The Best Advice I’ve Ever Received…

By Debbie
March 17, 2014 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Scott Bradley, reminding all of us why we started our endurance sports habits in the first place. Check out Scott’s blog and follow him on Twitter – scottbradley11.

Trying to be a competitive triathlete is not easy. It requires a pretty large commitment to be putting your name towards the top of the results sheet race after race. There are countless hours spent training, sleeping, eating, reading about the newest training techniques and equipment, studying competitors and everything else we spend time on. If you let it, the whole thing can become one big grind.

I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that when anyone started multisport they said, “I want to get involved in a sport that will take time away from my family and friends, cost me thousands of dollars in equipment and race fees (not to mention the larger than normal grocery bills), and beat the crap out of my body day after day so I’m exhausted almost all the time. That sounds fun.”  It’s much more likely that people said something like, “I want to challenge myself to be the healthiest, fittest person I can possibly be” or “that looks like it would be a lot of fun,” which leads me to the best advice I’ve ever received as a triathlete: Make sure it’s still fun.

When I started triathlon I had no clue what I was doing. My first season was nothing short of a disaster and if I hadn’t just purchased a really expensive bike toward the end of it, I would have thrown in the towel. I kept at it, however, and was fortunate enough to have a colleague who had been doing this stuff for years, and had been tearing up courses since way back when I was still wearing pull-ups, take me under his wing. He gave me training structure and taught me about how to prepare for races properly. We rode and ran together all the time, often with a bunch of his other friends who were also veterans of the sport.

Sharing the fun with family & friends

When it was time for a big ride, there were often interesting destinations. Usually it was some sort of annual trip for these guys, but to me these were all new experiences. One day we were riding to the Maple Tree Inn, which was about a 75 mile round trip ride with lots of climbing on an annual ride they called “The Easter Bunny Ride” because it always happened in late March or early April when the restaurant was open, which is only for about eight weeks a year (as a side note, this place has the best buckwheat pancakes and syrup anywhere and I highly recommend anyone in upstate New York going if you’ve never been). I was riding next to Carl and he said “Make sure this is always fun. If it stops being fun, don’t do it anymore.” That’s why they had all these destinations for rides and took so many crazy trips. It made it fun and every year they would go back to places together and enjoy each others’ company and share memories.

There are days when we have to rise early to train before work or winter months where we have to grind out hours on the trainer in order to maximize our potential (we don’t all live in sunny Tucson!). Every session isn’t going to be about fun, but if none of them are, what’s the point? I’ve found ways to make the 5am pool sessions fun by swimming with a great group of people (and I don’t even really like swimming to begin with). In the winter, a few friends will bring their bikes over and we will set up shop in my basement to watch movies while we grind away on the trainers.

Group Trainer Session

A little creativity and a few friends can make almost any session more enjoyable. It is a piece of advice I will never forget and hopefully I can continue to have fun with this sport until I’m old and gray so I can share it with some up and coming triathlete who’s just getting into it. If I do, it’ll probably be the best advice I ever give, too.

Exercise as Medicine – Fighting Arthritis with Triathlon

By Debbie
February 24, 2014 on 4:56 pm | In Athlete Profile, Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Helgi Spencer Olafson, Amateur Triathlete and Arthritis Warrior with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Check out Helgi’s website, join his Race For a Cure team, donate and follow him on Twitter – @HelgiOlafson.

I often ask myself… “why do I keep adding more and more to my plate?”…and then I think to myself, “if only there were more hours in a day… yeah, that would be awesome!”

But this is reality!!

The earth will always turn at a pace which conducts time.  We have no control over time.  What we DO have is control over how we spend that time.  YOU have the power of CHOICE.

Is it selfish to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or is it something that can be used as an example for others to follow with the hopes of getting this world out of the rut that we are in where everyone is searching for the magic pill?

The "Magic Pill"

Here is the bottom line:  EVERYONE suffers from hardship and challenges at one point or another in their lives.  Some people have it easy and some don’t.  It is likely that each of us can’t know exactly how it feels to be in another person’s shoes.  We are genetically different from one another and it’s just not the way genealogy works.

What is important is that we continue to use the lessons from our personal experiences and education, as well as the history recorded by countless visionaries over the many centuries that humans have roamed this earth.  Believe it or not, “Visionaries” are people just like you and me.  I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and I AM a visionary for many.  For them I carry a torch, which also stays lit in my heart.  I will lead the way, while learning, teaching, growing, and respecting the knowledge that history and experience has provided.

Harness the thoughts that you produce in your mind.  They can move mountains!

