Me: Hi Chris, thanks for agreeing to do this. Your version of Kona will be much more interesting than mine.
Chris: Can you even remember it?
Me: Remember what?
Me: Do you mind if I call you "Cobes"?
Me: Okay, Chris. First thing first...you're my idol. Well, you and Royal Robbins.
Chris: Good choice(s).
Me: Thank you.
Me: Let's talk Kona. You went for some pretty epic rides while we were there. I think a lot of us forget about roads other than the Queen K. What was your favorite ride?
Chris: There is a road that is parallel to the Queen K at a higher elevation. I think it is highway 190. The shoulder is not huge so it’s probably best suited for a road bike. Plus you can get to the newly paved Saddle Road which used to be off limits for rental cars but is now fresh pavement and gets you to the climb up Mauna Kea. If I could go back I would find time to climb to the top. (Strava file.)
Me: You've raced Kona 3x now, what was different in 2016?
Chris: We arrived a few days before the race, so it was the standard race week shit show, but the biggest difference I noticed this year was the drug testing of age groupers.
Me: Yea. I think we were both pleasantly surprised that I got drug tested. I know you have some strong opinions on doping in sports...care to share?
Chris: I think it is a great to test amateurs (and pros, of course). It is very easy to get medications that are performance enhancers, whether it is on the WADA banned list or not. For example, a masters racer saying he/she has “low T” may be a medical reality, but I think taking the medication should disqualify you from racing.
Me: Why do you think taking a medication like that should disqualify someone?
Chris: ...because sport is not a competition of who can take medication up to the legal limit. Endurance sports can take a toll on your health, and that sometimes that leads to reduced testosterone levels - it's simply part of the sport. The objective at a race like Kona is to identify the athlete who is the fastest on that day. We know that winning requires a certain amount of training load, while being able to arrive on race day fresh and ready to execute. If the only way an athlete can show up and be at that level is to take a banned substance (or one that needs special approval), then perhaps he/she shouldn't be there.
Me: Got it. But cutting the course is okay, right?
Me: JKJK. Let's move on....How was the night before Kona? Could you tell I was stressing?
Chris: You were pretty darn chill actually. You do a good job not keeping your pre-race routine TOO strict so that any hiccup won't completely derail you. I don’t think you ate enough though… You probably had less than 2000 calories. I think you could be more disciplined about eating the week before. Back in my swimming days, I used to eat bake potatoes for breakfast the week leading up to a big meet.
Me: I could tighten things up a bit, you're right.
Me: So what about the morning? What's your pre-race routine as a superfan? Any thoughts on what I should do differently?
Chris: Ha! My routine is to not say “I wouldn’t do that” or “you should…” By that morning there is not much more that can change the day so I just make sure the coffee is made and there is easy to digest food to eat. Once you are dropped off at transition your day is 100% your day and I just get worried that one of the things I am responsible for, like bike stuff, doesn’t malfunction.
Me: Oh not to worry, the Trek rode like a dream... We said goodbye before body marking and about 2.5 hrs later I was getting kicked in the face during the swim and becoming concust. What were you guys up to?
Chris: Once we said goodbye, I peed in the bushes and made sure I saw you enter transition with no issues and then went and found the cheer squad. From there it is all about coffee/food and finding a good spot to watch the leaders start the bike.
Me: What about the swim start? What's it like on shore after the cannon goes off?
Chris: It did seem like a good day in the water. Rumor has it, the tide had moved the buoys in so the swim was 200m short, but who knows. The standout related to the swim was Frodeno calling out Harry Whiltshire for being a “pr!ck”. Good to see some drama in the sport.
Me: I know of at least one other person who was a prick in the water that day....
Me: So after the swim, what did you do?
Chris: Well, I bought 5 Egg McMuffins for the cheer squad but only 2 of them wanted one. So I ate 3 Egg McMuffins by the time you climbed Palani. We all went back to the house. I watched college football on ESPN, Kona live stream on the computer and updated my phone every 30 seconds to watch your splits.
Me: Solid fueling strategy, I like it. I was thinking about what you were doing while I was struggling through the bike leg. I think I was in and out of consciousness. It was brutal...engaged and riding strong for sections, but dizzy/sleepy/nauseous during other stretches. What did you think was going on?
Chris: It was an odd and anxious experience. You would have a very fast split (fastest in AG) then a surprisingly slow one. I kept worrying that you flatted (though running tubeless on the Eastons should make that hard to do) or maybe dropped a bottle or stopped to use the port-o-potty.
Me: No no, the bike set up was the only good thing about the ride. Who else were you rooting for out there?
Chris: I like greatness and a race like the World Championships in Kona should be won by a great triathlete. To see the dominance of Frodeno and Ryf was cool to see. Honestly, if a dark horse wins that better be the beginning of something great. I have no issue with Pete Jacobs, and I feel bad calling him out, but his win is already forgotten. Didn’t do much before and didn’t do anything after. His 2011 2nd off an amazing run was cool, his 2012 win was impressive, but that’s about it. I hope Patrick Lange’s run is an indication of something great, not a flash in the pan.
Me: Well said. Those two dominated, but I also love a good underdog story...been writing my own for years now. Speaking of legends, I heard you guys ran into Dave Scott and had a quick chat?
