Will it be London or Kona for Chris McCormack in 2012? Inside Triathlon editor-in-chief Courtney Baird caught up with the two-time Ironman world champ to find out where he stands.
Triathlete.com: You’ve finished three ITU races so far this year already, including the Oceania Championships this past weekend. Could you give us an idea of how you think they went for you?
Chris McCormack: I think I have raced exceptionally well. My first sprint distance race in 12 years was in New Zealand, and I had a solid sixth. Then the following week I almost won the Australian Sprint title (a penalty cost me in the end) and then last week in Devonport, I showed I can race as a team player and sat back with the Kiwis to ensure an Australia win in Devonport. My kickoff has been really solid I think. You know I am back running fast, but I have left myself a tight schedule of eight months to pull this dream off. I am very close, I think. This draft legal racing is very different, so trying to follow results is not always the key. Australia went into Devonport with a team agenda and we played that. I was under strict instructions to ensure that we kept the fast runners from New Zealand in the second group. I was always going to be in this group but was not allowed to work. We ended up losing 3 minutes on the bike (this was a success because we kept Ryan Sissons from victory in Devonport), but it left me out of the picture. I cruised the run but had one of the fastest 5 runs of the day. It was a positive race for me, and I think more than anything it showed that, come Olympic time, if I am called upon I am happy to play a team tactic to ensure Australian success. I have said from the beginning that going to the Olympics is a massive ask and a huge undertaking. On this journey though, I have met many within the new wave of athletes and it has driven and given me great motivation. To be a part of an Australian Olympic team that is its most successful ever at an Olympics would be a dream. The Australians have the arsenal to pull something off. I have enjoyed every moment and would enjoy going all the way through to August as part of it. I have lots more improvement I can make between now and then. I think right now Brendan Sexton should be picked for our Team. Along with Brad [Kahlefeldt], we have the arsenal on foot to grab medals. The rest of us are very similar in our strengths (different in different areas). Australia’s selection policy is discretionary, so it is not a matter of picking the best of the rest. It may come down to just how we can be as teammates and what best gives us a chance for success in London. I have to say I have enjoyed everything, the process, the training and meeting all the guys. I am happy with how I have progressed and still think we have more to come. Loving it at the moment. It is tough racing!
Triathlete.com: What’s next for you on your racing calendar?
Macca: I have the Mooloolaba World Cup next weekend, then I am racing the Lavaman Triathlon (I do this to support Team in Training every year, as it is a wonderful event), before doing the Sydney round of the World Triathlon Series. I am hoping Australia can give us some indication as to Olympic selection by then, as for many athletes it will give us time to focus on our seasons. The worst thing they could possibly do is a late selection. It would be a huge mistake. San Diego [the World Triathlon Series] might be on the cards, but I would be hoping this would only be necessary to secure the three spots for the country. I have a double season plan for the year. One has the Olympics in it and the other is a non-Olympic year. Regardless, I think I will go to London and support the Aussies. I feel like I have come on this journey with many of them, so being there to support would be fun. As I said when I started this journey, if I am not selected, I will return to what I do best, Ironman racing! We have a lot of new challenges this year and sinking my teeth into some of them would be a very enjoyable end of year. So much to look at. It is really exciting times in the sport right now.
Triathlete.com: How has your training been coming along? Have you been able to avoid injury?
Macca: Training has been great. I’m still learning how to keep my form open as this has changed since my early days. I seem to be able to flatten myself a lot easier with too much intensity nowadays, and this was much different than years before. We are learning so much right now. It is time that has been the biggest issue for us. I do wish we gave ourselves a little more time, as I think we are really starting to understand my boundaries in this style of work and this gives us more consistency. I think I flattened myself last week with some solid work and picked up a bug. It is just trying to get your mix right and understanding what works for you and how you can nail that race day performance. I was exceptional as a younger athlete at doing this, but we had our systems down. We tried to work closely with these in the comeback, but the body responds very differently now to that workload, and I am coming at it from a different angle than what I was back then. When I nail my performances right in training I am right there—some of the track sessions I have done were as good as I was doing 15 years ago. Some of my bike sets are even better than I was doing 12 years ago. My swim is still coming along, but despite what people think it is not a major concern for me. I know if I am back in Aix-les-Bains, France [where the Australians host their national training camps in Europe], with the Australian guys I can get that right where it needs to be. Right now my focus is on the run and bike. I have avoided injury, am feeling strong, am lean and learning. This racing is so different to the Ironman stuff. The draft legal component changes things massively. You have to work out and think of your strengths in a very different way to what you would in a non-drafting style. Training is fun, enjoyable and getting better. I love it!