What IRONMAN Announcers Do In Their Off Season
Athletes aren’t the only ones who take a break from the race circuit. I caught up with the people who call IRONMAN events globally to find out how they rejuvenate, restore, and rile themselves up for another season.
Every IRONMAN triathlete has an off season. It’s the time of year when rest and recovery take precedent over repeats on the track. For most it means spending real quality time with the family and friends who supported their journey throughout the year. It’s the least talked about part of any race year even though what you do in your off season is critical for setting up the successes in the year that follows.
But what occurred to me just recently is that the announcers of IRONMAN, the voices that Mike Reilly has set the standard for, also have an off season. It’s the time when they too have a chance to retreat to their respective corners of the world and let down. What does that look like for them? I have no idea! So I thought I’d go to the sources and ask them.
I got in touch with announcers from all over our global IRONMAN community. Some are practically synonymous with IRONMAN itself—namely Mike Reilly, who has been calling finishers across the line in Kona since 1989. Others are people who are much newer to the scene. And unless you have raced at one of the events they announce it’s likely this will be your first introduction to them.
I asked each of them three questions: Where do they announce, what’s their favorite race to call and what do they do in the off-season for fun. Enjoy the personal insights into the personalities behind the powerful words that bring you across the finish line on race day.
Over his tenure as “The Voice of IRONMAN” Mike has announced an amazing 170 IRONMAN events worldwide since 1989. This past October was his 29th Kona in a row. Calling races in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and Ireland, Mike set the standard and raised the bar for every other announcer in the sport.
His favorite race is no surprise:
Mike’s favorite things to do in his off season as you will see are echoed by a lot of the IRONMAN announcers:
“My fun and passion revolve around my family and close circle of friends. When not at an event you will find me with them. You will also find me playing with my grandson, or on my bike, or driving my vintage Mustang which is the first car I ever owned and still have.
Paul Kaye’s announcing base is Europe, even though he is from South Africa. He announces an average of 18 IRONMAN events, and is looking forward to announcing in his home country of South Africa next September when the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship will be held in Port Elizabeth, the town that hosts the IRONMAN African Championship. Paul is also a key part of the Kona team each year at the IRONMAN World Championship.
When I asked him what his favorite event to call was, he said, “I always keep Kona in its own category.”
“Outside of Kona, I love IRONMAN South Africa for obvious reasons. IRONMAN Sweden in Kalmar has the most incredible spectator support and atmosphere. But, basically, I love all the events and working with the event teams.”
For Paul, like most of the IRONMAN announcers, the schedule has become nearly year-round. But he does take time away to recharge. “I spend my down time at a dam close to home, where we have a small caravan parked and have a small boat. I spend the time with my family and friends enjoying the summer (Southern Hemisphere) spending lots of time on the water. I spend lots of time braaing (Saffa for BBQ) and socializing. I also try to use the time to build my fitness and focus on my health to prepare for the next Tour on the road.”
Pete stays busy announcing for IRONMAN at all its events in Australia as well as many of the races in Asia. He’s also part of the IRONMAN World Championship Events announcing team.
Like the other announcers, Pete gets asked quite often what his favorite event is:
“To me every single race has its own unique aspect that I just love. It’s everything from the finish line to the swim/bike/run course to the destination itself.
“For example IRONMAN Malaysia has this amazing heat plus a finish on the beach that really makes it special. IRONMAN 70.3 Cebu gets these absolutely amazing crowds along the entire course. IRONMAN Western Australia has the iconic Busselton Jetty Swim Course. But then of course, the IRONMAN World Championship races are overall the best of the best.”
What does Pete do in his downtime? Here’s what he said:
“I usually wrap up my year after Ironman Western Australia in early December, which is summertime in Aussie. It’s perfect camping weather. I load up the 4WD with the camping gear, surfboards, bikes, the kids, the barbecue and an Esky (the Aussie version of an Igloo cooler) full of refreshing ales. It’s simple: hit the waves, hang out with the kids, catch up with friends. All good times!”
Eric is no stranger to knowing what it takes to rise above personal challenge regardless of the canvas. In 1988 he was a bloated drunk topping the scales at over 250-lbs. Today Eric is as health conscious and passionate about triathlons as anyone. He mostly announces West Coast races including the IRONMAN World Championships,.
Eric is also the voice you’ll here on stage at the expos. Like the others who are on the team in Kona, that’s his favorite event to work at:
“Kona race and expo are hands down #1 for me.
“To be part of the announce team there is the best. But I’m also partial to IRONMAN Lake Placid. The Olympic Village feel is awesome there.”
His offs season shifts to spending a lot of time with his son, Max. “I drive him to school, bring him to swim practice and do some announcing at his meets. I also do a lot of fundraising work for organizations in the Bay Area. I figure you can’t keep ‘IT’ unless you give ‘IT’ away!”
Whit was on the mic at the IRONMAN World Championship for 20-straight races from 1993-2012. From his first day behind the mic in 1993 his presence and personality in the sport made him a natural.
After 2012 he said, “Twenty seemed like a good round number to “retire” from Kona on.” He has been an invaluable announcer in Japan being fluent in that language.
Like many of the announcers, his “favorite” race is the one he’s calling on the day.
“Wherever I am at the time is my favorite. OK, dorky answer, But to name a few, most recently IRONMAN 70.3 Cebu and IRONMAN 70.3 Japan.” (NOTE: Whit was also announcing at IRONMAN South Korea this year and called my son Mats across the line in his first ever IRONMAN race!)
In his off season Whit likes to keep it physical:
“I am passionate about the sport of Triathlon and like to try my best to maintain some level of fitness. Cycling is probably my favorite activity. Then when the snow comes to the Sierras in the winter you’re likely to find me out in the middle of nowhere telemark and backcountry skiing.”
