By Betsy Delcour
8/31/2009

xtri-338

Having blasted onto the scene from relative obscurity two years ago, Ms. Chrissie Wellington is one woman who now needs no introduction (but here we go anyway!). The two-time world champion is undefeated at the IM distance, and this summer she shattered the women’s iron distance record by winning Roth in 8:31:59 – a time that would win many men’s IM distance races. While Chrissie is a force to be reckoned with on the race course, she’s also known to be one of the friendliest and funniest athletes who’s using her fame and leadership as a champion to better the lives of others, whether it’s through her involvement with several charities, or personally congratulating each person who finishes a race long after she’s crossed the line herself. As we begin our countdown to Kona, where Chrissie will be the overwhelming favorite, we had the chance to chat with her about her world record, how she handles the pressure of a champion, and most importantly – what’s her favorite Lava Java Treat!

Hi Chrissie, and thanks for chatting with us! Congrats on defending your title at Timberman! Can you give us a quick rundown of how the day went for you?

I have tried to give a full account of the race in my blog….it was a bit of a War and Peace effort, and will take about 3 hours to read, but hopefully it gives a flavor for what a fantastic race Timberman is, my preparations for it, why I am growing a beard, and also the fun we had at the TYR photshoot (and TYR Olympics) afterwards!

In your short career, you’ve made history for a number of reasons, but most recently you made big news by breaking the women’s IM distance world record by an astonishing 13+ minutes at Roth. At what point during your race did you realize you would break the record?

When I jumped off my Slice and saw 4hr40 on my bike computer I nearly fell off the saddle! That’s when my brain started doing the maths, and I realized (after about 10km, which is indicative of how bad I am with numbers!) that I might break the world record, but you never know what might happen during the marathon. You never want to rest on your laurels and take the victory, or time, for granted. I wanted to concentrate on the moment, and make sure my body and mind didn’t falter. So I guess it was only in the final 6kms or so that I felt confident that i could take the victory and break the record. It definitely wasn’t easy though, and Bek Keat and Cat Morrison pushed me every single step of the way!

Last year when you raced, you weren’t concerned with stats and numbers – just with racing your best and enjoying the event. But then the previous record was broken 3 times by other women. Did your attitude change after that? Will you race with the goal of trying to break any more records?

I’m still a total numerical retard! I can’t even do 300m in the pool without losing count! Seriously though, I always race with three goals. To cross the line first, to enjoy it and to try and win in the fastest time possible. If that means I break a course or world record then that’s the icing on the very tasty cake, but the victory is always first and foremost in my mind. There are too many variables affecting times, year on year and race on race. It makes comparisons really difficult. To know that I have given it everything is the most important thing. And as I have said before, I have no regrets for enjoying the victory at IM Germany last year, celebrating in the finish chute and missing the (then) record by a narrow margin. I have memories that will stay with me forever, unlike records which are meant to be broken and taken away! Luckily for me in Roth I was able to enjoy the victory, thank the spectators and break the record too!

In the past year, you’ve gone through a few changes with your coaches, and are now self-coached as you head towards Kona. Obviously you wouldn’t have made the change if you didn’t feel confident that you could still be successful. Can you tell us the biggest factors in your decisions to change or drop coaches over the past several months?

I have learnt some incredibly valuable lessons over the past 2 ½ years of being a professional athlete, and I am still learning – each and every day. I wanted to empower myself and take total control of my own programme. It’s as simple as that. It won’t always be easy, but I am incredibly excited and I can’t wait to get to the Big Island!

Now that Kona is just under seven weeks away, what does your schedule look like? Does your lead-up to Kona differ from that of other IM’s you race? How long will you be on the island before the big day?

My training won’t change too much before Hawaii. The hard work is done. It is in the bank. I know what works for me, and I will focus on maintaining the consistency, resting and recovering, eating right, and getting the training quality and intensity that I know will make me as fast and as strong as I can possibly be on race day. I will fly to Kona just under two weeks before the race – time to get settled, make sure everything is in working order, get some quality sessions in, grow my cunning disguise so I can walk around incognito (the beard is coming along nicely) and make sure I have chance to sample the awesome Kona coffee before my self-imposed 5 day caffeine cold turkey!

Many other female pros have noted that when you’re on the start line of an iron distance race, everyone else is racing for second. What’s it like for you, on the flip side of the coin? How do you deal with the pressure of being expected to win all the time? And once you’ve built up a nice cushion in the lead of a race, do you ever wish you were a little more challenged?

To know that I am the best in the world has brought me so much joy and heaps of fantastic opportunities – but yes, it has also resulted in more commitments and pressures – not to mention expectations, both those I put on myself and those that others have for me. The Hawaii crown is only as heavy as you let it be though. I think that the best way to deal with the pressure is to see everything as a positive.

