Lauren, you recently had an absolute breakthrough race at Ironman Chattanooga, finishing as third amateur female overall and punching your ticket to Kona for the first time. There are so many people following your story who are anxious to hear about your day and the making of this performance!! So we have some questions for you:)

What were your goals going into Ironman Chattanooga?

At the beginning of the year my coach Alyssa Godesky and I sat down to try and figure out how I could race while having the "year of weddings". I was maid of honor in three including my sister's (the week after IMCHOO), and since I am originally from the east coast that involved a lot of traveling. Ironman Chattanooga was the only race that seemed to make sense. It gave me a big enough block to have decent race prep. My goals for this race were simply to go all in. I think a lot of people want to go to Kona, but Alyssa made me believe I could get there. This was my first season with a coach and the first time I really committed myself to training with goals in mind. I really went into this race with hopes of having a great day and of being one who slows down the least. 

You also did the IMCHOO double, traveling from Tucson to race 70.3 Worlds two weeks before returning for the Ironman. What was your strategy for the travel and execution of those two races?

What was really awesome about racing the double is that using a race as training is actually a lot more fun. I had so many friends racing 70.3 Worlds that it was great to have everyone join me for my last hard training session before Ironman Choo :) The plan for that weekend was to just get in and out. My travel did turn into kind of a nightmare but that is kind of expected on some level--nothing ever goes perfectly. I also had a great learning experience from Alyssa earlier this year who traveled to Taiwan to do an Ironman with no bike or gear-- so I basically had no excuses in my scenario. I left the morning after the race and got back to Tucson as quickly as possible. I didn't prioritize travel too much; I just needed to get in and out and knew I would be tired no matter what. The two weeks in between I focused on not dwelling on Worlds 70.3 and kept my sights on the full. I did prioritize travel on the front end for the next trip to Tennessee. Instead of driving 2 hours from Atlanta, I spent the extra money to fly right into Chattanooga. I also was able to go out three days before the race instead of one, and that helped tremendously with being able to get good sleep, pre-race training and check-in. I did everything I could to be as nice to my body as possible.

What do you think made the biggest difference in your Ironman performance at CHOO relative to your previous three Ironman races?

The biggest difference this year was hiring Alyssa. I think when you don't have a coach you "think" you are doing what it takes to get to another level. In reality I think no amount of studying or research can really replace the qualities that a coach brings. When I first started I read a lot of triathlon books and taught myself how to swim from Youtube. I thought I was doing everything okay, but then when I wanted to get more serious I kept falling short. One year I missed qualifying for Kona by a minute, and the other two races were one place short of qualifying. There is something to be said for stringing together a lot of important training days, not just here and there. Everything has a purpose. It's also really hard to make yourself do things the things you don't want to do. Structure, consistency and Alyssa have been my breakthrough formula. She keeps me accountable and motivated, and the way she coaches me gives me the confidence for not only short-term but long-term goals as well. 

Can you tell us about some of the hardest training sessions you did before IMCHOO?

On TeamHPB, I think we are all known for some epic training and that is what I love about our team. Living in Tucson makes these smashfests even more epic. Our summers are usually 105-110 degrees and it just so happens that my block of hard training fell right during all the hot months. It is pretty hard to avoid the heat so that made all training a bit more interesting. The one session that stands out is riding from my house to Mt. Lemmon, up Mt. Lemmon to the top, back down and back home. I did have one of my good friends for company up the mountain but I just remember descending back down and it was so beyond hot. 

At the top of the mountain you get a huge drop in temperature since its about an 8,000 ft climb so that part felt amazing. Coming back down the mountain is like opening an oven door-- the heat just hits you in the face. It was about 25 miles to and from my house  to the base of the mountain so the ride was about 100 miles total. On the way back, I felt like I was melting. Aside from this ride, I did a 21-mile run on the treadmill at race pace intervals followed by a recovery swim. At night I had a bonus run of another 4 miles, and this was the weekend before 70.3 Worlds. I think this was the most epic thing I have ever done. I probably complained about how tired I was, but it definitely taught me some basic concepts of mental strength, to say the least...

