Ironman taking on the world for the first time

KEEN: Mike Phillips, professional tri-athlete who is heading to the world champs in Hawai'i.

Mike Phillips is ready for his biggest challenge yet – the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

The Mt Pleasant athlete left on Sunday to allow himself three weeks to acclimatise and scout the track ahead of the October 13 event. He qualified for the championships after taking home silver at Ironman Barcelona in October, his first ever ironman event.

He finished the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42km run at Barcelona in 7hr 52min 50sec, making him the second fastest Kiwi ironman ever.

However, the Hawaii course looks “brutal”, Phillips said.

It includes an ocean swim and a coastal cycle track against severe wind and baking sunshine before finishing with a run through a lava field.

“Apparently there’s lava on either side of the track. You’ve got to experience it to know what it’s like.”

He said he believes he will be able to finish in the top 10 if he has a good day.

“It would be cool to have a podium finish, but in your first year it’s probably a bit hard.”

Phillips has spent the last two years as a professional triathlete after leaving his job as a structural engineer to pursue the sport.

“I’m not sure how long the body will hold out so I’ll make the most of it.”

As a professional, Phillips has competed in more than 10 events each year, most of them overseas, with prize money providing enough income to keep him going.

The transient lifestyle could be “a bit of a tax”, he said. But he formed a group of friends who he regularly competes against.

“You can actually make some quite good friendships at the events.” He trains for a
minimum of 30 hours every week, swimming 25km, running 100km and cycling 500km.

The transition from training as an amateur to training as a professional has not been a”huge jump” as he now has more time for recovery, he said.

“Even after a day at work you’re pretty tired and I
found I was getting sick
more and injuring myself more when I was training and working.”