Saturday, December 27, 2008

Training Camp

This March I'll be heading out to California for a training camp, and I am taking this opportunity to invite you all to join me for a fun and challenging week.

Solvang is a popular training destination for many professional cycling teams, including Lance Armstrong's Astana team. Getting to the area is very easy, as it's only thirty minutes from Santa Barbara, and a mere two hours from Los Angeles.

If you are interested in escaping the cold--and possibly monotonous--training routine of your home town, and/ or if you are looking for a challenging and fun way to jump-start the triathlon season, I encourage you to attend this camp.

While the focus of our camp will be to log many miles on the bike, we'll have plenty of opportunity to keep the triathlon training alive, as swimming and run workouts are included in the program.

In addition to these great training opportunities, one of triathlon's most knowledgeable sports med doctors, Dr. P.Z. Pearce, will be on hand to dispense valuable advice.

My role at this camp will be to lead group rides, to offer instruction on riding technique, style, and form, and to offer my color commentary and story telling as a welcome diversion from the pain inflicted from the hilly riding. Additionally, I'll be offering advice on how to prepare for an Ironman race, on getting through the race, and on consequently celebrating completion of said race.

If my links have not directed you to sufficient information on the camp, please send me a comment, and I'll email you with answers to any and all questions you may have for me.

See you in March!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Thanks for all the comments, emails, and calls, but the bike has been sold!

The time has come for me to part ways with one of my triathlon bikes. Since I have two that are exactly the same, I feel that it is only fair to offer someone else the chance to own such a sweet ride. Please note that this bike is very fast, and only serious buyers should consider what I have to offer:

Frame: Javelin Lugano (Built in Italy, designed in USA)
Fork: True Temper Alpha Q Aero Carbon Fork
Campy Record 10 speed components; 11-23 cassette
FSA Neo Pro Crankset 175mm; 53-39 (or 55-42)
Profile Cobra Wing Base Bar
Profile T2+ Cobra Aerobars
Profile Hammer stem (multiple sizes available)
Fizik Arione Tri2 or Arione Road saddle
Rolf Prima Vigor Clincher wheelset

For more info and geometry:

This bike was brand new in July of 2007; I rode it until April of 2008, at which point I got a new one. It has been well cared for, and it is one VERY fast, comfortable, and good looking bike.

Retail is listed at $8600.00, my price is $2795.00.

Additionally, I am apt to throw in an extra or two with the purchase of this bike.

Do not delay, as I hope to list this on Craigslist and eBay very soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tucson Half Marathon

Here are the videos from last weekend's race.

Amanda at mile 2

Amanda at mile 4

Amanda's post-race interview

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Adventure in Eating, Training and Racing

With much sadness, Amanda and I departed from the Tucson International Airport yesterday, after spending five laughter-filled days at Casa Clam, nestled high in the foothills of Tucson's West Side.

Our visit began at the end of last week, after we happily escaped the freezing cold of Boulder. Boarding the plane on Friday (after a treacherous and icy drive to DIA), the temperature gauge on our iPhones read a whopping ONE degree. Deplaning in Arizona, we were greeted by sunny and blue skies, and an invitation to change into short pants. There really was a written invitation at baggage claim, imploring us to take off our long pants. We obliged.

We made our way to Cliff's and Sam's place, and were immediately greeted by a charming new addition to their household: Maximus Oscar de McEnglish, who had recently undergone an obligatory surgery, and was, therefore, required to wear a piece of compromising headgear. As true dog lovers, Amanda and I found Max to be adorable and, as mentioned above, charming.

The next order of business was to acquaint ourselves with Tucson and its training opportunities. We followed our directions across town to find the Catalina pool, one of Tucson's numerous outdoor pools. After a short dip in the water, we moved on to our next most important task of the visit: eating. The trip through Whole Foods proved to be a successful one, as we (naturally) purchased enough food to feed a small army. We returned to the West Side, rested ourselves, fed ourselves, and commenced laughter and story telling with our gracious hosts, Sam and Cliff.

The racing portion of our adventure got underway on Sunday. Part one began at approximately 5:30AM when we zoomed out of the driveway, and put pedal to metal en route to the northern-most part of town, which was to be the starting point of the Tucson Half Marathon. As I had long since chickened out of participation in the race, my sole duty became serving as sherpa for the day, and my primary task was to deliver Amanda to the start line on time. I take my speeding seriously, and I must proudly note that I won the race: we arrived promptly (not always a given when this vato is involved).

Amanda's race got underway at a brisk (but not cold!) 7:00AM. Video documentation of said race will soon make its way to this blog. Amanda raced a strong and smart race, and as her report gives in full detail, she won the mother scratcher.

Next up on our agenda was to continue our path of eating, training, eating, training, laughing, sleeping, drinking wine (and consequently, telling lies), eating, training, and eating. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and evidence of this enjoyment presents itself here:

Our climb up Mt. Lemmon.

Mr Lovato finds his way to the front.

Athlete and Coach jockey for position.

Amanda places Cliff in a spot of bother.

This is what you see when you are in a spot of bother.

Another glimpse from the lenses of a bonk.

Amanda pushes past the saguaro to confidently take the lead.

Hallelujah, was this the stolen Bumble Bar at 6000Feet?

Just before Cliff set a punishing pace on the descent.

More food: dinner at El Charro

Doug Friman and Paul Thomas join us for a Feast.

About to have some full bellies.

We are pleased to report that we achieved all of our goals while in Arizona. We thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous training that Tucson had to offer; we ate more than our fair share of treats, Mexican food, and sushi; we loved getting to know Cliff and Sam; we became addicted to their potent and delicious home-brewed espresso; and we managed to warm our bones and gain inspiration during the final month of our down-time and holiday season.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Garage Sale

It's that time of year here at Casa Lovato. We're sifting through the garage to see where we can make room for incoming bikes, bike parts, and triathlon gear. As we do so, we find that certain items must make their way to the chopping block. Prior to posting these items on eBay, Craigslist, and Slowtwitch, we wanted to offer first dibs to our blogger faithful. Trust that everything we have for sale has been well cared for, is not overly used, and is super cool. For those of you who are interested in purchasing anything, please post a non-anonymous comment, and I'll email you back right away. And please note that this is only round one.

Let the games begin.

What we are viewing here:

Size 52 Trek 5500 (carbon Road Bike), Shimano Dura Ace 9speed components, Bontrager Race Lite clincher wheels, ITM stem, Easton carbon seatpost, Speedplay X2 pedals (can easily be converted to girl colors). Amanda rode this bike in 2003 and half of 2004. Prior to riding her Scott, this was her favorite bike ever. It has rested in our garage for the past four years, only having ventured out on two rides. :(

Size 54 Javelin Barolo (aluminum Triathlon/ TT bike), Campagnolo Chorus/ Record/ Veloce components, FSA crankset, Vision bars, brake levers, Rolf Prima Echelon clincher wheels, Fizik saddle (can easily be converted to boy colors). Amanda rode this bike in 2006 and two months of 2007. She rode it very, very fast, and prior to riding her Scott, this was probably the fastest bike she ever rode. Probably. It has rested in our garage for the past two years, having not ventured out at all. :( :(

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The End of an Era

Yesterday afternoon Amanda and I attended our friend Simon's retirement party. A couple of things occurred to me while we were there.

First off, this was probably the one and only time I'd attend a retirement party for a guy who is only 37 years old. It's not too common to be retiring from a long career that early in life. The reality is that his retirement from professional racing does not mean he isn't capable of continuing as a triathlete; it just means he's no longer got the drive to train and race at the high level of competitiveness that he has for the past 23 years. 23 years?!? Amazing.

The next thing that occurred to me is that I'm losing one of the best training partners I've ever had. Throughout my journey as a triathlete, I have trained with a lot of great guys, nearly all of whom are still my good friends. Early on in my days, I was schooled by guys named Ivy Koger and Jon Hill. Later on I linked up with the legendary Todd Gerlach, a dominant figure in Austin, Texas' early nineties tri scene. After that I made my way to Boulder where a fellow named Cam Widoff showed me the ins and outs of Boulder and its surrounding mountains.

