Sunday, November 8, 2009

Going to Clearwater

Thank you for the overwhelming amount of support I have received since falling off my bike last week and breaking a rib. Everyone’s collective concern and the disappointment expressed was appreciated. However, I need to first apologize. A couple days after my self-inflicted accident, I told too many people that if I could not compete at 100%, if I did not think I had a chance at being in the top 5, I was going to drop out of the 70.3 World Championship on November 14.

How ridiculous! That goes against everything I talk about in my speech and with the people I mentor. What kind of role model is that? If I only entered races when I felt 100%, I would never enter a race. In this competition, finishing is winning. Doing the best one can for that day is the goal. It is about the journey, not the destination. What was I thinking? Maybe the fall rattled my brain and I wasn’t thinking at the time. I ran into my training buddy Jack Spartz last week and he unknowingly brought me back to reality. Jack, as I write this, just finished the swim in the Florida Ironman in a speedy 1:05:31, rode the bike leg in 5:34:12, and is still out on the run. When I asked Jack last week what his goal was for today’s race, he told me it was just to finish. He went on to say that he was competing in the race with his brother who is recovering from a stroke and would be with him in spirit. His comment reminded me that the triathlon, like life, is only about being the best you can be.

While the ribs have been sore and I still have had trouble getting in and out of bed, I continued to train over the past 10 days. I just did not know what to do with myself. Now, with six days to go, I am comfortable that I can safely swim, bike and run the distance. So, I have decided to go to Clearwater and compete next Saturday and enjoy every minute of being in a World Championship. And I promise everyone two things. First, I will go out on Saturday with one objective…to do my best. Second, there will be no excuses.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ironman Wisconsin 2009

I finally followed my own advice…..and it worked! As a professional speaker, I get the opportunity to share my ideas about staying motivated and avoiding burn-out with a lot of people. Hopefully, I am making a difference in some of their lives. This past Sunday, I followed my own advice – Dream, Plan, Journey, Balance, and Mentor- and was very happy with the results.

See for more details on keeping the flame lit.

What a great day. I got to live another dream and share the success with so many. So here is my report that I write in appreciation to those who were part of my journey.
I was treading water with my nephew David Salzman in the middle of Lake Monona last Sunday with 2,500 other people getting ready to swim 2.4 miles and trying to remember what I was doing there. David signed up for the Wisconsin Ironman right after completing his first Ironman last year, and at the time, I thought it would be a good idea to come back. However, this time I wanted to come back as a participant, not a spectator. I signed up, visualized a new dream of winning my age group and eventually shared it with everyone. Just before the gun went off, David held his hand up to slap me a high five and pronounced, “Game –on.” I felt those two words and the hand slap sending electronic impulses to every nerve ending in my body as I finally woke up to what was about to happen. My brain seemed to do a data dump and every muscle in my body had only one mission – to keep me moving forward for the next 140.6 miles.

