Two-time Ironman world champion Chris McCormack returned to ITU racing in 2011 to see if he could qualify for Australia’s 2012 London Olympic team. He didn’t make the team, but McCormack told Competitor Radio’s Bob Babbitt that his brief return to draft-legal racing gave him the motivation he needed to return to the Ironman World Championship.
“The other thing the ITU racing gave me… is that there comes a point in your career that you can no longer keep up. I was in that ITU racing going ‘wow, I used to be in the front of this stuff.’ And now I just can’t keep up and that’s going to happen to me in Ironman racing. I should enjoy and embrace Ironman racing while I have the luxury of being at the pointy end because one day I’m not going to be. I said ‘you know what, stop being a prima donna, get back to Kona and you’re capable of winning it and go win it again and again until you can’t win it anymore and then sit back and enjoy it.’ The ITU gave me that. It was a slap in the face. You talk about it, but until you really dive in the deep end and see yourself as older, or as slower, which is what draft-legal racing showed me, then you continue to fool yourself. That’s definitely the reason I decided to go back to Kona.”
McCormack also talked about his race at the ITU Long Course World Championships in Spain. He beat out several top athletes and says that he surprised himself with how easily he won.
“It was really my first outing at a long course race since Kona in 2010. I thought ‘you know I’ll pick a three-quarter Ironman, it was a 4K swim, 120K bike, 30K run. It’s a world championship. It’s been won by Welchie, Lessing and Mark Allen.’ It was one race I’ve never done and I thought it would be a great chance to see where I’m at and we’ll see if the Ironman World Championship. I’ve never felt so easy because the pace is so much slower.
“I really think I’ve come at this from a different angle. When I came at this from a youngster I had no base, I had no endurance base. I was a short-course specialist and I struggled with a lot of that Hawaii stuff and building that base. This time around, I’ve done a season of racing the fastest athletes that have ever been in our sport, I’ve got my run times down to a point I didn’t think I would be able to. My swim got right up, I’ve leaned down and I’ve been able to add a little bit of base work in. I ran 1:44 for 30K last week. I won the title very easily. I served the penalty. I remember thinking ‘this is Eneko Llanos, that’s Dirk Bockel and Sylvain Sudrie. These guys are winning Ironmans. Eneko just had a war with Crowie and Cam Brown in Melbourne.’ I’m thinking, ‘this can’t be the pace.’ At first I thought maybe I was just running too quick; that I had lost my knack of pace in these longer races. I think my threshold has been moved up, I’m a lot leaner and I just went with it, and I really surprised myself. It was definitely that race that made me say I’m 100% going back to Kona. I want to make sure I can maintain the speed, keep this body shape and roll the dice on it.
“Where I was a little apprehensive was thinking that I’d be underdone for Kona, I haven’t done the base work. The bigger strength for me is going to be that I’ve had that year off, my body is fresher, I’m a lot faster. And that is my strength. Instead of worrying about the things that I used to worry about in the past when I did an Ironman. They’re not relevant. I’ve got 18 years of base. It will be the speed that will be key.”
Listen to the complete interview at Competitorradio.com.
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