Athlete of the Month, October 2017 – Casey Fleming
Athlete of the Month
Coach Laura nominated Casey Fleming as our athlete of the month for a number of reasons. She wants to be the best athlete she can be, but more importantly, she has an understanding of the hard work and the passion that are necessary for reaching her highest potential. She doesn’t expect results to come out of nowhere; she holds herself accountable for her goals. Laura shared that her favorite part about coaching Casey is that she challenges her as a coach, to think outside of the box, to be innovative, and to make sure she has all of the bases covered in her training because she absolutely has them covered on her end. What Coach Laura loves the most about Casey and why we are proud she is our Athlete of the Month, she inspires her coach to be a better athlete by being a constant example of desire, determination, and discipline!
Not only did Casey win her age group (18-24F) in her first Ironman at the Ironman Mt. Tremblant, she qualified for Kona. And in racing the Ironman World Championships, Casey found herself crossing the finish line in the Top 20 of her age group – in the world! She trains in Boulder, CO on the D3 Elite Development Team and nothing holds her back from giving her all as a teammate. We hope you enjoy her Q&A … pay attention to #3, you’ll understand how committed Casey is to her goals!
CONGRATULATIONS, CASEY FLEMING!
1. What attracted you to, caught your attention, essentially, your beginnings with triathlon.
My triathlon journey actually only started a little under two years ago! Growing up, I was a downhill ski racer. I loved the sport, but it was never something that I was great at. I dabbled in basketball and volleyball in high school, but again, nothing really stuck. My dad, who always has been a phenomenal cyclist and used to race Ironman, would try to drip on me and get me to try cycling, but I wanted to find a sport my own way. I moved around a lot in high school and struggled always being the new girl, so I started running as a way to get my mind away from everything. I continued running a couple of miles a week into college (nothing serious) and met a couple of people on the University of Colorado triathlon team. They encouraged me to give triathlon a shot, so I set my sights on training for the Boulder 70.3 in January of 2016 and the rest is history!
2. When did you set your sights on qualifying for the IMWC?
I like to set big goals for myself, so qualifying for Kona was something that I wanted to do from the moment I first started in the sport. I remember watching the NBC broadcast of Kona when I first started with triathlon and thinking that it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen. People seriously wanted to exercise for 10+ hours as a sport? Sign me up!
Before Mt. Tremblant, my coach Laura and I met at a Starbucks to talk about what it would take to qualify. We talked about time goals and the mental strength I would need to make it happen. She had complete faith that I could do it, but it would take a lot of hard work to get there. I’m not going to lie when I say that I was nervous about not having what it takes to qualify, but I knew that if I ever gave up then I would never achieve it in the first place.
3. Describe your journey to qualify.
Qualifying for Kona was definitely not an easy task. I work a demanding full-time job in the financial services industry, so fitting in training was always a balancing act. I would wake up at 4:30 am every day, even weekends, to get in my morning workout and be at work by 8 am. After about 5 or 6 pm, I would then try to find the last bit of energy within myself to carry me through my second workout. I’d stumble home around 8 pm, eat dinner, and be in bed by 10 pm to do it all over again the next day. The feeling of sleep deprivation became all too familiar and my family and friends wondered where I had gone. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and try to make excuses as to why I couldn’t go to the team workout at 6 am or the 3000 yd interval swim I had to do that night. But I would drag my butt out of bed and get it done. I would get it done during 40 degree, 6 hour rides when it was pouring rain and I couldn’t feel a thing on my body. I would get it done when I had a 2 and a half hour run to do and I was so sore from the day before that all I wanted to do was sleep in my cozy bed at home. Believe me when I say I didn’t qualify for Kona because I am genetically gifted. I qualified because I had a relentless drive, unwavering commitment, and patience with the process. I trusted my training and listened to my coach. Even in the darkest of moments, I kept the goal of qualifying for Kona front and center in my mind.
4. Describe the moment you knew you were in a position to qualify for Kona at Mt. Tremblant for a slot to the IMWC.
Mt. Tremblant was an incredible day and one I will never forget. Going into most of my races, I go through a couple of different mental phases. For months before race day, my training is filled with the relentless desire to be my best. I put everything I have into training with the hopes of being on the podium. A couple weeks out from race day is when I start to doubt myself and my abilities. I investigate my competition and look at the winning times from years past (hey, I know everyone does it!). This is where the negative talk monster comes out. About a week from the race, though, Coach Laura and I have the “Casey, you need to calm your crazy self down” talk where she helps me remember why I love racing this sport in the first place. I race so that I can improve upon my own ability and be the best that I can be.
