MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete




The Underpants Run

Friday, October 17, 2008

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.

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