He looked like an ordinary sunburnt white guy just returned from a vacation in Boracay as he stood at that Greenbelt Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf counter ordering a coffee. Nobody gave him a second glance. Well, nobody except me.
Because he isn’t any ordinary guy: he’s Chris “Macca” McCormack, Ironman World Champion in 2007 and 2010, with 12 Ironman victories, has won 76% of career events, five-time International Triathlete of the Year, ESPN World’s Fittest Man, and is the only person ever to be Olympic course and Ironman World Champion. And of course, I’m not an ordinary girl; I’m an age-group triathlete who just spent a weekend at a triathlon where he’d been in attendance, and I’d gone to his talk and book signing the next day. What else can I say? I’m a fan!
“You’re still here!” I said, my voice squeaking a little. Funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been there in the first place if I hadn’t just come back from the Alaska/Sunrise office to pick up my consolatory 4th place trophy and an autographed copy of Macca’s book I’m Here to Win.
“My flight’s tonight,” he replied amiably. I told him I’d just gotten my autographed book. He stepped out with his coffee and sat in the al fresco area.
He’d written a very generic “Best Wishes” in the book. Now he was in front of me so I could ask him to write more!
I didn’t know I was about to get so much more than an autograph.
“You could have had a coffee with me”
He was on the phone, so I ate my lemon square and drank my tea first, peeking periodically from my seat inside to see if he was done with his business. Meanwhile, I was freaking out, texting people. Guys, it’s Macca! What do I do?! If there was anything that got me to approach him finally, it was a friend’s reply: Well, if he doesn’t seem to mind, go for it! Any man wouldn’t mind being picked up by a cute chick. Ummm, suuuure…
So I walk up to him and the first thing out of his mouth was, “You could have had a coffee with me.” He then invited me to sit down and chat for a while. I introduced myself, told him I’d been at the book signing, asked him how he found the triathlon scene. At that moment I fancied myself as Lois Lane scoring an exclusive with Superman.
He had this impression that while triathlon was booming in the Philippines, it was a rather privileged sport. He noted the expensive bikes he’d seen on race day. I told him I still raced on an aluminum bike, the first one I’d bought for myself when I started to tri. Triathlon wasn’t a sport strictly for the upper crust; those of us in the middle class who loved the sport could train and race on a budget.
I asked him why he’d dropped out of 5150 on the bike leg. He’d snapped his chain, he said. “I told them to fix it, I want to finish this race. So they took two links out, but when the chain ran, it twisted. Not repairable.” Then he added, “I’m coming back, though. I just have to get out of a contract in Poland, but I am definitely racing in Cebu.” He paused, looked at me, and then said again, “Definitely.” When I told him how the Mactan Shangri-la was a great resort, he added, “Oh, I can bring my kids!”
He picked my brains about the possibilities of doing triathlon and aquathlon series in the country. I saw in these questions a sincere interest in tri development here. I told him that as a running blogger, I’d seen the running community grow and diversify into both ultramarathons and triathlons, so there was definitely a growing interest in multisport.
“What’s your blog?” he asked. “I know you from Twitter! Aren’t you the girl doing the running stretch? The lunge?”
If I’d been struck by lightning and died right then, it would have been okay because my life was complete.
“I’ll buy you dinner”
I felt that things were winding down, so I asked him to re-autograph my book with a more personal message, which he obliged.
“I hope you enjoy my story! P.S. Great to meet you. See you in Cebu.”
He said that he was heading back to his hotel to pack for his flight. I asked him what time his flight would be. 10:30pm? Then you’d have to be in the airport around 8:30pm or 9.
“The airport’s like 30 minutes away, right? And how much should I get from the bank to pay for a taxi?” Clearly he had no clue how bad Makati rush hour could be. As for taxis, I had no clue what the hotel would charge for the transfer.
I was trying to be nice, a hospitable Filipino, when I said, “I’d drive you to the airport, but…” But we’ve only just met. But it would be weird.
“Tell you what, if you drive me to the airport, I’ll buy you dinner.”
dinner and coffee at Newport Mall with Macca
“Then I’d owe you”
In one of the early chapters in his book, he tells the story of how when he first came to France looking to be a professional triathlete, a man named Phillip had spotted him looking lost at a train station and offered him a place to stay. Macca prefaces the story with, “This is where destiny comes in.” I’d like to think he took a chance on me because of this earlier experience of his. Or maybe it was just boredom; later in the evening, he told me he’d been bored out of his mind at the hotel and went out to have a coffee.
At one point during dinner, he received a call from his wife, Emma-Jane. Apparently, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency were about to come test him at his home. His initial travel plans were that he’d take a return flight to Kuala Lumpur (where he’d been before flying to Manila), then fly home. But when he realized it would be 3 1/2 hours’ flight to KL, then a wait of 4 hours, and another 8 hours to Australia, he asked Fred Uytengsu of Alaska to buy him a direct flight from Manila instead. He’d neglected to change his itinerary to reflect he’d be in transit, though. So after scrambling to fix this info, he said goodbye to Emma (calling her “kiddo”), sat back, and revealed he’d been tested 18 times this year alone.
We still had quite a bit of time, so I switched on my BlackBerry’s mobile hotspot (thank you Globe Powersurf 499!) so he could browse Facebook and Instagram. He told me about the MaccaX program and how he’s able to interact with athletes from newbies to veterans and offer them access to professional triathlon training from a team of high-performance coaches. The MaccaX community even had a fund-raising initiative for one of their members undergoing cancer treatment. I can tell you, if you need a kick in the butt to get serious about training, joining MaccaX might be a good idea (for $29 a month).
I dropped him off at NAIA 2 (Philippine Airlines is the only local carrier with a direct flight). He’d used his credit card to pay for dinner and didn’t have any local bills left. “Do you have anything I can tip the porter with? Then I’d owe you,” he said. I gave him a 100-peso bill.
Hey Macca, you better come back with my hundred bucks. We’ll see you in Cebu! :)