I was fortunate enough to have some time with arguably Australia’s greatest Ironman athlete Craig Alexander. As we sat in a park, in his home town of Cronulla, I started by asking Craig if it was good to be home and what it was like spending so much time living and training away from home.
CA: It’s been that long that I’m as comfortable there as I am here. I mean let’s face it there’s no place like home, here I have my garage set up with a treadmill and stuff is not quite like that over there, but Neri and I have been going to the states for 15 years and this year was, I think, our 10th or 11th in Boulder, our first summer was 05 I think. We have a good set up over there, we don’t own a place we just rent while we are there, and we keep a lot of our stuff in storage but I know the lay of the land I know the good training grounds there are a lot of good people to train with and I have a lot of friends over there now.
So yes, training over there is great but there is no place like home. I always find I train better here because Lucy is in school, “Aussie” is in preschool, Neri goes back to work and she is very comfortable doing that, she works one shift a week at St George Hospital and we have family here.
I’ll give you an example, I feel like Boulder is our second home but last year just after we arrived in Colorado our baby Lani was only eight weeks old, we had only been there a week and Neri got really sick and we didn’t know what was going on. I have a really good friend over there is a triathlete and a G.P. and he said he thought it was an ear infection but wasn’t sure Neri had this really bad pain in her head. Now we have no family over there, we have lots of good friends, but no family. Anyway, I remember it well it was a Sunday I had just done along run and come home and Neri was on the couch she had farmed the kids out all over the neighbourhood because she just couldn’t get off the couch. Now she knew I had a massage and she said you go and have your massage and if I’m not feeling any better when you get back you can take me to the hospital. And I said “if you are feeling that bad let’s just go now!”
So we went straight to the hospital, we left Lucy and Aussie with some friends but took Lani with us to the hospital.
She had lots of tests done and they couldn’t figure it out and Neri was saying she was having trouble swallowing and breathing. Now I know my wife she doesn’t complain……… about anything! They gave her some medication which made her feel a little better and then we went home, but she was up all night just screaming in pain so I rang a mate who is an ER physician at two in the morning. He said there was nothing he could do at that time but he was on duty at six and asked if we could come in at six.
So we rode out the storm and the next morning they admitted her. She had shingles in her throat and her airways had swollen almost completely shut. It was so bad they were almost going to intubate, yeah just cut straight in like a tracheotomy. She was in ICU for four days and then in hospital for another four days after that. So here we are in a foreign country and as much as we have good friends there, there is no family. So after about two or three weeks we had to call up and get Neri’s younger sister to come over because I hadn’t been training, I had the three kids and obviously family is the main priority, so there are challenges you face overseas that you don’t necessarily face at home. It is always much better to be at home, but as much as I say that I will say you have to make the best of things and we have had some unbelievable times in the US. The reason we go there obviously is because the sport follows the northern hemisphere summer and that’s when the big races are on either in the US or in Europe. And we have made the best of it in fact not only have we made the best of it I think we flourished over there, we love living over there and the time we have spent there.
Transitions: While we are talking about that I suppose the reason you go there is mainly for Kona so what are your thoughts on this year’s Kona?
CA: Well I sucked, I really stunk up the joint didn’t I? I mean let’s be honest!! For me I don’t really look at the result I look at the performance and this year I underperformed. I didn’t think I was going to Kona, last year when I said it was my last I meant it and I thought it was. Neri and I had always said that when Austin started school we were done with the northern hemisphere summers, as it turned out he was only 4 ½ in January and he didn’t start school he got held back for another year and I got in my head straight away, Kona! And that’s because I’m a racer it’s what I think about.
Transitions: So with all the conspiracy theories going around, it was as simple as Aussie not being old enough to go to school that was the reason?
CA: Yeah it was a simple timeline of events, which was the first thing to fall into place. A week later I went to Geelong and won the 70.3 race which was the Aussie long course champs and thought I was in pretty good form so that was the second thing to fall into place. So then I started thinking about Melbourne and that was in five weeks, so I said to Neri that I might jump into Melbourne, and at this time Kona still wasn’t right in the middle of the radar but I wanted to leave the option open. With Austin not starting school we had the opportunity to travel again and I knew regardless of Kona is going to have to anyway I had already two appearances called in in July one in the UK and one the US. So I knew at some point I was going to be in the northern hemisphere anyway so I just started joining all the dots really. And the main thing is that I really love the race and I love to race and if my sons not at school there is no family obligations keeping me from it and as much as I would love to be there , I would like to think my sponsors would like me to be there as well. That’s my job. There was no great conspiracy, people who know me know I don’t try to drum up attention in fact I prefer less of it. It was just that one thing led to another and on top of all that we got invited to the football World Cup in Brazil, and of all the opportunities you get from being a world champion and a professional athlete I had never really capitalised on any of them. We got invited to the London Olympics in 2012 which we didn’t go to and there have been a lot of those sorts of invitations. But you know what both my eldest children love soccer, Lucy plays and we got this invitation to go to Brazil and that was just another piece in the whole jigsaw puzzle. So we decided to go to the World Cup and then head back to North America after that. It just felt natural. Things were evolving, the more days that passed the more it felt right. I didn’t have to bang my head against a locker to psych myself up for Kona, it was Kona!! As the days and the weeks passed I thought if I could get my body healthy why wouldn’t I?
Transitions: So with Aussie starting school, there will be no more Kona? C’mon, give us the scoop!!
CA: (Laughs) I’d love to give you a scoop, but what I know with this sport as a 41 year old, nearly 42 year old, your decisions aren’t as long term as they used to be, and that’s the truth. I would love to give you a scoop, but if I was a betting man and you asked me to put a sizeable wager on it I’d say I won’t be racing there ever again. I don’t go there to make up the numbers, you go there to perform to a level you know you are capable of, and if you can’t get to that level for whatever reason, whether be it age and physical decline, which I don’t think it is, it’s more that with three children and business and other things going on you just don’t have the time to devote that you used to, it’s as simple as that, a changing of priorities. But to answer your question, I don’t think I’ll be there, no.
In part two I ask Craig your questions about his swim, ride and run.