Doc Talks Hawaii 2011
Looking for Clues in the Lava
Many people have asked why no Hawaii summary? And that was easy to dismiss. It was too close to my heart as Hawaii this year in the women's race was not only the most competitive but also produced the most collateral damage to legendary athletes. In 2011, because of sheer competitiveness of the sports best, the champions in the women's field didn't come to play but to destroy. If not the opposition, then they would destroy themselves. It made for the most gripping Ironman female race of all time, but it levied a huge toll on the sport. Not many noticed, but the race stole an emotional output of these gladiators. I feared the worst.
I'm sure our Xena can tell you I have put my focus on healing her scars. Her battle in Hawaii giving it everything for a impossible victory and being forced to walk down Alii Drive to the finish bowed and completely spent after giving the greatest triathlete in history, Chrissy Wellington, the scare of her life. In what was a fight to the death as subsequent events have proved to be correct. For our Xena, the biggest challenge in her sporting career will be 2012. Will she let the weight of disappointment of being so close to the win and failing short weigh her down? Will she succumb to the memory of the physical pain she endured while she strode like a Colossus asking the questions of Chrissie Wellington and demanding an effort that no other Ironwoman has yet been able to ask of her.
I worry much about the collateral damage that was done this year. I'm asking our Xena to show me what a great warrior she is by putting the epic battle behind her and giving everything again in her wars this year. She has to prove to me to herself and also to the triathlon public that she can rise to the challenge. It is no small ask.
However, what got me off my arse to write about Hawaii 2011 was a disgruntled punter who poison penned me, “why would Chrissie ask your advice as she has much better advisors now.” This little arrow did strike me in the heart as I am sure even Chrissie will tell you I spent two seasons protecting her from such advisors but more importantly from herself. Then, when she left we then continued to have a good relationship. But I continually told her that she was pushing way to hard in her races causing an ongoing strain in our communication. As all who trained with Chrissy know every session was absolute all out way too hard on a daily basis. It was our one disputed point. After I watched her kill herself in Roth in 2010, I advised her this was not the way for her. She told me of her new unbelievable training times, and I again recommended that she back off to which I was told, “Boss, we know what we doing.” No Hawaii that year, coincidence?
Well watching Chrissie in 2011 at Kona with pieces of skin coming off her and completely battered from her fall. I knew she should not even be on the start line. I was a very worried old ex Boss. Then to see her with absolutely nothing left with 10 km to go. I knew three things:
1. She would die before she slowed and let Rinny run past her. I mean die.
2. She was exorcising her greatest self-demon. Can I race like a champion when not miles in the lead? Am I a true champion?
3. We may never see her race again. As I know how deep she had to go to prove herself to herself. It was the greatest challenge she has ever faced. This effort may be the final nail in the coffin.
The last two years of killing herself day in and day out, the racing all out like a lunatic for the glory of world records and in combination with all the back slippers. She has done in Hawaii in 2011 what few athletes ever do and that is extract the best of herself.
Yes, she trains faster now. Yes, her race times are faster. But has she won more then she would have by not pushing over the edge on a monthly, no weekly, no daily, no hourly basis. This is the Chrissie I knew. Living in the flat next door, you could feel the "force of nature" she was. In my judgment, I think not.
Chrissie Wellington has nothing more to prove to herself. She has no more questions to ask of herself. She has physically and mentally drained herself of the life force that makes Chrissie, Chrissie. I am sure she rang me not for advice, as she knew I knew what she was thinking. Because as it would seem, it was only me who really knew what we were dealing with: Chrissy was a whirlwind tour de force, whom left to her own devices would have the sport that made her great take an enormous toll. Now, she needs time to see if her life force will return or if she is a shadow of her former self.
Am I angry? No, she has all the accolades anyone could ever need.
Am I sad? Very.
Is there a lesson? Of course, there is.
Ironman will break even the greatest. If you don't respect how hard it is and prepare accordingly to what you personally need. An athlete who is leading an Ironman and continues to whip their body in the pursuit of a world record time when there is no extra financial gain is simply playing with fire. If it can burn the greatest of all time, it will vaporize the mere mortal.
Hawaii 2011, for me, will always be etched in my memory as the greatest dogfight in triathlon history. The carnage is irreparable: Julie Dibens vowing that's my last, Mirinda Carfrae changing coaches, Xena licking her wounds and letting the bloody dry before she comes back to prove herself, and of course the great Chrissy Wellington’s retirement.
The only difference is that Chrissy has nothing left to prove. As only a truly great champion can say she has reached the summit. Enjoy your rest Chrissy. You earned it like not other. And to the deluded poison penners, the same as her advisors, shame on you!