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McCormack wins his second title

Kevin Mackinnon recaps the men's race at the Ford Ironman World Championship

Published Sunday, October 10, 2010

McCormack wins his second titleTo the scientists who said he couldn't ever win in Kona, Chris McCormack has a simple message: you got it wrong.

In 2002, Chris McCormack rolled to the Big Island here in Hawaii and boldly stated that he was here to win the Ironman World Championship. That year he dropped out along Alii Drive. A year later he also dropped out of the race. Eventually he finished sixth, then had an impressive second, and finally won in 2007. That day he proved to those scientists that he didn’t sweat too much, that he didn’t have problems with heat and humidity, that he could not only beat the best Ironman athletes in the world, but that he could overcome the tough conditions typical here in Hawaii to do it.

“The day is always ridiculously tough,” said Chris McCormack at today’s press conference. “It’s important to do the little things right. Last year we went back – me and my team – and looked at what we needed to change.”

McCormack raced less this year. He headed over to the Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championship to test himself, and got spanked by the man he beat to the line here in Kona.

“Andreas made us all look stupid in Frankfurt this year,” he said of Andreas Raelert’s impressive win.
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Craig Alexander, the two-time defending champion here in Kona, wasn’t the only person who credited today’s win to a few gutsy moves by McCormack. The first came on the bike, when he pushed the pace and got himself in a group that included some of the strongest cyclists in the world – Normann Stadler, Faris Al-Sultan, Raelert and Raynard Tissink. The next came when he and Tissink made another strong move to ride themselves clear of the Germans.

That move put McCormack out in front of Raelert off the bike. The couple-of-minute lead he held on the Germany was an almost nine-minute lead over the defending champ. All three would fly through the initial stages of the marathon, putting in sub-six minute miles as they flew through the opening miles. Also in the mix was Marino Vanhoenacker, who had also ridden clear of many of the men in the race, coming off the bike in third behind super-cyclists Chris Lieto and Maik Twelsiek. The fun really began in the second half of the marathon, though. With Alexander running at 2:35 marathon pace behind the them, McCormack, Raelert and Vanhoenacker did everything they could to go for the title themselves.

“It was hard,” said Marino Vanhoenacker. “Sometimes I was wondering if I made the right moves. Down in the energy lab, there was 45 seconds separating us three. I got to see the race from the first row. At the end of the day I was beaten by two superb athletes.”

Those two superb athletes were McCormack and Raelert, who would eventually find themselves running stride for stride.

“I had 1:20 at 15 miles,” McCormack said at the press conference. “I focused on nutrition and knew that he would need to work hard to catch me. When he caught me with four miles to go, I was feeling very good. We shook hands – I said “no matter what happens, you’re a champion” and we didn’t say another word to each other.”

“I was getting some stomach cramps at the end,” McCormack said of the intensity of the closing miles. “Your body starts rebelling. I was sticking my hand right up my rib cage.”

It was the last aid station on the course that would prove pivotal.

“I couldn’t believe he went to the aid station,” McCormack said. “My attitude, at that point, is to close my eyes, grit my teeth and go for it.”

Which is exactly what he did. Raelert wasn’t able to respond and had to watch as McCormack ran to his second title.

“I think he’ll look back at this one as the one that got away,” McCormack said of Raelert, who he feels is destined to win this race someday.

“I don’t think I lost this race today,” the incredibly gracious defending champion said of his fourth place finish. “There were three guys who had incredible days ahead of me.”

Of that there can be no doubt. Alexander ran a 2:41 marathon and it still wasn’t enough to take the title here in Kona for the third straight year. Instead he watched his countryman join him in the exclusive world of being a two-time Kona champion.

Raelert would hang on for second, finishing just a few seconds ahead of Vanhoenacker, while Raynard Tissink rounded out the top five.

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