Lauren Brandon is known as one of the best swimmers in the sport of triathlon but behind her lightning fast swim splits is a whole lot more than her twenty-year swimming career.
Brandon started swimming at the age of five and by the time she was ten years old she was ranked second in the United States in the 100m fly. She had no doubt that she destined for the Olympics. But then she hit a performance plateau. “I did not improve a single time for two years,” Brandon recalls. “When you’re 10-12 years old and not seeing any improvement—that shot me down. To deal with that, it was hard.” Eventually, Brandon broke through her plateau and went on to earn a full athletic scholarship to the University of Nebraska and become an NCAA All-American before ending her career at Olympic Trials in 2008 but the experience stayed with her.
“Swimming was something I was really good at,” Brandon says, “but I wasn’t passionate about it all the time.” She looks back at her swimming career fondly but at times she struggled mentally to engage with the sport, sometimes feeling isolated “just swimming up and down”. Brandon left the sport and began her graduate studies, but she wasn’t away from the water for long.
Brandon started training in the pool again but, this time, not as a swimmer. Her now-husband who was professional triathlete at the time, introduced her to the swim-bike-run sport and seeing him race and experiencing the events, Brandon knew she wanted to give it a try. She did her first triathlon in 2010 and qualified for her professional license within a year. Now, Brandon smiles, “I’m eleven years in it and I still just love this sport.”
“You come to races and there are 2000 or 3000 people and you’re cheering people on, they’re cheering you on, and it’s just this sense of community…that’s what keeps me excited about it and keeps my love for the sport.”
Along with a greater sense of community, Brandon also says she enjoys having three sports instead of just one. Of course, three sports mean Brandon isn’t swimming as much but that hasn’t stopped her from coming out of the water first and, regardless of the starting time gap in front of the women, even catching and passing some of the pro men in the water.
With an Ironman and an 70.3 Ironman title, multiple podiums in both distances, and several world championship races to her name, Brandon might have prowess as swimmer but it’s her passion as a triathlete that makes her a competitive force.