Down but not out….

Success is easier than failure. There is not much to say when you succeed. But in failure you sometimes learn more about yourself. I’m not the only pro who didn’t make it to the finish line on Saturday. We all have our unique stories to tell, and for those interested, here is mine.

Qualifying for Kona could have been easy for me, as all I have to do being a previous world champion, is to finish any Ironman to “validate”. But I chose to race and I selected Ironman Texas, which was also the North America Ironman Championship event. Why this race? Because it would have the most competition and that’s what I love to race.

My result in IM Texas was a good indicator of my early season form where I finished 2nd behind Angela Naeth. My coach, Cliff English, had done a great job in getting me in top shape and all we had to do leading up to Kona was to stay injury free and keep improving on those early season foundations.

Half the battle is getting to the start line in Kona without injury or illness. Only once in the past 7 years have I not finished due to a flu. I’ve even finished with injury. My results range from being on top of the podium to somewhere quite a long ways from it.

This was the most ready I have ever felt coming into Kona. I was 100% prepared and my body was 100% injury free. I was so physically and mentally on point and I was enjoying the sport for the first time in a very long time.

My swim was right where it needed to be. I was in the lead group behind Jodie Swallow who was solo off the front. I came out 2nd. This was kind of lucky because we caught the tail end of some male pro’s right before the end and this interrupted the order of our group. Until that point I was swimming 3 deep and not sure who was leading. In the end, there was about 8 of us who came out the water at roughly the same time.

That group of 8 had the likes of Daniela Ryf, Caroline Steffen, Meredith Kessler, Rachael Joyce, Liz Blatchford, Michelle Vesterby, Annabel Luxford and myself. Jodie was out 1 minute ahead and the chase was on to catch her. By the turn up Kuakini Hwy, the group had united and we continued to jostle for positions as we climbed up Palani. I felt strong and I took to the lead as we headed out of town.

My game plan for the bike was to stay up the front and stick to Daniela Ryf like white on rice. The pace I was setting felt comfortable. Jodie Swallow, who must have also been feeling good, came around me and I was feeling relaxed just sitting in 2nd wheel. At this point we were probably 12 miles into the race and riding at about 26 miles per hour. I remember looking at my bike computer and I was pushing around 215 watts.

I took in some nutrition and washed it down with a drink. Right at that moment I hit a bump in the road. My hands were not firmly gripping my bars as I was just returning to my position after drinking from my water bottle straw. As my front wheel hit the bump my arms launched forward. When my back wheel hit the bump, my elbows slipped off my pads and I catapulted over my bike head first onto the road. I slid on my right side for a few meters before coming to a stop.

As I was coming down an overwhelming sense of grief hit me as I felt all that hard work and sacrifice that enabled me to be here in the shape of my life just vanished. But as I picked myself up off the pavement I realized nothing was broken, not even my bike (It used me as its air bag!). My right shoulder and hip were hurting, but all I could see was road rash. I felt like I was still in with a chance. I jumped back on my bike and I could see the group up the road.

I put my head down and biked gradually I made my way back to the group. I sat on the back for a while as there was no opportunity to work my way up as all the girls were sitting in the legal draft zone. When an aid station came around, this gave me a chance to move up and slot into a big enough gap. I did this a 2nd time and managed to slot in about 4th wheel. Daniela Ryf was leading and she surged after the aid station. I saw a gap open up and I chased her down. I was not sitting in 2nd behind Ryf and this is where I remained until my body started to unravel from my crash.

As we turned towards Hawi, my right side began throbbing and I was down to pushing 80% of my power through my left leg. I was still convinced this would pass and I’d get through the bike. Everyone in the group passed me. I’m not sure who saw me crash, but most of the girls asked if I was ok. I was not.

I made it up to Hawi and I was in survival mode. Over half way. Surely I could make it back. I finally had to stop the medical vehicle at 90 miles into the bike. Not only was my back hurting, but my right side was crippling my ability to pedal any longer. The medics gave me Tylenol and let me sit in their van for 30mins as I wanted to see if the pain would subside. It actually became worse and they had to drive me back to Kona.

Race over. No finish line. No reward for my dedication and months of preparation. Like every year, so many people and sponsors helped me get to Kona. In 2013 I was unable to defend my title due to injury. In 2014 I was unable to defend my title due to fatigue. But this year I was ready and now I will never know.

There will be a next year and I will do everything in my power to be on the start line as for and ready as I was this year. I will not let my correct form go to waste. Once my body heals, I will finish off my season with IM 70.3 Miami, The Island House Invitational and finally Ironman Cozumel.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

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2018-01-09T12:53:02+00:00October 15th, 2015|Uncategorized|17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Andy October 15, 2015 at 4:09 am - Reply

    Hero’s day. That…is courage. Very sorry for your disappointment. Mend well. Peace.

  2. Paul Provost October 15, 2015 at 4:28 am - Reply

    Leanda,

    Thank you for sharing this story. I have been a fan of yours and was pulling for you in Kona. I didn’t know what happened other than a crash, so I appreciate you telling us.

