Saturday, December 29, 2007

Out of Competition

I slept way in this morning, and by way in, I mean until 10:30AM. Amanda graciously allowed me to continue my slumber well past her early hour wake-up time of 7:00AM. Well past it. In fact, she was on her way back from a run when she decided to call me at home to see if I wanted a coffee from Spruce. (I love Spruce.) It was that call that woke me up at 10:30. I might have slept until 11:00 otherwise! Did I forget to mention that I'm part bear?

After a fairly slow start to the day (I opted out of the coffee offer), I found myself outside for the first time around 1:15PM. The dogs asked me to take them for a neighborhood walk, since they, too, chose to skip this morning's run with Amanda. We're a smart bunch.

We did one of our regular loops through the 'hood, stopping a few times to dive our heads into deep snow drifts (Luna), to shiver (Blue), and to pick-up some animalpoop (me). The fact that I was enjoying the 31-degree warmth indicates that I've officially made the mental switch that is key to cold weather adaptation. Temps in the forties seem balmy to me now.

Upon return to the house, I spotted a strange vehicle in the driveway. At first I thought some solicitors were too cold to walk door-to-door, and had chosen to drive door-to-door. Then the car's occupants hopped out and introduced themselves to me as USADA doping control agents. Once again, I was being tested Out of Competition.

This marks the fifth time USADA has come to my house (or to Flatiron Athletic Club) to test me outside of an event in 2007. My grand total for tests this year is eight, once you add the three tests I passed at Ironmans.

The agents told a funny story about how an athlete out in California ducked a test they had targeted him for, and he did so by hiding under the blanket on the couch. The agent testing him could actually see him pull the blanket over his head, after she knocked on his door. I laughed at how silly one must be to think this is an effective method of hiding.

However, it's not funny that he is intentionally skipping his test. I do not think he was a triathlete, but nonetheless, he's an athlete who chooses not to follow the testing protocol. He is, therefore, choosing not to play by the rules. This makes him a cheater, and I don't like hearing about other athletes cheating. I know they are out there, in all sports, taking advantage in one way or another; it just makes me sad to hear about it firsthand.

All I can do is to continue providing samples to the doping control agents; to keep submitting my quarterly schedule to USADA; and to hope that more of these cheaters get caught, and are brought out from under their blankets.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

We're Heading to Austin!

We have officially made plans to make our trip out of the winter wonderland of Boulder, Colorado. While we will be very sad to leave our newly formed Friday Run Group, and we'll also miss other great things here at home, we are very excited to get going on some warm weather training!

It's been on the horizon for a while now, but the planning has finally gelled a bit, and we're planning to depart Boulder on the 2nd, 3rd, or/and 5th. Hmm... does that sound like a plan that has gelled? I hope to depart on the 2nd, but if I cannot get myself and the car organized, the dogs and I will pull out of here on the 3rd. We bought Amanda a super cheap one-way ticket departing on the 5th, but there is a chance she'll decide to join the three of us for the road trip. Either way, by the weekend after this one, we'll be in Austin!

I will actually be heading out to Nashville on January 25th, to partake of the Southeast Multi-Sport Expo on the 26th. Anyone in the area on the 26th, stop by for a visit:
From there I'll head back to Boulder for four or five days to check in with NA Sports and everything at the home front, including Frisco. We'll have some folks staying here at our house while we are gone, so Frisco won't be lonely.

On the 31st I'll head back on down to Austin to join back up with Amanda, Luna, Blue, and all the Austin crew. It feels good to have a plan!

And for the next week, I had better bundle up! (But not too much!)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cannot Get Up

Can. Not. Get. Up.

In spite of my better efforts to drag myself out of bed this afternoon, I was just unable to do so.

Amanda and I had returned home after a chilly early morning run at the club. We opted out of the AM swim practice following the run, in favor of a dip in the hot tub and a nice breakfast. It was one of those decisions that just made sense. We were tired. We were hungry. We were cold.

Once we got back to the house, we thought we'd get changed and head right back down to the pool for a swim on our own. However, we got stalled out by a few distractions: Amanda had to pet her Fluff Friends on Facebook; I read the paper and checked email; and we played around with the dogs a bit. Then, just as we were contemplating the move back to FAC, we got sidetracked... by the bed.

The bed was calling us, and who were we to ignore it!? We jumped in, got under the covers, and before you knew it, two and a half hours had gone by. And we were so groggy when we awoke that we just could not get up. Finally we managed to drag ourselves from the bedroom.

After a short dog walk, we headed down to the club. We did a nice swim, and followed that up with some quality hot tub time. It was a good day, with plenty of relaxing and a few good workouts!

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and we're looking forward to laying low once again... after a couple good workouts!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

400 IM

Well, after ten days of soreness, tightness, and general weakness from my push-up pyramid, I have finally returned to normal. Well, I may not be normal, but my pecks are normal again. I actually did a 100 straight of butterfly, without breaking stroke, en route to a 400m IM in the pool this evening. Completing this challenge has proven to me that I'm finally over my last challenge!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Number Three

While typically I am a big fan of the number three, this morning I came across my first reason to dislike it. Three has been my lucky number for quite a while now, and I am normally glad to see its random appearance: on my race number; on my locker number; in my age; in the number of apples, oranges, and plums in my lunch box; and in pretty much everything else. I even used to be number three on my soccer team in high school.

This morning, however, I found a good reason to wish for a different number. As Amanda and I pulled up to the Rez for a short run with the dogs, all four of us were faced with the number three as an indicator of how many degrees Fahrenheit the air temperature was outside. Three! Now that is cold. It's very awful-damn cold, in fact. Sure, it's warmer than two, and it's warmer than -23, but it's still pretty damn cold. This morning I did not like the number three.

Amanda took off with our snow dog, Luna; and I headed off in a different direction with the Blue Dog. We busted out their coats for the occasion, so we were hoping for the best. The Blue Dog is a pretty lean, mostly hairless whippet, so he's not too good in three degrees. Luna, on the other hand, is a furry wire-hair Jack Russel Terrier; one that loves to dive her head into the snow. She is pretty hardy.

Blue and I made it for just about thirty minutes before he, in his dog way, with dog manners and dog tact, told me he was not enjoying himself anymore. We cuddled up in the sheepskin seat covers, and waited for our girls with the car heater blasting.

Impressively, about twenty minutes later, I spotted Amanda and little icicle Luna trotting up to the car. Somehow, after fifty minutes, the sun had not warmed the air up above three degrees. And somehow, these two endured fifty minutes in that three degrees. Impressive.

Watch out, folks: Amanda is motivated, and I am predicting some great races for her in the upcoming season! Even if she did chose to wear running shoes with Yaktrax, while Luna went shoeless.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow Day

Amanda and I called a snow day today. It was not very nice weather, and we did not really feel like doing another run on the treadmill, so we called a snow day. Just like back in school, we called off all scheduled activities. I was too sore to do much of anything anyway, so it worked out pretty well. Plus, it was nice to just hang out with Amanda for the day. We stayed in our pajamas for most of the day.

I did manage to get an hour of alternative exercising in, however. With all this snow, the dogs had no way to get out the back door, across the deck and into the backyard. I decided it was time to shovel some snow. I stared in the back, and worked my way to the driveway and front sidewalk.

After clearing a nice path for the dogs, for the mailman, for our car, and for the passers-by, I had logged an hour of challenging work. I was sweating, my heart rate was up, and I had tired muscles. It is amazing how much better it is to shovel snow with an ipod!

And I'm logging the hour.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Push Ups

Today started out pretty early in Casa Lovato. Amanda and I headed into the gym to do a 7:00AM strength and injury prevention class set up by Dave Scott. He's taking a break from teaching the class, but he's shown the full routine to a few folks, and they carry on without him. Although there is no substitute for the suffering inflicted by Dave himself in one of his sessions, this group puts up a good effort.

We joined with three others to do an hour+ of exercises cooked up by Dave's masochistic mind. Amanda and I have been hitting the gym, and even doing some yoga, so most of the session was moderately manageable. Just barely manageable, I should say.

However, near the end of the class, the group suggested we do Mel's push up pyramid. My pecks will never be the same. Thansk, Mel. And thanks to the rest of you for egging me on.

Here is the drill, for those of you who would like to play along at home:
1. Do one push up.
2. Stand up, turn 180 degrees to face the other direction.
3. Drop down and do two push ups.
4. Stand up, turn 180 degrees to face the original direction.
5. Drop down and do three push ups.
6. Stand up, turn 180 degrees, to face the other direction.
7. Drop down and do four push ups.

At this point, you have done ten push ups. Continue this pattern, adding one push up per change in directions... until you fail: push ups to failure. My pecks will never be the same.

At the start of the pyramid, the others said getting up to 12 (1-12) would be 78 total push ups. They said that was the max they'd done. They then challenged me to go up to 15 (1-15), which would be 120 push ups. This would earn a free ice cream. (From whom?)

I can never resist a good challenge or dare. My pecks will never be the same. I did all 120 of them; I quivered and shook at the end; I pushed up past my limits, past my comfort; and I did win the ice cream.

Now I'm too sore to move.

