Mirinda Carfrae’s Relentless Pursuit Of Another Ironman World Title

  • By Julia Polloreno
  • Published Mar 28, 2013
  • Updated Apr 1, 2015 at 4:04 PM UTC
Carfrae collapsed after finishing third at the 2012 Ironman World Championship. Photo: Paul Phillips/Competitive Image

JP: Now that you’ve had more time to reflect on Kona, what’s the biggest takeaway lesson from last year’s race?

MC: Last year’s Kona really came down to nutrition. Going into the race I had everything I needed to perform well and I made the mistake of not hydrating enough on the bike and I paid the price and finished third. Defeat can sometimes be a blessing because you’re forced to look within yourself and figure out where you went wrong and what you can do differently and make changes to get it right. Hopefully I can go back and nail it next time.

JP: One of the most iconic images to emerge from last year’s Kona was that shot of you collapsing at the finish. I read that you lost 10 pounds in that race.

MC: Yeah, I was shocked. I knew I was in trouble and thought it was lack of calories—I dropped my water bottle off the bike. But 10 pounds is fluids. Because it was so windy I didn’t feel hot, and I drink by feel in Ironman races in terms of water, not calories. I wasn’t diligent in drinking water throughout the day and didn’t know it was dehydration until I got on the scale. I usually lose two pounds in Kona, and I was 108 pounds. In the morning I was 118.

JP: Had you ever suffered that much in a race before?

MC: The year before last in Kona I suffered, but it was a different kind of suffering. Trying to chase down Chrissie, I was racing well and I had the energy to get there but when you’re fighting so hard to catch up it’s a different kind of suffering. I put everything I had into trying to catch her. In 2012 I didn’t have the ability to push. I could mentally push, but the legs wouldn’t go. It’s a little bit demoralizing because you’re telling your body to do something and it refuses. It doesn’t have the fuel to respond. It was a little bit scary, actually. I nearly fell over coming down Ali’i drive. How can you collapse 200 meters from the finish line? I was in that position. My legs were going to jelly. Your mind has no more control over the body. It was a good experience to go there and know what it feels like but I don’t ever want to feel it again.

JP: When most people reach that point, they just stop. How did you push through and integrate that level of suffering to just keep going?

MC: I think it’s because it’s Kona. That’s the only race I would do that. After Kona, I can take six months off and recover and let my body recover from whatever damage I’ve done to it in Kona—hopefully I haven’t done anything too bad. In that race you put it all on the line. To me, it’s worth it.  I just switch the demons off and get to the finish line as fast as possible.

JP: Do you have any psychological tools or affirmations you use in those moments when things get ugly to motivate you to keep going?

MC: A word that I’ve used in the past is one that my [former coach] Siri told me: Be relentless. That word is very powerful because it means no matter what just keep pushing. Certainly that’s a word that comes to mind when I’m out there suffering: relentless. Everyone else is suffering, just get to work and get it done.

JP: Where will we see you racing this season?

MC: After Oceanside I’m going to do St. Anthony’s in St. Petersburg, Florida. It’s a 5150. After that I’ll either do St. Croix or Rev 3 Knoxville. Mid-June looks like maybe Quassy and Eagleman Double. Then I might go back to Vineman in mid-July. I probably won’t do Vegas, but the Hy-Vee/Muskoka double and then get ready for Kona.

JP: Why no Vegas—a world championship race?

MC: I really want to put it all on the line for Kona. That’s the race I really want to win. Yes, Vegas is a world championship race, but it doesn’t excite me like Kona does. I just want to stay away from all the hype of a championship race until I get to Kona. Kona is what gets me out of bed in the morning, not Vegas. Maybe that will change in a few years, but for now Kona is all I care about.

Checking In: Mirinda Carfrae
Tough Love: Making The Two-Triathlete Relationship Work
Mirinda Carfrae’s Decision To Race Ironman Florida
Video: Mirinda Carfrae Recaps Her Kona Race
Julie Dibens’ Role In Mirinda Carfrae’s Kona Prep
Kona Pro Bike: Mirinda Carfrae’s Felt DA

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Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno

Julia Polloreno is the editor at large of Triathlete magazine. A Stanford University graduate with an award-winning track record in publishing, Polloreno is a two-time Ironman finisher and has been a competitive triathlete for more than a decade.

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