Mike Criego is no stranger to a good challenge. In fact, he welcomes it. It is what drives him, keeps him focused and fulfills his mind and body. Originally hired by his dad, Bill, twelve years ago, Criego is now co-owner of 12 Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise locations in Minnesota and manages the day-to-day operations for all of them. Each day presents a series of obstacles and ultimately he is tasked to find a way to overcome them.
It’s not such a stretch, then, for him to gravitate to a hobby based on rigorous year-round training and endurance competition. Criego is an avid cyclist, and he uses this as a needed release to maintain vigilant equilibrium in his life. Since 2000, he has been competing in triathlons, Ironman competitions, and numerous grueling bike races all over the world.
“Being a Batteries Plus Bulbs franchisee has been great; it’s a very good business to be in. However, as a business owner, when the responsibility and pressure begins to mount on a daily basis, if you don’t have a way to release it, at some point it will end up coming out sideways. I feel like training helps me avoid that and keeps me refreshed.”
Having competed in athletics growing up, it wasn’t until Criego got into his 30s that he started pursuing these extreme physical activities. After golfing for years, he decided he wanted to pursue something that directly correlated hard work with getting better at something, which wasn’t necessarily the case for him on the golf course. Being extremely goal-driven, in both business and his personal life, this was a natural transition for Criego. Now, for the last four years, he and a handful of his friends and fellow cyclists all train together and compete as a Batteries Plus Bulbs sponsored team.
“I probably enjoy training with my buddies more than the actual races; hanging out and pushing each other to do better. The competitions end up being the culmination of all the hard work, and they represent the goals that I need to focus on to keep me going.”
Between 2012 and 2013, Criego and a few of his teammates experienced some awesome, yet taxing, competitions. They began by racing 100 miles per day for 9 straight days across the Continental Divide Trail, from Grand Teton National Park to Glacier National Park. Four months later, they performed a 3-day race through the jungle in Costa Rica, and in February of 2013, they raced 350 miles across the snowy Iditarod trails in Alaska.
However, these harrowing and profound experiences don’t come without some serious risks. For example, after being bit by a mosquito in Costa Rica, Criego contracted Dengue Fever and was hospitalized for three days upon returning home. And, while competing in the Arrowhead Ultra 135, a bike race in the bitter cold of northern Minnesota in January a few years ago, Criego found himself riding and walking alone in the dark for over ten hours on his way to the next checkpoint. With temperatures reaching minus-40 that night, his water having frozen, and his extremities getting frostbit, it became a matter of survival for him to find the will to persevere. He did, obviously, but was it all worth it?
“Beyond the physical exhaustion, it becomes a matter of mental focus. Sometimes it comes and goes. Part of balancing ‘real-life’ and my hobby is finding a way to stay strong when I’m racing, blocking out other distractions in the process. This isn’t always possible, and it’s disappointing when I can’t do it, so I just continue to strive to do better the next time.”
Goal-driven, mental fortitude, focus, and balance seem to be the key traits that enable Criego to achieve success in business and in his personal accomplishments. With bike races in the Andes and Himalaya Mountains still out there to be conquered, he is just waiting for someone on his team to throw-down the next challenge and they will make it happen.
Beyond that, what’s next for Criego, once his body can’t withstand the physical toll of these extreme activities?
“I’ll keep doing this as long as my body lets me. Then, I’ll pick up learning how to play the guitar.”
Look out, Slowhand.
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