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Breakaway Triathlon and Cycling

Michelle Mericer-Link

You just finished a BIG event, what do you want to tell us about that?

(read more about this after the interview questions)

         It was amazing! To commit to something that large   and come out on the other side with a finish is life changing

What are your favorite workouts?

         Swimming at Stiles – just love that place.  Wednesday night Sub LT Computraining with Amy – kicks my ass every time.  Speed run workouts that Sharon provides – has   helped me see that I apparently do have some speed  in me.


What motivates you to train so consistently?

I like seeing the results. There is no better feeling than putting in the hard work and seeing it pay off.   I am also a “bit” Type A…I love knowing I can check something off once it is complete.

How has training at Breakaway impacted you and your training?

         It has made a huge difference. From October through May I spent 3 days a week at          Breakaway.    Two of those days being Computrainer workouts and the other being a double open ride on Sundays.    Consistent hard work on the bike….builds the engine. I can’t wait to go through another winter at Breakaway and see even more improvement for next year.

Tell us a little bit about how you balance your training with work and family? How does your family feel about your involvement?

Family – That’s easy…..have them join in on the fun. Doug now cycles….is my official kayaker at Stiles, and runs with me when I do track workouts. I even heard him say he may try a sprint! Although, I think Kevin and Tim may have muscled him into saying that!

Work – A bit more challenging. I am lucky enough     that          my work schedule was flexible and was able to       work from home 2 days a week this summer.       Eliminating the commute to/from work provided an      extra 2+ hours in the day to train or rest. On days       that I needed to go into the office, I’d get up early to       train and sometimes I’d get my runs in at work    before my commute home.

Do something that scares you

Do something that when you officially commit to it – you break out in a sweat and almost throw up (or maybe actually throw up) 

Do something that requires YOU to believe in YOU

Do something that makes YOU proud of YOU


2.4 mile SWIM – 112 mile BIKE – 26.2 mile RUN

15 hours 48 minutes and 5 seconds

Ironman Mont Tremblant 2017 is in the books

If I can inspire just ONE person to take on something that brings them WAY outside their comfort zone then it was all worth it.  The personal growth from a big goal is life changing.  You have to be willing to get VERY VERY uncomfortable and still keep going – regardless. 

The journey to IMMT was 2 years in the making.  I had signed up for the 2016 race in September 2015. I trained for 11 months, hit race day and missed the 70 mile bike cut off point by 3 minutes (3 F’in minutes!!!)  I remember coming up of over the crest of the last hill before that cutoff point and seeing a group of cyclist stopped.  For a moment I thought they were just resting, but then it hit me.  I was done….my day was over.   To that point, the day was tough.  The weather was less than stellar, the swim was rough waters,  I got sea sick, and had mad calf cramps at about mile 1.6 and had to stop.  I ended up stopping another 2 or 3 times to swig down a cramp reliever for temporary relief.  I started to get hypothermia and ALMOST gave up.  But I didn’t, I continued and was lucky that one of the kayakers offered to follow me for the rest of the swim, just in case.  Total swim time 1 hour 57 mins and 59 seconds – almost 2 hours in 70 degree water – I like 83 degree water.

I remember feeling wiped on the bike and it was raining hard.   Because of the weather, I was super conservative on the downhills.  –  I was not a strong cyclist.  The bike course is two 56 mile loops with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain – nothing to sneeze at.   The hills up Duplessis are relentless.  Being at the end of each of the 2 the loops makes them more unforgiving – I was not a strong cyclist on the hills (see the trend here?).  Once the officials stopped me they took my bike and I was shuffled off onto a bus along with ~25 others in the same situation.  I felt defeated – an awful feeling.  I had worked so hard and as the saying goes, hard work pays off – but on that day, it did not.  Within 5 minutes of getting pulled, I knew I would sign up for 2017.    The bus ride back was close to 2 hours due to having to pick up others getting pulled from the bike portion as well.  This gave me a lot of time to digest the situation.  I was wet, cold, disappointed, and had to pee like a race horse.  A thousand thoughts went through my head…..it was  a miserable ride back. 

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck” – Dalai Lama

Back home after the race I started putting my plan for 2017 together.  What did I need to do differently?   The calf cramps were pretty common for me.  You know, those cramps that cause you to jump out of bed in the middle of the night, your foot contorted, you try to breath and relax your body until they subside.  I tried everything – and I mean everything to eliminate those calf cramps, but nothing completely eliminated them.  With that, I knew the answer was to create some wiggle room in the race.  I had to be willing to feel the exact same pain in the water but know I could get on the bike and make up time.  

