The 40-year-old pro on Kona, genetics, tattoos, and the cello.

Some pros spend the first few weeks of their off-season indulging in food, drink, or a relaxing beach vacay. Vancouver-based Rachel McBride’s first order of business after her first Kona finish this year? Start a new tattoo project that would take two weeks to finish and cover her entire back. It’s just one of many things that make McBride stand out from the rest. She also holds a master’s degree in genetics and works as a certified genetic counselor and sexual health educator. Did we mention she’s also a classically trained cellist?

McBride, 40, didn’t race her first tri until she was 28 and didn’t turn pro until age 32. But this late bloomer has worked her way up to being one of the best cyclists in Ironman and has ambitions to go longer.

“[Heather] Jackson and I are super competitive, but not when it comes to our tattoo game. It’s hard to find the time to get tattooed as an athlete, so it’s a real treat when you do have the time to do it. When she’s getting tattooed, she’ll text me pictures of what she’s doing, and I’ll send her updates of what I’m getting done. There aren’t a lot of kindred spirits in the triathlon world that you can send your in-progress tattoo photos to.”

“Genetic counseling is about helping people understand genetics and genetic risk so you can help facilitate decision making and explain how it might affect them or their family. There’s a short-term counseling element to it as well. A lot of genetic information can cause negative feelings, so it’s about helping people process that.”

“Playing the cello is a really meditative thing for me; it’s almost like my counseling. I’m just able to give myself a mental break and have a little creative outlet.”

“The high from my first race in Kona was definitely seeing my family out on the course. That was a really big deal that my parents, siblings, and niece and nephew were able to be out there. You never get to do your first race in Kona over again, so having all of them out there to share that experience was amazing. I got to high-five my mom running up Palani and high-five my niece and nephew as I ran out on Ali’i. Those were incredibly special moments for me.”

“I think the most important thing when it comes to race-day nutrition is just practicing your nutrition plan—especially practicing it in the environment that you’re going to be competing in. That was one of the biggest things I took away from my first race [in Kona]. I practiced my nutrition plan up the wazoo—but I did it in the Pacific Northwest. Coming out to the heat and humidity of Kona, my body reacted differently than I’d ever anticipated.”

“My dream is definitely to keep going longer. That’s why I do the sport. What drives me to keep going is to keep pushing to limits and seeing how far and how hard I can go. I’ve heard stories about ultra-runners and ultra-cyclists who’ve started hallucinating in these longer races. Most people think that’s super messed up, but I’m like, ‘Bring it on!’”

Rachel’s Faves

Training Location
Nelson, New Zealand
Pre-Race Music
Electronic and dubstep
Post-race meal
Red meat, ice cream, and beer
Athlete
Canadian Bobsledder Kaillie Humphries
Off-season activity
Getting tattooed