    It may not matter much, but I am certain you will return in top form and win in 2016. I’m also certain you will beat me in Miami, but I look forward to meeting you.

    Chin up and kick some ass! Let this drive you and your training all year. Huge fan!

    Paul

  3. Daniel Thomas October 15, 2015 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing- You might be down….but NOT out….ever…. I am glad you are ok. In spite of the crash you are, and always will be, a champion. Most athletes wouldn’t even made it back, let alone ride even further. The fact that you were able to mitigate damage only solidifies an amazing 2016. Do what you love, and I hope that you are able to find some solace in spite of this setback. We all look forward to an amazing year when you recover. Good luck in Miami and Cosumel.

  4. Judith October 15, 2015 at 5:45 am - Reply

    Sure you will be on top again. Now… It’s time to rest. ????

  5. george kotakis October 15, 2015 at 6:09 am - Reply

    Dear Leanda it is true ,is very hard after one year hard training and at the end not finished because of an accident. I know it from Frankfurt 43 degrees i couldn’t breath. I make for fun you are pro.
    But i have realised that is an opportunity tu start again.
    First.
    You can see your mistakes.
    You will be better prepared.
    You will see everything from an other side.
    You will say the next time “i am here to WIN ”
    and you will be able to do it.
    It is nice to start again. .
    Remember you are very good and you can do it.
    Keep running.
    Your sport friend .
    George.

  6. Norbert Nix October 15, 2015 at 6:35 am - Reply

    You are a true warrior. I can’t believe you even got back on the bike.

  7. Carlos Soto-Thompson October 15, 2015 at 9:12 am - Reply

    The words of a true champion, a role model and a fantastic source of inspiration.
    I saw you race in IM Kalmar 2014 and I can honestly say that you totally blew me away. I’ve follows your career since and I officially I blame you for getting me started on training triathlon! LOL!
    There is no doubt in my mind that you will be back in Kona, on top of the podium, once again. It will not be easy. It never is. But you WILL get there! Stay focus… stay committed… and never forget that you are loved no matter what! Great things will come…

    Leanda… YOU ROCK!

    Btw… I promise not to hold a grudge for the few Swedish krona you crashing out cost me. :^P LOL

  8. Frederic October 15, 2015 at 9:16 am - Reply

    heal up fast & well… those races can wait.
    Then, when you’re better, get back to your training habits, don’t loose faith.
    Go!

  9. Todd October 15, 2015 at 10:37 am - Reply

    True grit. Didn’t know you pushed to
    Hawi.

  10. Stefan October 15, 2015 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Hi Leanda,

    so sorry for your DNF.
    I hope for you, that your races at end of the season will go well and healthy again.
    So don`t look back any further and focus for the things to come in 2016.
    You did a great job this year!

    Best regards from Germany!
    Stefan

  11. Jenn October 15, 2015 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Leanda, from what I heard, it was a wicked fall and if there is one thing Hawaii, especially Kona, is good at it is challenging you. Glad to hear you are ok and I’m glad to hear you’ll be back at it soon. A lot of pros and even some awesome age groupers failed to finish that day and some never made it to the start line. I’m glad to hear you tried to get back in it after the fall, which is one of the reasons we all cheer for you. We’re already budgeting and trying to get a bigger group to come see you guys race next year. So, here’s to a full recovery and here’s to the drive that keeps you going and hungry for another podium finish! See you in 2016!

  12. Imran Hajee October 15, 2015 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    You may have taken some skin off but you are one tough girl and I know you’ll be just as hungry now more than ever! Love ya!

  13. Aldo Lujan October 15, 2015 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    You are amazing and always very dedicated. I admire your toughness and resilience best wishes and speedy recovery.

  14. Susan Dekeyser October 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    Leanda, you’re such an inspiration and Team Key West loves you! Wishing you a speedy recovery

  15. Carlos Scandiffio October 15, 2015 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    As an amateur runner, rider and swimmer who has been going at it for nearly three decades, I am still in awe of you and your determination. My friend and I have seen you cruising past us from South Beach to Key Biscayne day after day. We know–in spite of being amateurs ourselves–what it takes to tackle such a monumental endeavor. Your achievement lies in trying as much as it is in succeeding. I have two daughters and two granddaughters whom I trust will one day aspire to be just like you: a consummate athlete. Not so much in search of the podium as in personal excellence, which is ultimately what should field our passion. The race is over, but you’ve missed one simple, yet highly complex component, INSPIRATION. Those of us who admire those of you NEED that inspiration to keep us alive. Trust me, you DID finish this effort, and then some.

  16. julie Davies October 15, 2015 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    you showed great courage, and determination your just like your sister mel

  17. Wanda Gray October 15, 2015 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    You are still my hero and I have NO doubt you will be back. Disappointments come…disappointments go…but you are NO DISAPPOINTMENT! Stay strong…we will follow you again next year!!

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