On October 12, Mirinda Carfrae won the Ironman World Championship. Not only did she win, the 32-year old Aussie also beat the course record, set in 2009 by Chrissie Wellington, by just under two minutes. It now stands at 8:52:14.
To achieve that top time, Carfrae did something previously considered impossible: she raced a faster marathon than the men’s winner, Frederik Van Lierde. After swimming 2.4 miles, and biking 112 miles, Carfrae averaged a 6:30 minute-per-mile pace for a final run split of 2:50:38. (Van Lierde ran a 2:51:18.)
“This year the stars aligned for me,” Carfrae says. “I knew that performance was in me. But believing that you’re capable of something, then actually having it come together on the one day of the year that matters—that’s like a dream.”
It wasn’t an easy victory. After winning the race in 2010 in only her second attempt, Carfrae struggled to reclaim the throne, placing second in 2011, and third in 2012. But what she learned during those few years in between wins ultimately made her a stronger, faster competitor.
Below, Carfrae shares her hard-earned tips and tricks for getting the most out of training and competing.
Turn negatives into positives Going into the race in 2012, I was fit enough to contend for the title. To make mistakes in nutrition and fall short, I was disappointed because of the lost opportunity. But I was also quite surprised and proud of my performance because I was running on fumes and held it together for third place.
I went into medical after and had lost 10 pounds. That’s a lot for someone my size. (Carfrae is 5-foot-2, 118 pounds.) For my body to still be able to function on an OK level after basically depleting itself, I took a bout of confidence from that. I know that f I get the nutrition right, and even if things go a little bit south, I should still be able to perform.
Keep a training log I take a lot of confidence from my training. This past year in particular, I had a pretty rough year. I really didn’t have any great results until July and I started racing in March. But I didn’t panic because I could see the numbers in my training log. I could always go back and look to see what sessions I was able to hold, how I felt through the sessions, and that really helped me stay calm. It would’ve been very easy to panic and worry that I wasn’t fit enough or that I was gonna have a disastrous Kona. But when I can just go back and look at the numbers, it takes the emotion out of it, and I could take a lot of confidence from those good sessions.
Schedule benchmark workouts I have a few key workouts. About eight weeks out from Kona, I’ll do a 5.5-hour ride with the last hour flat out, as hard as I can go. Then I’ll hop off and do 10 by 1-mile on a road that’s slightly uphill on the way out, slightly downhill on the way back. If I’ve held a certain amount of watts on the bike and a certain pace on the run, then I know that I’m on track.
Date around (with coaches) Siri [Lindley] and I started working together in ’05. Then in the beginning of 2012, I left her because after 6.5 years of working together, I wanted to seek some different opinions, work with some different coaches. For a year, I was with a guy who just wrote my cycling program, and I did everything else, and I didn’t enjoy that. Siri’s a really hands-on coach, and I realized that that’s really what I need to function at my best level. [The two reunited in July 2013.] Siri’s basically like family and it was awesome to share the win in Kona with her. I don’t think I would’ve been able to perform to the level that I did without her support.
Try plyometrics I don’t believe in weight training for my body type. I’m naturally muscular, so putting me in a gym bulks me up and slows me down. I do functional movement to optimize the strength that I have and making sure everything’s firing in the correct pattern so that I have access to all of my muscles when I’m out there exercising. A lot of it is making sure everything is open and free, so I do a lot of ankle and hip mobilizers to start, then some plyometrics and more explosive exercises. [Check out this full-body plyometrics regimen.]
Crank the tunes I can’t live without my iPod on those long runs and long solo rides. I listen to all sorts of music from Dave Matthews Band to Pink to David Guetta. I love David Guetta, he’s my go-to guy for key sessions. I probably wouldn’t go country. That’s where I draw the line.
Eat the ice cream I’m pretty relaxed with my diet. Obviously, I’m not eating fast food all of the time. I try to fill my body with good food for the most part. But I enjoy a lot of wine and for most of the year I eat ice cream every night. That’s more to keep the weight on throughout the season, because you don’t want to be too lean. That leads you to being susceptible to sickness and being run down. So I try to keep a couple extra pounds on throughout the season.
Zen out on course For the most part, you want to just shut your brain down and focus on being in the moment. When you’re able to have a quiet mind and focus on what you’re doing in every moment, that’s when you’ll have your best race.
Race yourself After I won in 2010, a lot of people asked me why I’m continuing to do Ironman—it’s a tough sport, it’s grueling. Why are you continuing to put your body through this when you’ve already won the world title? My answer to that is: my goal is always to see what my capabilities are. It’s always been how fast can I race Kona? I still believe I can improve my swim, bike, and run. Until I believe I can’t get any better, I’ll keep racing. That’s what drives me.
When Les Stroud isn’t filming the Discovery Channel’s Survivorman or offering advice on how to overcome life-threatening situations, from storms to alligator attacks, he plays guitar and harmonica with blues-rock outfits. He’s not alone—here are a few of the adventurers and athletes who moonlight as musicians, not always with resounding success.
