Dave McMahon

on . Posted in TCSD Conversation


I had a great time recently talking triathlon with David McMahon, the TCSD Sponsorship Director.  David has been very successful racing triathlons over the years including his finish at the 2011 Hawaiian Ironman.  Please join me as we get to know this great guy who is taking the TCSD to new heights.

Craig: What was your athletic background before triathlon?


David: One of my oldest memories growing up in Ontario Canada is how my folks asked me to choose 2 sports every season.  I did everything but I was never much good at team sports with balls.  However, take away the balls, I was an early endurance machine.  Anything where there was a start and a finish and the fastest time won, I was a natural.


Craig: How did you evolve into a triathlete and what was your first triathlon?


David: Triathlon was introduced to me when we moved to the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.  It was home one of the first Ironman races, Ironman Canada and one of the best Olympic Races in the World, the Kelowna Apple Triathlon.  This was well before Triathlon was in the Olympics, and the Apple, helped define the distances.


So, in 1988 when I was 17 a high school friend got me started.  She took me on my first ride and showed me how to laugh while I tipped over on my clipless peddles.


Triathlon was fresh, sexy and fun!


My first Tri was the Kelowna Apple Triathlon. It got me hooked because I got my ass kicked.  That never happened to me in running or swimming.  I wanted to win and find out where this new glamorous sport would take me when I got good.


Oh - the age group prizes at the Apple were cool too: they gave a mountain bike away to each age group winner!  This was 24 years ago!  Race Directors today should take note of this and build in their budgets more ways to give back to the age groupers and volunteers who make their races possible.


Craig: You were an elite triathlete in Canada.  What was that experience like?


David: Well, I was more of a junior elite or an elite in races where few big name Canadian pros were in the field.  After I moved my bike seat up by about a foot, I started to get good race results. As a junior in 1990, I was invited to train in Victoria, BC with some other promising young triathletes.


It was an awesome experience living in Victoria. To this day I call it my Canadian home.  A core group of friends from those days are still there.  As far as triathlon is concerned, Victoria is the San Diego of Canada when it comes to great athletes. The program at that time was so sought after, athletes like Greg Welch would come to train with Coach Pat Kelly and our elite junior team, TriKenetics.


It was great to be a part of.  Oh - there are many awesome pubs in Vic too!


Craig: What is your place in the history of triathlon?


David: My place up until now is that of a decent athlete, casual advisor, volunteer, and fan of the sport.


One of the coolest things during the early 90's was that all the young athletes were carefully watching the process of triathlon trying to get accepted into the Olympic Games. Les McDonald was a supporter of our junior program.  He was, of course, the Canadian who was the driving force behind making Triathlon an Olympic sport a reality.


I remember having debates amongst my friends and training partners about the possibility of draft legal races as a condition to the sport being accepted.  News and rumors would float around about the adventures of Les MacDonald chasing IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch around the globe pitching the sport of Triathlon.  There were ups and downs and finally the word came through that there would be the first World Triathlon Championships and then eventually the Olympics Games.  It was a dream come true for many.


It was amazing to see a team member and good friend win the first world champs in Disney World as a junior.


And then it was wonderful seeing Simon Whitfield win the Men's Olympic Gold Medal in Sydney, Australia.


Craig: So, what happened after Victoria?


David: Well, I competed in Wildflower in 1994 and dropped out of sport for 8 years.


Craig: Why? What brought you back?


David: Basically, I was young and thought that I reached my athletic potential at 24 and if I could not break through to the top level, I did not want to continue in the sport.  I moved away from Victoria.


In 2002 I read Lance Armstrong's book, "It's Not About the Bike".  That was the catalyst that brought me back to sport.  It changed my life.  I was 40 pounds over race weight and I started training every day.  In 2004 I completed Ironman Canada.

2 days later, packed my vehicle and drove straight to the birth place of Triathlon, San Diego and joined the Tri Club.


Craig: You raced the 2010 Ironman Cozumel and qualified for Hawaii.  What was your experience like racing in Cozumel?


David: What can i say? Cozumel was the perfect day.  Those performances happen very infrequently.  It was planned that way though.  I picked the race, did the training, and sought the advice and just put it all together.  The best Ironman race advice that I ever got was from Pete Reid.  I asked him once, "what's the secret?" He said, "it's all about rhythm." My instrument was ready that day and the rhythm was great.  It was a fiesta in Cozumel and the crowd was electric.  I was very happy with going sub 9:30.  One of the toughest parts in Cozumel was having to run 10 miles between porta potties.  Bladder control is challenging in Ironman.


