Trizone caught up with Craig Alexander as he enters his final days of preparation for Kona, aiming to take the title for the third time in as many years. While Craig is aware of the historical significance of the occasion he is not putting too much pressure on himself, preferring to cast himself in the role of ‘underdog’, it is unlikely many others who will be pounding the bitumen on Queen K Highway will have cast him in the same role! However as has often been said the island does not play favourites and does not know names.
Craig has not really varied his approach from previous years and feels that he has had a very strong 11 months preparation, having won seven out of the nine races he entered, and with all these races being high profile events with strong competitive fields. He feels at least as well prepared as in previous years, and if anything feels he has put in a greater volume of work, despite this he claims to be feeling fresh and just wants Saturdays’ race to start.
Reflecting on previous years Craig said “What you have done in the past does not matter, success on the day comes down to how good your preparation is, how you feel on the day and how you cope mentally.
In 2008 everything went to plan and I was in the zone, I felt really comfortable all day. In 2009 it was a different storey and I had to dig deep and scrap all the way although going into the race I did feel I was in better physical condition. Knowing I can hurt myself and scrap if I need to does give me some comfort, but it is also kind of scary knowing I might have to go back there on Saturday!”
Why did the races unfold so differently? Craig thinks he was targeted in 2009 and attacked by the other athletes, whereas in 2008 is was able to fly under the radar a bit, despite his second placing the previous year in his first attempt at the distance. He is expecting a dog fight again on Saturday and has been preparing accordingly.
He thinks all of last years top five will be a challenge, he believes Chris Lieto will attack the bike and has an improved run this year, Andreas Raelert won IM Germany and was 3rd at Kona last year, Rasmus Henning recorded one of the fastest times in history at Roth and Eneko Llanos has had a good season, also Marino Vanhoenacker was very fast in Austria. Cam Brown is a consistent performer and previous champions Chris McCormack and Normann Stadler will also be in the mix.
Craig is expecting that when Lieto attacks him on the bike this year he will probably have more help than last year, but he backs himself to go with them. “The tactics will be determined by the wind the heat and who is feeling good on the day. I really won the race on the run last year and so the competitors will have learnt from that and really take it to me on the bike. One of the interesting things is that the top pros all know one another very well and how they race, we have been competing against one another for the best part of 10 years, so there are unlikely to be any major surprises”.
In terms of the mental challenge Crowie trains a lot by himself, which equips him to cope with the solitude of Ironman. He finds the race passes quite quickly, breaking down each leg and concentrating just on the part of the course that he is in at the time. Dealing with it one section at a time he finds it all becomes less daunting. He really only starts thinking about things other than the section of the race he is in towards the end of the run when he starts to think about his family, training partners and sponsors who have made the sacrifices to enable him to be where he is at that moment.
In terms of what it is like in Kona at the moment Craig reports that “the atmosphere is building and there are a lot of peacocks strutting around, which you expect with 1800 of the fittest people in the world in town, all bursting to race. I largely avoid it all and try to keep life as normal as possible, hanging out at home with the family. I still have a couple of beers at night and try to keep a bit of balance in my life”.
After Kona? Craig will take a few weeks off and is looking forward to getting back to Oz, giving his wife a break, dropping the kids at school and surfing and playing a bit of golf with his mates.