Monday, April 20, 2009

Michael and Amanda Lovato

As the Couple's Triathlon approaches, we asked Pro Triathlete, Michael Lovato to share some of his experiences of being married to another professional triathlete. Here is what this top American Ironman Triathlete had to say:

As a professional triathlete, and seventeen-year veteran of the sport, many questions come my way. The subject matter of those questions varies, as does the frequency of their arrival. My website delivers me weekly queries about how many hours I train per day; about what I eat before, during, and after my bike rides; and about my FTP (what the heck is FTP anyway?).

By means of a press conference, pro panel, or Q&A seminar, on a monthly basis, I will tend to questions about my choice of wheels, my race day strategy, and my current level of fitness.
And every year, as a collection of insecure but fit athletes congregate on the shores of Dig Me Beach in Kona, I answer questions about when I arrived in Hawaii, where I am staying for the week, and how I think I’ll do in the Ironman.

My love for the sport is still a healthy one; therefore, I enjoy answering most every question that comes my way. But the topic that gives me ample room to gab, and the greatest joy to discuss is the one that lets me talk about my best friend who is also a professional triathlete.

So what is it like to be married to another pro triathlete? The common answers hold true: that we each understand the hard work it takes to succeed in a grueling race; that she understands my need to ride the bike all day, rather than going shopping; that I understand her need to get up early and get the training day started; that often we both end up too tired to join our friends for drinks, laughs or a movie (and we are OK with it). Those answers are the tried and true, but as always in life, the fun answer lies in the experiences we share.

For the sake of brevity—not one of my strengths—I’ll focus on three prime examples of the times we have partnered up and shared what has become a lasting memory. These are just a few samples of the stories that will long outlast the memory of running fast quarters at Austin High’s track.

She was Lovato’s Chick and I was Amanda’s Dude. We even permanently branded our race attire to announce it to the world (in the least, to the greater Creedmore area). We were considered heavy favorites in the 2000 Couples Triathlon, and we were confident we could hand out some serious whippings. We toed the line at the Water Ski Park, and we took to the cold waters of this sprint triathlon, eager to challenge all comers to a duel. After a rough-and-tumble swim—during which Amanda nearly got into a fist fight—we contested the bike and run legs with gusto.

Our competition was not in the co-ed category, as we handled the other boyfriend/ girlfriend contenders; but rather we battled and battled against the boy/ boy “just friends” category. In the end we conquered our category, and took home the corresponding wine bottle award, but we lost out to two manly tri studs for the overall victory. I can’t remember our splits, I can’t even remember the distance of each discipline; but what I do remember is that Amanda and I were able to race with, rely on, and encourage one another in an incredibly fun and innovative event… all the while with super cool screen-printed sayings on our chests!

Just for the record, I race against the MEN and she races against the WOMEN. This should be fairly obvious, but nonetheless each and every time I find myself on the second lap of a two-loop run course, I encounter numerous words of encouragement to “catch Amanda, she’s just up ahead!” Why does everyone assume that I want to catch my wife? OK, she has an amazing little tushie, and I enjoy looking at it, however, my primary goal is not to overtake her in a race.This being said, on one particular occasion, at the Boulder Peak Triathlon in 2004, Amanda and I were racing the “chase” format where men start 10 minutes or so behind the women, and we try to catch them. I had been clawing my way back after a rough swim, and was in approximately fifth or sixth place. She was flying along in third, well ahead of the fourth place woman. We go to the point where I was nearing the pass. I yelled ahead, “babe… puff-puff, breathe-breathe… do you want to finish together?” (And another puff-puff, breathe-breathe.) She replied: “sure!” I replied in an asthmatic-like exhale: “well, you better pick it up!” Looking over my shoulder, I slowed to her pace (yes, I have to mention that I was running faster… I am a macho male, after all), and we ran the final 600 meters together. It’s still one of my favorite finish line photos.

As in triathlon, not all experiences are peachy keen and lovely. Reading many a pro race report, I am surprised by the fake sunshine that flows in an account of a race that ends in the three dreaded letters: DNF. On one occasion thus far, in the triathlon careers that Amanda and I share, has a race ended before the finish line.

The race was Ironman Wisconsin 2005. I was the Iron Sherpa that day; Amanda was the Iron Stud. She was having the race for the ages, as the gap between herself and the first place woman was closing quickly in the first half of the marathon. She was motoring along, withstanding the brutal heat, humidity and air quality of a 90-degree Madison day. She looked smooth and fluid and hot to all bystanders and spectators, myself included.And then I found her on the pavement. She was hyperventilating and scared. I was just scared, and the man in me wanted to fix the problem (we men have this gene, you know: we consider ourselves fixers, even when we can do nothing). And after the severe asthma attack had subsided, that is exactly what I did: nothing. We sat on the curb for a long time, devastated that the day was over. We did nothing together. Amanda dropped from the race, and it pulled both of our hearts out of our chests through the belly. It hurt us both more than I can describe. But we were there together.

Aiming not to end on a low note, I shall close by urging you all to soak up everything this sport has to offer: its highs, its lows, its laughter, and its tears. It’s one heck of a fulfilling way to spend your days. But take this advice, and I promise it will be that much more rewarding: do it with your best friend, your brother, your mother, your sister, or all of the above. It’s worth sharing.



Robin said...

Great post!

Shorey said...

Very nice!

Jay said...