Triathlon icon Mike Greer, 31-year-old event founder in Lubbock, dies at 82
Mike Greer was a face of triathlon, nationally and even internationally, completing over 400 races and making a lasting impact with ordinary people whom he brought to the sport as a tireless race director and promoter.
He founded the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon in 1990 with 91 participants, then built it to attract top professionals who viewed the West Texas course and summer climate as ideal preparation for the annual Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
Along the way he served as President of USA Triathlon and later Interim CEO.
Greer died early Wednesday at the age of 82 from complications from salvaging a wrecked motorcycle. He suffered the accident on June 27, on the way and one hour before the departure of the IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock.
“He was such a force of nature, such a beautiful force of nature,” said Marti Greer, wife of Mike Greer and the liaison between the town of Lubbock and IRONMAN. “He’s inspired so many people with what he would say, ‘I’m not a triathlete. I’m a triathlon person.’ He was never fast or good (in triathlon), he was just tenacious.
“He just loved sports and loved the people in sports, loved getting to know them all and telling them his whole story.”
Coming to triathlon in 1984, Greer has become a competitor, volunteer, sponsor and race director, remaining visible and active for the past 37 years. He has coached others not only in sports, but on his “11 healthy and ageless life points”.
He took his bike to the Buffalo Springs / Lubbock triathlon course to oversee quality control and verify athletes.
Greer died shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday at Covenant Medical Center, his wife said, 24 days after her accident. He was injured on E. 19th Street, en route from Ransom Canyon, where he lived, to Dunbar Lake, where IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock starts. No other vehicle was involved.
He underwent emergency surgery that day for injuries that included fractures to his ribs, pelvis and spine. After a week in intensive care and another week in hospital, he had done about 10 days of physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, his wife said.
“He was working there. He was really working there,” she said. “He was doing it like a champion. But this accident was so traumatic.”
Greer grew up in Littlefield and went to the University of Houston and UT-Arlington as a running back in football and a sprinter in track and field. He started running in the late 1970s and ran 44 marathons.
It took a few more years before he found a vocation in swimming, cycling and long distance running.
He competed in his first triathlon – the race that set up the Guadalupe Mountains – in 1984. He finished his 400th in September 2018, reaching that milestone with the last eight to come 13 months after suffering a stroke . He ended up doing 403.
“He had more than what we had already recorded this year,” said Marti Greer, “but it happened.”
Greer is the originator of the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon as an Olympic distance event. In 1994 it became a 70.3 mile race. The event centered around Lake Buffalo Springs for its first 29 years before moving in 2019 and was renamed IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock.
Describing Greer’s foray into the triathlon, his wife said: “He was very enthralled with the idea because (the IRONMAN world championships in) Kona has become a regular thing on television, once a year, and He was interested in. He finally gave it a go, try the sprint triathlon, and you get hooked.
“Then from there he noticed that there was a perfect site for the sport of triathlon (around Buffalo Springs Lake): a beautiful lake, a beautiful bike (route) and then running.”
Greer has completed seven IRONMAN events – swimming 2.4 miles, pedaling 112 miles and running a 26.2 mile marathon – including two at the World Championships.
On its 400th anniversary, a US triathlon story on teamusa.org noted that Greer had started and hosted 50 events across Texas and the Southwest.
“You are not promoting the race for the money,” he said in the story. “It’s psychic income. I know I can’t make a bank deposit with it. But I have people who say, ‘This race has changed my life. This sport has changed my life.’ It’s right there, it keeps me going and staying here. Just knowing that you’ve had a positive influence on someone you just met is cool. “
Another of his contributions was the idea of the aquabike: a race with swimming and cycling for those who cannot run.
“He did a lot of things trying to help the sport become more organized, trying to help people who needed a different way of playing the sport,” said Marti Greer.
A visitation is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. at Sanders Funeral Home. A funeral service is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m.
In addition to his wife, Greer is survived by three daughters, one son, 15 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.