Chrissie Wellington Breaks Kona Silence

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Chrissie Wellington unexpectedly withdrew from Ironman Kona this year, citing an illness she couldn't shake on race day. It broke a winning streak that had lasted three consecutive years for the Brit.

Mirinda Carfrae, the 29-year-old Australian who took second last year, ended up taking first this time around. 

Wellington would not speak to reporters right after the race, but she recently wrote this blog for Outside to explain the circumstances surrounding her withdrawal:   

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times,” to quote Charles Dickens. In my shortish sporting career I have had my fair share of both–the ultimate highs and some lowish lows–exhilaration and pride, frustration and disappointment. Three weeks have passed since the World Ironman Championships. It’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks, physically and emotionally–but my runny nose and sore throat is abating and the rawness of what happened is beginning to fade. But before I try and explain the decision that I made I want to start off with a huge congratulations to the amazing Mirinda Carfrae. Her performance was nothing short of remarkable. She truly is a worthy World Champion.

I’d like to quickly elaborate on how I felt leading into the race and why I took the decision that I did. I started feeling slightly ill on Friday lunchtime, with a sore head and throat. I did my usual three short sessions that day but, on the run particularly, I knew something wasn’t quite right. My legs were like jelly and I was sweating much more than usual. My tired head hit the pillow at 7 p.m., and I woke up several times during the night literally drenched in sweat, my head pounding and feeling like my throat was closing. I got up at 3:45 a.m., had a shower, and went through my pre-race routine hoping that I would feel better. But nothing improved. I knew I had to make one of the toughest decisions of my life.

Like all athletes, I invest my heart and soul into getting myself in shape for Kona. I have so much respect for the race, and the huge toll it can take on your body even when you are 100% healthy. It is demanding and brutal, and competing when ill risks exacerbating any health problems. Furthermore, I believe I owed it to myself and all the other competitors to be able to give the performance I had trained so hard for. I am committed to excellence, and I want to race knowing that I am able to call on my body to fight the hardest and best fight possible. So that morning I sought counsel from those closest to me, but mostly tried to listen to my body, and what it was telling me. I said to myself, if I woke up on an ordinary day feeling like this would I train? The honest answer was no. At around 5 a.m. the decision was made. There was no going back. 

Those that know me will understand how incredibly difficult, frustrating, and heart-wrenching it was to make that call. That’s not to say it wasn’t heart-wrenching the next few days, which were some of the hardest of my life. I was angry, I cried, I wallowed in self pity, I threw toys out of my pram, and I wasn’t even well enough to drown my sorrows in an alcoholic beverage. I was upset at not being able to do justice to all the hard work I had put in, I was angry that something as simple as a common cold had sidelined me, I was frustrated that I couldn’t test myself against all the other girls, and most of all I was deeply concerned that in losing my World Championship crown I had in some way lost my voice and platform and would no longer have the amazing opportunity to inspire, encourage, motivate, and spread important messages.

But after these initial, and sometimes irrational, “toys out of the pram” reactions had passed, I have embarked on the more rational, pain-staking process of learning and growing that must always come from any disappointment or setback. As when I broke my arm earlier this year I was determined to use this as a force for good, as an opportunity to help me grow stronger and as something that would benefit me in the future, not just in sport but in my life generally. 

Yes I could sit here feeling sorry for myself, reflecting on what might have been, but ultimately wallowing in self pity doesn’t help me, or anyone else. I will look to the future and all the opportunities it will bring–putting the events behind me and moving on to fight another day. This is sport. As I have always said, it has ups and downs. Highs and lows. It is a mountain I must climb. No different from any other I have climbed, and scaled, before. I know that whether or not I am a good, successful, and well-rounded person does not depend solely on my race performances. I am no longer the “World Champion” but I can still be a champion–on and off the course. I am not a machine. I am human. I fall off my bike, I get angry, I get frustrated, and I get sick. I am by no means perfect, but I am so incredibly fortunate to have already achieved so much in my life and I know that I might get knocked down, but I will rise up and be the champion that I want myself to be.  

I want to give my deepest thanks to my amazing family, friends, and sponsors who have been with me every step of the way and to everyone around the world who has sent me messages of support and encouragement. I really do appreciate it. And, once again, my heartfelt congratulations to the two incredibly worthy World Champions, Mirinda and Chris [McCormack].  

No looking back. Only forward. The journey to Kona 2011 begins here and the fire in my belly is already burning.

Chrissie Wellington

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