Bonk Breaker’s co-CEO and Chairman Chris Frank recently sat down with reigning IRONMAN World Champion Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae to hear how she’s feeling as she prepares to defend her crown in Kona. And also, of course, to pick her brain about her podium-worthy nutrition practices
Chris Frank: Thanks for taking time out of your Kona preparation to chat with us. I want to start off by saying thank you on behalf of the entire Bonk Breaker crew. You’ve been an invaluable partner to us and it’s really a thrill to be a part of your support team. I just want to say that the whole Bonk Breaker team loved cheering for you in Kona last year and we’ve loved watching you back up that victory with a strong season. It’s hard to believe it’s almost time to return to Kona! There must be a huge amount of pressure heading to Kona as the defending champion. How does it feel to have that target on your back?
Mirinda Carfrae: Thank you also, Chris. Bonk Breaker is a crucial part of my nutrition plan, plus it’s just a whole lot of fun to work with all of you! There is definitely a lot of pressure returning to Kona as the defending champ, but it’s something I really try to keep in perspective. I consider it a privilege to be the one my competitors look to as the one to beat, and where people have expectations for my performance. There are no guarantees in this sport, and I know as well as anyone that you can lose your position on top at any time, so it’s something I never take for granted. I’ll fight with everything I have to earn it again this year, but it seems there are more and more girls each year that want it just as bad and are just as capable of winning.
I’ve always thrived on the intensity and energy around a major race. I quite enjoy all the buzz and hype and the excitement you feel from the other pros and the age groupers. It’s a validation of how passionate we all are about the sport. That said, I have to be careful to shut it down and pull back from all the buzz as the race gets closer. Kona is at a different level than any other race and it requires you to dig deeper than any other day of your life. You have to be somewhat selfish and hold onto every single ounce of energy you can during that final week.
After so many years of racing and so much success do you still get nervous?
Of course! Even though my confidence as an athlete has grown throughout the course of my career with more experience and more success, I’m still just as nervous every time I step up to that line–especially in Kona. Having done this a few times now, it certainly helps to know what to expect in terms of the pressure. Also, having done the work in training gives me confidence in my preparation. But there’s always that variable of race day, which is also the beauty of it. No one knows what’s going to happen until the gun goes off and we can finally battle it out.
When did you realize that nutrition was one of the keys to success as an endurance athlete?
When I started to transition into longer distance training and racing. ITU races are short and fast, so the nutrition component really wasn’t on my radar, to be honest. But once I stepped up to IRONMAN 70.3 I realized pretty quickly that it was something I needed to sort out. You simply can’t go the distance in a race–or recover properly to tackle session after session in training–without fueling your body consistently with carbohydrates and quality protein. I consulted with a sports nutritionist (Greg Cox, a trusted friend of mine at the Australian Institute of Sport) and with some trial and error testing we figured out what works best for me and formulated the plan I now use.
Where do Bonk Breaker bars fit into your training and racing nutrition plan?
Lots of places! During a race itself I stick to only gels and liquid calories, as that’s what I find easiest to take in and digest when I’m going at race pace. Otherwise, however, I crave something solid to chew on. I pack Bonk Breaker energy bars on all my long rides–and I do a LOT of long rides! The bars are still an important part of my race strategy, though, in that I’ll snack on them while traveling and throughout race week–during and after my training sessions or just during the day when there’s a lot going on with appearances and race prep and it’s really important to make sure I keep myself fueled throughout the day. There are always a few bars tucked into my carry-on for any trip. You should see the suitcase I pack for Kona–it’s overflowing with Bonk Breaker bars!
I’m a huge proponent of eating real food, but the reality of my lifestyle is that I need grab-and-go options that I can munch on between sessions—healthy, protein-rich snacks that I can keep in the car or my gym bag to have immediately after training. It’s sort of a constant grazing! One of the reasons I love Bonk Breaker bars is that they serve that portable food purpose, yet are also made from real food ingredients. They give me the energy and sustenance I need for my next session without weighing down my gut. They also taste fantastic—I mean you guys really nailed it with some of my favorite flavors, like Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein and the new Cookies & Cream Protein bar. I have occasionally eaten one of those as dessert!
The high protein bars are an obvious fix for that post-exercise window when you need to get quality protein in straight away to help replenish the body and restore muscle glycogen levels. When you train multiple sessions a day and back-to-back-to-back days, recovery is absolutely an equally important discipline to swimming, biking and running. You simply can’t skip that post-exercise protein fix, or you’ll find yourself in a hole rather fast! I make sure I’m never far from a high protein bar—it’s easy enough to munch on one after a hard swim session, for example, while I’m getting showered and dressed in the locker room. If I waited until I got home from the pool to eat, it might be an hour before any food hit my belly, and that’s just too long. Nutrition truly is at the core of proper recovery—a nutritious and well-timed diet along with getting enough sleep are the best things you can do for yourself to stay healthy and injury-free. I’m also a fan of bodywork and various therapy treatments, but as long as you pay attention to the basics of sleeping and eating right, you have the most important building blocks for good health right there.
What are some of your other favorite protein sources, when do you indulge in treats and do you have a ritual pre-race meal?
Another quick and tasty go-to for me is chocolate milk. I love hummus and crackers and I eat lots of eggs. Lean red meat, chicken and fish figure into most of our dinners, but my pre-race dinner is always the same–chicken and rice, usually with some basic pasta sauce. It’s a bit boring and bland, but it works.
Like most people, I do have my indulgent desires when it comes to food and drink–mostly things like ice cream, chocolate and good red wine. I just keep it in moderation throughout the year, as I believe in a healthy and balanced approach to treats. I cut those things out in the final build up for Kona, just to keep my body feeling as clean and light, while still strong and healthy, as possible. During that time my chocolate fix comes from the chocolate bits in the Bonk Breaker bars or else chocolate milk. And of course I balance that with some added indulgence in the off-season. I think a bit of ebb and flow is important both for variety and to keep things fun.
Thanks again for your time, Rinny, and best of luck in Kona. We’ll be out there in our bright orange board shorts cheering for you from the Bonk Breaker house on Ali’I Drive. We’ll be sure to blast one of your favorite songs–Everlong by the Foo Fighters–especially for you. Just doing our part to help keep you flying along!
Yes, the Bonk Breaker crew is always easy to spot! I appreciate the support, and thank you for helping keep my belly happy and my body going strong with your awesome bars.