26 Oct Carrie Lester on Climbing to the top of the Ironman World Championships

A Phenomenal Top 10 Finish for Carrie Lester at the Ironman World Championships

This past year has been a whirlwind of excitement for professional triathlete and XRCEL sponsored athlete, Carrie Lester.  After multiple Ironman and full distance race podium appearances (1st  at Embrunman, 1st at Ironman 70.3 Eagleman, and 2nd at Challenge Roth) this year, Carrie made her mark as one of the best women in the sport by finishing in 10th place at the Ironman World Championships earlier this month. We sat down with Carrie to get an in-depth look at her spectacular race day performance on the big island and how her fueling strategies have helped catapult her racing to the highest level. Read the full story and get to know how Carrie came up in the sport of triathlon and what’s in store next for this shining star in 2017.

XRCEL: Congrats on finishing in the Top 10 in the World at the 2016 Ironman World Championships! What were your race goals in Kona and how many times have you raced on the Big Island?

Carrie Lester (CL): I really did have the goal of just getting into the Top 10 as I didn’t know what to expect. I have only raced on the Big Island once before back in 2010 and this year was very different for me. I am a completely different athlete today compared to who I was back then, so my goals this year were also very different. Back then I just wanted to finish, but this year, a top 10 performance was the goal and a top 5 finish would be  a super big bonus. I know on a different day I could get into the top 5 and that’s certainly a strong goal for 2017.

XRCEL: What made you try your first triathlon in 2009 and what was it about the experience that propelled you to continue racing triathlons?

CL: I started racing triathlons for fun and for the social aspect of the sport. I have never really been one to just exercise for fun. I like training for the challenge and, once I achieve that ,I will look ahead for a new challenge. This is really what kept me racing and progressing in the sport.

XRCEL: When did qualifying for the Ironman World Championships become a race goal for you and how do you think you accomplished it?

CL: I have said for years that I would not race on the Big Island until I thought I was capable of a top 10 finish. Last year I really started to piece together great training and my race performances showed that hard work. Winning Ironman Chattanooga in September and breaking 9 hours  was probably my moment when I thought,” Ok, I’m ready to give Kona a go.”

XRCEL: You had an incredible race in Kona! Tell us about your race day goals and experience from start to finish.

CL: I am happy with my result, but also know that on a different day it could have been better. Thanks to “woman problems,” I was flat, and felt weak. I didn’t have my usual spunk on the bike and run especially. I got dropped in the swim to start my day and found myself swimming on my own. I didn’t panic, and just hoped that when I got on the bike I could get into my groove. I know that sometimes on the bike I may not feel good until 2 hours in, but even this didn’t happen. Again, I didn’t panic and just kept riding as strong as I could, focusing on my nutrition to ensure I could run a decent marathon. I knew there were girls in front of me that had ridden above their limit, and if I held it together with a strong run, I could make up some places, most likely around the Energy Lab, when most fall apart. I certainly made up a few places by the time I got out of the Lab, but I also got caught on the run by 3 other girls who were having awesome runs. I was off my pace on the run as well, but on that day it was all I had. I couldn’t have done any more, so 10th place it was.

XRCEL: You finished the bike in 15th and were able to run yourself into 10th. How were you able to execute a solid marathon in such hot and humid conditions?

CL: Keeping cool and fueling as best I could on the bike played a major part in me being able to run a decent marathon. I rode to my limit on the day, and tried to keep on top of my nutrition. On the run, I just kept going, using water and ice at aid stations to keep cool and fueling at each station. I also had 2 XRCEL in my special needs bag in the Energy Lab, on the run, which certainly helped get me through the last 10 miles of the marathon.

XRCEL: How did your time as a competitive runner translate into your triathlon training and racing?

CL: I think it translated the most on the bike. Coming from a sprinting background, I have strong, powerful legs and they certainly help me riding!

XRCEL: As you know, nutrition is a huge part of race day performance. What was your fueling plan for Kona and how did you manage your nutrition throughout the race?

CL: During an Ironman the most important time to fuel is on the bike. If you get this wrong, you will likely pay for it on the run. On the bike, I had 5 XRCELs stored in one bottle, 3 bottles of my electrolyte mix, 2 JoJe bars, plus more on course fluid and electrolytes. And I still believe I didn’t drink enough fluid! I’ll be working on that for my next race.

XRCEL: How did fueling with XRCEL play a role in your World Championship race?

CL: XRCEL was my one and only fuel source during Kona. I used it pre race as I cannot stomach much at all race morning, and it was my fuel source on the bike and run. I probably used about 10 over the 9 hours and had NO stomach issues whatsoever.

XRCEL: You’ve had a wildly successful season to say the least, with a 2nd place finish at Challenge Roth and wins at Embrunman and Ironman 70.3 Eagleman. How did all of your races play a part in your year’s success and which race left you the most satisfied?

CL: Roth was a great 2nd place after a rough start to the year. This gave me a lot of confidence, but Embrunman was the one that was most satisfying. I have never suffered like that in a race before as it is by far the hardest full distance race out there. To cross that finish line in 1st place after such a long day was very, very satisfying.

XRCEL: Let’s talk about your training leading up to this race.  You spent a large portion of the summer training  overseas in the Swiss Alps and also raced AND  won, Embrunman- one of the most challenging full-distance triathlon races in the world!! How did this win help you going into your Kona prep?

CL: All the training and racing in Europe was used as a build to Kona. When I was suffering in Kona, it was nothing compared to how I was in Embrunman, but that was the point of that race.  The race itself gives you a massive boost in strength, both physically and mentally.

XRCEL: Run us through a typical training day and, specifically, an example of one of your favorite training sessions.

CL: Each day is different. It’s really hard to give an example. Most days the first session is a bike or run. We swim at lunch. Then usually we have a PM session. I do like the long track sessions – as hard as they are, hitting the numbers is very satisfying.

XRCEL: How did your Coach, and XRCEL sponsored pro triathlete, Scott DeFilippis of KIS Coaching help prepare you for KONA?

CL: Scott knows me very well and what I need to do to get the most out of myself. Every day he made me do the work without having to think about what I was doing and I placed 100% of my trust in him as my coach. There are no secrets here. We just did the work.

XRCEL: Racing is as much a mental game as it is intense and physically demanding.  How did you mentally prepare to race Kona and how did you stay focused when things were going well, and more importantly not as planned?

CL: I don’t do any crazy sessions to help me mentally prepare for a race. There is no locking myself in a dark room and sitting on the turbo for hours! I really do believe that if you have trained and prepared well for a race, no matter what happens your body will know what to do and as long as you keep a positive mind you will get the best result on the day. Overthinking during a race will more than likely lead to an undesirable outcome – so I do my best to shut my thoughts out and just let my body do what it does.

XRCEL: Now that Kona is over, what are your plans for the rest of the year and your off-season?

CL: I’m not sure the year is over yet. I may have one more race in me, but we will see.

I would like to have December off to enjoy all of the Christmas and New Year festivities and go on a trip where I don’t have to pack my bike!

XRCEL: What personal or professional goals do you have for the 2017 season? At what races can we expect to see you on the starting line next year?

You will see me in Roth and Kona, but besides those two, I’m not sure yet.

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