>A few weeks ago, I interviewed one half of this dynamic tri-duo, Amanda. When I approached Amanda, I really wanted a package deal – I wanted to be able to interview both Amanda and her husband Michael. Luckily enough for me, either I had big enough puppy eyes, they felt sorry for me, or that big wad of cash I sent their way garnered me an interview with both parts of this epic triathlon couple. (of course I’m kidding….at least on the cash part).
Michael was born in North Carolina (I knew I liked him for a reason), but didn’t stay long – he grew up in New Mexico. He attended the “real” UT – University of Texas. It was there that he discovered triathlon.
Michael and Amanda split their time during the year between Austin, TX and Boulder, CO. Both are highly engaged in social media – you’ll find them both on Twitter almost every day.
And now….today’s version of “Ten Questions With…” I present Michael Lovato
TM: So your race season kicked off a few weeks ago in Galveston, and you suffered a calf strain during the run. How is the recovery going?
ML: Now that it has been five weeks since racing Galveston, I have had a lot of time to recover; but to recap the rehab process a bit, I can say that it was a fairly quick recovery. While I don’t have a lot of experience with injury, I feel that I have a pretty conservative and smart plan for dealing with one. After taking four days off to let the injury get past the acute stage, I gradually got back to running (with walk breaks), and introduced some great manual therapy from a team of professionals here in Austin. They helped diagnose the exact problem, and they managed to work through the muscle so it would heal without scar tissue building up – a common problem when someone rushes back to full training. About 12 days after the race, I was able to run 10 miles with no pain. However, with the break, my running muscles got a bit out of condition, so I was sore in other places! With another gradual week of run training (the third week post-injury), I went out for a 20-mile aerobic run. The legs held up, so I knew I had successfully come back from the strain. I should note that consistent use of my Recovery Pump boots – and some painfully effective ice baths – was instrumental in getting me back to full speed.
Note: Michael competed this past Saturday in Ironman Texas, taking 15th overall. He turned in a very solid race at 9:03:49, including a 3:27 marathon…evidence that he is well on the way to being fully recovered.
TM: What do you think caused you to suffer the strain?
ML: In hindsight, I can see that it was a combination of things that caused me to strain my calf. I have had issues with tight lower legs in the past, but normally I go through this type of thing at the outset of the triathlon season, when I am transitioning from off-season to full training. It normally stems from trying to keep up with Amanda who is normally more fit than I in December and January! This time around the factors that played into the equation were: a) I had not been consistent or diligent with my gym work, thus my body was not as balanced as it needed to be from a muscular standpoint; b) I had not fully adapted to a new pair of cycling shoes – and more importantly the cleats – and my foot position on my left leg was not ideal, thus causing it to abnormally load the left leg; c) to further load up the left leg, we rode into a fierce crossing headwind for 28 miles, but did not have the corresponding (right side) wind coming home – this made my entire left side a bit overworked starting the run; and d) it was my first race of the year, and speed exposes all weaknesses – once on that run course, my body just freaked out a bit!
TM: After your injury, you decided to finish the race. What was that experience like? How much did you interact with the other athletes, and what was their reaction when they realized you were you?
ML: As soon as I felt the strain in my calf, I stopped and walked a bit. Then I tried to massage it out and stretch it a bit. I realized it was not going to be well enough to run fast again, so I walked/ jogged for a while. Soon thereafter, I figured out that I could run “on my heels” without aggravating the area, so I began to do that. Once I determined that I was not going to cause further damage by jogging my way in, I chose to carry on. It’s important for me to finish what I start, and as long as I’m not causing permanent – or even long-term – damage, I will stick it out. Not too may age groupers caught and passed me, but plenty of pros did, due to my solid position off the bike. Most everyone just sprinted by me, adding me to the list of carnage as they vaulted up the ranks. It’s normal in a race: not many folks really react to an athlete who has slowed down, other than to speed up and roll right on by! I did receive a great deal of spectator support for carrying on. It was clear that I was not right, and folks really seemed to appreciate that I did not quit.
TM: You got your start in triathlon in an intramural race back in your college days at the University of Texas. What was that first race like?
