September 5, 2022

Last Call: Mike’s Legacy Behind the Mic

On the heels of the announcement that he’ll soon be calling his last race, Mike Reilly, “The Voice of IRONMAN,” joins us for today’s episode! And we’ve got plenty of memorable moments to share from his career. Listen in as Mike shares what led him to the microphone, a typical IRONMAN day for the famous announcer, and how the iconic finish line call “You Are An IRONMAN” came to be. Tune in for a storytelling episode as Mike recalls highlights from his career and special athlete stories that are sure to entertain and inspire.

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TriDot Podcast .154 Last Call: Mike’s Legacy Behind the Mic Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: Hey folks! Welcome to the TriDot podcast. If you have never taken a second to leave us a rating and review on the Apple podcast app, we would love for you to do so. New ratings and reviews help our show find its way to new listeners. So yes, please, and thank you for that. This is an episode I am particularly excited about. We’ve got the “Voice of IRONMAN”, Mike Reilly, with us today. Mike has called 202 IRONMAN races worldwide. That number is continuously ticking up; it might be outdated even by the time you hear this. His iconic call of “You are an IRONMAN!” has been heard by over 350,000 finishers. He has done the onsite announcing and television coverage for over a thousand other triathlon and running events in over ten countries. He is the only person who has been inducted into the IRONMAN Hall of Fame, the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, and the Running USA Hall of Champions. He is the author of Finding Your Voice, and the host of the “Find Your Finish Line” podcast. Mike, welcome to the TriDot podcast! Mike Reilly: Aw, thank you very much for having me, guys. This is special, thank you. Andrew: Helping me interview Mike today is Coach Joanna Nami. Joanna is better known as Coach JoJo, and has been coaching athletes with TriDot since 2012. She is a cofounder of Hissy Fit Racing, a third-year member of the Betty Design Elite Squad, and at the moment has 17 IRONMAN finishes on her accomplished résumé. She has qualified for three World Championships, and is racing Kona very shortly here in October of 2022. Coach Jo is now part of the TriDot staff as our Coaching Community Manager. Coach Jo, welcome back to the show! Joanna Nami: Thank you Andrew! So thrilled to be here today with you and Mike. I can’t wait to get started! Andrew: I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we'll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set conversation, and then wind things down with our cooldown. Lots of good stuff, let's get to it! Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: The longer you are in triathlon, the more race venues you get to see in person. Whether you are racing, coaching, sherpa-ing, or announcing, it’s always fun to visit a new IRONMAN venue and take in the unique tri scene that goes along with it. Mike, Jo, for our warmup question today: from all the IRONMAN events that you have NOT been to, what IRONMAN would you most want to visit and see on race day? Mike, it might be hard for you to find one that you haven’t actually been to, but what is this answer for you? Mike: Well there actually have been quite a few I haven’t been to, because IRONMAN keeps adding events in new places of the world. But I always heard great things about IRONMAN Austria. The beautiful course, the terrain, to be able to ride the bike and train there and all that good stuff. Austria would be a cool one to go to. But there’s so many in Europe, like IRONMAN Spain. I remember Heather Jackson saying that’s a fantastic race. So there’s been a few that I haven’t been to that would be cool to go to. Andrew: When you do travel for a race, do you try to make it a point to get out on your bike and see what the course looks like a little bit? Mike: Yeah, I’ve ridden most all the US courses. I either take a bike or get one there in town, to be able to talk about it. Especially the two-lap courses, I go out and do the 56 and go, “Alright, the IRONMAN athletes will take care of the other 56, I’m just riding the first lap.” Andrew: “I’ve seen it!” Mike: So yeah, I try to ride as much as I can wherever I’m at. Andrew: Do you have a favorite bike course from all those adventures? Mike: Gosh, I love the Lake Placid bike course, the New Zealand bike course. I love the courses where when you’re riding, you’re looking to your right and your left and going, “Are you kidding me??” The whole course is like that. The same with Wisconsin. Last year my niece did Wisconsin. So that’s in September; in July I met her there. I came in from San Diego, she came from Ohio, and we did three days of training there and rode that course over and over again. I love that Wisconsin course, but I’m glad I don’t race it! Andrew: All right, Coach Jo, moving on to you as well. With those 17 IRONMAN finishes, and even coaching your athletes, I know you have seen quite a few of the courses. Which one would you want to see that you haven’t seen? Joanna: Well, I had to giggle there for a minute because I heard that Mike didn’t say IRONMAN Texas, with the beautiful Hardy Toll Road. Mike: Now come on, just because I didn’t mention something doesn’t mean it’s not good. Don’t start that! Joanna: It’s not much to see! You took me for a loop there, because you know I would have said Kona. But I probably would have to say Hamburg. I have a bunch of Betty sisters over there, and they’re anxious for us to come over there and race. For me being a 100% German, Texas girl, I would probably have to say Hamburg. Andrew: Okay, great pick! And yes, I told Joanna in advance I was taking Kona off the table, because that would be too easy of an answer for her and I to both say. We’ll both get to see Kona this year, I can’t wait to fly out there. So for Jo, it’s Hamburg. For me, I’m going to go with IRONMAN in Cork, Ireland. Now, I actually went to Cork as a high schooler, and I have some vague memories. I don’t have a ton of specific memories. I remember really enjoying the city of Cork over there in Ireland, and I would just love to go back as an adult and see the city and take in the scene there, see what IRONMAN in Cork looks like. My wife has always wanted to visit the UK, and we haven’t yet. So to go over and see IRONMAN Cork, spectate it. I know it’s a hard course. I’m like you, Mike, I’d rather spectate it than race it myself. But just to see it and have that and kind of launch an Ireland UK vacation with my wife and I, that would be really special. Mike: Well Andrew, a quick story on Cork. I was there in 2019, and I didn’t get a chance to ride the course because it was raining before, and I didn’t have a bike there. So I walked on race day with Joanne Murphy, who I was announcing with, and she goes, “We’re going to go to Sawmill Hill.” So we turn a corner, and I look up, and I go, “You gotta be kidding me.” Andrew: That’s not a hill! Mike: I mean even, I’m a rider, and in San Diego I climb a lot. And they were making a hard right-hand turn, almost a switchback turn up, and people weren’t geared right, and I go, “You gotta be kidding me. This isn’t a hill. It’s a wall!” Andrew: Shout out to TriDot Ambassador Greg McCauley, who I know is in Joanna’s neck of the woods. He raced IRONMAN Cork that year, and told us many stories about the rain. But I would love to go visit that. Hey guys, we’re going to throw this question out to you, our audience like we always do. Make sure that you are a part of the I AM TriDot Facebook group. We’ve got over 10,000 athletes now that are just talking swim, bike, and run, every day of the week in that group. And every Monday, when the new show comes out, we post our warmup question to you. I can’t wait to see: from all the IRONMAN race courses, which ones you would most want to visit. Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… Andrew: We have a limited time offer from our friends at Precision Fuel & Hydration. If you have ever struggled with hydration issues like dehydration or cramps during long, hot sessions, it is absolutely worth checking out PrecisionHydration.com and finding your nearest center for a sweat test. So what is the special limited-time offer? For the next two weeks from the date this podcast episode goes live, you can use a special discount code to score a free Precision Fuel & Hydration run hat. I have way too many hats, and my TriDot hats and my Precision hats are easily my favorites. You can rep the iconic team in Precision Fuel & Hydration multicolor stripes by getting your free hat when you spend over $29.99 at PrecisionHydration.com. Simply prep your order for fuel and electrolytes, make sure to add a running hat to your cart – that’s the important part – and then enter the discount code REPTHEHAT to get your free hat. You have to be quick though, this offer is only available the next two weeks from the release of today’s episode. Great athletes make their mark on the sport of triathlon with their legs. Great coaches make their mark on the sport with their minds. Many age-groupers make their mark on the sport with their heart. And Mike Reilly has made his mark on the sport with his voice and with his passion, and we’re excited to hear all about his storied career. Now Mike, this episode is going to publish on a Monday, but we are recording it on a Thursday. And it’s not just any Thursday. No sir, this Thursday is the day after you rocked the triathlon world on social media with the news that the 2022 race season will be your last on the microphone, calling IRONMAN finishers home. I know it was not a decision that you made lightly, and I know there are a lot of emotions that went into announcing it. Talk to us about that decision, and how you knew that it was time. Mike: Well, it’s been over the last six to eight months I’ve been thinking about it. Someone said to me, “Would you have done it earlier because of the pandemic? You didn’t.” And I go, “I didn’t even think about that. I don’t know. Possibly.” But I just felt that last year, as we got quite a few events in, it was fantastic. Then I got the last off- season – December, January, February – and we were trying to plan stuff for the year, my sisters, brothers, and everybody. They always had to come to Mike first and find out what his schedule is, and I always felt kind of selfish about that. I’d say, “No, I’ve got an IRONMAN, we can’t do it then.” “Oh, all right, we’ll figure something out.” So I just kind of wanted that to end, and I wanted to make sure that I could do things that I wanted to do, not dictated by someone else’s schedule. The tough part about the decision was me saying to myself, and my wife saying to me, “Do you think you can handle this? Do you think you can really pull it off? Do you think you can stay away from those finish lines? Do you think you can stay away from the age-group athletes?” And most of the time, no, I don’t know if I can. But it’s the right decision at the right time. It’ll be tough, in my mind, when race dates come around next year. Like the Placid date, because I’ve been there every year since ’99, or the Wisconsin date, or obviously Kona, Arizona, New Zealand. The ones that have been ingrained and a part of me for so long. But the biggest loss is going to be how I’ll miss the interaction with the age-groupers at the race. I mean, I still have a lot of interaction with them off the race course and on social media and messages and everything. So while it was a tough decision, it’s a right decision, and the timing’s right. Physically can I keep going? Sure, I think I could keep going. But it’s taking a little longer for the voice to recover when I come home. It used to be, BOOM. I’d come home, twelve hours, back at it. Now it’s a couple days and I go, “Gosh, it feels a little different.” I’m not in my 40’s anymore, so it takes a little while longer. And you know, the interesting part about IRONMAN weeks is they’re so active and everything, but I lose my fitness because I don’t get to ride the bike as much. You get a few runs in, you go for a swim, and you come back home and go, “Oh my gosh, yeah, I gotta work back into it again.” So after 12, 14 weeks a year of that, it just kind of knocks you off kilter. So I guess if somebody said to me, “What are you looking forward to the most next year?” I’d say, “Being able to set my schedule.” My younger sister said, “Hey, we’re thinking of going to get a cabin with all the brothers and sisters at the end of July, early August next year.” And I said, “Fine with me!” Andrew: Yeah! Oh, so cool. Mike: It was the first time ever I said yes, I was available. So that’s really what the decision was based on. But yeah, it was tough. It was hard, and it’s still hard, but we do hard things in this sport, and I’ve never shied away from hard things. So that’s it. Joanna: I’d be interested, Mike, since posting the video yesterday morning, what has the response from the tri community been like? Mike: Jo, it’s hard to put into words what people have been saying. Some have written paragraphs and paragraphs. I love listening to those stories, and I think they loved telling me their story. So I got a lot of that. They amount of reshares that people did with my video, my post, was out of this world. It’s hard. I’ve always been one to always answer messages back. I’d come home from a race and 20, 30, 40 people would send me a message, “Thanks for doing this,” and, “I got to meet you and get a picture with you,” and all that. And I answer them all back. But now it’s of physically impossible to get to them all. Which gets to me, because I’ve always been one to do that. It’s been overwhelming. It’s been kind of daunting. Yesterday I walked out of my office – we’ve got this big yard, and I’ve cultivated all these thousands of succulents and everything – and I just went out there, put the jeans on, and started to bury myself in the dirt for about an hour. It was 90°, I’m sweating, and I come in the garage and my wife’s in there and she goes, “What’d you do?” I go, “I went and did some gardening.” “Right now it’s like 100° out, you know?” And I go, “Yeah, but it felt so good.” Then I took a shower, came back at it here in the office. I guess I learned to make sure I don’t go overboard. Andrew: Yeah, it’s not a surprise to me, Mike, that you’re just getting such an outpouring of love. I know just as a normal age-grouper, your mark on the sport for the average age-grouper is unparalleled compared to anybody else. I mean, people know you, they love you. You do just an outstanding job of connecting with everybody, learning names, learning stories, celebrating the stories of age-groupers. I also enjoyed yesterday, Mike, I saw a lot of the pros I follow on social media who were posting their tributes to you and posting pictures of moments that you had met them at the finish line and called them home. Patrick Lange was one that I saw, just like, “I had the privilege of having Mike declare me the IRONMAN World Champion on two occasions.” What was your relationship with the pros over the years been like? Mike: It’s been strong. It’s been solid. It’s been good. You know, the pros have so many people pulling at them too that it’s kind of hard for them to always connect, because they’ve got so much coming at them. But when, like Patrick, we were together at IRONMAN Tulsa with his coach, and we actually flew home together part way, and had a great conversation, and in Kona we had great conversations. I love being close to them because they’re just age-groupers like you and I, except they go faster, and it’s how they produce their living. So I’ve always had great relationships with them. People always say, “Who’s your favorite in the race?” In Kona, “Who’s your favorite gonna be tomorrow in the race?” And I go, “Nobody. My favorite’s the one coming at me down Ali’i Drive. That’s my favorite.” There’s not one above the other, and there never will be. I mean, I enjoy championship performances just like we all do, and I’m in awe at seeing what they’re doing. I even said in my video, “You present pros are setting levels that we never thought were possible.” But my only advice to pros is, “Always remember your actions speak louder than your words.” Because people can get into award game, which is fine and dandy if it’s what they do. But on race day the pros prove to me and everybody else who they are, and what they’re made of. I love the pros. I think they’re a class act in our sport. They’re approachable, coming back to the finish line to put medals on. The greatest Jan Frodeno story I have is after he won in ’19. He’d set the course record, just buried the course. Then he’s at the finish line partying, putting medals on the age-groupers. And one of the final finishers came in, leaning over, beat up, and he goes, “How’d she do that?” I go, “What do you mean?” He goes, “No way I could be out there for 17 hours. How could she do that?” He was in awe