Tag Guidelines

Evidently I forgot to say what the guidelines are for being tagged. This means that each person must list five facts about himself (or herself). They can be any five things, thus my strange list of facts.

Have fun.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yoga, Tornadoes, Marshmallows, and a Game of Tag

It would appear that I've fallen off the wagon... again. I always think I'm going to have more time in the off season to write on my blog, but that never seems to happen. Nonetheless, I'm back.

Yoga is always a part of my off season. I love the classes, I love how my body feels after a good class, and I love to slow it down for an hour or ninety minutes. My friend LT invited me to a Sunday afternoon class, because it's her favorite one. I've invited Amanda and our friend Fee to attend, and now we have a little Sunday afternoon yoga party. I love it. And my tight muscles love it. I only wish I would make time to do this during the race season.

Tornadoes? What do I mean by Tornadoes? Sure, there are a few twisters in Colorado, but not this time of year. Now is the time for blizzards and freezing temps. In fact, it's about 18 degrees right now, and there's about eight inches of snow on the ground. Sucky pants.

There is only one Tornado I am dealing with, and it's called Tornado Amanda. Lately she's been whipping through the house with a whole bunch of inspiration and motivation. She's more driven to get in shape than I've seen her in a long time. Realizing that she needs a more focused December to set herself up for January 1st training has her going, going, going. And having her going has got me going!

I love the fact that she's got me fired up to get out of bed early (we did so all week!); she's got me sticking to a schedule of runs and rides, as well as swims, weights, and yoga; and she's even got us off the holiday food indulgence plan, so we're eating better. People always want to know what it's like for two professional triathletes to be married. Well, it's great: Amanda inspires me to be a better athlete every day.

Marshmallows might not appear to fit in very well here, but they do. They are a topic that needs addressing. Last night at the grocery store, Amanda and I bought some hot chocolate (her idea). Along with that we picked up some marshmallows (also her idea). Since we were on a roll, we bought some Hershey's bars and a box of graham crackers. Pretty sure those were her ideas also. Anyway, in spite of all the good training and good eating we're doing, we still have room for treats. Amanda just made me the most delicious s'mores treat. I love it.

And as for the game of tag, well, I'm late to the party. Surprise. Seems I've been tagged to list five things about me. Then I tag someone else? Five more people? Hmmm.

1. Playing soccer in high school, I was best known for my ability to do a flip throw (front handspring while throwing the ball in bounds).
2. When I was about three years old, while riding in an elevator with my Grandma, I pulled my pants down in front of some women and proclaimed, "I am a boy... see!"
3. I went to school for one semester in Sevilla, Spain; it was there I learned how to make a tortilla de patatas.
4. When I was thirteen years old, a ski shop sales person asked me if I was a Libra, because I could not chose between florescent green and florescent pink. I've been indecisive ever since.
5. I went streaking in five national parks in five days... back in college... with some friends.

Now I'd like to tag Terra, Karen, Cody, Duane, and Zane.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hawaii Ironman

Now that I've had plenty of time to let the race sink in, I'm going to go ahead and write the race report. To those of you who checked in earlier, thanks for your patience.

As I managed a few posts prior to the race, I'll try not to dwell on the details of my pre-race experience. To sum it up, the week and a half prior to the event went very smoothly. Amanda and I established a great routine of getting up early every day, going to bed early every night, and eating very well for each meal. I'd say the preparation was perfect.

Race morning was a continuation of a smooth and stress-free week. I got up very early, in fact, I managed to get going on my warm up run before 4:00AM. Back to the condo, I enjoyed a hefty breakfast and a delicious cup of coffee.

For the first time in recent memory (or maybe the first time ever!), I was walking out of transition (with the bike set, tires pumped and body marked) by 5:15AM. How was I this well prepared?! We had arranged with my Stephanie and Huggy Bear Hays to show up at their hotel room at the Kona Seaside at around six o'clock. As we were knocking on the door at 5:20, it seemed we were well ahead of schedule. They had graciously offered us to use their room as a "holding cell" prior to the race. It's nice to have this place to settle down, to be a bit calm, and to apply all of the necessary race lubes... in private.

After donning the incredible blueseventy pointzero3 skinsuit (with long legs!), and applying ample amounts of Aquaphor, Vaseline, and Body Glide, I made my way down to the start. I think I was the third person in the water, as I always like to have as long a warm up as possible. It was 6:25 when I pushed off, and I immediately knew I was going to have a good swim.

Just prior to the start, I bumped into Cam Brown, who was one of the few folks I had deemed worthy of towing me through the swim. I cannot think of a recent race where he has not been in the front pack, so he seemed like a good choice. I lost his feet last year, so this time around, I made sure to stick close in the opening 500 meters.

The swim was incredibly comfortable for me, and I credit this to the hard swim build I did in the month of September. However, I must also attribute it to the fact that we had, once again, been dropped from the leaders. As I cruised along, content to be with Cam and other contenders, I once again lost contact with the front guys, who ultimately formed the main bike group. Next year I will have to swim more aggressively, as it's absolutely key that I exit the water in close contact with these guys. Sorry, Cam, you are no longer my go-to swim guy!

Once through transition and out onto the bike course, I took notice of who was around me. The split to the leaders was just over a minute, and Normann, Sindballe, Vanhoenacker, and many more were nearby. Things looked very promising. I opted to really press that first five miles to see if I could bridge up to the leaders. Learning from last year's mistakes, I notched back the efforts when I realized the gap was not closing. Rather than blow myself up early on, I settled into a nice rhythm with three or four riders.

For much of the first thirty miles, I followed a very conservative strategy. My new goal was to ride with Timo Bracht (last year's number 11) and Cam Brown (last year's number 8) until we got to Hawi. At that point, I'd reassess, and begin to really race the bike. Somewhere around thirty miles into the ride, Torbjorn Sindballe and Marino Vanhoenacker gradually pulled away from our trio. Knowing that Sindballe would likely have the top bike split of the day, I chose to remain patient and to stay where I was.

Vanhoenacker's strategy proved to be brilliant, as he allowed Torbjorn to drag him all the way up to the front group, at which point he joined them, as the strong Dane pulled away. Later on in the ride, Vanhoenacker made a break from the group to enter T2 in third.

As I approached Hawi, I watched as a trio of speedo-clad riders came by my fairly quickly. I did not recognize them, but figured I'd likely see them about forty miles down the road... as the pace looked pretty aggressive to me. Timo left me with that chase trio, and Cam Brown seemed to be dropping further and further back.

I went through the turnaround in Hawi solo, and prepared myself for my weakest section of the race. For some reason, I always struggle in this race from mile 65 to about 72. I have learned to anticipate the lull, so it does not come as a shock when it hits.

Regrouping in the section, I waited to see if any of the weaker swimmers would come through to give me a boost. It never ceases to amaze me how much easier it is (mentally and physically) to ride with one or more guys. To be solo on the lava fields can be punishing.

Just as I was expecting, I was overtaken by a strong athlete who had experienced a rough swim: Rutger Beke. He is a guy who, like me, has experience racing the bike solo, only to run his way up the ranks. Unlike me, he has managed some top-five finishes with that tactic, so I was very glad to have his company.

Passing through the town of Kawaihae--at mile 78 of the race--there is a nearly-two-mile-long climb back to the Queen K. It can be a tough section of the bike, but it's a part I've always considered one of my best segments. I come alive at this point, and I know that the ensuing thirty+ miles are often my best.

I re-passed Rutger, and began my assault on the final thirty miles. On the really windy years, that final bit can really punish those who have gone out too hard. The headwinds can make you unsure as to whether you are going up or down a hill. It's not uncommon to be out of the saddle and gearing down to descend!

We were faced with a moderate amount of wind on our return trip. Folks would be hurting, but there would be no major blow-ups.

Rutger and I exchanged the lead a handful of times, as he seemed to own me on the down hills, while I had a bit of an advantage on the climbs. We managed to keep a great tempo over the closing miles, and I felt great coming back to town.

As always, we picked up a few of the riders who were spit out the back of the main group, as well as two of the unknown speedo guys. Entering T2, I was anxious to start the marathon with one of the sport's toughest runners: Beke.

Within the first mile, I was already losing ground. I took a slow transition, and lost two or three spots before the run began. My goal was to take the first ten miles very conservatively, as history has told me that Alii Drive can be stiflingly hot and humid. Many a runner has cooked himself early, only to find the tank empty out on the Queen K. I wanted to be ready to pick those guys up on the final eight miles of the run.

I think anyone who's raced Kona more than once would agree that this year's trip up and down Alii was uncharacteristically mild. We seemed to have strangely dry air (for Hawaii), and there was even a slight breeze. Although there was not a cloud in the sky, and it was plenty hot, the day was not serving up the brutal conditions it has in the past.

Once out on the Highway, I began to close in on the top ten. In 2003 I remember how much harder the fight was inside that top ten, and I tried to brace myself for those battles. As I approached twelfth place--Tom Evans--I got ready to have him match my move. As I went by, he seemed to let me go... then I heard his footsteps. He came right up on my shoulder, and I assumed he was preparing to run with me. At that point he said, "Lovato, my wife says it's OK if you beat me because I'm still better looking." Ha! I love it. Tom's the type of guy who has no problem talking a little trash right in the midst of a race. You gotta love that.