At the start of 2003, I was invited to join Simon and Dave Scott for ride out to Carter Lake. I had been swimming with Simon for a few weeks, along with Dave, Matt Reed, and Monica Byrn (then Caplan). I was the low man on the totem pole in the pool (I've since overtaken Dave), and I was a bit desperate to prove myself out on the bike ride. We went out at an easy pace, with Simon in front, and Dave and I bringing up the rear. I did not know anything about Simon's personality and certainly not his sense of humor.

He gave Dave a hard time about the condition of his bike (it was squeaky and dirty). And he gave me a hard time about sitting in for the first hour or so. I figured he was about to get a rude awakening, when I, the long course, non-drafting athlete put the hammer down and made the swimmer/ runner suffer. I figured he was a better swimmer and a faster runner than I, but I could not conceive that he could hang with me on the bike.

I dropped the hammer, made my move, and powered up the switchbacks to Carter Lake. Dave was long gone, Simon was not much ahead of him, and I was victorious in dropping the five-time (and the six-time) world champ. I waited up for Simon, as I caught my breath. I was waiting for him to submit to my dominance; to acknowledge that I was the superior rider; to compliment my awesome climbing prowess. He did no such thing. When Simon caught up to me, he did not say much as he blew by me on the flats. I was off to chase him.

Descending from Carter Lake, Simon managed to put more time on me. I told myself he was just a better bike handler than me because he trained for ten years on the twisty mountain roads of Southern France. I would catch him on the flats. Dave was nowhere to be seen.

We hit the flats, and Simon waited up for me. I rode up, he asked me what the hell I was trying to pull on the previous climb, and I told him I was just riding moderately... no big deal. I mentioned that I thought he wanted me to take a pull. How was I to know that he would get dropped. Little did I know that while climbing those switchbacks, I had sealed my own fate. Simon applied the pressure. And I was in trouble.

The bonk had set in, and I was not even aware of how bad off I was. This early season three-hour ride was taking its toll on me. Maybe I should not have been so confident (but he did call me out!).

I got dropped again.

Then Dave caught me. Then Dave dropped me.

I was in big trouble. I started counting calories, and I realized I was way deficient. I started counting miles back to my house, and I realized I might not make it. So much for showing Simon how strong I was on the bike.

When Dave and Simon both had to wait for me to catch back up, I knew I was in serious trouble. I asked, pleaded, and finally TOLD them to leave me. I told them I was hungry, and that I did not want to slow them down. And leave me, they did.

After a somewhat unpleasant beginning, the training partnership we formed became very strong. It turned out we were very compatible riding partners that first year. Simon was racing only short course events, while I was doing Half and full Ironmans. We rode four of five times a week together, and along the way we helped one another get faster and fitter.

And we had a lot of laughs.

The next year, Simon decided to test himself at the long-distance events. We began doing our long runs together, and I ventured out with him on his first ride over three hours since the mid-nineties. Those rides and runs got me fitter than I had ever been, and they gave Simon the confidence he needed in order to tackle is first Ironman, which he did in record setting fashion.

A funny thing happened that year, as folks began referring to me as Simon Lessing's training partner. I had found my stock rising, by merely linking myself up with a highly respected athlete like him. I even found myself sitting for an interview in Germany, and having the reporter ask me what it was like to train with Simon. I was an Ironman champion, and the top American hopeful at that event, and all they wanted to know was what it was like to train with Simon.

In fact, I gained a healthy dose of respect from my competitors when a reporter at the press conference asked me if I was able to keep up with Simon. In true Lessing fashion, I quipped that he was only sometimes able to keep up with me.

In this day and age, where every athlete has a coach, a plan, a power meter, and a schedule, it's very rare to find someone who is willing and able to push you in your training. In this triathlon mecca of Boulder, Colorado, most folks are too unwilling to be flexible, and to change up their programs in order to train with his competitors.

With Simon I found that athlete. He was strong enough to swim, ride, and run in front of, next to, or behind me. We covered a lot of miles together, and we bettered ourselves by bettering one another.

I am happy that Simon has found comfort in moving on with his life. I know he'll still be involved in the sport, and I know he may still join me for swims and bikes and runs; however, I am also aware that with the retirement of the British South African American athlete, I am losing a highly compatible, very entertaining, and extremely punctual training partner.

And hopefully by posting these embarrassing photos, I won't be losing him as my friend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ironman Hawaii Race Report

Post-Underpants Run, I was feeling relaxed and ready to rumble. I had confidence in my build-up, and I knew I was ready to improve upon my 2007 Ironman. I had decided to implement a few new nutritional tricks to my routine, based on my, um, evacuation problems in the last three Ironmans I have done. This time around, my goal was to minimize time lost to porto-stops and poopy pants.

My nerves woke me up at 10:30PM, 1:30AM, 2:30AM, and finally at 3:30AM. Other than those brief and expected interruptions, my sleep was sound and restful. There are certainly some advantages to being part bear.

The best way for me to start my Ironman day is by doing a light jog in the pre-dawn dark and calm of Ali'i Drive. I don't go far, and I don't go fast, but I love to get out there and soak up the final calm energy before a very energized day. I felt particularly spunky on this year's pre-race trot.

After the run, I positioned myself for a nice breakie: coffee, Justin's Almond Butter, some Monkey Brains, toast, and a banana. For those who are interested, I do not refrain from drinking coffee in the weeks leading up to the race. I don't believe the drastic shock of reintroducing caffeine to the system is a sound practice. Why shock the body on race day?

Amanda and I arrived at body marking at about 5:00AM. There really is not a lot to do race morning, but I like to have everything done by about 5:25 or 5:30. This gives me time to hang out in Kris' room (my massage therapist) for the hour or so before I jump in the water. It's a good way for me to save up all my energy, and to apply my Vaseline, Body Glide, and sunscreen.

During the swim warm up, I found Paula, who was to be leading the swimmers on her paddle board. She gave me a quick embrace or sorts, and told me to have my day. She refrains from the typical "good luck" or "have fun" well-wishing, as she feels that it's not really that fun out there.

My race began better than it has in each of my nine times racing Hawaii. I found open water immediately, and I swam very aggressively. In past years I have made the mistake of picking one guy to swim with; this has left me dropped from the main group each time. This time around I was taking control of my own destiny. I put myself in position to have a great swim.

200 or 300 meters into the race, I found myself in perfect spot: I was behind two swimmers who were side-by-side. The draft was huge, and I felt very comfortable with the pace. I knew (not sure how) I was in the front group this time.

All the way out to the boat, and making the turn back to the pier, I felt that the pace was very moderate. I was focused on not losing the feet in front of me, and I knew there was a swimmer or two behind me, which is a comforting feeling. Near the Coast Guard buoy (about a mile to go) the group made a surge. It was a noticeable change in pace, but I felt prepared to handle it; however, about 250 to 300 meters later, I lost contact with my group. The fellow behind me had already come through and displaced me to the position of caboose. I feel that every train needs a caboose, but I was gradually coming detached from my train. Damn. Double damn.

Getting dropped was not fun, but for the first time that I can remember, I managed to keep swimming strong on my own. I did not ever blow up, I just lost contact. I gradually lost a bit of time over the final kilometer or so. Fortunately for me, I was not swallowed up by the chase pack, and I exited the water in my best ever position or time for Kona.

Onto the bike I was about a minute back of the group, and in around twenty-fifth place. I made a gradual push to catch the leaders, not knowing they were out of my reach. Seeing them on the first out-and-back gave me good feedback: many of the main players were in the group, but I was close.

Behind me I saw stormin' Normann coming on strong. I figured I would use him to tow me up a bit further. I gave him about twenty meters, as I was not about to risk a drafting penalty. He pulled away, and I fell back... no, I did not "let him go." He went.

