Q&A: Xena’s return to full Ironman

Three years removed from her last full-distance race, and less than 12 months after giving birth, Caroline “Xena” Steffen is set to attack Ironman Western Australia this weekend.
11/30/2018
xena

The Swiss Cervélo athlete has already earned several impressive Ironman 70.3 results this season. She has reeled off four straight podiums since May, with consecutive victories coming on Australia’s Sunshine Coast in August, and in Shanghai in October.

Here, the newly nicknamed “Supermom” discusses her 2018 comeback, her return to full-distance Ironman, and the joy of seeing her son’s first steps:

Q: Why are you returning to full-distance racing at Ironman Western Australia?

A: Busselton is a race I have always wanted to do, but it was too late in the year for us. So this year, with starting my season late, Busselton is the perfect opportunity to make my way back to full IM-distance racing. Plus, I simply want to see how fast I can go!

Q: When did you know you were ready to return to full IM?

A: Coach and I decided to do a little test in China to see how I would do racing back to back and to see how the body responded. I wasn’t sure how my fitness was going, but I was able to win two Ironman 70.3-distance races in one week, and the second race was even stronger than the first. We thought that was a really good indicator of where I am heading.

Q: What’s different about your full-distance training this time around?

A: It’s very different! We try to keep the routine of my 70.3 program, but the sessions are mostly longer and we skip some fast stuff. Run volume has increased a lot, I’m getting more than one long ride in each week, and the swim involves more strength work.

xena

Q: What will be the keys to your success in the race this weekend?

A: Pacing pacing pacing. After three years of racing 70.3 only, I think I may need to slow down a little and be more patient.

Q: What has been most rewarding about the 2018 season?

A: Xander’s first steps just last Saturday. I was so worried to miss out on it while in the pool or out running, but it looks like he knew his mum well enough to save it for Saturday night. Oh, and of course, my first win back after returning to racing. I just love winning, I guess it’s in my nature.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge of the 2018 season?

A: To get out of the house and start getting fit again. Returning to full fitness after pregnancy was definitely one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced in my life. I had to lose 25kg to be back in race shape. There was a stage when I thought I would never compete at a high level again, and was just happy to stay home all day with Xander. I had to learn to let go and share the little bub.

Q: How were you able to make that transition?

A: Each day there is always a plan and then there is reality. I try to train when Xander is asleep so we can play when I am home. He’s at an awesome age now and is more in a routine with his sleep and eating times. I am still breastfeeding him, so that’s another new consideration in my life. Most of my training is indoors now, which saves me a lot of time and is much more efficient too. No makeup kms in my program anymore, no more coffee stops...I save that time for after my training and take Xander to the playground. I am a mum now, life is different but bloody brilliant!

Q: What about next season? What does the future hold in terms of racing?

A: I really want to wait with making any plans till after Busselton. It’s hard to plan too much ahead with the little mate. I’m not sure yet whether I will focus on full or 70.3 Ironman, but one way or another there will be a lot of racing involved.

 

Photos courtesy of Witsup.com