Further down the road, I got word I was catching the tenth and ninth place guys. Knowing that the race would truly begin when I hit that eighteen mile mark, I was excited to already be in the money. I felt so relaxed and so controlled up to this point. I felt that the pace was very manageable, and with the exception of the climb up Pay and Save hill, I was running every mile between 6:15 and 6:30 pace. With ten miles to go, I was imagining myself reaching that top five before we got back to town.

Assessing the competition as they left the Energy Lab, I knew that McCormack and Alexander were out out reach. They looked very strong, and they looked to be racing one another solely, something that surely pushed them to the race best run splits. Next up was Torbjorn and Deboom. They had a comfortable margin on me, but they did not look to be untouchable. Following them were Lieto, Vanhoenacker and Eneko Llanos. These guys all looked well within my range, as did the former champ, Luc VanLierde. I made the turn, grabbed my special needs, and proceeded to turn up the pace.

After nearly eight hours of racing, I was finally allowing myself to let it all hang out. I had patiently waited to that point, the point at which I'd really go for it. I made my way out of the Energy Lab, and received a split that I had closed on VanLierde. I was really moving, and thoughts of a smokin final 10K were on my mind.

As I turned back onto the Highway, I really ramped it up. For about a mile I was still holding strong. With a 20-mile split of 2:09, I was still under 6:30 average. I figured I'd be finishing around 2:50-2:51, unless I ended up in a tight battle, at which point I thought I could squeeze out a bit more.

Somewhere around 21 miles, my pace faltered. I was experiencing some serious downward pressure, and the focus shifted from maintaining pace to squeezing cheeks. I'll try to refrain from sharing the graphics and gore, but let's just say I became completely satisfied to hold seven-minute pace over the closing five miles.

The battle I was looking to fight UP the road became a battle I was looking not to fight BEHIND me. There are always athletes waiting to pick up the pieces should you come undone, and I was determined to maintain my placing.

I did my best to keep the pace alive, but the distraction of the turtle's head was too great. I settled in to enjoy my jaunt down Alii. My mom handed me an American flag, and I crossed the line all smiles.

I was ecstatic to be back in the top ten, and to have executed almost exactly as I had hoped to do; I was very pleased with my performance. As with every race, I'll take home a few valuable lessons. I'm confident that I'll be moving further up the podium next year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ironman Hawaii!

Just thought I'd get on here to make a quick post to the blog. It's been a quick but relaxing couple days since the race, with the only downside being that I've had zero internet time. For some reason, I've had not hotmail access, so the email replies have been behind... as the race report usually is!

First and foremost, I want to thank you all for the positive and encouraging emails you sent prior to the race. I got every one of them, and I appreciate that supports.

Next, I'd like to thank every one who has sent me a congratulatory note on my top-ten finish. I'll get back to you all soon, and I'm happy to see that you're as happy as I am to be back in the mix here in Hawaii.

And finally, the race report is on its way! I promise!

Thanks again... and stay tuned for some photos and some play-by-play reporting!

Monday, October 08, 2007

I have finally made it to Lava Java. We've spent a lot of time here in the past, but hadn't made it down this year. Amanda decided she wanted to do a bit of shopping, so I left her downtown, and came up here to grab a delicious smoothie. It's great to sit here in the evenings, as the view is just about perfect. The ocean is right across the street, and with the exeception of a few odd triathletes running by in their speedos and commpression socks, the view is unobstructed.

We've got about twenty more minutes before the sun sets. Right about now I'm regretting not bringing my camera.

Ah, another day in paradise, and another day closer to race day!

Thanks for checking in.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Days Three and Four

Finally I am posting a couple photos of the new Javelin Lugano. This bike is one fast machine, and I look forward to putting it to the test out on the Queen K next weekend. The next photo is from me at the start of my Energy Lab run.

Yesterday morning Amanda and I went out to the Energy Lab so I could do my last longer run before the race. It’s become a bit of a tradition to start the run out there, finishing in town, normally at the Jamba Juice. This time around, Amanda left me out there and then drove to town where she parked the car. She also had a long run on tap, so her plan was to start at Jamba, meeting me midway to pass off the car key.

I did an initial out-and-back inside the Energy Lab before hitting the Queen K. This part of the race is often considered the hardest part, as the wind from the highway is no longer cooling you off. For some reason, I tend to like this part of the run. It’s always hard; and it gives you a look at your competition behind and in front of you.

I was very happy at how easy it was to run along at my race pace. It’s so nice coming down from altitude, as the efforts, even in a much hotter environment, seem so much more moderate. The fact that I’m in the middle of a taper adds to the ease at which I was running along. Either way, it was a great run.

With a couple miles to go, I spotted Amanda on the other side of the highway. I crossed over, and we did an exchange of the car key mid-stride. We continued in our respective directions, Amanda toward the Energy Lab, and I toward town.

After finishing up I sucked down a delicious Jamba Juice and headed back to the condo to have some more food.

Amanda showed up about an hour later, and after she fueled up, we went out for a short spin. The crowds are starting to grow out there on the course, and unfortunately there were a few too many foreign athletes riding their bikes like idiots. It’s tough to see folks disobeying traffic laws and pissing off the locals, especially considering we already feel a bit of resentment from them regarding our invasion of their island. All we can do is to do our best to extend a few courtesies while we’re out there, and hope to keep the peace!

Today has been a nice, mellow day. We got up early and headed down to the Pier for a nice swim. I felt really good in the ocean, and feel like I’m right on track to establishing my swim rhythm. I really find that it’s important for me to spend as much time as possible in the ocean prior to race day.

After the swim we made it out for another short spin. Amanda is a bit tired from her long day of running yesterday—twenty miles—and I am all about resting! I capped off the afternoon with a massage.
It’s now the official start of race week, so we should see a huge influx of athletes arriving. It’s about to get a bit crazy out there. I’ll try to find some entertaining photo subjects to keep everyone amused.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Day 2 in Paradise!

Before I move on to today’s report, I have to point out the two highlights from yesterday. Highlight number one happened when I was enjoying my first ocean swim of the trip. There weren’t too many folks out there, as I had gone out a bit later in the morning. It was just about 10:00AM, and most of the crowds tend to show up around 7:00 or so. I was not too far out, in fact, I was just about to turn around, when I picked up my head just in time to see a dolphin flipping out of the water. I plunged my head back under to look for the rest of the group. Sure enough, just off to the left, there were about six or eight more dolphins, in two little groups. In the fist small group, there was a tiny one swimming very close to the others. It was definitely the cutest little baby dolphin I’ve ever seen. I watched them for as long as I could see them, then turned back. What a cool sight!

Highlight number two was picking up Amanda at the airport. Ever since our first trip here back in 1999, I have enjoyed surprising her at the airport in various rental cars. We do occasionally travel together, but it seems there have been many more times when we arrive separately. That first time, I showed up in my friend Doug’s Cadillac. This time around, I rolled up in my super cool convertible. But the true highlight is that I now have Amanda here with me!

Today started early, as I got up just in time to drop Amanda off at the pool for the Kona Aquatics Masters swim. She needs to keep her swim workouts going, so we planned on her joining the group a few times. I headed off to the ocean, as I am trying to get as many swims as possible out there. I really found that it helped me last year, so I’m staying away from the pool.

Once the swimming was done for both of us, we packed up the car and headed out to Hawi. Amanda was going to do a hill run out there, as sometimes it’s nice to get a break from running up and down Alii Drive. I was going to do a longer ride, back to town. Every year we head out there to do some sort of Hawi ride. It’s a great part of the island, as it’s very lush and green. Plus, it’s typically the part of the bike ride where the cross winds can be the most brutal.

Normally we’ll do an out-and-back, incorporating both the climb to Hawi and the descent. But this time around, I decided to try something a bit different: a point-to-point. I had never done this before, and I must say that it was quite enjoyable. I did get blown around quite a bit on the first 12 miles or so from Hawi. It was one of those days up there! It’s been a few years since we really got knocked around at Ironman Hawaii, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those rough years.

After finishing up the ride, I did a quick transition run from the condo. By this time it was about one o’clock, so the temps were warming right up. It’s always nice to do a few runs right smack in the middle of the day, just like on race day. I felt incredible out there running, and I did my best to just cruise along, saving it all for next weekend.

That’s it for now; thanks for checking in!

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I have arrived in Hawaii! The trip yesterday was very easy. I was actually surprised at how smoothly things seemed to be going. I woke up nice and early to finish packing, while Amanda was out doing her early morning track workout. By nine o’clock, I was just about done, which meant I had time to make the 9:50 bus to the airport. I had never taken this bus, so I wasn’t aware of how easy (and cheap!) it was going to be. Amanda dropped me off at the bus station about 24 seconds before the bus showed up: so far, so good. I hopped on the bus, paid my ten bucks, and settled in for the hour-long drive to DIA.

Anyone who’s ever traveled from Denver, and especially anyone who’s ever traveled on United from Denver, knows that it’s not easy to show up with overweight luggage. I had a few extra pounds in both my bike box and my suitcase, so I was prepared to pay the overage fee. For some lucky reason, the ticket agent, who is normally one of the harshest stickers for the rules, not only let me go with my heavy bags, he also neglected to charge me the bike fee! As an added bonus, my new friend at the ticket counter gave me a free upgrade to Economy Plus. I was off to a good start.

