Like many of us, Mike Pigg was inspired to race triathlons when he watched Dave Scott in the 1983 Ironman on TV. Unlike most other triathletes though, the man soon after known as Pigg Power managed to finish 7th overall at that event in 1985.
ST: Mike, what are you up to these days?
Mike: I am a dad of ten-year-old twins and that is taking up my time right now. I am involved in coaching basketball, track and field, cross-country and coaching a little bit on the side. My real job though is that I sell real estate
ST: You didn’t mention anything about triathlon. Do you still race and train a bunch?
Mike: I exercise in the morning at about 5:30 for about an hour. I swim 2 days a week, bike a day a week and run two or three days a week and that is how I can do my triathlons.
ST: You recently won the St. Croix sprint triathlon and kind of showed up as an accidental tourist. Can you tell us about it?
Mike: That is a good label as I was just a tourist. It was the 20th anniversary of St. Croix and Tom Guthrie had invited me to come out and be a celebrity for the weekend. I asked him what I could do in return and he said I could do the Beast hill climb on Wednesday and if I wanted to I could do the Half Ironman. But I didn’t feel like hurting for 4 days after the Half as I was on vacation with my family. So I did the sprint and just had a great time. It was fun to do part of the course I did 18 years go.
ST: When you were racing at your best, what did a training week look like for you?
Mike: Bike anywhere from 225 to 300 miles a week, run anywhere from 30 to 50 miles a week and swim somewhere around 15,000 to 25,000 yards in the pool. This was a fulltime job and I didn’t do anything else.
ST: What was your athletic background prior to doing triathlons?
Mike: I swam from age 10 to 14 and ran cross-country from 7th grade to my second year in college.
ST: I didn’t know you had swimming in your background. I thought you picked that up much later.
Mike: I had 4 years of swimming in a 25-yard pool here in Arcata and I had the skills but I was never a superstar, I was a back stroker. I still had to bring it up though to stay for example with Wolfgang in St. Croix.
ST: Is there a race you remember very fondly?
Mike: I could list a bunch of them. The best way I can put it is the harder it was the more I liked it. To be honest with you, I really enjoyed every race I did. I should mention World’s Toughest, St. Croix and Lake Meade when we had Nationals up there. But I liked every course I stepped on, after all you get to play in the water, you get to ride your bike on a closed course and then you get to run home for a check.
ST: Do you recall when you out-sprinted Mark Allen for the National Championships?
Mike: The story was I had the fear that he was going to take the National Championships away from me after I had more than 2 minutes of a lead over him coming off the bike. I wasn’t running slow as I was actually battling Harold Robinson for the first 6 or 7km and finally broke him and pulled away and with half a mile to go I looked back and saw Mark Allen 100 yards behind me. I had to suck it up a, and yeah I out-sprinted him, but he never really got close to me. So I basically out-sprinted someone who had just made up 2:30 on me in that 10k.
ST: You seemed to dominate all distances, but seemed to have "trouble" in Hawaii. Do you have any thoughts along those lines?
I did as well as second place but my best run was 3:05. Mark Allen on the other hand punches out a 2:41 and that is a race you need to start staying away from. There is just no way to compete with a guy like that.
The other issue was I got 7th the first year, 9th the second year, 4th the following year and second the next and then I got a bad bacteria in my stomach and that didn’t allow me to digest food on the fly. It took me 4 to 5 years to settle that issue and never again let me do well at Ironman.
ST: To go back to St. Croix, do you still hold that hill climb record up the Beast?
Mike: They told me my record was 5:02 and I went 5:52 at St. Croix from a dead start. The 5:02 was during the race and I am not sure how accurate that record is.
ST: In 1993 you raced Redlands with a group of triathletes and I believe you placed high on GC as an individual, and the team did rather well too. Do you remember that time?
Mike: That was a highlight. It was a fun race and it was very hard and I certainly believe it made me a better cyclist. I tell you one thing; I was scared shitless during the criterium though. That was actually a pretty wide criterium, but going with a 120 guys at 30 miles an hours around all those turns was pretty nerve wrecking.
ST: Many folks thought that you could have been as good as Lance in road racing. Do you have any regrets not having really pursued that?
Mike: I would have loved to be in that limelight. To bike up Alpe D’Huez with 100,000 people cheering for you would have been unreal. But I am glad that triathlons are around because in triathlons you don’t have to take drugs to be at the top. In the Tour you have to take drugs to be at the top. I wish I would have had the opportunity, but I wish it were a drug free sport.
So I am glad I stayed in triathlons, as it is more balanced in athletics. As for me possibly being as good as Lance, the only way to really know is if I had really put my heart and soul in it.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Mike: When the Tour is on I turn on the TV to follow it to see who has the horsepower on any given day. There is nothing I really pursue watching. I am a big sports fan but I don’t seek it out.
ST: What is your favorite food?
Mike: I am definitely a steak man. Steak is the best food in the world.
ST: Talking about food, we heard that you were very fond of ice cream during your racing career and were often seen devouring Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Was that part of your secret power and do you still subscribe to the ice cream nutrition?
Mike: I used to be a big ice cream fan, but now as I don’t burn as many calories I have lost a bit of my taste for it. One of my favorite things to do after a hard race was to buy a pint of ice cream such as Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, New York Super Fudge Chunk and Mint Oreo. It just depended on the mood I was in.
ST: What about music, what do you listen to?
Mike: I am still stuck in the 80’s. I like AC DC, Foreigner, Eagles and stuff like that. Anything that gets me pumped up to go downhill skiing.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Mike: Into thin Air
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Mike: Not much has changed since I retired. Still trying to stay fit, still enjoy talking to people and still enjoy swimming, biking and running.