Chris McCormack was 23 years old when he won the ITU World Cup Series in 1997. His winning time? 1:48:29, topped off with a 29-minute, 32-second 10K. So when the Ironman world champ announced that he would again race the ITU circuit in an attempt to make the Australian Olympic team at the age of 39, the triathlon world was skeptical. Don't older athletes lose their speed? Maybe just a little. But Macca's splits at the ITU World Triathlon San Diego race in May 2012 (swim: 18:25; bike: 59:03; run: 31:35) are nothing to scoff at. Even though he didn't make the Australian Olympic team this year, here's what McCormack learned from being the "old guy" on the short course:
Take more time to recover after speed workouts. "It was hard to adjust," he says. "I realized I couldn't do the same workouts I did when I was younger, especially on the intensity side, without breaking down. The hardest thing was getting the speed back to be competitive."
To go fast, count calories. "Trying to find my speed and lose the weight," Macca says, was tough. "I look forward to eating again," he says, without revealing how much weight he's had to lose. (He has said he won his first Ironman world champion title in 2007 weighing 177 pounds.)
Sometimes, you just have to suck in your ego -- but not all the way. "I appreciate how good these kids are, and there's no animosity or feeling of, 'Remember me?'" Macca says. "But I'd like to see these guys when they're 39 years of age."
This article was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.