Mike caught up with Phil Wrochna from firstoffthebike.com to talk about his love for announcing and his experiences behind the microphone at races. See the full article at http://firstoffthebike.com/triathletes/triathlon-interviews/behind-the-mic-mike-reilly/
He’s the global voice we all know at many ironman races. Mike Reilly is as chilled away from the mic as he is on it. A genuine man with a love for the Ironman community Mike is always fun to talk to about the thing he does best, calling Ironman.
What was your pathway to commentary?
I didn’t really have a pathway to getting on the microphone at endurance events, it more or less just happened. I liked to public speak and was always attending groups like professional toastmasters to keep developing the craft. Plus when you public speak you can’t suck, there is no second take like on TV, you have to nail it the first time. When I was injured not able to run a 10k race here in San Diego (was an avid runner) in the late 70’s I still attended to watch friends. Low and behold the race director saw me and said since you’re not running get on the microphone and call everyone to the finish. Seeing the reaction of people finishing when I called their names and told them they were winners was very special, it sealed the deal for me!
What do you love about it?
I love everything about it, the preparation, the travel, seeing old friends, visiting places people dream about, being with the athletes and watching them achieve their dreams, and then being a part of a finish line party that lasts into the night. How can you not love that!
What do you hate about it?
I don’t hate anything. One thing I don’t like is a finisher sprinting down the chute that blocks someone else’s finish, especially that testosterone filled guy that sprints in front of a female finisher.
At hour 15 how hard is it to find your happy place?
The happy place is easy to find at 15 hours, its at about the 12 to 13 hour mark it is tougher. A lot of the crowd thins out to go to eat then come back. Plus sometimes in my head I’ll go okay we have 6 more hours to go which is stupid to do. So my goal is to just go hour by hour and treat each hour like it is my last and always remember the athlete is hearing us at the finish line for the first time, make it count!
What has been the weirdest thing you have ever seen whilst calling a race ?
People always ask me that but not one particular thing quickly comes to mind. I do remember an Ironman finisher carrying a little dog across the line! Speaking of dogs, at Ironman Arizona a few years ago a Border Collie came running down the chute all by himself like he owned the finish line, there was no one finishing just the dog. So I called Bow Wow an IronDog, the crew put a medal around his neck and draped a T-shirt over him. I said now that finisher had a tough day and looked like a dog, it got a few laughs.
I also had a male finisher coming down the chute and just before the finish turned around. I could tell the dude was about to pull his pants down and moon everyone, so very loud on the speaker system I said if you do it you’ll be DQ’d for life (which was BS but had to stop him somehow)! He froze and you could tell he thought about it, but luckily he didn’t do it and turned around and ran in.
What has brought you a lot of emotion during an event?
My emotion during an event is always up. But when a finisher comes in that I am close to like a friend or relative or a person where I know their story of struggle just getting to the start line let alone the finish – it raises my emotion every time.
Top 3 athletes you have ever seen from the comms tower?
Wow only 3 that is a tough question. I never got to call in Dave Scott as a winner but bringing him in at 2nd place in 1994 at 40 yrs old was amazing. Paula Newby Fraser was always and still is my top when it comes to finishes, she every year gave more than the year before. Watching Greg Welch be the first non-American to win Kona was actually very special, all of us close to the sport knew that would open up the world’s door to Kona, which it did. Another one was Chrissie Wellington’s first Kona win in 2007. No one really knew who she was and she destroyed an amazing field.
Do finish chute marriage proposals make you cringe?
Ha ha asking that question they must make you cringe! I like them especially if they don’t interfere with other finishers. Most of them are done behind the finish which is great but some are done before finish. It is actually fun to watch (usually the woman) reaction when the sweaty guy gets on his knees. You get every reaction from WTF are you doing to laughing hysterically. I’ve never had anyone say No yet but have had a few hesitations, which makes for a good tense moment.
Thanks Phil for asking me to be a part of this.