What does it take to win a half-Iron distance triathlon? If you’re Cathy Yndestad, it takes a well-practiced combination of hard work, consistency and patience — in training and out on the course.
Have you raced in Arizona before? What did you think of the course?
I love racing in Arizona! Earlier this spring I raced LeadmanTri Marquee as well as the inaugural Athleta Esprit De She Tempe Triathlon, so I’m pretty familiar with the course. Tempe Town Lake is such a fun venue and thankfully I was mentally prepared for the technical bike course. That bike course can be tricky with 54 90-degree turns and nine U-turns, but I actually enjoyed the constant heads-up focus required to tackle it. It’s a mindset shift, but it made the 56 miles fly by!
Tell us about your race — What were your goals and how did the race play out?
I really had no idea what to expect since I hadn’t been training specifically for this distance or this race; however, one of my fitness goals is to remain in good enough shape to tackle a half anytime. Most of the summer I was focused on Olympic-distance racing so I’m use to going 100% from the gun; however, I knew I would need to exert much more patience and control throughout this race. I love to swim and always feel comfortable there. I started in Wave 8, which made it a bit more challenging, but I was so happy to be out there with everyone. Safety was my primary focus on the bike — I worked hard in the sections I could, and was really smart in the section that required caution and patience. I was nervous about the run since that’s the area that truly lacked specific race preparation, but I felt great. I kept it very steady and consistently paced throughout the entire 13 miles. That’s what I’m most proud of.
What would you consider the most important components of your training?
Consistency is always the most important aspect of my training. I pay attention to the details to get the most out of my training sessions. I respect my body and treat it very well with high quality fuel, rest and self-maintenance. That’s the most important component of my training and what really makes the difference for me. I also experimented with a radically different nutrition strategy for this race and it worked very well. I know the mantra is to never try something new during a race, but as a coach, I’m also a guinea pig as I continuously learn various techniques and strategies to optimize performance for my athletes.
Not only were your splits the fastest of the day, you posted speedy transition times, as well. What suggestions do you have for triathletes who want to learn to be more efficient in transition?
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I’ve been racing for more than 10 years, so that experience certainly helps, but I still practice my transitions. Mapping out an organized game plan is critical to be efficient on race day. Since I specialize in the Olympic distance where every second counts, I have a heightened sensitivity to the clock during transition. Athletes spend so many hours in the pool to shave seconds off their times, but I’m always shocked when I see people wasting time in transition.
You did a lot of MTB racing this year, then shifted back into triathlon. How do the two complement each other and make you a better overall athlete?
I love being able to do both. It’s a different vibe in the mountain bike community and I love being part of that as well. With so many years of triathlon racing under my belt, mixing it up with mountain biking is my way to stay balanced — literally and figuratively. Triathlon remains my primary racing focus, but since I had entry to the coveted Leadville Trail 100 MTB race this year, I wasn’t about to pass that up. Seize every opportunity! That event is special for many reasons and it brings such joy to my racing life since I get to share it with so many riding friends. I do feel that my mountain biking experience has improved my bike handling skills, which certainly came in handy on the Soma course! As I mentioned before, I have utmost respect for my body and by participating in a wide variety of sports, I feel more resilient both mentally and physically.
Do you have any other races coming up this season? Any race goals yet for 2014?
No more races planned this season but as soon as the snow flies here in Minnesota, I’ll be waxing my Nordic skis in preparation for the American Birkebeiner at the end of February. I haven’t finalized my 2014 race season yet, but I’m sure it will be a very enjoyable mix of events including several in sunny Arizona.