Up close with Carrie Lester

Carrie Lester had a superb 2019 season and we had a chat with the determined Aussie about racing, training, PROTA and much more.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Carrie.

Carrie Lester: Thank you Herbert, pleasure to chat.

ST: What are you up to at this time and what race is next?

Carrie: We are pretty much back into our routine training now. We have our KIS Coaching camp next week (Feb 13-17). And then after that we really get stuck into it. I am thinking of racing Oceanside 70.3 this year as a warm-up race for an Ironman in May, but won’t decide till a few weeks before.

ST: You had a very impressive 2019 season with wins at Gulf Coast 70.3, Ironman France, Ironman Mont Tremblant, Ventouxman plus a late season victory at Ironman Cozumel in a time of 8:38:41. What does that last title mean for you and how did that make you feel looking towards 2020?

Carrie: It was a great year. Totally unexpected, but I felt like I really started to come into my own with my training and racing last year. Ironman Cozumel was my 4th IM for the year and it reinforced how much Ironman racing is all about mindset. I knew that I had the fitness, but the outcome of the race for me was going to come down to how I was going to be able to wrap my head around the distance and going through the pain again. It gave me a lot of confidence to know I could do that. It was also a special one because I was able to be out there with my teammate Manu Kung, who had a breakthrough race (4th Pro Male). I feel like we made Scottie so proud (he also coaches Manu), so it was the best way to end the season for all of us.

ST: And yes, you were 8th in Kona, 2nd at the Alpe D’Huez Tri and I am sure I missed some other highlights.

Carrie: You covered all races in 2019. [laughs]

ST: How much time did you take off after Cozumel, and what to you means taking time off?

Carrie: I didn’t take any time off swimming, but 1 week off running and it was 2 weeks before I rode my bike. I like to keep moving, and swimming, riding and running are obviously what comes easiest [to me] so it is not hard to keep touching those while on a break. But taking time off means I can do any of these if I want! I don’t look at pace whatsoever, I just go and workout. I like to be open to doing things with friends or family which I don’t usually have time to do – and I like to try and surf if the water isn’t too cold!

ST: How good are you at surfing?

Carrie: Average [laughs] but I can get up and go down the line.

ST: Compared to other female pros your race schedule seems very heavy, and it typically includes very tough races such as the Alpe D’Huez Tri, and Embrunman. You were second in the Alpe D’Huez event in 2019 but you were a non-starter at Embrunman. What happened?

Carrie: I know other female pros who race 3 IMs and a few 70.3s in a season, a small handful race 4 IMs, so I’m not sure my schedule is any heavier than theirs. Mine is just more condensed – we usually don’t start racing until May/June and go right through to November. This year, after I qualified for Kona at IRONMAN France we decided to change the summer race schedule to focus a little more on Kona, which meant not racing Embrunman. We chose to race Ironman Mont Tremblant instead, which gave me more practice spending time in the bars and I really wanted to see where my swim and run were at. It was a hard decision giving up Embrunman, but for me it was the right decision this year. All the other events mentioned (ADH, Ventouxman) are more training races for fun and to keep the perspective high in terms of course difficulty.

ST: Do you race the same bike in all of these events or do you change the bike out depending on course?

Carrie: I ride and race the same bike all year - Canyon Speedmax SLX. I switch wheels depending on the course – mountain races I usually just run the Vision 55 front/rear. Flatter races Vision 55 front and 81 rear or Disc. The Canyon Speedmax also allows you to switch the Rake Shift inserts in the fork, which I love especially when we are training and racing in the mountains. Better handling and more agile.

ST: We featured your Kona bike in our annual Top 15 story and we would love to know how much have you refined that Canyon since you first got it?

Carrie: So far, all I have added are - Vision FSA Powerbox, Vision wheels, Drag2Zero extensions, ISM 3.1 saddle. This year I will be running a Kogel Oversize Pulley system and perhaps playing around with the extensions with the help of the team at Vision.

ST: Have you spent any time in the wind tunnel?

Carrie: No. I’m really happy with how my position feels so I don’t think it’s necessary to confuse the message in a controlled environment, especially after the results I’ve had in the real world, on the race course.

ST: What about testing kits, shoes, helmets and other stuff in the tunnel? The devil is often in the detail.

