Triathlon, duathlon and cycling have been part of this gentlemen's life for some time. Mixing his degrees in Physical Education and Exercise Science with his race experience, our next guest has parlayed his knowledge into a very nice coaching business. Ladies and Gentlemen: Mike Plumb
KK: Mike please tell our readers a little bit about yourself, where did you grow up and what were your sports background growing up?
MP: I grew up in Toronto, Canada. As a kid I played the normal Canadian sports, hockey in the winter and street hockey in the summer. ;-) I actually played a bit of soccer as well. In high school I dabbled in some other sports, went out for cross country as a freshman but wasn't good enough, then tried football and made the team but pretty much rode the bench the whole season. Then I started skiing (downhill, freestyle) and started competing and I found my niche. My second winter of skiing I started competing and was doing well with it. I still went out for cross country my 3rd year and did better but was basically a one man team and just missed out making it to the provincial championships. The summer before my last year of high school I decided to run through the summer to help my skiing and I was working at a ski resort in northern Ontario that was open as a summer resort also. All I did on my off days was run up and down the mountain. When I got back to school in the Fall and started cross country, everything changed. I went from being decent to being one of the best high school runners in the country. This got me recognized by the top coaches for the track club I had already been running for and all of the sudden I was getting flown all over the country to compete in meets. Needless to say I didn't ski that winter and it was another 25 years until I put a pair of skis on again.
MP:My real motivation was the seed that my coach planted in my head that year, do well and you can pick the university that you want to go to in the Fall. At that time Canadian Universities didn't offer athletic scholarships and now as a committed runner, I wanted to go somewhere warm all year, which meant leaving Canada. By the end of track season I had 36 scholarship offers on the table. I was almost ready to sign with University of Houston when a smaller school just east of Houston, Lamar University offered both myself and my best friend and fellow competitor full scholarships. That was something that we never expected, at the time the two of us were ranked #1 and #2 in Canada for the steeplechase in high school and no school wanted to sign both of us together. So I ended up at Lamar where I had a great college career as a runner. My buddy ended up dropping out after his freshman year, too far away from home for him.
KK: How has your academic background helped your career as an athlete and a coach?
MP:I feel very fortunate that my academic career has set me up perfectly for coaching. At Lamar I got a business degree. Then once I graduated I moved to Mobile Alabama and eventually went back to school at the University of South Alabama and got another undergraduate degree in Education (Physical Education) and started working as a middle school PE teacher. Then I continued on at night and got a Masters degree in Exercise Science.
MP:As an athlete, being so busy all the time juggling work, school and training I was constantly tinkering with coming up with the ideal training schedule for myself each week. I would spend hours working on my own schedule each week figuring out how best to get everything in, it was something I loved to do.
KK: You are the coach and founder of Tripower.org; how did you get started coaching?
MP:Iin 1998 I had a friend that I was training with occasionally and she was getting ready for her first Ironman, Ironman Canada. It started off with me just making suggestions as to what she should do for key workouts, when to go long, when to go short etc. Then it evolved into actually writing a weekly schedule for her. At that point she finally told me that she felt she should pay me for that. I declined but then she told some friends and next thing I knew I had a dozen clients that I was writing schedules for, all of whom I was charging for the service and it just kept growing. Then in 2001 when I moved from Alabama to San Diego (Carlsbad), I had full intention on continuing to teach, but a job never materialized and with the move and having a southern California address, my coaching business exploded. My client count doubled and all of the sudden I was making more coaching then I ever did as a teacher so I never went back into teaching at that time and had the luxury of just sitting back and waiting for the perfect teaching opportunity to come along. I wasn't actually looking for a teaching position but one found me this past January and now in addition to my coaching business I am also teaching PE part time at Pacific Rim Elementary in Carlsbad.
KK: I read on your website that you have been a champion in both Duathlons and Triathlons, please tell us about those experiences.
