Up close with Brent McMahon

Brent McMahon did his first Ironman in Arizona and made it a memorable one with a sub-8 hour time and a fabulous win. Last year he focused primarily on the 70.3 season, but wanted to give Ironman a shot this year. He was already in the water in Tahoe when he learned that the race was not going to happen because of the wildfires. So he and his coach Lance Watson looked at alternative options and decided on Arizona. The fast Canadian now chatted with us about the race and a variety of related topics.

Slowtwitch: Hey how are you doing?

Brent McMahon: Not too bad, but a little stiff.

ST Really, why are you stiff?

Brent I don’t know and I can’t figure it out. It doesn’t make any sense.

ST Did you take too much Viagra?

Brent If only. The Viagra I know would wear off relatively quickly and I feel this is going to go on for a little while.

ST All joking aside, you must be stoked.

Brent Oh man, it is crazy and it is still sinking in. And as each day is going by it is sinking in a little bit more. Yeah, it is pretty awesome and I definitely did not expect it to go that way or that well.

ST It was not your only win, but I would say your biggest one this year.

Brent Yeah and a lot went into this. The journey to get to this one was quite rough. It wasn’t easy and there was lots of stuff to overcome. I was pretty emotionally involved in it, so when you are successful achieving something like that despite all of that stuff - it is pretty special. All my other wins were great this year, but they were pretty smooth, aside from the Boise one. But then again, your toughest battles are usually your most memorable ones. And that is definitely how this season went.

ST Have you been dealing with an injury?

Brent Actually since before the London Olympics I have been injury free and been able to train straight through and was very consistent. But in the build up for Arizona I have been dealing with a tendinitis. It was very annoying as it wasn’t an actual injury. I did a 6-hour ride here in Victoria and it was colder and so I had to wear booties. And the bootie was just a little tight on my ankle and it rubbed the sheath on the tendon on my shin. It got inflamed, and then you run and the muscle shuts down, and then it gets tight, and then you end up with basically a compartment syndrome. It wasn’t actually from training, or going too hard, or doing too much, it was just something silly as something rubbing for 5 hours, but we managed it. We changed up the training, took ten days off from running and skip XTERRA Worlds. But that is just one of those hurdles - you deal with it and move on. You hope that it all works out and clearly it all worked out.

ST But otherwise all went well this season?

Brent I was pretty happy with the flow of the season and we learned a lot from last year’s season. That was my first year committed fulltime to 70.3 racing for a whole year and we learned a lot in terms of how to balance the volume, the intensity and the number of races throughout the year. I got a little run down last year and struggled through the back half. So we mixed some things up coming into this year and for all intents and purposes we nailed it. I felt strong all year and had good races all year. And then to end a fairly long season with such a great race, that is just the icing on the cake.

ST You keep saying we, and I assume you are talking about Lance Watson.

Brent A lot time I say we because we have worked together for 20 years and so we are just a unit. I just assume everyone knows that we work together and they know what I mean when I say we. We have had a long history and it has been a great partnership. Obviously over 20 years we have learned a lot about each other and figured out how to be successful.

ST Going into this Arizona race, what was the goal or target? And this was after all your first Ironman.

Brent Yes this was my first crack at it, but obviously I went to Lake Tahoe to try to make that my first Ironman, but unfortunately it got canceled and we had to regroup. Lance was actually in Tahoe with me to support me at my first Ironman. So it was a really tough experience to get totally ready for an Ironman, and we got in the water for the swim start and then to not to have that opportunity after all that preparation was frustrating. But once we moved on from it we created a new plan. When I came to Arizona I almost felt more at calm and at peace than at Tahoe. I had obviously not run an Ironman, but I prepared for one already. [In Tahoe] I had already done a dry run of putting all your bags in and the whole process of it. So when I came to Arizona I did not have to worry about that stuff. All I had to worry about is what I wanted to do on race day. For me it was just about going out and executing my fitness. I had a lot of really good training indicating what I would be capable of, and I just wanted to go out there and do that. If all went really well and I hit what I thought I could in the swim, bike and run I figured I could get on the podium. But it was my first one and I was just going to see how it goes.

ST So did you have a feeling how it went as you raced?

