When Chrissie Wellington stormed to her Ironman Hawaii World Championship title last year, many people were asking the question "Chrissie who?" She answered that question by winning several big races in 2008 in a dominating fashion and thus made it clear that her win in Kona wasn't a fluke. This year she'll be surely on everybody's radar in Hawaii and she checked in with Slowtwitch.
ST: Chrissie, how are you feeling going into Hawaii compared to last year?
Chrissie: I feel great, strong and happy – like I was last year! Obviously I know what I am getting myself into rather than going in as blind as a bat, but I am super excited about going back to the Big Island to defend the crown - even more so as my family and friends will be there to watch. In terms of training, I am not doing anything differently, only maybe a bit faster!
ST: Last year it seemed that some of your competitors were not concerned about you, as they like most media folks basically didn’t know you. Do you expect a completely different reception/atmosphere in Hawaii this year and maybe a different attitude from your competitors?
Chrissie: I don’t think I will hear the phrase "Chrissie who?" this year! My experiences at other races have made me realize that I won’t be able to walk the streets unnoticed. There may be a few autographs to sign and photos to pose for, and I love doing that. But hopefully people will also respect my need for space to prepare the best I can for the race. They can have all the snaps and signatures they want after the race, regardless of how it goes! I am actually planning on wearing a cunning disguise so that I can wander around incognito. I have tried to grow a beard, but the bum fluff doesn’t cut it. Maybe a stick-on moustache might do the trick.
As for my competitors - of course, they know who I am and what I am capable of. I will have a target on my back, but that doesn’t phase me, and it actually makes me even more determined!
ST: There is a common belief that results from any other race earlier in the year are not an indication of what may be possible at Ironman Hawaii. What do you think along those lines?
Chrissie: Every race is different, and Hawaii is an iconic and very special competition. Just because you have won races elsewhere doesn’t mean that you are capable of winning on the Big Island. I will treat it with the respect it deserves, prepare like I have for all the other races I have done, and go out there and give it my all. But I won’t be talking anything for granted or resting on my racing laurels just because I have won a few IMs this year!
ST: Who in your eyes are the biggest challengers for the title in Hawaii both in the women’s race and the men’s race?
Chrissie: I think last year showed that you shouldn’t discount anyone - even if they are not household names…I will try and race my own race, listen to my body and not be overly worried about everyone else. That said, I do need to be aware of what the others are doing, and be prepared to react when necessary. I hate to name names because, like I said, it’s a special race and you never know who might had a good and bad day, but Erika, Jo, Yvonne, Belinda, Bella, Bek, Kate and Sam have shown just how strong they are, and I am sure you will see them in the mix.
I can see a number of girls posting very fast bike times, and I think it will take a super speedy marathon to win the race – of course, I hope to be pushing the pace and in the mix to hit a sub 3hour time!
As for the blokes – I would love to see my teammate Stephen get a top ten, and pull out the marathon we all know he is capable of!
ST: When Yvonne Van Vlerken had such an unbelievably fast time at Quelle Challenge Roth, did that concern you?
Chrissie: Concern me? No, Brett keeps my feet on the ground and makes sure I don’t become overly obsessed with things I can’t control. I think it’s great that Yvonne and Erika posted such fast times at Roth, and Sandra at IM Austria. It raises the bar for all of us, and that gives me something to aim for - and can only help to make me faster!
ST: Do you ever talk to or read about other non-TBB athletes as to how they train? If yes, what have you taken away from those discussions? If the answer is no, why not?
Chrissie: I don’t really talk to other athletes about the specifics of their training. I am not even doing the same training as some of my teammates! I just follow Brett’s orders (although I do like him to explain his rationale to me sometimes). What works for others won’t work for me, so what’s the point in spending more energy wondering what everyone else is doing? Its hard enough giving 100% to my training!
ST: Is Brett Sutton more so reining you in or actually pushing you harder in comparison what you would do on your own?
