World Champion Craig Alexander talks about balancing marriage, parenting, and triathlon.
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
I want to introduce you to some awesome Moms and Dads as I write these letters to you. I’m doing my best to balance being a husband to your mom, a good dad to you kids, and an athlete, but there are some amazing people in the world who are doing these things too. I think it’s important for you to meet them.
Craig “Crowie” Alexander is the current Ironman World Champion. He is a 5 time world champion, including three victories at Ironman Hawaii.
In 2011 he did what no other triathlete in history had done. He won both the 70.3 World Championship and Ironman Hawaii in the same year, just a few weeks apart. His victory last year at Ironman Hawaii may have been the most impressive of his 3 victories in Hawaii. He became the oldest man to ever win the race at the age of 38. He also broke the course record.
Not bad for an “old guy” with a wife and two kids.
There are a lot of great people in the triathlon, but “Crowie” is universally regarded as one of the most humble and accessible athletes in the sport. He’s a regular guy who just happens to be one of the greatest athletes in the world. Perhaps it’s just his laid-back Australian vibe, or maybe it’s because his life is rooted in something greater than his results as an athlete.
On his website Crowie says that of all of the titles he has won over the years, “Daddy” is the title he is most proud of. I wanted to find out how he excels at triathlon, while also balancing family life and marriage.
I had a chance to talk with Crowie recently about balance and a little bit about triathlon.
Chad: You and Nerida have been together for 17 years. What’s the secret to you marriage’s success?
Crowie: No secret. All marriages are take give and take. We have been together for a long time now and we still like each other. That’s a good thing.
Chad: The huge time commitment it takes to compete in triathlon is a source of stress for a lot of couples. Do you have any advice on how to balance all of the demands of the sport with a commitment to your family?
Crowie: I’m lucky in that Neri is completely on board. We certainly have days when it takes it’s toll, but it is a team effort and that’s how we like it. To be successful I need Neri and the kids on my team.
Chad: My wife Karen occasionally has to put triathlon in perspective for me in the big picture. How does Neri make you a better athlete and person?
Crowie: I think she is my voice of reason. She is happy to remind me that triathlon is what I do and not who I am. That certainly helps to keep it in true perspective.
Chad: I read an interview with you and Neri recently in which Neri said that you two never fight about money, because of the way you lived in the beginning. Can you tell us what those early years of your marriage were like?
Crowie: Neri ( and my parents) were my first sponsors. She supported me for a long time working night shift and double shifts many many times to help me front up to my next race. We lived in a tiny apartment and we were happy doing what we were doing. We are well supported now by the sport and our sponsors and for that I am grateful.
Chad: Tell us about your kids Lucy and Austin?
Crowie: Lucy is 7 and Austin is 3. Lucy will be an athlete of some kind one day. She is thin and athletic and pretty driven. She currently plays soccer, does gymnastics and swim squad. She also is a great little hiker, and has done a bunch of kids triathlons. Aussie is much more laid back. He is more of a ball sports guy, but has recently discovered that he can ride a 2 wheel bike and is a maniac on it ! No fear !
Chad: My daughter Izzy did her first race last summer. I remember it being a great day, but also emotional for me. Lucy did her first triathlon recently. What was that like for your family?
Crowie: Lucy has done a bunch of races and probably knows more about triathlon than a large percentage of the population. She has lived and breathed it for 7 years. She was nervous for her first race, but nailed it. She has practiced post race interviews since she was about 3. Welchy gave her that opportunity post the Kona dip’n’dash last year, and the cat got her tongue.
Chad: Between travel, training, and a growing family you’ve had to become a master of time management. How do you make it all work?
Crowie: I have Neri and Neri has a schedule.
Chad: How often do Neri, Lucy, and Austin travel with you to races?
Crowie: Neri and the kids really only come to a handful of races each year now. It is logistically much harder with the family and the costs crazy to fly the family everywhere. On top of that, Lucy is home schooled when we are in Boulder so she and Neri really need to stay at home and keep that on track. Missing so much time in the class room in Australia, it takes a lot of dedication to be disciplined enough to maintain the level she should be at. Not to say that traveling and experiencing things around the world is not an education as it most definitely is.
Chad: Is that stressful or do you have it figured out?
Crowie: Neri seems to have it on track. We have good support from her school in Australia and we have a great tutor in Boulder who helps Neri out a lot.
Chad: You had some health issues awhile back. What did you learn from all of that?
Crowie: Be patient.
Chad: You’re racing both 70.3 Worlds and Kona again this year, after winning the double last year. Why is it important for you to do well in both?
Crowie: I race for my living and to support my family, because I love it and I always want to do my best. My aim would be to defend both titles. Can that be done? We’ll all know in October.
Chad: What’s Kona week like for you from a family perspective?
Crowie: I try to shut down shop in that final week and spend a bit of time with the kids as the taper kicks in. It always ends up being way crazier than I hope for, and from the families perspective we all can’t wait until race day arrives.
Chad: What do you hope your kids remember about this period of their life – they’re dad being the world champion?
Crowie: That I trained hard and I always did my best. My message to the kids is it is not about winning, but about doing your best. Taking winning out of the equation is hard for Lucy though. She is super competitive!
Chad: What life lessons do you hope they take away from your career as a professional triathlete?
Crowie: That hard work pays off. There is personal satisfaction in doing your best.
Chad: Final word of advice for age-groupers who are juggling family, triathlon, and full time jobs. How can we excel in the sport without taking away from the most important area in our lives (our families)?
Crowie: I would offer my congratulations to any age grouper who manages to train for triathlon and work and have a family. The pro athletes have it easy in that it IS their job.
Keeping your partner on side is a big thing, I find “destination” races are a good incentive to keep them on side! Keeping the family involved is also a smart move. My kids love nothing better than handing me drinks out the window of the car on a long run or coming in the stroller when I head out for a recovery run. Lucy can ride well enough and long enough now that she can accompany me on a 1 hour run. It’s fun for both of us.
I hope you kids enjoyed reading about Craig “Crowie” Alexander as much as I enjoyed talking with him.