Someone once told me, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” Lately it’s been, “Everywhere I go, there HE is.”
Over the last 5 weeks I’ve driven to Louisville, Wisconsin, and Chattanooga for Ironman. Once to compete, twice to spectate, and within minutes of arriving to these wonderful cities, a powerful voice of inspiration floods my ears.
As of Ironman Chattanooga 2014, Mike Reilly has announced 138 IRONMAN races and if you haven’t seen one, you have no idea how impressive that is. His voice rings in the air from 6 am until midnight and the pitch never waivers.
I didn’t make it to the Swim Start in Chattanooga, but Mike was there, pumping everyone up and calming nerves at the same time. When you nervously await the start, as an athlete or a spectator, his voice is omnipresent and the words always seem to be right.
I had a brief meeting with Mike at Louisville pre-race as I was noodling around near the sound board. I was about to walk into a furnace and Mike knew it. He likely knows more about IRONMAN than most. On this day I was trying to impart my strategy when Mike politely stopped me and simply said, “Take it easy out there and try to have fun.”
He was right, of course, but I didn’t listen. I went after the run like a dog in heat and it ate me alive.
Yesterday, he stood high above the crowd in Chattanooga as the last swimmer battled to get out of the water. He did everything in his power to help her get home.
It was one of those moments that stops you in your tracks. She was alone in the water, battling demons while hundreds watched her labor to reach shore.
“Keep going, we’re all here waiting for you!” “Doggy paddle if you have to, you can do it!,” said Reilly with a combination of compassion and the tenacity of a father.
His day started before sunrise and he was still going as I watched the live stream from my hotel room until 12:15 am. His energy and passion for what he loves was just as enjoyable to watch as the finisher. He danced, joked, shouted encouragement, and dished high fives as the last runners crossed the finish line.
At 12:16 the lights went out and Mike Reilly was gone from my sight, but his voice was ringing in my core. “You are an Ironman!”
People always ask me why I write about Ironman and travel around to races and I think the simple answer is, I love it. I love to surround myself with optimistic people who stop at nothing to push their limits, and Mike Reilly has certainly been a great representation of that lifestyle.
Here is Mike Reilly from this morning after handing my new buddy, Dave Richter his award and Kona slot.