Never, Ever, Give Up!

December 13, 2016

Mike Ricci


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I quit triathlon on Tuesday.

On Saturday, I raced to see if I actually enjoyed the racing or if it was the training that was getting me down or everything else in life that was just too much. What I learned, is the following, in probably too many words. Let’s start from the beginning:

I did my first race in 1988. Before aero bars, transition racks and energy gels. I raced in a speedo for a long time as there were no ‘tri shorts’ or race uniforms. I guess what I’m saying is, ‘I’m old’.

For many years, like 25 to be exact, I didn’t get injured. Last year I endured six months of a calf injury. I rallied at the end of the season and did a decent Half Ironman in Tempe, AZ. I was 2nd age group with a 4:54 on limited training and decent fitness. I was motivated for 2015. Then I ran into a non-training injury and that’s been on going for six months now as well. I have great weeks, I have weeks where I don’t do anything. Running has been consistent, somewhat. Swimming has been on average once every 10 days for about 1500-2000 yards. I usually get in and try to swim 200s hard. I probably ride my bike once or twice a week. I’m a long way from being fit in the pool or the bike or the run.

On Tuesday, I ran to the track to do a few 800s. I felt tired, not fueled properly and even the warm up was just plain old work. I ran a few drills, did some strides. I ran my first 800 at a pace that was way off goal pace. I stopped my watch. I picked up my water bottle and I walked home. When I got home, I took my bike out of my office and tucked it away in the basement, where I wouldn’t see it for a few months. After my shower, I looked for a t-shirt that had nothing to do with triathlon – that was hard – but I found one. I quit triathlon. Done. Finished. Whatever.

Then I went on my day ‚Äì talking to my athletes, writing training plans, working on articles and all the stuff a coach does throughout the course of a day. The next day I ran for a while. I don‚Äôt know how fast or how far. I decided I would skip using a watch. On Thursday I walked for an hour. On Friday I got up early and ran for about an hour or so (once again no watch), but I felt good and decided if I really don‚Äôt want to race anymore I should do a local race to see what it feels like when someone passes me;  will I have the ‚ÄòHave a great race, I don‚Äôt give a care‚Äô attitude, or will I want to pass them back and ‚Äòrip their legs off ‚Äò attitude? I was interested to know the answer to the question, ‚ÄòDo I still care?‚Äô

I emailed the race director of the Loveland Lake to Lake Race, Peggy Shockley, to see if I could still sign up. I figured she’s busy, she won’t get back to me and I’ll have an out. I needed to sign up in person, as the online sign up had already passed. She emailed me back in about 2 minutes and said, “Come on up and sign up today”. Ok – well, I thought, ‘I have a few phone calls scheduled and my daughter had a softball game. And I should probably squeeze in a quick swim.’ And I did – 4×200. They were all about 2:50, so not terrible, but not easy. I realized I could do one phone call on the way to Loveland to sign up and be back in Boulder to meet with my 4pm Skype appointment and make my daughter’s 5:45pm game. Hmm…this might work out.

So, I drove to Loveland, signed up and got home in time for my 4pm Skype call. Then I put my race wheels on my bike, but I had trouble with the brakes rubbing, but figured that out quickly and was off to my daughter‚Äôs game. My wife texts me as I‚Äôm about to make the 8 mile ride to the game, that the game is at the field near our house ‚Äìliterally 1.5 miles. So, I mounted my bike and rolled downhill to the game. I ended up riding 6 minutes.  We ended up hanging around post game, had a picnic with the kids, and it was dark when we left. I didn‚Äôt end up biking any more. ‚ÄòOh well‚Äô, I thought, ‚ÄòI hope the brakes don‚Äôt rub tomorrow.‚Äô

I made my way to the race on Saturday hoping not to embarrass myself and hoping to have some passion for racing. I decided to race without watch for the first time. I didn’t want any pressure on times – I just wanted to enjoy swimming, biking and running. If I could do that, then ‘mission accomplished’.

As soon as the gun went off on the swim, I saw two guys take off and I had no intention of trying to go with them. I ended up swimming with another guy for the entire swim – well he was swimming next to me every few minutes. He would drift off to the left for a few meters, then come back, whack me in the side and then go away again. He probably swam an extra 200m with this lack of navigation skills. I was absolutely cruising the swim, knowing that any more output would have me in the hurt locker.

