Chrissie Wellington’s story is hard to fathom. One minute she is working in Nepal managing a community-led sanitation program, and the next she is winning the Ford Ironman World Championship. And she did it without an aero helmet, without a long-course resumé of any sort, without having trained with a heart monitor or a power meter and with a huge smile on her face all day long. And why not? When she would ride her mountain bike at 12,000 feet in the Himalayas, she dealt with 50 mph winds, a 30-pound mountain bike with panniers, parasites in her belly from the nasty water and trails that climbed forever. To her, the Ironman was nothing more than a catered workout with people handing her food, water and Gatorade along the way. Are you kidding? This Ironman stuff is easy!

The Best Endurance Athletes Right NOW by Bob Babbit

So after winning Ironman events in Korea, Kona, Australia and Frankfurt, all within 14 months during 2007 and 2008, the Brit heads into 2009 unbeaten, untested and unthreatened. How dominant is Ms. Wellington? She flatted in Kona last October, lost at least 10 minutes and then broke the marathon course record and won by 30 minutes. Belinda Granger from Australia took the lead while Wellington struggled to repair her flat. When the NBC camera crew rolled up her way, she let them in on the reality of the situation. “Chrissie’s still going to win,” Granger insisted. “It just won’t be by as much as it would have been.”

The Best Endurance Athletes Right NOW by Bob Babbit

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