The flight to Honolulu was a surprisingly painless seven hours. I got some work done on the computer, and then I settled in to view two enjoyable movies.

After an easy layover in the Honolulu airport, I was off to Kona. My good luck seemed to be continuing, as I found both my bike and my bag to have made the inter-island flight: never an automatic guarantee. Off to the car rental, I was fortunate enough to get an upgrade to a convertible! Amanda and I had planned to rent a Jeep Wrangler for our last week here, but the opportunity to jump right into a fun car was too much to pass up.

After dropping off my stuff at the condo, I headed out for another bite to eat, and to get some groceries. Right about the time I hit the produce aisle at Safeway, I also hit the wall. My body was suddenly aware that it was just past midnight. Ouch.

Returning to the condo, I went directly to bed. Normally I’d attempt to get the bike built, as well as to unpack, but I was too beat to consider it.

About nine hours later, I awoke to a beautiful Hawaiian day. The sun was slightly hidden by an overcast sky, and the temperature was just about right. I always love that first run back in a warm and humid environment; the body just seems to work better.

However, just before I went out for that lovely run, I decided to build the old Javelin. This way it would be all set for a ride later that day. Imagine my surprise, the veteran traveler that I am, to open the bike case and see that I had forgotten two very crucial pieces of equipment: my wheels. Oops.

You see, I had packed my bike on Tuesday evening, and was very careful to put everything I needed in my box. I even managed to double-check things. However, Wednesday morning, when I was packing my suitcase, I found that there was no room for my training helmet (something I bring just in case I do not want to wear my Super Cool Darth Vader Helmet all the time). It would appear I had opened up my case, inserted the extra helmet, and sealed up the box… without replacing my wheels. Seems like that would have been a pretty obvious thing.

Ah well, it just goes to show that even on my eighth time racing this event (and my millionth time traveling with a bike) that I can still make a mistake or two. Ha!

Rest assured, our Most Excellent House Sitter and friend, Jen Martinez, has arranged for a speedy delivery of the wheels. They are slated to arrive on an 11:30 flight Friday morning with our friend Brandon Del Campo. And in the meantime, I’ll just have to borrow Amanda’s wheels! Yet another reason I’m so happy she’s arriving today!

More updates to follow… and as soon as I have wheels, I’ll post a shot of the new race rig.

Monday, September 24, 2007

After my last post about how great the weather has been here in Boulder, we experienced another four days of perfect weather. We were lucky enough to have plenty of sunshine, and even a good bit of wind to help with the Hawaiii preparation. Today, on the other hand, is our first really crappy day of the fall. It is barely fifty degrees, and it's raining. Ouch. It's not exactly the best set of conditions for a long run, which is what I have on the plan for today.

I figured I'd have a later start for this run, but now that it's approaching noon, and the sun has still not made a showing, I'm considering moving the long run to tomorrow. It seems silly to head out there into the cold, as this is no where near the conditions I'll be racing in three weeks from now. I'm always preaching to the athletes that I coach that being flexible is key. Let's see if I follow my own advice...

As a side note, I am getting dangerously close to posting photos of the new Javelin Lugano. It's pretty darn close to its race shape, and I'm just about ready to venture down to snap some pics. Along those lines, I might just have to reveal a look at my new helmet as well.... it's always fun to have all the best stuff, just in time for one big race!

Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We are having the most incredible September here in Boulder. We've been experiencing the most beautiful weather these past few days. We got a bit of scare on Monday when we woke up to overcast skies and rain, but it only lasted until about 10:30 in the morning.

Today Amanda and I got up early to hit the track for a nice little workout. She was planning on doing a light session with Dave Scott's group, and I was intent to do something a little speedier, on my own. It's no fun getting up before the sun is up, but we had to get to the track by 6:45, so we could get in a lengthy warm up.

It was a bit chilly out there to start, so I left some of my warm up gear on during the workout. It kept me sweating a good bit, so I figure it's good prep for next month's race. I'm guessing it won't be 60 degrees in Hawaii... even at 7:00AM.

The funny thing about training for an Ironman is that very often the start of a workout feels very bad. It takes a while to get the blood flowing, and the muscles moving. Today was one of those days where my warm up jog make me feel like a sack of monkey poop. I cannot explain that metaphor. By the time the workout rolled around, I was feeling peppy and fast. I am always telling the athletes I coach that this is a good sign of improved fitness: that it takes a longer time to feel good. Now it's time to hear my own advice: the longer I go, the better I feel... and that's a good thing.

One more thought before I head off for swim practice:

For those of you with cable television, and in particular the Versus network, be sure to tune into this block of Ironman broadcasts. You might just see someone you know:

Check local listings for the exact times in your region:
2007 Versus schedule of Ironman events includes:
Ford Ironman Arizona 9/16 4PM Repeat 9/19 4:30PM
Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene 10/7 4PM Repeat 10/9 4PM
Ford Ironman USA Lake Placid 10/28 4PM Repeat 10/31 4PM
Ford Ironman Louisville 11/18 4PM Repeat 11/21 4PM
Ford Ironman Wisconsin 12/2 5PM Repeat 12/5 3PM
Ford Ironman Florida 12/16 4PM Repeat 12/29 3PM
St. Croix Ironman 70.3 12/23 4PM Repeat 12/26 4PM

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This morning started VERY early in the Lovato Household. Four o'clock was when the first alarm sounded. I made sure Amanda was awake, and promptly pulled the pillow right back over my head. I needed another hour. It was time for the Gillamster to get up, however, as she was heading out to Aurora to race the Harvest Moon half iron. After a few solid weeks of training, she finally decided it was time to test herself at the races.

I, on the other hand, was in need of a long run, in my preparation for Hawaii (in four short weeks). As much as I truly love playing the race sherpa for Amanda, I had to pass the role off to our friend Jen (shout out to J-Mar!), as I really needed to knock out my training before watching the wife race.

So four o'clock came, and four o'clock went (not nearly soon enough). Around 5:00 AM Amanda came back for a good bye kiss, and a good luck wish from me. I sent her on her way, and I dragged myself out of bed. With two+ hours of running in front of me, I had to get to it... as soon as the sun was up.

I ate my breakie and I drank my coffee. And just 'cause I was still sitting there waiting for daylight, I drank some more coffee. Note to self: easy on the pre-workout java.

A bit past six, I deemed it light enough to embark on the run. I had chosen to run south to Chautaqua and Mesa Trail. It's about a four-mile warm up on the roads before those trails go straight up. I needed some strength-building climbs, so I headed to one of the toughest runs around. Sometimes it's hard to drag myself from the sheets, but when I do, I sure do love those early mornings on the roads.

Rather than turn back for and out-and-back route, I came down out of the foothills to finish the run on some rolling terrain... and on the roads. One thing I have really found beneficial is to finish the long runs on the pavement. It's just too much pounding out on the Queen K if the legs aren't tough from some good old road runs.

The run ended up being a great way to start the day, and was definitely a great boost to the fitness. With only a month to go, I am feeling stronger by the day.

As soon as I finished my run, I quickly made my way through my post-workout routine: a bottle of Ultragen, a quick stretch, a shower, a smoothie, and an apple. I hit the road, intent to see Amanda come off the bike out in Aurora.

It may have cost me about ten dollars in tolls, but I made it there quickly and safely. I had some time to spare, so the dogs and I had plenty of time to find Jen, and to position ourselves for some prime viewing.

Not too much later, AG came a-crusin' in with about three minutes gap to first place. With the kind of bike miles she has put in lately, I knew she'd be strong enough to have a go at the lead. Sadly, and I'm SURE Amanda's blog will have greater detail, the lead woman made a premature turnaround, and came back to the finish after three miles of running. Oops. By the time I saw Amanda at the halfway turnaround (the actual turning point), she was in the lead. It's not exactly the way you like to take the lead, but it's good enough. We all know the importance of being familiar with the race course!

Cruising back to the finish, the dogs, Jen and I were there to see Amanda take home the victory. I realize I'm biased, but damn, she looked good out there!

Another of the day's highlights was that Amanda and I got to meet some folks we'd only really "met" via these blogs and our email exchanges. One fellow in particular, Cody, was up from NM to race the clydesdale championships. He's a guy who, about three months ago, sent me a heart-felt and sincere note about how he had found inspiration in some of my racing experiences (and not just the wins!). As a result, and through triathlon, he has made some incredible life-changing moves. He's now a part of the triathlon family, and in November will be doing his first Ironman, in Nevada. Best of luck to you Cody, and it was great to meet you in person!

So now that the Lovato clan has its first victory for 2007, I'll have to sign off. I've got a bit more preparation to do today so I can be ready to roll next month.

Until next time.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Timberman 70.3 was over two weeks ago, so, as usual, I'm a bit behind with the race reporting. I'll not bother to apologize for the delay, as it's obviously the norm now.

I traveled to New Hampshire with Simon and his friend Alan. We had a pretty uneventful trip to Boston, and the drive up to Gilford was fairly painless. Both Simon and I were slated to talk at the "Dinner of Champions", along with a few other atheltes. We showed up at the Gunstock Ski Area with just enough time to register for the race, and get in line for some food.

