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The journey to Ironman – Sarah Leuenberger

My name is Sarah, and I am a 37 year old mother of 2 girls (10 and 7). I work full-time in finance at a law firm and am a part-time uni student. I have been cycling for about 6 years and it’s my absolute passion in life.

I got into cycling when my second child was about one. The law firm I work for was entering a corporate triathlon and I really wanted to give it a go. The distances were very small, a 300m swim, 10km cycle and 4km run. I dusted off my husband’s Mongoose mountain bike and went out to have a crack.
My swim went well (as I was always a swimmer) my ride went ok-ish and my run, well let’s just say it was a 4km walk, pant, try not to die effort.

Nonetheless, the adrenaline I felt after the triathlon was like a drug, I was hooked, and I wanted more. I did a couple more enticer triathlons and decided the cycling thing was really fun, so I made the financial investment of getting my first road bike.

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Pictured – Sarah putting her custom Blackchrome tri-suit through its paces at the 2020 Hervey Bay 100 Triathlon.

The adrenaline I felt after the triathlon was like a drug, I was hooked, and I wanted more.

I got involved with my local bike shop and joined their weekend group rides and evening indoor trainer sessions.

It was at this time that I met my coach Daniel McTainsh (@danmctainshtriathloncoaching). Dan had spent many years both competing in triathlon, from sprint to Ironman distance and also coaching athletes across all distances.

I had known Dan about 1 month when I looked at him one day and said, “do you think you could coach me to do a half ironman?”, without hesitation, Dan said, “absolutely” (keep in mind that I didn’t know how to run 5km without walking).

I immediately went onto a program and started the 18-month journey to getting to my first half ironman race (1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21.1km run). The race took me over 7 hours and was a massive struggle for me, but the finish line was amazing and I wanted more.

Since that first event, I have now done 5 half ironman races, one marathon, a 50km ultra-marathon, a bike ride from Brisbane to Sydney and a full Ironman, I am an addict. After finishing Ironman, I still found that I was struggling to get the goal times I wanted – there was something that was missing in my mental game. I wanted to do another Ironman but I knew I would need to make some drastic changes to become the strong-minded athlete that I wanted to be.

Dan is a big believer in the theory that if you are already good at something, then why not make you excellent at it. I was strong on the bike and much more driven by it than running. We decided that I would make the switch to a full cycling program for a year or two to see where I could take it. I got myself a racing licence and bit the bullet and tried some criterium and road racing. Oh what fun, what a thrill!!!

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Pictured – Sarah competing as part of the Gamma Energy Tech – Blackchrome women’s racing team. 

In 2019 I signed up with Gamma Energy Tech – Blackchrome women’s racing team. With the support of the amazing women on this team, along with the continual guidance of Dan, I went from battling along in D grade to competitively racing crits, road races and time trials in Women’s A/B grade. In 2019 I won bronze in the QLD State Individual Time Trial series and in 2020, myself and 3 awesome women won gold at the State Team Time Trial Champs for Masters 2.

I have found that the switch to a cycling-based program has not only improved me as a rider, but it’s also made huge gains to my run. I am running better than I ever have and it’s all thanks to the strength and endurance I have learnt on the bike. I am now ready to go and tackle Ironman again and take with me my newfound mental and physical strength.

I have signed up to have another crack at Ironman Australia at Port Macquarie in May 2021. Head over to my Instagram @sare_83 to follow my journey and see how I go. I’ll be the one repping in the best kits around thanks to my buddies at Blackchrome. 

Sarah Leuenberger