of someone pushing themselves for that long of a time. Here he is one of the greatest in our sport, just won the thing, and he’s in awe of a 17-hour age-grouper who pushed herself through 17 hours. Where do you get that? You don’t get that in any other sport. It’s pure. It’s really pure. Andrew: Yeah, so true. Mike, a couple weeks ago, we were having lunch with new TriDot coach Mark Allen. Mike: Who’s that? Who’s that? I don’t know who that is. Who’s that? Andrew: Yeah, some aspiring coach… Mike: [laughing] Oh yeah! That guy from ’89 wasn’t it? Andrew: Yeah, that was one of his years. But I told Mark that you were going to come on the podcast soon, and I asked him, “Is there anything that you would like for me to ask your buddy Mike?” And Mark just said, “Mike’s energy and his longevity in the sport, is amazing. I want to hear about his end-game. Ask him how long he plans to do this for.” Mike: You’re kidding me. Really? Andrew: That is literally what his question was. Because he was acknowledging, “Man, we’re all getting older, I know the energy it takes for him to be out there all day long.” But Mike, you answered that question for us yesterday. I was just thinking about the legends of the sport – like you, like Mark – folks who are in this sport almost from day one and are still here. It’s really cool to me to see the different paths that you’ve all taken. I think of you on the mic, I think of Mark who is now coaching, I think of Bob Babbitt with “Breakfast With Bob” and Challenged Athletes Foundation, guys like Scott Zagarino who was just on our podcast talking behind the scenes, pushing the sport forward in business. Then there’s TriDot coach Kurt Madden who is still out there racing, won his age group for IRONMAN Canada a few days ago. You have friendships with all of these and many, many more. What is it like for you to look around and see these people still in the sport alongside you, in different roles and taking different paths? Mike: One, it’s an honor. Two, I think it’s a blessing, because all of us that were around during that period of time – the Marks, the Daves, the Bobs and Kurts and Paulas – I think just because we were a part of the foundation at the beginning of it all, we were a part of seeing things happen that we never thought would happen. Even on the business side – I was always on the business side of triathlon and running – I think we feel, at least I did, a bit of a responsibility to keep that foundation and tradition moving forward. Not to talk about it like, “Oh, we did this, we did that back in the day.” I talk stories and stuff, but I don’t live there. I live today and for tomorrow. But I think we all felt a responsibility and feel a responsibility of, “Let’s be a part of the sport that we helped build the foundation. We want to see it grow and prosper and move forward and bring in that 12-year-old Ironkid when they’re 18 to do a big triathlon.” And selfishly, it’s hard to get out of this family. You don’t ever want to leave family members for your entire life. So this decision for me is I’m not leaving the family. I’m not going to be together with them as much as I have been in the past, but they’ll always be with me. So a lot of it could be selfish, and the ones that have been around a while saying, “I don’t want to leave this, this is the greatest place on earth!”. Andrew: It’s so true. So Mike, let’s go back to the beginning for you. This all started in the late 1970’s. You’d raced your first marathon, your first triathlon, and picked up your first microphone all between 1978 and 1979. Take us back in time. How did this life in endurance sports, that you don’t want to leave now, how did it all start for you? What led you to the mic? Mike: Well, I was an endurance athlete, so I was running a lot of marathons and all that good stuff, and started doing triathlon. What led me to the mic was – I even put it in my book – Lynn Flanagan, who ran a running company here in San Diego. I’d always run her races, and we were friends. One 10K I had a bad hamstring. But like all of us, “I want to go!” You know, the fear of being left out, the FOMO. I didn’t want to not be at the race down in Mission Bay here in San Diego. So I went, and the race took off, and Lynn goes, “What are you doing? You’re not running?” I go, “I got a bad hammy,” and she goes, “Oh my gosh, I got this microphone and this speaker.” It was one of those megaphone speakers on a pole and, “I printed out the list of the race.” I go, “You printed it out?” Dot matrix, if anybody knows and remembers the old dot matrix printer, with the sheets with the holes on the side. There was only about 350 in the race, and I go, “Yeah!” She goes, “You call them out. You know a lot of these people. You call them out,” and she hands me the mic. And you know, I was in Toastmasters, I was a salesperson, so I wasn’t afraid. At first I go, “Oh yeah, I can make fun of my friends when they come in, I can prank them when they come in, if they ran slow or something.” Andrew: What an opportunity! Mike: Oh my gosh! And then people started coming in, and I started saying their names. “Hey Jim Brown or Sue Smith,” whatever, and then seeing them kind of light up. They’d look around like, “Oh my gosh, my name!” And I’d say, “Congratulations, you had a great race, you ran so fast! Good finish!” Whatever I said, it just got to me, I go, “Oh my gosh, yeah! I’d want that at a finish line!” I’d never had that. I was kind of jealous of them, me calling them, because I wanted somebody to do that to me. And I go, “This is cool!” I don’t know, it just seemed to be a part of me, because I was able to help make somebody happier. That wasn’t my goal, I didn’t sit down and write it out, it just happened. Andrew: And you’ve done it a few times since. Mike: Yeah, just a few times. Funny, about a month, month and a half later I was running the half marathon that Lynn was putting on, and she goes, “Hey, I want you to announce.” I go, “Lynn, I’m training for it, I want to run this! I want to PR in the half!” And she goes, “All right.” Then there was the next race, and I wasn’t running it, and I wasn’t going to go to it, and she goes, “Can you come and announce this?” I go, “I don’t know, I kind of want to be home this weekend,” all that good stuff. And she goes, “I’ll give you $150 bucks.” I go, “What? You’ll pay me??” Andrew: You could do that?? Mike: I mean, we’d just got a condo, and I go, “Heck yeah, I’ll go out there for $150 bucks and do it.” So that’s kind of how it started. Andrew: Yeah, so we can really thank her for your long career doing this for so many of us now. Now Mike, one of my favorite finish line pictures of all time was not even of myself. It’s not a picture of myself, it’s not a picture of a pro. It was a picture of Coach Joanna Nami crossing the finish line at the IRONMAN World Championships in St. George earlier this year. One of the photographers got Jo just at the right moment, giving you a finish line kiss on the cheek. Now it wasn’t anything wild, it was very respectful, almost like it was between two friends or something. But Mike, it made me wonder: what is the weirdest, most unconventional interaction you’ve had with an athlete crossing the finish line? Mike: By the way, Jo, thanks for that kiss. I always put the cheek out. Maybe pre-pandemic we would have, you know, “MWAH!” Joanna: You’re very welcome, Mike. You’re very welcome. Mike: I adore that. That’s great. What is the most incredible? Andrew: Yeah, what’s just the wildest, most unconventional, almost “caught you by surprise” way somebody crossed the line and interacted with you. Mike: Well you know, I weigh 165 pounds. I’ve had some men come at me in the age group, and they’re 200 pounds, and one grabbed me and picked me up like I was 100 pounds. I remember he bear-hugged me and my back cracked, while I’m up there going, “You are an IRONMAN!” I put the mic out, “Okay dude, you want to put me down?” Then a couple times people have come at me so hard, I thought we were both going to fall down, so I’d brace myself. This is in the last hour or so of the thing. But I know it's all such a joyful moment for everybody, that most of them just can’t believe they’re there. They really just can’t believe they’re there. And I’m the first person they see, so they want to give me a kiss on the cheek or a high five that pulls my shoulder out. I did have shoulder surgery about five months ago, probably because of that. But it’s all well worth it. You know, the grabs, and the almost-knockdowns at the