For those of you who have never raced this event, you owe it to youselves to someday make the trip. It's well worth it. Not only is Keith Jordan (and his whole crew at Endorfun) one of the country's premier race directors, but NH and Lake Winnepesauke are just beautiful.

This year's race day weather was absolutely perfect, as there was not a rain cloud in site. The air temps were a bit on the chilly side, but the lack of rain was a welcome change from the past two years. I must admit, I tend to prefer the hot days for my races, but it's always nice to see what you can do under perfect conditions.

My race got off to a great start, as I positioned myself on the feel of Bjorn Andersson and Spencer Smith. While Simon powered away from us farily quickly, we three held a strong pace to the first turn buoy. Somewhere after that first 600+ meters, we were joined by another fast swimming Aussie. I was then fortunate enough to be placed right behind a bit of an "arrowhead" of leaders. I was just nearing the "pat myself on the back" stage of the swim, as we rounded buoy number two (and approximately 1260 meters). At that very moment, the effort proved to be too much for me. I popped. And when I say pop, I mean REALLY popped. In the final 600 meters, I lost exactly one minute 17 seconds to my former group. Ouch. That is not good, but when I blow, I really blow!

I picked up the feet of a chase swimmer who had left the others behind, but had not made our initial foursome. He towed me back in, and I found solid groud, thankful to be heading to my new Javelin Lugano (pictures to follow...SOON!).

I was so whupped from my anaerobic swim efforts, that I struggled to find my legs at the outset of the bike. I even felt my quads cramp up a bit as I attempted (and finally succeeded) to shove my feet in my shoes (about half a mile from transition). After about five miles, I began to build the intensity. I knew my training up to that point would not allow me to wage an all out assault on the bike, but rather I needed to build up to speed. This plan seemed to work well, as I continued to reel in those who beat me out of the water. There must have been one other swimmer I had not accounted for, as I ended up passing three riders in the next twenty five miles.

As I made my way back home, I began to feel stronger and stronger. I always like this feeling when I race, but sadly, strong does not win Half Ironmans anymore; speed is now the winner. It used to be where the strongest athlete wins, as it still is in an Ironman. These days you have to be strong, yet speedy as well.

I came into transition feeling ready to roll. I knew my work would be cut out for me, for sure. The deficit to Bjorn (the day's leader) was ten minutes; the deficit to Simon was about three. I went for it right away. I have run 1:15 on this course before, so if I could do it again, I'd have a shot. I went out hard.

There again I found myself feeling quite strong, but when it came time to notch the miles down to 5:40s and 5:45s, I was not doing it. I was not terribly surprised to be stuck at 6:00 pace, but I kept waiting to find fifth gear. (Note: to those of you who think of 6-minute miles as fifth gear, I apologize; while I agree that this is fast, it is not my fifth gear!)

I continued to apply pressure, as I still had hopes of catching Bjorn. I knew that Simon was gapping me, but Bjorn looked to be fading. While he did, in fact, come back to me, I did not have enough time to catch him.

As always, Timberman was a great test for me. I chased hard, I had fun, and I came away with yet another third place. Three is my lucky number, and this makes three third-place finishes for the year. And in four races up in NH, I have found myself on the podium in each of those years. I'll definitely be back next year, trying to make it back up a step or two.

In the meantime, I'm busy preapring for Hawaii. It's just six weeks away, so the training now is very important. I'm really enjoying it, and will be back soon with some updates, and hopefully some photos!

Thanks for tuning in.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It turns out that running like a hamster is pretty hard work. I knew this at the time, but I didn't know just how hard it was, or how much it was hurting me. After my trip to Chicago, I tried to jump back into some quality training here in Boulder. I found out pretty quickly that the efforts from four hours of indoor training treated me a bit like a race, and I needed to recover from it like a race. It found this out after two moderately unsuccessful workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday. My run and ride those days were quite a struggle, and not the good kind of struggle. I made it through the rest of the week with the intensity notched back a fair bit, and starting this new week, I'm feeling back to full speed.

This morning was the regular Tuesday morning run at the Rez with Simon's group. We've been meeting there since early in the spring, and although the turnout varies greatly, we've got a nice group to motivate one another. WIth the local half ironman this weeked (5430), some of the runners were taking it a bit easy. Others of us were planning for races next weekend (Timberman), so we added a bit more to the end of the session. Although I admit that I miss running at the track, these workouts are probably a better simulation for the types of races we do. And with Simon's ever-changing workouts, we get nice dose of variety.

Next up is a visit to Dave Scott's Hour of Power, aka House of Pain, aka 11:30 swim session. I am not sure if anyone actually uses these terms to refer to the workout, but they could. And they should. It's a popular, often over-crowded slug fest in the water. As a great part of my Hawaii prep is centered around boosting my swim, this is a key element to my training.

The final part of my day will be a ride to Jamestown on my new bike. It's now three weeks old, so it's not super new anymore. However, since I have not posted the "New Bike Update" yet, it's still new to everyone else. And on that note, tune in soon for a full low down of the new Javelin Lugano!

Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Whoa! Now I'm back to my evil ways... no updates for an entire month! I have to say that this was totally unintentional: go figure! I'm here again, and I just wanted to thank you, the faithful, for checking in, despite my lack of updates.

I do realize that many of you have been keeping up with my wife, the superior blogger, so at least I rest easy knowing the readers are informed.

Now to the recap...

...bum, bum, bum...

...July ended with a bang. After attending Ironman Lake Placid, and watching Amanda's race fall to pieces at the hands of a flat tire (that I wasn't allowed to help change), I traveled to a Chicago suburb called Barrington. Right there in Barrington, there exists a place called the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and my friends at invited me to attend their GSSI camp. The goal of the camp was to determine athletes' sweat rates, sweat composition, and overall ability to handle training and racing in Hawaii-like conditions.

What a great experience it was! I arrived on Thursday evening, and we began the festivities on Friday with an easy swim with stroke analysis, a bike ride, and a run with a fun group of campers.

The highlight of day two was our arrival at GSSI for a VO2 max test on the treadmill. And by highlight, I mean the most painful part of the day. The expert team of scientists needed to know at what percentage of our max we would be working during our grueling test on day three, thus the test. I have to admit that the sick and twisted part of me really enjoyed running on a treadmill as the technicians ramped up the speed and gradient. Ouch.

The highlight of day three, and again I mean the most painful part of the day, was four hours of indoor exercising. And by exercising I mean training our butts off in oppressively hot and humind conditions for four hours.

The idea was to ride our own bikes (my next post will spill the beans on my new ride for Hawaii!) on a computrainer for two hours. We were allowed to select our own effort, but along the way, the incredible team working with us took our blood samples several times, they took sweat-filled patches off our dripping bodies, and they handed us any and all fluids or foods we needed to continue.

Upon completion of the ride, we weighed in (again), we peed in cups (again), and we gave blood samples (again). Next up was the two hours of running on the treadmill. This was something that seemed very daunting, but I was drawn to the painful lure of hamsterdom. Yes, hamsterdom is now a word. I was hamsterlike.

The same routine was dupicated on the run. We gave numerous blood samples (to test our sodium levels throughout); we noted our perceived exertion and heart rate; they tested our core body temperatures (using a fancy radio thermometer which we swallowed in pill form); and they fed us everything we needed. And we needed a lot!

I lost count of the bottles I consumed somewhere about the 75min mark of the run. Around that time, I also had to jump off briefly, as the crew helped dry off the treadmill. It was so saturated with sweat that I was slipping with each footfall. I have never seen this much sweat come off my body at one time. In all my Austin summers, in all my days in Kona, and in every visit to St. Croix, I have never seen this much sweat.

We concluded the day with more blood draws, more weighing, and more peeing. It was an amazingly precise experiment, and every drop of fluid was accounted for. We left the lab, all of us, anxious to see what these guys put together as our results file. It takes a couple weeks, as they factor in every detail, including our most recent training conditions (to determine our level of acclimation to heat and humidity).

It truly was a pleasure to be involved in this experiment, and I'd again like to thank and GSSI for including me. With the knowledge I obtained from the top-notch lectures, and with the amazing amount of information I expect we will receive, I am sure I'll be heading to Hawaii just that much better prepared!

Thanks for tuning in!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

About five days have passed since the race up in Idaho, and I thank you all for tuning in for my report. I apologize for the delay, but I decided to take a bit of a step back before writing the report. I know I'm not the most prompt and timely person, but this was a calculated move, as I thought it would be fun to let things sink in even further, prior to summing up the details.

My five-day hiatus from all things TRIATHLON came to an end yesterday, as the two Doping Control Agents from USADA showed up on my doorstep. It's great to see that they are doing the testing, and I'm always more than happy to give a sample. Unlike Sunday's post-race drug test, I was fully hydrated and able to provide right away. Enough about the urine, let's talk race.

Race day arrived in similar fashion to the previous several days: there was a good bit of wind, plenty of chop on the lake, and temperatures were quite cool. It was a far stretch from my first CDA experience where highs in the nineties melted away a lot of Ironmen and women.

