40 Stories – Craig Alexander – 2011
We all love to compare stats around the IRONMAN World Championship. Things like splits, placings, age and personal situation. A guy who hit the jackpot in comparisons is Craig Alexander and the race he put together in 2011.
He’d already established himself as one of the best ever in the sport. Craig pulled off two flawless victories in 2008 and 2009 with lazar sharp runs in both. There was never a step in the previous wins where he looked tired or faltered.
But he wasn’t invincible. We all saw that the following year in 2010. He still had the fastest run of the day with a 2:41:59, but his bike let him down. Two time defending champ Craig Alexander finished in 5th place.
The hallmark of a great champion is one who accepts reality, who acknowledges their weaknesses and does whatever’s necessary to correct them. Craig Alexander is one of those champions.
It would be foolish to say that Craig was in anyway “weak” on the bike. But in the realm of world-class IRONMAN racing, just because something is not exactly weak doesn’t mean that it’s a strength either. He knew he could outrun everyone, but to win he had to be closer to the front at the start of the marathon.
Craig commented on what was different going to Kona that year:
“I went into the IRONMAN World Championships in 2011 with a slightly different mindset to my previous races in Kona. I was always very physically fit heading into the race, but I made some changes around equipment choice. I wore an aero helmet for the first time, worked on my bike position/set-up, and was determined to execute a different race plan being more aggressive on the bike.”
He executed with precision once again, this time with strength in all three sports. His bike split was the fastest of anyone considered a contender at 4:24:05.
Craig’s time at the end of the day? A world-record setting mark of 8:03:56. He covered the IRONMAN World Championship course faster than any human in history. And to add to why this is a top-40 greatest moment was that he did it at the age of 38, making him the oldest champion in history.
The effort was intense, needless to say. Craig showed the impact of the day with a near collapse after crossing the finish line:
A lot of people have highlighted the impact of such an incredible performance at that age. But for Craig, in his normal under-spoken way, commented that neither a time nor age were on his mind that day.
“To be honest, when I was racing Championship races, I never thought about age. It was always just a performance focus.”
“As for the record, it was very satisfying but more along the lines of being a top personal career performance. There have been course changes in Kona, start time changes, etc all of which impact times. So I always tried to keep it in perspective.”