We hit the beach together and I made my way up to T1. I mounted my bike quickly and was off. About 30 seconds into the bike, my swimmer friend went by me. He was lean, with big muscular calves that were just ripped. I was intimidated. I let him go, still sitting up, and wondering if I remembered how to pedal in the aero position. Luckily I did and I was able to stay with this guy. Later I passed him and felt strong and that I was moving pretty well. Just as my confidence was going up, he passed me back rather quickly and then I just decided to ride safely behind him, and to let him pace. I had a pretty bad pain in my lower abdomen at one point and had to stand up and apply pressure with my hand to see if I could get it to release. It seemed to do the trick and I was back in the aero position and ready to roll. But I looked up and this guy‚Äôs lead went from 10 seconds to about 40 pretty quickly. I put in a big surge on the biggest hill and figured I might as well go for it. I made a right hand turn and the guy was literally 100m in front of me.  I got excited that I could pass him back, and then also realized he had a motor bike escort, like he was leading the race or something. Wait? What!? This guy is leading the race? That makes me like, 2nd. Hmmm.

I decided to drop the hammer. I pushed hard for the next two miles and ended up passing this guy hard and put in another surge on a hill to see if I could drop him. When I looked back quickly, he was gone. I then had the normal doubts running through my head; “Well, you haven’t been training. And someone fitter than you is back there. And if they catch you, well, you won’t be able to stay with them”. But my good friend Will Murray has taught me a few mental tricks over the years. I decided to counter those negative thoughts with “I’ve been training since I was 19 years old. That counts for something. Sure the last 6 months have been terrible, but I can suffer enough to win today. I’ve got to give this my best shot.” I wasn’t going to let up, so I pedaled as hard as I could. Soon, both calves were cramping from the effort. I had to soft pedal for a bit and I was worried the 2nd place guy would catch me, but he never did. I ran into T2 feeling good like I pushed too hard on the bike and ready not ready to run. Bike file on Training Peaks:

I was about 400m out of T2 when both of my calves seized and I wondered if I would be able to finish. I walked a bit, stretched the calves and then started a quick walk into a jog, then to a run and then I was able to run normally again. I took a quick look back to see if anyone was behind me. I didn’t see anyone and I just started running as fast as I could. Now the doubts were something like “I bet I ran off course. There’s no way anyone hasn’t passed me yet.” With about a mile to go I was pretty gassed but I kept telling myself to just keep after it, keep the arms moving, keep the legs turning over. I was really going to regret not winning if I let up and if someone passed me in the last mile. I just didn’t want that to happen. As I passed spectators, I kept asking if anyone was behind me, and the answer I got was ‘there’s no one in sight’. They made me feel good, but not relaxed. It probably made me push harder. I got within 400m of the finish and I knew I’d be first across. It was pretty cool. I’ve been racing for 27 years and I’ve been 2nd plenty of times, 3rd more times than I can count and lots of top 5 overalls, but never have I actually won a race. Kind of crazy when I think about it. I’ve been in fantastic shape and I’ve been pummeled by faster, better athletes. Today, I show up full of doubts, wondering if I still cared, and very much out of shape and over weight. And. I. Won. Life is funny like that. (Sometimes you just have to show up!)

Loveland 2015 FTW

The one thing I realized that even though I‚Äôm in my worst possible shape, and I was very close to taking the year off, you shouldn‚Äôt ever give up.  When you are at the darkest point is when you are closest to the light. You just have to believe in yourself and give it your best. There are no regrets if you try your hardest and you don‚Äôt reach your goals. But there‚Äôs plenty of regret when you go after a goal with a ¬Ω or even 95% effort. The lesson here is to never, ever, give up. You never know when your best day is right there in front of you, or that long time goal is ready to be capitalized on. Who hasn‚Äôt been on a start line and hasn‚Äôt wanted to dream about winning a race? I‚Äôve dreamed about it for a long time. Strange how when you let go of things, the universe puts them right out in front of you to take. Like I said, life is funny like that.

And that is my story on how I quit triathlon on Tuesday and won my first race on Saturday. I’d say, my comeback is off to a good start.

Post script: Thanks to my loving wife who supports my crazy life, my kids who think I should win every race, all of our D3 coaches and D3 athletes for inspiring me with all your performances and advice as well. Special thanks to Guru and Kompetitive Edge for keeping me on the fastest custom bike out there. Also, Dr. Richie Hansen, Chris Grauch and Dr. Martina Young – you all keep this old guy put together. Thank you! You guys and gals all ROCK!

The cherry on the top was this article in the Loveland Reporter Herald 


Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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