Liam Bromilow with Caroline Steffen.
Victory comes in many different shapes and sizes. This was the quote given to a young girl, training day in, day out at a quiet pool in Spiez, Switzerland. Not yet old enough to drive a car, but powerful enough to earn a place on the Swiss National Swimming team, the then-15-year-old would continue to slave away in the pool, tirelessly following the black line.
It was this discipline – rare in a girl so young, that led her to hold a place on the national team for the next 10 years straight, before leaving the sport and eventually finding her way onto the Swiss Cycling team years later. Again, two years in the cycling program wasn’t enough, and the woman with high aspirations made her way into triathlon. The rest, as they say, is history.
Superstar athlete Caroline Steffen has now amassed two ITU Long Distance World Championships, two Asia Pacific Ironman Championships, and two European Ironman Championships, along with more than 17 70.3 and long distance titles. She’ll tell you in her cheeky Swiss-Australian accent that she’s achieved many different shaped and sized victories over the years, but there’s one big scalp that she is yet to add to her resume. And this is an Ironman World Championship victory.
Steffen has come so close, grabbing second in 2010 where the winner Mirinda Carfrae raced to the fourth-fastest victory time ever. Then again in 2012, Steffen was the bridesmaid to Leanda Cave, this time by a mere 64 seconds.
When asked about Kona, you can see the steely determination of the 15-year-old girl return. “I don’t know what it takes [to win Kona], maybe just a perfect day.” Then the cheeky Steffen returns, “If I knew, I would have done it and won the race several times already.”
The missing Kona victory is definitely not from lack of trying, as Steffen has never been one to shy away from hard work. This warrior-like attitude earned her the moniker of Xena back in 2010 when she was part of the Brett Sutton-led Team TBB. Constantly readying herself for ‘war’ on the triathlon course, Steffen begins each race ready for battle.
Heading in a new direction in 2014, Steffen changed coaches to the two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack. Bringing back some focus to her racing, Steffen notes, “Chris has opened up my mind. I found joy again in training and racing.” Just how the two relate together seems to work with Xena. “Its a ‘work together’ atmosphere. The lessons he’s teaching me are more focused on my thoughts in a race, which is included in our daily training.”
Adding another power play to her bolstering stocks, Steffen this year joined the Bahrain Endurance 13 team. “After leaving Team TBB at the end of 2013, I felt a little lost without that “team bubble” around me. I’m very thankful Bahrain Endurance 13 gave me this opportunity to being part of something special.” Steffen so eloquently describes what it is she loves about her new atmosphere. “It’s not a triathlon team, it’s a team of people who love endurance sport, which includes more than just swim-bike-run. We share the passion of endurance. I like that idea.”
A member of the ON Running team since 2011, Steffen credits a lot of her performances to ‘Running On Clouds’. “First of all, I trust the shoes. Changing to On’s after some foot injuries back in 2011 I can say On saved my triathlon career. I recover quicker running with On’s, which means I can run more kilometres and more intensity each week.”
Having raced in the shoes for almost five years now, Steffen has fine-tuned what models she wears and how they respond to her running. “I like to train in the Cloudsurfers. These shoes give me enough support and cushioning for my daily training. But on race day I like to run in the Cloudracer. It’s a little bit lighter than the training shoe.”
With only a few months remaining until the next instalment of the Ironman World Championships, Steffen has got that discipline back and is locked and ready for yet another tilt at the crown. She’s had many different sized victories in her career, but come October, she’ll be racing for the biggest one of them all.
By Liam Bromilow.