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The Kona world champ starts her 2012 campaign this weekend at the inaugural Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne. It’s been a busy pre-season for the Australian, who has been living and training in Noosa with Greg and Laura Bennett and, with the help of trusted friends like Craig Alexander, writing her own training program after recently parting ways with coach Siri Lindley.
Triathlete.com: How have things been since parting ways with [coach] Siri Lindley, and where will you go from here?
MC: It’s totally like an amicable breakup—like with a boyfriend. You need a little space. I was at a point where I hardly saw her—it was more an online program and more on the phone. I felt like it was time for me to really move forward. I don’t know that I would go and seek other advice while she was still writing my program.
I’m not the sort of athlete that needs a motivator, somebody there 24/7. I’ve been doing this sport long enough—I know what I need to do, I know it’s hard work and I’m happy to go and do it.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do [in terms of coaching]. I don’t know if I want a full-time coach or whether I’ll just use advisors. Before Siri and I parted ways, I talked to Mat Steinmetz [of Boulder-based Retul] about helping me with cycling. He’s good at reading power files. To get to the next level with my cycling I felt like I needed to embrace riding with power in training and have somebody that can analyze the power files and tell me where my weaknesses are and adjust sessions accordingly. I’d already talked to Mat about doing that sort of thing. He’s going to be at Melbourne for the race so I’ll be able to talk to him about how that could maybe work. And I’ve talked to Craig Alexander as well.
I’ve thought, ‘Julie [Dibens] would be the perfect coach for me’ because she’s the best cyclist in the sport, she already does coach and we have a great relationship. It’s funny because I was down in Melbourne for the launch and chatting with Crowie and he said, “You should just ask Julie to coach you,” and I said ‘I already did but she turned me down!’ So we were kind of joking about it. And he said, ‘If she doesn’t coach you I’ll coach you,” but Crowie’s got a million things going on so I probably don’t want to put that extra pressure on him. He’s such a good guy—he’s got a million things going on but he’d drop everything to help you out.
Since I left Siri I’ve basically written my own program but have had input from Crowie and also potentially going to work more with Mat. I’ve got some fantastic people around me that can help me out. I feel pretty confident about it.
Triathlete.com: How are you feeling going into IM Melbourne?
MC: I’ve had a really good training block. Being here in Noosa, it’s like night and day from last year, when I was getting ready for Ironman New Zealand with three weeks less time, and I was coming off that world title and based in the U.S.—to be more easily accessible for photo shoots and this, that and the other. Coming to Australia I’ve had pretty much no interruptions. It’s been awesome having [boyfriend] Tim [O’Donnell] here. I’ve lived with Greg and Laura Bennett, and we train with people like Belinda Granger—she’s an awesome person to be around, really positive, fiery and a real hard trainer. There are always people around training hard; it’s a similar environment to Boulder, but obviously you can’t train in Boulder this time of year. It’s kind of less intense than Boulder because it is the off-season and people are more willing to do longer miles together. Laura is going out on five-hour rides with us even though she’s an Olympic distance triathlete. It’s a bit of a different mix of people, which is good. But I’m really happy with my training block and feel like I am in better shape than I was at this time last year. I have a little cold now, but I’m hoping that it passes in the next couple of days. It’s taper week so there’s not much work to be done.
PHOTOS: Around The Ironman Melbourne Course
Triathlete.com: Are you giving Greg [Bennett] some advice for his very first Ironman?
MC: He’s so thorough; I’m so impressed. There are athletes that come into Ironman and they don’t have a respect for the distance, and they’re the athletes that fail because they haven’t researched how their stomach responds to eating x amount of carbs—you know they just don’t respect the distance enough. But he has been so thorough. He’s been testing his nutrition, talking to all the experts, he’s got his bike position dialed in—I think he’s going to be a fantastic Ironman athlete. He’ll carry the talent he has for the short course into the long course because of the respect he has for the distance. He has random questions now and then and I give him information as I can, but I feel like at this point he’s spoken to every person who could possibly have any information for him and taken that and got on board and filtered out what he thinks is rubbish.
Triathlete.com: Have you spent much time on the new Melbourne course?
