'Zinc Out Loud!' with Brent McMahon
Zealios: Great to catch up with you. How was your Hawaii trip?
Brent McMahon: It was great. It’s a trip I’ve taken every February for the past 10 years. I always look forward to it.
Z: What was this year’s training focus in Hawaii?
BM: I spend the winter, January and February doing a dedicated weight program and phase it out in March. Last year I had 4 Ironman builds and completed 3 Ironmans. It wears your body and muscles down so it’s important to go back and build back that strength, stability and tendon strengthen. You shouldn’t just focus on the big muscles.
I’m getting older. This type of training is a lot more important now.
So, in Hawaii I did a few long transition workouts with flat time trial riding then head straight into hard climbing up Haleakala crater which is a full effort straight up for 2 straight hours and climbs to 10,000 feet.
Z: That sounds exhausting.
BM: It absolutely is, but it’s so good because you’re on the pedals the whole and there’s no break. It’s kind of like an Ironman effort. You have to be on it the whole time and as you go, it’s progressively getting harder because your tired, burning more calories and gaining altitude. Three to four days after this workout I literally feel stronger.
Z: While we all don’t have a volcano to ride up, do you have any other favorite Spring training workouts we could incorporate anywhere and anytime?
BM: Spring training is your opportunity to add in foundational and technical work. You don’t need to be so focused on speed for the season quite yet. But your workouts should still be quality workouts, you can get a happy medium of technique and effort.
One of my favorites are hill repeat workouts on both the bike and run.
Find a flat area to appropriately for a tempo run and a 4-5% grade hill nearby for your hill repeats. Start with a 15 minutes tempo then recover as you walk or jog over to the hill and begin 800 meter repeats. Remember the hill shouldn’t be too steep so you can still run it and its effort is similar to the tempo effort, but you’re focused on strength building. As you get stronger, you can build on this and either run the tempo longer or harder and increase the hill repeat efforts.
People overlook the benefits of hill training. Doing this workout is not about running hills or running hills better. You’re forced to run on your toes, drive your knees and it’s a strength stability exercise. These are the things that will get you through the last 10 kilometers of a race. Once you start doing well in that workout, try working on your downhill running. Many people who aren’t as efficient at running downhill often get hurt running downhill.
Again a hill workout, but it’s focused on overgear low cadence and not necessarily about the effort you’re putting into riding the hill. It’s a balance between enough effort, but focusing on your form and generating pedal pressure on the hill. So not building anaerobic capability here. It’s about riding your pedals and riding smoothly and finding those “dead” speed spots and forcing you to pedal through those.
Do 3 minute repeats. The hill doesn’t need to be a crazy steep incline just enough so you can get through your gears. And avoid just smashing gears. Keep your body straight, shoulders relaxed and focus on making perfect pedal circles.
You get something very specific out of this workout. And while it’s a hill workout, this workout has helped me in time trials and ride better on the flats against the taller and bigger guys like Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle.
Z: Those are great Spring workout tips and directly from a pro, thanks!
Z: So after your Hawaii training block you competed in Ironman 70.3 Davao. How did the race go?
BM: I was really excited for the race. It was the first time they had the race in Davao. Also, I race for the Alaska Milk Triathlon team which was there to promote the sport of triathlon in the Philippines and among youth.
Z: The photos of the race looked amazing.
BM: Yeah, it’s absolutely gorgeous and their events are unbelievable. Like world championship status with thousands of the people watching, dinners, an incredible closing ceremony, and fireworks.
I felt really fit and strong for the race and had a couple of hot days in Hawaii training so I felt ready to go. And I’d been playing around with a new sodium protocol which I felt good about. But, I got over there and the bike course was really rough road the first 10k in with huge potholes. I’d say 90% of the guys lost at least one item off their bike! I lost a water bottle and being a first year event the aid stations weren’t positioned that well and the bottles they were handing out were only filled a quarter of the way; this made them super hard to grab. Bottles are flying everywhere. It was pretty comedical actually.
So, I had the longest bike/run transition because I had to stop and drink an entire bottle. I knew it wouldn’t get any better if I didn’t get fluids. But it didn’t get any better. I walk/jogged the first 1k to the aid station and chugged more water. I started cramping really bad. My hands were seizing and my forearms were in balls.
Z: Oh man, that sounds really painful.
Z: Did your Philippines race play into the decision to pull out of Ironman 70.3 Oceanside?
BM: That’s the thing, every season you have your races down on the calendar as best case scenario and if everything goes well this is the plan. But ultimately you have your most important races and main goals. For me everything involves Kona. I have races planned after Kona too, but these depend on how Kona goes.
So Texas National Championships is a key race obviously because it’s a championship race, but it’s to help get me get organized for Kona. The race is similar to Kona.
Also I needed more time to figuring out the salt situation and do more training with an altered nourishment plan which Oceanside timing wouldn’t have allowed me.
