Triathlete Pigg got even better after adopting Maffetone’s methods

by | Feb 1, 2002 | News Articles

February, 2002 Fit to be Tied Column

From the Pueblo Chieftain
by Gary Franchi


Triathlete Pigg got even better after adopting Maffetone’s methods

The résumé tells only part of the story about Mike Pigg, international triathlete extraordinaire for almost two decades as a professional. But that part is still tremendously impressive:

  • Two-time Triathlete of the Year by Triathlete magazine
  • Two-time U.S. pro champion
  • Three-time U.S. Triathlon Series season champion
  • Four-time Coke Grand Prix champion
  • A second-place Hawaii Ironman finisher
  • Silver medalist in the 1991 World Triathlon Championships
  • Five-time winner of the America’s Paradise Triathlon
  • Four-time winner of the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
  • Five-time winner of the World Cup in Australia
  • Thirty-time winner of USTS/BTLS Triathlon Series races
  • Three-time winner of the Chicago Triathlon
  • Winner of the IronTour of France

And more recently:

  • Winner of the Mild Seven Outdoor Quest adventure race
  • Winner of the Xterra Off-Road Triathlon

Now retired at 38 years old from a professional career that saw him complete more than 200 triathlons, roughly three-quarters of which were at the Olympic distance, Pigg continues to create a stir in the multi-sport world wherever he appears. Hence, he should be a great draw when he speaks on “Optimal Performance and Health” at next month’s health and symposium in Pueblo.

Titled “Sports and Fitness – For the Health of It! … Sports Medicine in the New Millenium,” the symposium will be held March 1-2 at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center before the March 3 Pueblo Chieftain-sponsored Spring Runoff. The Southeastern Colorado Area Health Education Center (SECAHEC), which has planned the symposium, has saved the best for last, scheduling Pigg in the final session at 2:45 p.m. on March 2.

What Pigg’s résumé doesn’t tell is that his performance record wouldn’t have been nearly as extensive had he not done an about-face in his training and diet in 1992. Known for his kamikaze workout routines that left no energy cell untapped plus an extreme carbohydrate-laden diet, Pigg had hit “burnout” back then and was ready to retire.

Then he met Dr. Phil Maffetone, who had been in private practice for 20 years before switching to a career of coaching, writing and lecturing devoted to helping athletes and non-athletes adopt healthier personal and training lifestyles. Maffetone also will be at the SECAHEC symposium, speaking from 9 to 11 a.m. on March 1.

Maffetone endorses a 40-30-30 (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) diet, one that counters the traditional high-carbohydrate thinking of endurance athletes. He also believes in a less-intense training regimen, which had Pigg never going above 155 on his heart-rate monitor instead of the usual much higher level.

“That had a major impact on me because it made me an intuitive athlete,” Pigg said, referring to the constant monitoring he began doing to gauge the cause and effect of his diet and training level on competitive results. “Before, I would train myself crazy. Eventually, I got tired of just hammerin’ myself all the time.”

Maffetone noted that his approach with Pigg was no different than with other athletes he had coached – basically to educate him about how his body works and how it is affected by food and training. Since he was coaching Mark Allen, six-time Hawaii Ironman champ, at the time, Maffetone had a ready audience in Pigg.

” I helped Mike learn how to read his own body,” Maffetone added. “I helped by getting him in touch with the subtle signs that a body produces. He was at a point (of his career) that many athletes reach,” meaning he was receptive to new ideas.

The benefits were immediate. Within months, Pigg won five triathlons and placed second in three more, and he became a Maffetone convert. He went on to compete at a top level for several years until suffering a broken ankle in 1997, which sidelined him all of 1998. He came back at close to his former level for two years before deciding to retire from the pro ranks.

Today, Pigg trains just to keep fit, coaches other endurance athletes, does an occasional off-road triathlon and is a member of the Hi-Tec team that will compete in eight adventure races across the country this year. Adventure racing includes activities like kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and “special tests,” all of which are done as a team.

His bills are paid, he’s invested the rest of his triathlon earnings and is living the good life in California with his wife and twin 4-year-old sons.

Pigg invites any community members who are interested to accompany him on training runs during the health and fitness symposium. His schedule calls for a jaunt at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, March 1, and at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Both will start at the Arts Center


Like running trails? Want to run one of the best trail marathons in the country? Well, you don’t have to go far. The American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs has been listed as one of America’s top 20 trail marathons after just its first year. There’s more – it’s also the only trail marathon that is USATF-certified and, thus, can be used as a Boston Marathon qualifier. Noteworthy is that the course drops 1,300 feet in elevation from start to finish.

This year’s second annual version will be held on Labor Day — which is Sept. 2. For information, go to or call (719) 635-3833.

Last month I mentioned the two new marathons that will be launched this year in Fort Collins, but it seems there is another in Colorado. Durango is having its inaugural marathon (and a 2-person marathon relay and a 5K) on Oct. 13, with the course taking in some gorgeous mountain views and red cliffs before finishing downtown on Main Street. Go to or call (970) 375-2413.

Triathlon fever

University of Southern Colorado Professor Roger Dallam, another of the fantastic speakers lined up for the above-mentioned health and fitness symposium, sends word about an adventurous competition called the USC X Challenge. Conducted annually by the USC Department of Exercise Science, Health Promotion and Recreation students, the X Challenge will expand beyond the university for the first time and will be held April 27.

The field will be limited to 16 four-person coed teams (at least one of both genders, all of whom must be over 18 years old) that will compete discontinously in a series of events including a climbing wall relay, run/pool kayak relay, mountain bike relay and an eight-event ropes course competition. Final team scoring is based on the team’s ranking in each event.

While this is right up Mike Pigg’s terrain, Dallam notes that the event is primarily for neophytes looking for a first-time experience in the this type of multisport competition. The entry deadline is April 26 or when the field is filled.

To find out more, contact Dallam at 549-2619 or Jay Zarr at 549-2084.

USA Triathlon has ranked Pueblo’s Blake Ottersberg second in the country among triathletes in the 18-19 division, while Mike Orendorff, also from Pueblo, is ranked 19th in the 50-54 age division. Mike has already signed up to be part of the limited field of 200 in the inaugural off-road Ironman to be held this summer in Rifle, CO.

The Desert Sun Half-Ironman set for July 20 in Grand Junction has added a short-course triathlon, with projected distances a half-mile swim, 16.5-mike bike and 4.2-mile run.

Ride the Rockies

So where else in the world can you take a six-day summer vacation for just $235 and get a bunch of perks, including lodging. Well, “lodging” might be stretching it a bit since what you get is camping space each night of the June 17-22 Ride the Rockies bicycle tour.

The tour will start in Alamosa this summer and finish in Boulder, covering 489 miles. Selection of the 2,000 cyclists is conducted by lottery, and registration is now open. In fact, you’d better hustle since those selected will be sent a confirmation packet in mid-March. Need registration information? Got to on the Internet.

Upcoming Pueblo Races

* Feb. 10 – Valentine’s Twosome, 1.6M each partner, Pueblo City Park, 9 a.m. (947-3682).
* Feb. 17 – Spring Runoff Tuneup, 10K, Pueblo City Park, 9 a.m. (564-0847).
* March 3 – Spring Runoff, 1M, 10K & 10M runs and 2M walk, 9 a.m., 547-2777.
* March 24 – Ben & Matt’s Trail Mix, 6+M, Nature Center, 9 a.m., 543-5151.
* April 6 – Ramsgate 8 Prediction Race, 8K, Belmont, 8 a.m., 544-9633.

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