Any alterations to Alexander’s hydration strategy and helmet selection might give Alexander the small boost required to defend his title in Kona. But his most potent athletic weapon is something that no amount of scientific tests and data can produce.
This weapon was displayed at the 45-mile mark of Alexander’s 123-mile ride on day three. At that point in the ride, Alexander was dropped by a woman and a second-tier pro who were training with him. Given these circumstances, one couldn’t blame the defending world champion for trying to teach them a lesson or, at the very least, letting his ego get the best of him by going with them. Instead, Alexander stuck to his workout instructions and let the two athletes leave him behind.
To the untrained observer, this scene might lend credence to those who say that Alexander’s bike leg will be his undoing this time around. But, in reality, Alexander’s ability to stick to his game plan—his focus, maturity and patience despite outside influences—is precisely what has allowed him to become the fastest Ironman in the world.
His focus was again displayed when he was asked if he had yet visited the active volcano that brings so many tourists to the Big Island each year. His response: “No. I’ve been from the hotel in Keauhou [six miles from the Kona pier] to Hawi [the turnaround point of the bike course] and that’s about it.”
Alexander never strays from the course. Kona is a place of business for him and his single-mindedness, perhaps even more so than his willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to prepare, is most likely why he’s finally the best in the world.
Editor’s Note: Although Chris McCormack was able to orchestrate a cycling break away that left Alexander behind in 2010, exactly what the defending champion was hoping to avoid, Alexander recaptured the title in 2011 thanks in large part to a vastly improved bike split. Alexander continued to work on his cycling fitness, heat readiness, position and equipment the following off-season and rode a 13-minute personal best on the Kona bike course during his record-breaking 2011 performance.