Over the 4th of July weekend, we met up with the 2X Ironman World Champion; Craig Alexander. A week before this interview, Alexander had just added another title to his spectacular race resume by winning Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
FLMS: Earlier this season you had an illness that prevented you from racing Ironman Australia. How did this effect the rest of your season?
CA: Getting ready for Ironman Australia I felt my fitness was very good leading up to the point when I got sick. I guess when you get sick it’s just something that you can’t control. I have said this before, the last 10 years I have been lucky. I haven’t really had to miss much time do to injury or illness.
FLMS: How did you handle the time off?
CA: I knew I couldn’t sit around and cry about getting sick one time and missing a race, so I did my best to turn a negative into a positive. I tried not to stress too much about getting the Kona qualification. I was able to get an early season rest.
FLMS: You have put so many miles on your body these past 10 years. Do you think the illness was at all a blessing in disguise?
CA: Absolutely or at least you want to believe it was. I have been a fulltime athlete for over ten years now and I think I have a large fitness base and I solid foundation to draw off of. I had the chicken pox in 2002, it knocked me out for a little while but I came back an even better athlete after the enforced rest. Sometimes that is what your bodies needs. There is an old saying “if you don’t take a rest your body will make sure you end up taking one sooner or later”. You know everything happens for a reason.
FLMS: Were you worried about racing an Ironman distance race this close to Kona?
CA: No. The main thing weighing on my mind was, the last time I had raced once since Kona and that was back in Abu Dhabi. So I thought that was going to be a bit of rust there. I didn’t feel like I was unfit or unprepared for the race I was just unhealthy for a while. This respiratory infection caused my to have this deep raspy cough which in turn damaged the intercostals and rib cartilage.
CA: This type thing is usually caused by impact, such as a hockey player or American footballer would receive. The doctors had told me that it isn’t that uncommon for people who cough a lot.
FLMS: Was there a race that you were eyeing as a tune up for IM Coeur d’Alene?
CA: Yes, I was going to do Eagleman 70.3. I had to pull the pin on that race because the ribs were still to sore.
FLMS: What were some of your concerns going into IM Coeur d’Alene?
CA: I was just hoping I could get through the race and I didn’t want irritate or re-injure the ribs anymore. I didn’t want to get all the way out there, go through the whole rigmarole and not start the race. I knew once I started I was determined to finish, even if that meant walking the run just to get the qualifier. I am glad I got through the race ok. It ended up being a good race for me. I got through it unscathed.
FLMS: Most people think IM Coeur d’Alene is your first Ironman race outside of Kona but the fact is you did IM Australia back in 2007.
CA: I did Ironman Australia in 2007, which I didn’t have to do to qualify for Kona because I had qualified by winning the 70.3 World Championships.
FLMS: Why did you race IM Australia?
CA: I wanted to race my first Ironman at home so my family could watch me. It was different from what I just did in Coeur d’Alene. When I raced in Australia my objective was to get on the podium and to get a feel for the distance. After racing Australia I had a packed race schedule in the US, where most of my sponsors were so I only had 10 days to get ready. I was happy with the way things tuned out there as I finished third in St. Anthony’s and Port Macquarie and I won St. Croix.
FLMS: Do you use any races for training?
CA: I go into all my races wanting to win and to do my best. I don’t do any races as training I race to do the best I can. That doesn’t always equate to a win but I will put out the best performance I can. I never do a race to build up for anything else. Obviously with that being said, there are some races in the season that a more important than some others. The way your races are scheduled and your training is scheduled your form is going to better in some races than others. Every race I go into, I am 100% committed to win. That isn’t always possible because there is so much depth in this sport.
FLMS: It seems this whole season, the media frenzy, has focused on the Realert brothers. Does this take a load of commitments off your shoulders, allowing you to train and focus on your races?
CA: I think it does. I know last year, had wining the previous two years, I had a lot of commitments with sponsors and media. It takes some of the other types attention off as well. The media isn’t the only thing watching, the other athletes are also watching. I think this year is gonna be different as I think there are other guys on the radar. You have the Realerts, Marino Vanhoenacker, Frederick Van Lierde, Rasmus Henning, Eneko Llanos, and a few new guys like Tim O’Donnell, Joe Gambles will be competitive right away.
CA: I don’t think I will ever be under the radar but it sure nice to share some of the focus. Last year, going into the 2010 IMWC/Kona, I had only raced three other times on the big island. I had a second and two wins, whether you like it or not you’re going to affect other people’s race strategies.
FLMS: What is your take on what happened in Kona 2010?
CA: It’s no secret how the races played out last year; especially knowing that a few of the guys had gotten together and planed a few things long before the race. I guess I was the center of everyone’s race plan. I think it will be a little different this year. That being said, I have been winning races for a long time and I am used to it.
FLMS: Do you think these pre-race get togethers will be the trend in big race planning?
CA: I hope not. The spirit o the race is based more on the individual race. Its not the Tour de France, where you have teams working together to win the race. It you look back at past years you can see it happen. Sometimes there is what they call a partnership of convenience. By that, sometimes you find yourself in a pack of guys on the bike and it’s in everyone’s best interest to stay in a group and work together. I think that is fine, it not pre orchestrated it just happens. The sport needs to stay an individual’s race.
FLMS: Craig, in closing, what do you want our readers to know?
CA: For me racing is a personal challenge, it’s not always about winning its about doing a performance that I am proud of and hopefully bettering anything I have done in the past. I want to always keep trying to improve and if you do win, that’s nice but I want to win because I am the best guy out there and if that’s not the case I am not interested in winning.