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Checking In: Mirinda Carfrae

We catch up with the Ironman world champion, who called in from Noosa, Australia, where she’s currently training under a brand new coach.

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Triathlete Editor-in-Chief Julia Polloreno caught up with Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae, who called in from Noosa, Australia, where she’s currently training with fiancé Timothy O’Donnell under a brand new coach.

Julia Polloreno: How has the off-season been treating you?

Mirinda Carfrae: Off-season started before [Ironman] Florida but then I got that race done and the real off-season started. Mostly it’s just been a lot of thinking about and planning for the wedding [to pro triathlete Timothy O’Donnell outside Boulder, Colo., on December 14]—finding a venue, dress shopping. It’s kind of nice to be sort of a normal person. You remain active and do some exercise but it’s not the most important thing when you get up in the morning. You get to it when you can and all the real-life things come first, which is sort of nice.

JP: Does it feel good to have the Kona validation [from Ironman Florida] out of the way?

MC: The last few years I almost felt bitter—like I was rushing to get ready for an Ironman. I dreaded doing that early season Ironman. You always want to start your season off on the right foot and get a good result to get the season rolling and, well, first of all you’re coming off the off-season so it takes a little while to get your fitness back so you’re still playing catch up. Ironman is no walk in the park regardless if you want to compete or you want to finish. I just found that it was kind of stressful. I feel a lot happier, I feel excited about the season. I had a blast racing in Florida—there was not as much pressure. Pulling off a podium there was great, so I can just focus on 2013. I felt a little fatigue from Kona and certainly a little bit of pain the last 20K of the run but it was well worth it.

JP: What are your priorities this season? What are you building toward?

MC: Every year, my big goal is Kona. I think if you want to win that race you have to plan your whole year around it. I think that’s why I’ve been successful there in the past—I give it the respect that’s due. Other than that I’m just looking forward to doing more races: I’ll start off in San Juan [the 70.3 on March 17] and I’ll probably do Oceanside [70.3 on March 30] and maybe St. Anthony’s and a couple of Olympic races. Then maybe a couple of half-ironmans in June and one in July and get ready for Kona. Oceanside is one of my favorite races—it’s always exciting to get out and see what everyone’s been doing in the off-season. I feel like it’s sort of the North America opener.

JP: Is Vegas on your radar?

MC: I don’t know whether I’ll do Vegas or not. I think five weeks out from Kona is enough time to recover, but I was always kind of concerned that if it’s 100 degrees it can really take it out of you. If it takes 2 percent out of me for Kona then it’s not worth it. Racing for a 70.3 world title is fantastic but it doesn’t excite me as much as Kona does. I’ll go through the season and just play it by ear. Vegas is a fantastic, very fair course. It didn’t feel like a world championship to me, but that may be because I had my eye so focused on Kona.

JP: With Chrissie’s retirement from Ironman, how do you feel about no longer having the opportunity to race her in Kona? Do feel like there’s any unfinished business there?

MC: You have to move past it and focus on your own racing. I definitely wish that I had another couple of years to race against her. She was still on another level and that was my goal—to race her and hopefully be on her level and beat her. She’s done amazing things in the sport and now we just have to look at her record in Kona and try to go faster. She’s left her mark and while I won’t be able to race her—unless she comes back, which has been done before—I guess I’ll go out there and try to break her records and see how I go that way. I’m definitely surprised that she stepped away, but I’m happy for her. She seems like she’s in a great place and moving on with her life, and triathlon just didn’t fit in that picture.

JP: Are you still working with Mat Steinmetz and will you continue to focus your training on strengthening your cycling?

MC: I’m still working with Mat in that he’s still doing my bike fits and so forth. Last year he wrote my bike program before Kona, and it was a fantastic help, but at the end of the year, I felt like I needed a more full-time coach. He will continue to work with me on bike fit and positioning. I’ve actually started working with Joel Filliol. He’s Canadian and coaches a bunch of ITU athletes, including two of my good friends Lauren Groves and Sarah Groff. He seems to really fit in with a lot of the things I believe in in triathlon and his personality seems right. Sometimes it’s more than the program—you have to really be able to connect with the person and have a good coach-athlete relationship. It will be mostly an online program; he’s someone I can bounce ideas off of and work with to continue moving forward in the sport. I’m going back to things that I know, but also taking advice he can give with any issues that I’ve had. I need to keep improving my bike, but I want to make sure my run is right where it has been in the past. Last year I felt like it was just bike, bike, bike. I want to make sure the run isn’t so neglected, but at the same time continue that improvement on the bike. I think we’ll work on speedwork and I’ll race some Olympic-distance events and have that run focus, and then mid-year we’ll do bigger cycling miles getting ready for Ironman.

JP: Your good friend [and bridesmaid] Julie Dibens will be rejoining competition this year—any thoughts on her comeback?

MC: I can’t wait to see her back. She was so much fun the first two years we both did Kona. It was a great build-up. It’s always quite stressful coming into Kona but she made it more enjoyable and it was fun to go through that preparation with her. I welcome her back and absolutely love our battles. I always bring my A-game, and when Julie is on the start line, it doesn’t matter if she wins or I win, as long as we’re both doing well. Hopefully she’ll be back at 100 percent. I love her; she’s a great chick.

JP: Any races that you’re both signed up to do?

MC: We haven’t actually talked about that yet, but I’m sure there will be a race or two, or maybe more.

JP: We’ve noted that you’ve been riding your mountain bike a bit. Any plans to do an Xterra off-road triathlon?

MC: Yeah, I have a lot of fun riding my mountain bike—I only got it a few weeks before leaving Boulder—and would love to do [the Xterra World Championship on] Maui someday. I don’t know if it will be this year because of the wedding, but I’ve been saying for years I want to go do it. I’m not going to be there as a competitor, though, but more as a participant. My skills there are pretty ordinary.

JP: Last season you tweaked your nutrition strategy and then decided to revert back to the way you’d been doing things before making those changes. How is that process continuing to evolve? Are you still experimenting with nutrition?

MC: Last year I did a lot of experimenting: I messed with my nutrition to up my carbohydrate intake to see if it improved performance in the latter part of the race, on the run. I also lifted weights in the gym to see if that would help my cycling, and obviously working on my bike under the guidance of Mat Steinmetz. I feel like I was reaching too much for that extra advantage; I made too many changes at once. I think the nutrition plan I was on before was perfect for me. I’ve sort of gone back to a lot of things that I know work well.

Mirinda Carfrae’s Decision To Race Ironman Florida
Video: Mirinda Carfrae Recaps Her Kona Race
Julie Dibens’ Role In Mirinda Carfrae’s Kona Prep
Kona Pro Bike: Mirinda Carfrae’s Felt DA