MICHAEL LOVATO | Professional Triathlete




St. Croix Ironman 70.3

Date: 6/3/09

Location: St. Croix, USVI



How did I manage to wait this long to write the report?!? Not sure, but it must have had something to do with the long travel home from STX, the packing of the Austin apartment, the driving to Boulder, and the stops in Lubbock and Albuquerque along the way! Or I’m just slow.

On to the Islands!

Amanda and I have been going to St. Croix since 2000, and we have been staying with the same family since that first trip. We love the race, and we love spending time with our adopted family, the Isherwoods. It’s hard to believe we’ve known them for this long!

The funny thing about STX and its triathlon is that we have a love/ hate relationship with one another. That does not, however, mean that I hate it; but rather that it hates me, despite the love I give it! My breakthrough day will happen some day, but in the meantime, I’ll keep having fun with the event, while battling all my Vato Bad Luck in the Caribbean.

Where to begin? OK, let’s just say that my pre-race plan did not involve swapping ALL the parts off my stunning orange Airfoil to my studly blue Airfoil only three days before the race. But plans are not always set in stone, and this one needed modification. Let’s just say that I ended up with a broken frame, and my friend Steven at Kestrel kindly shipped a brand new one to my home stay, where I promptly unbuilt and built the bikes. Don’t do anything new before the race, right? Don’t make changes, right? Screw that.

I rode the bike twice to see that it worked as well as it should. Technically, I rode it three times, as the morning of the event, we pedaled five miles to the race venue. So I knew there would be no mechanicals this year. I just knew it.

Skipping back to the race report side of this blog, I’ll say that my swim went very well for the first time in St. Croix. I got out fast, found a good spot, then lost the good spot. My decision not to jump the person in front of me, to make up for the fact that he (we) just got dropped from the main players, proved to be a bad call. I’ll not do that again. My swimming is at a very high level right now, and it’s time I put all that hard work to use on race day. That being said, this was definitely my best time relative to the others.

Exiting the water, I spotted TJ in T1, and figured he was going to be a good riding partner to bridge back up to the leaders. One place you don’t want to be in this race is trailing off the pack. Drafting legally or drafting illegally, this race allows it all. If you are not in the pack, you are not in the hunt. And I wanted to be in the hunt. After coaxing TJ to ride with me, I chased as hard as I could. I would love to share the watts with you, heck, I would love to share the MPH with you, but I had nary a computing device on my bike. I figured I did not need it for this race, as the only feedback I needed was to catch, to drop, or to be dropped.

TJ did not have the legs that day, so I left him alone. Then we were both alone: not a good place to be. Nearing the most famous climb in all of triathlon, I was starting to realize I would not be catching the leaders. I had covered 20 miles, and it was time to back it off for a mile or two. This decision came just after the pothole I connected with caused my handlebars to plummet downward. In spite of carefully checking every bolt on Thursday, it turned out there was one or two that had rattled loose. It could have been the rough roads; it could have been my wrenching.

I rocked the bars back to their proper place, and I hoped they were still tight enough to hold. Next thing to happen was that I summited the Beast feeling strong, while putting the handlebar issue out of my head, for piece of mind. I recovered on the descent, before heading back to the chase. Chase, chase, chase.

With the hardest part of the bike ride being over the final 35 miles, I was in my element. It was windy, it was hilly, and I was riding strong. Again, no idea how fast, but trust me: it was fast. And strong.

Didn’t I say I was going to have NO bad luck this year? Well, that went out the window with the handlebars, and it flew further away from the window at mile 43 (just passed the mile 42 aid station, for those who wonder how I knew where I was with no computer). It turns out that even after two test rides, and 43 miles of racing, a newly installed chain can settle. To settle is an odd thing… it could mean it gets loose, it could mean it gets tight. In my case, the pin must have settled in too tightly, causing the link to stiffen up BAD. After jumping off the bike to see if I could find the tight link–and after screaming a few obscenities–I determined that I was losing too much time, and jumped back on without fixing the soon-to-be annoying chain.

For 13 miles, the chain skipped severely every time it passed through the derailleur. As the Rastaman “Marshall” who rode his moto near me can attest: I expressed my anger and annoyance by yelling. Then I got over it.

Starting the run, I felt great. My run training in Austin was top-notch, in part due to the hard sessions I did in the heat (and humidity) with my training partners Derick and James. I was ready to roll, and my work was cut out for me.

Unfortunately for me and my goal of running my way to the top five, my tank was just a bit empty on that run course. I was moving very well on the down hills and flats, but just did not have my strength on the ups. My assessment was that I was bonking, as I find it’s easier to push through a bonk on the downs, where the ups will show your weakness. Further clues that I was deficient were the fact that I had dropped my EFS Liquid Shot flask early in the bike ride, and I failed to consume enough “back-up” fuel, despite my better efforts.

Well, my engine burns hot, and calories burn out of me like that little piece of hamburger that falls between the cracks of your grill and sizzles and fries to a small, crispy, charred nugget. The 500 calories I took in on the bike were about 250-300 too few. And the too-little-too-late Liquid Shot I sucked down on the half marathon did not do its job until it was too late.

Nonetheless, I finished that race swearing that I’d return to someday redeem myself with a top finish. My poor home stay family is losing serious bragging rights, as “their” triathlete doesn’t ever beat the other families’ triathletes! I did manged to move up to eighth place, certainly not bad with the level of competition.

On the overwhelmingly positive side of things, I was ecstatic to see Amanda battling it out with a stellar women’s field. She rode and ran to her potential, which is something she has not done in many, many races. I was very fired up to see her on the course, racing on Lisa B’s shoulder. I could not be more proud of her, and can’t wait to see her uncork on in Coeur d’Alene next month!

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