Four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington shares her life story with American fans in her soon to be released biography A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey published by Hachette Book Group. Her story is not that of your typical Olympic-class athlete. She didn't live for sports growing up. Rather, sports were an outlet for life for Chrissie. And somehow along the way she discovered that sports could propel her life's ambitions and passions farther than she ever imagined.
Ask any average American triathlete the backstory on Wellington, and you will get a remarkably strange tale. Here's the most common version: "Oh, yeah, she mountain biked around Nepal, entered a triathlon and has never lost since." This book finally adds the layers of richness to the story that one would expect for a person who would eventually rewrite possibilities for women in the sport.
Chrissie did not dominate sports in school. She swam, she biked, and she ran, but never all in the same day. She did clearly excel in the pool. In high school, she rose to the top ranks of her local swim team. She even attracted enough notice to be recruited to one of the elite programs. However, joining the group meant leaving her friends on the team. In typical Chrissie fashion, she opted to hang with her mates and leave the elite competition for others.
Passion drove most of her other important choices. She really wanted to make a difference for people living in poverty around the world. After graduating from college, she first worked for a small charity before landing a plum job at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra). She quickly worked her way up the NGO ladder and found herself organizing a major conference on world development and leading negotiations with the Nigerian government. Heady stuff for a young woman just starting out in a promising career.
However, road races, long open water swims, and bike treks continued to beckon her time and passion. And probably most importantly, she began recording surprisingly strong performances for a woman who would just casually enter some very tough endurance events. Strong finishes in local half-marathons started to hint at the promise endurance racing held in store for her. Still, her most memorable athletic events seemed never to involve a timing clock - like completing a 2,000 mile bike ride with friends across Nepal.
The pivotal moment seems to be the Salford Triathlon. At that race, she qualified for the ITU Age Group World Championships in Lausanne. The pride and joy she felt in representing her country leaps from the page. Her performance at the event ultimately convinced her that she could turn professional. Through a web of connections, she ultimately put her professional fate in the hands of fabled (and controversial) triathlon coach Brett Sutton.
Her memoir offers a vivid picture of one of the most successful programs in forging talented athletes into world class competitors. The reader can feel the heat and humidity of Subic Bay as Chrissie and a group of household triathlete names do brutal workouts about as far from the glamorous race locations as they could find.
The book includes some great training advice for burgeoning triathletes. She includes an entire section on how she regularly trained for the long distance events. More importantly, though, the reader walks away with a sense of the passion required to be just that good at anything.
Chrissie may have stepped away from serious racing, but I will bet we'll hear a lot more from her on different topics in the coming years.
The hardcover book A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey from Hachette Book Group is due out in the US on May 15th. You can pre-order your copy at Amazon now.
Author: Paul Tyler
Paul Tyler is the founder of Triessential.com and a contributor here at TRIJUICE. Triessential offers an iPhone application that provides training tips and motivation every day throughout the entire year. Follow Paul on Twitter @triessential