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The Turning of a page in Carrie Lester's Storied Career

Like a lion quietly retreating into the forest to die, one of the greatest Australian long-distance triathletes of all time has gracefully ended her career. In the twilight of her journey, Mrs. Carrie Lester-DeFilippis always felt that a retirement announcement sounded cliché and unnecessary, as gaining popularity or recognition wasn't what motivated her pursuit of becoming one of the fittest athletes on the planet. However, as her husband and coach for the final 8 years of her career, our KIS Family and I felt that her legacy in the sport should be documented, especially now that our son Charlie will never get to see either one of us race in our prime years.

I may be biased, but Carrie's rise, not just in our sport of triathlon but across all endurance sports, is one of the most remarkable stories I've ever encountered. Her transition from an Australian Olympic Trials track participant in the 100 and 200m, with personal best times of 11.70 and 22.9, to then becoming a 16-time Iron Distance champion and running a 3:03 marathon off the bike some 20 years later, is truly astonishing.

After giving up on her track ambitions shortly after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Carrie quickly rose to the cream of the crop in her age group over the Olympic distance, winning the overall World Age Group Championship in 2009. Carrie then found immediate success, winning her very first Ironman at Ironman Australia in 2010. A tip of the hat to her former partner and coach Toby Coote, who no doubt played a pivotal role in Carrie's career and life.

One might think that winning her first-ever attempt at an Ironman would pave the way for a long, storied career for Carrie. However, long-distance triathlon is, in fact, the hardest sport in the world not only to reach the top level but also to stay there. The training demands, motivation, and financial commitment required to persist through all the peaks and valleys are incredibly daunting, and unless you've experienced it firsthand, it's hard to fully grasp how challenging this sport is.

After two years of struggling to find her early success, Carrie crossed paths with legendary Coach Brett Sutton via Brett's assistant Coach Matt Koorey. I don't think Brett, Matty, or myself could have predicted that nearly 12 years later, I would be sitting here on a quiet spring night, sharing with you, the reader, the final chapters of Carrie's now-storied career.

But here we are, and in all honesty, Carrie, Charlie our son, and I owe our lives to both Brett and Matty. Much like racing, relationships, and especially the spouse/coach relationship in particular, have plenty of ups and downs. Brett and Matty were both there for us from start to finish as we navigated our way through rough waters, which have now left us ashore, living happily together on the shores of a once-sleepy beach town along the San Diego coast, feeling like the luckiest family on planet earth.

As I sit back and ponder the final few years of Carrie's career, 2016-2021, it still blows my mind how she kept her composure when the odds were against her. After finally cracking the top ten in Kona in 2017, finishing 7th overall, 2018's Kona was a letdown, as she dropped out during the run. I believe this was a turning point in her career, which catapulted her to go on one of the greatest tears our sport has ever seen the following year, winning Gulf Coast 70.3 in May, Ironman France in June, breaking the course record at Ironman Mt. Tremblant in August, finishing 8th in Kona in October, and finally finishing the year with another course record at Ironman Cozumel in November. Carrie finished the year ranked 7th in the new world PTO rankings.

With father time now creeping up on us after the 2019 season, we needed to decide if Carrie takes a break while we try to start a family or push on for one more year. A top 5 in Kona was always the final goal, and we felt that after the 2019 season, she was ready. Much like the rest of the world, 2020 turned into a complete mess due to the Coronavirus. Once again, we gambled with father time, deciding not to start a family, however, making the promise to each other that 2021 would be her final year before a pause, and at the year's end, it would be baby-making time.

We entered 2021 in uncharted territory, having to make the decision not to flock to our summer base in Leysin, Switzerland, as the world was still in turmoil due to the pandemic. However, we poured everything into what would be Carrie's final dance down Ali Drive, or so we had hoped.

After a challenging race at Clash Miami in March, things started to look better by May after a top 10 finish at the 70.3 N. American Championships in St. George. We found a new summer home in Park City, UTAH, and after 6 weeks of grinding away at high altitude with her teammates Mollie Hebda and Sebastian Radilla, we took a long drive north to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where I believe Carrie executed the greatest race of her career.

After having lost an entire year of races, facing the pressure of delaying starting a family, the financial strain of losing a year of income, combined with race-day temperatures that topped 110 degrees, Carrie went on to win, breaking yet another course record, her 3rd course record out of 4 Iron Distance events.

