For endurance triathletes around the world, the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona is their World Series, Super Bowl… Olympics. Spectators and competitors alike are eagerly anticipating the cannon blast on October 8th, including three-time IRONMAN World Champion Craig “Crowie” Alexander. Since his last win in 2011, the career for the “King of Kona” has taken a different shape. Though he’s focusing more on 70.3 distance and spending time with his family, Crowie is far from removed from the Ironman scene. We caught up with the legend to learn more about his experience on the Big Island, the changes he’s made in his career and the secrets to his success. Take note.
This will be your second year going to Kona as a spectator. With three Ironman World Championships under your belt, how does it feel to not be in the water when the cannon goes off on the Big Island?
Last year I thought it would feel strange to be in Kona during race week and on race day and not be racing. I had such a busy schedule of appearances in race week, I didn’t really think about not racing and how that would feel. To be honest, on race morning I had a few butterflies and felt a little strange but ultimately, knew I was where I was supposed to be. My Kona racing career was amazing, something I am very proud of but I am at a different stage of life now and have no regrets.
You gave up racing the Ironman distance races so you could spend more time with your family, and yet we still see you competing in 70.3 races almost every month, and winning. Has that stirred up the urge to toe the line in Kona again?
Absolutely not. I still love the sport of triathlon and really love racing. I am able to race 70.3 and Olympic Distance races very competitively with less than half the time and training commitment required for Ironman distance races, so it really is the best of both worlds. I get to race without compromising on family time or my other commitments.
This past season was a big year of changes for you…. you switched to the Argon 18 bike, and you integrated HOTSHOT into your training & racing plan. Can you tell us a little bit about why you made these changes, and how you feel it has affected your performance?
Change can be a good thing. I am very big on making choices based on performance and nothing else. I have been very lucky throughout my career to partner with companies and products that have added value to my racing and training and helped me to perform at the highest level. These two changes you mentioned were made with exactly that mindset. Opportunities presented that I believed would add huge value to my training and racing, so I jumped at both opportunities. Argon has been great to work with and the new Tri bike I believe is the best performance bike I have ever ridden, from the standpoint of aerodynamics and weight, but it is also extremely comfortable. I think these factors have led to some really good performances. Similarly, with HOTSHOT, there was a very big performance focus in deciding to partner up. I have never been an athlete with a huge tendency to cramp, but when I did, it was always at an inopportune time and not when I would’ve expected. Cramps are so debilitating and performance limiting. They just stop you in your tracks immediately like nothing else. Having studied as a physiotherapist in college, I learned a lot about the relationship between nerves and muscles and how important this was for optimal performance. I am a big believer in the science behind HOTSHOT and the men who invented it, both world-renowned scientists.
You are known for reviewing your training log the night before your race. Can you tell us why this is a critical part of your race regimen?
I am not superstitious, but I started reviewing my training diary the night before races at the urging of my wife. She thought it would give me a lot of confidence and put me in a great headspace heading into races after seeing all of the work that had been put in. She was right!
Any advice you want to give to athletes who are competing in Kona for the first time?
To athletes competing in Kona for the first time, it is time to back off the training, relax and continue to mentally engage with the race. I used to visualize all the different possible race scenarios and conditions and also how I would start, pace, fuel, etc. I loved this time leading in to the race. Hopefully you have trained well and practiced your nutrition in race simulation sessions. I would reinforce in my mind, my nutrition strategy. Unfortunately for me, HOTSHOT wasn’t in existence when I was racing in Kona, but if I were racing now, I would be planning my intended intake of HOTSHOT as well as my other nutrition. For the shorter races, I have been taking HOTSHOT about 45 minutes before the start. If I were racing an IM in hot, humid conditions, I would be supplementing that intake with another shot during the bike, one in T2 and an emergency in Special Needs.
Where is your favorite place to catch the action as a spectator in Kona?
I have only spectated in Kona on race day once, last year. It was spectacular being in and around the pier for the swim and start of the bike. Then I rotated between “Hot Corner” and Ali’i Drive to catch the action at the end of the bike and on the run. Just an amazing event to watch.
Following the Ironman World Championships, you will be headed to China to compete at Ironman 70.3 Hefei on a relay team. What leg are you racing, and how did you pick your relay team?
I am doing the swim leg. The race organizers ran a contest to select my teammates. Should be a lot of fun.
What’s next for you?
I have raced 8 times this year, which is the biggest race schedule I have had in about 3-4 years. The first 6 races were brilliant but I got sick and definitely underperformed in the last two. This is often a sign that your body is at its limit and needs a rest, so next on the agenda for me is a break from training. I have a lot of travel to do and will focus on appearances and sponsorship obligations for the immediate future.