How Aussies Mirinda Carfrae and Annabel Luxford forged an Iron-strong friendship
Pro triathletes Mirinda Carfrae and Annabel Luxford are, as Australians say, mates. Close friends. But that wasn’t always the case.
“We weren’t actually close friends,” Carfrae, 35, said of their first encounters years ago. “In fact, I didn’t really like her at all.”
“Initially we didn’t like each other at all,” Luxford, 34, echoed.
Both are from Brisbane and met as promising teenage triathletes in the Australian national team. Let’s just say the two – in Kona this week for the Ironman® World Championships – didn’t make the best first impression on the other.
“She was quite abrupt. She seemed standoffish,” Carfrae said.
And Luxford’s initial impression of Carfrae? “I just thought she was a little bit too intense.”
Then the two spent months together in France as part of the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) tri program. “It took us actually rooming together and having a few big nights out before we actually thought, ‘Uh huh, we just made assumptions about each other,” Luxford said. “We realized that we liked each other.”
An enduring friendship was born. This week in Kona they’re rooting for one another even as each locks in her focus on Saturday’s race. Carfrae, one of the top favorites, is going for her fourth world title. Luxford, 12th a year ago in her first Kona, is looking to establish herself among the world’s best.
With the busyness of Kona week, they’re mainly staying in touch by text messages. Throughout the year they’ll make occasional visits to see one another in the United States, where Carfrae lives, or Australia, where Luxford lives. And there’s always Skype.
Theirs is a friendship where weeks or even months can pass and the conversation starts back up effortlessly. They know one another’s personality and racing styles. Their differences also underscore that athletes can succeed with different styles, just as friendships can thrive between people with greatly different personalities.
“We’re kind of opposites,” Carfrae said. “She’s kind of on the go all the time. She’s always active. Right now she has a part time job and she’s a professional triathlete. She needs something to stimulate her mind. I’m pretty happy to just take naps and train and not do much else.”
Indeed, Luxford works three days a week for a bank doing content optimization for its website. “It’s a great place for learning,” she said.
Carfrae said her friend has great potential at the Ironman® distance: “Bella’s a front pack swimmer… There’s not really anyone who can ride away from her, either, on the bike. So it’s really just about her being smart on the bike and not pushing too hard because she does have the ability to ride so well. If she can hold herself back a little bit on the bike then that will give her an extra 10 minutes on the run. It’s a really hard game to play, letting girls go on the bike.”
Luxford said she’s inspired by Carfrae’s ability to have faith in her race strategy, regardless of what rivals do.
“It’s undisputable the marathon that she puts together time and time again,” Luxford said. “She might get off the bike sometimes quite a long way back, but she seems to race her own race. She has a lot of faith in her ability and her race pace.”
In Luxford’s first Ironman®-distance race, Carfrae caught her late in the run.
Luxford recalled: “I said, ‘Ahh, my legs feel like they’re being stabbed,’ and she said, ‘Suck it up, that’s just Ironman for you. She’s brutally honest but one of the most loyal and supportive friends you could find.”
That’s the best kind of mate.