Mark Miller: A Magical Place
Mark Miller sits with us in Kona and shares his four year journey to qualify for the World Championship for the first time. After taking a year off he details his journey back to fitness and his efforts to re-qualify for Kona with help from his coach Zach Ruble
Mark Miller: A Magical Place
1:50 What made you want to cme back to Kona for the 2nd time?
2:30 What draws you to Kona the most?
04:10 Suffering on the Queen K
04:30 Mark’s Role Models
06:30 Taking a mental break after 2012 World Championship
07:30 The coaching buildup to 2016 qualification, how it differed from his first 4 years of training
08:50 Key workout … Hammer Session
09:40 Solo training & Mental training for Ironman
10:15 Mark’s father’s influence on his first 5k events and his training in general
About this Episode
Mark is the son of Floyd Miller who we interviewed in Episode One. I met the whole family on the patio of the King Kamehameha hotel during Race week in 2014. This interview has never been released and is an enjoyable discussion that conveys the energy in those days before athletes line up at the pier for the World Championship.
I caught up with Mark recently to see what he’s been doing since this last World Championship. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:
I haven’t raced since 2016. I did IM Florida in 2015 and then followed that up with a 100 mile trail run in April 2016 to check that off my bucket list. That wrecked my body literally. Haven’t had the ability to train with any intensity or endurance since that point.
Now I simply run and exercise for fitness, fun and therapy.
Here’s are a few photos of Mark and his dad Floyd together.
Mark & Floyd Miller at the start of Ironman Louisville, 2014
Mark crosses the finish line at the Indiana trail 100 in May of 2016
Mark and Floyd together in Israel in April of 2018
Episode 2: Transcript
Suzanne A: 00:04 Hi, this is Suzanne Atkinson with Tri 2 Listen, the podcast for curious triathletes. Each episode features an interview with an athlete, coach, or scientist who’s passion lies in triathlon. It’s my job to uncover their story.
Suzanne A: 00:16 In this episode, we’ll be talking to Mark Miller, the son of Floyd Miller who we interviewed in episode one. The whole family was in KONA for the 2016 world championships for the Ironman. When I was introduced to Floyd by his wife who overheard an interview that I did with Joe Friel, I was very curious to get the whole family together. And so I found Mark. His mother tracked him down and he came over to the restaurant where we were sitting and sat down with me for about 15 minutes.
Suzanne A: 00:52 I hope you enjoy this interview. It’s short and sweet. It’s a nice listen to a young man who’s been working hard with his triathlon skills and was able to come back to KONA for the second time. Enjoy the listen.
Suzanne A: 01:11 I’m talking now with Mark Miller. We’re here at KONA sitting next to the beach, and it’s Wednesday. The race is in three days. But thanks for joining me, Mark.
Mark Miller: 01:20 Thank you. Glad to be here. Thank you.
Suzanne A: 01:23 Where are you from, Mark?
Mark Miller: 01:24 I am from Kendallville, Indiana. So the Midwest.
Suzanne A: 01:26 Uh huh. Did you grow up in Indiana?
Mark Miller: 01:28 I did. I lived my whole life in Indiana. We moved around a little bit, but stayed mostly in northern Indiana.
Suzanne A: 01:34 Okay. And you’re here this week to do what?
Mark Miller: 01:36 Race KONA. Yeah.
Suzanne A: 01:37 All right!
Mark Miller: 01:38 Same thing as another two thousand athletes, I think.
Suzanne A: 01:40 Yeah. You and two thousand of your best friends.
Mark Miller: 01:42 Right.
Suzanne A: 01:42 1,999 best friends.
Mark Miller: 01:44 Yes.
Suzanne A: 01:45 And this is your second trip to KONA, right?
Mark Miller: 01:46 It is, yes.
Suzanne A: 01:47 What made you want to come back?
Mark Miller: 01:49 Well, I was here in 2012 and I think the goal was to always do this race. Once I finally achieved that, and came and accomplished that, it was just kind of almost a … obviously a life dream, I guess, in this point in my life. I was very much satisfied.
Mark Miller: 02:08 I think the drive to do the race again came probably maybe four months after doing it the first time. Once the honeymoon type of thing goes away, you kind of just want to come back. It kind of calms down again, and you think, “Gosh, I want to do something big again.” And what’s bigger than KONA? So, I think … Yeah, go ahead.
Suzanne A: 02:31 What is some of the things about KONA that just has that draw for you?
Mark Miller: 02:34 I think it’s probably just the biggest thing that you can do in this work that we’re in. I mean, obviously this has been used a lot. But it’s like the world series of triathlon and endurance triathlon. If you’re in love with this sport … I am, obviously. And many others are.
Mark Miller: 02:51 This is just the race that people look at. They see it on TV. They just dream of doing this event.
Suzanne A: 02:59 Yeah. And how about for you? Was there one particular aspect that made you want to come back, or was it a package of things?
Mark Miller: 03:06 It was definitely a package of things. You know, I’m the kind of guy that I think … for one thing, I like to race in the heat.
Suzanne A: 03:12 Oh, interesting.