Looking behind me, I saw a small group of four coming up on me. Within the group were my back-up plan riders, Rutger Beke and Marino Van Hoenacker, as well as Maik Tweselik (the young German who won IM Wisconsin last year). I integrated myself into the group, and proceeded to watch the dynamics of a group of strong cyclists.

I should note that my cycling has come up a notch this year (over the past three months), and I was confident that my ride would put me in position to use my run weapon, as I have grown accustomed to doing in past races. I was riding strong, and I was prepared to notch my best ride to date. And I truly believed I was capable of coming off the bike within striking distance of the top five.

I rode along as the middle part of a Belgian Waffle (with Rutger and Marino). The German was hanging on the back, and we picked up the Swiss athlete who finished fourth. Nearing the forty-mile marker, Rutger stopped for a penalty, and we picked up Andy Potts and Luke McKenzie, both of whom had just finished serving their penalties. This meant we were four minutes back to the lead group, and it meant our group was picking up its casualties. We were growing in size, so I made a move for the front. I figured it was time for me to lead the charge for a spell, and I did not want to risk being in the middle of a larger group.

From mile 37 to 42, we had some tough headwinds, a welcome blast-from-the-past, in my mind. My speed dropped from 26-28mph to 19mph in a matter of seconds. My normal tendencies are to thrive in headwinds, as others suffer more than I on the mental side. I enjoyed this section of feeling controlled and in control. However, feeling strong for these first two hours somehow caused me to lose track of my nutritional plans.

Climbing up to Hawi was when I first started to notice something was not right. I got passed by one guy in the group... then another... then another. I was steadily moving backwards, but I attributed it to the fact that I typically allow more room between myself and the rider in front of me, while many others like to keep it a bit tighter. I figured it just meant that the others were not comfortable giving that much space; that they wanted closer contact.

The 17 miles of climbing from Kawaihae to Hawi are normally one of my best stretches. I tend to pass those around me, and drop those behind me. It's early in the ride (mile 43 to mile 60), and it's when I make a bit of a move. This year was completely different. I was getting dropped, and my legs would not respond. They felt weak and powerless. I pushed and pushed, but did not gain ground.

Facing the final 7-mile stretch of up hill headwind is normally a highlight of the race for me. This year I found myself down shifting and slowing down: not good!

I took inventory of my situation: I calculated what I had consumed; I looked at my pace; and I assessed how to get myself back on track. But I came up with no clear answers.

Making the turn and beginning my decent, I got one final slap-in-the-face reminder that I was off my game: Rutger and Ain-Alar Johannsen went screaming by me, and I had ZERO ability to latch on to their momentum. I was dropped faster than they had caught me.

During the descent, I finally determined what I was lacking. I had shoveled in a bit more food on the climb, and it did not seem to kick in. Like a light bulb clicking on, I realized I was getting dehydrated. More appropriately: I was dehydrated! I looked like a margarita; I was hot; and I was, very prematurely, out of steam.

As my emotional side began to wonder how long it would take me to walk the marathon, I formed a bail-out plan. I would cut back on calories (knowing gastric emptying slows with dehydration, and not wanting a bloated belly to boot); I would suck down as much water as I could; and I would dig myself out the best I could.

My lull lasted from mile 51 until mile 88 or 89. During that time I was slow (for me), I was weak, and I could not stay with anyone who passed me.... and believe me, I tried!

Somehow I managed to get enough fluids in me, and I began to regain my power. I picked up a few athletes who were spit out of the group. And I began to think I might be able to run the marathon after all. The six-hour walk was not appealing to me one bit.

I entered T2 feeling rough, but by the time I got up from the change tent, my legs were there. I climbed the mini hill on Palani 10:30 down from tenth place. I have faced worse deficits, but this ranks right up there with the worst of them!

My first mile felt smooth, but my goal was to shorten the stride, to minimize energy output, and to save up for the Queen K. The temptation was there to blow through the first ten miles in an hour, eating up the time immediately, and placing myself closer to the contenders. However, I have seen the carnage that results from giving too much too soon, and I stuck to my conservative run plan. I wanted to run a strong marathon, and I could not afford to blow up.

By mile six I was still well back of tenth. I felt a bit of pressure building, but was able to immediately duck into a porto-potty. The mile split was 6:50 with the stop--a bit off pace--but I was feeling clean and empty and ready to roll. Marino Vanhoenacker passed me while delivering the quote of the day: "Michael, did you have a nice poop?" (Read with a strong Belgian accent.) Hilarious. Naturally, I let him know that I did, and that I felt much better.

My gradual pace continued along Ali'i and up Palani. They call it Pay and Save hill, as there used to be a store there with that name. Pay now or Save for later is the current meaning of the name.

I chose to save, and I followed my pre-race plan to open it up at mile 11. Mile 11 comes just at the base of the Dave and Mark hill (later on that is mile 24). It signifies to me that it's time to race. With a conservative opening stretch, I allowed my stride to open up and go. I went for it, and I went hard. The splits were changing in my favor, as I was catching tenth.

Into the Energy Lab I really began to open it up. I could now see the leaders, and I could now begin to see the ones I had in my reach: Marino, Normann, Faris, Andy, and Matias. They were the ones I could see fading before my eyes. I pushed hard.

Back on the highway with seven miles to go, I really began to dig. I was gaining on the temporary duo of Faris and Normann. Passing them would give me tenth. At some point, Faris dropped Normann, and I was left to pass them both individually, which was actually quite satisfying. I knew they had both really gone for it on the bike, and early in the run. They were in damage control mode, a place I had been for quite some time during my ride. Hawaii was doing its thing.

Once in tenth, I took a deep breath, and sighed with relief. I had overcome a large deficit, and was in the safe zone. But I wanted more.

Up ahead was the duo of Potts and Switzerland's Hecht. I wanted badly to catch them both, and the encouragement I was receiving from Amanda, Stephanie, Cassie, and Robin Ficker (aka Mr Fuzzy Duds) was amazing. I was going to catch them.

Taking the turn at the top of Palani, I made my push for the catch. I bombed the down hill like I have never done, and I was grimacing in pain. Breathing hard and grunting, I passed the throngs of screaming spectators, and only one face did I recognize: that of Simon Lessing. He yelled for me to go for it, and so I added to my list of motivating reasons the idea of gaining redemption for the whipping that Potts had given me and Simon at Timberman in August. I would catch them.

Rounding the turn onto Kuakini, I could see that Potts had dropped Hecht. They were only about twenty and twenty two seconds ahead of me. I was gaining, and I was the stronger athlete (I told myself this over and over).

With barely a mile to go, I had the stride opened up to rival that of Carl Lewis. I was in a big-time sprint for the finish. And then my left hamstring cramped up so bad I had to limp to a quick stop.

Not now! Not now!

I chuckled to the crowd my rhetorical question: "how can I cramp now, after all these miles? Why now?!" Touching the toes once seemed to work... briefly, and I cramped again. I touched them again, stretched those hamstrings out, and began my jog to the finish.

I could not switch off my competitive drive, and my desire to be top American made me sprint again. This time I was rewarded with a calf cramp on my right leg. OK, I got it. I chose to hold my tenth spot, and to stop risking the kind of continued cramps that would leave me walking (and getting caught by my pursuers!).

I soaked up my finish, waved my American flag, and cramped one final time as I walked across the line. I was ecstatic.

What a day I had, and what a battle I fought! I was very proud of my efforts; I was happy to notch another top-ten finish; and was pleased to learn, once again, a new lesson in racing Ironman Hawaii.

Not long after the race, the fifth-place finisher was disqualified for not serving a penalty, and I was moved to ninth place. I have now notched three ninth places in Hawaii.... and I'm ready to cut that number in half next year... or maybe even in thirds!

**Photo courtesy of Dirk Friel

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Underpants Run

Why the Underpants Run? Why a report on the Underpants Run? Why not talk about the race first? Well, to me, the race really starts to place its pressure on folks 'round about Thursday of race week. It's an impressive phenomenon, the Hawaii Ironman pressure cooker.