I always take it as a good sign when I awake prior to the alarm clock sounding; I somehow feel more rested and ready go. On Sunday I did just that, and managed to get a jump start on my morning routine. I phoned Amanda for some final words of encouragement; it was great to hear her voice and to get a final boost of confidence. With a short run and a LARGE breakie behind me, I headed down the street (two blocks) to transition to prepare the bike. Everything went together very smoothly, and I was back at home relaxing by 6:00 AM.

My incredibly gracious home stay folks, Ann and Tom, have a gorgeous house only steps from the venue. I was able to don the Batman suit (ie. blueseventy helix) right there in my bedroom, before moseying over to the beach. It sure was cool out, and the sea was angry.

After a high five or two from my mom, I hit the beach and readied myself for the race. I felt a nice level of confidence heading into the water, and with my Todd Gerlach swim strategy in mind, I was itching to start.

I positioned myself to the left of the field, prepared to swim solo through the first several hundred meters. As the gun went off, I did just that. I knew Rhodesy and Evans would get a jump, but my plan was to swim my own race. I kept a watchful eye on Victor, to be certain I was on pace. By the turn buoy at 800 meters, I began congratulating myself on having such a great swim. I was timing the waves just right, and my stroke felt calm, powerful, and controlled.

By the end of loop one, I found myself to the back of our small group, content to sit on feet through the remainder of the swim. Exiting the water 90 seconds down of the leading trio, I positioned myself behind Victor (light blue cap) with Jasper (yellow cap) just ahead. Moments after I hit the waves for my second 1900 meters, my swim experience went from good to bad; north to south; fun to miserable. Oops.

I am still not sure what happened, but more likely than not, I was just fatigued from loop one. Just as I was patting myself on the back in the first half, I was moping and feeling pitiful on lap two. It was amazing how drastically things had changed in the course of twenty or thirty minutes. Lap two took me five minutes longer than lap one: a terrible positive split, in part due to a few segments of backstroke swimming. Yes, even on a good day, we professionals can have some rookie moments!

Exiting the water, I did my best to shake off the insults of cramping legs that were added to the injury of my swim gone bad. (Disclaimer and apology to those who view a 57-min swim as excellent: it's all relative.) I put the swim behind me, as soon as I hoisted myself up off the ground, after a successful wetsuit peeling (stripping).

The bike ride in Coeur d'Alene is awesome. The first fifteen-mile out-and-back is beautiful, and the sections through town are energized by large crowds of screaming Iron Sherpas and Fans. The rest of it is characterized by plenty of green rolling hills, gorgeous horse farms, and very tall pine trees. Oh, and it's tough as hell.

I did my best to ease into the ride. I felt great out there, and rolled along at a steady clip, planning to build the final forty to fifty miles. I saw the leaders' margins shrink for the entire first half of the bike. I was encouraged, as I really felt that my best riding was yet to come. Just as I thought I would increase the pressure, I watched as my plan again took a detour from reality.

Tom Evans dropped the hammer; Luke McKenzie went with him; Adam Jensen (a first-year pro) came by me on the bike; and I did not go any faster. The rest of the field stayed fairly steady, but it became evident that my back-half strength was not quite where it needed to be. In spite of my efforts to build, I continued to lose ground to the leaders. The deficit grew to over twelve minutes by T2.

Trying to be a good planner, I had in mind at least two race scenarios prior to the start of the race. If I was at or near the lead, I'd race a conservative marathon, similar to 2006 Arizona: building throughout. If I faced a ten-minute (or so) deficit, I'd get aggressive from the gun. Well, plan two was in effect.

I forced the pace from the outset, and my first four miles were all right at 5:55. I did not feel great, but figured I'd find my rhythm soon enough, and a 23:40 four-mile split got me pumped up a bit.

By mile five I was truly enjoying the day. It was incredibly cool out, and the breeze added to that pleasant effect. This would not be a meltdown day; if I was to catch anyone it would be due to my efforts, rather than to the attrition of a hot day.

As I made my way past Rhodesy and McKenzie, I realized the race was just beginning. The final eleven miles of the Coeur d'Alene race are make-or-break. I applied the pressure once again, and managed to bring back one minute from Victor, who was taking time out of Evans. That gain (from mile thirteen to fifteen) gave me all the encouragement I needed to keep the pace going.

It was still a large gap to first, but with Ironman racing anything can happen. (Anything is possible is a trademarked phrase, so I'm not using it.)

My final 10k was one of my best in all of my nineteen Ironman races. I had the strength and the drive to continue the chase. Victor and Tom were engaged in a great battle, and unfortunately, their battle pushed them just out of my reach. My efforts were good and fun and hard, but were only good enough to stay in third.

And when I say "only", I mean no disrespect to the placing. A podium finish in an Ironman event is not easy to come by, and I love that I've been able to do just that over the past few years, much less twice in one season. Along with my finish came a second US Championship title, a welcome accolade, for sure.

I have one more Ironman this season, and after a solid summer of preparation, I'll be out in Hawaii trying to make it three top-threes in a row.

Coeur d'Alene is probably my favorite race on the circuit. It's hard to beat Hawaii, but if any race can do it, this one is in contention. I have to say that the local support of the event is incredible. The crowds sure know how to make you feel loved.

And in addition to the on-site support, I had a huge boost knowing that everyone back home was tuned into ironmanlive, sending out the positive vibes. An extra special thank you goes out to Amanda and Stephanie for sitting by the computers all day long! Your support is invaluable.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

OK, I just had to get on here to post a quick shout out to all of my faithful readers, before you all lose faith! I'm here, I'm happy, and I'm healthy. I have been doing a mini-build for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, and it's taking a bit of my down time from me... in other words, I'm a bit tired!

I will be back on very soon to post a couple of photos of what's new in the Lovato scene, and I'll soon be getting a bit more time to post something more interesting than this excuse!

Thanks for checking in, and I'll have more to report SOON!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Florida 70.3 Race Report

Ok, so there was not a lot of singing and dancing around the old Real World House on Sunday night. The only true post-race highlights and excitement were centered around a heated match of mini golf between Luke and Lucy Bell and me. I ended up with the big-fat third place for that one. I sure did hit that back nine well, but taking too long to get my putt-groove left me well off the mark for the overall win. Congrats to Luke for taking the title (and third place in the race).

A nice bonus for this race was that my sister Stephanie and her boyfriend Huggy Bear Hays decided to drive down for the weekend. It's only about a five-and-a-half hour drive from Hilton Head, so they arrived late Friday afternoon. We had a great pre-race meal that night at the Black Angus. Funny thing about Central Florida: it's restaurant chain heaven! On race day Steph and Hays put on the Ironmanlive uniforms, and served as spotters for the mens' bike race. It was great having them down for the weekend, and I hope they are able to make it to Kona this fall!

The race at Disney has changed elements of its course each of the last four years, since its inception. The swim has remained the same, the bike has changed from year to year, and there have been three different run courses. In my opinion, this year's bike course was the best it's been, and the run was probably the toughest.

I was very excited to try out my new blueseventy pointzero3 skinsuit for the race. I received it two days before the race, so I was able to swim in it one time on Saturday. It felt great, and I figured it was going to be a nice little aid for a faster swim. Even if most of the other pros are using the same suit, it still seemed like it would give me an edge!

The swim start went off pretty smoothly. I jumped right into a good position with the front of the group, and put my head down for a hard swim. Unfortunately, about 400 meters into the swim, the guy in front of me got dropped from the pack. How many times does this seem to happen to me!! I need to take control of my own swim destiny, and go right to the best feet in the swim. At least then it will be my fault if I lose them! My swimming is in a good place right now, but I am only capable of holding onto the draft of the lead group. When there is a gap, I cannot close it alone. I watched helplessly as the group swam away from me.

The remainder of the swim was pretty easy and slow for me. I did not see the point in attempting to leave them to forge my own way. In retrospect, I should have done just that, as our group lost major time out there.

Heading out on the bike, I heard a split that we were close to three minutes down. I figured I'd do my best to minimize that gap, but knowing who was up the road, it was a long shot.

Within the first ten to fifteen miles, I reeled in a few of the faster swimmers who had been spit out the back of the lead pack. I was surpirsed to see that there were several athletes I did not recognize. Normally I have a pretty good feel for who is in the race; this time was very different. As we rolled through the out-and-back around mile 20, I got a good look at the leaders. There were five of them, and they were all riding pretty tightly together. The gap was growing, and I didn't figure I could ride a whole lot faster.

I kept on the pressure, while most of the dozen or so guys behind me sat in. A couple of guys came through for a token time at the front, with a grand total of about four minutes in the wind. The most frustrating part for me when these guys tried to take their turn was that the pace would immediately drop by a mile or two per hour. When a strong group of five was putting time into us, we could not afford to ride that speed. I finally made a bit of a break just after the 30-mile mark. It amazed me to see how far back the others fell, as soon as I had about twenty or so meters on them. I took advantage of a moderate head wind and some rollers to make the gap stick. Within five to eight minutes, I had a significant lead on my former group.

I was very pleased with my ride, and in particular with the latter 25 miles. It felt good to have my first solid bike ride of my 2007 season. Next up was the run, and a shot at the top five.

