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Lynne Bermel
Lynne Bermel's Column

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April 6, 2000

Interview with Ironman New Zealand Winner, Lisa Bentley

Canadian Lisa Bentley put in a stellar performance to win Ironman New Zealand 2000, her best performance ever on the Ironman circuit. Here, she takes us through the race from the start of the swim to the end of the marathon…


Lisa's Best Ironman Performances

Ironman N.Z. 2000 - 9:28:13 - 1st

Ironman N.Z. 1999 - 9:27:45 - 3rd

Ironman Hawaii 1999 - 9:46 - 12th

Ironman Hawaii 1997 - 10:15 - 9th

Ironman Canada 1997 - 9:29 - 4th

Lisa Bentley



Lisa: The visibility was a bit suspect because steam was rising from the lake. The air was cold - about 5 degrees - and the water was warm - about 19 degrees. No time to worry about that - there was 3 minutes to go. In those 3 minutes, I can remember being so excited and yet so calm. I thought about what my husband was doing in Canada. It was Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. Was he connected to

I thought about how lucky I was to have this opportunity to race and to have and use my talents. It was so quiet for me in those 3 minutes. And then, the gun went off. Time to get to work. After about 1000m, I looked around to see if I could find Robin Roocke. We had exited the water together in 1999, so I figured that we would be in close proximity of one another. But, instead, I found myself swimming amongst a big pack of men. I knew that I was swimming hard and drafting well, so I gave myself the very positive, optimistic benefit of the doubt and assumed that I was ahead of Robin.

I exited the water in about 55 minutes and I was pleased. I seem to be the 55-gal! In Hawaii, without a wetsuit, I swim 55. Last year, in this race, with a wetsuit, I swam 55. And, now, 1-year later, I swim 55 again. I hurried up the stairs to the transition area and I fumbled around a bit putting on arm-warmers and then, in a rush, I tossed my gloves and began the ride with 58 minutes on the clock. But, in all of this, I noticed that Robin and Sian's bike were gone. No worries thought because I had been working hard on my cycling while training on the Gold Coast.

The first 15 km of the ride was great and then I got to the forest. Someone forgot to let the sunshine through the trees. It was freezing. I was trembling. To say that I was cold is an understatement. I was shaking so much that when I tried to pull up my arm-warmers, my bike was wobbling all over the road. My PowerBars had hardened to my bike frame with the cold temperatures and I couldn't pick them off of my bike. So, I resorted to plan B. PowerGels! But, it was even a challenge to grip the package in my frozen fingers.

As this first section of the ride continued, I started to have some negative thoughts. Soon, I began to accept the fact that I might lose a lot of time in this first 90 minutes. But, I also made a commitment to ride hard once I warmed up. Unfortunately, I did lose a large chunk of time. I was 8 minutes down at 45 km! Yikes.

The next 135-km went very well. I warmed up and I started to ride very well and I was happy riding hard. By 90 km, I was 11 minutes down, but by 180 km, I was only 10 minutes down.

I went through T2 and I was very happy to begin the marathon. I have done IM marathon pace runs before and I know that I can run controlled and happy. Within 1 km, someone told me I was 6:30 back and I wondered how that was possible. I've been known to run too hard out of the transition, but I was pretty sure that I didn't run that fast nor did Robin run that slow. I decided to ignore all of that information. It didn't really matter where anyone was. I was running my Ironman pace and I would not run any faster.

I got to the first turnaround at about 11 or 12 km into the run and I could see Karyn and Robin. They were quite close to me. I kept telling myself to be patient. One of the hardest things was to block out people's wonderful encouragement to take the lead. The spectators were terrific cheerleaders, but I knew that I needed to remove myself from the competition and not get caught up in all of the excitement.

At about 24 km, I ran into the lead. I smiled and then I tried to figure out what to do. While I race to win every race I enter, I had never visualized taking the lead this early into the marathon. I had not planned my mental or physical race from this point on. My main feeling was that there was still a lot of racing to go and I could bonk and lose this lead. So, first of all, I decided to enjoy the fact that I was leading the race.

Leading an Ironman, if only for a moment, would be an exciting story to tell my friends. Then, I decided to be careful. I became even more conscientious of hydrating and eating. I slowed down to a walk through every aid station to make sure that I got all of the fluids that I could. I continually took inventory of how I felt. And, I tried to remind myself of the basics - "You love running. Just allow your legs to flow and do what you always do when you run. This is the simplest of sports. You've been doing it all of your life."