Different folks face, and therefore handle, the pressure in different ways. Some take a running leap-off-the-cliff start, by preparing, preparing, and over-preparing in the several weeks pre-race. They tackle more than they think their competitors are tackling, and they flog, flog, and flog themselves until they are injured or sick, and cannot even get to the line ready to rumble.

Others will prepare their best, only to arrive in Hawaii and succumb to the internal or external expectations they see as the latest obstacle. They make silly mistakes, often based on irrational judgment. Perhaps they train too hard race week; perhaps they eat rotten food; or maybe they tell others they are only there to "participate" or "have fun". Either way, it's self sabotage at its finest.

And still others will nervously avoid any and all contact with humans, dogs, fish, turtles and other germ vehicles. They feel they are too vulnerable to risk it.

And naturally, there are those who see the other athletes doing sprints on Ali'i Drive, power sets in the pool, and motor pacing on the Queen K. They second guess and question everything in their personal routine. They doubt, and consequently, they modify.

Then there are the dreaded taper doldrums. The finely tuned, finely trained power pistons we have for legs start to ache and throb. They go numb while climbing stairs (so we take elevators). They hurt on inclines in the road, mistaking them for long, above-category climbs. They trick us into thinking we are unfit. They do their best to steer us off course, and to tamper with our sensitive emotions. "What if I feel this way on race day?!"

Not entirely immune to each of the above pitfalls, challenges, and quirks, there have been times in the past where I have wandered astray, wondering if I would win or walk on race day. Normally I consider it a strength of mine to stay calm and focused. I tend toward the mellow side of the stress-out scale, and I am generally good at keeping it real in my lead-up.

A big part of how I try to keep control of my perspective is to jump into the World Renowned Kona Underpants Run. Strategically scheduled two days before the Big Day, it falls on what is typically a day off for me. And by day off, I mean that I only swim easy for 10-15 minutes. My day is spent conserving energy, and saving up strength for the Ironman. This holds true for pretty much any IM I race.

However, in Kona it's different.

We all assembled at Pacific Vibrations for our little race. I was there with my tube socks, my flashy Splish, and my hot wife (in her tube socks with flashy Splish). Here is my twist on the popular adage: the couple that Underpantses together, stays together.

Before I run the risk of writing more on the UP Run than my Ironman, I had better get to wrapping this up. After my 12-minute swim (in my super fast blueseventy pointzero3 and Aquaman-themed Splish), I ambled down to the race start. Amanda and I posed for photos, we snapped some photos, and we lined up next to my sister and brother-in-law for our favorite event. And we ran SLOW!

In conclusion (learned that one in sixth grade grammar class), my participation of the Underpants Run is my way of reminding myself that germaphobic turtles in compression socks, sprinting down Alii behind motorized scooters--with aching legs and a slight tickle in the throat--are not something I do not allow to affect my experience at the Hawaii Ironman.

Anyone looking for a little fun, a lot of self-expression, and a good fund raiser, head on down to your next neighborhood Underpants Run.

**Thanks to Karen Frank for providing the fun photo.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Death of an iPhone

This is not the update I was planning to post on Monday morning, but has to be done. Last night, while experiencing the strangest, and possibly most memorable, awards banquet in the RAIN, my phone drowned. I say this so that all my friends know that I am not ignoring your calls. I can answer the phone... sometimes, but cannot hear voicemail, and cannot even text. Bummer. I am planning to replace/ repair the phone tomorrow, so it will be game on soon.

In the meantime, to all my callers, to all my blog comment-makers, and to all the e-mailers I've not replied to yet: thanks so much for all your support, love and encouragement.

More news at 11:00.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


In an unprecedented move, I thought I'd post a super-quick race report, only... 28 hours after the fact.  My intent is to post the full blow-by-blow in a day or two, after letting all the ins and outs sort themselves out in my post-race brain.

Yesterday was my ninth Hawaii Ironman, I started with race number nine, and holding with the theme, I finished ninth.  For those of you who followed online, you may have noticed that I crossed the line in tenth place, but due to a disqualification of one of the fellows ahead of me, I got bumped up a notch to hold my niners intact.  

Later on, I'll let my gory ups and downs more thoroughly paint the picture, but in the meantime allow me to summarize as follows:

My swim was the best I've ever done in Hawaii.  I swam aggressively enough to be in the group for about a mile and a half at which time I was dumped off, and left to swim the final mile alone.  

For fifty miles of the bike, I was in position to run my way to a top five finish.  My legs were very strong, very fresh, and very patient (due to my brain convincing them to bide their time). From mile 51 to approximately 85, I suffered more than I've ever suffered here.  My goal became finishing the race at (hopefully) a jogging/ walking pace.   

Finishing the ride strong (for the final 22 miles), I regained the confidence that I could still pull off a strong marathon.

My run was better executed than any previous IM marathon.  I patiently ran my way back into contention, with only a set of gnarly cramps slowing my charge to gain the top American slot.   

I am very satisfied with my placing, my effort, and my determination to turn things around.   

And I thank each and every one of my family members, friends, and fans, for cheering and supporting me every step of the way.

Please tune in for a three-day crescendo of a race report... where I'll share the whole nitty and the gritty.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kona Update #2

I almost let an entire week go by without an update... almost!

This time around I'm going to blame my lack of updates on the fact that Amanda and I have unreliable internet access.  Never mind that I am a lazy blogger, or that Amanda has that same patchy internet access, and she has managed to post.  Hmm.   Maybe I just lack things to say.

This past week has been really fun.  We are very well settled into our routines here, and we've been really enjoying our days and nights.  The training has been going very well, and just about each session has felt very good.  

My sister, Stephanie, and brother-in-law, Huggy Bear Hays, arrived last night.  We all four gathered down at Lava Java for a really nice dinner.  Three out of four of us had the fish tacos, and the fourth person at a grilled fish salad.  Whoa.  They have some seriously fresh and delicious fish over here.  I love it.

Tonight I'm laying low in the condo, as Amanda is out enjoying a VIP booze cruise on the Body Glove boat.  I wish I had gone with her, but at the scheduled departure time I was feeling more like lounging around on the couch, so here I sit, conserving energy... and blogging away.   

It's becoming more and more evident that my lack of posting is more likely due to my lack of interesting topics of discussion.  So on that note, I'm signing off until I find something really juicy to share.

Thanks for checking in!    

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October in Kona!

Today marks the first day of October, and it marks the tenth consecutive year that Amanda and I have spent much of the month in Kona, Hawaii. We just arrived, and we are very excited to be here. Driving into town we both imagined how great it would be to have a second home here. What a great place!

We're settled into our condo; we've unpacked the clothes and built the bikes (no forgotten wheels this time!); and we're now at Lava Java awaiting a delicious early dinner.

There is no wireless in the condo, unfortunately, but we'll do our best to keep the updates coming. I have very little doubt that Amanda will have the more timely and frequent reports, so tune in!

And aloha from the great state of Hawaii!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crescent Moon Triathlon

As readers of Amanda's blog may have already found out, we raced a sprint triathlon down in Denver on Saturday. Some valuable advice from Yoda came down the pipeline a couple weeks back: find a sprint triathlon, and don't spend the weekend flogging yourself with one more big weekend of training. As Yoda says, I do.

As we were heading down to the race early that morning, Amanda was taking advantage of the quiet time by taking a nap. I'm not too sure I've ever seen anyone sleep on the way to a race, and then win it. I, on the other hand, was hopped up on some of my finest home-brewed coffee, so I could not sleep. Plus, I was driving, so I chose to spend my time pondering various things and such.

Some of the things that crossed my mind were very boring and, therefore, not worth reporting on the blog. Others were less boring, so I'm going to report them on the blog.

The first thing to pop into my head was that I had never raced so close to the Hawaii Ironman before. Normally I spend the whole month of September training and resting and training and eating. And sleeping. I don't like to travel during this time, which makes doing big national-caliber triathlons a bit challenging. Having this race on my schedule was very appealing. It was something completely new for me, after having done eight Hawaii Ironmans over the past nine years.