The victory has given me a platform to motivate, inspire others, spread important messages, to promote the sport in the UK and overseas and most importantly be the sporting role model and ambassador that I would want to see. I will never take this role for granted and will seize every opportunity I have, now and in the future. So, yes – I love being World Champion – and I definitely don’t mind having the target on my back!

As for the competition. I think the pro women’s field is the deepest it has ever been. I have been, and will be challenged from start to finish. The girls will push me to my limit, and hopefully I will do the same to them. I always have to remember, though, that I have won Hawaii twice, which is more than I ever could have dreamed of. I am confident and feel strong. I trust in my mind and in my body, and in the preparation I have done. I know the course, I will have my family and friends there to support me, and most importantly I love the race. It hurts, and I can’t wait to push through that pain barrier and come out the other side! Bring it on!

During a race, when you start to hurt (I assume this happens sometimes to you!) or run into bad luck (like a flat tire ;)), what do you think about to keep yourself going? I’ve found that so many pros have the most positive attitudes, and this surely is a key component to their success. How important is your attitude to your success?

It’s the KEY to success! All the physical strength in the world won’t help you if your mind is not prepared. I try and visualise the race beforehand, and plan for all eventualities so I can pre-empt how I will react if I lose my goggles, drop a water bottle, if I am suffering physically, or yes – if I have a flat tire! I try to stay in the moment, keep calm, try to relax and remember hard or difficult times in training, racing and life in general when I have pushed through and come out on top. I also have a bank of positives memories and experiences that remind me that I can achieve anything I want to and I draw on the support of the crowds, and most importantly smile lots….!!

You’re involved with a number of charities, including one called GOTRIbal. Can you tell us about this organization and its goals?

One of the most powerful aspects of sport is the opportunity to build friendships and be part of a community or support network. I met Tanya Maslach in San Diego after Kona last year. We starting nattering as women do and found that we shared the same passion for sport, and the opportunities it can bring to women and girls all over the world. However, barriers exist that prevent people from getting involved, whether these be fear of the unknown, financial constraints, lack of information or equipment and so forth. GOTRIbal was formed to help break down these barriers by providing a mean by which women can connect and support one another, both online through the website (www.gotribalnow.com) and in towns and cities around the world through TRIbes.

The focus is on empowering women through sport – using triathlon and other physical activities as a means of building bridges, instilling confidence and the belief that anything is possible if you have the right support around you. We now have 620 members, across 20 countries. At the heart is a simple ‘Pay it Forward’ model, where more experienced athletes pay it forward to those who may need help and support in starting something new.

I am an ambassador for the organisation, and am helping Tanya in whatever way I can to get this exciting venture off the ground. We have the inaugural GOTRIbal Fest the week after Kona, on 17 October in San Diego – with seminars, socials, speaker sessions, clinics, Q&As, plus an expo with some super cool companies – which is followed by a training and lunch date with me, and some other pros. Signing up is easy – a few clicks on the website and you’re there!

There are other charities that I am also involved with. The Blazeman Foundation for ALS is another, and I am also looking to get my own NGO set up in the UK over the next few years. Wearing the Kona crown means so much more than being the fastest swim, bike and runner. I am determined to use my position as World Champion to effect positive change – to use the Kona crown to benefit others and make a difference, however small, means more to me than anything.

Although you’re a tiny lady, you seem to enjoy a good meal here and there! Do you have a favorite menu item at Lava Java? And how will you celebrate a successful race in Kona?

I am not sure that I am that Tiny…have you seen the size of my calves!? I love to eat. My stomach is a bottomless pit! In terms of the tasty Lava Java cuisine – I love any kind of wrap, with salad and salty chips and a thick berry smoothie. And will always vacuum up the leftovers on everyone else’s plate too. As for the post race celebration – mai thai cocktails and a greasy burger or kebab will be the order of the day!

For those of us who read your blogs and race reports, it sounds like you get flashed a lot, asked out, proposed to, etc. during your races. Have any of your fans ever successfully scored a date with you? 🙂

Hee heeeee! I think a lot of the admirers have beer goggles on!!! Who in their right mind would like the look of a lycra clad, smelly and sweaty athlete with blistered feet and bird’s nest hair?!

What’s on the agenda after Kona? Any more cycling tours?

Pizza, Mai Thai cocktails, Kebabs, wine, time with my family and friends back in the UK…and yes, an adventure holiday. Destination as yet unknown!

Thanks so much Chrissie, and best wishes for the rest of this season!

http://www.xtri.com/features_display.aspx?riIDReport=5890&CAT=21&xref=xx