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How does a former pro triathlete, coach and 4x World Triathlon Champion prepare for the Ultraman World Championship? You might be picturing 24-hour training and early mornings, but it’s more than just that. In the case of Leanda Caves, the process is mental, physical, spiritual and most importantly, charitable. We sat down to reminisce on what brought her into the world of triathlons and to answer big questions on what it takes to compete. 

Leanda Caves has been sponsored by The Miami Design District for the Ultraman World Championship. In this, she is raising critical funds for Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Click here to learn more about the initiative in the fight against cancer. 

 

We want to know the beginning of your story. How did you enter the world of triathlons? 

I was swimming seriously in high school and doing cross-country running during the winter.  At the time I was also riding my bike 40 minutes to and from school every day to avoid taking the bus. So when triathlons came up as an inter-school sport I was asked to do a team relay (just the swim). Our runner canceled, so I ended up doing the swim and run. My older sister, Melissa, did the whole thing - it was a sprint distance - and I thought she was so awesome to do all the 3 disciplines in one go, so the next chance I had, I followed in her footsteps.  It was an Ironkids race that I did on my mountain bike, and I won. After that, I was hooked!

 

So Leanda, tell us, what have been the driving factors in pursuing the Ultraman Challenge?

The seed was planted by my fiancé, Maiko, who said to me one day that it would be awesome if I did Ultraman and won, as it would mean I'd have a world title in all triathlon distances.  After toying with the idea, I realized I couldn't resist the challenge, but I needed it to be about more than just doing it for my own purpose, which is why I decided to use this as an opportunity to raise money for Sylvester.  

 

For an event this extreme, there is both a mental and physical challenge. Is there a time when one outweighs the other? 

Many times actually!  I've never experienced anything quite like the Ultraman Challenge where it takes me both physically and mentally.  I use different coping strategies to overcome both.  When I'm physically at my limit, I slow down, take a deep breath and focus on one step moving forward at a time.  The finish line will always be crossed as long as I'm moving in that direction.  And mentally when I'm tapped out, I look to the people in my life to draw inspiration to finish.  I think of those who have helped me reach this goal and also the people who wished they could, but for reasons, such as cancer, they cannot.  

 

What advice would you give others following your path?

Think about the process and find small goals within a big one.  This will help to break things down into manageable distances and then the goal seems more achievable.  I have also found it super motivating to take up a challenge like Ultraman for a cause. It gives me a reason to get out and train 4-7hrs every day.

 

Beyond the competition, you’re doing this for charity. Can you tell us more about where the funds you raise will go to and why this cause is important to you?

Cancer affects so many people and their loved ones, including my own.  I've seen how quickly cancer can spread in the body and how important early detection is to help treat cancer.  But a cure is what we need. I started training Dr. Stephen Nimar, who works for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center here in Miami, for cycling some years ago and he has helped me understand why finding a cure for cancer is so difficult and labor-intensive. Dr. Nimar has dedicated his life to cancer research and has made many breakthroughs.  But raising money to fund his research is as equally tough as finding a cure.  This is why I wanted to do this challenge - for cancer research at Sylvester.  I want to inspire people to do the same - get out and do something for a cause.  The Dolphin Challenge Cancer is a charity ride where people can do exactly what I'm doing and find a distance to train for that is achievable for them.

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