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/ /////// P U RV EYO RS O F PLAY /////////////////////////////////////////////// “IT’S NOT ABOUT WINNING, IT’S ABOUT GETTING TO THE START AND STILL FEELING THE EXCITEMENT OF COMPETITION.” QUEEN OF PAIN In 2012 triathlete Leanda Cave clenched the Ironman and Half-Ironman World Championship titles in the same year. She’s since suffered injury and a devastating crash, yet went after Kona’s fit field again. BY JEN MURPHY 18 ISSUE ONE | ASPIRE /////////////////////////////////// < FRONTRUNNER After 22 years as a competitive triathlete, Leanda Cave has learned that the secret to success isn’t a magical formula of diet and training. It’s learning to relinquish a bit of control. While many of her peers have retired, the 38-year-old Brit hasn’t lost her competitive drive. “A lot of my friends in the sport wake up one day and say, ‘I’m done.’ It’s a lot of pressure,” she says. “Maintaining a social life keeps the sport fun. You have to live a little—have chocolate and wine occasionally.” In 2012, Cave cemented her place in triathlon history, becoming the first woman to win both the Ironman and Half-Ironman World Championships in the same year. A true test of endurance, strength, and mental willpower, the Ironman consists of a grueling 2.4-mile open-water swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. Cave’s gift for athletics was apparent at a young age. Growing up in Australia, her parents enrolled her in surf lifesaving courses at age 8. She instantly took to the sport, which revolved around swimming, beach running, and paddling. “In many ways, it was like a triathlon, just with different sports,” she says. At 14, she competed in her first mini triathlon and won, despite riding a heavy mountain bike. “I was convinced this was something I was good at,” she says. “Winning became addictive.” After her historic “double” in 2012, however, Cave struggled with injury. A strained hamstring plagued her for nearly all of 2013, though she still placed 12th at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. In 2014, she won the Ironman Sweden, finishing with the fastest times in all three disciplines, but fatigue kicked in at the World Championships, where she finished 18th. Last year, she was in the best shape of her life when she arrived in Kona for the World Championships. She dominated the swim, but then a devastating bike crash removed her from the competition. “The crash has been a huge mental scar,” she confides. “I did everything right with my training but the crash was out of my control.” In any career, whether professional sports or business, it’s important to switch off and recharge. Cave logs 30 to 40 hours of training per week, and while she competes throughout the year, she says Kona remains the ultimate goal. “Last year after Kona I got depressed, thinking —LEANDA CAVE all of those hours I sacrificed didn’t mean anything,” she says. Cave took three weeks off in the beginning of 2016. “I needed a mental break,” she says. “I really struggled as to whether I wanted to go back to the championships this year and face the pressure. But I’ve realized I can’t let it consume me. It’s not about winning, it’s about getting to the start and still feeling the excitement of competition.” This year, Cave says she felt great going into the race and was in third place coming out of the water. “I was with a group of 10 on the bike, and the pace seemed very fast compared to previous years,” she says. “After about 40 miles I decided to drop off so I could have a good marathon but I didn’t drop early enough and by the time I hit the run, my legs were toast.” Cave says she shuffled to her 29th-place finish. “Obviously it was very disappointing but the saving grace is that unlike last year, I did make it to the finish line.” ASPIRE | ISSUE ONE 19