Race Report: Leanda Cave @ Ironman Arizona

November 29, 2011 on 3:02 pm | In Athlete Profile, Races, Sponsorship | 2 Comments

My first Ironman victory!

This past weekend I had a very emotional and rewarding victory at Ironman Arizona – my final race of 2011!  Here is a summary of my 2011 season: 13 races, 3 of which were World Championship events.  Two Ironman races, two long distance triathlons, six half-ironman, two Olympic distance and one duathlon.  I managed five wins, four 2nd places, two 3rd places, and two random off the podium finishes of 6th place.   Pat on the back me!   I’m exhausted!

My main goal for Ironman Arizona was to break 3-hours for the marathon.  I also really wanted to win because I hadn’t won an Ironman yet.  At the back of my mind I wasn’t so confident about achieving either goal.  It was a big ask from my body and very ambitious after racing so much since the Ironman World Championship in Kona 6-weeks earlier.  But I had nothing to lose because it was the last race of the season for me.  I had a bloody good reason if I sucked and it was a bonus if I could pull it off.  But in terms of racing itself, I just wanted to be done.  I was looking forward to getting to the finish line more than the process for this race.

On race morning I woke up with one thought in my head: “oh crap, I’m racing an Ironman today”.  The whole idea started to dawn on me.  But it was too late to back out now.  My sister, Melissa, and her boyfriend Tim, had come all the way over from London to watch me race.  I was committed!

Photo by: Hai-Ping Hwang-Twigg

I pumped my tires up, went for a little jog and headed over to the swim start.  The water in the Tempe Lake is a pretty cold 60 degrees this time of year, and we have to swim a bit of a way to the start line, which means hanging out a little too long in the cold water.  I froze.  I’m not good in the cold at the best of times.  I tried to warm up but just felt tight and lethargic.  When the gun went off, I was slow off the mark.  Any hope of hanging on to the feet of the male pros quickly vanished.  I did have a couple of other pro woman around me (we had yellow swim caps, and the males had grey), and they would be my company for the swim.  I come from a swimming background and normally the swim is just getting from A to B and I don’t think much of it.  But it seemed to be taking forever, and just before the last turn buoy my left calf completely cramped and I had to stop.  Then the most sportsmanlike thing happened.  Meredith Kessler, who was swimming on my feet, stopped and asked if I was ok!  Couldn’t believe someone would be so kind to do that.  I waved Meredith on and just thought to myself as I waited for my cramp to ease how amazing and generous some athletes really are.

I exited the water in 4th place, about 3 minutes down on the leader, Amanda Stevens and a minute down on Meredith Kessler and Kelly Williamson.  The gap wasn’t huge, and I thought I could reel them in over the course of the bike.  But that idea was sidelined when I discovered I had a flat tire right out of the gate.  I ran back into transition to get a spare wheel from the mechanics tent, but they told me all their spares were out on the course about a mile up the road.  So to get me by, they put air in my tire and discovered the valve was loose and I didn’t have a flat after all.  With the valve tightened and air in my tire, I thought I was good to go and started to wind up the gears to get back into the race.  But then my chain started slipping and I couldn’t get into any of the harder gears.  At this point I had gone about half a mile past the spare wheels on the course, but I knew I had to go back as I had no other option.

I was wearing a bracelet on race day in honor of a local triathlete, Sally Meyerhoff, who lost her life earlier this year after a truck hit her on a training ride.  It read: “Be Relentlessly Positive”.  I looked down at it through all this commotion a number of times, and it really flushed away all the doubts and negative thoughts about the situation and it gave me the energy to forge ahead.

Eventually I changed my rear wheel and essentially lost about 6 minutes in doing so!  But I was good to go now and that’s what I did.  Linsey Corbin had caught me and encouraged me to make an effort with her to chase down the girls ahead.  We kept gaining time bringing the initial 8-minute deficit down to 5 minutes after the first lap, then 4 minutes by the start of the 3rd lap.   By the time I reached transition, Meredith Kessler, Michelle Vesterby and I were 3:30 down on Stevens.  Lindsey was a further 2 minutes back after suffering in the last lap of the bike.

I went out on the run in 4th.  I set out feeling pretty average.  I’m not sure anyone feels amazing when they get off a 112-mile bike ride!  My transition was pretty slow and I found myself chasing down Versterby in the first 2 miles.  I then had my sights on Kessler, who I caught at about 4 miles.  Meredith hung with me for a few miles, but had to slow a bit to find her own pace.  So now it was just me chasing down Stevens.  By 6 miles the gap had closed to 1 minute and by 7 miles I was in the lead!

I forged ahead and kept my sub 3-hour marathon goal in mind.  I was feeling pretty good on the 2nd lap.  But I knew the worst part of the race for me is yet to come.  This was my 4th time racing Ironman Arizona, and in the past, I have fallen to bits in the final lap.  I tried to put that in the back of my mind and concentrate on the goal ahead.  My coach Siri was screaming at me about some really fast overall time.  She was saying I was on target to go under 8hrs50min for the race.  I was just thinking there was no way!  I’m just going for my run goal and now to win my first Ironman.  But she was right.   I came down the finish chute in 8:49!!  I also ran a 2:58 marathon!! Wow.  My body amazes me.  After I crossed the finish line, I ran back down the chute to slap hands with the crowd.  I’ve always wanted to do this!  Then of course I did the Blazeman Roll.

My support team is what made this season possible.  A HUGE thank you to the crew at K-Swiss, Accelerade/Endurox R4 (my secret recovery formula), Sandy at Gita Sports and the boys at Pinarello, Blue Seventy, Nuun, my team back home at TriSports, Tri Bike Transport, NOVA Light, Chuck and Jim at Easton/Bell/Giro, SKINS, Oakley, TorHans Aero and Computrainer.

Thanks to my family and friends for all you support throughout 2011.  2012 is going to be even greater!!

Yours in sport,

Leanda Cave


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  1. Leanda,

    Great race and great recovery out there. I knew when I passed you early in the bike that something had happened out there but you had no problem returning the favor on the run and you were running smokin’ fast when you did so!!! Looking forward to training sometime with you this winter. Keep it up. -TG

    Thomas Gerlach
    Professional Triathlete

    Save 10% at Trisports.com with Coupon Code “TGER-S”

    Comment by Thomas Gerlach Pro Triathlete — November 29, 2011 #

  2. 8:49?! How totally kick ass is that?! Congratulations. Enjoy some down time. (I’ve gotten very good at since Kona…).

    Comment by Amy Regan — November 30, 2011 #

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