Friday, November 12, 2010

An evening with Chris McCormack

Last night a friend and I attended the Chris McCormack event at the new Clif Bar headquarters in Emeryville. Apart from getting a free Clif shot, Clif Cafe lasagna -which was a tad greasy- and New Belgian Brewing hoptober ale, we were serenaded by the company band with solo performances on the trumpet by Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson. Mr. Erickson also gave a short presentation of his own athletic career covering nearly every sport from rock climbing, dancing, skiing, to surfing and triathlon.

Gary entertaining the crowds
Next, Mark Allen, the six time Hawaii ironman winner made a short intro appearance in which he was full of praise for Chris's most recent victory. Compared to when I last heard Mark Allen talk -at the 2005 CaliforniaMan- he appeared a lot more reserved and less self-centered.

Then Macca came up on stage and settled in for a long interview that was filled with stories from his long career and personal life. A large amount of time was spent on recounting the key events in the 2010 Hawaii race, which was, as Mark Allen had previously remarked, one of the most memorable in Ironman history.

But he did not stop there and Chris went into great detail on nearly every Hawaii ironman race he took part in, highlighting pitfalls and strategy. Whatever one might think about the value of tactics and strategy in what is essentially a solo time trial event, it is clear that Macca and his team have given it much thought and attention. It is also obvious that they think of it as a group event instead of a solo race.

Strategy and tactics really matter to a man who, by his own admission, watches replays of nearly every race and memorizes splits for all his competitors and illustrious predecessors.

In the short question and answer session, Chris remarked that there are no magic formulae, no magic workouts and no magic recipes. He said everyone has to find out for themselves -maybe with help from a coach- what works and what doesn't. He also expressed the opinion that some athletes train too much and overreach. He was not shy in mentioning fellow athletes like Bozzone and others, whom he thought were training too much. I suspect it is this eagerness to name names and openly express his opinions that has gotten Macca in trouble before. He has often been labeled arrogant and the label clearly offended him so he took some time to dispel this notion.

After the event there was time for pictures and signing autographs. Unfortunately my camera malfunctioned and so I did not get my shot with the champ. I did get an autograph on one of my Ironman finisher shirts however. Mark Allen also posed for pictures and signed autographs but on the whole he kept a low profile and left the stage to Chris.
Chris McCormack after the interview
Mark Allen signing autographs
Asked by one person if he had ever run a marathon and what his best marathon time would be, Chris first said, "no, and ouch, painful" but then confidently predicted he would be able run a 2:19. (2:20 is the Olympic qualifier time) He looked over to Mark and Mark said he had once tried to run a marathon -in Berlin- and his goal then was a sub 2:20, but he never made it past mile 18. He and a fellow runner then jumped on the subway for the 8 mile ride back to town. He called it his very fast half marathon.

In other news, the Belgian high court has given Iljo Keisse the green light to start racing in the Gentse Zesdaagse (Ghent six day track event) in two weeks. Keisse tested positive for masking agents (cathine and a diuretic) in the race in 2008 and was fired by his team. The Belgian Federation cleared him of any wrongdoing in November of 2009 and Keisse was able to race for Quickstep in early 2010. But then WADA appealed to Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS), where Keisse was once again suspended and Quickstep was forced to let him go. Even though the high court overruled that decision today, it has not cleared Keisse yet. That is not expected until a hearing next April.  The whole affair is yet another example of the sorry state of affairs in cycling.

Next week some more on training with power and racing in Belgium. Have a great weekend.

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