MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete




Ironman 70.3 California

Date: 4/4/09

Location: Oceanside, CA

Rank: 9th

Time: 4:03:00

It’s almost so late that it’s irrelevant, but not quite. I figure I had better post a report prior to the next race, or it will be too late. Although I’m a big believer in the saying mas vale tarde que nunca! California 70.3 has been the unofficial season opener for Team Lovato for several years now. I raced the Ironman back in ’01, and we have ventured out for the half five or six times. The race has become a favorite of mine, in part due to its challenging bike course, and in part due to its competitive field. My goals for the race were to blast out the cobwebs, as my last race was in October. The fitness had been coming up very nicely in March, and a few sessions on the bike and run indicated that I might be able to vie for a money spot out in Oceanside. About two weeks before the race, I was starting to believe I’d be ready to PR the course, and the first test of the year would be a fun one. In addition to testing out the early-season fitness, I was eager to try out all my new equipment for the 2009 season. This was to be the maiden voyage for my Kestrel Airfoil SE, my HED3 wheels, Vision bars, Giro helmet, and Oakelys. It had been a long time since I swapped any sponsors, but the moves I have made this spring are all part of a plan to take it up a notch (with superior equipment), as I make an assault on this year’s Ironman. Back to Oceanside we went. Due to some unfortunately timed viruses, Amanda and I lost a few valuable days of training to major weight loss/ liquid diets/ couch time. We had recovered, done our best to regain the weight, and were feeling rested and ready to rumble. Amanda’s showing at a local 10K had me believing I’d be tip-top come April 4th… and that was not far off the truth. The race got underway with a swift swim start. My swimming was going extremely well in training, and I was anxious to test myself amongst the short-coursers, and 70.3 swim studs. I got out fast, held to Bjorn’s feet for a while, then settled into a nice, slightly painful rhythm. Not long into the race, our pack strung out. It was near the 800-meter mark that I found myself getting separated from the wolf pack. I’m no stranger to finding the “wrong” feet, and this is exactly what I ended up doing… again! Damn it. My apologies to the Rappstar, as it turns out he was the one whose feet I rode to the boat ramp. We weren’t far back, but the time gap was enough to lose the main group’s momentum. Hitting T1 I proved that I have lost all transitional mojo from my short course days. There was a time I could light up that parking-lot-sprint like nobody’s business. I might need to work on that for St. Croix. I hit the bike, grabbed the warmers for my arms, and executed a flying mount. (I have not lost all my short-course tricks.) The first few miles were a good indicator that I was free of the bug’s sluggishness, and I was in for a decent ride. Could I bridge to the leaders was the only question. The only answer was NO. I did ride through many of the front-running swimmers, and mixed it up with some of them through the first (flatter) parts of the ride. Going through the 40k mark, I began to reel in some of the guys who were getting spit out of the main pack. I had no clue how fast I was riding, as I somehow forgot to bring a computer magnet with me to California, so I was racing without a speedometer of any kind. In the end, I rode well, and finished feeling strong and content to chase the group up ahead. My bike split reflected the calm conditions, and I notched my fastest bike time on the course. I attribute it all to the bike, wheels, helmet and glasses. Hitting the run I was about 20 seconds behind Rutger Beke. I enjoy racing him, and I consider him to be one of the top bike-run athletes in the sport. He has done top-three finishes here in Oceanside in the past, but this is a new era, one where 70.3s seem to be dominated by the short-course athlete. My 70.3 run PR is on this course, as twice I’ve run in 1:14.xx and once 1:15.low. I believe I even out split Potts on one occasion to take home fastest run honors. However, I knew I was not in that type of run shape just yet. My goal was to hit 1:16 or thereabouts, knowing it would take a strong first 10k to do so. Sadly there was no strong first 10k in my legs. The firepower seemed to be lacking, and I opted to hold steady for the first lap. Once onto the second lap, I began to apply a bit of pressure to see if I could find that final money spot. Bjorn was occupying it at the time, and I was closing on him. Just as I prepared to pass the Swede, a young Brit came up on my shoulder. Damn those 23-year-old ITU guys, and their damn early-season foot speed. I countered the move for about 200 meters, during which I tried to get inside his young, inexperienced head by convincing him we had three laps to run. He seemed crestfallen, and I hoped that meant he would slow the pace. My tactic blew up in my face, as he pulled away, and I immediately realized I could not sustain that rate of locomotion. I made my way back into ninth (passing Bjorn), and assessed the gap to my pursuers. With about 3 miles to go, I painfully scanned the horizon for a porto-potty. I was realizing that there was NO chance I’d be able to finish the run without an emergency pit stop. How did I make this error?! It seems I was a bit too hopped up on caffeine, and my body was ready to make an evacuation. Sparing all other details, I’ll just make a public apology for (gently) throwing the spectator out of the way, as she blocked the entrance to the little blue box of wonder. Back to the race course, I was able to more swiftly cover the final 2.5 miles of the run. I was light (once again), and I was happy (once again). It turns out my 1:16 goal was pretty well off; I ran a 1:18, just barely, but crossed the line in my best overall time for this course. Sadly, my time got better, but my placing got worse. It’s good to know that I can still knock off a solid race, even when I show up to a gun fight armed with a six shooter, while the others have AK-47s. Until my next tardy report, thanks for reading.

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