PNF: It’s all part of the process, part of the career.
MC: When you were defending for the fourth time, did you still feel that same pressure that you felt the first time?
PNF: It evolves. The pressure evolves. The first time you go back it’s like: Was that just a fluke? Do I have to validate myself? Everybody’s looking at me, the champion. Am I sure I can do this again, or was this just a weird situation? The first time, I didn’t defend, and historically not many people do the first time around. But I was a lot younger than you were at that time. I was only 24 when that happened. I definitely didn’t handle it well. By the time you get to – listen, I’m already giving you multiple titles! By the time you get to number four, Mirinda, it becomes a different pressure, in that the expectation just exists. Nobody leaves room for failure then. It’s like: Well, yawn, you’re going to win. And the appreciation for the hard work – I guess it’s a little bit selfish – you have a bit of a pity party in that nobody seems to understand how hard it is. So by the time it was #4 and #5, it became slightly annoying in that it was slightly expected. That eventually cracked me after a few years. It was like: Oh, we don’t need to wish you good luck; you’re going to win anyway. So that brings a whole different set of circumstances to the line. It’s a little bit like for you, I think; going to races and everybody expects you to have the fastest run split. Much like your relationship with Julie [Dibens], Heather [Fuhr] and I trained everything together. She brought out the best in my running because it made her slow down and I brought out the best in her cycling because I had to slow down for her, so we sort of balanced it out. But I saw that wear on her. It didn’t matter if she was 18 minutes down, everybody would say, “Oh, but you can do it!” But you have to take it one year at a time. For you, it’s your first year defending. For somebody like Chrissie, I think it works the other way. Everybody’s like: She’s going to just walk away with it. And that brings a whole other set of pressures. Not just the people around you – it’s your sponsors, it’s everybody. So I think it’s a really fascinating dynamic this year because the pressures are very different.
MC: Well, with sort of two defending champions.
PNF: With two defending champions coming, and a lot of people looking at you wondering what would have happened had she of been there [in 2010]. When I was racing early on, I trained a little bit up here in Boulder with Erin Baker. I was on some workouts with her, but we had a very intense rivalry. That’s why I asked if your rivalry with Chrissie – the rivalry that’s going to be built, it’s inevitable, so you may as well just embrace it – motivates you out the door?
MC: Definitely. Chrissie motivates me. Julie motivates me.
PNF: But there’s always one person…