MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete

 

PART BEAR. PART MAN. ALL AMERICAN

 

Florida Half-Ironman

Date: 5/22/05

Location: Orlando, FL

Rank: 4th

Time: 4:00:54

This year’s trip to Disney World in Florida was bound to be very different than last year’s visit. For one thing, I was making the trip solo, as Amanda opted out of racing this year’s event. Her training was going well, and she felt it best to stick around Boulder, and to continue preparing for IM Lake Placid. A second change was that my sister Stephanie, who has been watching me race for the last twelve years, was to be competing in her first Half Ironman. Therefore, when the race was finished, I would make a third transition: to spectator!

This was to be my fourth triathlon within nine weekends, and with a couple of running races thrown in there, I felt like I had been doing a whole lot of racing. Nonetheless, I anticipated a strong showing at the mostly flat, somewhat toasty race.

Perhaps a blessing in disguise, as I probably needed a bit more rest than I would otherwise have taken, I found myself in the emergency room two days prior to the race. I had been stung by a nasty little bee and was reacting very badly to its poison: my left eye was swollen nearly shut, and the rest of my forehead gave me distinct cro-magnon appeal. My doctor’s orders were to not exert myself, nor to overheat: did he not know why I was in Florida to begin with?!?

I followed the advice, and did nothing for the next twenty-four hours. Additionally, I took some homeopathic remedies to help reduce the swelling and itching.

By Saturday, I was starting to see a few of my normal features return to my face, so I made my way to the race venue for a couple short workouts. Pleased that my goggles did not leak, I began to anticipate the race.

Race day arrived with some intimidating clouds overhead. The forecasts had been threatening rain, but we had yet to experience much for precipitation; hopefully this would not be the day the weathermen were correct.

As is not uncommon for a men’s professional race, there was a bit of a false start. Nonetheless, I found myself in a great position on the feet of the fastest swimmer in our field: Simon Lessing. Unfortunately, this was the closest I’d be to him all day, as after a couple hundred meters, his engine cranked up to full speed, and he never looked back.

As others fought to share the wake I was enjoying, our group made its way into a long line of swimmers. Somewhere along the way, I ended up on a bogus set of feet: they (and I) were dropped from the pack! Exiting the water a minute down from the leaders, and a minute forty-five down from Simon, I knew I had my work cut out for me.

Having raced a smart bike ride last year, I decided my strategy should be the same: build the first ten miles, with a hard charge to the front beginning around mile twenty. Last year’s strategy meant that my strong second half coincided with a slight slowing of pace by the frontrunners (all but Bjorn Andersson!). This year, however, was different: I was still finishing strong, but those up the road were doing so as well. I was unable to reel them back!

Ah well, my position off the bike was still good enough to enable me to run to a podium finish, or so I thought. I entered T2 in sixth, but left in fifth. My speedy change was not indicative of a speedy run to follow. Unfortunately, I could never find the speed and quickness necessary for a quality half marathon. I managed to stall out at around the marathon pace, and could do nothing to drop the hammer.

That effort put me in position to get passed at the one-mile mark, by the eventual second-place finisher. On the plus side, it enabled me to catch up to the once-race-leader, Bjorn Andersson. This kept me in fifth, a position I held until Spencer Smith retired with two penalties. I was then fourth, and was content to stay there.

Late in the race, I received a split on a runner behind me; one who appeared to be running me down. A final push over the last two miles was all I could muster, but it was enough to hold off his and others’ late charges.

In the end, I had a very solid day against solid competition. I think I proved to myself that I can still be competitive on an average day, but to vie for the overall, all pistons must be firing, something I look forward to have happen next month in Coeur d’Alene!

Soon after I finished the race, I was able to cheer for my sister as she swapped from bike to run. I then watched my sister do what she has watched me do many times before, and I did so with a smile on my face (as did she!).

Michael Lovato

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