MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete




Tough as Hell

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tough as Hell

For just a minute, think what it might be like to sign up for a 10K road race knowing you were going to have to run it with a long tube threaded up your nose, down your throat, and into your stomach. (Yes, a tube reaching from the nostril to the stomach.) Then, just for kicks, imagine doing the race with your spouse tethered to you via that very “nose leash,” running alongside you for the entire event: stride for stride, occasionally bumping you, and only inches away. And if you are really imaginative, pretend that you are doing this on Halloween day, and that everyone who sees you with the medical tape splashed across your face, tube in nose, and large contraption attached to you tells you that you have a really great costume. If you are anything like me, you are thinking that this is ridiculous, and that there is pretty much no chance in hell you are going to try it. If you are Amanda, you sign up willingly, all in the name of science.

Yesterday, while I was running alongside Amanda at the Eerie Erie 10K outside of Boulder, I had a lot of time to think about how tough my wife is. I was imagining how painful it must be to run pretty well flat out with a tube in the throat. A tube in the throat. It’s one thing to have the damn probe going up the nose, but when oxygen is at a premium, like when you’re running a hard 10k, over hills, at altitude, breathing is kind of important. It’s not that the tube went down her trachea, but it’s only just next door. Breathing hard is a challenging enough task, but try doing it with an unwanted intruder in your throat.

It’s not that I am seeing my wife’s toughness for the first time; it’s quite the contrary, in fact. I have watched her steely gaze hone in on a prey, chase it down, and fight to be the first across the line. I have watched her face a winning day with the exact same grace she possesses on a losing day. I have watched her walk more than her fair share of Ironman marathons. Post-race, I have watched her remove bloody shoes from her bloody feet without so much as a flinch. And I have seen her sit through a flu that nearly killed me, without uttering a single solitary complaint. On top of that I have seen her suffer through some incredibly challenging workouts; I have seen her sweat, bleed, cough, snot, and occasionally fart her way through a nasty treadmill session, all the while unintentionally scaring off her health club neighbors with her grunts. On one particularly impressive occasion, she actually sat through a family barbeque, trudged through a four-hour bike ride, and endeavored to get in a swim workout, all while suffering from a highly painful appendicitis. She may have half-heartedly attempted to spit out a portion of something resembling a complaint, when she asked me to take her to the doctor’s office to find out why her abdomen was aching so badly. Surgery was her reward for that.

In my ten years of living with, laughing with and loving this woman, I have often marveled at her toughness. She must have been raised right, because she clearly learned long ago that complaining does not get her anywhere in this world. What has always worked for her is figuring out the path to take, and then being tough enough to get the job done, no matter the task at hand.

But let’s turn back to the probe.

Yesterday’s test was ordered by her team of GI docs. Yes, the same GI docs who managed to talk her into jamming an even thicker probe up her nose and down her throat a few weeks ago to see if her esophagus had good motility. While they fed her applesauce and saline (delicious), they monitored how efficiently or inefficiently her esophagus moves food down to her stomach. After telling her this would not hurt, the docs accidentally jammed the tube into Amanda’s trachea. (It turns out threading a probe down the throat is a lot like running internally routed cables inside a bike frame that has no guides: it’s blind luck!) And after cutting off her air supply for a brief moment, the docs backed out the probe and tried again. I think I took this worse than Amanda did, and I was comfortably seated across from her in the waiting chair. While this was very traumatic to Amanda, she sat calmly through the entire procedure, anxious to find a solution to the problems that have been plaguing her.

But again, let’s return to yesterday’s probe.

Amanda has been experiencing some troublesome GI-related problems in her racing. They are not the lower-GI type of problems that send us to the porto-potty; but rather they are the type that affect her upper GI (from mouth to stomach). She has finally gotten to the point where her conservative GI doc has offered one more test before clearing her for a potential surgical fix. That final test is what lead to the tube in throat trick.

The idea was that Amanda would race with a device that could measure the pH of her reflux. This would determine if the hiatal hernia was, in fact, the cause of her woes; or if we’d been barking up the wrong tree. Our very helpful team of docs devised a plan to test her symptoms while in a race setting, thus the probe and its handy (bulky!) recording device. After a warm-up jog with the hefty and awkward measuring device strapped under her arm, Amanda and I decided to see if I could carry the contraption for her. It would be just like running with Luna on a leash; I only need one arm to run, right? We figured out that I could stay close enough to Amanda that I would not impede her progress, and she’d be able to push herself to the desired intensity, with the added benefit of using both arms.

We covered the opening mile in 5:35.

I did my best not to nudge her; I did my best not to yank the probe out of her nose. I did my best to keep from tripping and taking her down. She just did her best to run a race; and she did so with her characteristic steely gaze, with labored breathing, and with the determination and the toughness that epitomize Amanda.

After 6.2 miles, Amanda crossed the finish line as the first female, fifth overall, with a new course record, and with a smile on her face. And a tube up her nose. And for that, amongst many other reasons, I tell you that Amanda is tough as hell.

7 Comment(s)

Naomi on 11/2/09 said:

I agree, Michael…Amanda ROCKS! What an inspiration; and as you said, it isn’t just the win or course record that makes her so. :)

I hope that the test gives the docs the info they need to help Amanda and her GI issues.

All the BEST to you both!

Naomi :)

Spokane Al on 11/2/09 said:

Wow, I am flinching as I am reading this. Your wife definitely is one tough human. Congratulations to Amanda for the race and win and to you both for your successful tag team relationship.

TriEric on 11/4/09 said:

Holy crap. All in the name of science and figuring out what’s going on. Yes Amanda is a tough cookie. I’ve managed to watch her race at Morgantown and IM Moo in 2008. It’s awesome watching her gut it out.

Jamie on 11/5/09 said:

Wow. The epitome of “anything for science.” So hard core.

Hopefully the docs got some good data from the little experiment.

Rachelle on 12/6/09 said:

Wow – that is unreal – talk about HTFU! It’s cool that she is going to such great lengths to figure out the problem. But like you said, if someone described those conditions under which I would be running a race, signing up would not by my first reaction! You are a superstar hubby for holding her “box” through that run. :D

Real Talent, Real Toughness, Real Love « Road to Joy on 7/4/10 said:

[...] 4, 2010 You’ve got to check out Amanda Lovato, wife of recent Ironman Couer D’Alene 2010 Champion Michael Lovato.   How many of us would [...]

Real Talent, Real Toughness, Real Love « Road to Joy on 3/25/11 said:

[...] Talent, Real Toughness, Real Love By Pamela, on July 4th, 2010 You’ve got to check out Amanda Lovato, wife of recent Ironman Couer D’Alene 2010 3rd place winner Michael Lovato.   How many of [...]

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