With three Ironman World Championship titles and dozens of Ironman titles among them, several of the top pros racing in Sunday’s 2013 Cairns Airport Ironman Cairns and Ironman 70.3 Cairns sat down with media to discuss everything from their thoughts on the weekend’s stacked field to how their racing seasons have shaped up thus far.
Set against the backdrop of tropical North Queensland, Ironman Cairns and Ironman 70.3 Cairns feature swims in the harbor, a picturesque bike up to Port Douglas before heading back into town and heading out for a run through town and out in sugar cane fields. Here’s what they had to say:

Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS): Kahlefeldt (racing the 70.3), a two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, has recently made the transition to non-drafting long course racing. He most recently placed second in the Coral Coast 5i50 last weekend.

On making the transition to non-drafting racing: “I think it was a good time to try something different post-London. Over the past six months I’ve really enjoyed the training. I really just added more bike miles and a different bike of course, but everything else stayed the same. The season has really just begun for me, I know I’m still really new to this but I wanted to come to this race to have the opportunity to race the best guys going right now and see how I measure up.”

Chris McCormack (AUS): Two-time Ironman world champion McCormack (racing the Ironman) has raced Cairns every year of its existence and is the winner of the inaugural event. McCormack had to pull out of last weekend’s Coral Coat 5i50 due to kidney issues which landed him in the Cairns hospital for a couple days.

On his illness and why he loves to race in Cairns: “Whenever you’re told something is wrong with your kidneys—you freak out, and I did. Bascially I had a rupture on my right kidney from swimming in dirty water. However, they gave me the green light to race. They said I might not feel so good heading into the race but I actually feel great right now. In my opinion, this is the best Ironman race in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a fair, honest course and it’s also beautiful. My family enjoys coming up here as well and when you have kids you are always looking for venues that cater to everything and we all just love to come up here.

Sarah Crowley (AUS): Defending Ironman 70.3 Cairns Crowley is here to defend her title. She most recently placed fourth at the Asia Pacific Ironman 70.3 Championship in Auckland, New Zealand.

On her recent leg injures: “Sunday will be a good chance for me to get out there and see how my leg is going. I’m just not sure where I’m at with this leg. I finally got a diagnosis seven weeks ago, and I’ve had a lot of great support and preparation in dealing with it and getting race ready, but up until a short while ago I wasn’t really thinking I would be coming back to defend. I’ve only been back running for about four weeks.”

Pete Jacobs (AUS): The reigning Ironman world champion is set to race the 70.3 distance on Sunday. Jacobs most recently placed eighth at Ironman 70.3 Honu. Jacobs has been dealing with a nagging back injury and illness heading into this weekend’s race, but is still considered a favorite to win.

On his back injury and on dealing with the pressures of being the reigning world champion: “I was feeling really good a couple weeks ago, but I raced Honu last weekend and it was a bit busy and hectic over there and I had a really bad back problems during the race and picked up a cold right after the race so I haven’t felt like myself really. It’s just the half distance and I know I can get through it, but I don’t know if I will be going fast or slow that’s for sure. I felt so good two weeks ago and I kind of talked it up and said, “bring it,” but then the following two weeks didn’t go so well. It will be tough out there on race day but having so many top competitors out there can be really motivating and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go as well as seeing how I go. There are a lot more decisions to be made now that I’m a world champion. It’s been a great opportunity and I’m enjoying being able to have a platform to display some of the knowledge I’ve gained as a 25-time Ironman finisher.”

Liz Blatchford (GBR): This will be Blatchford’s first Ironman race on Sunday, although this former short-course athlete has seen success at the 70.3 distance, most recently winning Ironman 70.3 Busselton.

On making the jump to Ironman racing: “These are definitely unchartered waters for me, but saying that, you’ve just got to go in there with confidence and race as hard as you can. I trained really well up until six weeks ago, and then I had one illness after another. I really don’t know what to expect on Sunday.”

Luke McKenzie (AUS): Five-time Ironman champion McKenzie will be racing the Ironman on Sunday. McKenzie most recently placed eighth in the U.S. Pro Championship Ironman 70.3 St. George.

On relocating to San Diego to train for the rest of the season: “I’ve been based there for about two months and I was able to get in some good, solid training so I feel pretty good about this weekend’s race. I think it’s good to have people like Clayton [Fettell] in the field. I respect the way he races, and he’s a good person to try and keep up with.”

Cameron Brown (NZL): 11-time Ironman champion Cameron Brown has placed second at Ironman Cairns in the past, and is racing the Ironman on Sunday.

His thoughts on race day: “This race has such a stunning coastline and is such a great destination to come to, so I’m looking forward to the race. I’d love to win over here, but it’s always tough racing with t he Aussies. Last year, the run got up to 30 degrees Celsius, and running through those sugar cane fields on the run can be pretty rough. Hopefully my 25 years in the sport will help carry me through on race day.”

Gina Crawford: (NZL): Six-time Ironman champion Crawford will be racing the Ironman on Sunday. She most recently placed fifth at Ironman Melbourne.

On balancing being a mother with being a pro athlete: “I see myself as more of a mum these days than a triathlete. I used to train 20-plus hours a week and now it’s more around 10. I always feel a little bit underprepared going into races these days, but I’ve still managed to do alright. In the end, I really believe that Ironman is a mental race.”