Catching up with Lauren Brandon after her first Ironman win

One of the best swimmers in the sport, Lauren Brandon routinely leads the way out of the water at races and, more often than not continues to lead off the bike. In Boulder she stayed in front right to the end, taking her first Ironman win.

| June 19, 2019 | PERSONALITY

Mike Reilly interviews Lauren Brandon after her win at Ironman Boulder.

Mike Reilly interviews Lauren Brandon after her win at Ironman Boulder.

Photo >Ironman Ironman Boulder was your first full-distance win. You’ve led out of the water and off the bike more than a few times and haven’t been able to hold on for a win until Boulder. How satisfying was it to finally put it all together and get that wire-to-wire win?

Lauren Brandon: It was such an amazing feeling to get my first Ironman win! What made it even more special was the fact that I had my coach Julie Dibens there and a ton of friends and family. It felt like a hometown race. I will never forget this Ironman win.

Going 9:09 in altitude in Boulder is more than a little impressive. Did you feel like it was a breakthrough day for you beyond just getting the win?

I knew racing at altitude was going to be tough, so I went to Boulder for 4 weeks prior to the race to try and get acclimated. That definitely made a huge difference in how I performed. I think what I am most happy about was my bike. I have had some great Ironman bike performances, but they have also been a bit inconsistent. Coach Julie and I decided that it was time for me to see what I could do on the bike, so I went for it. I still have a lot that I can improve on, so while it was a great race, there’s still more to come.

You’re arguably one of the best swimmers in the sport and you cycle with the best in the sport, too. Are you spending a lot of time trying to work on your running? What kind of work are you doing on that front?

Running has definitely taken time to improve and there is still a lot of work to do. One thing we decided I really needed to add to my program was strength work. I am working with Erin Carson from ECFitBoulder and really trying to get stronger so that my body can handle more running. We have also worked on my running form too.

The win in Boulder secures your Kona spot. Two years ago, you and Lucy Charles ripped through the swim and bike on the Big Island, but last year you had to pull out of the race. You said afterwards on social media that “Kona 2018 was a series of unfortunate events right from the start.” Can you tell us what was going on?

Haha, it was quite the race and I am just not the type of person to make excuses. We all have things happen to us during races and have to deal with them one way or another. But if you really want to hear my excuses…. Kona last year was just not meant to be.  First, I came into the race really fatigued from the qualification process. I did three Ironmans prior to Kona in a few months, so that was not ideal. Then, I got stung by a jellyfish right before the start of the swim. I had about 30 seconds of adrenaline and fast swimming before I felt like I wasn’t going to make it to the end. I looked around for water safety personal and considered raising my hand for them to pull me out of the water. It was a pretty scary and terrible feeling. I told myself to take long strokes and try to calm down. I did make it out of the water, but just continued to go backwards once I got on the bike.   Finally, I got a flat tire around mile 40. I got it changed, but this was just too much for me to handle; I knew that my day was done. I rode the rest of the way to T2 trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible and then stopped. It was not my finest day and put me in quite the physical, mental, and emotional hole for a couple of months. Fortunately I finally got my bum back in gear and have had a great 2019 so far!

Speaking of Kona, what’s it like battling at the front of the race? Do you have to work hard to try and be first out, or are you thinking more of swimming hard enough to be at the front, but under control enough to be able to have lots of energy left for the bike and run?

I am used to racing at the front, Kona or not, so it’s a place that I am familiar and comfortable with. My goal at Kona is to put together a strong race and that begins with a great swim/bike combo to put me in the position to do well and then to finish the race with a marathon that I can be proud of.

I’ve always said that you seem to be endlessly positive and always smiling whenever I see you. What’s the story behind your upbeat demeanor … and would we get a different take from Barrett?

Haha… Barrett and I have been together for 15 years: through college and my swimming career, then work and graduate school, and now my triathlon career. If anyone has seen me not so positive and not smiling, it would be him. However for the most part I am a very optimistic person who enjoys life! Nobody wants to be around someone who is always grumpy and complaining, so I am thankful for having an amazing husband, family, and friends and I’m just enjoying this whole triathlon thing while I can :)