Kelly Slater: surfer, singer, guitarist Notable sport-inspired lyric:Black sand on the beaches / White wave on the water / And I think of you / And I think of you (“Hawaii”)
Les Stroud: survivorman, guitarist, harmonica player, singer Notable sport-inspired lyric:Snow, winter, spruce boughs for a floor / Fur, fire, keep the body warm / Where eagles fly and the caribou lie is where we got to be / The wolf waits there for me (“Snowshoes and Solitude”)
Rush Sturges: whitewater kayaker, rapper Notable sport-inspired lyric:Canyons and rains / Floods through the plains / Blood pump in my veins / We are one in the same (“Who Am I”)
Sara Mancuso(a.k.a. Smokey Jones): skier, singer Notable sport-inspired lyric: None that we could find. Good for you, Smokey.
Makua Rothman: surfer, ukulelist Notable sport-inspired lyric:Andy Irons / Andy Irons / Mr. Andy Irons / Andy Irons (“Andy Irons Tribute Song”)
ALBERTO SALAZAR knows a thing or two about his sport. A former world-record holder in the marathon, and three-time winner of the New York City event, Salazar was the face of American distance running's last golden age, which peaked during the Reagan administration. Salazar also learned his lessons the hard way: The famously competitive runner's body broke down at age 27, as a result of years of superhuman,150-mile training weeks. Now fully recovered, the 55-year-old coach of Nike's Oregon Project, which includes 2012 gold medalist Mo Farah and silver medalist Galen Rupp, has paired cutting-edge technology with meticulous workouts to shape some of the most successful American runners in a generation. This is a man who has almost given his life to the sport on multiple occasions—he was once read his last rites after crossing a finish line with a 108-degree fever—and he's lived to share a few pieces of essential wisdom.
1. BE CONSISTENT Find a training plan that you can stick to long-term. If you can run four days a week, every week, you are going to get 90 percent of the benefits of training seven days a week.
2. TAKE RECOVERY DAYS SERIOUSLY The day after a tough workout, the most you want to do is jog lightly or do some form of cross-training, like cycling. You need a recovery day after a hard day. No exceptions.
3. INCREASE MILEAGE GRADUALLY Do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent every month. No matter how good you feel, be very gradual. You won't know until it's too late that you're overdoing it.
4. STAY ON THE TRAIL Pavement damages joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The more you can run on grass, woodchips, or dirt, the better off you are. My athletes run 90 percent of their workouts on soft surfaces.
5. RUN FASTER It's hard to race faster than you train. However fast you want to run a race, you've got to do some shorter intervals—what we call speed work—at least that fast.
6. STRENGTHEN YOUR WHOLE BODY Good runners condition their whole bodies. The arms drive the legs. Keep your upper body and core toned with a lot of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and back raises (don't forget that the back is part of the core). Stay away from machine weights and stick to Pilates, climbing, and dynamic flexibility work like yoga.
7. WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES The second-most-common cause of injuries, next to running too much on hard surfaces, is foot pronation and shoe instability. The more you run, the more support your foot needs.
8. PERFECT YOUR FORM Every motion your body makes should propel you directly forward. If your arms are crossing or you are overstriding, you're losing force. Your posture should be straight, and your striding foot should land directly underneath you.
9. TACKLE DOUBT HEAD-ON At some point you're going to push yourself harder, you're going to enter into a gray area that can be painful, and you're going to doubt yourself. Push through it. Never think you are mentally weak.
10. EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY If you don't have enough knowledge behind what you're doing, you're not going to run well or you're going to injure yourself. With the Internet, GPS phones, advanced heart-rate monitors, and even your iPod, you now can be coached individually, even while you run. I have an antigravity treadmill in my garage. Use the knowledge and tools that are out there.
THERE ARE A handful of accomplishments that can anchor your expedition résumé. Summiting Everest. Sailing around the world alone. Schlepping to a pole. Then there’s the rare feat of crossing the Bering Strait, a physical challenge that few have even attempted, due to dicey international politics. In 1987, at the height of the Cold War, open-water swimmer Lynne Cox finagled permission from the USSR and swam the 2.7 miles from the U.S.’s Little Diomede Island to Russia’s Big Diomede Island. In 2006, Briton Karl Bushby and Frenchman Dimitri Kieffer walked on ice across the entire 51-mile mainland-to-mainland route—and were promptly detained by Russian authorities. The same thing happened to six guys on personal watercraft who filmed their crossing for an obscure reality-TV series.
This summer, 28-year-old Sonya Baumstein added her name to the Bering Strait short list. On August 1, Alaskan Inupiaq hunters dropped off the Florida native and her 14-foot-long, 25-pound carbon-fiber stand-up paddleboard in dense fog 15 miles south of Big Diomede. Eleven hours and 25 miles later, she landed on a sandy beach north of Wales, Alaska, where she became the first person to SUP the channel.
Some people define a crossing as island to island. Others are strictly mainland to mainland. To sidestep the Russian bureaucracy, Baumstein split the difference and launched her bid in international waters, which will no doubt add an asterisk to the record books. Still, just getting there was a heroic effort. Baumstein struggled for 11 months to get the funds, then she waited more than three weeks for a weather window.