finish, those are the ones that I remember. Andrew: Well, you mentioned Patrick Lange earlier in the show. I remember him very famously winning Kona and then proposing at the finish line. How many finish line proposals do you think you’ve seen over the years? Mike: Hundreds. We just had one at IRONMAN Mont Tremblant. I didn’t know about it. Usually one of the two partners will say, “Mike, I’m gonna propose” and I know it’s coming. Well this guy’s coming down the chute, and right before the finish, about 10, 15 yards out, he gets down on his knee. I kind of thought he was saying a prayer – Andrew: In trouble? Mike: No, he didn’t look like he was in any trouble, he looked strong enough. I go, “Okay, that’s cool,” and I was about ready to call, and then he opens up a ring box. And I go, “You gotta be kidding me.” So I looked at the finish line, and his partner was there holding the medal. Well, she had no idea. So I said to him, “Cool, cool, get across the finish line! Come here!” He goes, “Okay, oh yeah.” Andrew: “She’s back here!” Mike: Yeah. He comes across the finish line and he gets on his knee and proposes, and she says yes. My standard line after every time, I go, “Thank goodness she said yes!” Because I had a hesitation once – I think it was Australia – a guy gets down and he goes, “Will you marry me?” And she just kind of looked at him, and the place froze in silence. And I’m not saying a word, going, “You gotta be kidding me, she’s hesitating! What if she says no?” And finally she goes, “Okay,” and the place erupted. I told a buddy afterwards, “I don’t know about you, but that wasn’t very convincing for me.” Andrew: Hopefully they’re doing well today! Hopefully they’re out there somewhere happily – Mike: So yeah, lots of proposals. Andrew: Jo, over the years, how many times has Mike called you across the finish line, and what do you remember from those moments? Mike: Yeah, how many have I gotten you to? Joanna: I had to really think about this. I remember so many different times. I know it was a different voice in Mexico that called me. Andrew: Sure, different voice, different language. Joanna: The ones that stand out. I believe, Mike, my first seeing you was in Coeur D’Alene. And I remember a number of times him saying my name right, which was probably one of the longest names on the list. So I do remember that and being shocked. And I remember a feeling of being starstruck, but also being like, “He just said my name, and I’m just a mom of three little kids from Pearland, Texas.” And I think that’s a feeling that a lot of athletes have as he says your name, and what makes it so special. Circling back, I remember grabbing his hands certain times, I remember hugging a couple times. So when I came through at St. George and I turned around, I literally didn’t even think about it for a second. It was like I had known him a long time, and I think that a lot of athletes have. And I have known him a long time, so when I hugged and kissed him on the cheek, it was super natural. I didn’t even think about it, because it was like I’ve seen him so many times at so many finish lines that it was such a perfect moment. Then to turn around and have Daniela [Ryf] right there, I just about dropped dead. Very, very special moment. Mike: Special. It always is. It’s interesting too, when that happens, and people see a Daniela or a Kristian [Blummenfelt] or any of the pros, Jan, putting a medal on them, then they go, “Are you kidding me??” One guy used a few words that I can’t repeat, “Are you f’ing kidding me?? Are you putting a medal on me??” “Yeah, yeah I am.” Joanna: Yeah. Big crowd moment, and then they put it on NBC, which even makes it better. Mike: Yeah, really. Really. Andrew: So Mike, as a media professional, I have always been curious what your prep looks like heading into a race. Do you have a set schedule for race day, or do you have any scripts that you have to follow? And the big one, Mike, do you do any homework ahead of time to try to nail all those name pronunciations like Joanna Schaefer-Nami when you’re at the finish line? Mike: Yeah, I’ve got the IRONMAN Wisconsin list right here on my computer, I’ve been going through it. I read through the names, and if there’s one that I get stuck on I’ll email the athlete and go, “Can you give it to me phonetically?” And I’ll put it in. That’s a little trick that people go, “How do you pronounce the name?” And people will come up at the race and can tell me and I write it down, and for some reason I remember that stuff. I just remember it, especially at race week when they give it to me. I’ll see the name come up on the screen, I’ll go, “Oh yeah, that’s…” Because your name is your most valuable possession, you know? I want to get it right. So I read through those bios five or six times. I read the “What is your story?” when they write it in, so I know what some of the backstories are. Then people will write me their story and I’ll put it in the bio, I try to do as much preparation. But on race day all I worry about is, “Okay, where am I going at this time? There’s a hot corner here, I’ve got to be there by this time.” If there’s not, I don’t go. So on race day, the cannon goes off, and it just happens. It just happens. Andrew: It’s all a blur after that. For all of us. The athletes, the announcers, the coaches, the sherpas. Mike: And you know, I always remember too – sure I’m talking to the athlete, I’m talking to the pros, the age-groupers – I never forget their loved ones are out there. Now, with social media, they’re listening online all day long. When I say something about so-and-so from Tucson, Arizona, I know mom and dad, or the spouse that had to stay home, or the brother is listening. The reach is almost daunting. I go, “God, that’s right, that guy’s got this big family and they couldn’t come,” and they’re hearing me call him an IRONMAN like they’re with us at the finish line. The preparation beforehand is much more than what I do on race day. After this long I think it comes naturally, but I never take it for granted. Joanna: You know, Mike, just like IRONMAN athletes racing on race day, we know your day on race day starts mega-early and it goes very late.  We’d like to hear a little bit about, you taking us through the day in the life of Mike Reilly, what a race day is like for you. Mike: A race day, it goes by in a blink. I mean, I seldom set an alarm for race morning, if you can believe that. Andrew: I believe it, yeah. Mike: Because if I go to bed at 9:00, I’m up by 2:30. I’m a 5½-hour up guy, 6-hour up guy, so I know I’ll be up. I wake up early because I want to be into transition before anybody’s there, even some volunteers, and I always like doing a little video from down there of all the bikes, and tell the athletes to wake up, get out of bed, and get down here. Then as the day progresses, putting them in the water, some of the most nervous moments are the start.  Because I know everybody else is nervous, so I can’t be. I need to be calm, I need to talk to them.  And they don’t hear you. I can say something, “Oh by the way, your bike mechanic is in transition in the north corner,” and somebody will come up three seconds later, “Hey, do you know where the bike mechanic is?” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s right there.” Because their mind is filled with months and months and years of preparation, and all of a sudden they’re at that day, and everything shuts down. So I just try to talk to them calm, get them down to the water in time if there’s a walk there.  My goal is start the race on time, because once it takes off, the day will play into itself. But the morning is the most nervous. In Kona, 50% of my day is the start. That’s half of the nerves, the pressure of getting all the athletes into the water.  Now we have a few different starts when they’re getting in the water. Making sure that NBC is ready to go, the camera people, they’re all in my ear.  It’s almost like you could do a documentary of just an hour of what’s going on. Getting the call from the race director, or the CEO Andrew Messick, or “The military guy’s going to be a little late, and the cannon’s here.” It’s just unbelievable.  