From the last-page column in the Dec/Jan 2010/2011 issue of LAVA Serious Triathlon, fellow Australians (and world champion triathletes) talked shop.
Craig Alexander and Mirinda Carfrae have had very similar experiences at the Hawaii Ironman. After winning the Ironman 70.3 world title, both athletes finished as the runner-sup in their Big Island debuts before winning in their second attempts. The Aussies sat down after this year’s race in Kona to discuss what they learned from that first race that made it possible to win in their second go-around.
Mirinda Carfrae: All right Crowie, what were the big lessons that you learned from your first race here in 2007?
Craig Alexander: You don’t know what to expect that first time in Kona. You can talk to all the people you want, but until you go through it, you really don’t know what this race is all about. I learned that you have to have respect for your competition and for the conditions here, but , more than anything, I learned that you can’t doubt yourself. That’s something I did a lot that first year. I was real conservative throughout that race. I really doubted my ability to mix it up with the guys who had been doing this distance for ten years. I remember finishing and thinking that I had too much in the tank. I didn’t know how to ration my energy.
MC: My first experience was really similar. I had no idea how to pace this thing, especially on the bike. I was also really blown away with how hard the swim was. I was expecting the swim to be pretty easy, but it was all out from the start. I paced off of other athletes because I didn’t know how to do my own race. It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to key off of someone who’s having an off day. So I think the biggest thing I learned was that if you’re going to win here, you have to do your own race. You really can’t waste any energy worrying about what someone else is doing out there. I came into my first race knowing that it was going to be a learning experience though.
CA: It’s hard to enter a race like this and treat it as a learning experience and not like you’re going for the win. We’re athletes; we’re all competitive. I came here knowing the history of this race and how most athletes do in their debut. I came in here expecting the worst though, and I think that helped me. I had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared for anything. In 2007
I had a few chances to win the race, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger.
MC: It was hard for me to come here and not get caught up in going for the win in my
first year too. At the same time I really didn’t want to become another casualty of this event. Of course I thought that if the win was there I was going to go for it, but I was really just trying to get through it. I spent a lot of time looking back on that race and I found a lot of things that I did wrong, which helped me win this year. That’s one of the great things about this race is that there’s always something you could’ve done differently.
CA: I think we saw that with Macca this year. He’s watched this race for so long and raced here so many times that he made all the right moves at all the right times. When you’ve been in this race for as long as Macca has, you’ve seen all the scenarios play out. There’s no substitute for experience here. Each time you race you file something away for next time. It also helps talking to the people who know this race and know all the different ways it can unfold.
MC: That’s why I came to you for advice after my first time here. There were so many similarities in our first experience. You had just gone through all the same things that I was going through. I remember having so many questions for you after last year’s race. I got so much good advice from you—that really changed the way I went after the race this year.
CA: Thanks for making me look good. I went to a lot of people for advice after that first race, but Dave Scott was the one I really sought out for help and he’s still the guy I go to when I need it. There aren’t many guys who know this race like Dave does. He’s seen it all. One of the great things about this sport is that the athletes are always eager to help each other out. There were a few other veterans I went to, like Michellie Jones and Greg Welch. I hate calling them veterans though, because it implies they’re old, but Welchy—he’s old.