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At the pre-race press conference on Thursday, Chrissie Wellington impressed the triathlon media with a deepened sense of herself. In answering questions about how she expected to go on race day, she was deliberate, firm and brimming with a confidence and purpose that was not muddled as it was when she first appeared on the Ironman scene two years ago. She voiced exactly zero doubt that she would be delivering a top performance. She also communicated with precision t her belief that, as a star triathlete, it was her duty to use that elevated status to inspire others and support good causes. Where before it sometimes seemed that Chrissie struggled with the image of selfishness required to be a great triathlete, she now resonated an acceptance that, yes, selfishness was required for her athletic goals, she could achieve a sense of balance and inner peace as long as she “used time management to ensure time for causes” she believed in.
The result in 2009 was a woman who would not be denied a world record she obviously had the talent to reach. Her sixth consecutive victory at an Ironman event, today in Kona the Brit punched through the swim in 54:31 and then, on the bike, wrangled a lead that could be rendered untouchable only by catastrophe. During her 3:03 marathon, Wellington—who said afterward that this was the “hardest race of my life”—having no pressure from competitors in the rear used the men’s field like a crevasses during a mountain climb. Despite the wicked-hot run, Wellington’s continued pressure allowed her to cleave a minute and a half off of Paula Newby-Fraser’s masterful (and long-standing) 8:55:28 set in 1992.
It was a breathtaking race, her sheer aerobic power laced with an irrepressible joy (her nickname is Muppet) that spilled out along the way as she smiled and laughed and cried and stormed her way to Ironman history.