Carrie Lester has won 8 long distance triathlon titles, bagged multiple podium finishes over both full and half distance Ironman events, clocked 3 sub-9hr performances, has finished second at Challenge Roth twice and has 2 Top 10 finishes at the Ironman World Championships.
As she entered her taper for her fourth trip to the Big Island, Team PH Captain Brad Williams sat with Carrie to chew the fat on all things Kona...
So, Carrie, how well did training/racing in Europe this Summer set you up for a solid final block of training for Kona back at home?
I really feel my coach (and partner) Scott Defilippis and I nailed it this year with our choice of races over the summer, not only in terms of race selection but also in how we recovered and trained in between the races and then prepared for the next one.
All 4 races we did in Europe - Ventouxman, Ironman France, Alpe d'Huez, Embrunman - built the platform for my final Kona preparations at home in California. There was no need to keep doing volume after volume. It was a 5 week "sharpen up".
It seems that every athlete prefers to do their final Kona block in a specific place. You've found San Diego works well for you, with back to back Top 10 Kona finishes after training at home.
But have you considered changing it up and trying another location?
I do like being at home in San Diego for many reasons; I know the weather, the routes, pools, and then of course I have my own bed, food etc etc. That all helps when you're solely focused on training and recovering from sessions.
Many past great Kona athletes have used San Diego as a base for their preparations, so clearly it has a lot to offer. I have thought about Park City, or staying in Europe longer, but at this stage San Diego is still the place for my final preparations.
You're heading into Kona for the 4th time. Every year you improve your finishing position, what's the goal for this year?
To improve my swim and run. In the last 2 years I feel like I haven't delivered my best in either of these and this year I would like to show my best across all 3 disciplines.
What do you find the most challenging aspect of racing Kona?
Getting to the start line cool, calm and collected.
For athletes racing Kona for the first time this year, what's your best advice?
Don't ride in your aerobars down Ali'i Drive!
And, if you come with family, don't be so absorbed by your race that you forget to spend time with them.
How do you alter your hydration and nutrition plan for Kona, considering the conditions are typically pretty extreme compared to other courses?
Firstly, I don't EVER try a product I haven't used in other races.
Secondly, with Kona being rather extreme heat-wise, I make sure I'm getting plenty of electrolytes back in on the bike, as well as topping up on the run.
This is typically my protocol for any hot race - Kona is no different.
Is there anything special that you do to prepare for the heat in Kona?
Yes, I try and include some sessions that'll expose me to the heat and have me sweating, and also use saunas a couple of times a week.
How do you cope with the craziness of Kona in the immediate build up to the race. Do you dive in and enjoy being immersed in it, or do you stay out of town and try not to get too involved?
We do tend to keep to ourselves more than being 'fully immersed'. There are still important sessions to be done, media commitments, relaxing, and when you add the 'Kona craziness' in there it takes too much of the energy that you need to be saving for race day!
Who are your predictions for podium spots this year?
I really couldn't say! I'm sure Daniela (Ryf) and Lucy (Charles) will be #1 and #2 if no mistakes are made, but after that I feel the field is wide open this year.
Jan (Frodeno) not racing the Men's race this year really opens up the Men's podium, and again I couldn't' possibly say who'll be there. It's Kona, anything can happen!
Will Kona mark the end of your season, or will you look to build off of the strength that an IRONMAN gives you and finish off the year somewhere else?
I actually have 3 more races planned after Kona - 70.3 Cabo, Challenge Ensenada and 70.3 La Quinta (Palm Springs).