Australian triathlete, Chris “Macca” McCormack, now 42, is no stranger to the triathlon scene. Having been involved in the sport for the past 25 years, some of Macca’s achievements during his career, includes the Ironman World Championship titles in 2007 and 2010, as well as the 1997 Triathlon World Championships and the 2012 Long Distance World Championships.A soccer and rugby player as a high school student in Sydney, Macca’s first foray into triathlon had been during his university days – he took part in the Junior World Triathlon Championships in 1993 and he finished in fourth place – narrowly missing out on the silver medal due to premature finishing line celebrations. But since then he has never looked back as a triathlete, and has grown since then, from strength to strength in his triathlon career.
Coaching triathletes has been meaningful
Today, Macca coaches triathletes through the MaccaX online training programme which has coaching and training methods across all triathlon distances – from the Super Sprint and Sprint distances, to the Full Ironman.
And to him, coaching and meeting triathletes of all calibers, has been indeed very meaningful.
Said Macca, who is now based in Thanyapura, Phuket in Thailand, with his family, “I see a lot of people come into and enjoying this sport and experiencing the things that I enjoyed when I was young. When you have been a part of this sport for 25 years, it becomes normal and you start to forget all the little things about triathlon that makes it special.”I was talking to Macca on the sidelines of the press conference – marking the launch of the 2016 TRI Factor Series, where I got a few comments from him about triathlons and training for one.
Everyone can do a triathlon
Through his coaching programme, Macca hopes to get more people to give triathlon a try – without fear of entering the sport.
Mecca said, “The biggest thing that comes into play when trying not just triathlon,but anything that’s new, is belief – people don’t think that they can do it and they don’t know where to start. That holds most people back. But don’t think about it – just do it; for example it’s the same analogy as telling yourself that you want to go on a diet next week but you never do it.”
He added, “Start out by finding information – I built the MaccaX online community in 2011 to help other triathletes, and now we have 5,000 people from all over the world interacting with each other and sharing information. They are of all shapes, sizes and abilities and you realise that this fear that is holding you back is not worth it. You are missing out on so much more, by not taking part.”
Macca adds that even world triathlon champions may have been hesitant to plunge themselves into this sport at the beginning. He said, “I have never met anyone who took up triathlon who said that they were not hesitant to enter their first one – regardless of whether they are the world champion now or a novice who had just completed his or her first triathlon.”
Continued Macca, “So what I can say to such people, is to enter a race and then find a group of friends to do it together, and then align yourself with people who are involved in the sport.”
Triathlon does have its challenges
However Macca concedes that despite being fun, triathlon does have its challenges.
He said, “Well for starters, triathlon is expensive, but then anything in life that’s good for you is often expensive.”
Added Macca, “Also for most amateur triathletes, who hold down a full-time job and have to juggle family time with their triathlon journeys, they have to fit in training time around the rest of their lives. But I have realised that the nice balance to do the three disciplines in triathlon, comes when you get the chance to be socially interactive with other like minded people in a healthy and active environment.”
Regarding triathlon training, Macca adds that some people may find training for three disciplines to be harder than athletes pursuing a single sport. He added, “But personally I think that while it is easier when you are in a single discipline sport, it can get quite monotonous and mundane.”
For example, he explains that after a hard run you may not feel like running again the next day, but coming to the swimming pool for a training session can be quite refreshing.
Swimming may be technical and anti-social
Which of the three triathlon disciplines does Macca feel is the hardest?
He said, “For most people it would be swimming. It is quite a technical and anti-social sport for everyone – the opposite of both running and cycling. For example you can get your friends together and chitchat during a run or a bike ride, but for swimming, it’s all about putting your head down into the water and you are on your own, even though your buddies are swimming in the lanes next to you.”
At the same time, fear of open water swimming is also common amongst novice triathletes. Added Macca, “But you have to face the fear. If you don’t, then you can never get over it. And then when you enter races, you realise there are women and men in their 80s attempting triathlons – if they can do it, what excuse do you have?”
For cycling, riding on the open roads can be quite tricky sometimes. Said Macca, “In Singapore it is getting more difficult to ride on the roads, even though cycling is a very popular sport here. Singapore is not really a cycle-friendly city, but you have so many opportunities like in Bintan and Malaysia as well as Thanyapura where I live, which is an hour’s drive from Phuket. We have some of the best riding paths in the world.”
And for triathletes who may find it challenging to run after a long bike ride – because the legs may feel like “bricks” when running off the bike, Macca’s advice is to practise more and you will get used to it.
He said, “You have to practise – that’s it. That is also what is so cool about triathlon that differentiates it from running. I prefer running off a bike than just running. I have run the London and New York marathons and I find them spectacular but boring – but there is nothing like the feeling of running a marathon after an 180km bike ride and the fatigue and emotions that come along with it.”
New triathletes should never jump straight into the Ironman
Of course Macca adds that newbie triathletes should not jump straight into doing an Ironman – even though this is on their ultimate bucket list. This would probably be a similar analogy to new runners plunging straight into a marathon.
He said, “Ironman is the pinnacle of triathlons. For example, you can have a car but you do not need a Ferrari. It’s the same analogy. I tell people not to rush into an Ironman – there is so much to take away from the shorter triathlon events.”He added, “Of course though, an Ironman may be on many people’s bucket lists, but if you are just doing it to impress your co-workers, friends and families, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons. To me triathlon is a sport that is about owning your life. It is a very personal thing to do a triathlon and if you are just coming in to tick a box and run around with an Ironman tattoo, then you will get what you want, but you will not potentially take out of the sport, what it can give to you.”
Triathlon is life-changing
Indeed, to Macca, triathlon is a life-changing sport.He said, “Triathlon can give you so much more than just a medal and certificate. It can give you health and friendships and a better understanding of yourself. You never ever learn what you are truly made of, until you ensure suffering. It is a beautiful sport and once you get in, you can never be satisfied with a pure sport such as running or cycling, again.”
To find out about the MaccaX training programme, check out Macca’s website here. http://www.maccax.com
Click here for more on the new initiatives from TRI Factor Series.