Joanne stays pretty busy announcing mostly in The UK and in her home country of Ireland. Last year she was also part of the team announcing at the IRONMAN in Kona.
“My favorite race to work at is IRONMAN 70.3 Dublin, but of course I am biased as it’s in my home country.
“But my favorite race to announce has to be IRONMAN Wales in the UK. It is just epic. All day long with thousands of spectators ten deep lining the course the emotion is exhilarating!
“From the professional athletes winning the race right through to the final finisher, it is just a spectacular day of racing. And the weather conditions have the potential to make it even tougher for everyone making that IRONMAN medal and the immortal words ‘ You Are An IRONMAN’ even more special for the athletes.”
Between her work as a Global Ambassador for Women for Tri and announcing a wide range of events, Joanne doesn’t really have an off-season. Even so, she does make time to get out and ride.
“I spend a lot of time on my bicycle (his name is Freddie). I try to get in some training most days.” (NOTE: Joanne and three other women set a new Irish cycling record in the Race Around Ireland. They finished the 2,212km in 81 hours 13 minutes and broke the previous record by over ten-hours!)
“I also spend time with friends and family. I really enjoy the freedom my job as an announcer has given me to live my dream. I love being part of the IRONMAN community. It’s opened so many doors for me since taking up the sport in 2009. Being part of the team of IRONMAN announcers around the world is a great privilege and I try to make the most of every day and every opportunity I am given.”
Michael wears a few hats. He’s announces onsite as well as calling the IRONMAN Live show from the booth depending on the race. Another of IRONMAN’s talented multilingual team, he works from Canada to Mexico announcing. And of course, he presents IRONMAN Live at the World Championship events with Greg Welch.
Michael has two big favorites. “Kona is hard to beat because my job gives me a front row seat to the most exciting professional IRONMAN race on the planet.
“But to be out on the race course at IRONMAN Cozumel is pretty special. The community really embraces the event, the race is at a beautiful venue. I have a great history with the race as both an athlete and as an announcer. So that would have to be a favorite of mine as well.”
Based in Boulder, CO. Micheal’s off season gets centered around enjoying the snow. “In the off season I spend all my weekends with my family. Colorado has so much to offer, and we take advantage of where we live. I love to go downhill and nordic skiing. So I do that a fair bit in the cold months. I also focus on preparing my full roster of coached athletes to another successful season!”
Having a high respect for Michael Lovato is Erick Gonzalez who has been working at IRONMAN Cozumel for ten-years.
“I was able to call Michael Lovato across the line twice: once as the runner up and once as the champion.”
They now team up and announce IRONMAN Cozumel together. Erick had no hesitation in saying it’s his favorite event, one he calls “Incredible!”
Joining Erick and Michael in Mexico is UK-based Steve Trew. “My two major events are both in Mexico: IRONMAN Cozumel, and IRONMAN 70.3 Los Cabos. I’ve also called IRONMAN Lanzarote a couple of times way, way back!”.
His experience as an announce includes commentating a number of sports at the Olympics in Sydney, Athens and London.
But when it comes to pure triathlon Steve’s favorite race to call is Cozumel. “It has everything!”
Steve’s work in the world fitness is something he makes a top priority for himself as well. “I swim with my masters group, cycle most days, socialize with the swimming group at the pub. and write short sports fiction stories. I’ve even had a couple of triathlon fiction books published!”
Tom announces IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events throughout the US. Learning from the best in the business Tom said, “At most IRONMAN events I am the “second announcer” behind the ‘Voice of Ironman’, Mike Reilly.”
His favorite race to call is on the Island of Hawaii, but it’s the more low-key 70.3 race held outside of town in June:
Another announcer focused mainly in the US is Dave Kappas. He announces primarily in the Midwest for IRONMAN. However his schedule takes him from New York City to San Diego. So it does span the coasts.
Dave is on board with many of the other announcers when asked what his favorite race it:
“Cliché as it may sound, my favorite race is the one I’m working on that weekend.
“Since the race is about the participants, the unique makeup of each event makes it very fun for me. If I had to choose one, I’d say it’s IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead. I’ve been a part of that event’s growth from the very beginning. Seeing so many of the same athletes and the same dedicated volunteers come back every year makes it a special one for me.”
He keeps pretty busy throughout the year, so his off season is short. “While it does slow down a bit in December and January, the longest break I have is three-weeks. Down time is usually spent at home relaxing with family, and planning the upcoming season.”
Dave works at a lot of IRONMAN races in both the United States and Canada. This past year those included announced at IRONMAN 70.3 Galveston, IRONMAN 70.3 St. George, IRONMAN 70.3 Gulf Coast, IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh, IRONMAN Canada and IRONMAN Maryland.
His favorite race to work at might be inspired by what he enjoys most in his off season:
“I loved IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene and it was one of my favs. I can find something I love at each race I work, so it’s hard to narrow it down to one favorite though.
“In my off season I’m a big mountain bike and skier – I truly enjoy the outdoors (which is probably why I love my job so much). I try to get in at least fifty ski days a year during the off season.”
From Costa Rica to Peru, Ecuador. Punta Del Este and his home in Puerto Rico Tony announces at many of the IRONMAN 70.3 events in Latin America. This coming year he’ll be announcing his first full at IRONMAN North American Championship in Texas.
Loyal to his surroundings, Tony’s favorite race is at home. He said, “For sure my favorite race to announce at is my hometown race Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico.”
He’s someone you will know if you have raced in South Africa, Asia, or the Middle East and even some of the European Races. Gordon Graham is no stranger to travel!