Chris McCormack — “I’m Here to Win”

Distance: 21.25 miles
Time: 1:03
Average Watts: 193 watts
Normative Power: 214 watts
Average Heart Rate: 156 bpm
Total Work: 737 kJ
Average Speed: 20.0 mph

I rode 50.0 on Tuesday and this on Wednesday and I think I will regret it. I am supposed to ride a local climb four times with a good buddy of mine this morning and by the time this posts I will be deep in my pain zone trying to cruise up to the top of this climb. For you locals, we are going up the south side of Suncrest, down the north side and then turning around and cruising up the north side and back down the south side. It will be a really tough little out and back because we are planning on doing it at least three times and possibly four. I don’t know how smart that is because I think we are going to destroy our legs in the process. It is all for the sake of the Triple Bypass in Colorado.

This little ride was a great one. It was designed as a recovery ride, but once I hit the pavement and my legs started to pump, it was tough for me to back off. I felt great. This was what I call a “break-out” ride — I felt strong from beginning to end. The power was there in my legs throughout the ride and I set a new all-time record for average watts for 60 seconds today — 478 watts. That felt really good. Now I need to try and extend that to 2 minutes.

Chris McCormack’s New Book — A Review

I am what you would call a voracious reader. When I am on the road 5 days a week in the Fall I can get through one to two books in a week. I was so excited to see the Kindle come out because I prefer to read three or four books at once. I don’t know why I rarely read a book cover to cover. It seems to me that I read through books as they call to me. It sounds a little goofy and like I lack focus, but such is life. A year ago I migrated everything on my Kindle over to an iPad and have to tell you I don’t think I will ever buy a print book again. It is a fantastic tool that has definitely decreased the weight of my briefcase.

26.2ismycooldown.comI was browsing through the Amazon Kindle Store about a week ago and noticed that Ironman World Champion Chris “Macca” McCormack had published a new book called I’m Here to Win (click here to order) with the subtitle of “A World Champion’s Advice for Peak Performance”. Now I am like many of triathletes, I am always looking for a mental edge to help keep me going when the times get tough, so I bought the book. I am not going to lie — I was pumped to start reading it. If there is anyone in the world who could write credibly on this subject, in my mind it is Macca.

Now a word about my relationship with Chris McCormack — I love him as an athlete and want to understand him as a person. He kind of has a reputation in triathlon as a super trash-talker. Now I love to run my gums and I think I have a talent for it, but nothing like Chris. So if you buy the book and don’t love it, keep in mind that my frame of reference and yours might be a little different.

If you don’t know that much about Chris, let me give you a little background about him. He was the 1997 World Champion in the ITU, which has draft-legal races, which is a big deal. In 2002 he shifted to the Ironman distance and won Ironman Australia, the first race he entered. He actually won that race every year from 2002 until 2006. At the Roth Germany Iron Distance race he went under eight hours for the first time in 2004 and twice again after that. He won the Ironman World Championships at Kona in 2007 and 2010 after struggling at the race for a couple of years.

I am a huge, huge, huge Mark Allen and Dave Scott fan, but I have to tell you there are few people who strategize for a race like Chris McCormack. In my opinion, there is a minuscule amount of talent that separates the top 20 men and women in the sport of triathlon. But mentally, Chris has an edge like no other. That is why I bought the book to read it.

This book has a good balance of personal stories, insight into Macca’s strategies, and fantastic quotes for you to use as you are honing your own mental edge. I thought the book was well-balanced and well-written. Tim Vandehey was the ghost writer and I know Chris is smart, but Tim really polished this book up well. It is one of a few books that I found the writing to be as entertaining as the stories. Thanks Tim for helping bring brilliance to the narrative of a great career.

26.2ismycooldown.comThere are a ton of personal stories that give you insight into the mindset of Chris. I did not know that Chris started competing in triathlons without the knowledge of his running coach in college. Did you know he went to college on a running scholarship? No wonder he can fly down the road. He talks about his early days of sitting in a cube working for the man and how he quit his job in 1996 to pursue his dream of competing in ITU races in Europe. From day 1 Chris was always an outsider and came up outside of the system, which always gave him somewhat of a chip on his shoulder. He used what he perceived as slights by the Triathlon Union of Australia when they passed him over for the Olympic Team even when he was ranked #1 in the World by ITU to his advantage in races throughout his career. Chris also opens up about the death of his Mother and what a profound impact that had on his racing.

There are a ton of great triathlon stories in the book too. I always knew Macca had an edge to him. I love how he has the ability to compliment you and call you out in the same sentence. When you read his interviews it really is remarkable how he has been able to produce self-doubt in the mind of his competitors through pre-race interviews. While lots of people can talk smack, when he does it apparently works. While I wouldn’t suggest these strategies for most of us age-groupers, I do suggest you use his tools with your friends. Honestly, on a group ride you will get a ton of laughs.

Of course Macca gives you some fantastic insight into his mental, training, and racing strategies. Let me share one with you that I particularly like because it rings so true. Macca states,

“In endurance racing, whether the race is two hours or eight hours, the biggest limiting factor is fear. The reason you get nervous before a race is that you doubt your ability to perform when it’s all on the line. The mind game that takes place before the starting gun ever fires is really the critical point of the race. It’s when all your insecurities bubble to the surface. It’s when you have that good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other. One is saying, ‘You can do it mate!’ The other is whispering, ‘Why are you here? You can’t win!’ The angel you decide to listen to will determine whether you are competitive or an also-ran.”

He continues,

“Because there’s always a voice in everyone’s head saying, ‘You haven’t done the work, mate. You know that track session you missed? It’s coming back to get you on this hill.” That’s what holds you back. Each race is a new war against that evil angel.”

In endurance training and racing, sometimes the biggest battle you have is mental and not physical. I find this to be true when I am in a race. When I am thinking that there is no way I can hold a pace, I always find a way to do it anyways. You really have to learn to shut out the evil angel if you will and focus on why you can accomplish your goals. You have to focus on the pain. On this concept, Macca states,

“You don’t play triathlon. You play soccer; it’s fun. You play baseball. Triathlon is work that you can leave you crumpled in a heap, puking on the roadside. It’s the physical brutality of climbing Mount Everest without the great view from the top of the world. What kind of person keeps coming back for more of that?”

You guessed it, Macca has the perfect answer,

“That’s why your state of mind is so important. You have to be honest with yourself about suffering: It’s going to come, it’s part of the wholeness of being a triathlete, and it’s totally real. It’s you versus you. If you can be at peace in your mind and accept the pain, then you can see it as part of the whole amazing experience. But if you’re dreading the suffering because you approach it from a negative frame of mind, when it finally comes you’re going to check out.”

I think that last paragraph sums up the triathlon experience for many people. Of course there are lots of fantastic strategies in this book and I have selected only one to briefly discuss. The racing strategies alone of what type of self-talk you should engage in during a tough workout or a tough race are alone worth the price of the book. I have been racing triathlons for a long time now and I have to admit to learning a ton from this book.

I would say if you want to improve your performance in triathlon — even if it is from the back to the middle of the pack — this is one of the first books you should read. I think educating yourself about the sports you participate in is essential for safe and successful training, and I’m Here to Win is a fantastic place to start. If you are an Amazon.com fan, you can always pick up the book in my store (click here people!) and remember, any money I get from the store will go towards my Huntsman’s Hometown Heroes fundraising for Cancer for LOTOJA 2011.

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...