained 90 seconds on Steffen.  I stayed in my groove, concentrating on my nutrition.  Some big names were in chase, like Chrissie Wellington (3 time former winner) and Mirinda Carfrae (last years winner and one time runner up).  But I had to stay dialed in with my own race and not bury myself early on.  I held off Chrissie till mile 16.  I was still gaining on Steffen, but not as dramatically as earlier on.  But as we entered the Energy Lab, I could feel my gut gurgling.  This was where my race and gut fell apart in the past and I was concerned.  But I can’t do much about it.  I ploughed on and took 5 toilet stops between mile 17 and mile 21.  Somewhere in there while I was in the porta-loo, Mirinda passed me.  I was now in 4th.  I heard news that Caroline was now walking through the aid stations.  I was feeling pretty rough, but I was still running.  I knew that if I just kept on running I would pass here.   Sure enough, at mile 22, I ran past Caroline.  Now in 3rd, I didn’t want to be caught.  I just kept digging.

Running the last mile felt so exhilarating.  The crowd was phenomenal and I started crying because I was in 3rd and no one was behind me.  I enjoyed every moment and I still remember it vividly.  I crossed the line.  Still on the high, I managed to get down and do the Blazeman Roll.  But once I got back up, the lights went out for a few seconds.  I briefly saw and congratulated Chrissie and Mirinda, but the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks.  I saw my coach Siri and my friend/manager Chris McCrary, but I had to make a b-line for the medical tent.  That is where I remained for the next 4 hours.  My vitals kept going south and I was either on the toilet or throwing up the whole time.  I was administered 3 IVs, but the head doctor saw no signs of improvement, so he sent me off to the hospital, no questions asked.  I tried to resist.  But upon nearly fainting, I agreed.

There I met Torsten who stayed with me for another few hours.   I was given another IV along with some anti-nausea medication and potassium.  Eventually, I was out and all I wanted to eat was a burger.  So Torsten and I made a drive-thru trip to McDonalds.  It’s probably the first visit to McDonalds in a year, so I didn’t feel that bad about it and the French-fries tasted sooooooooo good!

I am so happy with my race.  With my 3rd place, I have now won a World Championship medal in every triathlon distance event (ITU Olympic, ITU Long Course and 70.3).  I was also quicker than the many previous winners of the race and I shaved an amazing 24 minutes off my last years time.  And the most exciting thing about that is, I think I can shave off another 5 to 10 minutes!!  So my dream of winning one day is by no means unrealistic.

I want to thank all my wonderful and supportive sponsors.  This is a dream result for me and I hope you are all as proud of my result as I am.  I’m not quite done for the year just yet.  I don’t like to waste all this fitness that I have worked so hard for.  So I will be lining up next Miami 70.3 (30 October), ITU Long Distance World Championship (5 November and this will be my 3rd World Championship event in 3 months!), and finally Ironman Arizona (20 November).

Yours in sport,

Leanda Cave

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