Chrissie: I am like a bull in a China shop. I don’t know when to stop, and find it very difficult to control my urges to do more, both in terms of volume and intensity - so Brett reigns me in. He makes me realize that more is not necessarily better, and that (contrary to popular opinion) length isn’t always the best! So yes, he controls my obsessive, compulsive personality, and certainly isn’t pushing me harder than if I were left to my own devices!
ST: Considering how much you raced this year, have you had to deal with any injuries and/or fatigue?
Chrissie: I don’t think I have raced that much … certainly not compared to some of the others on my team! I am a sportsperson and training and racing is what I love to do, so I don’t want to focus everything on just one race. And anyway, like I said before, what might seem like a lot to one person isn’t to another. Some of those races I tapered for, others I trained right through. And compared to some of our heavier training days sometimes the races can actually seem easier!
The only injuries I have had have been the hamstring niggle which plagued me for about two months before IM Germany. But we realized that this was due to my seat being a bit too high, and have since corrected it. Neoprene pants, cling film wraps, massage and heat all helped to make me as good as new.
The other injury was self-inflicted and, again, due to my bull at a china shop approach. Brett is trying to make me concentrate and be more deliberate and focused in my actions, and I have been trying…but as my blog for the ITU World Championships showed (www.chrissiewellington.org and www.teamtbb.com) I have not perfected the art, and had a little ‘comedy dismount’ on the bike, resulting in a bruise and lump the size of China on my right leg!
ST: What is on schedule for you from now until Kona?
Chrissie: I think the most important work was done back in the spring and early summer – so is already in the bank…the final few weeks are just a touch up….! I am now in Jeju, Korea for a month of warm weather training before heading to the Big Island at the start of October. Plus I am doing a few interviews, and eating like a gerbil storing food for winter!
ST: Can you describe a typical hard training week for us?
Chrissie: No one week is the same, but yes, we train hard and we train a lot. Seven days a week - 4-6 hours a day. There is a rough programme, but Brett often surprises us and mixes it up, so you never know for sure. I see resting as training, eating and sleeping are training. So I guess we train 24/7, it’s not just about the times when you are beasting yourself. We get an equal balance between swim, bike and run, and don’t prioritise one over the other – I guess we do about 6 sessions of each a week, varying in length and intensity – from very easy (which I find hard to do) to all out, balls to the wall, eyes popping out of your sockets work.
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Chrissie: A wee bit better than they were this time last year, thanks to some good teamwork between myself, my coach and my manager (Ben Mansford), but there is always room for a few more! Firstly, TYR - I wore a TYR vest last year (bought about 4 days before the race!), and have worn their goggles and used their paddles for as long as I can remember, so there was only one choice for me when it came to race and training clothes. They have been awesome and are looking after me so well (and my friends and family, who have never looked so trendy!) (www.tyr.com). I have been with Cervelo since July 2007, and the P2C is a fantastic bike (I know all the slowtwitchers will love the fact that I have finally replaced the road bars for a far more aero TT set up!) (www.cervelo.com)
Cytosport is my nutrition sponsor, and I am continuously surprised by the huge range of fantastic nutritional products they have for every possible sporting scenario (www.cytosport.com)! I am now using their stuff when I race too, and I think it is giving me that extra kick up the backside! Blue Seventy kit me out with rubber (www.blueseventy.com), Brooks with shoes (www.brooksrunning.com), Beaker Concepts give me super lightweight Hydrotails for the bike (in a range of colours!) and compression socks for my oversized calves (www.beakerconcepts.com), and Oakley give me smashing new sunnies - so I have finally thrown away the $20 ones I wore at Kona last year (www.oakley.com). I get free product from this superb shop in UK, Sigma Sport (www.sigmasport.co.uk) and treatment from Phyio4Life, in London (www.physio4life.co.uk). Last but not least – where would I be without TeamTBB?! They gave me the chance of a lifetime (www.teamtbb.com).
