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Last month, Craig Alexander confirmed his intention to return to October’s Ironman World Championship. With his senior standing in the professional ranks, 41-year-old Alexander has served as an advisor and role model to many of the athletes that will line up alongside him in Kona. Alexander relishes his role as a mentor, eagerly sharing his experiences with his training partners, up and coming pros, aspiring age groupers and the athletes he works with through Sansego, his newly launched coaching and training camp company. In advance of his return to the Big Island and the race he has thrice conquered, I reached out to a few of Alexander’s fellow Kona-bound pros to learn how his influence has impacted their careers.
Watch for our feature interview with Crowie, where he speaks candidly about returning to Kona at 41, in our November issue.
Crowie–where to start! I first came across Crowie racing the super sprint races in Australia. I didn’t know him personally but he came across as really fiery, intense and generally kind of angry. It wasn’t until a few years later that I got to know him on a more personal level and realized that first impression couldn’t have been further from the truth. I identify him most as a family man. I find it so interesting that such a fierce competitor and total natural born killer on the race course can be a total softy when it comes to his family. He just can’t stand being away from them.
It wasn’t until I was making the step up to Ironman that I reached out to Crowie for a little guidance. I figured his career had been somewhat similar to mine, and his progression from Olympic distance athlete to Ironman champ had been quite seamless, so I couldn’t think of a person more qualified to help guide me. He couldn’t’ have been more generous with his time and knowledge. He literally gave me his training diary and told me to take it home and read it over. I obviously had a coach of my own but it was great to see how he put his plan together. It really gave me peace of mind that I was on the right track. But his help didn’t stop there–he welcomed me on long training rides and runs, something many pro males wouldn’t be caught dead doing. What I appreciated most was his quiet confidence. He could go on a ride and never feel the need to push hard to try to drop anyone. If he said he was running or riding easy, then it was easy. If someone in the group wanted to ride hard he would let them ride away and it really didn’t faze him. This is probably the biggest and greatest lesson he could have taught me–to have confidence in my plan and stick to it.
Crowie and I have been friends a long time now and his role as a mentor in my career has been the single most influential for me. Living together in San Diego for the first time in 2003 was where I guess you could say he became like an older brother. Having Crowie always offer his advice and be there when I needed someone to talk to was very important to me as a young 20-year-old, trying to make it in the North American triathlon scene.
Fast forward a decade and we still have a great friendship and respect for each other. I was lucky enough to be a part of his three Kona victories and I know that being around him in those weeks prior to the race–training, strategizing and going through the experience each year–helped me learn what I needed to do in order to give myself the best chance to one day win the event.
Last year, when we finished a key brick session prior to the race, he looked me in the eye and said, “Mate, you can win this.” I took that into the race and replayed it over and over in my head. If the guy that’s won the event three times is telling me that, then I have to believe. I owe him a lot.
I know our friendship will last long after triathlon and I will always have time to sit down and have a beer with Crowie and talk about the good ol’ days.
Crowie is the ultimate professional triathlete. He takes his job very seriously and approaches his training and racing with precision and discipline. He is one of the most disciplined athletes I know, but he also has a keen sense of his body and knows when to push harder and when to back off. His relatively injury free career is a testament to his discipline and knowledge of his own body and its capabilities. Crowie taught me the value of patience and discipline. He told me I could be a world champion–I just had to be patient. His willingness to mentor and guide a select group of young professionals is probably the biggest display of his character. I will forever be a Team Crowie fan.
A personal story from Kona last year:
I passed Crowie in the Energy Lab on the run–he was not having a great day. He patted me on the back and told me to chase down as many guys as I could before the finish. Lo and behold, on Ali’i Drive, Crowie comes sprinting up behind me. I started a mad sprint to the finish with him and he grabbed my shoulder and said, “I sprinted up here so I could cross the finish line with you.” We slowed down and jogged into the finish chute, and Crowie graciously took some extra time to acknowledge the fans and let me cross the line in 20th right in front of him, and then gave me a huge hug under the clock. It is a moment I will never forget–a simple display of a gracious champion further mentoring one of his pupils.
I’ve known Crowie for 13 years now and he has always gone out of his way to help me–whether it’s training, racing advice, help with sponsors or life in general. He’s the busiest man in the world but always has time to help and part with his wisdom. We both obviously love triathlon but Crowie is an encyclopedia when it comes to stats about other sports, and that’s another reason why we have clicked. We ride for six hours and talk about Rugby League, Soccer and NFL the whole time. I feel like I am a part of the Alexander family with Neri, Lucy, Austin and Lani and I will always be indebted–not just to Crowie, but to the whole family for what they have done for me over my career.
Since I began racing in the states Crowie has always made time for me, whether it’s to train or fire questions at him on all things triathlon. I knew him before he had even raced Kona and he has not changed at all, even with everyone telling him how awesome he is! I look up to him as an athlete, but more importantly I respect him greatly as a person and as an ambassador of the sport. One piece of advice that has stuck with me is when he told me to be patient with racing Ironman. He said the half Ironman distance is a great way to develop your racing skills as you can race more often, and you will know when you are ready for Ironman.