ML: That fist race for me was quite a challenge. I was 19 years old, and I thought I was pretty fit. On paper I was pretty sure I could win the darn thing. I had been lifting weights, and my exercise regimen at the time included a bit of swim, bike, run, so I figured I would cruise to success. The reality was quite different. I found the whole race very challenging, even though it was a only sprint, and I struggled to finish in the top 50% of the field. I felt such a sense of accomplishment at the finish line; and to be able to stand around with the other triathletes, some of whom were (shockingly!) wearing only their swim suits, sharing war stories and sipping beer – I was hooked!
TM: Looking back over your career, what would you say is your most favorite moment? Your most challenging or least favorite?
ML: I was lucky enough to meet my wife through the sport of triathlon. I think the highlight of my whole career is finding someone with similar interests and passions – and with whom I connected so well – at a triathlon. Ever since finding Amanda at Age Group World Championships in Montreal, my triathlon journey has been much more satisfying and special. From a purely sporting perspective, my first Ironman win was my most favorite. I had been racing Ironmans for four or five years, and was still hunting for that breakthrough. That day in Coeur d’Alene was very satisfying, as I truly flourished under conditions that caused so many of my competitors to struggle. I shaved 20 minutes off my PR, I pushed myself better than I ever had at the time, and I gained the confidence that I could compete with the world’s best at that distance. It’s really tough to say what the most challenging or least favorite moment is for me, because I have always been able to discover something positive out of each downfall. The year I crashed at Buffalo Spring and took nearly 8 hours to complete the 70.3 was a low point at the time, but to this day I am constantly reminded of the positive impact that finish had on others in the sport.
TM: Every race has its high points and low points, and an athlete’s ability to persevere is often paramount to their success. How do you overcome intrarace obstacles be they stomach issues, mechanicals, etc?
ML: I’d say that overcoming obstacles within a race is probably my speciality. I think I have a knack for adapting and coping, and that ability really enables me to compete at the level I do, especially in Ironman racing. Part of this is just innate: it’s been a part of my personality for as long as I can remember; the other part of it is something I try to work on and keep strong. I don’t know that I can really detail my exact protocol, but I will say that racing with a positive frame of mind is key.
TM: Your wife Amanda is a professional triathlete also. To what extent do you train together, and how does your style compliment hers (and vice versa)?
ML: We are fortunate to both be training and competing for a living. We get to spend a lot more time together than most married couples, because even if we are not doing the exact same session, we often plan our training around one another’s schedules. Nine times out of ten, we do the same swim practice; we start our bike rides together; and we often run at the same times. We also make it a priority to schedule some workouts where my main goal is to help boost her fitness – I love dragging her through an interval on the bike or run. If I have an Ironman tempo ride, it lines up well with her half ironman or Olympic distance efforts, so we do those together, too.
TM: How did you get involved with Charlie Patten and Rev3?
ML: Charlie contacted Amanda about four years ago, and asked her if he could redo her website. At the time she had an unbelievably popular blog, and he felt he could help clean up the look of her site, which he definitely did. That initial relationship, which also involved sponsoring her with Trakkers, eventually grew to include me. From the very beginning, we figured out what a passionate, loyal, and generous person Charlie was. We were immediately inspired to give back to him and to his businesses as much as we were able to do. Over the years, our commitment to Charlie and Rev3 has grown, as has their commitment to us. It’s a great relationship, and we are proud to be a part of the Rev3 family.
TM: Team Trakkers has been around for a few years, but this year we’ve seen quite a few teams pop up. What makes Trakkers/Rev3 unique for you?
ML: Our team is unique for a lot of reasons, but to highlight a few at the top of the list, I’d have to say that our criteria for selecting athletes is different. From our amazing collection of age group athletes, all the way to our pros, we have chosen people who get the big picture of triathlon sponsorship. It’s very important for our team members to have a following, and that following can come because the athlete is very fast, because the athlete writes a clever blog, because the athlete is very active and well respected in his community, or because the athlete is uniquely approachable. A following is a following. We work with folks who understand that sponsorship is an amazing privilege, and they want to do as much or more for the sponsor than the sponsor does for them. We are also unique in that we are very clearly the coolest group of 50 individuals in the triathlon scene. Most of the other teams struggle to match our coolness.
TM: Do you have any non-triathlon related talents?
ML: It really depends on what you consider a talent. I can do a decent handstand, and can normally walk a few steps on my hands without falling. In middle school I made some good money as an amateur pool shark – The Color of Money inspired me. I speak Spanish and Pig Latin. I consider myself Cesar Milan Junior, as I try to employ my own Dog Whisperer tactics.