MP:I think because of my running background I was able to have immediate success once I started doing triathlons. I had never swam before so that was always something that held me back, but with the bike I was able to pick that up very quickly. Back in the 80's when I started with triathlons, everyone (that was good) basically just went out and put in a ton of miles on the bike to get good. I didn't have the time for that so I took my running approach and applied it to my bike training. I felt that with running, if you could run intervals every day you would get really good, but you can't train that way, you'd get injured. But with the bike being a low impact sport, you can. So I started doing structured interval workouts on the bike every ride I did. I also started bike racing and had immediate success with that as well winning a handful of district time trial championships in the late 80's.
MP:Then along came the Coors Light Duathlon Series in the late 80's and I jumped on board with that and travelled the country competing at the pro level in that series for a couple of years. I was typically a 5th through 10th place finisher in each of the races. Once that series fizzled out I was back to competing in triathlons again. All this time I never stopped running in road races and was still posting 10km times in the high 29's to 31 minute range.
MP:In 89 I decided to finally take a stab at doing Ironman and went to Kona that year. I really had no idea how to train for an event that long as everything up to that point had been short fast races. I did respectable finishing in 9:50 but had honestly hoped for something a bit faster. Now looking back on that performance I would love to go that fast again.
MP:Through the 90's I mostly just raced regionally in the southeast, but was able to dominate races all over the south. Back then a lot of those regional races all had small prize purses so I was able to make some extra spending money along the way as well, typically winning a couple of hundred $ each weekend whether it was in a triathlon or a running race.
MP:Then in the mid 90's a race director friend of mine in New Orleans (Bill Burke) approached me about this race he was going to put on called the Dannon Duathlon. He had a vision of making it into a series eventually and wanted me to come over and do their first race. They were going to have a pro prize purse but weren't bringing in any other pros to compete, it was just going to be a matter of whoever showed up to race. I jumped at the chance and won that first race. Second place finisher that first year was Peter Reid who most people didn't know of at the time. I repeated again as the winner the next year and after that they finally expanded the series regionally and then nationally and I continued competing on that circuit until it finally ceased. Now at this point, having been involved in multisport racing for 25 years I feel so lucky with the number of people and friends that I have made and the different places that I have been fortunate enough to travel to.
KK: Please tell us bout your road racing career.
MP:a lot of this I already highlighted above but there are a few things that I could still add. Once I graduated from Lamar I moved to Mobile because I had the opportunity to work in a running store there that was going to allow me to train and race as much as I wanted to and receive support. Basically they paid me to race every Saturday morning as if I was at work. My running was going very well at this time and I was able to get selected for the Nike South Racing Team and had full equipment support from Nike. This also allowed me to travel to all of the big road races around the south each year. So each year from October through May I was racing in all of the big 10km races across the south and then from May through September I was competing in triathlons and Duathlons.
KK: Here at www.Finishline-Multisport.com, our goal is to help our sports keep growing. If you would, what are some tips that you would give to someone just starting off in triathlon?
MP:the sport can be overwhelming to someone just starting off. With all of the equipment that you see everyone using, the fancy bikes, wetsuits, traveling to big races all over the world. I think that for someone just starting off they need to not get taken in by all of this. Start off at a level that you are comfortable with. I know when I started I made a promise to myself that I would never have a bike that was better then I was, meaning I needed to start riding fast before I would justify getting a high dollar bike. Now with so many people in the sport, the used market for equipment is huge so it doesn't have to become a financial burden to get started. The second thing that I would recommend to someone just starting off would be to check out your local triathlon club. Here in San Diego we are blessed to have one of the best and most welcoming tri clubs in the country.
KK: Racing can be very competitive; sometimes athletes can face some uncontrollable situations. Getting a DNF or having to quit a race is a hard thing to have to face, when is the right time to pull out off a race? Please give us the athlete and the coach's perspective.
MP:I've had my fair share of DNF's over the years and I'd say that almost all of them happened to help prevent further damage of injury to myself. That is always the first and most important consideration when deciding if a DNF is appropriate. Other then that it is hard to make a blanket statement as to when is a good time not to finish compared to going on. That is really going to depend on the individual and their goals.
KK: If there were one thing you could change, to help the advancement or growth of the sport, what would it be? What could be done to make it better?
MP:I wish I had a good answer to that. I have been involved with our governing body for the past 15 years and still haven't come up with a good, workable answer to that question. There are of course some simple answers like lowering entry fees and making it so that we don't have to sign up for races a year in advance, but those really aren't answers that work for both sides of the table (athletes/race directors).