Triathlon as Medicine for #Arthritis

Since competing as a runner for a relay team in my first ever triathlon, which was the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic distance triathlon, I was hooked.  I knew that this was the answer.  I was tired of living my days with a back, bones, and joints that hurt because I wasn’t taking the best possible care of myself.  “But I have autoimmune arthritis, and it makes it hard for me!”  No, Helgi!! THAT is even MORE the reason why you should be held accountable for your health.  No more giving the jet plane regular unleaded for fuel. It was time to figure out how to manage my arthritis, and help others by leading the way.

I found that if I maintain a good combination of swimming, biking and running, as well as functional strength, core work, and a proper stretching routine to maintain flexibility, I am currently almost invulnerable, aside from the common daily creaks and cracks, to the autoimmune disease that may eventually cause my spine, hips and other joints to fuse together.  This fusion, or ankylosis, is caused by severe inflammation and pain.  The autoimmune arthritis I have is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS.  40% of the world’s population will suffer from one or more of the over 200 types of arthritis at least once in their lifetime.

I Have Ankylosing Spondylitis

Triathlon is great for arthritis!  I am not a Rhuematologist, or even a doctor, but I am my own maker, and I know that triathlon training works for me.  It can also work for others, but those of us who have arthritis know that our bodies and bones don’t really react very well to sudden changes.  This is why it is important to ease into triathlon and be sure to use each discipline regularly to improve overall fitness and core strength, while maintaining a proper plan with the help of a coach that understands your personal limitations from arthritis.  A strong core helps maintain the integrity of my joints.

Of course it hurts!  I AM human…but I think I am on to something here.

I put my music on and run the trails of the lava fields, valley-laden coastline, or the rain forests of Hawai’i.  Give me a day cycling the hills in the Pacific Northwest, or the flats of Florida.  There is nothing like jumping into the water for a training swim at the pier in Kailua Kona, which also happens to be the start-line for the Ironman World Championship event that takes place each year to crown the best Ironman  triathletes in the world.

Talk about motivation all around me.  Here is the deal.  There is no “Magic Pill.”  There may never be a “Cure.”  What does exist is #Hope.  Raising awareness by word of mouth and through networking is a key element in reaching the extremely large number of arthritis patients, doctors and interested parties all over the world.

Spreading the word

If you support arthritis and exercise as medicine, and you would like to help this cause, please support our mission and consider a donation. Perhaps you would like to join our team and race with us in support of arthritis research and programs to help people with arthritis?  All levels welcome! You can learn more about our team here, and learn more about me here.

TriSports.com supports the Helgi Olafson Foundation…use coupon code HOF14 to donate 15% of your purchase directly to the Helgi Olafson Foundation. Code cannot be combined with any other offers. Sale items and items designated as non-discountable will not be included.

The Secret to a Winning Season: It’s Already Happened

By Eric M.
February 21, 2013 on 9:53 am | In Athlete Profile | No Comments

Here’s a blog entry from Steve Elliott, a member of the 2013 TriSports.com Champions Team.

I ran 11 minutes on a treadmill last week.

Before you snicker, the treadmill was inside the Adult Congenital Cardiology Clinic at Stanford Hospital and it’s designed to be a 10-minute maximal test. After I did this test two years ago, they cut me open and stitched various breakfast meats into my heart.

That, actually, is what got me started in triathlon.

Quick back story: I was born with four strange heart defects including a mostly-blocked pulmonary artery and a hole between the ventricles that allowed unoxygenated blood coming back from my body to go right back out again without ever visiting my lungs. I gasped for breath a lot, turned blue even more, and couldn’t walk across a room without having to stop, rest and catch my breath. A little before my fifth birthday, in 1970, they opened me up and fixed my heart with a nice Dacron patch.

Turns out, you get about 40 years out of that repair and a couple of summers ago, after the treadmill test and a cardiac MRI, they told me I needed my pulmonary valve replaced with a pig valve. While he was at it, the surgeon also used some tissue from a cow heart to repair the original patch, giving me a three-species (plus synthetic) heart. I’d been home from the hospital about five days, still sleeping in a chair because of the pain (rib-splitting hurts!) when I saw a broadcast of Leon’s Triathlon from Indiana and everything changed.

I knew this was a sport my wife and I could do together. I knew it was a sport I’d enjoy. And the timing was perfect – from that moment, I was no longer recovering from open-heart surgery…I was training.

I got online and started learning. I ordered books, read TriSports U articles and started looking for an appropriate first race. Even though I’d be on activity restrictions for another seven weeks, I walked and did what I could do to get some fitness back and I competed in a super-sprint just three months after my surgery, then a late-season traditional sprint a month after that. I wasn’t fast in either race, but my goals were just to compete and finish.

