Leanda Cave’s victory at the 2012 Ironman World Championships was nothing short of epic. Taking the lead in the last 3km of the race, the Brit secured her first Kona crown in truly impressive style. But what about the woman she pipped to the post? Caroline Steffen performed brilliantly yet again on the Big Island, but yet again saw victory snatched away from her in the last kilometres of the race. We spoke to the Swiss star to get her thoughts on the race, the penalty, and taking on Chrissie Wellington in 2013.
Have you recovered from Kona?
I had a couple of days after the race and spent a bit of time in Kona. I spent a bit of time surfing, paddle boarding and snorkelling and had a good time over there. I had a couple of days easy now and I’m just getting ready for the Noosa Triathlon next weekend.
Can you reflect on your race at Kona?
After the race I was happy and disappointed. I focused for the whole year on this race at Kona and I was focused on going for the win. I was pretty sure I had a good chance which I showed in the race. Then, of course, in the race I was passed with 3km to go and it was hard to realise that that’s it. It was really hard to accept the second place for me afterwards but it’s now nearly three weeks ago and I think I should be happy with second.
I had an awesome race – I felt awesome all day. I had a really good swim and didn’t lose much to the leading girls. On the bike I felt strong but unfortunately I got the penalty – I still don’t know why I got it. I was sitting in the tent for four minutes and that changed my race strategy. A lot of people have said that they saw it online and they don’t think it was a penalty so I was really angry about that. But there is nothing to do in the race but accept it. It was just a bummer to lose those four minutes. Then I had a good run but she [Leanda Cave] was just faster.
Have you spoken to Ironman about the penalty?
I didn’t have any energy to do anything straight after the race. There must be coverage but I have got emails saying that there is nothing. But in the end Leanda got four minutes – Mary Beth as well – and I’m not saying at all that I would have won the race without the penalty, I’m just saying it’s not necessary to give a four-minute penalty to every single girl in the lead.
Aside from the penalty are there any aspects of your race that you would change?
I reckon my last 10km in the run is still pretty weak. Not only this year in Kona but if you have a look at another couple of races it’s always the last 10km where I struggle. I’ve worked a lot on my run and I reckon I’ve improved a lot but that’s still a part that I need to work on. I also reckon I need to be better in the heat. So maybe I need to do some other races in the heat – it was a really hot day and I struggle with that.
How do you pick yourself up after a race like that?
I read an article that said it was my chance because Chrissie [Wellington] wasn’t racing, and now I’ve lost the chance for the next couple of years because maybe Chrissie will come back. That made me very angry. I try all year to be the best and beat the best. So when people say there is no chance to win when Chrissie is back next year it gives me the boost to train even harder. I’m sure sometime someone will beat her; it doesn’t have to be me – there are other girls.
I don’t think it was my chance – there will be other chances and that gives me motivation.
Do you know what you’re going to work on for 2013?
I haven’t spoken a lot to Brett [Sutton] since the race. He usually gives me some time to re-think my race before we start to talk as there are too many emotions. So I haven’t had any chances to plan the next year. But I’m in Australia at the moment and the last couple of years I’ve spent time in Australia or Asia until Apirl and maybe I’ll do the same again. Then maybe Abu Dhabi this year – I raced there the last three years, and maybe Melbourne. Then a big race in Europe around July and then Kona.
How much more do you think you can improve?
Oh, I think I can still improve heaps. I took a big step from 2011 to 2012 – I did two sub-9 races and I was especially happy with the 8:52 at Frankfurt. But I mean I have to improve my swim – I’m still one and a half minutes back on Leanda. On the bike I’m okay, but I can improve in the last 40km and then on the run there’s the last 10km – but maybe it’s even the last 20km. There are a couple of minutes that can come here and there. Then there are things like working on the heat and also on nutrition – there’s areas I can improve on that.
Does having Brett Sutton as a coach give you an advantage when it comes to racing Chrissie?
He knows Chrissie very well and he knows exactly how she’s thinking and how she’s racing – he’s taught me a lot already. So I think that’s definitely good if I stick with Brett. With or without Chrissie, Brett is the best solution for me – I trust him and it works well for me. If you look at the last three years I don’t think there’s a better coach for me.
What are your goals for 2013?
It might sound boring but to stay healthy and not get injured so I can keep going like I did the last three years. I want to stay focused on the Ironman races, so maybe defending Melbourne and Frankfurt, and then definitely Kona. And then one of the biggest goals is to get stronger in the last 10km – I lost the last two Konas in the last 10km so I reckon that is my biggest goal. And then I want to go for the win at Kona.
Caroline Steffen is a representative for On Running. You can read our review of the Cloud Racer here.