Australian triathlon great Mirinda Carfrae has always had impeccable timing, forging an unparalleled IRONMAN career which saw her win three Hawaiian World Championships.
Carfrae and fellow triple Hawaiian IRONMAN winner and new Hall of Famer Craig Alexander OAM will share the stage on Sunday night at the 2022 Triathlon Australia Celebration of Champions Awards night on the Gold Coast.
And “Rinny” as she is known in the world of triathlon was not just blown away with the news but thrilled to know she was back in Australia for a rare visit and that she would be able to join Alexander for her induction who she refers to as a real mentor as she set herself on the IRONMAN journey.
After plying her trade in Short Course racing in Australia from 1999, Carfrae made the most of her endurance qualities to move into 70.3 racing, before making her IRONMAN debut a decade later in 2009.
Carving out quite a remarkable Kona career – having 10 starts for seven podiums, three of them as a three-time Kona Queen winner; finishing second three times and third once.
“I remember I was still racing short course when I first heard about Kona – I never knew anything about it,” recalled Carfrae as she reflected on her extraordinary career.
“My first introduction into triathlon was Loretta Harrop and the Sydney Olympics and that was really my initial focus before I realised I could do big miles, I don’t break down and I seemed to be able to handle a lot of work.
“Back in the early 2000s racing for Australia on those Junior teams was a dream come true on a world stage and then you fast forward 20 years and all my whole life is thanks to the sport of triathlon.
“I’ve met my husband in the sport, we have two beautiful kids, a lovely home in the US – all thanks of being able to race professionally and to be sponsored at the level I was able to get sponsored at.”
Carfrae said she was happy just to bide her time as she transitioned into IRONMAN making sure she didn’t want to be just participating but to be a factor in the race in her first time in Kona.
“And that worked out really well (finished second) and also to see Craig (Alexander) and how he structured things going from a great 70.3 athlete to IRONMAN.....which was now my focus.....it was an amazing journey....I couldn’t have written it better.
“I’d plan my whole year around that race every year for a decade....it paid off for me very well....I have no complaints...
“The year that I won, in 2010 – three-time winner Chrissie Wellington was the overwhelming favourite and I turned up on the morning of the race with my mind set around racing her and I woke up and she wasn’t on the start line....so then I thought all the pressure was on me.
“But I was able to put together a great swim, bike and run...and won on the day..... you dream of that race ....but looking back I don’t think I really soaked it up enough.... I was kind of in disbelief almost in my second ever IRONMAN event and on top of the world but we sure did celebrate that night that’s for sure...”
Carfrae had one major advantage throughout her career – her ability to run a world class marathon off the swim, bike legs.
“You get off the bike every single year thinking “oh my goodness...now I have to run a marathon but I was always very well prepared...and it worked out very well for me.... I was confident in my training but still you ask...’Am I going to be able to do it today’...” said Carfrae.
“My goal was actually to run a sub 2 hours 50 marathon and I only just fell shy of it.”
Carfrae has never forgotten where she came from and who helped her along the way saying: “I would not be where I am today without the help of Triathlon Australia and the AIS, initially funding me to travel, getting me the experiences, allowing me to continue on my dream to become a world champion triathlete.
“I could have never have afforded travelling internationally, when I first started out.
“My whole life has resolved around the sport for so long giving me a great lifestyle and opportunities given to me so much for the sport that I love.
“I had an opportunity and I have taken it with both hands, to be given that opportunity with funding to get to races and with the support of nutritionists, of psychologists and race analysis and physiologists which I was given.
“And thanks to the great late Jackie Fairweather who helped me enormously and also Craig (Alexander) in my early years.
“I got to know Craig in Boulder when he was there and we travelled a bit together...I had an opportunity and I took that opportunity with both hands...
“It was nice to be part of his journey through IRONMAN too, being there for a lot of big training sessions; it was a memorable part of my preparation for a lot of my big races...and some wonderful memories...”
Carfrae says she has achieved more than she had ever dreamed of.
“I’m very happy with everything I’ve learnt along the way, people I have met and obviously the life we have made for ourselves,” said Carfrae.
“You have hopes and dreams and I dreamt of winning Kona which came along early in my IRONMAN career in my second race and then it was I want to win multiple times...and it has been an amazing journey...
“I am most proud of the way I carried myself throughout my career. I always raced with integrity; I never took any short cuts and just gave my everything.
“And the relationships I built along the way, with long term partnerships; my team....my husband Tim O’Donnell who I met in the sport and just giving my very best on the day.”
Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae – the humblest of Hall of Famers – remembering the sport that has given her a career she has run and kept running with – in record time.