Was the lead-up in training all sunshine and rainbows??:) If not, how did you deal you mentally persevere through rough patches in training?

Training was definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. I don't know if it ever is. The one thing that really helped me was visualizing myself in the race. In my soccer days, I actually used to read a lot of books on mental toughness and how to translate that to sport. I think having a good head on your shoulders is just as, if not more, important than your physical fitness. Of course you want/need to have both, but training your mind is a huge key. When things got tough during the build I really tried to step back and look at the big picture. I wanted to do the little things right so that one day they would become big things. I think that is a quote but that is what motivates me long-term. Controlling your own success is a pretty amazing thing! 

Tell us about race day!

Race day start was pretty low key. Ironman Chattanooga is a rolling start so it's first come, first serve for the getting into the water. I got there somewhat early and did get a pretty good place in line and this was intentional. Coming from a soccer background, I have always found it hard to 1. swim but 2. try hard while swimming. Alyssa always tells me I should be out of breath like in pool sets but translating that to open water is a different game. That is something I tried to focus on especially with the downstream current.

Racing with all women at 70.3 Worlds was was pretty awesome and for a bit on the bike I was just thinking about how fun that was two weeks ago. This bike, however, was filled with a lot of men not wanting to be passed and then surging so I couldn't get around them. That was really interesting . . . it did make time go by a bit faster. I just tried to minimize the frustration since none of those men were in my age group. That being said, the extra 4 miles on the bike (this bike course is 116 miles) do feel like the longest 4 miles. 

Getting off the bike was the craziest thing. At this point I had no idea where I was in the race and I didn't see anyone in transition--everything seemed dead! As I started running, I saw my family and they told me I was 2nd in my age group and 3rd overall female. I never thought I would hear such a thing, but that made me pretty excited. I probably ran by myself for at least 10k and just tried to stick to my race plan and pace! However, race plans easily go out the door when the weather turns for the worst. It got super hot but in a humid way, and that run course is relentless with hills. I just remember telling myself that I was ready to suffer for the next 20 miles and that's all I thought about--that and it couldn't be too much worse then an indoor near-marathon on the treadmill. From a race perspective, I knew I needed to keep my pace in order to stay in 2nd. 1st place was about 10 minutes up the road and 3rd place was 10 minutes behind me so I had a good cushion, but that was only if I kept moving.

There were definitely some parts of that run where I didn't know if I was going to make it. It was seriously tough and I think anyone who finished really had to dig super deep that day. Nothing about the run was easy.  The other motivating factor I had was Alyssa and Leslie (Miller, another SFQ pro) waiting at the finish. The pro women's field started about 30 minutes before me so I told myself that I couldn't make them wait too long! Finishing that race was pretty amazing for many reasons. Most importantly, having my family there was everything. They are so beyond supportive and no words could really describe seeing them at the finish line.



We just finished up ten days in Kona and working the expo at the Ironman World Championship. It hasn't really hit me that I was able to qualify to race there. I am told it may never  fully sink in until I am biking on the Queen K and running down Ali'i drive next year. I walked away from that race knowing I did everything I could to race in Kona. Sharing it with my family, Alyssa and Leslie was just incredible.

What's next for you??

Right now I am signed up for a few 70.3's next year and am looking to do a mid- to early-season Ironman. I would love to do at least one full to have more race experience and knock one out before Hawaii! I am also looking forward to running season this "winter" in Arizona. 2018 so far is very light on weddings so I am looking forward to planning more races!  Lauren Palmer is Smashfest Queen's first full-time employee. She is a 4x Ironman-finisher who recently finished as the third overall amateur female at Ironman Chattanooga, which also earned her her first Kona-Qualification. We are so darn proud of her!!

Hillary Biscay