The gun went off and I got caught in the middle of the slugfest. The good news is that with 2,500 swimmers, we created our own current. The bad news is that I was kicked, jabbed and wacked more than I remember. After two laps, I came out of the water and was greeted by two stripers who had my wet suit off in seconds. Of the 73 men in my age group, I was the 5th out of the lake. That was my best swim place in all of my Ironman races and I attribute it to some great coaching by Pete, Oliver and Diana and by chasing Debbie and Leslie at the Concourse pool. My open water swims at Lake Altoona with Fox Ferrel and the TriGeeks was also critical.
Next was the 112 mile bike ride – a two loop rolling ride with a number of steep hills and lots of corn and soy bean fields. The steepest hills were decorated with screaming fans that create a Tour de France atmosphere for the riders. As we climbed a steep hill at mile 45, I could see my sister Alison standing at a look-out post on the top of a hill. She spotted me and I could see her running down to the side of the road to give Marty, Nannette and Evan, our official photographer, a heads-up that I was approaching. Nannette gave me my position as 4th as we passed. At about mile 75, as I rode 22 miles per hour through beautiful cornfields, a bee decided to commit suicide on my lower lip. It appears he decided to attack rear end (as in stinger) first. Not only did it hurt, but I am allergic to bee stings, so I started to swell up. My lower gums started to go numb and my lip was really...well stinging. I had three options: first, to recognize the medical emergency and stop at the next aid station in less than 5 miles or second, to wait until I passed Nannette at mile 85 and pick up a Benadryl, or third, just grin and bare it. Since I believed the first two options would knock me off the podium, I took option three, which was more drool and bare it. As I passed Nannette at mile 85, I yelled “bee sting” and “I’m OK.” (Well, one out of two was correct.) Drinking Gatorade at 22 miles an hour with no lower lip was pretty ugly and messy. I finished the bike and was able to take almost 30 minutes off my bike time from four years ago. I have to give my bike coach Tony Meyers of ATS a lot of credit for that improvement. In addition, my Colorado triple bypass team (Scott, Bishop, Dave, Gary, Mike, Jeff, and Lewis) gave me two critical training weeks in July. I also appreciate the patience Gabe and Bill had in trying to get me to go faster on Columns drive.
I came off the bike, changed my shoes, picked up some Cliff Cubes, a Larabar, and a chocolate Boost high protein drink and headed out for the run. I was smart enough to remember to take off my bike helmet, but not smart enough to remember my gloves. As I approached Nannette and Alison at the first half mile, I dropped my gloves and continued on. Nannette yelled the update that I was back in 5th and 22 minutes behind the leader. But the run leg of an Ironman has always been my strongest leg. I came from a runner’s background and felt like I was on my “home court.” If I could run just a minute a mile faster than the leader, I could win this race and I felt that was reasonable. At mile 13, Nannette yelled another update that was being relayed to her from Scott Boylan in New York and Dick Jones in Atlanta. I had moved up to third and was on track. Then, at mile 20 Nannette screamed the final update. I was in second, and according to Dick and Scott, “hold your pace and you will win!” Well, at mile 20, I felt like smoke was coming out of my ears. My internal gage with the red line had shattered. My tongue was dragging on the pavement…and my wife was commanding me to “hold your pace.” And then I remembered what my training buddy, Kebby Holden, wrote me days before the race….”Mike – are you ready to unleash the beast?” Yes, I thought, it was time! I started running with more purpose as I pushed to make sure I did not fall off my pace. I would later find out that I ran mile 14 to 19 at a 9:17 pace and mile 19 to 26 at an 8:56 pace, so Scott and Dick relaying messages to me through Nannette did make a difference. Running the hills on every Monday night with Adri Herman and her group, and running the hills on Wednesday night with Dick and Ken Lawler, and my Friday run with Alan Cohen, and my ongoing runs at the river with Jim Duguay and all my friends on the Atlanta Track Club Masters team also made a difference. And chasing Scott Boylan up every mountain he could find also helped. I ended up beating the leader, 55 year old Ken Kuehn, a 17 time Ironman (6 times in Kona), from Oshkosh, Wisconsin by 8 minutes.

Later that evening, two magic moments happened. The second one was getting back to my hotel room and reading all the e-mails from my friends who tracked me during the day. It was very emotional for me to try and accept the fact that the kid who was always picked last and played right field had so many people celebrating his victory. I can’t describe how much that meant to me and I still get tears in my eyes just writing about it. The first magic moment was when my nephew crossed the finish line and beat his previous Ironman time by 15 minutes. I went back into the finish area and ran over to hug David and say, “a new PR by 15 minutes!” At the same time, he saw me and walked over to hug me. Now there was a lot of things David could have said after just traveling 140.6 miles, like “oh am I glad that is over!” or “a new PR!” But instead, he stunned me with a big grin and yelled, “you won your age group!”

I have learned that there are two sides of being a mentor. The first is to teach, guide, and encourage someone to set high goals and achieve them. The second is to be a role model to inspire others to live their dreams. David’s personal victory, his congratulations at the finish line and the e-mails I have been receiving all week have certainly given me the impression that as for mentoring, I am on the right track in inspiring others to keep their flame lit for life.
With appreciation,
Mike Wien (Mahalo Mike)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Introduction to the Annapurna Circuit

At the end of February, 2009, my 22 year old son Andrew invited me (his father) to join him on a mountain bike trek in Nepal. Andrew had been spending the winter in Pokhara, Nepal as a volunteer in an orphanage and was looking forward to exploring some of the mountains he looked at every day. He came up with this plan to follow the Annapurna Circuit, a well documented and traveled hiking trek around the Annapurna Mountain range. But instead of taking the normal 15 to 18 days by foot, Andrew researched a way to do it in just eight days by riding, carrying and pushing a mountain bike.
Here are some basic facts. The trek covers about 150 miles and travels along the Annapurna Mountain range, a group of mountains in Nepal that top out at about 26,000 feet. The highest point on the trek is Thourung La, a mountain pass that is 17,800 feet above sea level. At every six to twelve miles along the trek is a community that is home to many small shops and guest houses catering to the needs of the trekkers. While the accommodations are primitive – no heat, limited electricity, a room with a hole in the floor for the communal toilet, and solar heated hot water for one shared shower, the guest houses provide beds, blankets and hot meals, so travelers do not need to carry tents, sleeping bags or food.
While my original intent was to provide a day-by-day travel log of what we did, I believe that a log might have more appeal to me and my immediate family and would not have a broad reach. So, for those looking for more of a day by day account, please check out this web site for a great generic day-by-day description of the Annapurna Circuit. It is actually very good and the site I used to prepare for the trip.
Instead of a travel log, I have come up with about 20 short stories, each one focusing on one aspect of the trip. Once this mosaic of stories is completed, I believe you will have a greater appreciation of this magical place half way around the world away. Taking trips like this is just one way to find balance in life and keep the flame lit. Enjoy the journey