Now Baumstein is using the feat as a spring-board for an even more ambitious undertaking. In April, she and Lia Ditton, a 32-year-old British sailor, plan to set out from Japan and row 6,000 nautical miles across the North Pacific to the United States in a custom, self-supporting rowboat. The duo will carry $30,000 worth of food and 50 pounds of research gear for NASA’s Aquarius Mission, a satellite system that monitors the ocean’s currents, salinity, and surface temperature. “We’re going to be a moving science float,” says Baumstein.
DROWNED The Rio Tulijá is a remote white-water river that snakes its way through the rainforest of southern Mexico. Often called Agua Azul because of its swimming-pool-blue color, it features a stunning stretch of five waterfalls ranging from 40 to 70 feet tall. This past March, a team of four world-class kayakers—Rafa Ortiz, 26, Rush Sturges, 28, Evan “E.G.” Garcia, 27, and Gerd Serrasolses, 24—attempted to descend the falls as part of an expedition they were filming for a documentary. The previous day, they had become the first paddlers to drop all five waterfalls on the nearby Río Santo Domingo, arguably the steepest navigable section of whitewater on earth. The Agua Azul mission was to be their final day of filming:
RUSH STURGES: We were coming off the biggest descent of our lives and were tired and sore. I had two black eyes and a broken nose. We were really pushing ourselves to get this helicopter footage on the Agua Azul.
E.G.: We had driven six or seven hours in Rafa’s van, slept for like five hours, then woken up at about 6 a.m. The plan was to meet the heli in these flat pools about two-thirds of the way down to the big waterfall set.
RAFA ORTIZ: At the pools, I paddled upstream, away from the guys, to get in my zone, and Gerd kept practicing his hand rolls.
GERD SERRASOLSES: As soon as we saw the chopper, we all got fired up.
E.G.: We had scouted the hell out of the falls when we ran them a week earlier, so I knew exactly where I was going.
GERD: We had to pretty much go one after the other. I watched Evan drop over the lip, then Rush. I wasn’t too nervous. I had done it before and knew what I had to do. I went over and threw my paddle.
E.G.: I got out of my boat and was standing on a ledge about 25 feet from the base of the falls. I watched Rush come off. Gerd came next on a similar line, but he corked out and missed a few hand rolls.
GERD: I tried to roll up, but I wasn’t feeling any grab.
RUSH: E.G. and I were right there with throw bags, but I didn’t think it was that bad.
GERD: I tried to roll a few more times, then got pushed up against some rocks. I grabbed them, but my hands slipped and the water pushed me back down somewhere else.
RUSH: Gerd’s boat was full of water and spinning like crazy in this vortex of an eddy. We’re not seeing him come up. Fifteen seconds go by. Twenty. Thirty. I was like, Dude, we gotta do something.
GERD: I kept fighting to get to the surface, but I couldn’t get there. I remember opening my eyes and saying, Fuck, I’m running out of air.
RUSH: He’s under for about a minute and a half, and we’re panicking. I clipped E.G.’s rope into the back of my life jacket and went over to the spot where Gerd disappeared. I stuck my leg in the water and could feel it sucking down super hard, like a siphon. I didn’t want to go in there.
E.G.: I looked downstream and suddenly saw Gerd’s yellow vest.
RUSH: He was facedown. It was the absolute worst-case scenario.
E.G.: I jumped into Rush’s kayak. No helmet, no skirt. I paddled like a bat out of hell in this heinously flat pool.
RUSH: Gerd was probably 100 yards downstream from us, and the next waterfall was coming up soon.
E.G.: Rafa actually ran the first waterfall while this whole thing was going on.
RAFA: At the bottom I looked around, and there’s no one there. Then I see Gerd floating facedown and E.G. and Rush chasing him.
E.G.: When I pulled him up he was super heavy—like some weird Jell-O object. I was screaming and slapping his back, then started in on CPR. Rush and Rafa got there about 20 seconds later.
RAFA: Gerd’s eyes were open a little but not showing life, and he was a mixture of white, purple, and black—the color you see in zombie movies.
RUSH: We were taking turns at CPR and slapping him in the face. It was a primal feeling, just the strongest desire to save a friend.
E.G.: I was yelling at him, “Come on, Gerd! Fight!” He was vomiting up some real nasty mucus and blood. Then we got the idea to pull off his life jacket, and we loosened the neck gasket on his drytop.
RAFA: For four minutes, we were doing CPR on a dead body. I don’t remember having much hope. But then he took a breath.
RUSH: His eyes literally lit up.
RAFA: That’s when I jumped up and started looking for the heli.
RUSH: The chopper hovered over the middle of the river. We carried Gerd to it, and Rafa jumped in with him. He was breathing a bit but still convulsing and coughing up water.
E.G.: After the chopper flew away, there was this weird quiet.
GERD: The next thing I remember is trying to wake up. I was hearing all these loud noises—the chopper, screaming—but I couldn’t react, and I couldn’t see anything. Inside, I was screaming to try and regain power. And then I woke up in the hospital in Palenque.