What did that mean? It meant that I was getting the opportunity to do two races, not one, while enjoying the absolute best fitness I would achieve all year long. It was a strange realization, for some reason. I thought more about that as we pulled up to Cherry Creek State Park.

Getting out of the car, the next thing that came to mind was that I was very tired. The coffee seemed to be doing wonders for my attitude (I can't say the same for Amanda's) but my legs were a bit heavy. This would also be the first time I would do a race so soon after a couple of very long days of training. Thank goodness it was only a sprint!

After checking in, setting up, and getting body marked, AG and I headed out for our run warm ups. Amanda had her business to tend to, and I had mine. After twelve minutes of running, I returned to transition, and promptly sucked down a Motivator caffeine pill. The fact that I was completely out of breath on my warm up JOG meant I was in need of some outside assistance. Motivator is such a great little mental boost. Getting the equivalent of a shot or two of espresso was just what the doctor ordered. I felt ready to rumble.

We hit the water for a very short warm up (the water was 65 degrees, and wetsuits were encouraged); fortunately, I felt much better than on the run warm up. I figured I could fake it pretty well for a sprint.

The gun sounded (Darrin yelled "go") , and I was off like a shot. There was a lead kayak, and for the first time that I can remember, I was the swimmer directly behind it! Whoa! I noticed a couple others of the Elite wave trying to find my feet. I put my head down and swam absolutely flat out for the next 700 or so meters. Coming out of the water in first was nice, and marks only about the third or fourth time I have ever had that honor. Fun stuff.

Transition was about three miles long. Once I got to the bike, and my heart rate had found its way in to the upper 180s (I was actually counting it based on how many times I heard it beat), I took a look to see where the competition was. Someone was in transition with me, but based on the incredible distance that represented, I could not tell how close he was.

I hit the bike about as hard as I could. My instructions (advice, warning, so forth.) was not to kill myself on the ride, but to ease into a manageable pace. I didn't figure my fatigued legs had the luxury of letting anyone catch up, so I disregarded that plan and went for it. After what seemed like forever, I looked down at the computer to see that I had only covered 3.2 miles. Ouch. I kept the pressure up; I kept the rhythm going. I actually began to feel a bit better, and then we hit a small hill (very small hill). The hill informed my legs that they felt like shit; my legs argued back; the hill was behind me. Phew.

After glancing down at the computer four more times, still hoping to see that the ride was almost done, I finally hit what looked to be the final stretch. How is it that I can train for a 112-mile bike ride, and 20km feels like forever?

Just prior to that finish straight, it dawned on me that I am in incredible shape. I was plugging along at 30mph, pushing the pedals hard, legs aching, and remember how tired I really was... and it felt great.

I performed one of my smoothest dismounts ever (about three hundred meters from the transition racks). Then I ran my ass off to the racks, convinced that someone was about to catch me.

My transition was fairly slick: shoes on; helmet off; this is not Ironman, so there is nothing else to do; leave!

A 5k can be so much fun, and a 5k can be super painful. Sometimes the two coincide: fun and painful. This seemed to be the case on Saturday. I am pretty sure I was out of breath the entire run, and it became more and more evident why we train at altitude and race at sea level. I was huffing and puffing worse than in the warm up, and I was loving it.

A funny thing about me is that I never really care about my overall time in a race, and I don't so much care about the swim or bike splits. However, pretty much regardless of the race distance, race priority, race location, race t-shirt, or race course, I like to have a fast run time. My only goal while out there was to have the first number in my split read 16. I did not wear a watch, and I did not see any mile markers. All I knew was that I am in good shape, I was out of breath, and I was moving my legs quickly, so I must be running well.

It turns out that I narrowly missed my run time goal, but finishing first is a fine consolation. I waited for Amanda to finish (fifth overall), and we celebrated Team Lovato's strong day. It had been since the 2000 Couples Triathlon that Amanda and I had taken home victories on the same day. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another eight years for our next double!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Cause for Paws 3K (as told by Michael)

At no point in this report will there be quite as many entertaining details, videos, photos or descriptions as are found in the version told by Amanda; however, it is my version, and it must be told.

After watching Amanda and Luna take off on their 5K run, Blue and I found ourselves in a strange environment. We found ourselves somewhere we had never been, and we found ourselves somewhere we feel we should not have to be for quite some time now.

We found ourselves amidst the non-athletes of Boulder... and amongst their dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love that every single one of those participants was there to raise money for the same great cause (paws), and every single one of those dogs was there to shake out the legs, to lay a morning steamer, and to sniff other dogs bits and pieces. It was a lovely and inspiring event, to be sure.

However, the issue that Blue Dog and I had with the 3k Walk was that we felt so OLD and NON-ATHLETIC! How had it become that we were too tired/ old/ sore/ pathetic to even participate in the 5K race? We didn't have to race it; we could have just been there jogging. Are we not capable of jogging for fun?!

I began pondering my reasons for signing up for the walk. I had specifically told Amanda that Blue Dog and I would love to join them for the Cause, but that we would not be able to run. And why not? Blue dog is built to run, and although I'm not built quite as impressively as Blue Dog, I consider myself to be a runner at heart. I love to run. Blue loves to run. Five kilometers only add up to 3.1 miles, so it's well within our capabilities. What the heck was I thinking?!

Lamely, what I was thinking was that I was too tired/ sore/ angry to be running on Saturday. I had done a healthy bit of running on Friday, I noticed zero running on my schedule for Saturday, and I was pooped. I had chosen to be smart. To be smart was not fun.

I had also thought of Blue Dog. He is now a bit of a senior citizen (sort of), and I was worried that the scorching 65 degree heat was going to be too much for him to handle. Sure, there was water (lots of it) at every corner of the race, and there was that whole clause (not cause, not paws) that stated we could stop whenever we wanted to freshen up. But I was worried about my boy. I didn't want that heat to get to him.

Consequently, we were walking with the overweight dogs (I have nothing against them, but I prefer dogs who possess an aesthetically pleasing form--full of muscles and the like); with the tiny dogs (with clothing); the huge dogs (with clothing); and their people (on phones, drinking coffee, chatting). It was beginning to make me and Blue a bit depressed. What had become of us? We were athletes, for crying out loud. We enjoy a sniff and a poop and a coffee and a phone call as much as the next guy, but give me a break... not during an event!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lovely Weather

Yes, I realize that there is a potentially deadly hurricane headed straight for the coast of Texas. I realize that as a result of Ike there will be many cities and towns in the Southeast, South and even Southwest who will be suffering high humidity, rain, and potent winds. I realize that all of this means that others elsewhere are suffering through worse weather than we are. But I still feel I must at list mention that we are having some really gross weather here in Boulder.

You see, folks are always telling me to get out of town this time of year. Get to Austin to suffer through some hot conditions; get to San Diego to do the Hawaii build in warmth, with about 100 of my closest (German) friends; or get to Hawaii early to acclimate. I typically respond by saying that September weather in Boulder is unbeatable. We have cool mornings, and perfect days. The sun is almost always out, and the winds are variable. Riding in the mountains this time of year is very close to heaven. Running the high trails is a quick way to finding that perfect run we all love to have. And the weather is mild enough that recovery is just about perfect. My theory that too much hot training will beat you up like nothing else. My nine years of training down in Austin told me that dehydration can be the normal way of life, if not managed very carefully.

Now, as I am supposed to be heading up to Magnolia Road to enjoy one of the aforementioned runs in the Soft Mountain Air, I am looking out the window to see an absolute downpour of rain. It's not snowing here, as the temperature is in the upper 40s. However, it may well be snowing up at 8500+ feet, where my run is supposed to take place. Oh crap. I guess I should not have talked so much smack about our good weather. We are now faced with two of those inevitable Fall days (and it's not even officially Fall yet!), where the conditions are better suited to watching movies.

