A conversation with Michael Lovato

Michael Lovato had a great 2007 season with 3rd places at IMAZ and IMCDA and a top 10 finish at the Ironman Worlds in Kona. We had a chance to talk with this Boulder, Colorado transplant.

ST: You had a good race this year in Kona. Did it go as you had anticipated?

Michael: Yes, the race went a lot like I expected it to go. I knew that I was in good enough shape to have another top-ten finish, and I executed the day pretty close to exactly as I planned. The only disappointments on the day were missing the swim group and not running a stronger final ten to twelve kilometers. I think I ate too much.

ST: Do you consider yourself a disciplined in terms of training and nutrition?

Michael: I have always been very disciplined in general, so this definitely translates to my training. I am pretty good about getting out the door to do a planned run, ride or swim. It can be pretty cold here in the winter, but I have a cross bike and some good gloves, so it’s not too hard for me to HTFU when necessary. Regarding nutrition, well, I have always lived by the motto that it doesn’t matter what you put in the furnace as long as you turn up the fire. I try not to be too strict with what I take in, but I do pay closer attention to eating well in the several weeks leading up to an important event.

ST: What sports did you take part when you were younger?

Michael: I played soccer, swam, ran track, did gymnastics, played basketball and water polo, and I was a terrible baseball player for one season. My main sport was probably soccer.

ST: Is there a race that you personally would consider to be your favorite?

Michael: I love Ironman Hawaii. It takes place in one of the best destinations on the circuit; it’s hot and windy; and the level of competition is so high that it forces you to bring up your game above where it is at any other triathlon. Another favorite of mine is St. Croix. I’ve never raced too well there, but we have the most amazing home stay: a family we’ve come to know as our own.

ST: Your wife Amanda is also a Pro triathlete, do you two get to train together often?

Michael: We are very lucky to be involved in this sport as full-time athletes. We have the luxury of planning our schedules together, and more often than not, we can swim, bike and run at the same times. Even if we are not doing the rides and runs together, we can still start off at the same time, and finish together. We also go to the same swim sessions, and will plan our gym time together. I feel like it’s a huge advantage for us to be able motivate and inspire one another.

ST: Whom (else) do you train with on a regular basis?

Michael: The group I swim with is quite diverse. In the winter the pool lanes definitely thins out, and it’s normally just a smaller group of diehards, both age groupers and pros. In the summer, our swim sessions are filled with a million athletes from around the globe. As for biking and running, I will typically do a few rides and runs with Simon Lessing. Now that he’s an old guy and is slowing down a bit, it’s not so hard on my body to do this. Other than Simon, I’ll take the opportunity to train with whomever is willing and able.

ST: How do you typically spend the off-season, or do you really not have one?

Michael: I do have an off-season, as I feel it’s been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to stay motivated over the years. After Hawaii I take three weeks pretty darn easy or completely off. I then try to ease into moderate exercise for three weeks or so. At the start of December I try to establish a regular routine of training. It’s very weather-dependant, so I try to be flexible. I have been known to strap on a pair of snowshoes or skate skis if the mood strikes me.

ST: You recently moved from a 74 degree seat angle aluminum Javelin Barolo to the new carbon 78 degree seat angle Lugano, can you tell us how you adapted?

Michael: I loved riding the Barolo. It was the first time in a long while I'd raced on an aluminum frame, and I was really impressed by how it rode. It was one of those rides where you could really feel it go when you pushed down on the pedals, plus it was plenty smooth; more so than I thought it would have been. The new Lugano I rode in Hawaii is a really nice bike. It's noticeably lighter than the Barolo, and it's on a whole new level of smoothness. I spent a bit longer getting dialed in on this one, as I found it difficult to get the amount of setback that I wanted. I felt a lot stronger this year at around 4.5-5cm behind the bottom bracket, and in order to achieve this 4.5 setback on the 78 degree seat tube of the Lugano, I had to run an 80 stem with the saddle clamped at the very front of the rails. The cool thing about the Lugano is that it's a completely custom-made bike, so next year I'll be able to make that seat tube a bit shallower (76), and the top tube a touch shorter, to accommodate a longer stem. And who knows, maybe I'll get stronger riding in that Slowtwitch favorite "aggressive" and forward position. Until then, check out my spacers AND my bento box in the upcoming bike feature!

FYI: For the chance to purchase the very bike I used to win Ironman Arizona, check out the Slowtwitch classifieds for all the details. ☺

ST: Do you have any heroes in the sport of triathlon?

Michael: I would not call them heroes, but I have always looked up to Dave Scott and Paula Newby-Fraser. These two were masters of the mental side of competition, and they were never afraid to push their limits in training and racing. I have an immense amount of respect for Dick Hoyt for what he does for his son Rick.

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Michael: I am a huge sports fan, but I do not follow anything too closely. I love to watch ESPN Sportscenter for all the highlights. I should mention that I’m a Dallas Cowboy fan, and I have been since I was little.

ST: With all the snow in Boulder do you get to do much snow shoveling as an alternative full body workout?

Michael: As for the snow shoveling, well, normally we do not get that much snow. That was what we called the blizzard of 06 part I. We had so much snow last year that my lower back muscles got so strong from all the shoveling that I looked like a hunch back with my bulging lumbars.

ST: What is your favorite food?

Michael: My favorite food is probably peanut butter. It can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or dessert. And you know it.

ST: Can you tell us a bit about what you might have in your fridge?

Michael: In addition to the PB (and almond butter), I have Naked Juice; lots of fruit; yogurt; a good bag of coffee; turkey meat; hummus; tortillas; soy milk; half and half; some fresh veggies, like spinach, peppers, and tomatoes; a jug of apple juice; some raw almonds and walnuts; Rudy’s Honey Whole Wheat bread; and a couple bottles of beer, just in case.

ST: What is the last movie you saw?

Michael: American Gangster. It was excellent, although (SPOILER) I still feel sad about the dog.

ST: What about music, anything that you play the most on your i-pod?

Michael: I have always said that I like good music. It sounds fairly obvious, but what I mean is that I do not discriminate. If there is a good country song, I like it; if there is a good hip-hop song, I like it; the same goes for classic rock, pop, and pretty much everything else. The ipod currently has a good dose of Led Zeppelin, Jack Johnson, the Black Eyed Peas, Lyle Lovett, the Beastie Boys, and even some Justin Timberlake. Did I just admit that?

ST: Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years?

Michael: The only certainty is that I’ll be living happily with my beautiful wife Amanda. If we move from Boulder, hopefully we’ll be in a warmer place. I always see myself as an active person, but I’ll probably not be doing Ironman races five years from now. I might try to take over as Slowtwitch interactive editor.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Michael: I was born in North Carolina, but was raised in New Mexico. Yes, that’s in the United States. I love to dance. I love to sing. I sometimes will do both at the same time, but doing so tends to detract from my performance. I love hanging out with my wife and my dogs. If I ever failed to get my training done it would be because I was spending too much time sitting in the sunshine with my wife, my dogs, and a cup of coffee.