After a full season last year, my goals are higher for 2013. I have swim times I want to hit and a running pace I’m building toward. I want to improve in my home events and hit the podium a few times. I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I want to qualify for the Xterra National Championships and test myself in that race. I look forward to scanning race results, hoping my name is listed toward the top of the page.

That’s why the treadmill test was such a good reminder. Without the surgery, my name could just as easily show up on a heart transplant waiting list or in a coroner’s report. So no matter how my races go this year, I’ve already won.

You have, too. If you do this sport, if you have races on the calendar and a training plan on your desk, you are fitter, faster, healthier, and, I suspect, happier than most people out there. So good luck with your 2013 season and your goals, but my friends, we’ve already won.

Steve Elliott is a member of the 2013 TriSports.com Champions Team. If you like his approach and want to support him – and get 15% off gear for yourself at TriSports.com – enter discount code SELLIOTT during checkout.

Team Ariana

By Eric M.
November 28, 2012 on 9:25 am | In Athlete Profile, Giving Back, Sponsorship | No Comments

We recently partnered with a new charity, Team Ariana, and I was curious about the amazing girl spearheading the foundation. I was able to send her some questions so we could get a better feel for the organization and the girl behind it. To learn more or to give to a great cause, visit the website or Facebook page.

How did you get started in triathlon?

When I was younger (Age 7 in Second Grade), I had tried sports like soccer, basketball and softball.  I just could not find the right fit for me.  Then, two of my friends’ (boys) dads told my dad about these kid triathlons they were participating in.  My dad asked me if I wanted to give it a try.  I did and the rest is history.   I was hooked!  My earlier years were spent learning about all three sports, nutrition, gear and competing in many local and national championship races.  Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to start racing in adult triathlons, but only if my dad would do it with me.  Now we do them all together!  This year I competed in approximately 15 duathlons and triathlons, including two Olympic distance races.

What made you decide to start racing for charity?

As I progressed into the adult triathlons, a lot of attention was being placed on me.  I was usually one of the only kids racing and I was beating most of the adults.  I decided that I wanted to shift this attention away from me and onto a cause that was more worthwhile.  I created Team Ariana last year and kicked it off at the beginning of the 2012 racing season.  I united my sponsors and created a web site, a full Team Ariana race wear line with my awesome sponsor Champion System, and provided a way to raise more awareness and badly needed funds for the Vogel Alcove.  The story on the Vogel Alcove also goes way back as my younger sister, Gabrielle, deserves all the credit for introducing it to our family.  The Vogel Alcove is a special place which gives young homeless children and their parents a start at a second chance in life.  They provide schooling and healthcare for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old and case management for the parents, which helps them prepare and find work, and ultimately a real place to call home.  Twenty one different local homeless shelters, domestic violence facilities, etc. feed into the Vogel Alcove.

We started helping Vogel by donating all our birthday presents to them, creating donation drives and visiting the children to bake cookies, do art projects and play.  But that just did not seem like enough.  I wanted to do more.  Once my sister and I realized that these sweet children don’t even have a bed to call their own, not even their own pillow, I knew I could make a difference.  Team Ariana was the answer.  When I am racing and pushing as hard as I can, I find a way to push harder knowing I am doing it for these children.  I have so much and they have so little.  I can endure a few hours of pain for them.  This year alone, Team Ariana has raised over $37,000 and we are not slowing down one bit!

Do you participate in other sports outside of swim/bike/run?

Yes, I participate in volleyball at my school!

Have you inspired any friends or family to participate in triathlon?

Definitely!  My dad was my number one equipment manager before I started doing adult triathlons.  Now, he does all my races with me and even completed his first Ironman this summer!  More importantly, I think I have opened up other kid’s eyes to the reality that they, too, can make a difference.  I have heard and seen other kids finding a way to give back to their communities by finding something they believe in and going after it.  Some do it through triathlons, and others through sports they love.  The main thing I want to get across to other kids is that I am proof that one kid CAN make a difference.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Well, I typically have 3-4 hours of homework every night so a typical training week during the school year is a little different than a training week during the summer.  Also, my training changed when I began focusing in Olympic distance tris versus sprints.  First off, my coach is awesome.  Coach Steen Rose has always made sure that my training is balanced with my other obligations.  More importantly, he makes sure I am always having fun.  After all, I am still a kid!  During the school year, each week I will typically balance 2 runs, 2 swims, 2 bikes, resistance training and yoga.  My coach changes up my schedule, but the weekends usually involve longer bricks and more endurance work.  We also use Training Peaks which really helps me in my weekly and monthly planning.