It is now time to rifle through my winter clothes drawers, in search of a couple water proof, wind resistant pieces of clothing. I had better dig deep, as this is going to be one of those days. I hear they have days like this, even in Australia.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ironman Wisconsin

Thanks very much to those of you who have been so supportive of Amanda in her quest to knock off a great Ironman up in Madison. Unfortunately, about halfway through the bike ride, she was faced with another terrible bout of indigestion/ lack of food absorption, and she slowed dramatically. Coming off the bike she had very few calories in her body, as she was unable to consume anything for over two hours. She set out to tackle the marathon with hopes that she'd turn things around, but frustratingly, it was just not her day. After a bunch of walking, a bit of running, and a ton of perseverance, she is currently about 5K away from finishing the race.

Another tough day at the Ironman office should not dilute what has been a great season so far for the Gillamster. I'm sure her version of a race report will hit the blogs soon enough, but I wanted to keep the Amanda Fans in the loop, as best I can.

Thanks for all the good vibes you sent her way!! She'll live to fight another day!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chattanooga, Tennessee

This weekend I am visiting the lovely city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have been given the opportunity to come race the BMW Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon on Sunday, and I am looking very much forward to the event.

So far my visit has been very nice. I have been given a short tour of the area, and will be heading downtown for some dinner a bit later. It's always great to see a new place, to race a new event, and to meet some new folks.

I also look forward to catching up with some of my Tennessee friends, including those who came to my talk up in Nashville back in January.

If you're in the area, please swing by the expo tomorrow around 2:00PM to say hello!

Friday, July 04, 2008

After the Ironman

It's been nearly two weeks since the race up in Coeur d'Alene, and life in the Lovato family has continued full-swing. Amanda proved to be top Vato this month, bringing home the overall victor's trophy, and ensuing paycheck, after winning the Spirit of Morgantown half iron out in West Virginia.

I, on the other hand, resorted to my second profession as dog walker extraordinaire. Luna and Blue were overjoyed to have me in recovery mode, as it added up to several great dog walks in the Boulder foothills. After five days of complete inactivity (minus aforementioned dog walks), I ventured out for an easy spin last Saturday. The legs were feeling pretty good, and the energy levels were coming back around. A short swim and short run topped off my training for the week/ weekend, and next thing I knew Monday had arrived.

Week two after an Ironman is not quite as fun as week one. The Ironman Finisher Appetite (IFA) tends to wane after five or six days, and the ability and desire to eat everything and anything tapers off. IFA is actually one of my favorite things. If I regret the order I placed at a restaurant, or if I made the wrong meal in my kitchen, all I have to do is wait an hour or so and I'm hungry all over again.

Week two is when the desire to train will normally creep back into the picture, but the ability to train is maybe not quite there yet. The energy levels have a lot to do with that, and mine took about nine days to get back to par.

Week two can be very indicative of how hard I raced. A couple of years ago, after my fastest Ironman race to date, I was still unable to get going in week two. I felt some residual soreness in the legs, and my desire to move was still missing.

Week two this time around has been pretty good. I know I raced hard up in Idaho, but to be surviving the final half marathon, as opposed to really pushing it, really gave me a bit of help on the recovery side of things.

Talking to my Ironman Yoda last night, I inquired as to how I should approach this next ten days before I toe the line at the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon, which is an Olympic Distance race. With only three weeks between CdA and Chattanooga, I did not know how to best maximize the time. The suggestion from Yoda: do a 5K running race.

Having heard about an event sponsored by a local brewery, one in which BEER is the prize, I thought I'd take the suggestion and jump in to the race. Fortunately for me, it was not a 5k, but rather a 4k, in honor of the Fourth.

I say fortunately for me because jumping back into the short distance race scene meant that I was about to blow out the pipes, and blowing out the pipes often means blowing up. This meant I would be blowing up one kilometer closer to the finish line!

Avery Brewing offered the winner his weight in BEER. They offered a case of BEER to age group winners. And they offered two sixers to each person who finished second in his or her age group. Referencing the above photo, you will see that I finished second in my age group.

The details are a bit fuzzy; perhaps they are clouded by the lactic acid that moved into my brain, making their way up from my arm muscles (which none of the others in front of me seemed to have).

What I do remember is the first mile split reading 4:55. Next thing I remember thinking was that I was glad I only had a mile and a half to go. Somewhere around 2 kilometers into the race, I felt the arms get heavy; the legs were still moving. Turnaround number two meant I had almost a mile to go. A whole mile!? I resisted the urge to rock my head back, chin up, and shoulders back. Mile two was a more conservative 5:20. I had regrouped a bit, and was saving for that final 400 meters. With a quarter mile to go, I kicked into another gear.

To be totally honest, I was very pleased to find that I had that fifth gear. I had not used it in several weeks, or months. I held onto fifth place, and as I previously mentioned, second in my age group.

And now I will drink my reward.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ironman Coeur d'Alene: the US Championship

I went up to Idaho with an incredibly relaxed and confident attitude. I had forsaken the temptation of racing an early season Ironman for the first time in four years; I had trained well in Austin for four months, before doing a shorter Ironman build in Boulder; I was rested, I was fit, and I was motivated to race. The perfect storm was brewing for my best ever race.

Prior to the race, I pointed out to Greg Welch that being fit, rested, and motivated were really only half of the things I needed to have in order to win the race. The other 50% was made up of a well executed race day. If I delivered that, I could win the race. As we all know, "if" is a pretty big word in the world of Ironman racing.

Race day started out as cool and beautiful as the weatherman had predicted. The lake was calm, and the water temperature was perfect. I don't just say this to paint a pretty picture; the water was 60 degrees, which is just cool enough to keep my lizard skin from overheating in the swim.

I opted not to take a long warm up, which is a departure from my pre-race norm. I figured I'd only start to cool of if I was in the lake too long before the start. Positioning myself at the start line, I chose not to pay attention to where anyone else was standing. I have finally learned that my best swim will come when I do what's best for me, rather than key off any of the others' actions.

Two or three strokes into the race, I found myself on Viktor's feet. He had green, I had purple (caps). He was easy to spot amongst the others in yellow. I stayed put for a couple hundred meters, enjoying a very, very comfortable start. We were barely above a float, as far as I was concerned.

As we neared the first turn buoy, I took Amanda's advice by making a surge. My normal swim strategy is to hold on for dear life, while making no sudden movements. Amanda knew I had worked hard to get my swimming back to where it was years ago, and she felt I could play some games in the water. This surge to the first turn was only the first of many little games I would play during the 2.4 miles.

Out of the turn and into the sun, I kept my surge going for several meters. I noticed that Viktor was still in tow, and the two yellows were hanging tough. Through the second buoy, I eased up, stayed the course, and returned to a comfortable pace. Nearing the beach, Viktor came back through to take the lead. In spite of my games, we were actually working well to pull one another through the course.

Exiting the water and re-entering is one my least favorite parts of a swim. Lucky for me, we were in a group of four, and Viktor make a right turn, instead of the left we were supposed to take. I gracelessly flopped back into the water, checked yellow 1 and yellow 2, noticed Viktor's slight gap, and I dropped the hammer. How much fun it is to be able to race the swim!

I tried as hard as I could to drop the trio. I went through the first buoy, and kept the pedal down. My effort was for naught, as they were all still in contact. It doesn't hurt to try, and the efforts to drop my competitors did not seem to hurt me in the least. I settled back in and saved energy for my next effort.

Rounding the turn, I made another go at dropping the yellows. I zigged left, I zagged right, I surged and I veered. Nothing worked, so I settled back into a normal pace. Again, I reveled in the fact that I was in control of my swim (and of others') for the first time in a while.

Before I end up with a novel about the first 54 minutes of my race, I had better touch on the bike race for a spell.

Starting the ride, I knew I was rested, and that I'd be strong enough to push the pace. I reeled in the guys who beat me out of transition (they beat me by a long shot). I kept the pressure on, knowing that my fitness would allow me to rebound from any blow-ups later in the game.