ST: What changes would you like to see in the sport of triathlon?
Chrissie: I haven’t been in the sport for that long, so am not as knowledgeable as others about the history, the politics, the processes etc etc – but being a relative newcomer might also give me a different perspective. A few things that I would like to see are:
Separate female and male pro starts. I would like to see the women go off about 5 minutes after the pro men, and 20minutes before the age groupers. This would make for a more honest women’s race, with less possibility of packs forming on the bike, and therefore minimize the amount of drafting (or accusations of) drafting.
I would, of course, also like to see the national Federations, athletes, the WTC and other race organizers adopt and support a much stronger, rigorous and more consistent anti-doping policy. There should be mandatory out of competition testing (blood and urine) for all pro athletes, as well as mandatory in-competition tests, before and after all races. This could be financed through Federation membership fees, race entrance fees, by the athletes directly (eg an annual sum made payable to a central body) or by sponsors.
I would also like to see Ironman/long course athletes receive prize money that is equal, if not more, than short course athletes, and that this get paid to the top ten male and female finishers (regardless of whether they are pro or age group) with no 10% rule. A full days pay for a full days work.
ST: What do you do in the off-season?
Chrissie: I have only had one-full season in the sport, so I haven’t got a lot of ‘off season’ experience to speak of! But I love to socialize with my family and friends, go to gigs, the theatre, parties, go out for meals, mountain bike, hike and maybe fit a few swim, bikes and runs in when I can!
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Chrissie: I am partial to a bit of mud wrestling, belly dancing and naked bungy jumping. Just not together.
ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?
Chrissie: I like food, and dislike not having any! I am wracking my brains to think of a food substance that I don’t like. I ate snake, dog and rat in Indonesia. I guess my foody favorites are bircher muesli (nuts, seeds, coconut, oatmeal, dried fruit – the whole kitchen sink - with yoghurt), huge bbq’s at my mum and dad’s house, salads with everything, steak, all things middle eastern, and dense, heavy German bread!
ST: What about music? Anything you listen to more often?
Chrissie: Country and Western. Dolly Parton is my idol. I would love to have her assets. Aside from that, I tend to jive to Placebo, Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Zwan, The Calling, Jeff Buckley, Jim Major (someone gave me this CD at the Awards Party at Kona last year, and it’s a gem), Tracy Chapman, Razorlight, The Killers, Feeder….Plus anything that comes on a 1980s cassette tape… Chesney Hawkes (famed for the classic ‘I am the One and Only’, and then promptly fell off the face of the earth) and Wham are my party favorites.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Chrissie: ‘A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali’ by Gil Courtemanche - a superb, powerful, humorous, yet shocking and disturbing commentary on the genocide, the AIDS/HIV crisis, poverty (and the West’s culpability) - juxtaposed against the color, joy and love characterizing everyday life in Rwanda.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Chrissie: I am thinking of becoming a nun. Sister Madonna is leading the way.
Alternatively, perhaps happily married to an aging sugar daddy with five kids, and one on the way. I will start taking sugar daddy applications now.
Seriously, I haven’t got a clue! I don’t even know what I am doing in 5 minutes, as the boss doesn’t tell me. I could still be competing professionally at triathlon, or another sport, going back into politics, cycle touring and traveling round the world, or starting a sport/development related foundation. I will seize any opportunity that comes my way, and you never know what might cross your path. So nothing is certain. But whatever it is, I will be smiling!
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Chrissie: My nickname is Muppet. I prefer cats to dogs (got bitten by a potentially rabid one once and it put me off. That’s why I ate dog in Indonesia). I snore. Loudly. I have four toes that are all the same length. My middle name is Anne. I wanted to be a tractor driver when I was 5. I once went to a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street and wasn’t wearing any underwear (I had been swimming beforehand and forgot to pack said item of clothing). I am a very bad car driver (hence failure to reach pinnacle of tractor driving career).
Chrissie Wellington's site is chrissiewellington.org