Mike McCreesh is a runner. He started doing it for hockey practice in high school, and soon enjoyed it almost as much as playing.
He never stopped running, through marathon experiences that include a New York snowstorm, and Boston nor’easter, heat wave and bombing.
When his and his wife Dana’s toddler Brent was undergoing cancer treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, Mike was quarantined due to his son’s immuno-suppression. Mike ran up and down the hospital stairs to burn off stress.
Dana signed him up for the Pan Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike ride fundraiser across Masssachusetts. He had not ridden since he had a paper route, and spent the next few years learning proper techniques.
For the next decade Mike ran and biked, while cheering his daughters on in their swim meets for the Westport Y Water Rats.
Mike and his eldest daughter Madi dabbled in Sprint triathlons (a .46 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike and 3.1 mile run) at Compo Beach. Mike suffered through the swims, but had a great time otherwise.
His youngest daughter Kira joined in. Team McCreesh placed 2nd in the relay division of Tri Ridgefield.
Mike set goals: Olympic triathlons (.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run), then a half Ironman (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run), ending with the ultimate prize, a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run).
To do it though, he had to learn how to really swim.
Ellen Johnston was just the person. She had taught all 3 of his children how to swim in the Fairfield County Hunt Club pool, and as director of competitive swimming for the Westport Weston Family Y and Water Rat head coach.
Ellen was named YMCA National Coach of the Year in 2015, and Connecticut Coach of the Year several times.
Still, Mike wondered: Could she teach someone so set in his ways?
After just one lesson, Mike radically altered his stroke from childhood choppiness to a one with proper breaths.
With plenty of practice, Mike eventually almost passed for a slower version of one of Ellen’s Water Rats.
Mike — whose fulltime gig is president of Battea Class Action Services — continued with triathlon coaching at Sherpa Fitness. In 2016 he completed the Florida Ironman; 2 years later, he did one in Maryland. He was getting ready for another Ironman this October in 2020, but the pandemic ended that dream.
Mike’s dedication to triathlons extends to reading. Dana gives him books on the subject for holidays. One of his favorites is Will McGough’s Swim, Bike, Bonk: Confessions of a Reluctant Triathlete.
Dana read it too, and related to its insights about how Ironman training impacts a family’s quality of life.
Dana’s interest in the book transcended triathlons. She helps the Pequot Library with their “Meet the Author” series. She thought McGough would be a great, funny speaker. Unfortunately, he’s a travel writer who split his time between Colorado and Hawaii.
But the coronavirus that canceled Mike’s Barcelona triathlon gives him a chance to help the Southport library.
Next Tuesday (August 25, 4 p.m.), Mike will interview Will McGough via Zoom. They’ll chat about Mike’s training for an Ironman (which Will covers like an exotic foreign country). “It will be lighthearted and fun,” Mike promises.
Which running 26.2 miles, biking 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles — even with the right form — definitely is not.
(The Zoom interview is free, but pre-registration is required. Click here to register, and for more information.)