The finish-line tower at Ironman New Zealand
One hundred. It may only be a number, but 100 is a pretty interesting one. One hundred miles per hour, 100 home runs, $100, 100 years, 100 miles, and yes, 100 Ironmans. Over the last few months I’ve been asked many times what it will mean to be on the microphone at my 100th Ironman. Now that I’ve put it in the books at Ironman New Zealand, how do I put it into words? It’s as simple as “I can’t believe it’s been 100,” to more complicated: “Does this mean I’m starting all over again at 101?”
About five years ago, Casey Cortese from Janus prompted me to count up all the times I’ve announced at the finish line of an Ironman. So we did—on a bar napkin at an after party. Thus, the counting began. It also prompted me to start a log of what each race meant to me and what impressions I came away with.
All those trips, all those days away from home and family, all those finish lines have been worth it.
The first thing I need to do is give a huge thanks to all my family and friends, and the triathletes who sent me well wishes. It’s pretty amazing and daunting what came my way. I was asked to write about this experience and of all the Ironmans I’ve been involved with. This one was very unique. To me it’s not about me but the athletes and the event, so when videos were played and speeches given about me it was a bit uncomfortable, but gratifying, none the less. Jane Patterson and Janette Blyth with Ironman New Zealand are two very special people in my life and they honored me in every way for my 100th, something I will never forget.
Taupo New Zealand is billed as the sports event capital of the country, and from what I’ve seen, it is. You can do everything from bungie jumping to soaking in a hot springs waterfall on the Whikato River. But on March 5, race day, Taupo was the water capital of the world. It rained solid the entire 17 hours of the event. Talk about bringing you back to reality. One athlete told me the driest he was all day was during the swim! Now here is the amazing part: As we were pushing through the day I was thinking that the DNF rate was going to be pretty high. A couple of other wet days I remembered were in Lake Placid and Wisconsin where it never let up. The finishing rate from what I recalled was in the 88 to 91 percent range—and maybe even lower. As the day went on in Taupo, I thought surely we’d be in the same range. When the timer gave me the start and finish numbers I thought to myself, “no way.” So I did the numbers and confirmed that the triathletes here from New Zealand and Australia (542), the U.S. (84) and other countries (37), were one tough bunch. Ninety-six percent came across the finish line wet on the outside but with strong warm hearts on the inside. Amazing!
This one, my 100th, confirmed to me to never take anything for granted, and to always live in the day and make sure you cherish it. No matter how tough things may seem, especially at an Ironman, you will leave with lasting positive memories. I’m always asked which Ironmans are my favorites, which ones I remember most. This list is pretty extensive believe it or not, but now there will be one more answer. The 2011 Ironman New Zealand will go down as one of my most cherished. Not for the reason you may think but because my wife Rose and our best friends Alan and Dena Rea were there with me to celebrate. The number 100 wouldn’t have meant nearly as much if they hadn’t been in Taupo with me. Spending 12 days on holiday with them all—something I’d never done after an Ironman—ended up making it the trip of a lifetime.
All those trips, all those days away from home and family, all those finish lines have been worth it only because of the support I’ve received from Rose and my kids. So my thank you is to them and the congratulations you’ve all sent my way, as humbling as they are, should be directed to my family. Without their support my enthusiasm and passion for all of you at the finish line might not have been possible.
So yes, the 100th was very special, but not because of the milestone itself but because of the support and love that enabled me to do it. The best part for me is now looking forward to Ironman Australia on May 1. I can’t wait to get there and do it all over again like it’s the first time. After all, it’s number one of the next 100!
Read our Q&A with Mike on his years at Ironman New Zealand here.