Within 400 meters of transition, I was back in sixth place (having been caught on the bike with two miles to go by a fellow who rode through my old group). My intention was to run hard from the outset, then let the chips fall as would.

I was pleased to get a nice pace going right away. Mile one was at 5:21 and the second mile was at 5:40. I felt very comfortable at this pace, and figured it would taper off to a mid 1:16 pace by the end of the run. That was not quite how it played out. Just after the second mile marker, the course made a turn to some rough and uneven grass. I didn't figure it would slow me too much, but I was very wrong there. My next couple miles were a struggle. The strange thing was that when I got back to the asphalt I was able to get back to 5:40 pace. Why was that grass stealing so much of my energy!?

I stayed focused, and continued to chase the leaders. WIth the deficit I faced, it was not likely that I'd see Craig, Simon or Luke again. However, with a swift run, I figured that TJ Tollakson and Bryan Rhodes were within my reach. Sadly, the return to the grass segments brought more of the same suffering. I just couldn't find my groove on that grass.

I reached into my bag of tricks in every attempt to make my way back to fast; however, without that great energy return from the roads, I was a bit whupped. I made every effort to keep the Portuguese and Spaniard from flying by on lap three, but I had very little response to their moves.

In the end, I resigned myself that the final money spot would have to suffice: another eighth place finish in a half! It was a good showing, and although it was not my best day, it certainly was a fun race to the end. There were many positives on the day, and one of them was that I was able to squeeze under four hours again: a bit of a consolation prize.

Thanks for tuning in!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

I'm out here in Florida for the 70.3 race which is tomorrow. I've been here since Wednesday evening, and have been enjoying myself as a guest in a seven-bedroom rental house in Kissimmee. I'm not too far from the Wide World of Disney, and I am lucky enough to have some fun roommates here at the house. A couple years ago, Andrea Fisher and I stayed in a house just down the street, and we pretty much concluded that, with our other triathlete roommates, we were as close as we could get to living MTV's the Real World. This is season two for me, and I am having a lot of laughs.

To protect the identities of those involved, I'll not name any names as I describe the cast members.

The first to arrive is a young girl from New Orleans via Colorado Springs. She works for USA Triathlon, and is here to work registration for the event. She's the young impressionable type who seems to be absent most of the time. I'm thinking she's been out to Downtown Disney a couple times already, and is probably enjoying the night life a lot more than her fellow roomies.

Next to arrive is a foreign-born female triathlete. She came with one friend, who is clearly heading up her support crew on race day. These two have been in and out quite a bit, and it remains unclear as to whether or not they are but two parts of a bizarre love triangle. Housemates numbers five and six may or may not have overheard a loud lovers' quarrel late last night. And the arrival of a dozen red roses on our porch this afternoon indicate that someone has made an attempt at apology.

Guests number five and six come from far, far away, and they speak with funny accents. The only real drama surrounding these two is related to the fact that the one who is slated to race tomorrow is hobbling around like a wounded animal, as he rolled his ankle while packing. Yes, it was a packing injury. Other than that, the highlight for this twosome was the trip to the municipal pool where, had I remembered my camera, we could show proof that the pre-race activities of some pro athletes involves tackling the speedy 150-foot water slide. Ah, that was fun.

It is yet to be determined if this season at the Real World Triathlon: Disney ends with a bang or a bust. We've had fun so far, and we still have race morning (and any potential post-race parties) ahead of us. Should we end up playing beer pong (or beer ice hockey) or singing karaoke on the pool table, I'll try to remember to snap some photos.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oops, I've done it again. I did not mean to let two weeks go by, but it seems I have done just that. After returning from Idaho, I jumped right back into some short, speedy training, and I am pretty sure the upped intensity is mostly to blame for my lack of posts. At least that's my excuse.

With the first part of the season behind me, I have begun to look forward to what's up next on the horizon. My recovery from Arizona has been very good, and I have been able to test myself with some very fast running riding. I have held up well, with the exception of needing a bit more sleep and a bit more caffeine!

The plan has evolved to where I'm spending a few weeks keeping the pedal to the metal. After a nice spring of base-type training, with some Ironman pacing thrown in there, it's time to work the high end. I've really enjoyed the regular Tuesday morning interval workout with Simon (and others!). It's been great to great having Simon make up the workouts, and, of course, to have him as someone to chase.

We've been doing some great riding lately as well. And except for Simon's crash to the pavement last Wednesday, we've sure had some fun. And in case you are wondering, no, I did not cause him to go down. I am thinking there was a rock to blame.

The next race should be a good one. The fourth running of the Disney Half Ironman, or Ford Ironman 70.3 Florida for the sticklers out there, is coming right up. Last weekend's races spread the competition out pretty well, so that neither St. Croix nor Wildflower had the depth of fields they typcially have; it seems that Disney is making up for that. Last time I checked, there were 35 men on the list, with several of the top guns slated to clash. Hopefully we're all ready for that Central Florida muggy heat!

After that one, I'll probably throw my hat into the ring for the US Pro Ironman Championships: Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I absolutely love that race, and the new bike course makes it that much more appealing. It seems to me that it would be a shame to miss out on al the fun. Plus, I really feel that the timing is great to race in late June, then plan a late-season peak in Hawaii. Last time I found my way into the top ten of Kona, it was on the heels of a win in Idaho. That is definitely a double I'd like to duplicate.

Thanks for checking in. I'm adjusting to the harder training, so I shouldn't be too whacked out to post again... SOON!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Multisports Ironman Coeur d'Alene training camp!

What a fun weekend I've just had up in Idaho. The folks at Multisports were kind enough to invite me back to one of their entertaining and imformative Ironman training camps, after my first attempt at being camp counselor back in Tempe in February. That weekend was full of laughs, and this one proved to be a full barrel of monkeys as well. Barrel of monkeys: what a strange phrase.

I traveled out to Spokane, WA late on Wednesay night. I met up with fellow coaches, Jimmy Riccitello and Steve Katai. We made the trek over to the host hotel, a great little spot on the side of a gorgeous river. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but we had one heck of a view from our rooms.

As the IM CDA bike course has changed quite a bit from the previous four years, we all had to get out there early to pre-ride the course. It's a good idea to be familiar with the route when acting in the position of group leader. At least that's what they told me.

The only way to sum up the new bike course up here is to say that it's very beautiful, and quite challening. After getting through a few flat sections, the middle segment of the ride is peppered with a variety of medium length rolling hills. Depending on where you come from, these hills can be quite tough. All in all, I give the new route a double thumbs-up!

Friday was the first day of organized camp activites. We all grouped up for a short ride over to the swimming pool. We had to split into two groups, as the pool would only accommodate twenty folks. I treated group number one to an up-close peek at my Splish Sausage Suit. (I suppose it's a wiener suit, but the alliteration here sounds better.)

I think some of the campers were a bit alarmed, but anyone who knows me realizes that I wear this suit becuase I'm a winner not a wiener.

Day two began quite early, as we had a five-hour ride to tackle. The plan for our faster group was to cover the whole loop once, and to add on a second dose of the upper (hillier) section of the ride. I ended up with only two campers, Mike and Dave, while a local cyclist took over with the second part of the "fast group".

I think the one lesson we all learned out there was that this course is really going to kick the butts of those athletes who go out too hard on the first lap. Words to the wise: start conservatively!

We three then headed out for a short run at the end of our ride. These guys were tolerant of my chitter-chatter (a prelude to Sunday morning's long run), and they even played along with one of my favorite games: Guess Who's Running Form I'm Doing! I like to run along and mimmick some of the better-known triathletes. I covered Cam Brown, Faris al Sultan, Dave Scott, Simon Lessing, Lori Bowden and a few others in my routine.

The long run was nice and easy, and I managed to tell a few more stories. Those running with me seemed to be interested in hearing the play-by-play account of my past marathons in CDA. If they weren't interested, they were too polite to tell me that they didn't care where I passed Spencer Smith or where I bonked or how I tried to win the race at mile ten.

It was a beautiful day, and I am pretty sure everyone was happy to be out running in such a pretty place.

The final step of camp is Awards. This is when each camper gets the opportunity to win various prizes and gifts. It's not merit-based, so it's a unique award ceremony: just be there and you win! I don't have any photos to prove it, but I know someone out there must... I figured the final touch would be to hand out some prizes while dressed, once again, in the Wiener suit. It's a good thing these campers, and the coaches, have a sense of humor!

Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm now in the middle of my second week of post-ironman workouts, or lack of workouts. I've really enjoyed tending to other duties, and making my way slowly through the days with no real urgency or plan.

I will be returning to a normal routine next Monday, and this weekend promises to be fun, as I'm guest counselor for the IM Coeur d'Alene Multisports camp up in Idaho. So I'm trying to enjoy my down time.

I have done two runs and a couple rides, and it's been enough exercise to realize that I'm recovering fairly well from Arizona. My swims have been really nice as well, as the energy levels have been pretty good. And with the exception of a touch of soreness I have acquired from Dave Scott's strength and injury prevention class yesterday, I'd say I'm pretty well recovered!

Yesterday, while talking to my sister (as she took a break from her training to become a Physician Assistant), I was noting how much better I feel than after last year's race in Tempe.

