There was a time in Mike Hermanson’s life when he sat around after school watching TV and playing video games. But when a family with a child about his age moved in next door, Mike started playing basketball and football with his new friend. By middle school, Mike started playing those sports competitively, eventually adding tennis, wrestling and baseball.
But when Mike got to his freshman year in high school, something weird happened and he became depressed. To this day, he’s not sure what prompted his depression. He withdrew from everything: friends, family, sports and food. Already thin from the sports he’d played, it didn’t take long for him to drop to an unhealthy weight. Mike vividly remembers fellow classmates at school talking behind his back about his appearance. He woke up in the middle of the night to hear his parents crying and praying next to his bed. Rumors spread about the possibility he was doing drugs. Eventually, his parents told him they were going to enroll him in a rehab/therapy program to get over his depression.
It was then that Mike realized he needed to do something about the situation. Therapy didn’t appeal to him, as he reasoned he was “too good” for that. Determined to recover without professional help, Mike turned to his few remaining friends, asked his youth pastor to start praying for him, and began educating himself on nutrition and exercise. One of his good friends, Daniel Roberts (who is a phenomenal runner himself), encouraged Mike to pick up running as way to escape and cope. So, Mike decided to give it a try and joined the high school cross country team his sophomore year.
Once Mike turned 16, he had to start paying for gas for the car. Since minimum wage isn’t too profitable and Mike found driving rather boring, he began riding his mountain bike just about everywhere he could to save money. Now he was running cross-country and track and playing basketball. But he dropped basketball his junior year, in part because he didn’t want to ride the bench for most of the year. So, he began to look for a new sport to try.
SchoolcraftHigh School, Mike’s school inMichigan, was too small to have a swim team. But somehow, he found a connection with the coach at a nearby school. Mike was allowed to practice with that team, though he couldn’t compete because he wasn’t a student there. Perhaps that coach thought he’d give up after realizing it was hard work with no chance of competition. But Mike and his mom went and bought him a competitive swim suit and drag suit. When Mike showed up for his next practice, the coach looked shocked. Mike believes the coach was thinking something like, “Wow… I never expected this. I guess this kid is here to stay.”
After his first year of swimming, Mike realized he was doing all three of the sports for a triathlon. He decided to buy a road bike and all the gear to go along with it, and registered for his first triathlon. Admittedly, it was a bucket list item for him. He figured one would be enough. Obviously it wasn’t. Mike signed up for two more triathlons that summer and enjoyed both of them.
About his sophomore year of college, Mike decided it was time to buy triathlon-specific bike and start taking it a little more seriously. Mike took on the Ironman for the first time inWisconsinin 2007. While training for it, one his friends asked him, “Mike, what if after all the time you spent training for this thing, you cross the finish line and you realize it wasn’t worth it?” Mike was taken aback by the question, but responded, “Well, if that’s what happens, you’ll be the first person I call after the race, but don’t expect a phone call!” The race didn’t go well for him with a medical issue after the swim that almost pulled him out of the race. The rest of the race was a struggle, but crossing that finish line gave him the chills and that feeling many people say they only experienced while crossing the line after 140.6 miles. Once again, the Ironman was a bucket list race.
About two weeks after the race, Mike decided he wanted to take another stab at the Ironman distance and try to qualify for Kona. Mike discoveredLouisvillehad an Ironman race. It was timed perfectly for him because it was the weekend before senior year atIndianaWesleyanUniversitystarted.
Mike competed in the 2008 Ironman Louisvilleand had the best race of his life up to that point. He won his age group, qualified for Kona, and was 18thoverall. That race is what gave him the idea that he could possibly do something that many people dream of doing: becoming a professional athlete.
After trying to coach himself for two or three more seasons, Mike hit a plateau and wasn’t able to get any faster. So, he decided to hire a coach, Justin Trolle, half way through the 2011 season. The 2011 Ironman Louisville was another best race for him, taking 17 minutes off of his previous best time.
Through the winter, he trained extremely hard to get ready for some early season races. Mike traveled south for his first three races (Rev3 70.3 and Rev3 Olympic Distance inCosta Rica, andNauticaSouthBeachinMiami,FL) of the 2012 season. Mike won all three races, and without realizing it, qualified for his elite card inMiami.
Since then, Mike has continued to make gains across the board in all three events. It’s funny how this journey to endurance sports all started with something that seemed so bad at the time. However, God has a plan and puts us through things for our good. Mike races to better himself, and use this gift of sport that God has blessed him with for His glory. That’s why triathlon is more than a sport to him. It’s more than a way to possibly make some money, travel the world, and have fun at the same time. It’s about giving the sport back to the one that first gave it to him.