Chris: Yep. Caleb Porter (part of the cheer squad) and I were sitting on Palani for the run eating teriyaki steak, potato salad and rice (meal 8 or 9 at this point) and Dave was there cheering people on. With basically a full mouth, Caleb sees Dave and says something to the order of “Hey Dave, why aren’t you racing?” To which Dave responds [with a heavy dose of disgust] “Why aren’t you?”
Mic dropped… Caleb took another bite...
Me: Anything else I missed out on? I gotta say....I was a little jealous that I couldn't hang out with you guys during the race.
Chris: Honestly, after the top few pro women finish, it's like watching a death march for everybody. I'm not really the cheering type, and this is the World Championships, so the athletes shouldn't need some random guy from Marin cheering them on. This isn't a Rock n' Roll 5k.
Me: Did you cheer for me when I ran by?
Chris: .....slow clap.
Me: Well, my next question was going to be "what were your thoughts on my race specifically?" But I guess we already know the answer...
Chris: Once I could tell your race went to shit, my mind starting going crazy. I was thinking of any and every scenario that could have put you in such a tough position. When we saw you at the first turnaround on Ali'i Drive, our friend told me to pull you from the course because you were staggering around with your eyes closed. I was really anxious seeing you like that, but there was no way in hell I was going to be the one responsible for you not finishing Kona. So we let you continue "running", and I was really stressed for the next few hours thinking about what could have possibly gone wrong. It wasn't fun.
Me: I'm sorry you had to watch such a pitiful situation unravel. On the flip side, what was your favorite moment of the day?
Chris: Ugh, it ends up being a hard day when it doesn’t go to plan. I stopped updating family and friends over text. I even sent a text to your parents to say you were gonna end up in the med tent and that I hoped it wasn’t before the finish (I sent that with > 10 miles to go on the run). My favorite was definitely seeing you fly down Palani and through the finish. This may sound crazy/odd, but my most memorable moment of the day was hopping the fence to enter the “athletes only section” after the finish. It is something I would never do (since I like rules so much), but I just wanted to be with you. Seeing you stumble out of the med tent was hard to see. What was your favorite moment?
Me: Aside from seeing you as I left the med tent? Sitting on the curb outside of the McDonalds waiting for you to drive up with the crew, while eating french fries dipped in Ranch Dressing. Then hugging everyone while I was still laying on the ground eating.
Chris: Can’t wait to see the golden arches on your kit next year...
Me: Ooooh, great idea.
Me: Outside of being a stronger swimmer (so I don't get kicked in the head), what advice do you have for me to improve in Kona?
Chris: You just need another year of triathlon training. Remember, you are just now a triathlete and not a soccer player doing triathlons. Now it gets fun!
Me: What advice do you have for Kona spectators?
Chris: “DON’T CLAP FOR PROS WHO DROP OUT!!!” We saw a few quit at the Ali’i turnaround and people clapped. My head almost exploded! It wasn’t even a “slow clap” or a clap to encourage them to keep going. It’s the World Championships for crying out loud.
Me: You mentioned earlier that you love rules. I think most of us can agree that you're widely known as being a stickler for cycling “rules”....which one is the most important?
Chris: Of course, “Rule 5”, but these are the most relevant to triathletes:
1. No sleeveless jerseys (unless you are Cipo or Pippo).
2. No aero-helmets (or disc wheels) on training rides.
3. If you are gonna ride in a group with your TT bike, you better take HUGE pulls at the front.
4. No compression socks.
5. Glasses over helmet straps at all times.
Me: I hope everyone is taking diligent notes. You up for some rapid fire Q&A?
1. Who is your idol? (I'm sure it's me, but you can't say that)
Hmm, I don’t believe in “hero worship”.
2. What's the best piece of triathlon, cycling, and swimming advice you've ever heard?
Over all the years of swimming growing up it is hard to pick one thing. But at a “meta level” of advice it would be: “Do the work, trust the work, unless you didn’t do the work, then [sport specific comment]”
Cycling: “sit in.”
Triathlon: “you’re fucked.”
Swimming: "jk... you always do the work in swimming..."
3. What's your favorite race?
My best race ever in any sport was IMAZ 2008. But the the coolest race to win would be Tour of Flanders.
4. Least favorite?
Duh, Double Dipsea! Though I bet Quad Dipsea is worse.
5. What's your 2017 race plan?
I think just bike racing, and beating up on the “low T” masters guys.
6. What sport will you still be doing when you're a grandfather?
Probably cycling. By then I hope they have the “low T” division.
7. If you were a coach, what would your philosophy be?
For amateurs: “Do more, often” For pros: “Hard should be very hard, easy can be fun”
8. If there was one thing you would change about Kona, what would it be?
I think it would be great if there was a harder climb early. You could head straight up Palani which turns into 190 and then descend back to the Queen K through Waikoloa. It would limit the pack racing early. Only issue is it would grind the west side of an island to even more of a halt which the locals may not appreciate.
9. When will you race another Ironman?
When I become just a pack filler in bike races.
10. What is your life motto?
"Winners always win”
- Swam at USC ('00 - '04)
- 2008 IMAZ Amateur Champion
- 3x Kona Finisher
- Cat 1 Cyclist
- Knower of useless facts