Craig Alexander, Chrissie Wellington, Mirinda Carfrae, Chris Lieto, Julie Dibens, Andreas Raelert and Rasmus Henning answered questions for the triathlon media two days before the IM world championships and although some of the answers were pretty standard, they also had a few surprising and interesting things to say.
Wellington relayed a few stories about her time as Champ. She said, “I was asked, ‘Do I ever get tired of [coming to the Hawaii Ironman]?’ I told him, ‘There is no way to get tired of this. Coming back is no less special this year than the years before.’”
She is apparently quite comfortable with the demands that come along with being the world champion. “It has never been a heavy crown,” she said. “It has been uplifting. I live for the big races.”
The only question of the day not relating to the race was about Wellington’s future after her racing days are done. Before becoming a triathlete, she worked in public policy and service and she was asked if politics might be in her future.
“Politics, that’s something I would consider. I want to be in government but maybe not as a politician. Maybe as a lobbyist or in some sort of pier review role. Every time I achieve something in triathlon, I create a bigger platform outside of the sport. That’s what motivates me.”
When asked about a more pressing issue, she said, “This year I’m stronger, fitter and faster.” She said she doesn’t need to break her own course record to have a successful race, but she is fit enough to do so if the conditions allow it.
Dibens has never raced an Ironman, but she is also the only woman to ever beat Chrissie Wellington in a long course triathlon. She is a phenomenal swim/biker and knows that she will have to make the most of those strengths to contend for the win.
“I know I have to push it because I can’t run with some of the other girls but I know I will have to run father than I ever have so I don’t want to push it too far.”
Andreas Raelert spoke of training and racing in almost spiritual terms. He referred to preserving ones “substance” and the mental aspect of the Hawaii Ironman. Last year, he charged hard out of transition but eventually fell apart in the Energy Lab and finished 3rd. He still hasn’t exactly figured out what happened to his body in that race. “I’m not sure why I hit this wall. It was a new type of pressure.”
Andreas’ little brother Michael is the 70.3 world champion and the two are extremely close. Andreas acts as mentor and coach to Michael. People speculated that the younger Raelert is ready to race in Kona but Andreas lobbied for Michael to wait another year. “In the end, he agreed,” said Andreas.
Mirinda Carfrae’s abilities were unknown last year but after placing 2nd in her debut Hawaii Ironman, she is on everyone’s radar. She was asked if she feels more pressure now that she is an established Ironman athlete. She explained that she deflected that pressure by gaining confidence by strengthening her bike. “I had to work on the bike without losing run speed. I pushed a little harder on the bike.” She also changed her fit and even frame size this past year. “I went from a 51cm frame to a 47cm. Mat [Steinmetz] and Retul helped me so much with that and [my bike] feels like a part of me.”
The defending champion is happy that WTC changed the swim rules to ban the swimskins that can become standard equipment for every pro and most age groupers. Kona has always been a wetsuit illegal race, but the old rules allowed these speedsuits, which are very effective, to be worn. This helped some of the weaker swimmers stay with the lead pack and as a result the first group of swimmers out of the water was unusually large last year.
Alexander thinks the new rules will lead to a, “farer, cleaner race. They will thin out the front pack. The [strong swimmers] that would have been there [without the suits] will save a little energy.” All the other athletes seemed to agree with Alexander.
Everyone also seemed to be happy that the women’s pro field will now start 30 minutes, rather than 15, ahead of the amateur men. In the past, some of the fastest amateur men would catch the women on the bike, which changed the dynamics of the ride. The strongest cyclists felt that it favored the women that ride a little farther back because they could get a legal draft or pacing assistance from the amateur men. Lengthening the gap to 30 minutes will prevent that.
Dibens, “It should make for a farer race.”
Carfrae, “I think it’s fantastic.”
Wellington, “I want to applaud Ironman for getting this right.”