NOTE: Brent did race Texas North American National Championships and placed 6th with a 07:49:49 finish time. Swim: 00:49:26 / Bike: 04:10:26 / Run: 02:44:52
Congrats Brent on a great race!!!
Photo credit: Talbot Cox
Z: You’ve been competing for 25 years now.
BM: Yeah pretty much. Shit, that’s a long time.
Z: Ha! You’ve done it all. You’re an Olympian, World Cup champ, Xterra champ, Ironman champ. What got you to where you are now?
BM: I’ve been in the sport a long time. My first triathlon was at age 10. I had a lot of energy so my parents encouraged it.
Z: I don’t know why my parents didn’t think of triathlons. They really struggled with me!
BM: Right? I actually have a couple of partners and sponsors focused on getting kids into sports like, More Than Sport. It’s really cool what Chris is doing there.
So ended up doing one triathlon a year after that. Competed in junior races in Cancun. Ran track in high school and focused on triathlon mostly in the summers.
After high school I took a year off, didn’t go to college, which the parents were not all that happy about. I lived with a friend and worked at a bike shop to allow me the time to train.
Then joined and started training with the National team in Victoria, BC. Lance, my longtime coach became the National Center coach. I’ve been very fortunate to keep my coach Lance through all these years. I met him when I was 14 at a summer kids triathlon camp.
Z: Wow, you guys have known each other for awhile!
BM: Yeah 25 years. My entire career.
Then I jumped on the World Cup circuit trying to qualify for Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Being surrounded by a great group of guys helped. It didn’t come easy for me. I was always trying to keep up and someone was always faster. That gave me the skills to be able to push myself to be better and also how to push my limits. If I wanted to be in the race I had to push myself. I was never going to be a gold medal contender at the Olympic distance, but by doing that it formed me into one of the best Ironman athletes as a result.
Then my XTerra days. In growing up on the north shore of Vancouver, where epic mountain biking was world renowned, I grew up chucking off cliffs and doing crazy stuff on a mountain bike. So one day I decided to try XTerra. My first XTerra in Temecula, CA and I came in 2nd to Conrad Stoltz. And XTerra’s paid well. World Cup didn’t pay, you were doing it because you were on your way to qualifying for the Olympics.
After the 2012 London games, I retired from the national team and took a more self-focused approach to Ironman. Lance was ready to get me in that direction as well. After a few years of racing 70.3 and several wins, I jumped to full Ironman distance.
Z: Incredible you’ve found so much success in multiple sports.
Z: With so many achievements, do you have a couple you’re most fond of when looking back over the past 25 years?
BM: I think overcoming the disappointment of not being selected for 2008 Beijing Olympics and setting a new goal for the next 4 years was one. It takes 4 years to get you to the Olympics and 4 years of not only your life, but your family’s and partner’s lives.
In those 4 years I had a lot of ups and downs. I was kicked off the national team and had to find my own teams. Then I was injured for 18 months and worrying about getting enough points. But I ended up qualifying for the London games. And a lot of people came together to help me get there. It humbled me and I learned a lot. I’m thankful for it and it made me a better person and athlete.
The second would be my performance at Ironman Arizona in 2016. It was a surreal experience because there were no expectations. On the run, Lance was on the course screaming at me “If you can run just a few seconds faster you can break 8 hours”. I gave him the finger and said “I don’t care”.
All I could could think about was I want to just finish and stop running. I didn’t care how fast I got there I just wanted to finish. I finished under 8 hours.
I didn’t really know the significance of the under 8 hour finish time. After the race I had to do some research to understand what I’d just done.
Z: That lack of expectation can be freeing in some ways. Congratulations on being one of a select few who have completed an Ironman sub 8 hours.
Z: Outside of training what do you like to do?
BM: I guess Netflix and chill. That’s a thing, right? I don’t know if I really know what that is.
Z: Oh it’s a thing. We could tell you all about it.
BM: Ha! That’s the thing, I absolutely love this sport and don’t need to take time away from triathlon. Funny enough, I’m actually not a sports fan of triathlon though. I don’t study the stats and follow all of the races.
Outside of Triathlon, I love my house and working around the house. I’ve always been handy. We just bought a new house and we’re doing a slow renovation over the next few years. It’s an original 1980’s house with matching bedskirt and curtains. It needs help. And I love my tools and woodworking.
Z: If you had to pick just one Zealios product to use which one would it be?
BM: I absolutely love them all! I’m not a shampoo-ey kinda guy, but I love the shampoo. It does a great job removing the chlorine from my hair and you don’t need a ton of it.
All the products have a purpose and reason. And for triathlon Zealios has you covered for pre training or racing, during and after. The after is nasty and Zealios helps keep me clean.
Z: Before you Netflix and chill you gotta make sure you’re smelling right!
BM: Totally! And it’s important to me not to put crap ingredients into the largest organ of your body.
I’ve been doing this for 25 years and Zealios helps me from looking haggard. Start to finish.
Z: Well, we think you do look great and glad Zealios is getting some of that credit.
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