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Macca On Kona: “I Was Useless”

Chris McCormack looks back on a disappointing day in Kona and ahead to his 2013 goal list—top of which is a bid at the 70.3 world title.

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Chris “Macca” McCormack looks back on his disappointing day in Kona and ahead to his 2013 goal list—top of which is a bid at the 70.3 world champion title.

Julia Polloreno: Can you take us through your day in Kona?

Chris McCormack: I just think I was useless on race day and it just didn’t correlate to where I was in my training or how fit I was. I was in incredible form and for the first time [in prep for Kona] we used altitude as a tool. We did it for the long course worlds [which Macca won] and came down from Switzerland and I was Superman. This time we went to Sedona and I was flying. We came down 11 days before the race. It was definitely an issue. Usually they say [you should come down from altitude] three weeks or three days [before the race], and we were aware of that, but we thought we could get it right at 11 or 12 days.  Obviously we got it wrong—that’s why I’m resting this weekend and next weekend: to make sure that’s the case.

On race day I couldn’t get my power above 250 watts, which is embarrassingly low—it just didn’t correlate. I was tired, weak and just lost time all day. On the swim I felt good early and then just struggled—it was just like I felt flat. You know when you’ve been ill for a week and you come back for that first session—that weak feeling, it was like that from the onset. The only thing that seems to add up is when we came down from altitude; it should have been at three weeks. I know [coach] Darren [Smith] is taking it really hard. He’s been on Twitter apologizing.

JP: Did I hear that you got a flat tire on the bike?

CM: Everyone’s saying that. I had a run in with Marino [Vanhoenacker] early on the bike—I had to stop for a second and adjust my wheel but it wasn’t a flat tire.  I lost 10 seconds—it was nothing.  It had nothing to do with the day at all; it was a short fix and then I was back on the bike. It didn’t have anything to do with anything except the complete lack of ability to put out power. I just lost time from the very beginning.

JP: When did you decide to call it?

CM: I think when I got into the back of the group and then I got shelved from that and was watching my watts go down. It was the first time I had used watts in the race; I was at 270 and was alienated and then it was 250. Ronnie Schildknecht and Paul Amey came past me on the climb up to Hawi, and I thought, ‘Okay, let’s sit in here and concentrate.’ Then Raelert caught me and dropped me, Timo Bracht—guys I ride with every day of the week. Ronnie, my training partner, came past me and I couldn’t hang on to him or Paul Amey, who I also train with. Paul came around and was like, “Mate, what are you doing?” That was the point. I came back down from Hawi and saw the support vehicle and it was tough. People think you make that decision quickly but it was the decision I made. I know I could get through this event but this isn’t the way I intend to do it. It’s not what I, in the last 14 weeks, have been working towards.

JP: Can you talk about the Challenge 10-year deal—how that came about and what that means for your coming year?

CM: The first thing I’ll say about the Challenge deal is that there’s no exclusivity—that was the great thing about working with [Challenge CEO] Felix Walchshöfer. I’ve been doing Challenge races since 2002 and we’ve had a great relationship. I’ve won their biggest race [Challenge Roth] four times and I’ve done a Challenge event every year. I won Challenge Cairns before it was an Ironman. I think they [produce] an amazing product. I’ve always said to Ironman, ‘Look, I love Ironman—you guys are my life; I’ve created my life out of triathlon and Ironman racing.’

I was speaking to Felix earlier in the year in Spain when I raced long course worlds and kept in touch with him for a while. The communication lines were open and there was a lot of discussion on how we could merge and work together and what they were looking at doing. Chrissie Wellington and I are the two that have really supported them most in the last 10 years. They came to me with a fantastic opportunity, and I’d be crazy not to take it. I believe in what they’re doing and I know them very well.  They were very, very open and, as a pro athlete, you’re like, ‘Far out, someone’s listening!’ They come to the pros and ask, ‘How can we make this better? What are we doing wrong? How can we make our course better? How can we make the consumer feel better? What are you missing? You talk to the community, Macca, and you can give us that connection to the people who race the sport.’ Everything was on the table from the beginning and it just aligned.

Challenge was like, ‘Go race Kona for the next five years and we’ll go and support you.’ That’s the key with Challenge—there’s no where in anything I’ve committed with them that doesn’t allow me to race an Ironman or 70.3 race. They’re confident that when people come across and do a Challenge race that people will see the difference for themselves. They’re driven by passion for the sport, not the corporate dollar.

JP: So then you’ll go back to Kona?

CM: I’ll be honest with you: I thought this year I’d win Kona… I just wanted to have a race where I said, “Man, that’s it”—like my 2009 race. I just could not execute that at any point on the day. That’s what was most frustrating. I don’t want my last Kona to be remembered in my own head as finishing in the back of the tech support van because I think I’ve learned so much from that course and given so much to that course.

JP: Outside of the Challenge races, what’s on your calendar for 2013?

CM: I’m going to do Ironman Cairns again, so that will ratify me for Kona if I want to venture down that path. I want to knock out some 70.3s to give me a shot at 70.3 worlds, a race I’ve never done. Two chases on world championships—the only world title I don’t have is that 70.3 one, so I’d like to get that one. It’ll still be a long course racing focus. You’ll see me doing the 70.3s because I need to get those points so I’m going to try to knock that out so I can pick and choose towards the end of next year and focus on winning the event instead of qualifying for it.

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