Craig Alexander has returned to the USA to get some racing under his belt as he prepares to defend his Ford World Ironman Championship title. His first race in the USA was an Olympic distance triathlon in Florida St Anthony’s in April where he finished 3rd, (10 seconds behind Greg Bennett), followed by the St Croix Ironman 70.3 in US Virgin Islands where he, unfortunately, crashed on his bike. He would then do some more 70.3 triathlons before working towards the world Ironman championship in Hawaii. Since his result at St. Croix, Crowie has said that he is thinking about a couple more Olympic distance races. He has obviously got the bug after this great result.
We asked Craig why he had planned to do the Olympic distance triathlon at St Croix. “Greg Welch once told me that a good triathlete can race all distances and with this in mind I always set out to challenge myself each year, mixing race distances in my race program”. Craig still likes to do the shorter IM events as they are more fun, recovery is much easier and they are more lucrative.
Alexander is now based in Boulder, Colorado where he will prepare for Hawaii. Triathletes Steve Hackett and Paul Matthews will also be in Boulder and will train with Craig. Another great mate, Dirk Bockel, will also be at Boulder training. Also in Boulder are a host of other Australian triathletes.
He had been keen to do the new Abu Dhabi International Triathlon but ended up pulling out because of inadequate preparation for the 200km bike leg. “I felt I would have been letting down the organisers” Craig said. This has meant that he has been able to catch up on some sponsorship obligations in Australia which is why we have seen Crowie at many events this year whether competing, commentating or just hanging out and meeting the competitors. Craig even appeared as a specialist on Australia’s “Biggest Looser” to give the contestants some advice as they prepared to tackle a marathon.
Trizone asked Craig about his 2010 training strategy. “At this stage I am not going to reinvent the wheel. There will be 250 pros at Kona who have all undergone similar training”. Consequently Craig believes it comes down to the mental preparation and strategy. Part of Crowie’s mental strategy is that he has the utmost respect for everyone who he races against, he never takes it for granted that he will win a race. In saying this he is adamant that when he turns up to race he is there to win.
What are Craig’s training secrets that might help us all go faster or train smarter. However Craig did not feel well placed to advise age groupers “I can’t give you any advice for age groupers because I have no idea how you work fulltime jobs and train (sometimes almost as much as the pros) and manage families etc”. Craig added ‘Being a pro makes the training / life balance easier’.
With these comments in mind we did manage to delve further into what Craig does to make him the world champion that he is.
Craig is very strong on the theory that you have to train how you are going to race. Or looking at it from a different perspective, you will race how you train.
When preparing for a big race Craig focuses on endurance before speed. When cycling he does threshold sessions with time trial efforts, 5 ½ to 6 hours is the longest ride and he always does some race pace efforts during the long ride. His runs, while in Australia, are through the National Park south of Caringbah. Craig believes running off road is a great way to strengthen core muscle groups and the small muscles around the legs and feet. Craig likes to train on his own but does do group swim squads.
Losing his bikes was a pain for Craig but due to diligent records kept on his bike fit he was able to get the new bikes set up identically to the old ones. Craig uses the Retul bike fit system. It uses sophisticated technology to get the perfect individual bike fit.
When asked about diet Craig said ‘I don’t believe in fad diets. I just follow normal eating patterns and mix my food. I’ll have red meat, fish and chicken each week and pasta once or twice a week. I am not a big fan of vegetables and I love ice cream and chocolate’.
Craig Alexander has a background in physiotherapy and uses his knowledge to inform his approach to training, racing and lifestyle
Focus for the future
What will you be focusing on in 2010? ‘I don’t change my training routines very much but I am always tweaking them and focusing on one or two areas. This year it is sleep and recovery’. Craig explained that he has spent a lot of time researching how to sleep better and reading books on all aspects of a ‘better nights sleep’.
To aid recovery after every session Craig wears compression garments and takes protein recovery supplements – Body Science protein recovery
On the topic of when to use compression garments Craig stated that ‘I use them only after training and when driving long distances and flying. I never use them when training or racing. I am not aware of any data that supports the idea they help you race faster. If I was going to use them when racing or training I would use them on the big muscle groups such as quads and hamstring’.
As part of his new approach to rest and recovery this year Craig will be also doing less training volume and fitting in twice weekly massages.
How did Craig Alexander get into the sport of triathlon?
Craig was always interested in mulitsport and used to watch Daley Thompson in the 1980s dominating the world in the sport of decathlon. Thompson was a phenomenal athlete and inspired a generation of young people.
As a teenager Craig played soccer. A couple of hernia operations caused him to put on a bit of weight and he decided to take up running to try to lose a few pounds. Craig says he has no endurance sport background and starting later than many of the kids these days was probably a blessing.
During Craig’s six years at university he played water polo and was then taught to swim by Greg Rogers. Greg was not only a swim coach but also Craig came to see him as his life coach and mentor. At university Craig joined the running club and learnt how to run and started to build the base that would go on to provide him with the impressive stamina and speed we now see.
A lot of Craig’s triathlon knowledge is self taught. He spent his early days reading every triathlon magazine he could get his hands on. He also read Dave Scott and Mark Allen’s books and engaged Nick White who works for Chris Carmichael. Swim coaching has been with Col Robson and Brian Wilkinson and much of his swimming is done in the Caringbah and Carrs Park pools when in Australia.
A few facts and figures:
- Height: 180cm
- Weight: 68kg
- First Triathlon: 1994
- Previous sporting love: Soccer
- Hobbies: Watching sport/ sports shows, talking sport
over coffee, surfing,golf, playing guitar and paddling a surf ski.
- Married: to Neri for 10 years
- Children:Lucy 4 years (born May 2005) and Austin 4
months (born April 2009)
- DOB: 22nd June 1973 in Sydney Australia
- Hometown: Cronulla NSW Australia
- Fav Foods: All things chocolate, seafood, chips, my
wifes cooking, as long as there’s not too many veggies
- Favourite workout: Open water swimming in the ocean
- Favourite cities: New York and Sydney
- Favourite race destinations: St Croix, Phuket
Thailand, Kona Hawaii
- Favourite running trails: Switzerland trail Boulder
- Favourite beaches: Hungry Head, Clovelly ( home of my
surfing youth) and North Cronulla
- Favourite Destination: Kona Hawaii
- Loves: hanging out with his family and to run with
- Nicknamed Crowie after an Australian Surf Ironman that appeared on Bay Watch also called Crowie!