I try to stay as calm as I can, because if I start losing it, that’s not good. I won’t let that happen. Even other announcers who are standing next to me going, “What the hell, what’s going on?” I’ll go, “Dude, don’t talk to me now.” They just can’t believe it. So for somebody taking over on the end of the pier, I wish them luck. It didn’t happen overnight with me, because mistakes were made, and the next year you go, “Okay, we’re not making that mistake again.” Heck, we even had a false start there, that was crazy. Andrew: That was a story in your book as well, if I recall. Mike: Gosh, when somebody did the air horn, which I told them not to do. They wanted to do a pre-5-minute air horn to let them know there’s five minutes. I go, “We don’t need to let them know there’s five minutes. I’ll tell them there’s five minutes.” And I thought they made the decision no air horn. Well, that thing went off five minutes before, right behind me. I turned around, I thought I was going to swing at him, I swear.  I go, “Dude.” And I looked, and they took off! Now people are screaming, NBC, the producer, “What are you doing, you started the race!” And I’m not gonna go, “No I didn’t!” Andrew: “I didn’t start anything!” Mike: Then the race director, Sharron Ackles, goes, “Mike, you gotta get ‘em back!” “What do you mean I gotta’ get ‘em? Oh my gosh, they’re swimming!” Andrew: They’re swimming, they’re in the water! Mike: So all I saw was the paddlers were up, and they’re looking at me like, “Dude, what’s going on, the race shouldn’t be starting!” The paddlers on their boards were up there and I yelled out to them, “Do whatever you can do to stop them. Grab their goggles, grab their swim caps, grab their trunks!” Because I knew it was already at a little pinpoint; if they stopped the first few, it would back up. And they did, they stopped the first few.They were getting cussed at and sworn at – the pros are getting grabbed in the water, could you imagine that?! But finally everybody realized, and I’m yelling, “False start, false start! Please come back!” Then they came back and I tried to calm everybody down, because I just imagine the heart rates were through the roof. Andrew: I’m sure. Mike: And we got them back, and then we got them started on time. And I said, “If that ever happens again, I’m done. I can’t handle that twice.” Andrew: No more air horns! Period! Mike: No more. Just the cannon, baby, that’s all we have. Andrew: So getting all the athletes in the water, that’s the first part of your day, probably the hardest part of your day. Then walk us through the rest of an IRONMAN race day for you from there. Mike: Well, I’ll walk through the closest one is Madison, or even Kona. You know, they take off, they get on their bike – we have a hot corner in Kona, so you go there and announce – I love seeing them come through, the families are there. A lot of the events have what we call a “hot corner” on the bike, where you call them there, and then maybe a hot corner on the run. At Lake Placid I do a hot corner on the bike and then a hot corner on the run, and the crowds move with you.  Then you’re calling them out of transition. They loop by you before they go back on the second lap of the run, so you see them again.  And the families are there waiting, and I can tell who’s waiting there. Moms are like this, and I can just feel the crowd. I’ll ask, “Do you have somebody out there?” “Oh, yeah, yeah!” “Well, don’t worry, they’re on their way, and they’re being taken care of by the volunteers.” During the day I’m always thanking the volunteers because they’re giving of their time, which is a valuable possession, giving of their time to someone else. So I do that. Then before you know it, it’s time to get to the finish line. You know, 3:30, if it’s a pro race, the pros are coming in. Then the day settles in. All that stuff is moving around. When I get to the finish line I check the computers, everything’s set up, all my notes are there, I bring my binder, I’ve got my backpack. I carry my own food as much as I can, not to depend on anybody. Then I go, “Okay, here we go baby, let’s rock and roll,” and I know that’s where I’ll be for the next eight, nine hours, bringing them all in until midnight. Andrew: Yeah, I remember in St. George this year we were waiting for Coach Jo to finish and some other TriDot athletes, and had a pretty good bunch of TriDot athletes there at the finish line just cheering for folks. And Mike, you were dancing, you were cutting up.  There were some college guys there at the finish line that I think were from one of the local colleges, and they were dancing, and you were dancing. Do you watch TikTok or anything to try to stay up to date with all the current dance trends? Mike: Oh God, we could talk about dance if I got my wife in here. My son is an incredible dancer. My wife, incredible. My daughter danced in plays. So I’m the least dancing person in the family, and they make fun of me. When I get to the finish line even they’ll say, “Hey, you were cutting some moves there!” It’s really, I’m mimicking.  If there’s college guys, I’m mimicking them. But yeah, I got a few moves, but it's not about me. I think I just get into it. I want the crowd to gather in to what’s happening. And I go, “Hey, dance out there! Nobody knows who you are!” Because everybody’s always embarrassed about dancing in front of people. But I just really want them to give the energy to the athletes when they come in. It’s part of my rev up, getting everybody going. I always challenge the Iron spectators, “Hey, it’s 5 o’clock, and guess what? We still got a lot of hours to go! So who’s going to be here with us, who can do it?” “Oh, I can!” You challenge them. Because I don’t want the finish line to empty, I want it to be there for everybody.  Because everybody’s an IRONMAN, and everybody’s a champion in my mind. Andrew: One thing that’s been really interesting to me, since moving from just an age-group athlete training with TriDot to being TriDot staff, I get to go to a lot of the races. Coach Jo goes to a lot of the races. If we become Facebook friends, say, with one of our athletes, and maybe you meet them at one race, you meet them at a second race, you feel like you know that athlete really well.  When in all actuality, you’ve only been around them for a handful of hours in your entire life. Being at that finish line, and calling folks like Joanna across the line multiple times, interacting with fans on social media, interacting with them in IRONMAN Village, do you start remembering names and faces and stories from all of these hundreds of thousands of folks you’ve called across the line? Mike: Oh gosh, yes. Someone will come up and say, “Mike, in 2008 I was in Lake Placid, and I pointed at you and you pointed back,” and oh my gosh, I remember that. Some things just start coming to me. But I do remember a lot. I don’t remember, like right now if you said, “What do you remember about this?” I don’t know. But if all of a sudden I’m having a conversation with someone, I’ve always had the knack to recognize a face I’ve seen before. Someone comes up and I go, “Hey, where’d we meet?” “Oh, we were together, we had lunch together.” I go, “Yeah!” So yeah, I remember a lot of that stuff. And if a name comes up on the screen now after so many races, I’ll say, “A multi-time IRONMAN!” They go, “Yeah!” Because I know I’ve called them before, and brought them in. A lot of times they put in their bio they’re an eight-time finisher, all that good stuff, so I do. The whole joke is my friends go, “Yeah, Mike, you got so many names in your head, you probably go home and forget your wife’s name!” I go, “You know what?  