Australia’s Rebekah Keat, who boasts six iron-distance wins, originally hoped to secure a 2012 Kona spot by topping the podium at Ironman Cairns in early June. That plan was derailed mid-race by a calf injury, and therefore Keat did not race another qualifying event until the Ironman USA Championships in New York City in August, where she successfully raced to second place and earned her Kona start. We caught up with Keat to hear how she’s feeling about being here on the Big Island, and how her switch to a new coach has positively impacted her preparation.
Triathlete.com: You had a great day in NYC, running your way to second place to nab that elusive Kona spot. With your qualification coming down to the wire, what does it mean to you to have made it, and do you believe the Kona Points Ranking System is a good one? Do you think it fulfills the stated goal to ensure that the best athletes are on the start line?
RK: It was certainly a lot of pressure that I put on myself to qualify, as it left no room for error. I seem to thrive under pressure – having no room for failure meant I had to perform, so I’m just glad I could. The points system is quite fair, I believe. WTC is really trying to make sure the best athletes line up at the World Championships. Looking at the pro men and women I believe every athlete that has qualified deserves to be here. One of the down sides to the qualifying system is for people who haven’t finished Kona. To qualify for the next year its very difficult, as you need to do several Ironman events to get enough points to make the cut off.
TM: You made the decision to leave Brett Sutton’s teamTBB this year to work with Siri Lindley as your coach. Sutto’s shoes are big ones to fill, yet you seem really happy with your new training situation and in particular Siri’s boundless enthusiasm for her athletes. Are there any particular words or phrases of encouragement from Siri that will run over and over through your mind on race day?
RK: I am so glad to have made this positive change. This was by far the biggest but most rewarding career decision. I changed many things this season, and I know I will finally be able to prove they were all the right ones! Siri has many positive affirmations and of course some crazy sayings. “Do you love it?” is by far her favorite, and I know when I hit the run I will hear, “Fast feet! Quick feet! Nose down!” This is what makes her so special and unique and also why her athletes love her so much. She has been such a positive influence on me and on everyone on our team. The team’s results this year have shown that she is one of the best!
Triathlete.com: Everyone aims to reach the start line in Kona in the best shape of his or her life. Is that how you feel right now?
RK: One million percent!
Triathlete.com: Your own fitness and preparation is something that for the most part – with the exception of injury – you can control. But there are so many uncontrollable factors in an Ironman, especially in Kona where the island tends to throw up dizzying obstacles in terms of wind and heat. How do you ready yourself for the unknowns?
RK: Every race has many obstacles and it’s how well you can deal with them that is the key to a well-rounded athlete. We all deal with the same conditions on race day and being calm and resilient keeps you strong and in the zone.
Triathlete.com: One of your teammates, Leanda Cave, recently claimed the Ironman 70.3 world title. She’ll also be one of the top competitors in Kona on Saturday, along with an incredibly deep field of talented women. I know that you have close friendships with many of these women – but which two, in addition to yourself, do you most want to see make the top three?
RK: Of course Leanda doing well is a no brainer. She is flying, literally, and it makes our team so proud to see one of us winning a world title. I don’t really want to think about any other athletes as there are 10 girls that could win it on the day. I like to think that I have sharpened my tools and will now try to carve out my best performance yet. To have the perfect race and post the numbers I know I am capable of is all I will ask of myself.