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl 2009 Advertising Review
By Mike Wien

The 2009 Super Bowl will be remembered for an incredible number of game changing plays as well as the number of critical penalties that contributed to making it a dramatic cliff hanger, or more appropriately a toe hanger, until the very end. As for the advertising, while we did see some great creative this year, I am not sure many would be considered game changers and I believe a lot of yellow flags should be thrown in some marketing departments on Monday morning.
The Super Bowl has become an annual tradition for both the best professional football players to show their talent as well as some of the most sophisticated agencies in the world to show their creative prowess. At $3 million for 30 seconds to reach 100 million people, the stakes for the NFL teams and the agencies are high. While hundreds of fans and sports writers will get to play Monday morning quarterback and evaluate every aspect of the game, I look forward to playing Monday morning quarterback each year and providing a perspective on the winners and losers in this annual advertising event. As I attempt to objectively evaluate the creative, I focus on the same three things I look for in all marketing or business development plans:
Are they focusing on the right target?
Have they developed a compelling message? (Does the viewer know what they are famous for?)
Did they pick the right vehicle to deliver their message?
Based on these three simple criteria, here is how I called the game in the order the commercials were aired. To review any of these commercials, go to .

Bud Light Budget Meeting – Budweiser took the lead spot again this year with a budget meeting focusing on cutting costs. When a young executive comes up with the idea of no longer serving Bud Light in meetings, he gets jettisoned out a tenth story window of the building. In these difficult times, one can imagine meetings like this taking place. By so violently rejecting the idea and the person who came up with it, the Budweiser team made their product king. Bravo.

Audi Car Chase – Car commercials are very difficult to pull off successfully in a Super Bowl environment. That is why I traditionally do not comment on them. This Audi commercial involves too many cars and too much of a story line to have anyone focus on the product – Audi. While image is important, the message got lost in all the traffic.

Pepsi For Ever Young - Borrowing from the Forrest Gump concept of traveling over many generations, Pepsi delivers good music and entertaining footage that is more meaningful to the original Pepsi Generation of the sixties, but does not capture the emotion or connection of today. For a brand that used to develop the winning Super Bowl commercial, this was a lost generation.

Doritos Crystal Ball – Frito Lay understands that they are selling a fun product. If you want serious food, eat carrots. So they appropriately stick with fun and unexpected twists. In their first commercial, a guy uses the crystal ball to throw it into a Doritos vending machine as he predicts free Doritos for the day. It works. His associate tries the same technique in asking about a promotion and accidently throws the ball into the crotch of his approaching boss. The result is very funny and very different. Just the right recipe.

Bud Light by Conan O’Brien - This commercial starts out with Conan telling an agent, “I just don’t do commercials. It is not my thing. “ He should have kept that policy in force. The commercial, while trying to be funny, was a double miss. It was the wrong image for Conan and the wrong image for Bud Light. The story line was so complicated; I had to re-watch the commercial to remember who paid for it.

Bridgestone Mr. Potato Head - Bridgestone delivers another entertaining commercial using Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head. Entertaining, yes, but what did this have to do with tires? Bridgestone needs more than just entertainment to get traction on this one.

Castrol Edge Monkeys – e-Trade used chimpanzees 8 years ago in some much loved spots. Career Builders used chimpanzees for many years and should have never walked away from that formula. So it is no wonder that Castrol thought they found the magic formula by sticking a bunch of chimpanzees in a garage. They are about to find out that developing great creative is not that easy. What a mess.

Doritos Crunch – The guy chomps on a Doritos and the crunch makes absurd things happen, from clothes dropping off a woman to money flying out of an ATM, to a policeman turning into a monkey. Just what Doritos is supposed to be…absurdly funny.

Go – The good news is that Go finally told people what they did – create domain names on the internet. However, I assume after three years of this campaign, they really know their audience – guys who love pornography on the internet. If that is their target, then they have the right message.

Pepsi Max I am Good – This commercial features a number of macho guys recovering from doing really stupid guy things. This must be the type of person who loves large amounts of caffeine. Go for it.

Pedigree Adoption Drive – This short set of vignettes featuring people owning ridiculous pets is very funny, but I am afraid the animals hog the message. What are they selling?

Budweiser Fetch - In a curtain call appearance, our favorite Budweiser Clydesdale is re-united with our star Budweiser Dalmatian for a game of fetch. But the Clydesdale showing off takes away the warmth and emotion that made previous commercials so effective.

