Zenner Michael Danish talks Xterra, Ironman and why pointy helmets are dorky!

1. Mike, you are relatively new to triathlon. You did one Ironman and qualified for Ironman Hawaii and then went and finished Ironman Hawaii in 9:40. That’s a real feat. How did you get into the sport and accelerate so quickly?
For starters, I have always loved to ride a bike, so I have always had a decent bike to ride. It was usually a mountain bike that I would ride whenever I had a chance, but always very recreationally. I actually raced my first few triathlons in 2002 when I was going through Navy flight school in Pensacola, FL and had a good bit of time on my hands. I bought a Cervelo P1 and started riding it a bunch; it was my first bike with skinny tires. Triathlon back then was just a fun way to stay in shape for other sports I was doing, which at the time was kiteboarding. I did sign up for a half-ironman in Panama City in 2003. I didn’t train much for that event other then my normal workout routine of running about 4 miles a day, and swimming a mile or two at the local pool a couple of times a week. I went 5:16ish at that half-ironman and mostly I remember I was disappointed when was too tired to go kiteboarding later in the day when the surf and wind was good. I also remember looking back on it and generally being really disappointed I didn’t go under 5 hours, so I set triathlon aside so I could focus even more on kiteboarding which I was competing professionally at the time.
2. What’s your favorite thing about multisport training?
The great thing about triathlon is that I can obsess about it, and that it’s something my wife and I can train and participate in together. I like that when I eat, sleep or do just about anything, it has an impact on how fast I go the next time I line up to race. With everything I do in sport, I really like to go all in. In college I raced sailboats and I spent more time on the water in a week then in a classroom. After college I picked up kiteboarding and I really enjoyed it. I lived in Texas which is one of three places in the United States you can train for 3 or 4 hours a day every day. Kiteboarding and the weather conditions ruled my life back then (and work, but luckily it didn’t get windy until I got out of work), everything was focused on training and time on the water was dependant on the weather. If you think fitting in tri workouts is hard, imagine if you had to wait for the weather to be right to get them done! When work relocated me to Miami, the weather conditions didn’t allow me to work and keep riding at the level I wanted and I was coming off an injury. I got hit by a car in Texas on my bike commute home from work and tore my ACL. So, after urging from my wife who had already started riding bikes in Miami, I bought a road bike. When I rode my new bike in Miami I realized I still wasn’t very good, but I had an environment in which I could improve, so I started to ride my bike a lot. My obsession for riding bikes began.
3. You do very well at off road triathlons as well? Where did you learn to mountain bike so well and what is it you like about off road versus on road triathlon?
I have always loved my mountain bike. I grew up in upstate New York, and my only regret is I didn’t take more advantage of riding mountain bikes when I was kid. That said; I rode a lot as a kid. I also ski raced in high school. The faster I get on the mountain bike, the more it feels like skiing. The feeling of setting your edge skiing and hoping it holds is very similar to pushing down on your tires at speed and hoping they hold, and I find that really fun. Setting up for turns is also similar in mountain biking and on skis. Additionally, since I’m pretty lean, the mountain bike suits me a little better then road bike racing (especially in Miami). I also really like the element of skill that is added to mountain bike racing. I like a little bit of luck in sport, it keeps the game interesting, and I feel like there is more luck in getting it right on a mountain bike then in a time trial on the road. Finally, like everyone else who spends time racing the dirt, I also really like the friendly vibe of off-road triathlon and mountain bike racing. I raced Xterra Richmond the other day and had the opportunity to chat with Conrad Stoltz for a while, he’s the World Champion and really friendly, and that’s pretty awesome.
4. You are a pilot with the US Coast Guard. Tell us a bit about your job and how does it fit in with the multisport lifestyle?
Life as a Coast Guard Pilot can be pretty busy, but it also has a good bit of flexibility. Years ago, as a junior pilot, my job was mostly to fly. I flew 3 times a week and spent overnight ready alert Search and Rescue & Law Enforcement duty once or twice a week. That schedule gave me a lot of time to kiteboard. Now at work I fly once a week and spend most of my time managing the 100 technicians and aircrew that work for me to maintain and fly as aircrew aboard Coast Guard aircraft. My job is pretty close to a 7am-5pm gig outside of the occasional weekend test flight, so it allows me to get me triathlon “work” done. The Coast Guard has also provided me some incredible opportunities to attend races and events in all the sports I have done over the years. This year I am hoping to be selected as the Coast Guard military athlete and race the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona. I’ll find out in July.
5. What goals do you have for 2012? Either personal or in sport.
Well I just finished a great spring of mountain bike and off road triathlon racing including 3rd in my Age Group at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and 1st in my age group at the Xterra East Coast Championships. I have a few endurance mountain bike races lined up for this summer including the Off-Road Assault on Mt Mitchell (ORAMM) and then I am headed to Colorado to test how I perform at altitude at the Leadville Trial 100 (it was my wife’s idea). After Leadville things are up in the air a bit, I am hoping to go back to Kona and clean up some unfinished business on the Queen K, but if the Coast Guard doesn’t select me, I’ll have to develop a new plan. In August I start Business School full time at the University of Miami, which should be a great change of pace.
Read more about Mike’s BodyZen training and adventures here: http://mikedanishracing.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/i-hate-aero-helmets/

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