MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete

 

PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN

 

BSLT!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

BSLT!

Those race initials always remind me of a sandwich. But what would the “S” be?

As promised, I’m getting to the Lubbock race report, and only a week late. Normally I’d be two weeks late, so this is progress. Depending on how long this takes, I might even offer up a second race report, which would be nearly same-day coverage!

As most of you know (probably from reading others’ more timely race reports), race morning was strangely cool. The skies were overcast, and there seemed to be thunderstorms in and around Lubbock. Once again, those storms we had leaving Boulder were proving to be prophetic.

Amanda and I were very good about getting an early start this time. We had been so late for the rest of the week, that it came as quite a surprise that we arrived at the lake just a couple minutes past 5:00am. Not too shabby. After we put our bikes together, we headed down the steep hill to transition. It’s always fun to be heading to race start in pitch black: feels more adventurous. Too bad we didn’t think to bring a headlamp.

This was one of those mornings where set-up was pretty smooth and seamless. I had transition put together early enough to have a short warm-up jog and a brief chat with Stephanie and my mom. I didn’t get to see Luna and Blue, who were hanging out with our friend Debbie, but it was probably for the best, as they’d have wanted to get in the lake with me.

I got in the lake with ten or fifteen minutes to spare, intent to have a long enough warm up. I always do a lot better with a long slow swim prior to the start. I got ten or twelve minutes in before it was time to go. I was very happy with the start of the swim, as I found a good snappy rhythm right away. Things got a bit rough, but I was able to find a couple of fast feet right from the outset. Those feet turned out to be Andrea’s, which generally means I’m in a good spot. I looked the left, and saw Jamie’s sleeveless suit, so I knew I was doing alright. After the first couple turns, I actually found myself pulling around Andrea to take the lead. It’s not often that I feel strong enough to leave the draft of the fast swimmers, so I must have been feeling pretty good. The truth was that I felt pretty comfortable, and I wanted to be sure that we kept the pressure on, as I was doing battle for swim preme honors. (Todd Gerlach and I were racing double or nothing on our bet from Arizona, where he put my swim time to shame.) However, I only lasted about 400-500 meters at best. I was feeling good, but he efforts up front started to take their toll. I needed to get back in a draft, and conveniently, Jamie and Andrea were tired of following my crooked line around the buoys, so they regained control. The rest of the swim was smooth, and I very happily exited the mis-measured swim in just over 22 minutes: 22:09 to be precise.

For the inquiring minds, Todd’s swim was 22:11, so I managed to win myself back to zero. We now have the face-off swim challenge championship on October 21st, out in Hawaii. Wish me luck: Macadamia Nut Pies are at stake here.

Out on the bike, I took the first four miles a bit conservatively. I had managed to jack my saddle up, by mis-landing a flying mount out of transition: too much pressure on the back end, and the nose was pointing right… up…. there…

After I figured out how to manage the off-kilter saddle, and after deciding not to stop to fix it, I made chase. I made the pass on Jamie and Viktor just before the ten mile marker. I knew that Jamie was familiar with the course (and normally quite strong on this type of bike course), so I put a nice hard surge to distance myself from them. I set my sights on James and Marcel, the next duo up the road.

I realized that I was not making any ground on these guys, unless I was on a flat section into the wind. For some reason, I wasn’t riding the tailwind sections very well. Fortunately, there was a long, hard headwind section coming up, so I bided my time. Once we got there, I really put the pedal to the metal, and tried to reel them in. I managed to close about a 25-second gap within approximately two miles. I knew this was good, as it meant I should be able to pass them, and leave them behind.

Just as I caught them, we took a turn with the wind (and approached a down hill). I sat up to recover briefly from my effort, and to take some fuel, and I proceeded to watch James and Marcel drop me. My plan had not worked quite so well. Oops.

I am still not sure if I used too much gas in catching them, or if I was off in some other capacity, but the next fifteen miles were very challenging for me. I watched Marcel and James leave me behind. I saw Simon and Luke continue to increase their leads, and I watched my pursuers gain ground. I was particularly frustrated to ride very poorly on the two more challenging climbs. I was not strong, and I did not like it.

As we made the turn for home (and after I struggled up the final winding hill through the tree tunnel), I began to come around again. I managed to increase the effort, and the speed. Near the end of the ride, I finally caught back up to James, who was clearly not having his best BSLT bike ride!

As I passed him, he encouraged me to get under that 4-hour barrier, as we were just nearing the 2:40 mark. I encouraged him to come with me on the run, but noted that we should ease into the pace. Knowing that course as well as he and I do, I figured we’d have the advantage when all the “rookies” blew up out in the Texas Heat.

Well, turns out we were having some sort of West Texas Cold Front instead. While it was definitely warm, there were no egg-frying asphalt sections, like in years past. Too bad, as any chance I had of out-smarting and out-strengthing Luke and Simon went out the window. They were quite far down the road out-speeding me! Well done, fellas!

I ended up moving into third by the time we reached the Energy Lab II. I was intent to hold that spot, as a podium finish is always a nice way to wrap up a day of racing. However, and as usual, this is a big HOWEVER, I noticed my old buddy Viktor was stalking me quite closely.

I put the hammer down, and never looked back. I figured I could hold him off for a while, and if he caught me, I’d try to out-kick him to the finish. Well, this plan didn’t exactly come to be realized, as Viktor made his way to my shoulder by mile seven. I led him down and up the hills at miles eight and nine, throwing surges at him left and right. When I realized I couldn’t drop him on the down, I tried to drop him on the up. When I realized I could not drop him on the up, I tried to drop him on the flat. When I realized I could not drop him on the flat, I tried to drop him on the headwind section entering the park.

Viktor was smart and Viktor was strong, and in the end, Viktor was the victor: he finally came around me just before the dangerous mile-ten descent back down to the lake. He wisely let me do the work, sized me up, and responded to my every move. He barely came by me, and opened a small gap. It seemed that his plan was to throw down on that hill, hoping I’d not be able to match his down hill speed. He was right. He gapped me just enough, so that as we rounded the turn that begins the final 5k to home, I had cracked. I tried to up the ante, but my efforts to ditch him left me cooked.

In the back of my head, I hoped to stay strong enough to reel him back in, but up front I was hurting. At the run turnaround I had the chance to see that the others were far enough back that, barring a catastrophic meltdown, I would not get caught. This little bit of knowledge was all it took for me to justify a “cruise” back to the finish. After all, I fought my fight, and fourth place with a 4:02 was not going to be all that bad. In fact, it was my fastest time on the course, and a heck of a lot better than my 7:50 from 2002!

Thanks for reading… check in soon for news of the Beach Bum Triathlon on Hilton Head Island!

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