In October 2016 I made my way over to Breakaway in N. Andover to sign up for indoor Computrainer classes.  They were close to my house AND on my way home from work which would make it easier to get all my cycling training in.   I would estimate that 95% of my training for IMMT 2016 was by myself.   I needed some Tri friends near me to train with and unfortunately all  my NH Tri friends (NEMS) were just too far away L.    From October 2016 to May 2017 I was at Breakaway 3 days a week working my ass off on the Computrainers.  I met a lot of awesome people and felt so inspired by all their stories.  My confidence was coming back and I knew I was gaining strength on the bike  (FTP in October 2016 it was 155 and in  May 2017 it was 185 – almost an 18% improvement).   Along with the cycling, I kept up with my swims and runs however, my focus was the cycling for the winter.  Sharon Johnson, the owner of Breakaway helped me find a whole new side to my athletic abilities.  As she says – If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you.  I was always getting challenged at Breakaway  – I  was breaking through wall after wall – everything was coming together.  Summer had arrived and the runway to IMMT 2017 was closing in fast.

The 2 weeks leading up to IMMT 2017 was filled with worry and restless sleep.  The calf cramps were substantially less, but still occurred and were unpredictable.   I was in fear of the swim.  I couldn’t get the positive thoughts to outweigh the negative thoughts produced by the race nerves.  Although I knew I had built in the wiggle room I needed, the swim is 2.4 miles and tough – getting a cramp makes it scary.  I was getting in my head –  I slept about 2 hours the night before the race and  I almost backed out the morning of, but I didn’t.   Standing on the beach at the swim start a woman came up to me and said she recognized me from the official Ironman video from last year.  I was floored.  She said she had just watched the video again and it made her cry every time (I was crying in the video – there’s a surprise).  So, we chatted it up until we got to the water’s edge.   I got a wonderful hug from one of the volunteers and off we went. The swim was uneventful. Which by the way, just proves that worrying is a waste of energy!   Before I knew it I could see the ground which meant I could walk if I got a calf cramp which never occurred until I jumped out of the water.  They passed running to transition. 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you don’t stop” –  Confucius

I jumped on the bike and knowing the course as well as I do, I was able to pick my opportunities to kick it into gear.  I felt great the first loop maintaining an average speed on 17 MPG (last year I avg’d 13.4).   Indoor computraining at Breakaway had paid off.  The second loop was a little different.  The sun was strong and the head winds out and back on Rt 117 were tough and my stomach was feeling a bit off.  I came up over that same hill before the turnaround where I got pulled last year, I was almost 2 hours ahead of the cut off time – now that’s some wiggle room!

Onto the run, headed out feeling decent but then my stomach reminded me that it wasn’t feeling so well.  I looked down at my watch, did some quick math and figured I had 8 hours to complete the Marathon.  As a result, the run became a run/walk.  Every time I picked up a run I thought I was going to puke – time to persevere.  I got through the first 13.1 in 3 hours 14 mins, much slower than what I planned.  At this point, unless the wheels came off, I knew I had it.  The next cut off was in about 3 hours @  10PM 7 miles away.  Plenty of time!  I couldn’t eat and drinking became a challenge as well.  The best I could do was eat ice cubes and take in salt.  I was feeling a bit dizzy, it was dark, and I then spotted a couple guys ahead of me walking.  I knew I had to catch up to them to keep myself distracted from how I was feeling.  I caught up to them and we hit it off right away.  We kept it going together –  this is what Ironman is all about.  A mile out of the finish line you can hear Mike Reilly announcing the finishers “You are an Ironman”.  I can’t even describe that feeling!!!  We were close enough to see all the lights and hear the cheers.  Just then a young woman came up behind me and said “hey, I was on the bus with you last year”.  She was referring to the bus that pulled us off the bike course in 2016.    Again, floored – apparently I am the famous IMMT racer!!!!  We hugged and high fived because we were BOTH about to get revenge on this course.   Any pain I was feeling was dissolving, I picked up a run and made my way to the finisher chute.  The crowd was amazing.  They lined the chute high fiving and cheering as loud as they could.  And there it was, the finish line, holy shit…I had done it.  And then I hear my name  followed by Mike Reilly announcing…..  Michelle YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.  I was lucky enough to get a hug from Mike.  

“Dream big and dare to fail” – Norman Vaughan 

The whole experience was amazing.  The training, all the hard work, the nerves from the incredible fear I was feeling – I wouldn’t change a thing.  I took on a HUGE goal and it may have not been my year in 2016, but it sure was in 2017.  

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals.  The struggles within yourself – the invisible battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at”   – Jesse Owens.