Images courtesy of Nils Nilsen and Ventum Bikes

Ed. Note: our 2020 roster is almost complete! We couldn't be more excited to announce that Lauren Brandon, Ironman Boulder 2019 (and course record holder) champion will rock the W in 2020, joining a list of athletes almost 15 strong. We assemble the entire roster Thursday, when we launch our Pixel collection. In the meantime, check out storyteller Jay Prasuhn's account of the Park City crusher.

It’s almost a backhanded compliment to be called a “swim specialist.” Sure, it’s a nod to the athlete that can come out of the water with the lead. But then what? Swim and bike for show, as the Aussies say, but run for dough, right? That just hasn’t sat well for Lauren Brandon. “For many years I was considered a swim specialist and that was okay with me. But I definitely wanted to become more than that in our sport.”
 
Before we explain, let’s first laud her accomplishments in the pool, because they speak volumes. Growing up in California as a fish and swimming competitively since age five, Brandon scored a full ride at the University of Nebraska on a swim scholarship, where she earned three Big 12 conference titles (400 IM and the 1650 free for two years) and was an NCAA All-American in the 1650, with a Huskers record that stands to this day. She rounded her swimming career as an Olympic Trials participant in 2008 in the 400 free and 800 free.


That takes LB to triathlon, which she found thanks to her now-husband Barrett Brandon, whom she met the first week of her freshman year. Then an ITU pro, he proved a fortuitous match. “He had just become a pro triathlete and I started to learn about the world of triathlon,” she remembers. I knew that after my swim career, I wanted to do triathlons as well.” Her debut in multisport in late 2008 was like most of us learning a new gig; she was truly a fish out of water.
 
“After the 2008 Olympic Trials, I started riding a bike. Or I should say, learned how to even ride a bike, and began running a little bit as well,” she says. In her first ever tri at the Pacific Grove Triathlon in 2009, she finished seventh overall amateur female. “I remember not even being able to take my hands off of the bars to get water because I could barely ride a bike.”  
 
She ended up being a quick learner. Fast forward to 2011 when she earned pro status. But she had no Kona dreams—at least not yet. “I started my pro career believing that I would go to the Olympic because of my strong swim background,” she said, “but I quickly learned that I didn’t like riding in packs, and couldn’t run fast enough.” After a few years riding the ITU circuit,  Brandon pivoted to the non-drafting short-course circuit. As those races began to dry up around the United States, she inched towards 70.3 and, ultimately, Ironman.

But a runner-up finish at Ironman Cozumel in 2016  gave her an inkling that her bike and run were coming along just fine. Not bad for a swimmer. Since then, she’s collected several full distance podium results, culminating in her first career Ironman victory at Ironman Boulder last year, breaking the course record in the process.


Oh, and all that “swim specialist” stuff? It doesn’t really get to her, because she knew getting the bike and run dialed was simply a matter of process. And a decade into her pro career, she feels like she’s truly getting her wheels under her—across all three disciplines.  “My biking came around first, and I felt like I then became a swim/bike specialist,” she says. “I’m still working on my run, but it feels so good to be finally putting together full races. I’ve come a long way, but by no means do I feel like I am anywhere near my best. Knowing that I am still getting stronger and have more potential keeps me motivated to continue working hard and trying to get to another level.” And that brings us to her 2020 season, one rife with possibility. It starts with new digs at altitude in Park City, Utah, a new training approach, and a new apparel sponsor: Wattie Ink.  
 
“I’m pretty pumped for 2020, finally adjusting to living at altitude and finally seeing some good numbers again!” she says. “At the end of last year, my coach Julie Dibens and I decided it would be best for me to really focus on strength work in order to improve my running and overall strength. I’ve found an amazing strength coach and have been spending hours with her each week and we are starting to see a lot of progress, so we are pretty excited!"
 
Her first test (and where she’ll make her Wattie Ink. debut) is a perfect strength course: the hilly Ironman 70.3 St. George.
 
The effervescent, approachable Brandon says she’s excited to be a part of the family Sean Watkins and Heather Jackson have assembled, especially since she and her husband Brandon have considered the couple friends for years. A fan favorite in every sense, known for her broad smile and approachable nature, Brandon may now be in a battle with her new Wattie Ink teammate Jackson for most loved female pro on the circuit.


“I’ve seen how much the Wattie Ink. community has grown over the years and I really wanted to be a part of that,” she says. “I love Wattie and Heather, and to me it is important to partner with companies that you believe in, want to be successful and grow with, and where you feel like family.” 

Never mind the fashionista in her, pumped to work with Wattie’s SoCal art team on her custom design. Because like speed on course, style kills.  

“Wattie Ink, is definitely all of those things plus they make amazing gear. The kits that Wattie Ink has made over the years stand out, and I know that we will come up with a great kit that represents me in the perfect fashion as well. Wattie Ink is a brand that you are drawn to and just simply want to be a part of.”