Physical Edge attended a TCR exhibition (triathlon, cycling, running) to hear Chrissie Wellington speak about her life in triathlon, and where she is heading with her career. Chrissie recently released her latest book called ‘Life Without Limits – a World Champion’s Journey’ and Physical Edge was able to purchase an autographed copy. Chrissie presented for one hour and spoke on topics such as pressure; achieving new highs in ironman sport; and her early days of racing. She also gave an analysis of herself and why she was successful as a world ironman champion four times over.
It was interesting to see the psychology behind Chrissie’s success. She suffered bulimia as a teenager and was never a successful athlete until 5 years ago, when she entered an ironman contest. She does not come from a family of successful athletes, and only came to the sport of ironman after a coach saw her potential.
Chrissie may not have had the normal athletic childhood that other world champions have, but what she does have is an internal drive which is relentless. She has always wanted to be the best that she could be in everything that she does. She works hard and never gives up. She achieved high academic honours in high school and university, and achieved the highest score ever in her university for a degree of economic geography. She was a civil servant before coming to ironman, when a coach saw her and asked to her to try out for triathlon. Within a 5 -10 month period she became the world ironman champion.
Chrissie finds it very difficult to relax. She is someone who is on the go 100% of the time; this characteristic has helped her achieve great things in her life so far. She says that the key to her success is being able to better manage this incredibly insatiable hunger for self improvement. Chrissie has had 2 very different types of coaches – one coach who took control of her training and another who empowered her. She has benefitted from both these types of coaching, and recognises the importance as well of friends and family – along with other ironman athletes who are non-professionals – as major sources of inspiration and emotional support.
Chrissie describes herself with ‘a mind like a bullet’ – unable to rest, constantly analysing herself, and very self critical. In her book she describes how she has managed her natural tendancy for self control; her first coach said she would only be a success in ironman if she chopped her head off.
In the last 5 years Chrissie has achieved the most that you could achieve as an ironman athlete. She is a 4 times world champion, has set the fastest world record and broken this herself. There are very few men that can beat her in the ironman distance. Triathlon has been the axis of her life so far: this year she has decided to take a year out of competing to find balance in her life. She has completed this book, is doing work for charity and will be involved in the Olympics in some commentary form. She reports she could not continue ironman and find balance in her life because this would mean compromising her training and racing – and she was not prepared to do this. She does intend to return to ironman in a year’s time, and who knows how good she will be at this point?
The advice Chrissie has for ironman athletes is to redefine perfection:’There is no such thing as perfection – you can only be the best that you can be: learn from the bad races, as this is where you learn how to improve yourself: avoid linking all your emotional well being to your performance (in other words, just be the best you can be on the day).’ She is a great believer in overcoming fear; in fact she confronts it face on and says ‘jump through the fear’!
Her final tips on the mental side of training and pain are: visualisation; associating music with landmarks in your race (going to the race course in advance and playing the music at those points, so that you become familiar with it on race day); creating positive self images of you crossing the line, having food at the end, friends around you etc; having a positive mantra (hers is ‘never give up’); and breaking the race into chunks so that mentally it is not so daunting.
A quote that Chrissie has taken from Lance Armstrong, which enabled her to get through times of great adversity is: “Quitting will last forever, but the pain will fade.”
If you are inspired to do an ironman contest contact Physical Edge at http://www.physical-edge.com