GREENWICH, Conn. – Cos Cob’s Mike Christie hung up his running shoes when he was 35. But about 15 years later, he laced them up again and later added biking and swimming to his endurance mix.
Now the 57-year-old former money manager is an Ironman age group winner, a world-class triathlete in his age group and a triathlon coach for Elite Health Services in Greenwich. His next challenge is Sunday’s Toughman in Croton Point Park. Christie is the defending champion in his age group for the race, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run.
“When I started doing triathlons, I was shocked at how I did,’’ Christie said. “I was a swimmer in high school, so that came pretty naturally to me. That’s also an area where a lot of triathletes are weak, so that’s where I have a huge advantage. I had to learn to race the right way on the bike. That’s my weakest part and that’s what I spend the most time working on.”
Sunday’s race is a stepping stone for Christie as he prepares to race in his first Ironman World Championship next month in Hawaii. Christie qualified by winning his age group in June at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Christie won his age group by a whopping 24 minutes and was ranked in the top four in his age group in the three disciplines. He ran the closing 26.2-mile marathon in 3:57:17 after swimming for 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles on a bike.
“I finished the race, got some food, re-hydrated and grabbed my stuff,’’ Christie said. “I didn’t even think about staying to see where I finished. When I got to my car I looked at my phone and I had 18 texts. I called my wife and she told me I won the division. I didn’t go back to the tent, I was too tired. When I finished, I didn’t think I even made the podium. I had to call home to find out I won my age group.”
Christie’s objective going into the Idaho race was to qualify for Hawaii. Only the top finisher in his age group earned the bid for the world championships.
“It wasn’t my sole purpose for going there, but it was something that I’d be thrilled with if I could do it,’’ he said. “Everything worked out well. I had a good race and the weather was perfect. I didn’t have any issues. Qualifying for Kona was the icing on the cake.”
Christie ran after college until he started to develop problems with his hips and knees. “I thought I’d better stop, I don’t want to get my knees and hips replaced,’’ he said. “I read the book Born To Run and the author (Christopher McDougall) described the same symptoms that I had. I hadn’t been running for 15 years. I changed my mechanics and every issue I had with running went away. I didn’t run my first marathon until I was 50.”
Christie’s wife, Sarah, suggested he compete in triathlons and he became hooked. He took third in his age group at the U.S. Nationals for the Olympic distance in 2012 and has made the podium in every triathlon he has entered.
“My last day working on Wall Street was in 2012 and that’s when I started this next phase,’’ he said. “It’s becoming more of a full-time job. I still have to work for a living. It’s just not what I was doing before.”