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? ,

Strawberries!

Looking at your results, it’s easy to see that you’re a fierce competitor. Do you have any dreams of racing as a professional some day?

Absolutely!  I would like to (1) complete my first Ironman before I finish high school and (2) become a professional triathlete sometime in my career.

Who is your favorite triathlete (both male and female)?

Hunter Kemper and Sarah Haskins.   I got to race with them both in the Toyota US Open Championships!

What is the toughest subject in school?

History

What is your favorite subject?

English, Spanish, Math, and Science

How do you decide what your goal is for how much money you want to raise for Vogel Alcove, and does that goal change from year to year?

This is my first year of raising money for the Vogel Alcove.  When I started earlier this year, my goal was $10,000.  We hit that so quickly that I raised it to $20,000.  Once we passed that I raised it to $50,000!  It has been so great to see so many people and companies help support me, Team Ariana, and the Vogel Alcove.  This really is an awesome sport with a phenomenal support group.

How do you spend your down time (what’s your favorite non-athletic thing to do)?

Playing with my friends (sleepovers, movies, fun sports) and doing fun activities with my family (traveling, cooking, etc.).

What’s the hardest part about triathlon training?

The hardest part about triathlon training is usually not the training itself, but finding a way to structure my schedule so I can fit it in.  I have found that taking breaks from my homework to train really allows me to recharge and focus more on my studying.

Are your friends into triathlon as well, or do they think you’re crazy?

I met my best friend (who lives an hour away) through triathlon racing.  She is my BFF and I wish I could see her more.  My other friends don’t race, but are supportive.  Some have come to see races, but many don’t like getting up that early and they generally think I am crazy!

Deserving of the Crown

By Eric M.
October 16, 2012 on 1:29 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, From the shop, Races, Sponsorship, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Leanda Cave - World Champion

No longer an underdog after her 3rd place finish in Hawaii last year, Leanda Cave is one of those athletes you root for because of her work ethic, and because she’s just plain nice. If you live in Tucson you can see her out on the roads and trails, putting in the hard work day after day, like Rocky Balboa. It’s not always the best man or woman who wins; sometimes it’s the ones who are willing to play dirty or sometimes it’s that annoying team with all the money. Leanda, however is not only one of the hardest working professional triathletes, but also one of the nicest professional triathletes I’ve had the honor of meeting.

I’ll never forget the first time I was introduced to her in the TriSports retail store, shortly after I moved to Tucson and started working here. It was my first time meeting a pro outside of a race setting. When I was introduced to her, the person introducing us mentioned that I was training for a marathon. I noticed that she seemed to be friends with everyone in the building, but figured that it was just because they had been there for so long. However, the very next time she came in, not only did she greet me by name, but she asked how my marathon training was going. Getting to know her on a few training rides and on a few social outings solidified my belief that she is a kind, down-to-earth woman.

Because of the wonderful person she is, the entire TriSports triathlon community was behind her on race day. I was, quite literally, on the edge of my seat as I watched the final miles of the marathon unfold. To be honest, I was a little worried at one point; I had never seen Mirinda Carfrae catch another athlete and not pass her. When Leanda held strong and then began pulling away, everyone in the room went wild. She made us believe, as she must have all along, that she could catch Caroline Steffen and win the race.

Sitting in the TriSports Tempe retail store is Leanda’s trophy from Ironman Arizona. At the beginning of the year our staff, along with some of our best customers and sponsored athletes, wrote resolutions for the New Year. Below is a picture of that trophy and Leanda’s resolution; that’s how the mind of a champion works, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the title Ironman World Champion. It was such a thrill watching our friend and sponsored athlete win the most important and exciting race of the year, becoming the first woman to win both the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championship races in the same year. Leanda, you continue to amaze and inspire us, and we thank you for another great year. Congratulations, champ! Your win was hard earned and well deserved.

Team TriSports’ Dominate 70.3 World Championship Start List

By Jaclyn A.
August 23, 2012 on 11:00 am | In Announcements, Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | No Comments

The Ironman 70.3 World Championship is just 2 short weeks away, and we are thrilled to have 8 Team TriSports athletes racing this year. Amongst the professional women you will see Leanda “Super bird” Cave, Angela “no longer the bridesmaid” Naeth, and Missy “check out my quads” Kuck representing Team TriSports.

Leanda "Super Bird" Cave

Angela "No Longer the Bridesmaid" Naeth

Missy "Check Out My Quads" Kuck

Could the women of TriSports sweep the podium? We’d put money on it!

