Dave Mirra has been in triathlon for 2.5 years and looks now at Ironman Lake Placid to get to Kona. I chatted with him last week about training, racing, qualifying for the big day, gear and cars. During the visit I also shot a Day In The Life Of Dave Mirra gallery which has been published already.
Slowtwitch: Well Dave, it is good to hang out.
Dave Mirra: Thank you Herbert.
ST: How is your training going?
Dave: Training is going good. It is really starting to turn up a little bit and I am starting to realize that you really have to rest and recover to the fullest. It is definitely pretty crazy, and the workload difference between a full and a half - I am really starting to feel it. I am feeling worn out and maybe I have to adjust my lifestyle a little bit. For example tightening down on the sleep time.
ST: Your next event is 70.3 Raleigh. Is that an important prep event for what is ahead?
Dave: Well, I want to have a great race for sure and Cliff has got me me train for Lake Placid and Raleigh right now. So I kind of feel it is kind of cool to step up the mileage especially on the run and then see if I will be less intimidated - and if I could go faster than last year I would love it. But I know my real focus is Lake Placid.
ST: With Cliff I assume you are talking about Cliff English. When did that start?
Dave: It started the end of last year. I went out to Kona and we met. I had a few other people I was talking too, but then went with Cliff. We followed back up after Kona and talked, and looking into his resume in terms of the people he has coached I felt it was a good decision and I am very, very happy. He is putting together really good workouts for me to progress, especially in my running and swimming.
ST: Did he pick Lake Placid for you, or did you want to do that race?
Dave: No, that was my pick. It was the first Ironman or triathlon in general I ever went to, and so it was a bit of an emotional decision with that one. It is a tough course and I know that, and it is kind of scary for that reason, but I am willing to take a chance.
ST: What is left for you to do between now and Raleigh?
Dave: A lot of training, but I just got a phone call that I have to go to Barcelona [Spain] for a couple of days to drive some rally cars and do some rally cross. It is the opening celebration for the 2015 European rally cross season. I am over there with the MINI team just to give some media rides and hang out, and stuff like that. We don’t have budgets figured out for this season, but with Lake Placid coming up I am kind of glad [the budget is not ready], as I would not be able to race and do Lake Placid, and I have committed to Lake Placid. It is a goal of mine and I want to go through with it. I may do one race in Germany in the beginning of May, and if I do that, it is a couple days off. Basically 4 days at a time and I still can go run and get stuff done. That is a little bit of a kink in the schedule but I would not do it if it was hurting me.
ST: What are Cliff’s thoughts along those lines?
Dave: He said, ”Cool man, that is a great opportunity. Let us work around it.”
ST: And maybe a schedule should not be too rigid.
Dave: I agree. Every athlete, be it a pro or an age grouper, has things come up, and I would regret it if I would not take up this opportunity. The coolest thing is I get to go over there and have another shot to ride that MINI Cooper that I raced in Charlotte in 2013 I guess.
ST: Is this one faster as far as you know?
Dave: I think they did build another one, a little bit lighter and a little bit quicker. The car is really amazing.
ST: Talk about where you are running wise.
Dave: I got up to 16 miles last Sunday, and then 3 in the afternoon, so basically 19 in a day. It felt awesome and I enjoyed the process I started to hurt a little bit maybe around 12 or 13, but stuck with the pace. It was solid. There are not a lot of big hills in this town, but there is a course that Bruce Richter or maybe even some before him staked out and it has a good mixed bag of spiky hills, so you have a little work to do. It isn’t like Lake Placid, but it is hills to work with.
ST: It should get you ready for it though.
Dave: Yeah, I say do your homework and the test will be easy.
ST: The area where you live is indeed reasonably flat, so really hilly terrain is not easy to duplicate.
Dave: It is not, but I am going to spend some time in Syracuse and then in Placid before the race. I will go up in June and train with my buddy Eric Hinman and we will probably make a trip to Placid one or two times and then go back for the race.
ST: So you have been doing this triathlon thing for about 2.5 years?
Dave: Yeah, I started training at the end of 2012, so this would be my third season.
ST: Your cycling was impressive right away, but where are you now in terms of swimming and running if you had to ad a percentage to it.
Dave: You know, I have gotten a lot better. My swim has come full circle. I had a little glitch last week where I felt that I slowed down, but I was also putting in a lot of running and bike miles. Cliff was very positive about that and told me that it is natural to be slower in the pool when you have got tired legs. I am however still learning technique that works and feels right, and today at the pool it was wow, I am back at the 1:30 pace. The best I had done was 3,000 yards at 1:30 pace and if I could swim 1:30, I would take it. That is good enough for me.
ST: What about the run?
Dave: The 16 miles I did was at a 7:17 pace, and a heart rate of around 156 and that wasn’t too bad. I was very psyched about that. But that is not my goal for Lake Placid by any means. If I could run sub-8 there for the marathon I would be very pleased. I am going to be very patient, and that is at least the plan.
ST: I guess the plan or goal is to qualify for Kona?
Dave: Yes, but it will be tough. When I once spoke about bad weather and thus training on the rollers, my old coach said look at it this way Dave, top 7 in Lake Placid aren’t skipping out on a ride. I said yes, you are right. Main thing will be to just get through the swim without working too much, and swim a pace I can handle, and the bike comfortably. Basically find every hill and gain momentum.
