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Triathlon Training Tips From Top Ironman Competitor Mirinda Carfrae

A few days after being a top finisher at the Ironman in Kona, Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae sat down with us to talk strategy, relationships and the toughest competition on the course.

Rinny and I the day after the race! Does she even look like she just competed in an Ironman?

Congratulations on an awesome race this year! How does it feel to be among the top three fittest women  in the world? [In my opinion! But that's the top three Ironman female finishers!]

Not quite as good as last year when I won. Haha! It feels great to be back up on the podium in the best triathlon race in the world (in my opinion).

It was a close race this year at Kona between you and first place finisher, Chrissie Wellington. You both clearly have a lot of respect for each other as from what I saw at the finish line. Besides the competition, why do you like racing with her?

I think it was a great women's race this year. There were some women out there riding ridiculous times and I think Chrissie and I were just lucky they slowed down a little when it came to the run. I love going out there and racing the best women in the world and Chrissie certainly is the best right now. When you have women pushing the boundaries like Chrissie has done you open up a whole world of possibility. All of a sudden, what once seemed impossible is now what everyone is pushing to achieve. I don't think we would be racing as fast as we are now if we all weren't chasing this crazy Brit.

Do you have your eyes on the prize again for Kona 2012?

And I will absolutely be chasing the big prize again in Kona 2012.

How did you get involved with the sport of triathlon?

I was doing some strength and conditioning for the upcoming basketball season and ended up training with the local triathlon group. It didn't take them long to convince me to give triathlon a go. I was pretty much hooked right from my first race, after being involved with team sports my whole life I just really loved the individual aspect of the sport.

Why are you excited about this sport?

As I said earlier, I love the individual aspect of this sport. If you want to improve then it's up to you to do the work to make those improvements. You do need to have a good support crew, but at the end of the day it's you that has to go out there and get the job done. I also love that it's three sports in one, you can never really contain the sport—there is always something that you need to work on and I think that keeps you motivated and excited for the next challenge.

If you hadn’t gone pro, what reasons do you have for competing? More and more everyday women are getting involved with this sport, so why do you think that is?

Triathlon is a full-body workout; you are keeping pretty much every muscle active, and I think that in itself is a great reason to do the sport. I also love the social aspect of it, from masters swim workouts to group bike and run sessions—you always seem to be able to meet up with and be surrounded by positive motivated people.

What is your favorite leg of the race?

I would have to say the run. There is nothing quite like the feeling of running when you are really on your game.

How do you get better at your “weakest” link, but still excel at the others?

It's best to work on your weakest link in the off-season. You can never completely ignore any of the three sports, but I think you can definitely afford to spend a little more time on your weakest discipline in the off-season.

Nutrition is considered the "fourth leg" of triathlon. How would you explain your nutrition on the day of a race?

Nutrition for triathlon is super-important, not only on the day of the race but also leading into the race. Before you step on the start line, you need to make sure you have adequately fueled and hydrated your body. Once the race is underway it's all about consuming as much carbohydrate as your body can process on the bike and getting to the run as well-fueled as possible. On the run you just have to do what you can. I carry of couple of Gu flasks with Gu Roctane in them and alternate sipping water and Coke from the aid stations. Nutrition is definitely something that should be well planned out.

What do you do on your rest days?

During race season, rest days are few and far between and when I do get a complete day off, I try to spend as much time as possible resting and relaxing. More often than not though, real life creeps into those rest days and I find myself running around taking care of all of those chores that keep being put off during my harder training days.

What do you do when you’re not training?

Ha! When I am not training I sit on the couch, there isn't much energy for yoga or spin classes. If I do have energy I take it to the shops to buy new clothes.

For tips on how Carfrae stays fit with her significant other...

Your boyfriend is also an Ironman elite athlete. Do you think having this shared love for the sport helps your relationship?

I do believe it helps our relationship. We are 100 percent supportive of one another, which is kind of easy when we are both working towards the same goal. It's also nice that we are on the same schedule. We're able to travel together to some of our races and plan our off-season around our race schedules, not around one partners work schedule.

Are there any fit, fun things you do together during the off-season?

In the off-season we usually like to plan a holiday where we can just relax on the beach for a week or so, but after that we usually try and find fun sports to play. One-on-one basketball is a favorite, but sometimes ends up with one of us (usually me) getting hurt because Tim is very competitive but not very coordinated! I think this year we may do a little snowshoeing or mountain bike riding.

K-Ruuz 1.5: A lightweight, water-resistant 5.5 oz racing shoe ($100, kswiss.com)

Why do you love the K-Swiss Kona collection sneakers?

I have been running in K-Swiss shoes for the past two years and have broken the run course record in Kona both of those years, so there is no question that they make a great running shoe. But the thing I like most is that they always come out with shoes that just look cool.

What advice would you give to someone who is doing her first triathlon or half-Ironman?

The best advice I could give would be to start short and work your way up to the longer distances. Don't rush into a half or full Ironman, it's a very long way and I think you would enjoy triathlon more if you took the time to progress through the distances.

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