Mark Miller: 03:13 I feel like I do better maybe in the heat than others do, so it gives me a better chance maybe. But I think just the … when I was here the last time in 2012, it’s such a magical place. The energy. I wish you could bottle the energy that’s here race week. It’s just incredible. And it’s the type of thing that you think about every day after you do the race. You just wish you could have a rewind button, and go back and put yourself on the Queen K again. Or swimming with the fish out there.
Mark Miller: 03:46 It’s just one of those things that you just wish you could repeat.
Suzanne A: 03:49 Yeah. So the actual experience of race day itself is really meaningful to you?
Mark Miller: 03:54 Phenomenal. Yeah. It’s so surreal. You get in the water just like you watch on television, and you swim out to the starting line, and you look back at the spectators and you think, “Gosh, I’m here. I’m doing this.”
Mark Miller: 04:05 It does get a little … you do suffer a little bit out there on the bike and on the run. But you just constantly remind yourself, “What? I’m in KONA. Enjoy this.” And in a month from now, I’m going to look back at this and say, “Why can’t I do that again?”
Mark Miller: 04:19 And so I just tried to mentally tell myself, “Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about the pain you’re going through and just enjoy this, because you’re going to wish that you could relive it again sometime.”
Suzanne A: 04:30 Do you have any triathlon role models? Anyone that you look to for inspiration?
Mark Miller: 04:35 You know … I mean, there’s so many role models out there right now. I mean, there’s a lot of people that are doing a lot of good for the sport right now. I would say probably … the person that I think I admire a lot right now is Craig Alexander. He’s such a … He’s a … Choose my words correctly here.
Mark Miller: 04:54 You know, he’s getting older in the sport. He’s done already so much for the sport. He’s a great example of an athlete. A good, true, honest athlete. And he continues to come back, and give back, and sit down with athletes, and talk to athletes, and things like that. He’s done some great things as far as just training and his racing obviously.
Mark Miller: 05:18 And so I think … You know, there’s obviously people that are here that are just as good a role model. I think he’s probably one guy that I look that that I admire a lot.
Suzanne A: 05:28 Yeah. You said that after you did the race in 2012, you took a full year off of training. Tell us what that was like, and what did that do for you mentally and physically?
Mark Miller: 05:37 Yeah. So my buildup to kind of qualifying in 2012 was about three years of solid training and racing. You know, I tried to qualify into those three years and missed. And then on the third year, finally qualified for KONA. So I did KONA in 2012, and it was just a … it was a …
Mark Miller: 05:57 After the second and third year of that trying, and the racing, and the letdown of not getting there, and then finally doing it, it was just … I needed a break from racing and from training also. It’s a hard sport. It’s hard on your body. I think mentally, you just need that time off.
Mark Miller: 06:18 I got to tell you, that year that I took off was great for my mind, and my body, and my family. There was just so many positive things from being away from the every day training type of a thing and striving for that ‘gotta do KONA thing.’ So it was a great break. Did my mind and my body a lot of good.
Suzanne A: 06:41 And then when you started back up training … you said you’re working with a coach?
Mark Miller: 06:44 Yes, I do work with a coach.
Suzanne A: 06:46 So you called him up and said, “Hey coach, I’ve got a year. Get me back.”
Mark Miller: 06:47 Yeah. You know, I said, “I think I want to start racing again.” And he said, “Good. Well, let’s get started.”
Mark Miller: 06:52 And I said, “Okay, but I want to try and go for KONA again this year.” And I knew taking a year off I’m starting kind of from scratch. He said, “Okay, great.” And I kind of think maybe he thought under his breath, “Okay, yeah. Let’s think realistically here.”
Mark Miller: 07:10 But he’s a great guy. A great coach. I wish I could give him-
Suzanne A: 07:14 What’s his name?
Mark Miller: 07:15 [00:07:15 Zach Rubel].
Suzanne A: 07:16 Okay.
Mark Miller: 07:16 Professional triathlete himself. But I’ve been coached by him for … well, during my three years up to KONA last time. He just knows me well enough and what I can take. And he does a fabulous job prepping you, training you, and then even race week leading up to it. How to taper you and things like that. So he’s done a great job.
Suzanne A: 07:37 What are some of the things that you did over the past year to qualify that were lessons learned from your first bout?
Mark Miller: 07:44 I think probably … what he kind of felt like with me was the fitness … even though I took a year off, the fitness would come back quickly. And I think the differences of this year’s training versus before, I think, was maybe … The key workouts that we would do, the intense workouts, the long key workouts that we would do, we would do those fewer times and with more recovery in between.
Mark Miller: 08:09 So maybe we wouldn’t do as much volume with those workouts and we’d have good recovery time between times. And it worked great, actually. It was easier on me mentally because I know knowing getting back into training again, and this buildup … that was one thing I kind of almost dreaded was those workouts.
Suzanne A: 08:28 Yeah. You mean you dreaded the long workouts, or you dreaded the intensity?
Mark Miller: 08:32 Both. You know, those hurt. Those workouts hurt.
Suzanne A: 08:35 Yeah.