No I don’t.” Andrew: Absolutely not. Mike: And you know the funny part about names: I’ll have a friend coming in, honest-to-goodness I’ve known him or her for 20 years, and I know they’re in the race. And I’m calling everybody in, and all of a sudden I go, “Here he comes,” and I’ll go blank! I’ll look at the screen and go, “Oh yeah, Jimmy Brown!” It blows me away how I can meet somebody the day before, then see them coming and go, “Oh, that’s Jill!” and it comes right up. Then a friend comes in and I blank! I don’t know why that happens, but it does! But thank goodness I have the screen and go, “Don’t tell the friends.” I won’t tell you who those friends are, never ever in my life, that I forgot their name. Andrew: So Mike, on race day, like we said it’s a long day. You’ve mentioned that you bring your own snacks to keep yourself fueled throughout the day. What are some of the other things that you do to take care of your body, your voice, and your energy levels during that long day at the races? Mike: Well, Joanna knows this just like any athlete. So do you, Andrew. You stay in shape. You get your rest, you eat, the liquid. The interesting part, with liquid on race day, I go right to the edge of dehydration. Because if I drink drink drink, I’m going to the port-a-potty and I’m off the microphone, and I don’t want to be off the microphone. I don’t take breaks. I go sit somewhere to take a rest, because my voice doesn’t need a rest. If I rest the voice, it doesn’t come back as strong, if I walk away. So I just go to the bathroom, so I keep it on edge with the liquid. Yeah, I take care of myself. I let the sound system do the work, I don’t need to yell and scream. The BCC crew out of Boulder know my levels, and we work with it. And later in the night, they’ll put the level up for me. I wear ear stoppers, so I really only can hear my voice and the crowd noise. If somebody’s behind me talking, because I’ve got to block the bass and the music. I’m already at quite a bit of a hearing loss. About nine months ago I finally got hearing aids because I wasn’t hearing my grandson say stuff to me. I’m losing the high-pitched sounds. The conversation and the low-pitched sounds, I’m fine. So I always plug the ears all day long because I’ve been in front of a lot of speakers for a lot of years. Andrew: It’s interesting, Mike, that you say that, because I’m actually deaf in my left ear. Some of our staff knows that, but I don’t think I’ve ever said it on the podcast before so our podcast listeners are hearing this for the first time. But three or four years ago my hearing in my left ear just went. I went to the doctor, no medical reason for it, they couldn’t identify why it happened. I say that because when I was at the finish line this year in St. George, when there’s that much noise in one location and I only have one ear to absorb all that noise, I was struggling. So I can’t imagine over the years. My ear was ringing by the end of the night. I don’t like live concerts anymore because of that. So I’d never thought of that, with a career like yours, just being in that loud atmosphere dozens of times a year for years and years. Mike: Yeah, my audiologist knows IRONMAN and everything, and she says, “Mike, it’s amazing you still have the hearing you have.” Because she has taken care of some band people and rock people, and she says, “They’re gone. They’re gone by the time they’re 50 for goodness sakes.” But I’m not doing a concert 50 nights a year like they are. But the speakers are always close to where I’m at. Sometimes they’re right above me and I’m like, “Guys, can’t we put them anywhere else?” No, there’s no place on the street to put them, so I know it’s going to happen, the bass is just rocking my chest all day.  So I gotta block it, which I’ve done for the last four or five years. Joanna: So Mike, you are the creator of the iconic finish line call, “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” Andrew: Well done, Jo, well said! Mike: Okay Jo, you got the job, there you go! Joanna: Thanks! Andrew: The successor! Joanna: A few minutes ago, I really had a fleeting thought. I was like, “What if…??” Andrew: “Could I be the next Mike Reilly?” It should be a reality question poll, “Who’s the next Mike Reilly?” Mike: Oh there you go, I get to judge! Joanna: So tell us the origin of that story, the famous line. Mike: I got a message from Dan Trone yesterday. And Dan said, “Mike, we are forever connected.” I go, “Yeah we are, buddy.” In 1989 when I was in Kona for the first time, I never said that. 1990 I never said it, never thought about “creating a phrase”, like when a baseball guy goes, “It’s gone!” or whatever. A phrase. I would just say, “Congratulations, great job! You look fantastic!” at the finish line. Then in ’91, my buddy Dan Trone was there. He was a San Diego guy, I’d run with him at Mission Bay. He did the race in ’90, and didn’t have a great day. In ’91, I’d see him on Ali’i Drive and he goes, “I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know,” he’s all nervous.And I’m going, “Dude, you’re a heck of an athlete, what do you mean?” “I don’t know, it’s just not there,” and he was really kind of down. I go, “Don’t worry, you’ll be okay.” He was all right. So I saw him the day before the race checking the bike in, and I go, “How you doing?” He goes, “I don’t know, I know you told me I’d be okay, but I don’t know. I feel a little better, but I don’t know.” He started to depress me. Finally I go, “Dan, don’t worry, you’ll be an IRONMAN! You’ll get it done!” So he goes in, “Alright, alright,” and I forgot about it. The next day – there’s no spotting, our spotting was all manual – I didn’t know where people were on the course. I’d get phone calls from the pay phones out on the course: “Mike, so-and-so just went by Mile 80.” That’s how we got our information back then. And it was about maybe 10, 11 hours into the race and I thought about Dan, “I wonder how he’s doing?” Well, a little while later there he is. Remember, I’m spotting everybody via binoculars at their number.  I see him coming, and I told the other announcer, “I got this one.” So I get on the microphone: “From San Diego, California, Dan Trone!” And it just hit me the conversation we had of me saying, “Don’t worry,” and I go, “You ARE an IRONMAN!” It was almost like I was putting it in his face, “You did it! I told you! You are an IRONMAN!” And he looked up, and he pointed, I pointed back, and it was just pure joy! But then something happened I didn’t expect. The crowd just raised their level of noise like I couldn’t believe.  And I’m going, “They don’t know Dan, he’s nobody, not like a pro.  That’s interesting.” So the next person’s coming in and I thought, “Well, they are an IRONMAN,” and I yelled it out, and the crowd did it again. And I go, “Oh my gosh, well they are!” Then a couple people later there comes a woman coming in. And I’m thinking, “Alright, what do I say? Do I say Ironwoman? Dang it, well it’s an IRONMAN race, I guess I’ll just say the IRONMAN again, and see what the response is.” I yelled, “You are an IRONMAN!” and she just went, “Yeah!” And the crowd went crazy, and I go, “Alright, well they are!” The other announcer at that time wouldn’t do it. He goes, “Naw, I’m not gonna say it.” I go, “Well, I sure as heck am.” Then the crowd was yelling, “Say it! Say it!” to the other guy, and he wouldn’t. So I just started jumping on the mic and doing it. Andrew: They were demanding it! Mike: And the reaction from the athletes and people the next day, even the woman, the first woman I called an IRONMAN.  I wish I had her name, I don’t have her name or know who she is. I tried finding her for my book, but I just couldn’t. So she came up to me afterwards and said, “Thank you for calling me an IRONMAN!” “Oh really?” “Yeah! I’m an IRONMAN!” I go, “Okay!” So that’s how it started.And forever in my mind, that’s how it’ll be, until the last one in December in New Zealand. Joanna: So Mike, from all the finish line moments you’ve been part of, do you have a certain memory, or an athlete, like one in particular, whose story has stuck with you over the years, one that you think about often? Mike: Well, I have my most special call ever. Now it’s approaching 400, 450 thousand calls. There’s one that stands above them all and always will. Unless one other person does an IRONMAN, but I won’t be there to call it in. That’s my son. You know, he played baseball and high school and college, played professional ball, and then got out and was working with me at IRONMAN Arizona, and he goes, “I think I want to do this.” He was 205 pounds, strong, muscled baseball player.  