So, that was the mindset that I went into Mt. Tremblant with. The day will turn out to be what it is and it doesn’t matter how I place. I honestly didn’t start the race with qualifying for Kona being my ultimate goal so I wouldn’t stress myself out. I raced my own race, felt great, and didn’t even think about my competition until I got off the bike and started running. At the run start I could hear my parents screaming at me that I was in first place. When they said that, I felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest I was so excited! My dad was yelling to me, “if you keep this up, we are going to KONA!!!!”. At that point, I knew that Kona was in my reach if I wanted it. For those 4 hours of the marathon, I raced my heart out. I crossed the finish line and fell into my dad’s arms sobbing. I was going to Kona! I read through all of the amazing messages people had left about me on the D3 Facebook page and cried even more. I love my D3 teammates. Coach Laura had even texted me throughout my race and at one point said, “I’m just doing squats in the middle of my living room because I have no idea what to do with all of my excitement!!!!”.
5. What is a favorite workout that Coach Laura gave you for any of swim, bike or run as you prepared for Kona?
Since I only had about 8 weeks between Mt. Tremblant and Kona to get ready, there wasn’t as much time to recover and build up for the race. Coach Laura gave me as much as possible to get ready, but we added a heat training element to the mix. Many of my rides I did inside on the bike trainer making my apartment as warm as possible. I would turn the heat up as high as it would go (which was only 83 degrees I learned) and stick a heater and humidifier under the bike. After swims, I would try and sit in the sauna for up to 40 minutes at a time. Let’s just say that I don’t want to even think about working out in hot weather again until next season!
6. Let’s talk about Kona … describe your favorite part of race day (or 2-3 favorite parts).
Kona. What a magical place. I have so many unbelievable memories of that day, but here are a few of my favorites:
Race Morning. Standing on the pier in transition before heading into the water, I felt strangely calm. The sky was painted with pink as the sun came up and you could hear the waves crashing. Since I arrived in Kona the week before, I got to witness incredible athletes from all over the world showing off their chiseled bodies and riding their flashy bikes. I was so intimidated and felt like a fraud for being there! But making my way into the water with hundreds of other women all wearing the same pink swim cap made me realize that I deserved to be there just as much the person standing next to me.
The Energy Lab. I was dreading running through this the entire race, but it was the best part! The sun was setting and there was a nice breeze from the ocean. The energy from the aid stations was amazing! There was so much music and the volunteers were shouting out encouraging words.
My FAVORITE part of the race. So I was plodding along and was about 2 miles from the finish. It was pitch black and I was seriously hurting. I had been sick most of the marathon and had stopped eating and drinking because my stomach just wasn’t having it anymore. All of a sudden, I hear this loud woman in the distance just chatting away with someone like she is out for an afternoon stroll with a friend. I then realize that I think I recognize that voice… it is my teammate Lisa Plunkett! I shout out “LISA!” and tackle her with a big hug. She gave me the energy I needed to take it home to the finish!
7. As you look back over the season, what are some of your reflections, pride points, and even some areas you look forward to improving?
My favorite part of this last season was joining the D3 Elite Team. I was hesitant to join at first because I didn’t think I was good enough. I was welcomed with open arms, though, and I owe a huge part of my success this season to the team. Even though I may not be the fastest person on it, working out with people who are faster than you is one of the best ways to improve your performance. I was able to push myself harder than I would have ever been able to alone. My favorite workout with the team was meeting at Old Stage Road in Boulder (it is a VERY steep climb!) and doing bike intervals back and forth. Even when I had moments of wanting to quit because it hurt so bad, I knew that I was suffering with my team and couldn’t give up!
8. What’s in store for 2018?
The name of the game for 2018 is speed! Even though it pains me to say it, I most likely won’t be racing a full Ironman distance race for a little while. It is my long-term goal to race Ironman at a high level, but in order to do that I need to work on my top end speed while I’m younger. Endurance only gets better with age! My plan is to race sprints, Olympics, and 70.3’s with the goal of becoming crazy FAST so that I can carry that speed into long distance racing. So far, I have Oceanside 70.3 and Victoria 70.3 on the schedule, but I would love to incorporate at least one or two more 70.3s into the season (with the hope of qualifying for 70.3 Worlds, of course!).
Honestly, I never dreamed that I would be crossing the finish line of an Ironman at 23 years old, let alone winning my age group and going to Kona. My story should be a testament as to how far you can go when you set a goal and let nothing stop you in achieving it. Two years ago, I set out on my journey in triathlon with three important things ingrained in my heart: desire, determination, and discipline. These things have been instrumental to my success and have kept me moving forward even through the toughest of times. I also believe that you can’t find success without the help of an incredible support system.
My coach, Laura, is amazing. She is my guide, motivator, inspirer, and teacher. Not once has she ever doubted me and my dreams, no matter how big they may be. She is always there to keep my crazy mind in check and to lift me back up when I fall.
My family (AKA team Flem Dawg) are my biggest supporters and the people I love the most in this world. My little sister, Bailey, is my biggest inspiration. I can always count on her for giving the best hugs at the finish line (and taking the best pictures!)
My D3 teammates are beasts. They push me to be the best that I can be every. single. day.
I say this time and time again, but I I don’t know where I would be without my D3 family. If D3 can make a first-time Ironman Kona qualifier out of me, then they can truly make anyone’s dreams a possibility. 2018….I am ready for you! Lets do this!