Greenwich resident Christie dominates age group in Idaho’s Ironman

Greenwich resident Mike Christie crosses the finish line of the Idaho Coeur d’Alene Ironman race.

Greenwich resident Mike Christie crosses the finish line of the Idaho Coeur d’Alene Ironman race.

Getting up well before the sun rises, logging countless hours a day (or sometimes twice a day) pedaling a bicycle or lacing up the running shoes for a jog around town was typical for Greenwich resident Mike Christie. Throw into the mix a plethora of laps in the YMCA of Greenwich pool and it gets exhausting just thinking about Christie’s training.

However, all the blood, sweat and tears of the past eight months was worth every second, as Christie traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and was one of more than 2,300 athletes who finished the Ironman Coeur d’Alene event.

“I didn’t anticipate that I would be at the top of my age group,” Christie said. “When I crossed the line, I had the feeling of accomplishment. After 10 months of significant training, day after day, for the event, I had a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It’s amazing. It’s an addicting feeling, when you cross the finish line and realize all that hard work had culminated in a successful race.”

Not only did Christie finish the event, which consisted of a 2.4-mile swim on Lake Coeur d’Alene, a 112-mile bike ride through rural northern Idaho and a 26.2-mile run parallel to the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, but Christie finished the event first in the 55- to 59-year-old age group and 181st overall with a time of 10:42:37.

“Going into the race, my goal was just to finish the race and hopefully, if everything went according to plan, I would have a good finishing time,” said Christie.

When it came to the swim portion, Christie touched the finish line with a time of 58:34. His bike time was 5:41:11 and he finished the marathon portion with a time of 3:57:17.

His time was over 20 minutes faster than Allan Wright, as the Beaverton, Ore., triathlete took second in the age group with a time of 11:06:57. Overall, Ben Hoffman, a triathlete from Boulder, Colo., won the event, posting a time of 8:17:31.

Although Christie spent nearly 11 hours competing in the Ironman event, he actually had no idea where he finished once he crossed the finish line and caught his breath. He went to the food tent to grab a bite to eat, hopped in his car and went back to his hotel room. It was there he found out how well he really performed.

“I was in Idaho by myself and didn’t have my family with me, so I didn’t know where I finished,” Christie said. “I didn’t know where I placed until I called my wife to let her know I was OK. She told me over the phone that I had won my age group and qualified for the world championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. That was a really satisfying moment. It all came together and I really felt awesome.”

Of the three disciplines, Christie was strongest while battling the water in Lake Coeur d’Alene because he grew up swimming and currently swims in the Masters swim program at the YMCA of Greenwich.

However, the 112-mile bicycle portion was a completely different story. In total, Christie spent a whopping five hours, 41 minutes sitting on his bike.

Greenwich resident Mike Christie takes to the streets of Idaho during the marathon portion of the Coeur d’Alene Ironman race.

Greenwich resident Mike Christie takes to the streets of Idaho during the marathon portion of the Coeur d’Alene Ironman race.

“I’ve not done a lot of cycling in the past,” Christie said. “When you ride 112 miles, the time that you’re actually sitting on your bike is long. You’re tired and sick of sitting on your bike. It challenges me to stay focused for that length of time on the bike. That’s the most challenging part for me. Getting through that bike ride and trying to stay consistent in terms of my speed and power output, but doing it without exhausting myself, was hard. I still needed to run a marathon.”

For Christie, competing in triathlons is nothing new. He’s been in competition for the past three years. Prior to that, he ran marathons, half marathons, Olympic distances and half Ironman distances.

Christie said that he got into triathlons because he wanted to get the benefits of the cross training from the swimming and biking.

“The abilities to blend the sports together is much easier on your body than just going out and running every day,” Christie said.

Just for Christie to be ready for the Ironman Coeur d’Alene, his training started in November 2012. For roughly eight months, he would hit the training circuit every day and would log 12 to 25 hours of training weekly.

There were build weeks, where he would focus on building endurance, or transitional weeks, where he cut back on the workouts to let his body heal and get some rest. There were also days where Christie would run in the morning and swim in the afternoon or ride his bicycle in the morning and run in the afternoon.

In addition to all the preparation, Christie had to fit the training into his everyday life, which meant getting up before the sun came up every workday to either run or bike before heading off to his job.

“Getting up early became easy to do because I basically trained my body to feel like it has to do something once I wake up,” Christie said. “There were times during my training I went on 100-mile bike rides, got home, got my running shoes on and went for a run right after that. Very seldom did I rest. I think from November until the race, I had three or four days off where I didn’t do anything.”

Due to his hard work and dedication, Christie netted a second place at the Ironman Coeur d’Alene, which also guaranteed him a spot in the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

“It’s kind of the mecca for triathlons,” Christie said. “We dream about one day racing in Hawaii at the world championships. I don’t know if I’ll ever qualify for Kona again, so I’m definitely going to take advantage of the opportunity to race there. What I thought was going to be a quiet and relaxing summer has changed and now I’m going to train really hard. It’s going to be intense because I’m just starting to get back into a training schedule again and I’ll be building up for the world championships in October.”

For Christie, the opportunity to race against the best competition out there is incredibly exciting.

“It’s beyond my wildest expectations that I get to go to Hawaii and race with the best in the world in my age group,” Christie said. “Everybody that’s racing in Hawaii has gotten there as a result of either winning a triathlon or coming in second or third place. That means it will be a very fast and competitive field. I’m still on a high from competing and winning my age group in Idaho.”

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