Budweiser Lover Boy – Maybe Budweiser decided to develop a commercial that would appeal more to women. I would run this one with the previews at a “chick flick.”

Mission G – A very interesting and attention grabbing commercial with no apparent sponsor. By doing some research after the game and playing the commercial over, I was able to discover that the commercial mentions a web site during the last two seconds of the commercial – I am not sure what the site does, but I am pretty sure it was paid for by Gatorade. For $3 million, I expect advertisers should not make it so difficult to find out who sponsored the commercial. Super Kid – This super kid from birth does some amazing things that demonstrate great confidence at a young age. However, he has no confidence in his ability to buy a car. My guess is that the audience hates negotiating a price for a car and hates this kid. Two wrongs here make a bigger wrong.

e-Trade Babies – The folks at e-trade developed this concept last year and it worked. So stick with a winning formula. Not my taste, but I am probably no longer in their target.

Bud Light Drinkability – This is an example of a serious message (drinkability) converging with a very humorous visual (obstacles being inserted in front of skiers digitally for crashing effects). Serious and humorous just don’t mix. And when did drinkability become an issue with beer anyway?

H & R Block Father Time - This commercial brings the two requirements of life – Death and taxes – together to focus on H & R Block’s new service – a second look. What a great message for the high volume king of tax returns. And when they find something that was missed, they end up with a customer for life. Prize Stuffed Elk – This commercial captures the great disparity between the executive office and the manager’s office and drives home the message – if you hate your job, get a new one - in a lighthearted but effective way. In today’s environment, when so many people are looking for new jobs, this one hits the mark.

Cheetos Ms. Negative – In this commercial, Cheetos is used effectively to chase away an obnoxious lady who is complaining about everything. Not only is Cheetos the hero, but Chester Cheetos, the mascot even gets to play a secondary role. Smile and say cheese on this one.

Bridgestone Spacemen – Astronauts on the moon have their tires stolen off their lunar vehicle. It won’t win awards but it was effective.

Denny’s Free Breakfast – This is a big message – offering a free breakfast to everyone on Tuesday. However, the message got lost in the commercial. If you have an important message, deliver it. Don’t hide it in between the whipped cream and pancakes.

Budweiser Clydesdales Generations – If this was the traditional Clydesdale pull at your heart strings commercial for 2009, it missed. You can’t pull on heart strings when you start off in a vaudeville act.

Coke Ladybug Animation – Here is a wonderful use of animation to create a feel good commercial about Coke. Fun creative animation is right on for the real thing.

Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Plant Some Seeds - Kellogg’s came up with a beautifully done commercial that provides a nice tie-in to local communities. It is the right commercial for Kellogg’s, but the wrong commercial for the Super Bowl. Next time, try family oriented programming.

Coke Zero – Do you remember Coke’s Mean Joe Green commercial? One of the best in Super Bowl history. This sequel must have been really funny to the guys in Coke marketing who approved this commercial. But do they really think the rest of the world cares about inter-brand competition? Give me a break. Inside jokes don’t work on national TV. This one was a whopper.

Cash4Gold – In today’s environment, this communicates an important message in a pretty straightforward way. While it will not be a crowd pleaser, it will bring in the gold.

Taco Bell Call Me Sometime – I am not sure who will be scared more by this one – guys or girls. The customer for your products is supposed to be a hero, not an overbearing turkey.

GE Scare Crow Smarter Grid - GE continues to demonstrate their creative talents by leveraging a classic story with current technology. But who is the audience and what was the message? If it was stockholders or public utilities, why promote this to 100 million people?

GE Capturing the Wind – Another creative commercial from GE about wind power. This is a little more main stream and does a nice job associating GE with renewable energy.

Pepsi McGruber - The idea of a really dumb commercial works well with a Saturday Night Live audience. But this is not a Saturday Night Live audience. Keep this under wraps until after anyone with a functioning brain goes to bed.

Bud Light Lime – This commercial delivers the Bud Light fun image and still manages to communicate the unique selling proposition in the creative – summer state of mind. This commercial has sizzle.

My congratulations to the Steelers fans and my sympathy to the Cardinal fans. The same goes for many professionals in the advertising industry as we celebrate the winners and try to understand what went wrong with those who did not fare so well. For those of us dealing with more modest budgets, we can learn from this irreverent review the importance of staying focused on the three critical elements of success:

Define a very specific Target.

Develop a Compelling Message that is meaningful and relevant to the target.

Select the most effective Vehicle to deliver that compelling message to the target.

The Super Bowl is more than just about muscle and brute force. It is also a demonstration of the importance of solid strategy being executed in a successful manner. The Steelers did a better job in executing their strategy to the delight of millions of fans. So did many of the advertisers.