Sunday, June 8, 2014

Triple Threat Profile: Mike Espejo - Massachusetts

Mike Espejo is a former collegiate and semi-pro hockey player who now "eats, breathes, and sleeps triathlon." He has huge goals in the sport, and as a personal trainer is constantly helping others to reach their own. Boston deserves to be well represented on our national team, and Mr. Espejo doesn't disappoint!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

My background before triathlon was ice hockey. I’ve played since I was 4 or 5 years old. Growing up in the northeast that was the thing to do. I played throughout college and even a brief stint in a semi pro league. It was more like goon hockey (slapshot) then anything. After my hockey career was over I started running to stay in shape. I started like most people do, with a 5k, then I moved up to a half marathon. Some time after my half I was feelin gutsy and signed up for my first sprint triathlon in my home town. I bought a roadie off craigslist and did some breast stroke during my swim. After I finished I hung around for food and drinks. When they called my name for an award I was shocked. I had won my AG and I was hooked immediately. I would up doing 2 more sprints that summer and placed in both of them. I decided I would just roll with it and became this endurance junkie seeking his next high.

Has hockey helped you at all as a triathlete? Has it been hard to resist throwing down your water bottle and wailing on someone at a race?

If hockey has taught me anything it is my work ethic. I wasn’t very big when I played ice hockey. I was 5’7 165lb when I was playing hockey which isn’t big, but I was fast which helped. It has always been an uphill battle getting knocked off the puck or to gain possession. Same goes for triathlon. I am fairly new and I love to train. I always have something to improve and something new to look forward to each day/weekend I train. I try to leave the wailing on people to the water. It can be similar out there getting punched or kicked in the face. I’ve taken a few knuckles to the chin in my hockey career.

How would you sum up your 2013 season, and what was the highlight/lowlight?

2013 was a great year for me. I did my 1st Ironman (Lake Placid) which was a BLAST! It was my first “big” year of racing with more structure. I got a coach and he helped me plan a lot of my season. I hit a few PRs that year at the half Ironman and half marathon distances. Can’t think of any lows off the top of my head except a scare that I thought I had a stress fracture, which turned out to be nothing.

I know you recently stood on the podium at Bassman, congrats! What else is on tap for 2014 and what are your goals?

Thanks for that. I didn’t know I podiumed until the next day! I had a long drive back to Boston(6-7 hr with traffic) so me and my buddy left right when I finished. For this year I am making a run at Worlds at the 70.3 distance (held this year in Mt. Tremblant, Canada). I have Ironman 70.3 Syracuse as my “A” race this year, shooting for 4:30 but on that course and the skill level coming in it will be tough. I have Ironman 70.3 Racine on the schedule as well to hopefully snag a slot there if nothing pans out in Syracuse. Hoping for a one time deal and take it easy at Racine. I have the Philly Marathon in November, where I will hopefully qualify for Boston 2016. It’s a big year and hoping things will turn out for the best. I have been putting in the hours and the results will happen. If not this year than the next.

You’ve mentioned your future ambition of getting your pro card. What’s the driving source of motivation for that goal?

Yes eventually I would love to get my pro card and race with the pros. I always have done things full on 100% or I don’t do it at all. I worked my butt off through college to play a few games with a pro team for half a season. I loved every second of it. I set goals that I think are attainable. I have always looked at the pros in any sport and they love what they do. I love what I do, training and racing. It’s an awesome way to see the world. My motivation is people telling me I can’t. I know it sounds cliché but have been told by many people it’s lofty and unattainable. That’s my motivation for getting up early, training hard and putting in the hours. I also LOVE to train a lot, have I mentioned that?

Rank the 3 disciplines from your personal strength to weakness. What is some gear you use for each?

Strongest would be the run, then swim, then bike. You would think after playing hockey for 20 years I’d have 8 cylinder legs, but I don’t and I have NO idea why! I always work harder on the bike in the offseason and have seen some gains. I have TOPO shoes I run in, they’re awesome naturalist shoes. I have been an ambassador with them for a few months promoting them around town, since they are local and just started up. Bike gear, I have a Cervelo P2, a flashy sick Triple Threat kit, Giro bucket helmet. And for the swim I rock the TYR Cat5 wetsuit, which I absolutely love.

In your application you wrote “I eat, breathe and sleep triathlon. My fiancé thinks I’m nuts, but aren’t we all if we’re doing races that can last 17hours??” Any progress on that front, or are you still officially nuts according to your fiancé? Do you have a date picked out to seal the deal?

She’s pretty crazy herself. She wanted to qualify for Boston and one of the last races she could do was in Santa Rosa, California. So she flew to CaliFriday night and stayed with her brother in SF. Drove to Santa Rosa Saturday, picked up her stuff, then went back to her brothers. Went back to Santa Rosa on Sunday morning, ran a Boston qualifying 3:30, drove to SF, took a red eye back to Boston and went to work for 8 hours on Monday. So yeah, she’s a bit crazy too! She admires all the training I do and she is actually signed up for her first half Ironman in August (Timberman). We do have a date,Oct 4, and it has been a fun and interesting few months. Looking forward to the day!

Can you tell us a bit about your day job, and what hobbies do you have outside of work and triathlon?

I am a personal trainer. I love what I do. I help others reach their goals and bring out their full potential. It is a very rewarding profession. Outside of triathlon I enjoy taking my pup to the dog park and just lounging. I enjoy traveling to, which is probably why I do triathlon. It is a great way to see different places.

What race atmosphere was more epic: the NYC Marathon with 30,000+ runners or Ironman Lake Placid?

It’s hard to say which one was better. I was severely under trained for NYC. I think I maxed out my mileage at 25mi for the week. My longest run going in was only 16mi. I underestimated the distance and paid for it big time after. The crowds were amazing though, it was never quiet. As for IMLP that was just an unbelievable experience. I was in great shape leading up to the race. I think IMLP wins the epic award. It was a long day but is my fondest memory to date in endurance sports.

What’s triathlon like in Boston, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?

Triathlon is really popular in Boston. The entire endurance community is huge up here. We have the Charles River to train on, as well as the Boston marathon course which is great to have in your backyard. Pros of living up here is the competitiveness of everyone. I remember when I was back in NY doing my first triathlon I won my AG in just over an hour for a sprint. I did a sprint in the Boston area later that summer and finished in the same time and was 10th in my AG. One of the cons that absolutely drives me nuts is the amount of traffic and stoplights around here. If you want to get any good riding in you have to go north to New Hampshire or west. Usually it takes 45min to get out of the city for a good bike ride and it is usually a huge process doing so. That’s the only negative I see. I typically just ride the trainer on shorter rides and make longer weekends to go somewhere.

Lastly, enjoy this rare footage of Mike's former hockey coach... that, my friends, is an inspirational leader!

Triple Threat Triathlon - National Team interview archives:

No comments:

Post a Comment