Craig: How did Ironman Hawaii go for you?


David: I tried to do everything the same for Hawaii. It did not play out that way though.  I drank a lot of ocean and was not able to digest the hot race beverages on the bike.  No worries though, Hawaii for me was a reward in itself.  It meant everything to me to be able to get there and be a part of the event that has helped define my life.


Ironman Kona is a week-long celebration of the sport of triathlon. The excitement and energy of the fans, supporters, sponsors and athletes is unreal.  It is a pilgrimage.


As far as the actual race went, I just said to myself during the run, I'm going to smile the whole way.  It was beautiful.  My best memory is my wife, Raja, peddling along side of me for a few minutes while I ran.  It was nice to share some of the experience. I can't remember any pain in Kona. Hearing Mike Reilly announce "David McMahon, You are an Ironman!", on Ali'i Drive was indescribable.


Craig: What do you do as the Sponsorship Director for the TCSD?


David: Raja was asked to help out as Sponsorship Director after Jim McCann passed.  She did a great job picking that up.  2 years later when she could not continue, I wanted to make sure the transition was good for the club.  I also wanted to give something back to the sport.  That's what the Sponsorship Volunteer is to me - giving back.  Thomas and I just try to find a good fit between members and sponsors.  We need value on both sides.  If we allowed everyone who wanted to be a sponsor to market to the club for a discount in return, TCSD would have hundreds of sponsors marketing to us. The value would be diluted.  Sponsorship is about maintaining the balance of value.


Craig: What should our members know that they might not be aware of when it comes to our sponsors?


David: Our sponsors want to support us because they want to be associated with a group of fantastic lifestyle minded people who they hope will buy their products and services.  They contribute cash, product, services, and discounts to the club. They are an important part of what makes the club a success.  The sponsors who shine and generate the greatest 2-way value are the ones who get involved - they are at meetings, races, workouts and get to know the members. Your know their face, not just their ads.  If you are an active member, you know who these sponsors are. Sponsorship with the club means that the door is opened to commence a relationship with us.  Where it goes is up to them and our members acceptance of their approach.


Craig: You are a business consultant and that involves a lot of travel.  What do you do and what would you suggest for our members who may have similarly challenging careers to blend work into a training and racing lifestyle?


David: Make the most of your time.  It's really all about the weekend and then recovery with Ironman.  With shorter stuff, just add 1 harder workout during the week for each discipline.  Pick some B races that lead up to your A race.  Don't put it all on the line in a B race or a workout.  Get advice, continue learning and get a coach if you are coachable. If you want to improve, I learned this from a coach: "Consistency makes a champion." However, improvement will eventually stop and if longevity is what you want, this is what I learned on my own: don't take things in the sport too seriously; enjoy the process and have fun.


Craig: What do you see as the future of triathlon?


David: The sport is happening.  The public at large knows about triathlon.  What I see in the future is kind of what has happened to marathons.  They're massive with several thousands of people at events.  That does not work in tri's though due to the maximum amount of participants set at around 2000 per event.  So, I see races of all sizes and distances almost every weekend in major cities.   Also, many new manufacturers, retailers, service providers and online sellers are going to continue to enter the market.  The existing businesses should embrace this expansion. Triathlon belongs to the amateur athletes and volunteers while the Pros are role models for the sport.


With TCSD, I could see the club going to over 10,000 members this decade.  The meetings will get larger, the races bigger, and there will even be more options for workouts.  It's really up to the members; we are pioneers as far as tri clubs go.  The TCSD infrastructure will need to continue to grow professionally and additional task focused volunteers will be required.  The Triathlon Club of San Diego is the gold standard of the sport. Our members all play an important part in the history and the future of Triathlon.


Craig: What are your future athletic goals?


David: Focus on lifestyle and have fun training with Raja. Maybe go for the World Champs age group team.  My long term goal would be to still be competing into my 80's.  And Never stop Tri-ing.


Craig: David, thanks for sharing your story.  You and Raja have really made a huge contribution to the TCSD with your work in advancing our sponsor relationships.  We are lucky you are on our team!


Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach.  Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .