Many pro triathletes spend a good chunk of their career, if not all of it, chasing a win. For Boulder’s Chris Leiferman, the chase ended before it barely started as the Ironman novice captured the crown at Ironman Mont-Tremblant last weekend. With multiple Ironman champion, coach Michael Lovato, in his corner, Leiferman seems to have found the Ironman magic that we’re sure to see again. We caught up with the Ironman champ to see how life on top of the podium is treating him.
Colorado Triathlete: What have the last few days been like since you have won Ironman Mont-Tremblant?
Chris Leiferman: It’s been hard to walk and sit on the toilet, but totally worth it! It’s been really cool and I think my family is more excited than I am. Facebook and Twitter have been blowing up and there have been lots of emails and texts back and forth with friends and family congratulating me, so it’s awesome to see that people have been following me and are happy for my win. It means a lot to me! I had a lot of athletes at the banquet ask to take a picture with me and that’s the first time that that has ever happened. The last few days have been a good ride!
CT: What were your race goals heading into IM Mont-Temblant since it was your very first Ironman?
CL: Stick to my training. I knew that I was ready to race the full distance and tie it all together for the long day.
CT: When did you decide to give the Ironman distance a shot and how did you pick IMMT?
CL: I decided my season in January/February with my coach, Michael Lovato, and he suggested that this would be a good fit for me. I could get out there early and race 70.3s to do a little recon and prep myself mentally for the full. We did not have sights set on Kona this year, so it was never a points chase, but rather a single race focus.
CT: What has been the hardest part about making the jump from 70.3 to Ironman training?
CL: The long swimming. 3.8K is no joke and that is a long time to be out there swimming. It got boring many times but I was able to sift through the mental archives to keep my mind going and focused during long training sessions.
CT: How were you feeling on race day?
CL: I felt pretty good. I didn’t change anything from what I would do for a 70.3 race. I came in mentally ready and knew that I was physically ready. The weather got pretty gnarly out there after about 40K of the bike, but I’m glad it happened while on the bike so that I was warm when the downpour started. There were a lot of ups and downs while racing and points where I felt great and parts where I felt like crap, but I got through it all to pull off the W.
CT: Had your training indicated that you could run a 2:45 or was that a nice surprise?
CL: I’m a decent runner, so I knew that I could move quickly. I’ve never run a marathon so I had no idea what to expect, but I just started out comfortable and tried to hold on. I fell off a bit towards the end, but it wasn’t a lot. However, I was a bit surprised when I came through 21K in 1:20. At that point, I wanted to beat my little brother’s PR (sorry Kev), which I used as fuel on the run. When I saw that it may happen, I kept on going. That pace didn’t last too long, though!
CT: When you took over the lead, what were you thinking and what was your race plan from there on out?
CL: It honestly did not feel like I was leading. It was weird. I knew I was in the lead and I knew everyone was going nuts in the crowd, but it never registered as “dude, you’re winning the race!” My plan for the rest of the race was just not to stop and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
CT: What do you attribute to the way you seem to “sneak up” on the field in many of your races?
CL: I’m not a swimmer, I have been coming from behind my entire career. It’s what I’m used to and it’s how I have to race. I just can’t get caught up in my swim times/placements when I come out of the water and instead treat the race as a bike/run.
CT: What went through your head when you crossed the finish line as the Ironman Mont-Tremblant winner?
CL: It was emotional and I shed a tear, while thinking, “I finally did it!”
CT: Has the magnitude of winning your first ever Ironman distance race hit you yet?
CL: No, it still hasn’t hit me. I still have a lot more goals to achieve!
CT: What was your wife and coach’s reaction to the win?
CL: Zana (wife) is ecstatic! She is really happy for me and can’t wait to see what the future has for us in triathlon. Not sure if you know Zana, but she is a very outgoing, fun, amplified person and, compared to her, I’m more reserved. So she has been doing all of the typical hootin’ and hollerin’ that comes with a big win. Michael (Lovato) texted me after the race and just simply said, “I am proud of you!” That meant a lot.
CT: We know you didn’t take your Kona slot this year, but is that a future goal?
CL: Of course it’s a goal, but Kona is an evil beast. I want a few more fulls under my belt before I tackle that one.
CT: How did you celebrate your win?
CL: With a big ole pile of pasta and a beer. We popped a bottle of Champagne the next day, but the day of the race, I was too wrecked to do anything.
CT: What did you learn from racing your first Ironman?
CL: It’s a long list, but the main thing is to keep your head in the game. Ironman likes to play mind tricks on you, but the strongest will prevail.
CT: Who makes up the Leiferman cheering section and who are your biggest fans?
CL: My entire family is my biggest fan and they all react to my races differently. My parents come to a lot of my races and cheer me on in real time as do Zana’s grandparents. My brothers, Jeremy, Adam and Kevin, cheer me on from afar. Adam posts live updates and pictures on Facebook to all of our friends and family that weren’t following on Ironman live. He does an amazing job of it and is really proud of me. Jeremy and Kevin follow live and were on the horn with a different set of friends, constantly giving them updates. All of my brothers called or texted me post-race to say they couldn’t be more proud. They are all my biggest fans!