And he committed to it, and got back down to high school weight of like 180.And I got to call my son in, who was two years old when I started on the microphone at IRONMAN. It was just daunting to me. That’s the one that always comes to mind. But when people ask me, Joanna, which one, it’s very hard for me to answer. I’ve got some rolling through my head right now. Rob Verhelst, “Fireman Rob”, bringing him in. Bringing in Jon Blais. Bringing in race directors for other races that I worked for and bringing them in. Bringing in friends. Bringing in my brother-in-law. My son-in-law did IRONMAN Arizona, bringing him in. Stories of people who I had conversations with a year before the race and going through chemo and bringing them in, because they defied the odds. The list goes on and on and on. But it’s amazing, when I was recording my video for hanging up the mic, I had so many flood me, in my head. So many memories. One day I’ll be sitting in a wheelchair on an oxygen tank, babbling names, and people will go, “What is that guy doing?” They just keep flowing through my head. They’re all very special. But some just stand out because of who they are and what they accomplished. Andrew: And Mike, I want to encourage people that, if they do want to hear or read more of those stories from you, your book Finding My Voice is just packed full of meaningful stories from your career. It’s a great read. Mike: Thank you. Andrew: I would really say it’s a must-read for any endurance athlete. And Mike, what I loved most about your book is, it’s billed as your memoir. It’s billed as, “This is Mike reflecting on his life behind the mic,” and it was so interesting the way you were able to tell your story through the stories of other people that you’ve called home. And the people that you call home matter so much to you, they’re so ingrained into the story of who Mike Reilly is and what his life has been, that when you tell your own story, you can’t help but tell the story of all these people that you’ve called across the finish line. When you set out to write your book, was that the intention for it to be that way? Mike: Yeah, Andrew, my story is not my story without their story. I didn’t want to write a biography. That’s not who I am. Sure, I was being pushed, “You gotta say this, you gotta go back and talk about ’89, your first year there,” all that good stuff. But it had to be intertwined with the stories. It’s nothing without them. Sure, my voice is what they want to hear, and the words I say and all that good stuff, but without them, it’s nothing. So the book was really done in a way that I wanted people to feel like they were in the room with me and those athletes. I got a lot of comments, “Jesus, Mike, I’m reading the book, it was like I was with you. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and those stories did it.” So I think we accomplished that. That’s what I wanted to accomplish, to be able to do that. Lee Gruenfeld, he’s an excellent writer, he and I went back and forth on so many things. I mean, I’d write 3,000 words, send them to him. He’d come back at 2,500. I’d go, “What’d you cut this out for?” “Because really, the athlete’s story is everything, so let’s just do that.” I’d go, “Okay, that’s good.” And we just kept going back and forth. Then it came out really just the way I wanted it. When you write something, I’ve got this manuscript, and when I first printed it out I go, “Oh my gosh, here it is.” But not until I got in the studio – when the book was done and I recorded the audiobook – did I realize the impact these stories had on me. It was hard for me to get through them. I get emotional now thinking about it. It was hard for me to get through them speaking them out loud into a microphone in a room all by myself. Because it just put me and them together. I lived their stories.  I talked to those people.  I talked to Grace [McDonnell]’s mom and dad; they lost her at Sandy Hook. When I’m reading those stories, it was profound to me. I didn’t realize that when I was writing the book over five or six months, but when I read it, it was like I wasn’t reading it. It was like somebody was reading it to me as I was saying the words. It was a really different experience, and it took 19 hours over two days, because I’d go through two paragraphs and go, “Hold on, I gotta stop for a second.” I’d do ten pushups, a couple downward dogs to get back into it, and get up and start doing it. So thank you for that. It was a labor of love, but it was love more than labor. Andrew: So Mike, your book – I’m sure I’m not the only person to tell you this – your book was the clincher in me deciding to do an IRONMAN. At the time, I was happy, Mike, I was totally happy doing 70.3’s. My wife and I, we had a good system. I would short-list a few 70.3’s I was interested in racing, I would show her the list and say, “Which of these countries do you want to go do a vacation in?” She would pick from there, and then we would do a two-week vacation where I would do a race. We called them “race-cations”. So we were perfectly happy, Mike, just race-cationing around the world. And I was actually on the plane to Greece for the inaugural 70.3 Greece, going for a race-cation, and I read your book on my Kindle. All the stories you include – some of the stories like you said are just amazing people that are defying the odds, some of them are just normal age-groupers that just made a mark on you – just reading those stories, I couldn’t help think to myself, “I have to do this too. This is something that I need to do too. If all these people can do this, I need to become part of that family that’s done an IRONMAN.” So it was your book that clinched it, that sealed the deal. I left that vacation saying, “Now I have to do a stupid IRONMAN thanks to Mike.” Did you get that a lot from the book? Mike: Yeah, I did. Afterwards, so many people said the exact same thing you said, Andrew. I wish so many people in the world could read the book. Not because I want them to read my book, but because I want them to realize there’s a world out there where anything is possible. I have had a lot of people come up to me who know an IRONMAN athlete, were given the book, go “I’m doing sprint triathlons because of you.” I want more people to come into our sport. I want the sport to grow. I want them to live and breathe what we do, because we know it’ll be good for them, good for their lives, and good for their family. We know that. So I wish I could have gotten the book out more, but you categorize it as endurance triathlon, running, whatever, that’s kind of where you’re at. But I have had people reach out from other walks of life and tell me their stories of why they got into the sport. It’s so gratifying, because that was one of the goals. It’s a lofty goal, because I’m thinking, “Who am I to try to pull in people from the sport.” But it seemed to work for a lot of people. Andrew: I’m very pleased to find that I have a few things in common with the great Mike Reilly. I’ve done an IRONMAN, so has Mike. I am occasionally recognized at the races by my voice, so is Mike. And I have a podcast, and so does Mike. It’s called “Find Your Finish Line”, and Mike, I was thrilled when I saw you launched this show. What a great fit to have you telling meaningful stories on a podcast. What inspired you to start your show? Mike: Yeah, you noticed in my video message I never mentioned that R-word. I will never mention that R-word, R-E-T-I-R-E. Because I’ll never see myself doing that. I’ll always be doing something in the sport. But “Find Your Finish Line”, I started that last year because honestly, people wanted me to write Book #2, but it wasn’t in my head yet. You don’t just sit down and start writing. I’m a street guy when it comes to writing. I wrote a few things couple months or so, and I’m getting back into it. So every podcast guest is a chapter of a book. I wanted to put people on that people didn’t know. Sure, you can have the Mark Allens, or I’m interviewing Lindsey Corbin this week because it’s her last Kona, she’ll be the most decorated, most pro finishes in Kona of anybody in the world. So I want people like that on the show, and other age-groupers. They’re like chapters of a book, and that podcast will go on and on and on, because it keeps me connected, and I just enjoy doing it. So that’s why the podcast came about, and Curad, ActivICE, fantastic partner and sponsor of the podcast, they backed me 100%. I do stuff for them, the big Curad booth at IRONMAN Wisconsin, and they’ll be in Kona so I’ll be spending time with them in there. It’s a good partnership, and the podcast is doing very well. I’m very happy with it. Joanna: So this is coming from me, and I have never stepped foot in Hawaii, and I’m going to get choked up now. I’m emotional because it’s 35 days away and I’m already crying. Andrew: Let’s go there. Joanna: But I would not step foot on the island until I made it. I’ve told Andrew the story, as I’ve kept the DVD in my nightstand for like 15 years, until the day I would make it. So this question – now I’m trying to compose myself – is saying, “What is so special, what do you find so special about the Kona experience?” Now I’m getting anxious and nervous, but I am so ready for it. Mike: It is probably one of the most special places on earth. For some reason, ever since I started going there, Jo, something invades your soul when you step off that plane onto the tarmac. I swear, something invades you. People would tell me about it prior and I’d go, “What are you talking about? I’m going to Hawaii.” But something