Mark Miller: 08:35 And so … you know, you kind of know what you’re getting into with those. It’s one of those things where you’re reluctant. “Do I really want to do this again?” But yeah. If you want to get to KONA like I did, you just know you got to do them.
Suzanne A: 08:47 Yeah. Worked for you last time and it worked again.
Mark Miller: 08:49 Absolutely.
Suzanne A: 08:50 Can you give us an example of one of those workouts?
Mark Miller: 08:51 One of the key workouts he would do would be a … it’s kind of a test. We call them a four hour hammer session. Basically, you get on your bike, you warm up for five or 10 minutes, and then you just hammer it on the trainer for four, four and a half hours.
Mark Miller: 09:09 I mean, it’s a brain buster. It’s difficult to produce that type of an effort on a copy trainer. And you’re looking at your watts, you’re trying to go for your best effort on the trainer. And when you’re done, you just basically fall off that bike. It’s really … it’s a hard session. And it’s a long session.
Mark Miller: 09:30 They’re ones that you get done with it, and then the next day you dread next week because there’s going to be another one.
Suzanne A: 09:35 ‘Cause it’ll be another one? Yeah.
Mark Miller: 09:36 Yeah, so …
Suzanne A: 09:36 I imagine that gives you some mental performance aspects as well.
Mark Miller: 09:41 Yeah. I train alone most of the time, and I don’t listen to an iPod when I train. I try to resemble racing as much as possible. So if I’m on the trainer, I usually don’t listen to music. If I’m out running long runs or something like that, I usually try not to listen to an iPod. I try to do those workouts alone because-
Suzanne A: 10:01 Because you’re going to be alone in the race.
Mark Miller: 10:03 That’s the way it’s going to be.
Suzanne A: 10:05 Yeah, great. I had the chance to talk with your dad earlier. His version of the story is that the two of you started running together when you were about five or six.
Mark Miller: 10:14 Yeah, yeah.
Suzanne A: 10:15 You did your first 5K.
Mark Miller: 10:15 Yeah. First 5K. My memory of it realistically is probably when I was eight years old. Maybe it was because that was when I started entering races and being more competitive as an eight year old. And so … but yeah. I think I started running with him technically when I was younger than that.
Mark Miller: 10:35 He’s the guy that got me into running. It’s always been a love of mine. I didn’t get into triathlons until after I was out of college and kind of looking for something different to do. But I’ve always been a runner and that’s my favorite event of the triathlon.
Suzanne A: 10:50 Do you think you’ll ever be able to get your dad to do a triathlon with you?
Mark Miller: 10:54 I try. Yeah, I try. I think he would love to do one. I think probably like most people getting into this sport, if you don’t have a history with swimming … it’s probably the thing you fear most. And so I think that’s probably his holdup in doing one is just the swimming aspect of it. But I think he’d love to be able to do one.
Suzanne A: 11:12 Yeah. Well, I encouraged him to think about it since … maybe he’s transitioning away from traveling so much for his marathons.
Mark Miller: 11:21 Yeah.
Suzanne A: 11:21 It’s a great father-son connection you guys have.
Mark Miller: 11:24 He’s been all over the world with running and marathons in the seven continents, and all that. He’s definitely got the running down. I know he could do the biking and I keep trying to encourage him to give it the pool and, “Just learn how to swim and you’ll be fine.”
Suzanne A: 11:38 I gave him a business card of mine. Swimming is my specialty, so-
Mark Miller: 11:42 Oh, nice. Yeah. Well, there you go. It’s a good start.
Suzanne A: 11:44 We’ll get him hooked up. Maybe the two of you can be here together some year.
Mark Miller: 11:50 That would be great.
Suzanne A: 11:50 Great. Well, thanks for joining me. Appreciate it.
Mark Miller: 11:50 Yeah. Thank you very much.
Suzanne A: 12:02 Thanks for tuning in today. Our interviews are uninterrupted and ad-free. So if you’d like to help support the show, you can head over to our website, tri2listen.com. That’s T-R-I, the number two, the word ‘listen’ dot com. Or you could go to the Patreon site. Both of those are linked in the show description.
Suzanne A: 12:20 We appreciate any support and we appreciate any feedback you have on the show. I hope you’ll join us for our next interview in episode three with Joe Friel. I interviewed Joe Friel the week before the 2016 Ironman World Championships in KONA. So while the interview itself is a few years old, I think the information is timeless.
Suzanne A: 12:40 I had an opportunity to pick his brain about how he does the research for all the books that he’s published. If you’re not familiar with Joe Friel’s series of books … well, then you probably haven’t been a triathlete for very long.
Suzanne A: 12:54 He’s written ‘The Training Bible’ series with books about cycling training, mountain bike training, triathlon training. He’s updated his original books with the latest scientific evidence. And his most recent book is about being fast after 50. I think you’ll really enjoy his insights and the methodology that he uses to keep himself up to date so that he can publish these books for people like you and I.
Suzanne A: 13:18 Finally, one of the best things that you can do for us is leave us a great review on iTunes and share this podcast with your friends and any triathletes that you know.
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