Runner's Web: What was the competition like for you at this year's Ironman New Zealand?

Lisa: Sian Welch was the favourite because she has won an Ironman before. Robin Rooke and Karyn Balance are excellent athletes and placed 2nd and 4th last year (I was 3rd). So, I'd say the competition was decent, but it wasn't Hawaii!! And, of course, there are always a lot of athletes who are not ranked, but are awesome! So, really, I saw it as competitive.

Runner's Web: What was your training leading up to the race?

Lisa: I trained in Australia with my coach, Lance Watson. Training had gone really well. Every workout was great and mentally I was so happy to be training. I looked forward to training everyday. That is a huge difference to training in Ontario in the winter. I did a lot of long rides and run and A lot of swimming. My toughest week was 34 hours of training.

Runner's Web: Have you been doing anything differently this year?

Lisa: Training in Australia with my coach versus sitting on my windtrainer for 6 hrs in Ontario!! I did a lot more cycling than I had ever done.

Runner's Web: When & why did you decide to focus on Ironman full-time?

Lisa: In February 1999. I had a very bad race at Hawaii 1998 and I decided that I had to give it all to this sport so that I could figure out if I had any talent at it or if I should just stop racing and go back into teaching or into Computer consulting. The only way to do that would be to dedicate myself to it completely so that I could accomplish my goal of winning an Ironman.

Runner's Web: What do you think are your strengths & weaknesses when it comes to Ironman racing?

Lisa: My mental state of mind is my strength. Lance and I have worked on this quite a bit. My running is also my strength. And my ability to go "tempo" for long periods of time - I just love tempo. My weakness would be my cycling - but I have worked very hard on it in 2000, so it won't be my weakness much longer.

Runner's Web: What are your goals for this season? Your long-term goals?

Lisa: A top 3-5 finish at Ironman Hawaii. A top finish at Ironman Germany, 2000. But, even more important, I want to have that perfect race. IM NZ was not a Perfect race: I had a bit of a cold and I was freezing on the bike.

Runner's Web: Please describe a typical week of training.

Lisa: I swim 5-6 days per week, bike 4-6 days per week and run 4-5 days per week. I also water run all year long.

Runner's Web: What do you eat and drink during an Ironman?

Lisa:: I eat powerbars on the bike with a few gels in the last hour. I drink Performance throughout the entire ride - I carry 5 - 750 ml bottles out of Transition. On the run, I take gels and water and electrolyte drink and Sometimes I have some coke.

Runner's Web: You've been racing for many years, Lisa. What keeps you motivated?

Lisa: My motivation has really increased ever since I started to work with Lance. Honestly, I'd say that I was close to quitting the sport in 1998. But, Lance and I have worked hard on the mental stuff and on enjoying my sport and that makes me feel as if this is just my 2nd year of racing. I have worked with Lance since November 1999.

It also helps to not have to work anymore, so now I can enjoy some time with my husband, Steve. Before, I was either training, working, eating or sleeping. I didn't have much time to hang out with and enjoy my relationship with my husband. Also, Steve is super supportive of me and believes in my talent - probably more than I do.

Runner's Web: In your opinion, what do you think it will take to win the Hawaii Ironman?
Do you think you have a shot at it?

Lisa: To win Hawaii, I would have to cycle about 10 min faster over 180 km. I have the potential to improve on the bike, but it may take a few years to balance a greater cycling effort with a fast marathon. I have the swim and the run to win, but I don't have the bike ride to win.

I think that I have a shot to win Hawaii, but it is not my focus. It would be a bonus, but I don't need to win it to feel happy. I'd be way happier to have a solid day of racing. Last year, I had a great swim and bike ride, But I bonked on the run and ran 3:17. I had a good race on paper, but I was disappointed in my run - I can't afford to run that time.

Runner's Web: Anything motivational, etc you'd like to add?

Lisa: Just to enjoy the sport and love what you are doing. It is sport, for Heaven's sake!!! (Lance said that to me once!!)


Contact Lynne via email @

For more on Lynne's background read this interview with Wayne Scanlan which appeared originally in the Ottawa Citizen.

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