The 70.3 Gulf Coast podium finisher on facing doubts, tough swim conditions, post-race food (burgers!), and recovery from a tough race.

Super swimmer Lauren Brandon scored her second podium of the 2019 season at Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast this weekend. Since racing Ironman South Africa last month – where she finished fourth – the Texas-based pro says she had been struggling to find rhythm in her training again. Her performance in Saturday’s race, however, suggests things are starting to realign. Brandon finished second to Australian Carrie Lester, with Lauren Mathews, of the USA, in third. She kicked off her racing this year with a third-place finish at 70.3 Campeche. Triathlete.com caught up with Brandon as she traveled to Colorado to begin a four-week training camp leading into Ironman Boulder.

Triathlete.com: How were you feeling going into this race, and what were your goals and aspirations?
Lauren Brandon: Honestly, I wasn’t super excited about racing this past weekend. I have been really struggling to get back into a good training routine since Ironman South Africa, so I wasn’t quite sure how the race would go. I was hoping to get on the podium and just put together a solid race.

T: What was the best part of the race for you?
LB: Probably the bike. I felt really good and was happy to ride well.

T: And the worst part?
LB: The worst part of the race for me was the middle of the run. I was really struggling during those middle miles, but fortunately got another boost of energy toward the end and was able to finish strong.

Lauren Brandon
An athlete’s arm peaks over the cresting waves while on the 1.2-mile Roka swim course during the 2019 Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast on May 11 in Panama City Beach, Florida. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images for Ironman

T: It looked like there were some challenging swim conditions. Tell us about that…
LB: The swim was probably the toughest race conditions that I have ever experienced. There were huge waves and swells the entire swim leg. While I never felt unsafe, I think a lot of people were very relieved to get back to the shore after that swim.

T: And the heat? How did you cope with that?
LB: The heat definitely seemed to bother me a bit more than usual this past weekend. I think when your body is a little off, you feel the weather conditions a bit more. I just tried to get to each aid station, get lots of water to drink and pour on myself, and then also grab a bunch of ice to help keep me cooler.

T: Which part of the race did you execute best?
LB: I think I had a great last couple of miles of the run. I wasn’t running particularly well, but when I came up on second place and passed her, I got a mental boost that helped carry me to the finish line.

T: Anything you wish you’d done better?
LB: I still need to work on the mental side of things. I was not having the best thoughts during some of the run leg and will continue to work on staying positive and pushing through the bad parts better.

T: Post-race food?
LB: A bunch of us went to Margaritaville after the race and I got a burger, fries, and some watermelon margaritas. So good!

T: First words your coach Julie Dibens said to you?
LB: Yay for second!

T: How sore are you today on a scale of 1-10?
LB: I’m actually not too sore. I would say a three. When you don’t run your fastest, your body doesn’t seem to get very sore!

T: Any blisters, any chafing?
LB: Nope – my body is quite good!

T: How much sleep did you get the night after the race? Do you typically sleep well post-race?
LB: About nine hours. I’m lucky, I do usually sleep pretty well after racing.

T: First thoughts on waking up the day after the race?
LB: “I’m hungry!”

T: And breakfast was…?
LB: I went to Starbucks and got a coffee, a slice of pumpkin bread, and a breakfast sandwich.

T: First workout post-race?
LB: A 75-minute easy spin and then a 3 km swim on Sunday. I’ve spent most of today (Monday) traveling so it’s a day off. I’m usually traveling the day after a race, so it was nice to be able to actually get a couple of workouts in instead yesterday. I think that can help recovery quite a bit.

T: What does your training look like this week?
LB: I am actually heading straight to Boulder for a four-week training camp and will be in town from Monday night. I have seen my workouts for this week and following a couple of easy days, I definitely have some long workouts this week with some intensity. When you have an Ironman coming up, you need to get those long workouts in!

T: What’s next on your racing calendar?
LB: Ironman Boulder in four weeks.

T: What does the rest of your racing schedule look like this year?
LB: Everything will depend on how I do at Ironman Boulder. I am hoping to get my Kona slot there, so I would then do a couple of 70.3 races this summer and then get ready for Kona.

T: What’s your top tip for post-race recovery?
LB: If possible, move your body the next day, whether it’s a walk, swim or spin. This will definitely help with the recovery. Also, make sure to get some extra sleep and eat well!

T: Tell us about your sponsors…
LB: I am very fortunate to be working with some great brands, including Ventum, Edco Wheels, ROKA, Base Performance, STAC, Colonial Bank, OwnWay Apparel, Pioneer Power Meter, Fenn Coffee, Suunto, Endurance Shield, and Pro Compression.