Published Sunday, February 12, 2012 By Kevin Mackinnon
“I was very surprised, to say the least,” Lance Armstrong said after his incredible runner-up finish at today’s Ironman 70.3 Panama. “It was a completely new experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know strategically how these races go down, so I tried to feel my way out on the bike and basically take a crash course in 70.3s.”
That crash course resulted in a pretty impressive finish, as Armstrong was passed in the closing miles of the run by two-time Olympic medalist Bevan Docherty.
“The ride was harder than I expected,” Amstrong said. “Obviously, it started to get warmer and it was windy and the run was just an oven. I did what I could and stuck with my pace and I just didn’t have enough in the end.
“It was different than I thought. If I had one word to sum it up, it would be “tactical.” It’s very “surgy.” Although everybody stayed outside of the draft zone, it’s still very strategic. Everyone is looking at each other. And these guys are strong, so it’s hard to get away from them. Ultimately, I guess, if you stay on the pedals and keep the power up you can get away, but you still have to run.” When asked if he was surprised to have taken the lead in the run, Armstrong had this to say:
“I have been running a lot. It’s no secret that’s the way you’re competitive here. That’s the way you win races. I said the other day, I think you ride for show and run for dough, and I mean it. At one point in my life I was a decent runner, so I just need to get back and rediscover that. I need to stick with it, get the repetition in, lose some weight, work on my stride, stay consistent and stay injury free.”
As competitive as Armstrong is, he did his best to make sure he got to the finish line.
“I kind of have my pace and I can’t lift it like a guy who runs low 30s in in a 10 K at the end of a triathlon (Docherty) – there’s no way my old ass is going to stay with that. I did what I could. I stayed within myself – I had some cramps coming on towards the end.
“I was realistic. I knew what I could do. I could feel a little – those little twinges at the back of the leg. I knew if I tried to lift it too much I was going to pay a price and the next thing I knew I’d be walking. I’d rather get second than walk home and get seventh. I played it conservative – I knew he was going to have to make a big effort to catch me – he caught me and he deserved to win.”
Armstrong’s next Ironman 70.3 event will the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston – he intends to use today’s experience to help prepare for that race.
“I think the one take away is the bike. It is much different than I thought. Even though this is an individual discipline, and an individual sport, there’s more to it than that and you have to factor that in. You read about it, you hear about it, you see it in Kona … you have to be consistent with your effort because you still have to run.
“We recorded everything today and I think that’s important. What I did in this race … I have to go back and study that and figure out how I can improve for Galveston next. The one X-factor here is that it was very, very hot. That changes everything – it makes everything higher, except for the watts. Heart rate is off the charts … hopefully we don’t do any more races that are this hot. I grew up in Texas, but this is too hot for me.”
Armstrong has certainly enjoyed his return to multi-sport racing.
“If it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be here. I don’t need a job, so I need a challenge in my life. I need some stuff to do. I like to train, I like to suffer a bit. It’s great to be back. This sport has changed a lot. Back when I raced, I did Olympic distance races and sprint races. It was a very different game back then. Not better, not worse, just different. The following of this sport from a participatory standpoint is off the charts and only going to grow. It’s like this badge of honor – whether it’s an Ironman or a 70.3, people just want to finish. And then you come to a country like this – it’s way off the map, a place I’ve never been – and there’s so many people out there. It’s good to see.”
Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Foundation has partnered with Ironman this year, with the goal to raise a million dollars – a goal that he sees as being quite attainable
“I’m excited, but I’m humbled,” he said. “It’s a real honor to partner with them (Ironman) and, I tell you, if today’s any indication with the amount of people out on the street and the amount of people wearing yellow bands or wearing LIVESTRONG gear, we’ll get there no problem. We have a huge body of support. We look forward to telling this story around the world.”
There’s another story, though, beyond all that. Lance Armstrong, 40, proved today that he truly is one of the world’s greatest athletes with his incredible performance against some of the world’s premier triathletes.
You can reach Kevin Mackinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org