MC: We went down for the launch four weeks ago and had a trip from hell getting down there. Our original plan was to get there early enough to drive the course, but it took us 11 hours to get from the Sunshine Coast to Melbourne because of the crazy weather. Our flight was re-directed and we didn’t get there until much later. That wasn’t ideal. We had a look at the transition area and drove one-way on the bike course in the car. We weren’t really able to train on it.
Triathlete.com: How much do you study the competition before a race?
MC: Most athletes will have an idea of what shape everyone else is in and who else is racing. We’ve got most of the best women in the world lining up [in Melbourne]. I certainly watched Abu Dhabi to see what shape the girls are in. You just focus on preparing yourself as best as possible for an early-season Ironman and then what will be will be on race day. The competition is going to be there and it’s going to take a great performance to win. I keep an eye on the competition but try not to think about them too much.
Triathlete.com: At the recent Endurance Live awards, the new Team Refuel “My After” chocolate milk campaign—of which you’re a part—was unveiled. What kind of feedback have you been getting?
MC: Really positive. People seem pumped that triathlon is getting into the mainstream media a bit with a national ad campaign. Apolo Ohno, Dara Torres, Carmelo Anthony—they’re household names in the U.S., so for Chris Lieto and myself to now be associated with those names…triathlon is now growing at a crazy rate every year but it’s never really jumped across in marketing, so I hope that this will be the first step in getting some of the top triathletes better recognition and hopefully better sponsorship deals down the road. It will be interesting once the ads are on TV this summer; I think a chocolate milk ad will be on during the Olympics, and that will be really cool.
Triathlete.com: When does your season kick off stateside?
MC: My first race in the U.S. is 70.3 New Orleans, so I’m planning on staying in Australia through Easter and then flying out to California for about 10 days of training, then to New Orleans and then to Boulder right after that. I get to reconnect with all my friends there I’ve met over the years. It’s cool that there are other pro triathletes in town but contrary to popular belief you don’t really see everyone all that often. You may see them on the road or at Flatirons, where most people swim… To me, Australia doesn’t feel like home anymore—I’ve been living in Boulder for so long now, since ‘05. And obviously it’s where Tim is—‘home is where the heart is’ as they say. Boulder is definitely home for me.
Triathlete.com: Will you eventually be there full-time?
MC: Absolutely. I bought a lot of land—it’s not a lot of land, it’s a lot. And then Tim and I decided to buy the lot next door. We just signed the contract. It’s really exciting. It’s north Boulder, right up against the foothills. For me, it’s the ideal location and it’s definitely where we’ll end up being for the long term. Within a couple of years we’ll start construction. Again, it all has to coincide with when Kona is and when we’re in the U.S. There are a lot of different pieces that have to fit together. When you’re training full time and you’re racing, you really don’t have time to do anything else if you want to be that Kona champ. It’s kind of hard to make sure all those real-life things come in.
Triathlete.com: Because you’ve been the Kona champ and walked in those shoes and know what it’s like, how much time in your everyday life and training are you thinking about Kona and being in that position again? Is it always in the back of your mind?
MC: I think it is. I’m not consciously thinking of the lava fields or thinking of what it feels like in Kona all the time, but it always is not far from the surface. Yes, sometimes I think about the race and the experiences that I’ve had there before—that would happen a few times a week for sure—definitely it’s in the back of my mind and the whole plan is around trying to perform well in Kona. Every time I sit down to write a program or look at a race schedule it’s all about preparing for October. I do think about it all the time I guess—but it’s not like it’s a burden; I have positive feelings about it.
Triathlete.com: What has been the biggest change or difference after winning Kona?
MC: I didn’t feel different at all—I felt like exactly the same person—but people treat you differently when you win that race. It’s sort of always a surprise when you turn up at a triathlon or you’re at an airport and people all of a sudden know your name. Going from second the year before, I didn’t think there would be that much of a difference, but when you win that race your name is really up in lights and people all of a sudden know who you are and they know personal things about you. It’s totally cool and I love it, but it’s always surprising when people come up to you. And, you’re a lot busier. Good busy: more sponsorship obligations, more media attention—as an athlete you want all those things because it means you’re making it in the sport.