The splits were all in my favor as I entered the hilly and scenic parts of the race. Evans' lead was down to 2:00, to 1:45, to 1:15, and finally to 45 seconds. He informed the spotters that I should hurry up and catch him. I informed them right back that he needed to slow down so I could catch him!

The games were about to end, as Tom put his back-half strength to the test. Somewhere around mile 45, he dropped the hammer. I stayed steady knowing he was going to do this. My only hope was that I would have caught him by the time he made that move. 45 seconds was as close as I'd get to the hard charging dentist all day long. (Is it foreshadowing when I give that away, or is it just giving it away?)

As I rolled over hills, pushed through the windy flats, and collected my thoughts for the run, my strongest impression was that I was finally dialed in perfectly with my bike fit (thank you Jack and Zane!). This is a funny thing to think about, but it occurred to me nonetheless: I was so powerful in that position, and I was ready to run!

My ideal scenario coming off the bike was to have a time deficit to Tom (who I historically outrun), and a time gap on Viktor (who historically outruns me). I knew that to chase down my prey, while simultaneously being chased by a predator, would yield my best marathon to date.

I could not believe how light and fresh and speedy I felt when my legs first touched ground in transition. I had zero sign of the hobbled, post-ride stiffness that will sometimes greet us in T2. I was ready to run.

My first few miles came by with incredible ease: 6:01, 5:57, 6:10, 6:12. I made that fourth mile split with a brief stop to stretch the hamstrings. They felt a bit of a twinge toward cramping, and I wanted to be safe. Back through the next eight miles, I was effortlessly chipping away at Tom's lead. My ten mile spit was just at 1:02. His 6:30 lead off the bike was down to 3:55 by mile ten. My jock math was calculating the necessary difference of pace to erase my deficit by the finish line.

My jock math may have distracted me from what was about to happen.

Mile thirteen was about as different as it could have been from the preceding twelve. My stride shortened, my energy dipped, my intestines twisted up, and my momentum nearly halted. What I needed was a porto-potty, and I needed it soon.

The energy of the hot corner, and all that goes with it, carried me to the Honey Bucket (that is what they are named up in CdA) stationed near special needs. I jumped in, jumped out, and plugged back along to the second turn. I took note of Evans, he took note of me, and the race was still on.

To forget about Viktor during the marathon is a rare occurrence, but it's just what happened. What was going on behind me was of no more importance than what was going on in the life of Brittany Spears. I was focused on my chase.

Normally a brief stop in the little blue box takes care of everything. My return to 6:20 and 6:30 miles indicated to me that I had gotten past what was ailing me. By mile 16, I quickly concluded that was not the case. Another quick stop (to deal with the party in my pants) had me in and out of another Honey Bucket. It was Ironman racing at its finest: it's dirty, it's fast, it's hard, and there are no guarantees.

From mile 17 to mile 20, I went about as far to the dark side as I could go. My stomach would tolerate no more Power Gel or Gatorade. It didn't seem to even like water, and salt tabs were out of the question. I walked up a hill. I ran down the other side. Amanda was nearby and when I passed her, she yelled at me to dig deep, and that catching Tom was still a viable option. All I could think of was whether or not I'd make it to mile 18. I walked again, and I stopped again. This time there was nothing but a tree to hide my potty stop from the world.

Getting going again, I realized that my body needed carbs. I thought of one thing: coke. I made it to mile 19, and began my seven-mile parade, fueled by coke and water, coke and water. It seemed to settle the gut a bit, or at least it seemed not to upset it further. There was really nothing else left to evacuate from my system, so maybe I was back in the mix.

At the base of the turnaround climb, just about 20.5 miles into the marathon, Viktor came by me. "What is wrong," he uttered. I just said one word: "shit." Sorry 'bout that, but it was on my mind. My pace at that point was a full-blow Kona Shuffle, not unlike my stride that was captured in the 2000 IM Lake Placid TV footage, when Dave Scott voiced over these words: "Lovato just got passed by Cam Brown, and you just don't come back from a pass like that!"

Realizing that my walk-and-stop program had only then lost me the second spot was a bit of a mental recharge for me. No, I was not going to win, and no, I was not getting second, but yes, I was going to survive. As a matter of fact, if the coke did its thing, I was going to be able to compete again, and after all, that is what I was there to do.

A quick time check to fourth place told me that I could run my way home, and still hang onto that final podium spot. I was back in the game. I didn't feel too hot, and I didn't have more than a handful of caffeine-spiked simple sugars to work with, but I was in the game. No more walking.

I had successfully gone from racing to survival and back to racing.

Nearing the finish line, I began to feel the pull and the draw that downtown Coeur d'Alene produces on Ironman day. That community loves this event, and the event is characterized by all of their energy. They got me down Sherman Ave, and they got me to the finish line.

I wobbled and tottered a bit as I crossed the line, but it was a satisfied wobble-totter. Tom Evans had an amazing day, and Viktor was a strong second. The three of us have made up the podium two years in a row, and only one other man has won this race, outside of us. I think we all look forward to next year already.

From all races, we must take home a lesson or two or six. And in this case, I learned my lesson with the help of Robert from First Endurance. After listening to my account of the race, he promptly pointed out that my excess sodium intake was the culprit to blame for my nutritional hardships. On a day when temperatures never really got above 70 degrees, my body was in electrolyte overload. While I followed a sound calorie intake plan, my supplemental sodium intake pushed me over the edge with respect to electrolyte balance. It now is very clear that too much sodium can draw water from the blood, back it up in the small intestines, and effectively stop absorption. With no absorption of the food and liquid going in, there is only one way to empty the gut, and we've already discussed what that means. Lesson learned.

Getting to the finish line of my 21st Ironman was really only possible because of the support I had going into the event. I am thankful to have an incredible team of family, friends, and sponsors around me. They all believe in me, and they all show their belief in a tireless fashion.

Thank you to each and every one of you, and in particular, thank you to Amanda for giving me the courage to push myself before and during that great event.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

Help Me Pick!

I just received my race outfits for Ironman Coeur d'Alene.  Please help me pick the perfect SPLISH bottoms to go with one of my Saucony tops. 

Thanks to the generous folks at SPLISH for setting me up with some winning designs.

Yes, I stole this blog idea from Amanda.

Race Outfits

Race Outfits

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Best Wife Ever

How many of you read the blog of my dear wife, Amanda Lovato?  I am sure there are many of you, as you probably would not be here now if you hadn't clicked my link on her blog.  I know how you operate.

Of those five hundred of you who read that blog, how many of you really think you know Amanda?  I wonder.   I thought, just for kicks, that I would share a few thoughts about my wife, so that you, the careful reader, can understand a bit more about how she ticks. 

Yes, she is a pretty open person.  She talks about her poop.  She talks about her friends.  She talks about her enemies, pet peeves, favorite things, swim suits, and a bit more about her poop. There are so many incredibly interesting topics inside the head of AGL that she may never have time to post them all on her blog.  But she will damn sure try.

Even though she takes time to write about just about everything, I still think the vast majority of her readers don't know just how great a person she really is, so I will share her with you.

Amanda is the one of the most caring, giving and loving people I have ever met.  She talks about how she has older child syndrome, but she does not let on that the syndrome has made her a sweet and generous caregiver.  

She talks about how anal she is, but she doesn't let on that she is one of the most organized, detail-oriented, task-driven people I know.

A rant from Amanda is just that: a rant.  She calls out people's flaws, she points out injustices and rude occurrences, but she does not ever mean to hurt any one's feelings.  She truly sees her rant as a way to get things off her chest.  Rather than let it fester inside forever, she let's it go, and on some occasions the subject of the rant could take the opportunity to learn a bit about him or herself.

One of Amanda's greatest strengths is that she handles criticism very well.  She knows she has room to improve in many aspects of her life.  She takes feedback and uses it constructively to make herself a better person.  This is a rare trait, perhaps more rare than you think.

