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Catching Up With Crowie: Alexander’s 2015 Plans

Alexander reveals his racing plans, contemplates whether we'll see him race Ironman again and chats about his new business.

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Three-time Ironman world champion Craig “Crowie” Alexander’s career is taking on a new shape these days. Though he has no big championship plans at this point in the season, the Australian is far from retired. We caught up with the 41-year-old dad of three while he was in Melbourne serving as an Ironman ambassador and doing some Ironman Live coverage at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships. Alexander reveals his season plans, contemplates whether he’ll compete in another Ironman and shares what it has been like to venture into the business world. What is your racing plan this year?

Alexander: I’ve already raced four times this year. I raced NZ Long Course Champs, the 70.3 Asia Pacific champs in Auckland, Australian Long Course Champs [70.3 Geelong] and then I did the Santos race in Brazil. I’m heading up to Malaysia in two weeks. The idea is to do more racing around Asia-Pacific. Last year in Kona I got 13th and I wasn’t anywhere near the shape I needed to be and I knew it was going to be my swan song, so I was happy to be there. I got quite fit, sort of top-end fit, speed fit so I really should have done Mont-Tremblant [70.3 Worlds], but I wanted to do Kona. I hadn’t raced since Melbourne so I had a six-month break from racing. I knew I had some good fitness from Kona so I wanted to sort of keep going through the summer. That was the plan to continue racing early this year. After Malaysia I’m thinking [about] going over and doing St. George in Utah. … It should be a good field. After that I’m not sure. We won’t be in Boulder this summer. I might do 70.3 Cairns if I can keep training through the winter here. Then we will be coming to the U.S. in July. School holiday in Australia is then, so we’re planning on bringing the kids and extending their break a bit. We still love Boulder in the summer. Is it going to be weird not to be in Boulder for very long?

Alexander: Yes, and I think my wife will miss it as much and if not more than me. When you do something for any length of time you get friends and your network and it becomes habit. It will be strange. It’s funny what triggers certain emotions. When it starts getting cold here that was always the trigger to get ready and move camp for six months. It was going to come to an end at some point. I’m 42 in a few months, and that doesn’t mean I can’t keep racing at a high level, but what it does mean is that I have three children who are getting older and have things that they want to do and want to do with their dad. I have business things and I’m not in the same place I was five or 10 years ago when it was all about racing and performing. When I race I still want to perform. It might be five times instead of 15 like it was before. And it’s not a set schedule like it used to be either. It’s a bit more fluid. Do you still enjoy racing with the fluidity and it not being the main focus?

Alexander: I race to win. If I can commit some good time to it to get in shape like I did for the New Zealand races and Geelong and Brazil, then yes I still love it. What frustrates me is not the not winning; it’s the feeling like I’m not prepared. That infuriates me. For me part of it is the challenge of it. It’s about performing to the level I know I’m capable of. I have to have the right preparation. There are no miracles on race day. You don’t wake up and suddenly you’re fit. I love the sport because of the way it pushes you and challenges you. Trying to set new benchmarks for yourself means being in shape and racing good people and trying to get that extra 1 percent out of yourself. If I’m going to race I’m going to make sure that I’m ready and in shape. … I’m still the same athlete; I just don’t have the same amount of time to commit to it.

RELATED VIDEO: Craig Alexander’s Core Workout In the past you’ve talked about the toll that training for Kona has taken on your family. Have you noticed a difference this year?

Alexander: It’s been fun. It’s been a much better balance. I can leave early for a bike ride and be back by 8 or 9 and have breakfast with the kids and be there for the whole weekend or the whole day and then go for a run or swim in the evening. I’m still getting in a three- or four-hour training day, but I’m there for the 12 hours in between during the day. You do a two- or three-hour ride, you feel like you’re just getting started. When you do a six-hour ride, you really just want to come home and lie on the couch. I’m doing a lot of hard, shorter rides. I like that kind of thing. It doesn’t fatigue me as much as the longer stuff. I’ve always felt guilty. Well not always, but especially the last two years when my kids were getting older and really wanted to spend time with me. I have great support. My wife would say, “Look it’s your job, if you had any other job you’d have to leave [during the day].” But I’ve been spoiled. I get a lot of training and I get to be there a lot of the day. I’ve had to find a balance where I can do the things I want to do, which is still race at a high level, but I want to be around and be the kind of dad I want to be. It’s been a fun summer in that respect—I’ve really immersed myself in the kids’ sports and school. I’m still able to train. I’ve had four races this year and I’ve won two of them so I still get it done. At one point you were a fixture on the Life Time racing scene. What are your thoughts on the company pulling out of the pro scene?

