Becoming Ironman With Craig Alexander – Bike Magazine Australia

Becoming an Ironman world champion means covering a lot of ground in preparation – athletes grind through 226km of swimming, riding, and running in the race alone.

“Boulder Creek, in the heart of Boulder, is really cool even
in summer.” Images: Delly Carr

One man who knows a thing or two about the phrase “hard yards in training” is last year’s Hawaiian Ironman winner Craig “Crowie” Alexander. Alexander, while schooled in Ironman by Aussie great Greg Welch and American stalwart Dave Scott, actually cut his triathlon teeth racing the best short course athletes – Brad Beven, Miles Stewart, Greg Bennett and Craig Walton – in the late ’90s. While he made a strong fist of this with relatively low kilometres on the corporeal odometer, it was at the turn of the millennium when Alexander really dropped the clutch.He claimed the “triple crown” in the US by winning short course classics in Boston, Chicago and LA and won $286,000 and an SUV at the Life Time Fitness Triathlon in 2005. Then, spurred by memories of watching Hawaii champ Welch interviewed on the old Wide World Of Sports, Ironman beckoned.Bar Welch’s victory in 1994, the Yanks and Euros had dominated in Hawaii since the sport’s inception. That all changed when Chris McCormack won in 2007 on his sixth attempt, with Alexander second behind him on debut. Alexander, 35, continued the new era of antipodean occupation by returning to the Big Island to win in 2008, leading to a WWOS interview of his own with Channel Nine’s Ken Sutcliffe as Hawaii champion. Now the show’s over and Alexander is descending back into his fitness furrow for another tilt at the title


“My main point of contact was people who’d done well in Kona in the past. I spoke to Welchy, who won Hawaii in ’94, and having six-time champ Dave Scott in Boulder, Colorado where I train every Australian winter was helpful, too. Dave said I should err on the side of doing more mileage because I came from a short course background. For that reason I do two big-volume blocks of training per year where I train every day for a month and complete close to 20km of swimming, 720km of biking and 125km of running. The one thing Greg and Dave both said to me was that they could only give me a general framework; I would have to figure the rest out myself because every athlete is different.”


“I developed my training program myself, but within the framework of my cycling I always try to get the feedback of Lance Armstrong’s coach, Chris Carmichael. There’s a big difference between 40km pack rides in Olympic distance racing and a 180km individual time trial in Ironman. I thought if anyone had the expertise on the bike and could suggest the things I needed to do in training, then Lance’s coach would be the guy. Aside from looking at my bike programs, he also suggested a bike fit test for my riding position.”