Trizone recently had the opportunity to spend the day with Craig Alexander and his family, as they supported the KIDS (Kids in Dangerous Situations) Foundation, a charity for which he acts as ambassador, and the official charity of Ironman Australia.
The KIDS Foundation provides a network for burns victims and their families, and seeks to prevent future injuries through raising awareness. The charities Director, Susie O’Neill, said that the charity had been going for 19 years, and last year raised over $165,000 in its “Road to Port” ride and at the Port Macquarie Ironman, which it started attending in 2007.
This year six team members are competing in Ironman Melbourne, then a team of 30 are riding the 1,200km’s from Melbourne to Port Macquarie to arrive on the Thursday in time for the Port Macquarie Ironman, with sixteen of the team then backing up to compete the Ironman on the Sunday. The charity Director’s namesake Olympic swimming champion, and Australian legend Susie O’Neill will again this year be joining the riders over part of the course.
While this physical challenge may seem amazing even to the seasoned Ironmen in our community, all participants are quick to point out that they see it as nothing compared to the resilience and toughness displayed every day of their lives by the kids they are supporting.
Craig joined around 60 children at a summer camp in Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches shortly after his victory at Kona. Craig spent the day with the kids as they took part in various activities, and led a lively question and answer session at the end. While the kids may have been a bit in awe of Craig and his achievements, it was also evident that Craig was humbled by the kids and their attitude to life.
After Craig’s day with the kids had finished Trizone took the opportunity to ask him about Kona and the year ahead. Craig was in the middle of a well-earned break, having done no training for 3 weeks, and was happy with that though he did admit to getting a bit cranky and getting very tight.
Talking about Kona, Craig reflected that in the previous year he had waited for the marathon, but was caught out by Macca’s tactics to get a gang of strong riders together who could put a sufficient gap into Craig on the bike leg to negate the effect of his famed marathon. At the end of the race he admitted to having been “gutted… bitterly disappointed”, he felt he raced well, but was well beaten.
This year he decided to be aggressive on the bike and go off the front. The result was a massive 13 minute pb on the bike, which put him into a position where only uber biker Chris Lieto was ahead of him. As most know Craig switched sponsors to ride the new Shriv from Specialised just before the race, and he credits the new bike with 5 minutes of his improvement. He said that in cross winds the frame acts like a sail, “I was on a training ride with Luke McKenzie the week before the race, and Luke was getting blown about, but I was completely still”.
Looking forward to next years race in Kona he believes that ‘Andy’ (Raelert) and Marino (Vanhoenacker) have raised the bar for all other athletes, but does not see a need to change his tactics. He feels he does not need to break away on the bike, just remain in contention so he can exploit his strength on the run.
In terms of how much longer he can keep this up for, then so long as it does not impact on his family he hopes to have 2-3 more years at this level. He plans to do 6 races next year and just 1 ironman, having competed in 10 major races last year.
As Chrissie’s recent announcement shows us you cannot do this forever, but Craig admits he has the advantage of having stepped up to Ironman at a relatively mature age. His regime would have to be taking a toll. He trains anywhere between 15 and 45 hours a week, averaging around 30 hours. He has about 2 blocks of the very high volume training a year, and backs right off leading into a race, though increases the intensity. He will swim 20-25k, ride 400-800k and run up to 100k.
As to how he motivates himself to keep turning up and performing year after year he says that his preference is to train alone as he believes this strengthens him mentally. He is also toughened up by those around him who he feels have sacrificed so much for him, Neri used to have to work double shifts and they had to borrow money to pursue his dream and that toughens you up and gives him the motivation and focus he needs to keep going and perform at the best level he can.