JESSE: So, I’m kind of curious about your history. It seems like you’ve been doing triathlon almost like Hunter – started when he was tall enough to ride a bike and that seems to be pretty similar for you, right?
MIKE: Yeah, yeah, pretty much. I mean, I started doing tri– I would enter the kids triathlons. I’d swim on a summer team, I ran at the track every so often whenever I was younger, I would just happen to do like hop in some of the kids triathlon races. And so yeah, I’ve been doing it for quite a while. Yeah, I’d say competitively though, where I really just primarily focused on becoming a better triathlete, it wasn’t until the end of high school. So, I was swimming and running for my high school team and then I do like to triathlon in the summer. But then, finally, by my senior year of high school, I decided to kind of relinquish a couple of things and just focus entirely on triathlon.
JESSE: Do remember how you were introduced to the sport? It seems like a lot of people in the sport are transplants like me. I ran through college and then transplant to triathlon. Not a whole lot of people are like you and Hunter that started when they were very, very young. So, I mean, how do you get introduced to it at that age?
MIKE: Yeah, it was, I mean, mostly my dad. I mean, my dad still competes now. But he has been competing for a long time and just kind of growing up and seeing him compete, it’s kind of motivating to become a triathlete myself. So, I would say that would be almost entirely the reason why I started at such a young age. Yeah.
JESSE: And I think Chris said, I think I saw your blog as well, you went to Penn State for undergrad, correct?
MIKE: Correct. Yeah.
JESSE: And you did not run for the school but you participated in the triathlon club?
MIKE: Yeah. Correct. Yeah.
JESSE: Okay, so my big question is, I think you’re a fast enough runner, maybe even a fast enough swimmer, you probably had scholarships and schools. So, like, how do you turn down? Like, where’s the decision or was there a decision about turning down scholarships to run somewhere like, go to the school versus continuing to pursue triathlon?
MIKE: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Honestly, I– So, I don’t think that I was fast enough running or swimming to do that at like a competitive division one school like a power five conference really. But I wanted to stay within the state, because it’s really hard to get scholarship money, and I also want to just go to school with good academics. And Penn State had great academics, they had a track record of having a decent triathlon program. At least there’s like a team there, you know and some of my best friends were on that team as well. And so it was just a good fit as far as like, well, I can do triathlon but I’m also going to be getting a good degree while going to a good school.
JESSE: Okay. Are they picking up the NCAA Women’s Triathlon at Penn State? I haven’t been following that too deeply but I know they’re trying it out at schools and it seemed like the club schools were kind of what they were focusing on initially.
MIKE: Yes, yes. Schools are definitely picking up. Penn State I don’t think is, as far as I’m aware of. There’s not a ton of division one schools that are, but I don’t think Penn State is necessarily. Not entirely sure all the schools that are.
JESSE: Yeah. So, one of the things I think all like a lot of endurance athletes deal with, and I saw tons of my teammates, I’m sure you’re familiar with team mates that are this way, is like dealing with burnout because you’re putting in so many hours and it’s so repetitive. You know, considering you started from such a young age, like, have you ever felt burnt out, how do you deal with that? Or how do you avoid that?
MIKE: Yeah, I it’s tough to say. I mean, I think that I was competitive but I wasn’t overly competitive in the sense that I was, especially, through high school, say, I wasn’t doing three workouts a day through high school, I would do nine, maybe workouts a week. I was training what I felt was hard, but I wasn’t overworking myself. And then generally, like all my coaches through high school we’re big proponents of just taking time off like, absolutely nothing. And I think that is a good way to just kind of reset every year and make sure that you aren’t day in day out for years and years and years, just destroying yourself doing the same thing. Just taking that time off and then whenever, especially in high school, like those few years, I would be primarily focused on like just running for like, during the cross country season. And then primarily focused on swimming during the summer season. And so I think that having that variation throughout the year also helped just avoid burning out.
JESSE: Just a little bit at a time.
JESSE: This is another thing like Cody Beals talks about and I kind of asked you a little bit ahead of the– not real familiar. I spoke with Matt Bach, who’s episodes just came out in dealing with like pretty common for a long endurance athletes are men and some women like deal with low testosterone. Have you ever dealt with that or that super fatigue that kind of comes along with like hormone imbalance?
MIKE: No, I haven’t had anything quite like that. There’s definitely been days I felt fatigued, but I think we’ve all been there at some point or another.
JESSE: Yeah, it’s just like interesting line between trying to figure out like, am I fatigued because I’ve worked myself so far into a hole that now I have hormone issues or is it regular fatigue? And I think it’s easy especially for most of those guys, it end up turns out that they have issues like they write it off as just, oh it’s just normal fatigue. It seems to be something that’s coming up more and more. So, it’s something I started to ask people about just because it seems like more common than you think it would be.
