Newly minted XTERRA Pro Joe Miller from the Philippines could be the most dedicated and grateful triathlete on the planet.
He works full time at The Brick Bike Shop in Cebu from 10am-to-9pm, 7-days a week, and when he’s not working he’s training and helping other Filipino athletes reach their goals.
His hard work paid off last weekend when he finished 3rd overall and the top Filipino for the second straight year at the XTERRA Philippines Championship.
“The guy is just amazing,” said XTERRA Pro Ben Allen, who has been so impressed with Miller over the past two years he helping him with travel arrangements to Australia to experience the culture and race in the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship event. “He’s easy going, compassionate, and always puts the needs of others first. He’s just a great guy and he loves XTERRA.”
Miller says his work-ethic and zeal for life were born out of experience.
Growing up in a small village in the Lagundi Kiamba Sarangani Province, Miller’s father worked as a bike mechanic, which was the family business.
Working hard and taking care of family are time-honored Filipino traditions and why when he was 14-years-old, Joe Miller skipped school one day to go fishing with his friend and his friends Dad in hopes of catching Tuna to support his family’s needs.
After three days at Sea in Mindanao near the Malaysia boundary the trio had reeled in nine big tuna and pleased with their catch, set sail for home in the dark of the night.
“On our way back we crashed into a big tree log and our wooden boat began to sink,” said Miller, explaining how they never saw the tree because they navigated by stars without the aid of a compass, GPS, radio, or cellphone. “People in our community are poor fisherman who can't afford gadgets like sonars and detection equipment.”
The captain calmly instructed the boys not to panic as they tied their equipment, bread, biscuits and water to the log and took off the tarp that was serving as the boats roof. There were no life jackets on board.
“The boat sank to the bottom on our first day stranded at sea, so we stayed beside the log our supplies were tied to but couldn’t rest on it because it would sink,” said Miller. “To avoid shark attacks we stayed in the middle of the tarp and we tied ourselves to each other.”
All the while they prayed.
“On our first day our captain served us bread and water and I noticed that I’m hungry and our supply is easily consumed. We took care of each other and didn’t lose hope. At night all you could see is stars sparkling across the sky and reflections of it on the ocean. It’s a good thing the ocean was calm, like oil. We heard unusual sounds, those of cats and cows and wales. There were curious sharks cruising around us in the day time, and we were lucky to be inside the tarp as they passed by.”
On the second day the three men ran out of bread and biscuits, but had water to drink. They used their fishing skills to catch their ensuing meals.
“It was a good thing there were a lot of fish surrounding the log, but a bad thing because the sharks ate those fishes, so we were afraid. We had our fishing equipment with us and we used the bread we saved for bait to catch small fish, and the small fish to catch bigger fish. We were fighting for our lives.”
Miller said that on the third night they started to say goodbye to each other.
“We noticed our skin is shrinking, our lips are cracking, our bodies are numb and we felt so weak. We confessed to each other if we die and one of us survived, please don’t leave our bodies here. As long as I remembered, this is what I prayed, "LORD, THIS IS THE LIFE YOU GAVE ME AND I LOVE THE LIFE THAT YOU SHARED WITH ME AND IF I DIE TODAY LET ME DIE IN YOUR HANDS, AMEN.”
The next afternoon they were rescued by fellow Filipino fisherman.
“I remember thinking I survived the shipwreck, it’s not my time yet,” said Miller. “I believed the power of prayer. I learned to appreciate life even if we are poor. I'm thanking God, this thing made my will stronger, my mind stronger. I don’t mind the traumas I've been through, all I know is to live the life that God gave me, my second chance.”
Upon his return Miller dedicated himself to his family, and to sports.
“I thought God has a purpose and plan for me,” said Miller. “I got into mountain biking, then duathlon, and now triathlons. I’ve been racing triathlon for four years now and I love off-road the most, ever since XTERRA came to Cebu. I pushed my luck at XTERRA, failed twice, but I'm enjoying the sport now. This is my fourth year racing XTERRA and I want this life, to LIVE MORE!”