When Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae lines up tomorrow for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, she'll be competing in the sixth U.S. state of her 2011 season, which began only in March. All professional athletes travel, but most don't have to haul three sports worth of gear around with them when they do. I caught up with Carfrae, 30, shortly before she left for Kona to find out how she packs all that gear.
How did you start competing in triathlons?
I was playing basketball at a fairly high level and there weren’t many opportunities in Queensland. The physiotherapist for our basketball team was also a triathlon coach. He saw me running and thought I had a talent and suggested I give triathlon a try.
You set a run course record in 2:53:32 at Kona last year. Is running your strongest sport?
Yes, absolutely. The run has always been something that came to me quite naturally. The run came to me a lot easier than swimming, definitely. Cycling is probably my second best. I have a natural stride.
I dread flying with my bike. How do you get yours to races?
I actually travel with my bike, which is a complete pain in the butt, and it's rather expensive with the excess baggage fees. But shipping it would require me to send it at least a week in advance of the race and I need to train on it right up till the day before I fly out. Granted, I do have more than one bike, but I feel more comfortable when I am able to train and race on the same bike.
How selective are you about your race gear? Do you tailor your choices to specific courses or race distances?
No, not for me. I race in the K-Swiss R-Ruuz (the lightest shoe they make) in every race I do, from 5K to the marathon. Same goes for all my other gear. I guess the only thing I would potentially change would be my bike choice if I was doing a draft-legal race or a very technical or hilly bike course, in which case I would opt for the road bike rather than my time-trial bike.
Your race at the World Championships last year was your second-ever full-distance Ironman. How did you pull that off?
The Ironman is a whole different ballgame, but I had a long-term goal. When I started competing in triathlons ten years ago, the women winning Ironman were in their mid-thirties. At 22 I thought I would be better off if I stayed with shorter distances, then moved my way up when I was able to handle the workload. I took a long-term approach. I’ve had eight years of consistent Olympic-distance training behind me. That’s why I was so successful. The step for me seemed quite easy.