As of a little over a month ago, Aussie pro Chris McDonald was a four-time Ironman champion. He’s now a six-time Ironman champion, having nabbed late-season titles at Ironman Louisville on Aug. 25 and then, four weeks later, Ironman Lake Tahoe on Sept. 22. We caught up with the pro known as “Big Sexy” to hear more about how he managed two Ironman wins in four weeks, the chilly conditions in Tahoe and how he got his nickname.
Triathlete.com: Congratulations on your wins in Louisville and Lake Tahoe! How did the race in Tahoe go for you?
McDonald: Thank you for the congratulations! Honestly they both went pretty much exactly to plan. In Louisville I wanted to have a good lead coming off the bike and in Tahoe I wanted to be within 5 minutes of Maik [Twelsiek coming out of T2].
Triathlete.com: What did you think of the course?
McDonald: The course in Tahoe is magic! I don’t think they should change the course one bit. The bike is very challenging, and I think we need that in Ironman—there are a lot of fast courses out there, and I think having a mix is great. Also the long loop and then the short loop on the run is genius—it really spread out people over the Truckee River Path and were beautiful. The swim—well it is Lake Tahoe. How could it be bad?
Triathlete.com: Did I hear that it started to snow during the race?
McDonald: It started snowing the night before, but it was very evident it wouldn’t stick but would just make for a chilly morning. There was a lot of chatter on social media about the weather, but I think it turned out great.
Triathlete.com: Why do you think you were better able to cope with the conditions in Tahoe?
McDonald: I think I coped with it because I didn’t let it get to me. I can’t control the weather or the race director’s decisions [to continue with the race as planned], so I just prepared for it. I had hand and toe warmers, a good winter vest and a thermal undershirt. It obviously helped that I am not 140 pounds.
Triathlete.com: Why the decision to race in two Ironmans so close together?
McDonald: When Ironman announced Tahoe, I said right away to myself, “I want to race there!” Then I have Ironman Louisville that I had raced four times with two first places and two second places. I wanted to go back and win in Louisville, so I tried to win it my way with not having to run too hard so that I would recover quicker for Tahoe. And really I just like to race a lot.
Triathlete.com: What was the recovery process like for you in between Ironmans?
McDonald: As I mentioned, I was able to recover a little quicker from Louisville as I didn’t have to run too hard, but other than that, I really got right back into training and did a very short taper for Tahoe. I feel like being too fresh on the Tahoe course could actually hurt you.
Triathlete.com: Is Kona qualifying the goal for 2014?
Triathlete.com: As an Ironman veteran, what’s your favorite course you’ve competed on?
McDonald: Veteran?! I have only been doing triathlon 11 years from my first tri ever. But I think I have four courses I truly love: Ironman New Zealand, Ironman Louisville, Challenge Roth, Ironman Tahoe.
Triathlete.com: You always seem to have fun with the sport—do you think it’s an advantage to have a light-hearted approach to triathlon?
McDonald: Absolutely! I take my job very seriously, but I also know how blessed I am to be able to do it full time. I have had the 9-to-5 job and the midnight to 10 a.m. job, and this one trumps them both.
Triathlete.com: Where did the nickname “Big Sexy” come from?
McDonald: Brett Sutton gave me the nickname. He was calling me “Big Fella” on the track in Switzerland one day, and I said to him, “Mate, I have been trying to drop that tag for years.” He then just said, “I will call you ‘Big Sexy,’” and it stuck!
Triathlete.com: You mentioned that you convinced your two older brothers and dad to come race Ironman Texas with you next year. How did you manage that?
McDonald: Well my brothers were not hard to convince, as they are the ones I followed into the sport. My dad on the other hand is 67 and has never done a triathlon, so he was a little tougher. I just think it would be amazing to have a father and three sons doing the race—I’m not sure if it has been done before.