In a twist of the old fishing tale, triathlete Brent McMahon of Victoria doesn’t want Ironman Hawaii to be the big one that got away.
It is the only thing missing from an otherwise stellar Ironman resumé after two-time Olympian McMahon went from the shorter Olympic distance at the 2004 Athens and 2012 London Summer Games to transition successfully as a major world racer in the longer Ironman races (3.86-kilometre swim, 180K cycle and 42.2K run).
He gets another shot at the fabled Ironman Hawaii, considered the world championship of the distance, on Saturday in Kona.
The Islander placed ninth in 2015 before fading due to cramps and nausea after entering with such high hopes in 2016. His latest setback at Ironman Hawaii came last fall when No. 3-ranked McMahon was stung by a box jellyfish in the swim portion and had to abandon the race.
“I’ve been under eight hours five times in my career; and Hawaii is the only race I’ve had significant trouble in,” said McMahon, from Kona.
“I am making sure my hydration and nutrition are correct this time. As long as my body is fuelled and hydrated, I can perform.”
He sure can. McMahon proved that again in July by winning Ironman Canada at Whistler. The two-time Pan American Games medallist also set the course record in winning Ironman USA at Lake Placid in New York state last year in 8:14:04 and recorded the third-fastest all-time Ironman, clocking 7:46:10, in winning Ironman Brazil in 2016. The 37-year-old Islander also holds the course record for Ironman Arizona.
“Winning Ironman Canada over the summer has given me a lot of confidence coming into Kona,” said McMahon.
“It’s what Peter Reid and Lori Bowden [legendary Victorians who won multiple men’s and women’s Ironman Hawaii world championships] did several times in going from winning Ironman Canada to winning Ironman Hawaii.”
McMahon believes he can replicate those feats.
“I’m feeling really good. My body is feeling healthy and strong,” he said.
With most of the Canadian spotlight now on 2017 second-place Ironman Hawaii placer Lionel Sanders of Harrow, Ont., McMahon feels a bit of pressure relief.
“I’ve been a favourite going into the race, with the media and interviews and attention that go with it,” said McMahon.
“And I’ve been to two Olympics, so I know about performing under pressure. It’s nice not to have as much of it this time. I feel a lot more relaxed and am enjoying the journey and the process.”
The expectation now falls more on Sanders.
“Lionel is from the other side of the country but we’ve chatted a few times,” said McMahon.
“He’s a great guy, very friendly, and both of us want to continue raising the bar for Canadians.”
The 2015 and 2016 Ironman Hawaii world champion Jan Frodeno of Germany is injured, which could leave the door open for either Sanders or McMahon to become the first Canadian men’s Ironman Hawaii world champion since Reid won the last of his three titles in 2003. But Germany has been dominant recently with 2017 champion Patrick Lange and 2014 champion Sebastian Kienle among those stepping to the start line Saturday in Kona.
“Germany has emerged and is always a threat,” said McMahon.
So too might be two racers from Canada.