ST: Do you consider yourself patient on the bike? And is that because you are more confident?
Dave: I have done some very hard 70.3 races, and the one where I tested was Eagleman 70.3 last year. And I did not even plan on running, as I had done 70.3 Raleigh the weekend prior, and did pretty good. I was happy and ran a 7:08 pace which was my 2nd best next to Galveston 70.3 but a little hillier and I was happy with it. I bike a 2:22 and the year prior I had done a 2:15, but ran an 8:06 pace. Basically wasted a minute a mile during the run after that. So I took the bike back and it was good to do that. But the week after Raleigh I wasn’t even sore, and I thought maybe I hadn’t pushing hard enough. So I decided to do Eagleman, and push the bike really hard. It was a non-wetsuit swim and it wasn’t anything great, but then I rode a 2:10 bike split and ran out 1.5 miles and 1.5 miles back at 6:30 pace, and I felt great, but because RAAM [Race Across America] was coming up the next week, I just could not run the whole event, otherwise my team mates would have hated me. But it was a good test and I now know there is a difference between biking hard and blowing it out where you just can’t run afterwards.
ST: You checked out Kona last year, so I guess you know what it is all about.
Dave: I went 2 years now. I went in 2013 when Bruce [Richter] and Eric [Hinman] raced and brought the family out. This year  Leslie from Cervelo told me that if I flew out I could stay at the house. Eric was racing again, so I went out this time the same time Eric went out there, about 1.5 weeks prior and got to really experience what Kona is like before the race. It did not do that the first time with the family. We came in on Thursday and left on Monday. So this time it was pretty rad to swim a little bit etc, but mainly I would just sit on that big seawall and just watch people swimming and just taking it in. I am just as much a fan as I am a competitor, and I have no problem just watching. There some races I would rather watch than race, and Kona last year was so hot I was actually pretty happy to be watching.
ST: Talking about watching, did you feel out of shape watching all these very lean athletes in Kona?
Dave: The competitors there versus other Ironman races are just really ripped. It is crazy.
ST: Is it Kona or bust a Lake Placid, or it is what it is?
Dave: It is what it is. Ellie at Ironman asked if I wanted to race if I did not make it, and I said no and she respected it and was cool with it. There are people who try forever and never make it. I qualified for 70.3 Worlds last year and when I was at the event I looked around and thought If I didn’t make it here on my own I wouldn’t want to be here racing. This is for people who made it and it is not just another race. It is the ultimate.
ST: Some people get in via the lottery.
Dave: Yeah, whichever way you got to do it, but I don’t feel that way. I am going to earn it. Maybe not this year, but I will put everything I got in it.
ST: You now have a red Cervelo P5 to join the custom black one here. So is a white one next?
Dave: I don’t know. I have a little goal aside from just being to race in Kona if I qualify in Lake Placid. If I do there is a possibility for a new custom bike for Kona. So I have a little bonus there.
ST: Initially you rode a 54cm P5 but your current one is a 51cm. When did you make the switch?
Dave: I switched last year just after RAAM, and I did not really know the sizing. I was on [Speed] Concept before it and when I bought it I was at the Phoenix airport and Google searched the tri shops in San Diego because that is where I was headed and Nytro came up. And I called them and said “do you have a P5-6 Di2 in a size 54cm?” and they told me “yup, we got one.” I then told them I would be there in a couple hours. Flew in and went straight to the shop and got it and had it shipped to Syracuse Bike. But I did not really think, I thought a 51cm would be too small. Just did not know the sizing, fit myself on it and I liked it and it was good, but I am definitely liking the 51cm better. I may put some 10mm spacers under the arm pads for the full, but I have ridden 100-mile rides on the 51cm and so I am not too worried about it.
ST: You do have a road bike too, but seem to do most of your rides on the TT bike.
Dave: I do. I is pretty flat around here, and even on the rollers, I like to train on what I race with. Whether it is on the rollers for 3 hours in the winter, or outside. I like to be on the bike and try to find my perfect stroke and the easiest way to go fast.
ST: You also wear your aero helmet when riding with friends. Are you just trying to be comfortable with it?
Dave: No, I just don’t like the way regular helmets look. I come from a sport where style is pretty important, and I like the way this Kask looks. It doesn’t really look like an aero helmet to me, and it looks a little like BMX helmet to me. [laughs] If I am going to spend $500 for a helmet then I am going to wear it all the time - same with aero wheels. People often wonder why I don’t ride on training wheels. So you think I am going to spend 3,000 – 3,500 and then just ride those wheels once a year? That does not make any sense to me. I would not buy a Ferrari and then take the wheels off because I am afraid I am going to break one. You are going to drive that car and when you break one you pay the price. That is my philosophy. And in all honesty, it is pretty windy around here and so what better to race in than something you are very comfortable with.
ST: Well good luck racing in Raleigh and Lake Placid. And here is wishing you to get that custom bike.
Dave: Yeah that would be great, but I still have a lot of work to do. Thank you also for coming to Greenville and hanging out, that was pretty awesome.
All images except for the MINI Cooper one are © Herbert Krabel / slowtwitch.com
MINI image courtesy of Dave Mirra