Amanda can tell someone she is sorry, and that she was wrong.  Sadly, there are more folks in this world who are incapable of doing just that, even if they could stop an argument,  a fight or even a war.  

Amanda is the one of the most sensitive people I know.  She may appear to have a tough skin, but inside she takes things to heart.  

Amanda is my Domestic Goddess.  For proof I took this photo the other night after a long training day.  She prepared my dinner, cleaned my dishes, and made me comfortable and happy.  
Amanda is my inspiration.  When dedicated to realizing a goal, nothing gets in her way.  She follows the path she sets without wavering, and she does so without being late. 

The only thing Amanda loves more than her dogs is me, and I love that.

Amanda is my best friend, and I have gotten to know her better each and every day.  

Monday, May 19, 2008

I'm Back!

What the heck happened to me and my blog for the past five+ weeks?!? Same old story, I suppose: I have been traveling, racing, training, working, walking the dogs, eating, sleeping, and hanging out with Amanda. It's taken all my time!

Somehow it's now May, we're back in Boulder, and I am faced with providing a summary of events, so as not to skip over everything that has happened since my last post.

After Ironman Arizona, I got to enjoy a couple more weeks down in Austin. Amanda and I had a really great time there, and the final weeks were spent soaking up the final bits of sea level breathing before returning to oxygen-starved Boulder.

At the end of my stay in Texas, I enjoyed another great throwback weekend with my good friend, Todd Gerlach, aka the Gerlachness Monster, or the Buffalo. We spotted an opportunity on the race calendar to bring back a few memories out on the West Texas Plains.

Although the name has changed from Strutters to Striders, Jack and Ester Weiss' Ironhead Production long course duathlon has not changed a bit. It seemed like only yesterday when Jon Hill, Todd and others of the Austin crew were heading out to San Angelo for the first time.

Returning to Sanangelo, as it's spoken, was a blast. The scene of my first overal victory in a multisport event, the race's famous dirt road from hell was every bit as challenging as it was in the mid-nineties.

After the race, the dogs and I headed North and West to Albuquerque for a few days with my mom (and their grandma). We stayed there for three days, which gave us enough time to catch up with Mom, train a bit, and eat a good dose of New Mexico Green Chile.

I got comfy in Boulder for two nights after the Albuquerque stay. My next engagement was with the Ironman Coeur d'Alene camp up in Idaho. I love these camps as they are a great way to train the race course, hang out with a fun group of athletes, and to share a bit of knowledge and experience with thirty or so folks training for next month's race. Plus, it's always fun to laugh at Paul Huddle's jokes, and to catch up with Paula Newby.

Two more nights in Boulder were followed by a trip to St. Croix for the 70.3 race. This is one of the greatest races around, and it's in great part because of the relationship we have formed down there with our host family. The Isherwoods have been kind enough to take us into their home for six of the last eight years. We love the challenge of the race course, the level of competition, and certainly, the hospitality of our family away from home!

Both Amanda and I had strong showings in the race. We each managed a PR for that event, and we found that our training has gotten us to a good early-season level of fitness. To share the gory details of the race report right now would be time consuming, so I'll promise to post those thoughts at a slightly later time.

After STX, Amanda and I returned to Boulder for good. Although she is currently out of town, we're both really here now. Really. We had a great spring/ winter in Austin, and now we're back in BCO for the duration. It's finally stopped snowing (sorry to all of our Colorado buddies who suffered through it all), and the temps are starting to warm right up.

I'm about five weeks away from my next big race: Ironman Coeur d'Alene. I could not be more excited to return to one of my favorite race venues. I'm feeling fit and motivated to have a strong day.

Phew! I feel I can take a breath now. I hate to leave out the scintillating details of all the goings on, but I can now get back up to speed with current updates. Or is that what I say every time???

Thanks for checking in!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Sidelines at IM Arizona

I've been meaning to write a long and meaningful post about why I decided not to race Ironman Arizona this year, but my blog habits got the better of me. (Not to be confused with the blog hobbits, who have asked me to get to writing.) What I mean is that I ran out of time to post my thoughts.

Now I'm feeling a sense of semi-urgency to announce that I will not be racing this year's IM Arizona... on Sunday. I chose to do one this spring, and that race will be IM Coeur d'Alene. I may someday get around to sharing the lengthy reason why not, but for now suffice it to say that I'm happily on the sidelines of this event.

I'll be here cheering for my friends (James and Terra, amongst many others), and I'll be doing some work for the event (commentating and hosting sponsors).

I appreciate all the well-wishing; I love the good luck notes; and I am sorry to not be out there battling it out with the rest of you to another sub-seventeen finish.

Good luck to all of you, and thanks for the support!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lonestar Sprint Triathlon

In some ways, I felt like I was going back in time about fifteen or sixteen years. I was traveling across the large state of Texas, en route to a sprint triathlon; my bike was on the roof, collecting bugs; and I was enjoying the company of a good friend, as we admired the wildflowers on the sides of the highway. It was just awesome.

Almost a week ago (I'm slow to update, as usual), Amanda and I headed down to Galveston Island for the Lonestar Tri. I was planning to do the sprint on Saturday, and Amanda was set for the Quarter on Sunday (1/4 of an Iroman). We left the dogs with Uncle Fred, so it was just the two of us, our bikes, and a lot of gear... and food.

What it reminded me of was my first full season of racing triathlons back in 1993. I had just discovered the sport; I had just met a bunch of great folks; and I was driving all over the place to do every race I could fit in my schedule: Athens, Corpus Christi, Del Rio, Jefferson, Grand Prairie and Canyon Lake. We went everywhere.

On Saturday morning, when I strolled out of my hotel room and down into transition to pick up my packet, a flood of memories overtook me. I was seeing some of the same faces from way back in the early nineties: Dave Sing, Carl Stewart. I was anticipating a brand new event. I was unsure of how I would feel racing. Somehow the newness of the venue, coupled with the sameness in my mind's eye made me feel strangely nervous, excited, comfortable, and relaxed. I loved it.

Amanda showed up to see me off in the swim. It was somewhere between 500 and 600 meters (or was it yards). I do not know, and it does not matter. I was in the second wave (how long has it been since the last time I did not get the first wave!?!), and I was ready to swim flat out for the duration. It was truly a refreshing break from the strategy-laden, pace-oriented swim of an Ironman. I swam until I blew up. Then I just swam a few more meters and got out. How cool.

Next up was a FAST transition. Fortunately, I got my helmet positioned and strapped in no time. My flying mount was flawless, and I was on the way.

Just as I was starting to get a bit uncomfortable with the intensity of the bike ride, I realized I was at the turnaround. Whoa. The 12.5 mile bike ride was over before I knew it.

Coming into T2, I was so excited for the run. Of all three sports, my run training has been the best. Not unlike that first season, when my run was my only fighting chance, I was about to make my move.

I slipped into my shoes without socks. This is something I have gone away from as an Ironman and 70.3 athlete. It just seems so fun to be carefree and fast and sock-less. I was off to run a 5k. I figured that was not the time to worry about blowing up. Again, how bad would it be if I blew up for the second half. I could always make 1.5 miles.

The pain I felt for that 55 minutes (plus or minus) was awesome. No matter how much my legs or lungs or arms hurt, I was almost done. I felt I was almost done when the gun went off!

After the race I stood at the finish line for probably 45 minutes. I shook hands of random finishers; I talked splits and data; I admired those who won their sprint finishes; and I reveled in the return to my roots.

I reflected on how far I have come in the sport. After racing my first triathlon on a mountain bike, wearing soccer shorts, and struggling to finish the sprint, I have made my way back to my roots. Sure, I've won a few races between then and now, but in the end, I'm still right where I started: having fun sharing a great sport with great people.

I am grateful to have shared in many others' experience at their first triathlon. Thank you for sharing it with me, and I urge you to enjoy the journey the sport will present to you. I remember vividly (now even more so) how much that first race impacted my life. Many moons ago I got hooked, and I am as hooked now as I was then!