I found this article today. Good stuff. Craig Alexander is the 2008, 2009 & 2011 Ironman Triathlon World Champion.
Craig Alexander: Winning The Mind Game
When it comes to mental toughness, few can compete with Craig Alexander. ‘Crowie’ as he is known in the triathlon world is one of the strongest – physically and mentally – out there, and like most champions he rarely contemplates defeat. Which is why this extract from a larger article in this month’s Triathlete Europe magazine gives an interesting insight into the two-time Ironman World Champion. In it, Crowie talks about how he gets through the tougher races, and what he thinks about while pounding out the miles.
What was your hardest race?
I think mentally the toughest races are also the toughest physical races. It is no coincidence. When thing are going well physically, you have a lot of confidence, and those days probably don’t require the same amount of mental strength.
One that comes to mind was the ITU Long Course World Champs in Canberra in 2006. I had never raced longer than a half-Ironman distance race at the time, and I had just won the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater the weekend before and then travelled home to Australia. I’d say physically I was in some of the best shape of my career, but I wasn’t really up to speed with nutrition for long-course racing. It was a very hot day and a fairly tough course, and I cramped a lot and ran out of fuel. The final 10 kilometres of that race was more mentally challenging than any other race of my career. I learned a lot that day.
Describe the thoughts and emotions that go through your head in that situation, being at the absolute limit of what you can handle.
I think about the commitment I made to myself to be the best athlete I could, and all the time and energy that has been invested in my career by myself and others. I also think often of my family and draw inspiration from them. I try to stay positive and block out the negative thoughts. I concentrate on the things that are going to positively affect my mood and performance, rather than the thoughts and feelings that are going to undermine me.
How do you feel about the competitive aspect of another person trying to run you down in that situation? Does it cause doubt and negative thoughts at times, or are there times when you feed from it?
The thought of someone trying to run me down doesn’t intimidate me. I love the competitive nature of that situation. I am a competitive person, and I certainly feed off the competition. In the longer races I certainly spend more time concentrating on my own situation than thinking about anybody else. There are a lot of things in a race and in the lead-up to a race that can cause doubt. I really try to use these things as motivation to prepare well, and focus on the things that I can control.
I think it is human nature to feel doubt at different times, but it is how you use those feelings, or learn from them, that’s important.