Brent Throughout the race I wasn’t really thinking what is my finish time going to be, I was just in the moment of “Ok, am I pacing this right? Am I fueling? Am I staying on my hydration?” I was always just focused on the moment I was in. It wasn’t until 3 miles to go that Lance yelled at me and said “You are on pace to go under 8 hours.” And at 3 miles to go all I wanted to do is stop, so I actually waved him off. But in the back of my mind that sub 8 hours was there and it did help me pushing through those last 3 miles. But when I crossed the finish line I did not even look at the time. I was just super excited to have finished my first Ironman and it went very smoothly and I didn’t really grasp what a sub 8 hour Ironman means.

ST When Lake Tahoe did not happen, how did you decide on Ironman Arizona versus Ironman Chattanooga, which was much closer in time?

Brent Basically the main reason we hit Tahoe had to do with my fitness at that time. In order to prepare for Mont Tremblant we had done a lot of hill repeats and a fair bit of anaerobic work. So my aerobic capacity and my intensity levels were more in tune for a challenging up and down in pace effort. So the Tahoe course was at altitude and that meant of course it would be aerobically taxing, and I race quite well at altitude. And it had a lot of climbing and a bunch of turns, so for my fitness at that point of the season Tahoe made sense. But when it was cancelled we had time to go ok well, now we can do a full Ironman build and the proper training to do an Ironman. Where as Tahoe was more just using the specific fitness I had for 70.3 Worlds. And I was still quite fresh after 70.3 Worlds because I wasn’t able to race at my full capacity, and thus Tahoe made sense. Then we decided Chattanooga was too soon. I had not done 6 hour rides to ride on a flat course like Chattanooga. We figured it would be just a big group of guys riding around on a fairly flat course and then a straight run. If we are going to do something, we want to do it the right way and prepare properly. Then there were the later races like Florida, Arizona and Cozumel and I also wanted to figure out where I stacked up, and Arizona is usually the most competitive fall Ironman. If I am going to learn how good at this sport I might as well go to one of the toughest ones for this time of the year and see what happens. And that is why we decided on Arizona - and it is a pretty iconic event as well.

ST And you were proven right.

Brent Yeah, totally. It is very satisfying when you create a plan and even if you have some bumps along the road at the end you execute it well.

ST You likely knew this was coming, but people are wondering about your bike. What is going on?

Brent It is somewhat complicated and it is the business of sports. I really value my partners and my sponsors and the relationships I have with them, and I spend a lot of time building that relationship and building loyalty and I have to respect that. With my sponsors like Powerbar, Oakley and Aquasphere I have been with them for, well Powerbar for 15 or 16 years, Oakley for over 10 years and Aquasphere for 4 years now. It is actually not just about the logo on the bike but all the logos I represent and the relationships I have. I value the relationship and they value the relationship and I represent their logo. They have invested in me and I want to do a good job for them. Unfortunately my bike sponsor did not work out and so I can’t justify representing a logo that I don’t have a relationship or loyalty with. And I willing to wait out until I have a great partner, and that might be Swift again, or might be Blue. But I respect my logos I already have and represent them well, and not give free advertising for companies that haven’t joined my partnerships.

ST You are very polite here, but did someone not fulfill a part of the deal and you thus fill you don’t owe them?

Brent No, we both fulfilled our agreements, and then it was not renewed. So that put me in a position to find a new bike sponsor, and I haven’t found one with the right fit.

ST So you are saying your contract ended in 2013 and now for 2014 you have no new bike sponsor?

Brent Yes, I did not have a new bike sponsor for 2014 and I did not want rush into a new bike sponsorship, just so that I can have a new bike. I want to find the right partner to work with especially now that I am fully transitioning into Kona being my main focus for the rest of my career. So I want to partner with the right bike company that shares the same values and so I don’t want to rush into it. I have been talking to people all year and I just haven’t found the right fit. In the meantime I respect my other logos and I am just going to ride on a “no name” bike.

ST I think people were confused when that transition happened.

Brent I think it is because people only noticed right now that I have a bike with no logo, but I haven’t had a logo on it all year. Every race this year it has been the same bike with no logo on it.

ST Maybe this Arizona win will change your fortunes here.

Brent It wasn’t my goal to race on an unbranded bike, but I had to make a decision. I am talking to Swift and I am talking to Blue and I definitely have some emails coming right now. So I am talking to them all right now and trying to find the right fit. I don’t want to keep switching bikes, I like to use products I believe in and also in the company and I want to be loyal to them. Ideally I was going to ride Swift for the next 6 years but it didn’t work out.

ST Well, however it may go, I wish you good luck and thank you so much for your time.

Brent No problem and thanks for the coverage.