MIKE: Right. Yeah, I’m not entirely sure I’ve really ever come across that necessarily. I think I’ve been able to, like, just know where my body’s at enough so that I can avoid getting to that level of chronic, like, really just absolutely destroyed. So yeah, thankfully, I’ve been able to mostly avoid that issue.
JESSE: This is one thing like we talked about being a pro and earning a living and you do have, or at least on your website, you still have some sponsors listed? So, I think there’s kind of some mystery surrounding sponsors for age groupers – don’t understand how that works. So, I’m curious, at least from your experience, how does the process go about finding sponsors or working with sponsors, how does that relationship occur?
MIKE: Yeah, usually the sponsor, usually, it’s more about like knowing someone and getting in touch with them, sending an email, letting them know your credentials, whether that’s your athletic resume or your social media resume, that kind of thing. And usually, you can get sponsors, I say sponsors pretty easily. But what that sponsorship entails can vary a wide range. So, you can get a clothing sponsor, is that clothing sponsor sending you a dozen shirts and tights or whatever, probably not. They’re probably giving you like 30% off retail, which is like, yeah, technically, that’s a sponsor. But, I mean, as far as like making a professional triathlete, it’s not really helping you all that much.
So, yeah, I mean, usually what happens that I’ve seen is, sponsors, generally pick up athletes, with both an athlete– good athletic background, good social media background, but that first year, too, may not necessarily be like a full on sponsorship, where they’re giving you money every year or bonuses, that kind of thing. They’ll start off with like, hey, here’s– you try our product, and then you show that like, you’re an asset to us, and then we’ll continue on that sponsorship, or give you more with each passing year. And then other times, it works the opposite. Sometimes a sponsor decides that they just don’t want to sponsor as many athletes and you’re just cut. You may not have done anything wrong, it’s just kind of the nature of that. You were already at the bottom of the totem pole and you just got cut.
JESSE: I’m always curious about it just personally too since I run a couple of businesses, one of them being athletically focused. And I don’t sponsor anybody at the moment for my own marketing reasons, but I kind of think about it in both aspects. Like, I am on the athletic side, I’m on the company side too, it seems like social media would be such a big deal now because so many sales take place online. And ultimately, the idea of sponsorships is to convey a brand to new people and wind up selling product. Just like, here’s a seventh or eighth discipline for us dealing with social media, like learning how to garner an audience and market to that audience without alienating them.
MIKE: Oh, yeah, no, that’s huge. Yeah, for sure.
JESSE: So, the big question, now, I’ll put you on the spot is, where’s your social media presence? I’m just giving you a hard time.
MIKE: Zero. I don’t know, just not interested in posting all my aspects of my life. I just kind of enjoy not having to worry about that. It’s definitely an aspect that I do not miss about more or less trying to make it as a professional. That’s just not who I am, right. I don’t like advertising myself. I mean, not that, like, I think that everyone that posts about themselves is like advertising for themselves. It’s just like, it’s just kind of my personality. I just don’t like talking about that stuff.
JESSE: Yeah, no. And I’m you. Like I don’t know if I’m sure you’ve seen this where it’s like, somebody will post about whatever product and it comes off very like salesy and it’s just like, do you even like the product?
MIKE: Right, it’s not authentic.
JESSE: Yeah. So, that’s another thing I think about too is just kind of almost antagonistic situation where, say a company comes to you and say, Mike, I want to give you $5,000 if you’ll post about my products, and you’re like, well, I hate your products, but I really want the $5,000.
MIKE: Right. And that’s tough. That’s tough, especially if you’re an up and coming professional athlete, and you really want to make it and you see that opportunity, I mean, you’re more than likely probably going to take that deal.
JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. And I know coming from the company side, like it’s tough. At least for me, I can’t speak for like the big brands.
JESSE: Why is somebody parenting online wall right now? I don’t know what’s happening. I’ll figure that out in a minute.. So, coming from the company side, it’s like, I know, not everybody’s gonna like what I make that’s okay. But the people speaking about it, I have like a relationship with, I want them to like it, too. So, it’s like you want to get the word out, but you also don’t want to be disingenuous. So, I can see from like I said that both sides, the antagonistic coin where it’s like, how do you find the right person that likes your products and would post about them, you know, without being paid, and the payment’s just like bonus on top?
MIKE: Yeah, that would be ideal, but I it just doesn’t seem to happen quite that way all the time.
JESSE: Yeah. No, and that’s fine. I mean, that’s business. It’s just a curiosity of how things work and with influencers being so big right now, that’s like the big buzz term in all these marketing forums, gotta find influencers, gotta find influencers, just like, do I? The idea is to try to find– you’re trying to replicate word of mouth marketing, but you’re paying for it.
MIKE: Yeah, right.