We stumbled upon our first random age grouper in Kona at Lava Java and you now get to meet Aussie Christine Lefeaux who qualified for the big dance at Ironman Melbourne with an age group win. Why was Christine selected as a random age grouper? The rules of engagement for the GoPro Ironman World Championship trip were as follows. Random AG 1 would be the first athlete this editor had never met before either in person or online who would have a lengthy conversation with said editor, and that was Christine Lefeaux who graciously allowed us to sit at her table at Lava Java. Random AG 2 was scheduled to be a triathlete on the flight back from Kona who sat close to the editor but was not sporting any 2013 Ironman Kona or other Ironman clothing, and we were indeed successful with that random factor and will meet that triathlete later.
But now, here is Christine Lefeaux who raced in the F45-49 age group and ended up with a 11:28:20.
Slowtwitch: We are glad to have you as our first random age grouper from the 2013 Kona event.
Christine Lefeaux: One of the wonderful things about triathlon and the tri community is the friendliness and the feeling of belonging. Hence coming away to Kona solo and being 'adopted' at Lava Java, even if it was because I had the table. You get to learn so much more about our sport. Well I learnt about the random age grouper chat.
ST: You seemed puzzled when I mentioned slowtwitch.
Christine: I hadn't been to your site before but must confess went straight home and looked it up. I do know quite a few of the people from my club utilize it and my coach is often telling me this and that was mentioned on Slowtwitch. I promise from now on your website will be my bible.
ST: So who is your coach?
Christine: I have the most wonderful coach, Andrew Rowlings. I’ve been lucky enough to have him since I started and he is just a wealth of knowledge. Andrew has raced Kona several times so has the experience to back up his advice.
ST: This is your second start in Kona and you qualified for this race in Melbourne. You won your age group in that race. Is that correct?
Christine: Yes I won Melbourne F45-49 in 9:58 but with a shortened swim.
ST: Was Kona on your mind all along when you registered for Melbourne?
Christine: I entered Ironman Australia as a trial run in 2012 with the intention of racing Melbourne 2013 and attempting to qualify for Kona.
ST: You mentioned at Lava Java that swimming is your weakness, so we assume that the shortened swim was not a tragedy for you.
Christine: Shortened swim was to my advantage but also the rough conditions. I love training in our harbor at home when the conditions deteriorate. I tend to get a lot of satisfaction from digging deep and taking my mind and body to the extremes. I think all the conditions in Melbourne were in my favor that day - rough swim and a windy bike.
ST: Did the race go as planned otherwise?
Christine: I set myself a race plan and stick to it. I had a minor calf tear in my lead up to Melbourne so did a lot of my run training as water running. My main concern was the run leg, but I stuck to my pacing and finished quite comfortably.
ST: Last year you qualified at Ironman Australia with a 10:55 for Kona and finished your first Ironman World Championship race in 12:07. What was actually your goal for Kona then?
Christine: Last year I didn't expect to get a Kona slot. Coming in 2012 was terrifying for me. My coach gave me the best advice, which was simply "nothing can prepare you for Kona except Kona". So my goal last year was just to finish and experience the event. I didn't have the greatest race of my life but I finished and that's all that counts for your first Kona.
ST: What about this year?
Christine: This year was different. Last year I did it on a road bike, had photo stops with friends etc. This year I had goals and a time trial bike. I intended to race as opposed to participating. I knew what was ahead and I had more self belief and experience going in this time around.
ST: How much time had you spent on the new TT bike before you went to Kona?
Christine: My TT bike didn’t arrive until quite late so my first real ride on it was at Sunshine Coast 70.3 15th September. I actually named my bike 'Patience' due to how long it took to get a P5. I’m a huge Cervelo fan though and when my R3 was destroyed coming home in transit from Kona last year it was a no-brainer this is what I wanted.
ST: Did anyone help you with the fit?
Christine: Yes I got my bike through Rainbow Cycles in Coffs Harbour and Dan Alcock who owns the store and is a gun cyclist did my final fit-out after Sunshine Coast. We looked at race day photos and decided due to new seat and how I adapted to TT bike in a race situation that changes were needed.
ST: So how did your race go in general?
Christine: I had an ok race but not a great race. I think I can look back and be proud that I did the best I could on the day. My run is where I wanted to make a big improvement but it just didn’t come together. I couldn’t pick it up and had to walk the drink stations. I met Siri Lindley at the Witsup lunch and one thing she said really stayed with me, "If you get beaten in Kona, its ok… you are being beaten by the best in the world."
ST: Talk about the swim.
Christine: When you race at Kona and have dolphins swimming along-side and turtles underneath – it has to be a positive to be out there longer doesn’t it! Seriously though, I’m not the best swimmer and that is something I am working on. Coming from not being able to swim a stroke 3 years ago I’m happy with my split. I came out 2 minutes faster than last year but much fresher.
ST: How much had your cycling improved compared to last year? I believe it was a significant time.
Christine: Yes cycle time improved by 35 minutes. I think a combination of better conditions, TT bike and better legs. I think on average times on bike leg were up by around 10 minutes so although hard to compare one year to the next I can safely say whatever my coach is doing … it’s working.
ST: How did Kona treat you independent from the race?
Christine: Kona was treating me like an old friend. What amazes me is you can come half way across the world to an event and still know so many people. One of the reasons I love tri is the people and the atmosphere. I have made so many new friends who have taken me under their wings. The locals as always are so enthusiastic and welcoming. I kept myself quiet this year and did most of my tourist activities post race.
ST: Were your kids cheering you on from the other side of the world?
Christine: My children came last year and supported me. They were volunteers on the first aid station in the run, which was an amazing experience for them and me. This year as they both had important schooling commitments they had to be back home. Race day was actually my son's 18th birthday.
ST: What do you do in terms of work?
Christine: I’m a public servant in the welfare industry. It can be very draining so getting out and training is a good debrief from a stressful environment.
ST: How much training time do you spend a week?
Christine: Andrew Rowlings has me on a 12 week build for ironman races. We work up to around 20/25 hrs at the height of my build. As I have children and work – he fits my training around other commitments. During non-Ironman building phase he has me training maybe 10 hours per week. Both my children study. My daughter is doing her Bachelor of criminology and criminal justice and my son is off to do Advanced Sciences so as you can imagine – priorities aren’t always sport.
ST: So what is next?
Christine: Cairns Ironman in June. I’m competing alongside my partner Jon and our best friend Rod. Hopefully we will all qualify for Kona 2014 and I’ll get another chance to crack this race.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Christine: I have only started doing triathlon in 2010 and prior had absolutely no swim, run or cycle experience. My son Joshua and I did our first short course tri together at the local club – Coffs Harbour Tri Club. Being part of such a fantastic club and having the support and friendships it offered made the transition from absolute novice to Ironman athlete possible.