Keep your eyes peeled for these speedy age groupers who are all gunning to top the podium this year: Leo Carrillo (M45-49), Sarah Jarvis (F30-34), Ali Rutledge (F45-59), and Mark Tripp (M30-34).

2011 TriSports.com Athlete of the Year

By Jaclyn A.
March 26, 2012 on 9:53 am | In Announcements, Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | 2 Comments

As the sponsorship coordinator here at TriSports.com I think I have the coolest job in the building because I get to work with some of the best athletes in triathlon. Every year I am blown away by the incredible athletes that come to us wanting to represent TriSports and wear our red, white, and blue uniform. 2011 was without a doubt one of the best years for Team TriSports athletes and I would like to take a minute to brag about some of their accomplishments.

Amy Regan won her age group at Ironman Coeur D’Alene for the second year in a row, and finished 10th in her age group at the Ironman World Championship.

Karin Bivens won her age group at Ironman Brazil and proceeded to beat her husband in Kona.

Thomas Gerlach was the Rev3 amateur series champion and turned pro at the end of the season.

Angela Naeth won the inaugural Leadman Epic 250 and wrapped her season up with her first 70.3 win in Boulder.

Mark Tripp was 3rd in the highly competitive M30-34 age group at Vineman 70.3 which was also his first half.

Craig Pansing was the overall series winner for the Los Angeles Tri Series.

And Leanda Cave won Wildflower, Miami 70.3, Rev3 Knoxville, Ironman Arizona, and finished 3rd at the Ironman World Championships.

While these accomplishments are all very impressive there is more to being a TriSports.com athlete than winning races. It about living a healthy lifestyle, pushing ourselves beyond what we ever thought we were capable of, sharing the joy of sport with those around us, and our 2011 TriSports.com athlete of the year truly embodies the spirit of the sport.

2011 Athlete of the Year: Craig Sheckler

As a coach, club founder, and accomplished triathlete Craig Sheckler has turned the sport of triathlon into a lifestyle. As founder of the Endurance Multisport club in Pennsylvania he has helped grow the sport of triathlon in his community and inspired others to follow his lead and live an active lifestyle. His club now boast a membership of over 125 members. When Craig isn’t coaching he is busy training. After many years of racing Ironman Craig was ready for a new challenge and this year tackled Ultraman UK: a ridiculous 3 day double Ironman in the horrible weather of England. He then proceeded to do and Ironman 3 weeks after his return from Ultraman. As a 7 year member of Team TriSports I am honored to present the 2011 athlete of the year award to Craig Sheckler.

Craig and Erica Sheckler

Angela Naeth gets Second at Abu Dhabi International!

By Jaclyn A.
March 6, 2012 on 4:24 pm | In Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | No Comments

Congratulations Angela! After a stellar 1st place finish at Panama 70.3 a month ago, she follows it up with a 2nd place finish in Abu Dhabi! Looks like it is shaping up to be a great season! Check out what gear Angela is using in 2012!

Swim faster in a Nineteen Wetsuit.

Angela rides one of the fastest bikes on the market a BH GC Aero, with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 and Dura Ace wheels.

Angela hit the run course and held off the super speedy former steeple chaser Melissa Rollinson in her Pearl Izumi Iso Transition Triathlon shoes.

Look like a pro on the podium with a TriSports.com visor!

Angela Naeth Wins Panama 70.3!

By Jaclyn A.
February 13, 2012 on 3:10 pm | In Announcements, Athlete Profile, Sponsorship | No Comments

With the spot light shinning heavily on the men’s race over the weekend thanks to Ironman’s newest poster boy, Lance Armstrong, little notice was paid to the heavily stacked woman’s field at Ironman Panama 70.3. With names like Leanda Cave, Angela Naeth, Kelly Williamson, Magali Tisseyre, and Natascha Badmann on the start list it was anyone’s race and it was promised to be a fierce one.

Leanda Cave on the run at Ironman 70.3 Panama.

True to fashion, Team TriSports athlete Leanda Cave lead the race out of the water (20:10) in her Blue Seventy PZ3TX and into T2. Hot on her heels was TriSports teammate Angela Naeth who clocked the fasted bike split of the day (2:26:31) on her BH GC Aero. Shortly into the run Angela passed Leanda, never looked back, and added her second 70.3 win to her growing list of accomplishments.

Angela Naeth, the happy champion.

Congratulations to both Angela and Leanda on their excellent showing of early season fitness. We can’t wait to see how the year unfolds!

Race Report: Leanda Cave @ Ironman Arizona

By Jaclyn A.
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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