Interview with: Mike Philips NZ Iron Man 2019
Mike Phillips is a professional triathlete with the world’s fastest Ironman debut. It looks to be a busy year for the Project Clothing Ambassador.
by Sophia Davey, Marketing Manager - Project Clothing
Mike, sits down for a candid chat in his Melbourne hotel room, the day before he is set to defend his title as ‘Champion’ for The Challenge Melbourne @thechallengemelbourne
You’re back in Melbourne for Challenge Melbourne… how comfortable do you feel returning to defend your title here in St Kilda?
Yeah it’s fantastic! I really like this race and was happy to take the top spot last year. It’s right by the water and the weather at this time of year (April) is good. I can just walk down to the race from my hotel room. I feel relaxed being here and I’m getting to know where the restaurants are that I like around the area.
Project Clothing made the Makani Suit for the first time for your 2018 Kona Ironman World Championships. How much input do you have in the design of the suit?
It’s really great to be able to use custom printed fabrics, the sublimation is really cool and it’s great to have a hand in designing the actual suit too. I like working with the design team who are always trying to make the suit better. My original suit was all lycra and now we have adopted a lighter more breathable mesh fabric in the back and upper body panels as well as the arms. I like it a lot better. People seem to love something just slightly different and its important to feel comfortable because you’re out in the race a long time. I like the fabric to be as light as possible, especially when you’re in the swim because you have to wear it under the wetsuit. It’s also about the UV and being protected from the heat of the sun as we usually race in the summer months.
How imperative is diet leading up to a race?
In the early days when I would race, I’d have a frozen pizza from the supermarket and a bag of chips, and I was eating donuts the night before the competition.
The progression now though has seen a change in that, largely because I am training every day and so I generally eat quite minimal carbs but when it comes to a race it’s important to increase my carb levels. So, for me, I feel my body gets the best of both worlds and becomes more efficient when I’m training by having a low carb intake, and then carb loading the night before a race. It’s like having dual energy sources.
What would you eat the night before the race?
I still maintain the pizza haha but now I get a bit of a nicer pizza. I would have a simple pizza and a beer…
Its funny… you will eat something or drink something the day before and if you race well, you put it down to what you ate or drank. There is so many factors that go into having a good race. You might have a bad swim but do really well in the cycle or the run, or you might be good or bad in everything and its really hard sometimes to pin point what was actually the reason for something.
You won the Ironman New Zealand! Has anything changed for you since that moment?
I would say things have definitely started changing for me… I think people were like, ‘who is this guy’ because I wasn’t picked to come in anywhere in that race, maybe in the top 5… but certainly not to win it. I think breaking my hand in the race has made more of a story!
Yes, you made headlines, winning with a broken hand! How did that happen?
It was my bike handlebars that came undone at the start of the cycling leg. I stopped for 3 minutes on the side of the road with the mechanic and because I had lost time, I thought I needed to go as fast as possible to catch up, which I did. I got to 1 minute 30 behind, so I had halved it and then came into this tight corner in town and didn’t brake, so I went straight into the barriers. I was so embarrassed! The guys on the mic were saying over the loud speaker… ‘oh you guys feel sorry for Mike, what about the barrier…’ because I had totally knocked the barrier over.
So, you have done 90kms by this point and just broken your hand!
Yes, I crashed at half way through the ride and then rode the next 90kms with the broken hand. It was hard to grab the drink bottles on the roadside but it was ok when my hand was just resting on the bars. By that stage, I started to give up a bit because I couldn’t see anyone and I had lost another minute when I crashed. Then Matt Burton caught up to me and we rode together for a wee bit… and then we caught up with Terenzo, the winner from the year before and I thought, ‘oh I’m not that far behind and I’m just going to do the best run I can’. I had trained so hard with my running because it has been my weakness for a long time, and I wanted to see if I had improved or not. I just thought I would go and do my best run and I just started passing people. When I got to the last lap I thought I could win, whereas when I first started the run, I thought I might just get 3rd if I’m lucky.
You won the 2019 Kellogg’s IRONMAN New Zealand. How did it feel to win in your home country?
It was pretty cool, I had a bunch of friends who live up on the north island who came and watched and I passed them just as I was coming up on the last straight… so about the last 2kms where it was just packed with people and I think everyone was expecting no-one to catch the American Guy. So when I came running through in first place, everyone was really excited. I guess I didn’t expect to win. It was my goal to win that race, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. To get the KONA™ Spot as well! And to win the run course record, especially coming from being a non-runner I guess… so to set a record and go on to win has been very cool for me.
What does the rest of the year look like for you?
I’ll probably do another 6 or 7 Half Ironman races and 2 full Ironman’s.
I usually spend the summer in Spain before heading to Kona.
Are there any Project Clothing items that you really love?
‘The Storm Jacket’ is great for the cold mornings in New Zealand. The lightweight puffer jackets are good too as they are easy to travel with and I am often travelling.