Phuket Camp – lives up to expectations!

by Nick Cicerchi

Nov. 23 – Nov. 30th was a fantasy camp for the MaccaX team. Based at Thanyapura Sports Hotel, the stay was a triathlete’s dream with easy access to pools, running track, and most importantly a great group of people to team up to socialize with while on a group ride or over a pint at the bar after a workout.

Sandwiched in between 2 races; the Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT)on Nov 23rd and the Challenge Laguna Phuket on Nov 30th, the camp was a perfect chance to have an easy week of technique sessions, have fun with the MaccaX teammates, and hang with the boss, Macca, himself.

Just like the Miami camp from a year ago, and what I’ve heard about other camps, Chris McCormack was his usual self. He was completely hands-on in almost all the sessions, and freely accessible to ask any questions or just joke around with at breakfast, dinner, or after hour’s festivities. All while running the sports hotel at Thanyapura, Chris didn’t skimp on his time spent with MaccaX’ers. For those who don’t know Chris, he was in usual form, constantly joking around and an open book with his stories and Q&A sessions.

From the first morning onward I knew it would be a great week. We caught up with Chris at Laguna near race check-in the day before LPT as the first wave of MaccaX group members started to get settled in Phuket. In the LPT, those of us who raced got the first taste of the brutal Phuket bike hills, many of which had to walk their bikes. We also got to experience the brutal Thailand heat in race conditions, something you can’t mimic outside of being in the environment.

The camp sessions were light on the workload, and focused on technique for race day specific tasks, such as drafting in the swim, transitioning, select form and speed sets.   There were lots of free time to fill in your own sessions and take advantage of the facilities and brain trust on hand at Thanyapura.

One of my favorite and most overlooked aspects of training and racing that we covered was the mental aspect of the sport. As Chris talks about often, we have to think and control our minds in triathlon. Whether it’s optimizing our time, overcoming a fear that’s limiting you from your best results, or mapping out a race-specific plan, exercising the mind appropriately is invaluable. We were introduced to a Mind Training session with a monk and meditation expert on staff at Thanyapura. This was a group meditation session that helped us clear our minds and be present, which is key for triathlon training and racing. Although this was just an introductory meditation session, the very fact that we incorporated this mind training into race week highlighted the importance of mental training necessary to succeed in triathlon and in life.

Most of all, the camp provided a great chance to get together with MaccaX teammates to share stories, learn from each other, have fun, and excited one another with our common goals.   Like minds think alike, and that comes through with this group. It’s hard to imagine, but we were training and racing with some of the triathlon legends we had been watching over the years in this sport; Jurgen Zack, Belinda Granger, and the Boss Himself, Chris “Macca” McCormack. Chris is unbelievably generous with his time and has really created a family atmosphere in the MaccaX community. We were all attracted to triathlon in the same way, and this group allows us to share this common interest in one another, elevating our excitement for the sport and reminding us why we do it.

Even though Chris is busy running Thanyapura, he didn’t skimp out on any aspect of the camp, including leading the transition sessions, participating with us in the swim sessions and group rides, and even racing with us! I still can’t believe he invited me to compete with him on his relay team. I just started in this sport less than 3 years ago, and here I was in Thailand racing with the best in the world.   How my racing with Macca came about is another example of the generosity and care Chris has for his teammates…

One of the nights after a Q&A with Chris, we were hanging out at the bar listening to Chris’s hilarious stories from his peak racing days. I told Chris about my troubles on the run portion in the LPT earlier that week. After flying in from the US and not acclimating to the heat or time zone appropriately, my heart rate skyrocketed on the run in the LPT and forced me to walk a good portion of the race, something that’s never happened to me.

Nick run 2Chris empathized with me having his own issues planning and acclimating to heat in his career, and assured me I would be fine after a few days in Phuket. I told him how I couldn’t race in the upcoming Challenge Laguna Phuket race because I had to ship my bike home, and doubted my ability to perform in a half iron distance race, but that I still feel like I had more to give that week. Without hesitation he said to me, “We need a runner on our relay team. Run with us.” I couldn’t believe it. Not only was this a chance to redeem myself from blowing up on the run in last race, but now I was going to race on Chris’s team?!

Now Chris is a standup character, and I don’t doubt anything he says or commits to, but this was a bit much. I thought there was still no way I’d be able to race with him. After getting to know Macca and knowing he’s a man of integrity, I didn’t think he’d forget about it, but I figured that Challenge had probably assigned him another teammate, or that he was obligated to race with someone else.  If this was the case, I would have totally understood and just been honored that he thought of me. Sure enough, the next day he gave me a race packet and didn’t even make a big deal about it. I still can’t believe it!

Meanwhile, the rest of the team was razzing me and saying, “now you better win!” I can’t lie, but I was a little nervous. I’m used to racing in local community triathlons, and here I was with the greatest ever in the sport, and had to anchor his team by running a half marathon. Now I really needed to perform well. The team kept messing with me, but Chris put me at ease. The day of the race he was so nonchalant about racing that it put me totally at ease. Drinking coffee with him before the race, we talked about all sorts of things not even related to the race. We met many people in the transition area eager to talk to Chris, including one of Thailand’s biggest rock music stars.

Nick RunHanging with Chris on race day reminded me that this was a day to have fun, and that’s what we were there for. It also reminded me that today Chris wasn’t 2x Hawaii Ironman Champion or Executive Chairman at Thanyapura. Today he was just part of our team. He may be one of the best triathletes of all time, but he has very humble roots. Reflecting back on his story, in his early days as a pro, Chris traveled all over the world by himself scraping by financially and socially. He was forced to visit foreign countries and befriend strangers that spoke different languages and had different customs. This resourcefulness, adaptability, and exposure to humanity taught the value of relationships and interaction with others in this “individual” sport. Chris didn’t succeed alone and neither can we.

Bringing this humble, generous, and inclusive mindset to triathlon is what Chris has created with the MaccaX group and his camps. He shares with us the benefits of team atmosphere, inclusiveness, and sharing and learning from one another. Without this team, I wouldn’t have traveled all the way to the other side of the country, meeting friends from the other side of the globe. The camps have exposed us to the enriching experience of traveling and meeting people from all over the world with a common interest. My new friends in MaccaX from Asia, Australia, America, and Europe may not have the same backgrounds, but we all speak the language of triathlon.

Read more from Nick Cicerchi at http://nickcicerchi.com