It was the toughest call she had ever had to make….
Three-time Ironman defending champion, Chrissie Wellington, was forced drop out the morning of the 2010 race with a viral infection. With Wellington not in the race, Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae won her first Ironman World Championship title.
So when Wellington crashed hard during a group ride two weeks before the 2011 Ironman World Championship and ended up with contusions on her hip and shoulder plus extensive road rash from her thigh to her lower leg, she and her coach Dave Scott weren’t sure if she could even get to the starting line. Before the crash, Wellington knew she was in the best shape of her life heading into the 2011 race where she hoped to re-claim her title from Carfrae. In her mind, the last thing she wanted to do was not start the world’s most important triathlon for the second year in a row.
To compound the issue, doctors also thought she might also have a torn pectoral muscle.
A few days before the race, she had to have her wounds scrubbed out to avoid infection. While her training pointed toward a 53 or 54 minute swim, she came out of the water with a big smile on her face in 1:01. This would be her 13th Iron distance race and she was undefeated. But this time she was not only injured, she was going up against a woman who was the defending champion and was considered the best pure runner in the sport.
Chrissie’s margin of victory in 2007 had been about five minutes. In 2008 it was 15 minutes, and in 2009 it had ballooned to nearly 20 minutes. This was a woman who was used to dominating everywhere she raced and had ever been challenged.
This Ironday would be much different. Off the bike she was 22 minutes behind the leader, Julie Dibens, and ten minutes back of Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave. Her time at the end was 8:55 and her margin of victory on Mirinda Carfrae was a mere 2:49, her closest race ever in Kona.
“Those were definitely my proudest racing hours,” she said afterwards. “I was the last pro out of the water and came off the bike in sixth. I had to fight tooth and nail and I had never had to do that before. The fight is what I love, the fight is what I crave and the fight is what I got. Internally and externally I crossed that finish line physically and emotionally annihilated. I knew then that I was complete as an athlete.”
That turned out to be Chrissie Wellington’s last race.
From our Kona Countdown this year, we featured a sound bite from the newest member of the Ironman Hall of Fame. In our most recent interview, the four-time Ironman World Champion reflected on her final race in Kona…..
Listen to the full interview with Chrissie here.