Reigning Ironman world champ Chris “Macca” McCormack surprised the triathlon community earlier this year when he announced that he would forgo defending his world title to attempt to make the 2012 Olympic team for Australia—the one accomplishment that has eluded him in his long and storied career.
McCormack finished up the 2011 ITU World Championship season on Saturday with 31st place in the Grand Final in Beijing, and he was kind enough to answer some questions about the race and his 2011 season for Inside Triathlon editor-in-chief Courtney Baird.
Triathlete.com: It looks like you had a good race out there on Saturday. Can you take us through a play by play of what happened and how you assessed your performance?
Chris McCormack: Good is a relative term, you know. I had a solid day in tough conditions across the board. The draft-legal events give the swim such a massive priority in the game, so this let me down again, but on land I was solid across the board. I am just happy to be back in the game post my hamstring, to be honest. It was a tough few weeks getting things right and working back to some strength in my run. I really had to nurse that and am happy it is functioning at 100 percent, that’s for sure. I raced well, I thought. We got alienated in the second group in those conditions and myself and Ruedi Wild from Switzerland worked really hard to minimize the losses to the front group. When you have that much firepower in the front group, if you don’t keep the pace up in the second group you just lose time very fast. I worked really hard on the bike and ran well off of that. The result was solid. We put out a lot of power in the chase and only two guys worked in our group. When you’re trying to hold the Russians and the English in the front group it takes a lot of effort to do that. They control the racing now and really dictate the pace up front. If you’re in that front group, it’s a completely different event. But that’s the key, getting into that front group. I ran a 31-minute 10km, which would have given me a top-10 finish at the Olympic Games four years earlier on the same course and would have put me in the top 10 in the event this weekend had I been able to bridge over early after my swim deficit. You look for the positives and I can take so many out of the race. There’s still lots and lots to do, that’s for sure, but I am happy to be running like I am and racing solidly after being where I was 6 weeks ago. The sport is really a matter of seconds nowadays. That’s what makes this very interesting and I enjoy slowly looking for those.
Triathlete.com: What was it like racing in Beijing on the 2008 Olympic course?
Macca: The course was very fair and the best guys came out on top. The swim was one of the best and fairest swims on the circuit. I think as a guy with no ITU ranking points, when you get stuck in the middle of the pontoon at the start of the races, you never see clear water. I get last pick on the pontoon and that is always smack in the middle. The higher ranked guys are on the sides of the start pontoon so the swim is a little easier for them in that sense. In this race we had a long distance to that first buoy, which even though it is rough, gives you some time. It is so unfair in the smaller looped swim courses as the level of swimming is very even for the first 300 meters, so it becomes a matter of who fights the best in the water gets themselves in the best position. The higher ranked guys don’t have this issue as much. The TV does not do the course justice. I watched the Olympics on TV live. I never realized the bike climb was that solid and the run was as tough as it is. The blue rubber was hard to run on and that hill 4 times on the run was tough. I really enjoyed the entire event, to be honest. It was great to be a part of it. The venue was just awesome. The weather was crappy and made it a bit slippery and miserable but the London Olympics could be those exact conditions. Guys who have issues with the cold should remember that. London in August can be anything. The Brownlees again showed that they love all conditions and this shows the class of athletes these two boys are.