Queen K Buzz: Leanda Cave

Written by: Katie Araujo

A British professional triathlete with international recognition as being one of the top females in the sport, Leanda Cave turned heads by bouncing back a week after a lackluster performance at Hyvee by winning the 70.3 Ironman World Championships. Leanda’s triathlon career started in 1994 and has evolved from a short course specialist into a top contender on the Ironman circuit. She claimed a podium position at Kona last year and aspires to build on this success by having a go at the title. We had a moment to chat with Leanda during her downtime between sessions:

With roots stemming from short course racing, you achieved a high level of success early on by winning the 2002 ITU Olympic distance World Championship. What made you change direction and step up to racing 70.3 and Ironman distance races?
I’ve been racing 70.3 for quite a while and doing the odd one every now and then when I was racing Olympic distance. I was in sort of a cricel in the ITU distance where I was racing for my federation therefore employed by the federation. This ended in 2006 and I really needed to start earning an income from prize money and found I was successful racing 70.3 distance. I started racing it more seriously and started making my own money through my own accord. It wasn’t so much as a conscious decision but a decision brought upon me and one of those things where the circumstances were right and made that jump by default.

Last year you put forth a brilliant effort at the end of the season, taking 3rd in Kona and earning the win at Ironman Arizona. How do you feel you have progressed in one years time?
I feel I am stronger from where I was this time last year. I think more so I was strong this time last year, I just wasn’t as confident to run with it as I am this year. I haven’t changed anything, everything worked last year with what I was doing, and I’m just trying to move up that curve. As long as I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll continue to get stronger and faster and the win will come. I have more confidence this year as supposed to 12 months ago and I think the race here and at IM Arizona really established me as a name in IM racing where as before that I hadn’t really shown a good performance outside of Kona. For me personally, that has made a good difference. I used to be the long shot and now people take me seriously. I am in a pretty different place than I was two years ago when I had my first race here.

Tell us about your day in Vegas this year at the 70.3 World Championships. What was your strategy in tackling the hot and hilly course, and how did it feel to stand on top of the podium when all was said and done.
I think a lot of people had written me off prior to Vegas – for one reason or another I hadn’t had a strong race all year until Vegas. I think for the most part people weren’t really considering me a contender but it doesn’t change how I race – I still have the same mentality. Sure it may have made people stand up and take note of me, but Kona is where I am trying to get my biggest result of the year. To me it doesn’t matter what happens before now. This has been the goal the whole year. I am excited I found racing in Vegas not as horrible as everybody else found it, so it’s exciting to be here and not be overwhelmed by the heat and tough conditions.

Credited for producing Kona’s extreme conditions, Madam Pele has been known to make her presence felt. Notorious for powerful wind gusts descending Hawi and blazing sun in the Energy Lab, where do you see yourself capitalizing on the conditions presented on race day?
For me there is nothing I am not prepared for. I have been across the board in results and I am prepared for anything. You have to take whatever the island gives you. It has been pretty nice lately but this island can change in a moment’s notice. One day it’s pouring down rain and the next there isn’t a cloud in a sky, it’s hot, and the winds are whipping. I am ready for anything and I think that’s one of my strongest things going into the race. I want the conditions to be as difficult as they can be since I can just switch off my head and push through it.

What is one of your favorite Kona memories? (either one of your own, another athlete, etc.)
Getting it done and getting over the finish line, to be honest. There isn’t a point where I’m not liking or disliking when I’m racing, but It’s a few weeks after the race that I realize what I’ve accomplished. I think that’s why so many people are attracted to the sport. You go so many places physically and mentally and force yourself to push through boundaries. Because I race so few Ironmans a year, getting through a whole one makes me feel very accomplished. It’s really an amazing thing to know I have achieved something great.

If you were to put together a list of your top “must dos” while on the Big Island, what would they be?
Visit the volcanoes, Captain Cook,… after this race I’m going to go zip lining, deep sea fishing, swimming with the manta rays, being out in the sun for something other than riding my bike… I’ve been here for so long and enjoyed it, but am ready to go home – we’re on the road so much that being home is like being on holiday. Kona is a beautiful place but here as an athlete, you don’t get to enjoy it as a tourist would.

Tell us about your selection in working with Siri Lindley.
When I first started with Siri I was just looking for a coach who could provide a group environment for me to train with. But over the last couple years I discovered there’s something else in Siri. She provides a different dynamic. The little things she says, the little subtleties, the way she reads me as an athlete and person has made me to give my version of going flat out in workouts. She just inspires in how she comes across to me. She has a different way she treats every athlete in how she thinks they will respond. She offers much more than just being a coach and has made me realize what I do for a living is very unique, very special and I can be a whole person doing what we do just the same as someone doing any other job. She appreciates us as a person and an athlete.

What legacy do you wish to leave on the sport?
For me, when I came into the sport, I was very inspired by all the athletes and I always found them untouchable. I would like to be someone who can be the inspiration to up and coming young athletes and be there on a more personal level to them. I remember athletes had this attitude and aura about them and wall that they put up. Young kids take so much from their role models. The role models have an ability to shape some kids lives and possibly make them go for their dreams some day. I really want to be there as an inspiration for young kids and be accessible and make the connection, not just someone they see in magazines and books.

Thank you, Leanda! Wishing you all the best of luck and I look forward to watching you out there on Saturday.