KK: You have done countless events; what is your favorite event? Why?
MP:having competed in so many races it is hard to pinpoint just one favorite. But one that does standout among others is the Heart of Dixie Triathlon in Philadelphia Mississippi. It is one of the oldest triathlons in the country and I have been fortunate to have won it six times over the years. It is a total point to point course. You swim a half mile from one side of the lake to the other. Then ride 27.5 miles from the lake to the town of Philadelphia, then finish with a 7 mile run that finished inside the Neshoba County Fairgrounds with a lap and a half around the red clay horse track.
KK: Have you ever had to overcome any major setbacks or injuries in your sporting career? If so how did you overcome them?
MP:For the most part I have been relatively injury free up until the last 10 years. Keeping in mind that my racing career started back in high school and I have never taken any time away from racing. In 2000 I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the right knee and then tore the protective cartilage in the same knee later that year. Another knee surgery for the meniscus in my left knee a couple of years ago and it wasn't until this winter that I am finally back to running healthy and not being limited by injuries.
KK: What is the funniest thing you have ever heard or done, while in a race?
MP:Funny or stupid, you decide. Back in the late 90's I was getting ready to compete in the Great Floridian Iron distance race. The week of the race I decided that it would be a good time to stop drinking coke, which was about a 3 liter bottle a day habit for me. 45 miles into the bike on race day and I nodded off for a second. When I opened my eyes I was going off the road into a ditch towards a fence. I grabbed the brakes and got too much of the front brake and went over the bars and landed shoulder first in a barb wire fence. I got back on the bike and continued on to the next aid station. They didn't have a first aid kit or anything so we just cleaned my shoulder off with wet towels and I continued on. By 75 miles my shoulder and arm were still bleeding and I was starting to feel light headed and when my friend drove by I flagged them down and got in the car and took a DNF that day.
KK: One of the most important things in life is "balance." How do you balance family, friends, training, and career? What advice do you give your athlete to help them with life balance?
MP:what I do for myself is usually a bit different then what I recommend for my clients. The difference is that I have only myself, my girlfriend (Vikki, who is also a triathlete and of course extremely supportive) and my dog Max to keep happy. For my clients I often have to tell them they are not doing this (triathlon) for a living and not to ever forget the order of priorities, that family should be number one and triathlon is a lot further down that list.
KK: In every sport there are a lot of heart-warming stories and there are so many amazing people out there. Is there a specific story or person that you would like to tell us about?
MP:again, so many and so hard to list the different stories and people that have had an impact. A few years back I was involved with the Challenged Athlete Foundation and competed in Ironman Revisited and while in Hawaii to compete in that event I met this young girl named Scout from Michigan. Her life had been filled with so much tragedy and yet she still managed to be one of the happiest people I have ever met. I am just glad that she found an outlet in sports and a group of people at CAF that believed in her and helped give her that opportunity to do something that she wanted too which was to compete in a triathlon.
MP:One other person that will always be with me is our former tri club president Jim McCann. I have never met one person that was always so giving of his time and anything he had. He set the bar at a high standard and it is something I try to aspire to every day.
KK: What are some of your major accomplishments as a triathlete?
MP:the biggest and most important accomplishment of all is that I have had a great career racing and am happy with everything I have achieved in this sport. It still leaves me hungry for more but if it all had to end tomorrow I would be at peace with it.
KK: What are some of your goals for the 2009 race season?
MP:Break my Ironman best time and top ten (AG) at Duathlon Worlds in September.
KK: When people think of Mike Plumb, what do you want them to know most about you?
MP:One of the best parts about what I do as both a coach and a teacher is making an impression on people. As a coach I love to see that look of satisfaction in an athlete when they have accomplished their goal and knowing that I had a small hand in helping them accomplish that. As a teacher I enjoy setting an example for my kids and pointing them in a direction that leads them to a healthy lifestyle for years to come.
A quick update: Mike will be racing at Ironman Arizona (November) instead of Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Mike has also qualified for Team USA, the team will be competing at the Dualthon Worlds in September.