Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meeting a champion, in every sense of the word

I admire the athletes at the top of our sport but have always been hesitant to actually approach them and say anything other than the obligatory “have a great race today” or “good luck”. I have always thought why in the world would they want to talk to a lowly age grouper like myself when they are titans in the sport? Well, the first person to change my opinion was Cait Snow. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a talk she gave and she’s remembered me ever since (I hope that’s a good thing). She is a sweet, personable, down to earth pro who has taken time out of HER schedule at races to come say hello to me. At one point coming over after a race and hanging out by my truck to ask me how my race went, how I was feeling and what my upcoming schedule looked like. Talk about making me feel like a cool kid!

Then Sunday I got to attend a Q&A session and book signing for 70.3 and 140.6 World Champion Craig “Crowie” Alexander. Now I’ve been to PLENTY of book signings/questions and answer sessions for authors/stars/athletes and they are normally very canned, to the minute, you have very little “real” interaction with the person and then you’re off. Well Crowie smashed that mold Sunday tonight. He milled around the crowd before the event “officially” began in a simple black button up shirt and jeans, soft spoken and chatting with everyone on the way in. When he took the stage he thanked everyone for being there and spent the first 30 minutes or so talking about some photos in his new book “As the Crow flies: My Journey to Ironman World Champion”. Self deprecating and humorous, it felt less like a book event and more like Crowie was opening a scrapbook for us to see. After going through the imagery, he opened up the floor to questions and those questions spanned far and wide. There were a few points he talked about that I learned from and a couple topics I was surprised he commented on but all were jewels that I put in my brain for later.

- When asked what if any “mantra” he recites over and over in his head while racing (ie I can do this I’m gonna win), his simple answer was he says “relax” over and over in his head. You’ve done all the training, you’re ready so there’s no need to waste extra energy…remind yourself to just relax and race (ya, I’ll be saying that over and over in my head at my next race!)

- When asked about nutrition and how much and of what, he responded that you should focus on easily broken down (by the stomach) nutrition and that it’s easier to come back from being under fueled (light headed, hungry and in a state where your body wants to take in calories) than to overload the system and shut your stomach down, effectively ending your race day.

 -When asked about his thoughts on Lance and whether he would’ve been a success in Ironman he responded with a resounding “yes”, ”it isn’t an if but a when as to Lance standing on the podium at Kona. He wouldn’t be another person piling on Lance because he doesn’t know the details. He said “there was doping in cycling way before Lance ever showed up and there still is” and “I love that triathlete want to point the finger at Lance but will draft and cut corners at races…in my eyes cheating is cheating” and “don’t hate the player, hate the game”. He also revealed that one of the reason he wanted to race Kona in 2012 was because Lance was going to be there and he wanted to be part of that. 

- When asked about this year’s race at Kona, Crowie said he felt that although he wasn’t having a good day and he knew it wasn't going to end the way he'd planned, he felt an obligation to all his sponsors, family and those that had sacrificed so much for him to be there, that he owed it to them to finish. And Lastly, when asked about his relationship with Chris “Macca” McCormick, he responded with “I haven’t had a relationship with Chris for over 10 years”, “I see his dad often”, “I see his wife at the school drop off every morning” and “Chris’s brother was the first person to congratulate me when I won in ‘11”. He went on to say “Chris has always been Chris, I just got to a point in my life where I don’t want that type of atmosphere or energy around me, I want to focus on the positive”. Amen Crowie, Amen!

That Q&A session lasted almost 2 hours followed by a drawing for prizes from his sponsors while we stood the hour in line for him to autograph our copies of the book. Like I said, I’ve done lots of book signings and signings in general so I'm prepping J and our friends...getting their books and cameras ready for a quick snapshot and signature. To my surprise, when we actually got to Crowie, he was relaxed and drinking a beer (Sam Adams of course) and taking all the time in the world chatting to folks as he signed the book and stood up for pictures. No "handlers" pushing people through or saying you only had "x" amount of time. 

When it was my turn I told him how much it meant to me that he finished Kona even though it wasn’t his day and that is a great example for us age groupers and aspiring pro’s alike that unless you’re hurt…you HAVE to finish. I also told him that I know he has a family and that he has a life but I hope he continues to race for the next few years because he’s an example that you can be fit and competitive in the sport as you age and for old guys like me…it means a lot. In my haste to take care of everyone else and excitement to meet him I totally forgot to tell him about my broken back and all my injuries and how triathlon, in my opinion, has saved my life. I was just so excited to actually be talking to him like a “normal person” that I totally forgot! And…and…and…I asked him if he was doing Eagleman this year because I will be and part of the reason I picked that for my first 70.3 was because I read how much he loved the course. Its flat, and we cyclists LOVE flat! He said that I’d love the course, especially the bike leg and although he wants to do it, he needs to firm up his schedule for the year still. He told us during the Q&A session that he’d built his 2013 race calendar a few days after Kona but had yet to share/discuss it with his wife and sponsors yet. I know I would be nowhere near the time Crowie crossed the line but it would be awesome if I got to see him at the finish?! And then…I got to take a photo with the him. That smile (which has been pointed out as only the second picture of 2012 to have me smiling) was of pure joy. Crowie is a genuine, down to earth, caring and engaging person as well as triathlete and we couldn’t ask for a better champion and ambassador for our sport!!!

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