Our 2013 Golden Ticket Winner, 51-year-old Mandy Miller of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is no stranger to endurance competitions. This will be her 14th Ironman and second Ironman World Championship, and she also has several ultra marathons under her belt. It’s been 11 years since she last came to the Big Island to race, and LAVA caught up with her to see how her training with MarkAllenOnline.com went, her expectations for Saturday’s race, and what advice she has for next year’s contest winner.
LAVA: The week after you found out you were our golden ticket winner, you took off for Europe to compete in a seven-day ultra marathon. How did that go for you?
Mandy Miller: I actually got incredibly sick. I ended up in the emergency room in the middle of Spain. It was not good. I made it through 100 miles and the third day, and then I got sicker than I think I’ve been in the last 10 or 15 years. I was coughing and vomiting every day and I’m in the middle of nowhere. It was bad. I was coughing all night in the camps we had and so I’d have to put my tent away from everyone else. I DNF’d after the third day. I’ve never run that slow in my life and it was apparent to me that I could do some serious damage to myself physically. I mean it took me another five weeks after I got home before I was actually well again. It was disappointing. One of the reasons I quit, which I don’t take real kindly to quitting, was knowing that I was coming here. It made it easier to quit because I thought if I don’t quit and I keep on going for the next 50 or 60 miles, I could really ruin the next three months of my training for Kona.
LAVA: As part of your golden ticket status, you received online coaching through MarkAllenOnline.com with Luis Vargas. How did that go?
MM: Training with Luis was great. I have always been self-coached, so I guess I wasn’t quite like the other people who get online coaching. He asked me about my athletic background and if this was my first Ironman, and it is actually my 14th, so he adjusted the program for that. The program was great. Like everyone else here pretty much, I have a full time job, so I could do some things and not others. Some of the smaller workouts I had to miss because of work and life and stuff like that, but I got in all of the key workouts and long mileage. It was interesting to see what he would have me do versus what I would have myself do. A lot of times it coincided, but then there were some instances where it was completely different.
LAVA: How was it different? Did you feel you were focusing on any particular discipline more than in previous Ironmans?
MM: The combination workouts were different. The two workout days were just different than I would have done for myself, so that was very good. I did training I wouldn’t normally do and maybe that will bring different results, we’ll have to see. I think I was doing a little bit more mileage overall, but less running. After I had been sick, I went back to running too fast. I only took a week off after I got back from my race in Europe but I started running even though I was still sick and I got a calf injury. And so I had six weeks of being sick and then three weeks of a calf injury. I ended up spending a lot more time on the bike than ever before and the workouts were just very cycling-focused. That was helpful because that was my weak link.
LAVA: You’re racing for the military charity Team RWB. How did you get involved with that organization?
MM: I’ve been involved with them almost since their inception. I was listening to a podcast and the founder of Team RWB was on it, and while I’ve never been in the military, I have a lot of friends serving overseas. I liked the idea of using athletics, and particularly endurance sports to reintegrate people back into community and normal life. It gives them a real positive focus after they’ve come home from active duty. A lot of the people we support through the organization might not have wounds on the outside, but they do on the inside, and having something like triathlon to focus on can be incredibly therapeutic. It gives them new hope.
LAVA: This will be your second Ironman World Championship, how is your mindset different this time around?
MM: There’s just a sense, of not being as overwhelmed by the total circus, and it’s a total circus. You can enjoy the circus instead of be intimidated by it. It’s been 11 years between the two, so I’ve had a lot of triathlon experience in between that time. When I came here before, I’d only been in triathlon like two or three years. I was blissfully ignorant and had no expectations of what was good for me or fast for me. But the flip side of that is that now I know. What I tried to do before I got here this time was to just throw out the mental stats that I have in regards to what I can do. I tried to erase all that data so that I could just have fun and not be so worried about the outcome, but it’s harder now to do that. You have to throw out the mental set that tells you that you are a 4:30 marathoner and you can’t do better or worse than that. You just have to stay on top of yourself, stay in the moment and see what happens with the best of what you have on that day. I would like to be faster than my last time, but that was 11 calendar years ago, so that might not be possible.
LAVA: Because you’ve been working with a coach for the first time has it made you feel more competitive?
MM: No, but it has made me feel more accountable. Knowing that my program was set up by someone who knows what they are doing. I’m not worried about all the miles that I maybe missed, but more that I just feel accountable to him and to the program itself. It’s made me feel like I’ve taken care of everything I possibly could to get ready for this, so in that respect I can relax a little bit. The way I see it, 95 percent of the people here got here because they were fast enough to qualify. So chances are 95 percent of them are faster than me, but that doesn’t me they will be on race day. I have nothing to lose. It’s not like I qualified and I’m already there in my head and I know I’m at a certain level because I’m just not. It’s just pure enjoyment. This is a gift.
We always ask our Golden Ticket winners what advice they have for next year’s winner. What would you like to tell him/her?
MM: Maybe because i’m an old school triathlete and I’ve been doing this for so many years, if it’s someone like me who has a lot of experience, take the benefits that come along with this like coaching and the VIP stuff during race week. It’s like winning the lottery, only it’s better than winning the lottery because there’s only one chance every year. If it’s someone who has never been here, or who has maybe never even done an Ironman, I think they can benefit from learning as much as they can about the history of this event. It’s background and rise in popularity, and the role the Big Island has played in that, so that when they are here they can understand it that much better. You can really maximize the benefit of the coaching if you’re new as well. Like it or not, it really is the Super Bowl for our sport, so you have to come here with a certain amount of respect for the event. I’m a tri-history geek, and it makes it so much more interesting when you know all of that.