From that conversation came this analogy:

Say you train to do a 10k, and you're fit enough to run a 45-minute race. If you show up on race day, and manage to run 43 minutes, you're going to be extremely sore the next few days (sore and happy). But how about if you are fit to run 45, and can only muster a 47 or 48, for some uncertain reason. Well, the next day you're probably ready to rumble already. (You're happy, but you're a bit unsatisfied.) And finally, if you run exactly 45 minutes, you're moderately sore the next day. (And depending on your personality, you're happy... probably.)

Based on this analogy, I am feeling more and more like I ran 47 minutes down in Tempe.

And in my world, that lack of satisfaction breeds hunger.... I'm happy but I'm hungry.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Post-Ironman Week

A week of rest; a week of wine; a week of productivity; and, without a doubt, a week of fun! It's been almost a week since we raced IM Arizona, and I feel I've accomplished quite a bit.

After returning from Tempe on Tuesday, Amanda and I jumped right back into the chores and duties that were waiting for us. While Amanda spent her time preparing for a real estate closing, and juggling various doctor appointments and tests, I threw myself into a few chores around the house, filing our 2007 taxes, and consuming a bit of red wine with friends.

Tuesday evening and (yes, I was late) Wednesday afternoon were spent in front of the computer, as I toiled away with Turbo Tax and a calculator. This is the first time I've ever missed the official deadline, but the consolation was that I got them done within a 24-hour grace period. Next year's goal is to submit them in March!

Wednesday evening was Amanda's book club. As there are no men allowed, I joined Simon, Karla and Amélie for a nice dinner at their house. As always it was good to catch up with Simon, to down some good red wine, and to spend a bit of time around a couple of really sweet and energetic little girls (not so little anymore though!).

Thursday was another indoor day. I actually did not leave the house until 6:00pm, when I took the dogs for a short walk around the neighborhood. That was the only time I managed to get out of my pajamas that day. Before I sound like too much of a slacker, I should say that I did manage to take care of several indoor chores, mostly related to cleaning up, tending to some athletes I coach, responding to emails, and updating the blog. Very relaxing it was.

Friday morning was the first day back on the job. Sort of. Amanda and I arose very early to join Dave Scott for his strength and conditioning class. It starts at 7:00am, so I was duely impressed that we made it. The class is really great. We used to do this two to three times per week a few years ago. The group is different now, and the challenges slightly modified, but it's still a great way to tune up the body. As our first bout of exercise since Arizona, we took it pretty easy, mostly just enjoying the movement of the body. After that we knocked out an easy twenty-minute swim. Pretty nice morning.

I spent the rest of the day doing yard work, garage work, and a bit more house work. My good friend Andy came down to spend the day with us. He's interviewing at a local shop, so he hung out at Casa Lovato. That evening we zipped over to the semi-annual, mostly world famous Jawad Sushi Party. This was yet another great opportunity to drink some tasty wine, and catch up with some good folks. Shout out to Bolder and the other bloggers who were there!

This morning came mighty early, as Amanda and I made our way to the 9 News Health Fair to draw some blood. And I mean that literally. We figured it would be a good idea for us both to test the full spectrum, from Thyroid funcition to Cholesterol to Hematocrit and Iron.

Last thing was that I got back on the bike today. It's always a big question mark as to how quickly or slowly I'll recover from an Ironman. Two years ago, with a second-place finish in Arizona, I bounced back very quickly. Within the five weeks post-race, I had already done two half ironmans, one half marathon, and a five-mile race. Last year, after a harder effort, I took five weeks before I jumped back into race mode. Even with the longer down time, I had a very blah race.

While I was certainly hoping for another win this year in Tempe, I suppose my consolation prize is knowing that with an easier effort, I seem to be on the speedy recovery plan again. I guess I'll just have to finalize the rest of the race schedule now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ironman Arizona race report.

Yes, this is a photo of me on race morning. And yes, this is the outfit I chose to wear for defense of my title. And yes, it does have a large sausage on the front.

Ok, no it's not. The truth is that after much positive response to the unveiling of my CHAMP suit, I thought a follow-up with the WIENER was appropriate. Or maybe it's just as inappropriate as the last.

Either way, this is actually me on Friday morning, prior to the start of my very busy and fun day of promotionals and appearances. I'll save the details of my pre-race appointments for another post, as they are interesting enough to merit their own attention.

On to the race.

After the tires were pumped, the water bottles were filled, and the Bento Box was attached (yes, I use this very uncool piece of equipment!), Amanda and I made our way back to the car to dump off our bags, have a warm-up run, and to slide into our wetsuits. It's always such a crazy scene down at transition that the peace and calm of an empty parking lot is quite quite mellow in contrast. We both took short runs to shake out the legs and the nerves. Afterwards, we lubed up with some baby oil, and quite literally slipped into our blueseventy wetsuits.

As we walked over to the start--the final calm before the storm--we could here Mike Reilly calling all pros to the water's edge. It figured that we were the last two athletes across the timing mat and into the holding pin.

The start of the swim was quite easy. I found myself right behind Tim Deboom, and well clear of any flailing arms and fists. As Tim seemed to be veering too harshly to the left, I unwisely chose to hang a right, in order to follow some better navigators. Turns out my move left me in a larger and slower group of swimmers. After several frustrating incidents (such as swimmers stopping dead in their tracks), I concluded that I need to bump up my swimming, for no other reason than I do not like my group. No offense, fellas. I'm ready to make the move to a faster one, even if it costs me more effort in the race.

Exiting the water, I was in the midst of a very large group of men and women. And let me tell you, the women were the ones who beat me up the most out there! I cruised through transition, feeling good and confident my race was proceeding about how it had in 2006.

In the early stages of the bike ride, I made the conscious decision to let Rutger Beke gradually ride away from me. My strategy was to hold a very comfortable pace for the first loop, and to follow that up with two stronger laps at the end. My feeling was that more often than not, athletes tend to blow up a bit on a three-loop course. What I had not counted on was how my legs would respond to the steadily rising wind speed.

After finishing lap one in just under ninety minutes, I began my charge. I had lost about two minutes to Beke, and only a few seconds to Deboom. I knew that it was time to close the gap from the swim, and I began to apply the pressure. The only problem was that Rutger seemed to be applying even more pressure than I. At the second turn on the Beeline Highway, I noticed that I had lost a good chunk of time to both of the leaders. I figured I'd make that up on the return trip, as the headwinds were really strong by that point. My goal was to really work the headwind section, while recovering on the tailwind parts.

I soon realized that my legs did not have the strong and powerful feeling I had hoped they would have. I tried to modify my caloric intake, to compensate for the greater energy expenditure caused by the howling wind. I figured there was a good chance my lack of power was caused by a lack of fuel. With no real change heading into lap three, I began to worry if the ache in my quads was just a symptom of "one of those days."

My ride was still going fairly well, but relative to the competition up front, I was just not on par. I knew that the two front runners were strong competitors on foot, and that my best chances for catching them would come if I minimized my time loss on the bike. I had hoped to keep within a six- to eight-minute gap of them.

At the end of the ride, I was getting splits that Beke had put fourteen minutes on me over the course of the day. What an impressive ride he had! With Tim twelve minutes up the road out of T2, I knew my work was really cut out for me.

The great thing about Ironman racing is that anything can happen. I felt great starting the marathon, and history shows that even a twelve- to fourteen-minute lead was sometimes not that much. I set out there to close as much of the gap as I could.

After lap one, the splits were the same: I had made up zero ground. I knew my greatest challenge was that Rutger was running to stay ahead of Deboom, and Tim was running to catch the lead. I was not on their radar, and the very competition they were engaged in was my ultimate undoing.

They continued their battle for the win, while I was left in a desperate No Man's Land: stuck in third place. While this is not a terrible place to be, it is certainly not an inspired spot to find oneself. After competing the first loop in 56 minutes (my jock math quickly calculated 2:48 pace), I knew I had a low 2:50s marathon in my legs. Accounting for a slowed rate over the next two loops, I figured a 2:53 was achievable. The problem was that would still leave me in a distant third place. For a few miles, I went for it anyway. A fast run time is always a welcome consolation for missing out on the overall win.

I normally love those little victories.

Sadly, on the particular day, I could not find the motivation to drive myself to that point. Last year's race was stuffed full of easy motivation; there was no way I'd relent. A year later I found myself struggling to figure out why I should kill myself to have a slightly closer third place finish.

In the end, the middle loop was a bit of a surrender. I removed the push from my pace, and settled into a slower run. By lap three, some built-in motivation returned. I received a split from the sidelines that Petr Vebrousek was mounting his typically strong late-day charge. With proven marathon results to his credit, I knew I needed to take a bit of control. My run pace dropped back down to the mid 6:30s and 6:40s and I enjoyed a bit of a race. While it was no where near as exciting as my chase from 2006, it was refreshing to get a bit of a race out of the day after all.

Finishing an Ironman is always such a special feeling. In first place, third place, or 395th place, to cross that line is a thing of beauty. I have now done so eighteen times, and each and every one of those finishes has made me feel like a million bucks.

With adjusted performance goals and modified placing expectations, I crossed the finish line with a smile. To finish the day achieving a common goal set by two thousand others was a sweet and satisfying accomplishment. I was an Ironman finisher again.