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Chrissie Wellington Q+A

Chrissie Wellington
(Image credit: Unknown)

You went from novice to world champion in three years. How?
I don't think you know what you're good at until you really tap into it. Prior to 2006 my interests lay outside of triathlon. When I focused on it I realised I had a talent for endurance sport. My drive, determination and stubbornness - and my high pain threshold - all helped me to be where I am today.
Did you expect to be this good?
Not in a million years.
Are you still learning about the sport?
Definitely. I'm 32 but that's relatively young for an endurance athlete so I feel I can get faster and stronger. And I'm still learning - how best to set up my equipment, how best to eat etc.

Would you consider doing a longer race than Ironman?
That isn't a goal for me at the moment. What interests me more is adventure racing. I like the less structured approach. I'd also like to do some bonkers tailored endurance challenges, similar to what [former Olympic rower] James Cracknell has been doing.
Should you do a half Ironman before moving on to a full one?
I'd recommend it. Not least to practise your nutrition strategy and to get used to being in the cycling position for such a long time. Having said that, there's a big jump between a half and a full.

Why would anyone step up from Olympic to Ironman?
For the challenge. It gives you something to strive for and raise your own personal bar. You grow, not only athletically but also as a person because it instils you with the confidence you can do something you didn't expect you could do.
How important is nutrition?
My body is my vehicle for success and I need to fuel it properly. I'm not super-obsessive about what I eat. I have a varied diet with a large proportion of carbohydrates. I try to avoid junk food but I splash out once in a while.

How can people develop their mental strength for Ironman races?
You've got to suffer pain during training because you'll suffer pain in racing. It's the only way to know you can keep going. It's also important to prepare yourself for all eventualities in a race. The worst thing you can do during an event is panic and start to question yourself.
What do you think about on the bike and the run?
I think about that moment and do some speed and time calculations in my head. I have songs I sing to myself. There's one by a guy called Jim Major, who no-one would know. He has an amazing song about running. I sing that to myself.

What advice do you have for fitting in training hours?
Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time available and accept there's a limit to the hours you can put in. Also, remember that clocking more hours doesn't necessarily make you a better athlete. You can get bang-for-buck sessions, such as 30 minutes of hill repeats, that are a lot more beneficial than an hour-and-a-half of steady running. You need good time management and to set yourself a programme with key sessions that fit around your work and social life.
Do you have any unconventional training methods?
Sometimes I train on an empty stomach to train my body to cope with the calorie deficit that you experience in a race. But I wouldn't recommend doing it day in, day out because it would impede your training and recovery.  

How do you avoid getting injured?
Injury is part of Ironman. The more you fear it, the more you'll get injured. You can do things to reduce your risk, such as having a proper training programme that's tailored to you or avoiding excessive training.
What's the best advice you've been given?
Never wear white Lycra. It gets wet and people can see more than you want them to.

Wellington's advice will help you get a new triathlon PB perform when you compete in the Men's Fitness Rough Track Triathlon (opens in new tab).

Want more triathlon tips? Then read this exclusive interview with X-Terran Sam Gardner. (opens in new tab)

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Extra info

Chrissie Wellington
Age: 32
Event: Ironman (3.9km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run)
2008, 2007 Ironman world champion
2008 Ironman European champion
2008 Winner, Ironman Australia
2007 Winner, Ironman Korea

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