As we left Coeur d'Alene for the long 12-hour drive back to Park City, I was certain this was the year she would achieve a top 5 in Kona. Full of confidence and chomping at the bit, Carrie was offered the opportunity to race in the inaugural PTO Collins Cup, which unexpectedly put us back in Europe in late August of 2021. So we thought, why not use the opportunity to try and win one more Embrunman Title? Arguably the toughest Iron Distance race on the planet, taking place every year on August 15th in the French Alps. Having won twice before with a runner-up to boot, we felt that using Embrun as a last effort before Kona would set her up perfectly. The lure of the $25,000 prize check was rather attractive as well. She won going away, her 5th Iron Distance title out of 6 starts.

After witnessing another extraordinary day on the bike, I believed Cazzie would be in peak form 8 weeks later in Kona. However, soon after her 3rd Embrun title, we learned that the 2021 Kona World Championship was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic on the Big Island.

After Embrun, we traveled to Slovakia for the Collins Cup, where understandably Cazz went through the motions. Her heart was broken, and deep down, I think we both knew she had reached the end of the road. With Kona cancelled, we returned to Park City unexpectedly to experience our first-ever autumn together, where Carrie continued to train as she would attempt to defend her title in Cozumel that November.

It was a long 8 weeks until Cozumel with plenty of ups and downs, but on the day, THE MRS. Animal showed up, exiting first out of the water with teammate Brittany Vocke (smile Cazz as I know the picture of you and B exiting the water will be the last smile you ever had while racing professionally). In the end, Cazzie fought her way to 3rd place, grinding all day despite learning that I crashed my scooter and ended up watching her cross her final finish line from the Cozumel police station where I was shook down for a lot of Pesos hahaha.

What a way to end a career, eh?

In the end, 16-time Iron distance titles, including Ironman Australia, Ironman Cairns, Rev 3 Cedar Point, Embrunman, Ironman France, Ironman Chattanooga, Ironman Mont Tremblant, Ironman Cozumel, Challenge Penticton, twice runner-up at Challenge Roth, and 3-time top 10 in Kona.

While this appears to be the end of Carrie's storied career as a Professional Triathlete, it is not the end of her time in our sport. I guess you could figure out by now that Carrie and I were blessed with a baby boy, Charles (Charlie) Joseph, on September 22, 2023. After spending the 2022 season on the sidelines while baby Charlie took his time finding an egg he liked, we started a distribution business, OTSO Sport USA. I often tell people that, in the end, Carrie will be a better businesswoman than she was an athlete, as she has since taken on the role as US Customer support for our long-term sponsor EKOI Cycling. You can now find all 3 of us at marathons, cycling events, and triathlons where we distribute apparel and accessories for OTSO SPORT, EKOI, and Precision Fuel and Hydration. And of course, we are still happily coaching all our KIS athletes!

So, if you are still reading this, this is not a retirement announcement; it's rather a short story about one of the best athletes on the planet turning the page to a new chapter in life. Turning lemons into lemonade, if you will, and we are smiling ear to ear doing so with our little man in tow.

Carrie will probably spew that I put this down on paper for the public to read, as racing was never about gaining popularity or getting noticed. Hell, one of the most storied careers in all of Australian sports went largely unnoticed, but it never bothered her.

The Mrs. Animal's time as a Professional Triathlete was simply about testing her limits and seeing how far she could push herself, just like the forefathers of our sport did over 40 years ago.

A big thank you to all the sponsors and partners that supported us over the years, team TBB, ON Running, 2XU, Rudy Project, Castelli, Vision, Orbea, Campagnolo, Cervelo, Blue Seventy, Canyon, Precision Fuel and Hydration, and EKOI.

And a special thank you to our team who helped along the way: Brett, Matty, A.J., Sophi, Johns, Siri Lindley, Gerry Rodriguez, Dr. Jerry Moylan, Dr. Gerardo Goldberger, Jacky Everaerdt, and Gerald Iacono.

On behalf of the entire KIS coaching family, XO! And chapeau to our Skippy!!!!

Lastly, to my dearest Cazzie, for nearly 10 years, you entrusted me with your day-to-day training. Each and every day, we grinded together, trusting each other, not knowing what the future had in store, if we would succeed or fail. It didn't matter, as we would die trying. It's rather ironic that we now continue to grind together in the same way with our business, all the while raising a child. You're my best mate, Skippy. I love you!

See you all somewhere down the road...


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