Carrie: I’m sure that if I tested all of my equipment there would be some savings here and there. But I am at a point in my career where what I have chosen to use - I am comfortable and confident with. If my sponsors want me to test anything in the tunnel, I am more than happy to, but for me the greatest gains are made in the training itself.

ST: Well, how much training do you do in a week when you are getting ready for a bigger race and how is it spread out in terms of the 3 disciplines? Maybe you can share an example week?

Carrie: Swim 5 days. Usually Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sun.
Bike – 4-5 rides a week, 2 of which are long
Run – 4-5 runs per week. Once the off-season phase is over, it’s mostly quality. Closer to big races these are long fartlek runs on the track or flat trails, long build runs ~30kms or marathon pace runs again ~30kms. We also include those bridging runs which could be shorter, faster efforts on the track, or hill reps. The only junk miles are done off the bike on long ride days.

ST: Is all that bike training done outside or is some of that on the trainer?

Carrie: All the long rides are done outside, ideally in the mountains. The shorter (60-90mins) are either done on the trainer or on Fiesta Island when we are home in San Diego.

ST: What about running?

Carrie: Mostly all outside. Specific runs, sometimes on the treadmill. And beginning late February we will start to head to the track more often.

ST: Do you use any virtual apps for trainer or treadmill efforts?

Carrie: No. I’m pretty old school and still use my 5+ year old CycleOps Fluid2 trainer.

ST: Could you also please share with us one of your harder swim sessions you do?

Carrie: We subscribe to Tower 26 for 2-3 of our swims per week and anyone who follows Gerry Rodriguez would know about the Mambo set…Yikes it’s a real doozie! But for the past 7 Mondays we have been doing a set of 25-30 x 100 at varying intensities, it’s not the nicest way to start the week. I don’t always make the set, and I am ok with that! We’ve been building a foundation to support my least favorite set of all 10 x 400 (ideally long course) with a short rest interval.

ST: At what times do you do the 100s and those 400s?

Carrie: 100s leaving of different time cycles 1.40 being the slowest, 1.20 fastest - short course meters. 400s leaving off 6mins long course meters.

ST: Recently there was a big social media push by pro triathletes about PTO – the professional triathlete organization. I must admit that I was skeptical since I first wrote about that union in July of 2015, plus other variants of this took place back in 2010, but not much had happened. What is meant to be different now, and what can we expect?

Carrie: Back in 2015 the then PTU had the right intentions but we were missing the right person to direct them. Charles Adamo took the lead soon after. Charles came to Scottie and I’s home in the spring of 2017 to talk us through the concept of the Collins Cup (Scottie was still technically a board member of the then defunct PTO). Charles rallied all the former board members to gain their support. He walked out of our house that afternoon and we looked at each other and said, “If anyone is ever going to change this sport, it’s going to be that guy”. So, here we are nearly 3 years later, and we’ve watched Charles work and work while slowly building a team around him, and finally just recently attracting a financial partner in Crankstart Investments.

The PTO has just paid an advance bonus to the top 50 men and women athletes based on our ranking system. We have implemented a maternity leave program, an injury leave program, and are currently working on an insurance program, retirement program, and drug testing policy. The PTO is doing more for the Professionals of our sport then anyone has for the past 40 years. So, yes I am encouraged and so should every athlete and fan of long distance triathlon as there are some special people working behind the scenes to make sure the future generations of Pros have a viable path of opportunity to earn a proper living.

ST: With that offer out to buy WTC, what do you see as changing if that were to happen, and why should age groupers care?

Carrie: We can all agree that WTC puts on some fantastic events! They are after all an events management company and that’s where the disconnect lies. By marketing the Professional side of the sport as an actual Professional Sport and not just a side show, we can stop relying on the age group athletes to support the sport through a broken system of never-ending hikes in entry feels and merchandise sales. For the past 20+years the goal has simply been to continue to raise the profile of the company in order to be sold to the next highest bidder. This approach has to stop in order for our sport to survive long term and with the backing of Crankstart Investments, we are now in a position to try and save our sport from being sold to another buyer who has the same goal as the previous owners.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Carrie: I do also coach for KIS Coaching, and I really enjoy helping others include triathlon in their life. I especially like to coach women, so happy to field any inquiries or questions!