“Her pedal stroke was not strong all the way around, so we worked on that,” said Lindley. “She hated it and swore at me every day but eventually developed a nice pedal stroke. We were building strength with lots of hill climbing. I was asking her to do things a different way that really took her out of her comfort zone.
“What I knew is that this was a strength race. You’ve got to be strong from start to finish. So the most important word that came to my mind in every area was strength in swim, bike, run. It was all about building up her strength to go out on a six-hour ride or a two-and-a-half-hour run.”
While neither had done an Ironman, both coach and athlete had enough confidence in one another, enough of a stake in The Plan they had devised together, that there was no second-guessing, no need to see if it would pass muster with another coach.
“I’m sure I could have gone to Brett and said, ‘Please help me with this, help me understand what I need to do,’” Lindley said about her personal role. “But I needed to figure it out … I need[ed] to figure out if I had what it took to be successful as a coach, first at the Olympic distance, then 70.3, then the Ironman.
“This sport is still evolving and it is continuing to evolve in huge ways every year. I don’t want to be following the plan of the day—this is how athletes do Ironman. I wanted to use the things I felt comfortable with—the things that when I present them to the athletes who I know, if we execute them properly, this is going to be the result. I need to be in a place that’s comfortable, with a good gut feeling that this type of training is going to work. It has to be authentic to me. It has to be something that feels right for me.”
Carfrae’s 2009 race, in which she broke Wellington’s marathon record, was a conservative one, but that’s exactly what the two of them had intended. Their goal was long-term, to come back in 2010 with a faster, stronger race.
“I felt like I had the potential to race a fast Ironman, but you just never really know until you get out there and experience it firsthand,” said Carfrae about her 2009 race. “Even though I felt I ran well that day, I knew that I had the ability to run a faster marathon the next time around.”
Their formula worked in 2009 and again in 2010 and has given both the confidence that Carfrae’s on the right track to go faster still this year.
“There is a really wonderful and beautiful progression going from Olympic to 70.3 to Ironman,” said Lindley. “It really does all fit together. And you can take all the things that work for one distance and transform them and tweak them and make them work for the next.”
Carfrae’s win in Kona last fall was more than a victory for Lindley. It was vindication of Lindley’s decision to retire at the peak of her athletic career and confirmation that the same instincts that guided her to win the world’s most competitive short-course distance race—the ITU World Championships—could be applied successfully to help another athlete win the world’s most competitive long-course race.
“I think the biggest accomplishment that Siri felt from that win was coaching an Ironman athlete, not an Olympic-distance athlete, which was where everyone thought Siri’s expertise was,” said Harrop, whom Lindley visited in Australia to celebrate after Kona last year. “For Siri, the win has cemented in her own mind that she is not just a good coach, she is a great coach.”
Lindley’s mentor, Sutton, has even stronger words of praise, saying that with time and experience, “She will be the best triathlon coach in America.”
This article originally appeared in the 2011 May/June issue of Inside Triathlon. Click here to subscribe.