about that big island, when you get out on that Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway and you’re driving to town, and then you get into town and then you start talking to some of the locals. I think what it does is the two sprits of that island, the spirit of love and live which is prevalent in everybody that lives there, has combined itself with IRONMAN somehow. They’re intertwined. No matter what people say, do, how they act, that’s never going to change. So every time I get onto the island, what I do as soon as I step on, I thank my higher power for letting me be there, and I ask the spirits of Hawaii to wash over me. Because I know we’ve got a strong week ahead, and a lot of stuff to do, but I never forget about the aura of the island. Joanna, you’ll find out it just invades you. You breathe the air, you smell the flowers, you listen to the birds tweeting as you’re even waiting for luggage, and you’re going, “What the heck?” Then you see that water. First thing I do when I get there, man I get to the room, I throw the stuff in there, I put on the trunks, and I go jump in. Because then I know I’m home. I think it just connects itself to you, and once you experience it it’ll never let you go, and thank goodness it doesn’t. That’s the best I can describe what it has and does. That’s why it will be my toughest weekend next year, of not being there. I know that’ll be a very difficult time. I’ll get through it, I’ll do whatever, because I can’t smell and breathe and soak in the spirit of the island. So enjoy it, because it’s everything. Joanna: That’s awesome. Andrew, now we have to put our trunks on and go jump in the ocean first thing when we get there. Andrew: First thing! Mike Reilly’s orders! Mike: First thing. Andrew: So Mike, in your video announcing that this was your last year on the microphone, you went through the list of your final six races that you’re calling. It’s Wisconsin, Kona, California, Arizona, Florida, and then New Zealand. When you mentioned Kona you paused for a moment, and you very specifically said, “That will be a tough last one.” We’re weeks away from it, 35 days right now like you guys just said. And you just mentioned how special the island is to you. What do you anticipate will be going on in your mind and in your heart as midnight approaches this year for your last call in Kona? Mike: I have no idea. I always try to hold my emotions in check to a certain point when people are finishing, because it’s about them. I think I’ll hold everything together, even bringing in the final person. It’s the same goodbye on the microphone after it’s over. That’s going to be a challenge. I’ll have my wife there.  My daughter will be there.  She hadn’t been there since she was 14 years old was the last time. She’s 38. I’ll have my wife’s twin sister and brother-in-law there, we all went to high school together. My son will be there with my daughter-in-law. It’s going to be tough. But I envision them all around me with my arms around them when I say it to everybody, which I think we’ll make happen. That’s all I can anticipate. That’ll be Saturday night, because that’s the last one, but also it’s kind of an end on Thursday night, because of all the people I called in that day, I won’t call them in Kona again, like Joanna. It’ll be a challenge. Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down. Andrew: For our cooldown today, Jo and I talked it over and we decided to be a little bit selfish today with Mike on the show. Jo has something to share with Mike before we call it a day, and I have a favor to ask of him. Coach Jo, take it away! Joanna: Okay, I’m not gonna look at y’all because I know I’m gonna cry again and again. But before we wind down, there was so many things that I would have loved to say and go on and on about Mike, and I was thinking last night about all the times that he had called my name at the finish line. But I was also thinking about all the times that I saw him interact, which was so interesting when he was talking about interactions before. I’ve seen him on the run course supporting athletes, talking with athletes, see him when people didn’t make swim cutoff and he was talking to them and encouraging them as they came out of the water. There was something truly special about those interactions, and when I was thinking about all of this, I realized that Mike Reilly treats each of us like a friend. Like he’s always known us. He in so many ways has validated and honored every single athlete’s journey and struggles, and he makes you feel like you are good enough. I repeat that in so many ways. He makes us feel like we are good enough. And I think people say your greatest gift is your voice, sir, but your greatest gift is your heart. You’ve showed so much of us love and respect, and that’s going to be your beautiful legacy. That will always be your legacy in the sport. So Mr. Reilly, I know I speak on behalf of so many athletes who needed to hear your voice, and have that moment, when I say “Thank you.” Thank you for all the years I’ve seen you on those long, exhausting days, maybe one time in a bar in an airport when you were really tired, and I thank you for being more than just the Voice of IRONMAN. I thank you for being our friend, and my friend, and our biggest cheerleader. So there’s going to be a BIG kiss of gratitude at that finish line in Kona, so get ready. MWAH!! Mike: That was beautiful, Joanna. You know, I’ve never realized the impact. It’s like I’m having a conversation with my brother or sister when I talk to everybody. I know everybody’s got their backstory, and we all want to be heard. But I just love listening, and I can’t imagine ever turning anybody away. I would never do that. It’s who I am, and IRONMAN, and the athletes, you got who I am. You just got who I am. You’re making me emotional, because with me being able to say I have six more events, it was like my crutch. I didn’t have to say goodbye at that moment, you know? And in reality, it's seven more events. There’s two of them in Kona, what are we talking about here? So I appreciate those words, Joanna, and I understand them. And there have been times I have been through you-know-what after a tough week, and people will come up. But that’s okay, we’re all beat up. You don’t turn away family. Andrew: So Joanna’s part wasn’t selfish, she was actually very beautiful. My part, Mike, here at the end of the show today, is very selfish. I’m going to take full advantage of having the Voice of IRONMAN on the show. Mike, when I raced IRONMAN Waco, it was my very first full-distance IRONMAN in Waco 2021. You were NOT the one there doing the finish line calls, and honestly Mike, I was fine with that. That would have been like a cherry on top. I believe the other IRONMAN announcers are top-notch in their field as well.But Mike, that day my tracker was doing some funny things, particularly once I got on the run course it wasn’t updating my location correctly. So when I approached the finish line, I don’t think the announcer actually knew I was coming. I don’t think anyone from the finish line team was even looking. My tracker did record my finish time correctly, so my name and time appeared on the digital whiteboard and all my pictures. But Mike, my name actually did not get called. I didn’t realize it in the moment, but one of our TriDot athletes pointed it out, and I watched the video back and I was like, “Huh.” Sure enough, no one actually called my name across the line. So I was not officially declared an IRONMAN. So would you be willing to close us out today giving me my IRONMAN Waco finish line call? Mike: I always tell people it’s sacred for the finish line. But Andrew, give me your full name, even your middle name. Andrew: Andrew Blake Harley. Mike: Andrew Blake Harley, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN! Andrew: I needed that. Joanna: Now I’m crying. Mike: There you go, brother. Andrew: Well, that’s it for today, folks. I want to thank Mike Reilly for regaling us with tales of his legendary career. Big thanks to Joanna Nami for helping me interview Mike today. Shout out to Precision Fuel & Hydration for partnering with us on today’s show. Remember, you have two weeks to get a free Precision Fuel & Hydration run hat by adding a hat to your cart and using the code REPTHEHAT when you check out. We’ll have a new show coming your way soon. Until then, happy training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
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