Ironman Kona Champ Mirinda Carfrae on Victory

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Chrissie Wellington decided not to compete in Ironman Kona this year due to illness. The night before, “I woke up several times literally drenched in sweat, my head pounding and feeling like my throat was closing,” her website states.

The Brit dominated Kona for three consecutive years, and her absence this October opened up the women’s field to other major contenders. One of them, Mirinda Carfrae, came in second to Wellington last year, which happened to be the first time Carfrae’s ever competed in the race.

“Chrissie is still head and shoulders above. She’s an amazing athlete. Truly amazing. She’s set the bar high,” Carfrae told Matthew Dale of earlier this year. “But having said that, she’s only human. I think anything’s possible. I’m 29. I’m going to be in the sport another 10 years. Hopefully at some point I’ll wear her down.”

She may not have had the chance to pit herself against Wellington for a rematch, but the Australian did come out on top in Kona 2010, clocking in at 8:58:36. Wellington came in at 8:54:02 last year. The 4.5-minute difference makes us wonder: What will happen next year, if these two compete again? Time will tell.

In the meantime, here’s Carfrae’s take on this year’s ultimate triathlon.

–Aileen Torres

It’s been an amazing journey to Ironman this year, and I have to admit the win feels pretty surreal and is just starting to sink in. It’s quite a journey getting to Ironman and making it all happen in one day after a season full of preparation. I am writing this from the Kona coast post race with my feet up, surrounded by friends. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of support and well wishes over the last few weeks, and it feels great to have the support of so many friends, sponsors, and of course my family. After Kona, I'm heading to Vegas to celebrate a friend’s wedding then back to Boulder to pack for Australia and Thailand–yup, back to summer. I plan to take it pretty easy over the next few months and devote some time to my new stand-up board back in Queensland–can’t wait.

I finished second last year at my first attempt at both the Ironman distance and my first full marathon. My main goal for the race in 2009 was to stay in control and learn as much as possible from my first experience racing Kona. The lessons I learned in 2009 were definitely put to use this year. I was so excited with my second place finish last year and also stoked to have secured my spot for the 2010 Ironman World Championships, meaning I didn't have to race in another IM distance race before Kona 2010. This meant I could navigate my 2010 season with similar structure and schedule as 2009–which both my coach, Siri Lindley, and I felt worked well.

 My Kona race this year was very interesting. I was advised just 30 minutes from the start of the race that Chrissie Wellington, the defending champion, would not be racing. Although my race plan would not change, I immediately placed more pressure on myself to stay focused and under control. As we all know, it’s one day, and to win you have to put everything together perfectly on that one day in order to have a shot at the title. There are so many strong women in the field–plenty of whom I had not raced since Kona '09. Julie Dibens was ready to go for it on the swim and bike, and I knew even with Chrissie not racing  Julie would be out front pushing the pace. I had to stay within 10-12 minutes of her to win and had to keep the other runners in the field, Virginia Berasategui and Cat Morrison in check. I had prepared all year and was pretty relieved to get started–the pre-race nerves and anticipation were escalating. 

I expected to be anywhere form 3-4 minutes down at the swim, and when it came to business found myself with some of the best swimmers exiting the swim ramp and only a little over two minutes down from Dibs. This year, I switched to the Cannondale Slice at 47″ frame and 650 wheels. I am 5'3″ after all! The bike made a huge difference–I felt in control, tight, and fast on the bike and pushed so much harder than '09. I’d tested the position and the bike in my last two races prior to Kona and was thrilled that my legs felt great on the run. The Slice is a great triathlon bike.  Whatever Cannondale did this year was right on! When I hopped off the bike in Kona I did not have heavy legs and ran well from the start. Cannondale made a commitment to make a bike that fit me, and they nailed it. The new bike made the difference from my '09 ride to Kona 2010.    

It was all coming together. I came off the bike a little over 10 minutes down, ready to go. I absolutely love to run and couldn't wait to test my legs out over the marathon!

The run was steady, as per usual, I went out a little too hot but was able to dial it back and find a good strong rhythm fairly early on. I kept telling myself: “If it’s going to be, it's up to me”–the race was really just beginning. I was/am so impressed with both Julie Dibens and Caroline Steffen. Both girls were laying it all out there and putting up a mean fight. Fortunately I was able to take the lead just before the energy lab. It was so cool to be leading that race, but there was no way that I was going to let up–so the last six miles were probably the hardest of the day. I knew I was in a great pace and wanted to cement my race win with a strong run. I only realized that there was a possibility of breaking nine hours when someone yelled it out at the top of Palani road around one mile from the finish line. But at that point it's kind of easy to keep running fast with the long descent and energy of the crowds. I promise to never forget the noise and energy that carried me to finish line–never. The feeling of running down Alii drive cannot be explained. The feeling permeates you and still sends shivers down my spine. What a day. I now know what it feels like to win an Ironman World Championship and can’t wait to race in Kona for many years to come. That feeling will play a huge role in my mental and physical preparation every year in Kona.    

Congrats to all of the Kona competitors this year! Embrace the spirit of the race all year, and see you next year!

–Mirinda Carfrae

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