Age / DOB
Jan 28 1981
With a personal best of 11.71 for 100m and 23.90 for 200m, it wasn’t immediately obvious that Carrie Lester would forge a reputation for excelling in the longest and toughest triathlon races on the planet.
But that is the transition she has made, from a sprinter in high school in Australia to collecting a stack of the most sought-after endurance titles.
2019 saw her enjoy her most successful season to date, with her wins including three IRONMAN races (France, Mont-Tremblant and Cozumel), an eighth-place finish at Kona, victory at Ventouxman and a 70.3 success at Gulf Coast.
Carrie says of that incredible haul: “I get quite emotional when I think about 2019 because it all just came together in the one year and was epic.
“Everything kind of fell into place with the training and racing. And I just felt confident in myself that I could handle whatever came my way. In terms of what I’ve achieved in my career, it was definitely the icing on the cake.”
She also manages to find plenty of time alongside husband Scott DeFilippis to help change people’s lives and careers for the better through their coaching business.
Lester is passionate about getting people active, and sets an inspiring example herself.
She says: “It doesn’t matter how slow you go, you’re always lapping someone on the couch! You need to keep working out for your physical health and your mental health.”
When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Born in 1981, Carrie stopped sprinting when she was 20 and put her energy into studying (Business Management & Marketing at the Queensland University of Technology).
But going to the gym to keep fit, she says she “stumbled” into triathlon, first taking part in a super-sprint event in 2004. She won her age group but was slightly bemused it was over so quickly, no wonder given the direction her career would later take her.
“I started doing local races in Queensland simply as a means to keep fit. I was working full time, and it offered a great way to stay healthy and be social,” she explains.
A move to the Sunshine Coast saw Carrie join a new training group, and things moved up several levels.
So much so that in 2009 she became a dual Age-Group (25-29) World Champion, first winning the ITU’s Olympic Distance event on Australia’s Gold Coast in September and then the Long Distance title in Perth the following month, the latter by more than 15 minutes.
Her full-distance professional debut came in 2010 at IRONMAN Australia in Port Macquarie, and she wasted little time in bagging her first victory, winning in 9:23:46 after completing her first-ever marathon. She also qualified for Kona in the process.
Despite her success so far, and the promise of more to come, it wasn’t until 2012 that Lester gave up her job and started training and racing full-time.
Multiple long-distance and 70.3 titles followed, while she also notched several podiums in the sport’s most important events. Notably two second places at Challenge Roth and two top-10 finishes at Kona.
The tougher the race, the more she liked it and the better she did. Carrie also appeared to thrive on a challenging schedule.
“I love the challenge of the toughest courses; I believe they are truly honest. It’s just you against the course in those races which is something I’ve always believed in.”
There are few better example of that talent, determination and will to win than her 2018 victory at the mythical Embrunman in the French Alps, which features 4,500 meters of climbing (including the Col d’Izoard) and is dubbed ‘the hardest triathlon in the world’.
Carrie had already won there in 2016 in a course-record time, but two years later she crashed on the bike leg when disputing the lead.
She explains: “I fell hard on my back and ribs. My bike was rideable, but I was in pain.
“I was about four-and-a-half hours in and had another two hours or so to ride and then run the marathon, but it was utter agony. I usually carry Ibuprofen with me. I took everything I had. But at 20km of the run it had worn off, and I wasn’t sure I would make it. I have never been in that much pain, but I won and it was all worth it.”
Carrie followed that epic performance with the best season of her career so far in 2019, taking part in four IRONMANs (winning three of them with the other her eighth place at Kona) as well as winning over 70.3 and successfully defending her Ventouxman title on the ‘Giant of Provence’.
Giving plenty back to the sport
Another key aspect of Carrie’s triathlon journey has been helping others achieve their goals.
“We have our coaching business and want to be there to help others. Not just professional athletes but also the development of the sport. It’s hard when you’re a beginner pro or an age-group athlete,” she says.
A recent example was Manu Kung, whose breakthrough fourth place at IRONMAN Cozumel gave Carrie just as much pleasure as her own win.
Husband Scott DeFilippis meanwhile has been invaluable every step of the way to Carrie.
“He sees when I’m going through hard moments, and he sees when I need to back it off, or when I’m maybe being lazy and need a push. We train every day together, so it’s great.”
When asked what she is most proud of, she says: “Always wanting to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. In training and life.
“I know when I eventually retire, I will look back at all of the hard, honest work I put in every day to get the results I have had in my career and be extremely proud.”
There are still remaining ambitions though, not least finally beating Heather Jackson!
The two have had many close tussles in recent years, and Carrie explains: “I thought I might have had her in Hawaii in 2019, but I made an epic mistake in dropping my nutrition on the bike and had to scramble my way through the rest of the race”.
The PTO’s flagship Collins Cup could provide the perfect stage for another battle between the two and, looking at the bigger picture, Carrie is hugely encouraged by the recent development of the sport by the Professional Triathletes Organisation.
“We’re definitely going in the right direction, with the PTO really trying to raise the profile through their plans for the races and media coverage.”