Triathlete Mike Phillips, our Team Formthotics Ambassador from Christchurch, New Zealand just made history the beginning of October 2017. Mike competed in his first Full Ironman Race in Barcelona, Spain finishing 2nd overall among a huge field of seasoned triathletes. His time of 7 hr, 52 min, 50 sec was the fastest debut world Ironman racer's time in history and his time is the 2nd fastest Kiwi ironman in NZ! This was also one of the busiest races this fall with over 100 pro triathletes registered! The top finishing times are recorded to earn points toward an invitation to the 2018 World Champion Triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, so a lot of athletes enter this IM creating a huge field of swimmers, cyclists, and runners to contend with.
A full Ironman Triathlon is something to train up for years to compete in. Mike has been training with the help of Formthotics orthotics in his cycling and running shoes for several years. We have watched and supported Mike to watch him arrive at this tremendous level of competition and boy did he arrive! A full Ironman begins with a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run. Training for any type of triathlon takes as much mental strength as it does physical. Leading up to this big dance, Mike was training 35 hours a week, which included 500km on the bike, 120km running, and around five hours swimming.
Full Time Triathlon Training
Mike is now 26 and had been working for Opus in Christchurch, NZ as a structural engineer for the past 5 years. While he worked full time, he was also training many hours a week to compete in 70.3 Ironman Triathlons (1/2) working his way up to full Ironman Triathlons.
He realised that he was at a peek time to break into the full time roll of training for Ironman triathlons, so made the huge leap of resigning from his job to commit the next four years to training to go professional with Ironman triathlons.
It was a difficult decision, but Phillips believes this is the time in his life to put it all into training and racing the sport while he is young and enthusiastic, as he will have the rest of his life to work behind the computer screen.
"It's quite hard to kind of go over to Spain and throw your job in. My parents are like 'you should be working', but when the races went well, they sort of cam round a bit more.
"It's quite a big sacrifice going over there not working, plus paying for accommodation. I'd rather do it now and have a good crack now when I'm healthy.
"I enjoy it [engineering], but I also enjoy doing this and I figure, you know, when my legs give in, I can go sit at a desk and design some buildings."
Finance is the biggest struggle for an amateur turning professional, but through a careful saving effort during his first five years of engineering, sponsorship from Formthotics, and some prize money purses, Phillips has managed to make this happen for this next big chapter of his life.
Barcelona, Spain Ironman Triathlon - Training in Europe and the actual Race Day
Mike left to train in Europe in July 2017 after running a full length triathlon in Wanaka, New Zealand to build his confidence. He had an amazing race in Binton, Indonesia - 70.3 half-length event winning 1st overall in August, giving him the confidence he could compete well in a full Ironman Race. So he moved to Girona, Spain and trained for the next three months for the IM Barcelona.
Photo of Mike in Challenge Wanaka Race 2017 & photo of Mike in Bintan, Indonesia leading the swim
The beginning of the Ironman race started in the sand with a lot of competitors dashing into the water to swim 3.8 km. Mike started out wide, but was able to round the first buoy in the front of the crowd with men swimming on each side of him. This didn't make a fast swim, but Mike was happy to be at the front of the race away from too much trouble. He surged a couple of times to lose a few of the contenders and finished the swim in the lead with 47 min 56 sec.
The cycling portion of the race was along the highway of Calella towards Barcelona. It was a smooth surface and the strong contenders in the race continued to stay together for a good majority of the 141 km. At 100 km in, Anthony Costas from France broke away from the group and Mike realised he needed to do the same to gain a stronger lead and not leave it to the running at the end of the race. Mike and Costas were able to finish the biking portion of the race with a 6 minute lead in 4 hours, 9 minutes, 55 seconds.
Mike Phillips in 2017 race in Wanaka, NZ
The running portion of the race,(a mere 42 km!), Mike had a very good start and was leading the race ahead of Anthony Costas of France by one minute and the rest of the runners by 7 minutes! One of Mike's friends spectating told him he was on world record pace 7hr 40min! At this point he realised he needed hold back a lot more to have enough to finish strong. Costes ended up passing Mike at 23km and didn't look to be slowing at all. By 30km into the race, Mike began to start hurting and was potentially in for some trouble. He managed to hold second position with a 2.50 marathon, to finish in 7hours 52min - 3 minutes behind Anthony Costes who placed 1st in the race.
Mike comes in 2nd - photo credits to Barcelona Ironman
With his first ironman behind him, Phillips is now eyeing up the 2018 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and needs to gain two top-50 placings to get there. His first opportunity to do so will be at the Ironman New Zealand triathlon in Taupo in March.
2nd Place - Silver in his first Ironman race in Barcelona, Spain
photo credits to Barcelona Ironman