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Inside Brent McMahon’s remarkable race at Ironman Brazil

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TMC contributor Brooke Brown caught up with Canada’s, Brent McMahon and his coach Lance Watson after his remarkable Ironman Brazil finish. He overcame adverse weather conditions and honed his talent to impose a generous gap on his competitors not only earning the win, but posting a new course record of 7:46:10 and earning himself the second fastest Ironman time in history.

McMahon told Brown, “Ironman Brazil was one of those races where going in, goals are set with a specific effort in mind. It truly was one of those races were everything just clicked. I felt really good leading into the race. I had great support from my coach here with me to my therapists back home. From the start of the race, I felt strong in the swim, so it was nice to be up in the front from the beginning and work my way from there.”

Here’s what went into his exceptional Ironman Brazil performance.

McMahon and coach Lance Watson had specific expectations set out.

BM: My coach, Lance and I chose this race to key off of for the rest of the season. It was the major goal. We wanted to come in as fit as possible and we wanted to win the race. I knew the course well and felt I could race well this year, particularly improve on last year’s results when I earned third. Coming into the race, I wanted to ride faster than last year where I rode a 4:19.

Last year here in Brazil, I felt I didn’t nail the nutrition on the bike and therefore wasn’t able to ride as hard as I should have, subsequently my run was not as strong as I thought it could be. This year, I felt I had another year of Ironman racing experience, that I am stronger on the bike, and I knew if I did my nutrition right I would be able to ride harder and able to run better. I felt coming in I could run a low 2:40 and take a few minutes off my bike time. I didn’t expect to ride a 4:11 here but the day ended up being really fast despite conditions. The rain made me calm and I was cool temperature wise.

On the bike he felt in his own element despite the unfavourable weather conditions.

BM: In Victoria, we train through our winters. We don’t get a lot of snow, but we do get a lot of rain so for me it was almost a confidence builder. The temperature was warm so we weren’t battling cold weather, it was just wet and puddles on road. I used the bad weather to my advantage especially on the bike where we had to be careful on corners — I am a good bike handler.

A humbled champion respectful of ‘going the distance’ 

BM: I have enough respect for the Ironman distance that I never assume I have the win until I am on the final stretch. I was happy getting off  the bike with a 10 min lead, but I still had a marathon to run and anything can happen. While most of my past Ironman races had gone really well, Kona was my first real challenge where I had to dig deep and work through some big struggles. There was a possibility of that happening, so it wasn’t until the second half of the marathon where my confidence began to grow I knew if I could hold it together and still run 21K well, a win was in sight.

For TMC readers, what is some advice you can give on overcoming mental and physical struggles in a race?

BM: Look back on some of the workouts you have done going into that event. I look back on some long rides where I pushed really hard and know I  have got the strength to do it. When you are struggling you can draw on those sessions to find the confidence and say I have done the distance and I’ve worked this hard before.

Brown also caught up with coach Lance Watson about McMahon’s performance.

BB: With all of your coaching laurels, how do you see your athlete and his future?

LW: I have coached Brent for over 20 years. I have shared this story with many people, but I knew from the time that Brent was around 20 that Ironman was going to be his pinnacle distance. His training at that age indicated obviously a high level of ability at the faster Olympic distance, but relative to others that I was coaching at the time he had a higher level of efficiency at the longer distance workouts. I knew that this is where he would really shine. It has been awesome to be able to still take him through the proper steps of development.

You have a few days in your career where everything really clicks and you feel strong from start to finish — you really have to savour those days. Brent had a tremendous day. We are grateful for that and for the moment are celebrating the achievement.

BB: Your thoughts on his IM Brazil run course record of 2:42? 

LW: When I look at what he is capable of, I really would like to see him run under 2:40.

A couple men in Ironman history have managed sub-2:40 off the bike. When I look at some of the ITU athletes coming in and high-level runners, the talent in the sport is getting deeper and deeper. I believe that soon enough sub-2:40 will become the gold standard in our sport.