Alexander: I have mixed emotions. I have a lot of gratitude to the company that invested so much into our sport. From a personal standpoint, I won it. I won the money and the big car and at that point, 10 years ago now, Lucy was 6 years old and the Australian dollar was in the toilet so the exchange rate was amazing. It did change our lives. That’s what Bahram Akradi [Life Time’s CEO] always wanted to do. He wanted triathletes to experience the money and support that he saw other sports getting. And it wasn’t just the money—it was the way they treated us at the race. It is sad. I think that series did amazing things not only for the people who won it, but it also brought us a wider audience. You have to remember too that Hy-Vee came in. The big money in Life Time was from 2002 to 2006 and then Hy-Vee came in and that has also run its course. That’s the way it works. Companies have turnover and the marketing department changes and the focus changes. I guess it’s easy to say if you’ve been a recipient of some of the money. I just have to be thankful that these companies have so many options and places they could invest and they chose triathlon. Even after the big money and battle of the sexes ended, they still had a great series. They had good coverage and good money. I think the sport is best when all the distances are flourishing. Hopefully a company can come in and invest in pro athletes at that distance. Do you think you’ll ever do another Ironman, or iron-distance race?

Alexander: I like to think I will. It comes back to that I’ll only do it if I can prepare the way I would like to. To be honest I guess my one regret—I’m not really a person who has regrets—but something I often think about is that I never raced [Challenge] Roth. Felix [Walchshofer, Challenge Family’s CEO] invited me every year and I didn’t for a number of reasons. I was a huge advocate of doing one Ironman a year. When I first started doing Ironman I would do 15 races but it was only one Ironman. Then when they changed the rules—which I was never a fan of forcing people to do more than one Ironman a year—I guess that changed the way you schedule your season. That’s part of the reason I didn’t do Roth. Another reason is that it was so much effort to relocate the family to the U.S. it would have then been hard to go on my own and leave to go to Europe. Logistically it was tough. Rinny did it last year and she came back to Boulder and told me all about it. I wouldn’t rule it out. I’d love to experience that race.

Really I haven’t done many Ironmans. I’ve only done Kona, Melbourne three times, Coeur d’Alene and then Ironman Australia once. I’d like to do Frankfurt as well to be honest. I’d like to think there may be one more in me.

RELATED – Dispatch: Lessons Learned From Crowie How is the business side of things, and specifically your new coaching business Sansego, going?

Alexander: It’s growing slowly, but that’s how we wanted to grow it. We haven’t done a lot of advertising yet. I wanted it to be more word of mouth and organic that way. The thing is we want to under-promise and over-deliver in the beginning. Initially training plans and camps were going to be the focus. I knew a lot of great coaches, people who’ve helped me and guys I trained with who are now coaches, and in speaking to them they said that writing programs is really not coaching. Coaching is when you give someone a set schedule of training and they do it and then give you feedback and there’s an interaction. That’s what these guys said to me. There needed to be more interaction. That’s when, with [his manager] Franko [Vatterot], I thought wouldn’t it be good to put together a team of people who are also coaches. Really they’re guys I’ve used or people I know who are some of the best coaches in the sport. A lot of the best coaches in the sport aren’t very well known. I did coach a few people, but I didn’t want to just say, “Now I’m coaching.” I want to put together a group of coaches. Hopefully the collective unit is stronger than the sum of its parts.

The business is a different challenge in the sport, especially working in the team. I’m used to doing my own thing. I’ve always been accountable to myself, but now I’m actually accountable to partners. It’s been very busy, but good. You’ve become known as one of the greatest mentors in the sport, especially to other pros. Have you made that a priority throughout your career?

Alexander: When people asked for my help, I gave it to them because I was the beneficiary of a lot of help from other people. If you can help someone why wouldn’t you? If someone asks for an honest opinion on nutrition or training, I’ll do it. I never had any problems with handing my training diary over to people to look at. I don’t think there are any real secrets. It’s how you put it together day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out. I got a lot of help. A lot of people took me under their wing. It’d be selfish not to help people. I don’t know if it was ever a priority to help, but if people asked for my help, then I would help.

RELATED PHOTOS: Craig Alexander’s Ironman Career

Follow Craig Alexander on Twitter at @Crowiealexander.