Welcome to Tennessee, the land of the Volunteers. Life is Orange and White!
I graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1995. Going to a SEC school, I feel a lot of pride, especially since I was a varsity athlete. Since REV3 started putting on a race in Knoxville, I have been fortunate enough to go back to my Alma Mater for the past three years. This year was exceptionally special however, because I was able to meet the Long Family, from Nashville (3hours away). I have been deeply inspired by these little boys since seeing their ESPN interview. You can check it out here:
One rainy, snowy day in Boulder this past winter I was putting off my workouts. I was cruising the internet when I came across their story. Like I have done so many other times, I “tweeted” their video. After I tweeted it, it was re-tweeted..again and again by several of my followers. After a few days, Steven Harad from Kestrel contacted Michael and me asking what we thought we could do for this family. I honestly didn’t think we could do anything…until I looked at my race calendar. The light bulb went off! I knew that I would be racing in Knoxville May 6th. And I knew that the Long’s lived about 3 hours away. My goal became to give them a PRO experience at the REV3 Knoxville Race. I contacted every single one of my sponsors asking if they would be interested in donating product. As many triathletes know, the triathlon industry can be expensive. I wanted to help Conner and Cayden (and their parents) any way that I could. Every single one of my sponsors gave. Steven initiated contact with the Long’s making sure that it would be ok for me to contact them directly. Then the ball was rolling…
As the product started coming into the Lovato household, I also contacted Olympian, Hawaii Ironamn swim record holder, Men’s University of Tennessee Swim coach, and overall awesome guy, Lars Jorgensen. I told him what I wanted to do for the Long’s and he said that he would make it all possible.
The Long’s arrived in Knoxville on Friday night. Thank you to Rev3 for hosting them at the Holiday Inn and making them the REV3 VIP guests. With this honor, Conner was able to start the Men’s and Women’s pro races with the bull horn Sunday morning. I can’t think of many thing that would be more exciting for an 8 year old boy…well maybe firing off a cannon…;)
Saturday morning I met the Long’s for the first time in person.
Here they are with all of the generous shwag from our sponsors including Oakley, ISM, TYR, YURBUDS, Brooks Shoes, Boulder Running Company, and Louis Garneau.
Jeff and Jenny (mom and dad) Cooper(2), Cayden(6), and Conner(8).
After we all met in the hotel lobby, we hung out at the brand new University of Tennessee Aquatic Center.
Here is a picture of Jenny, Cayden, and Conner. Thank you Lars for the University of Tennessee Swimming T-Shirts. Orange looks good on them! 🙂
Team Long and Team Lovato!
I’m pretty sure that Conner did not take off these Oakleys all weekend long! 🙂 Thank you Greg Welch!
After spending the morning with Jenny, Rev3 did some interviews with Jenny, Conner, Michael, and me.
Words really can not explain how touching and inspiring this entire family is. I knew how special Conner and Cayden were from the ESPN interview. However, I was especially touched by the relationship that Jeff and Jenny have together. After getting to know them, it is no wonder why they have such special little boys. After meeting them my heart felt filled with love, inspiration, and happiness. I just fell in love with these guys. I only wish that I had more time to hang out with them!
Race day started just like any other race. I wasn’t really nervous. I wasn’t really amped. I felt really happy and really good. It was awesome to see some of my favorite pro girls like Jess Meyers, Bree Wee, Courtenay, and Becky Lavelle. I really think that the Long’s put me in a different state of mind for this race. Happy seemed to be the best way to describe myself race morning.
As the siren went off, I thought of Conner! I was so excited to hear the announcer say that he was starting the race. I was worried for a little while that the family could get lost in the crowds and not make it to the start. I made sure the night before that my friend Mary would escort them to the start. I felt relieved that they made it!
The swim was cold and it was ordinary. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever swim “fast”. I was in a small pack of three which included Christie Sym and Jess Meyers. It felt easy. It seemed to fly by. Before I knew it, I was on my 650c Kestrel 4000. I love this little bike. I feel like it was made for me.
Check out my ride here:
Since blowing up in New Orleans a couple weeks ago, I was a little more careful about riding aggressively in Knoxville. I watched my heart rate and made sure that I was in control the entire time. One thing that I know about myself is that I have a lot of high end speed. However, the other thing that I know about myself is that I am not fit enough to hold it or to run fast off of a fast, hard bike right now. The only time I felt out of control was when my aerobars slipped (for the third time) on the final long decent. They were pointing straight at the ground. My hands were in the hoods and I was terrified. I promptly put my hands back in the aerobars and yanked as hard as I possibly could to get them back up. After yanking them up, I looked like a tour rider, riding with my my aerobars up my nose. I attribute my control and acrobatics to riding horses. Thank you mom and dad for making me ride tough horses. I didn’t panic even though I was scared traveling at 30mph. I don’t really think it effected my race however as my watts on the final 12 miles were higher than the first 12 miles. Although it could have been the adrenaline…
I came into transition with 3 or 4 other girls. My only goal was to have a solid run off of a solid bike.
As I started to run, running felt effortless. I was so happy to be running on the roads that I used to do tempo runs on 15-18 years ago. I felt awesome. It felt good to have a solid and complete race after having 3 races in a row that seemed sub-par. I passed 3 women on the run positioning myself in 13th place for the finish. My final time was 2:10.
The first person to greet me at the finish line was my buddy Conner. I love this kid.
This race was stacked with short course athletes. While I was bummed to not get into the money and to not be in the top ten, I was happy that I went a bit faster than last year and I was happy to have a complete race without a blow up or nutritional issue. That is always a plus!
After the race, I was greeted by some of my former Lady Vol teammates. I love these girls!
Here is a picture of me and my friend Nancy. Nancy used to be a swimmer at Tennessee. Now she is a triathlete! Go Nancy!!!
Here is a picture of me and one of my favorite girls, Becky Lavelle. She and her husband are two of my favorites. I don’t get to see them enough…
This is Lars Jorgensen and me post race. I was so excited that he came out to cheer me on. Thanks Lars
I am really pleased with the entire weekend.
I was excited and happy to meet the Long family. Words can not express how this family made me feel….love, joy, happiness, inspiration, grateful, touched…Awesome doesn’t even seem like enough of a word. This family is incredible!
I loved seeing my Lady Vol teammates and friends that I used to run with along a lot of the roads that were part of this great event. We shared a lot of laughs and good memories before and after the event. I am so lucky to have such awesome women in my life!
My friend Laura especially loved my recovery boots.
Thank you REV3 for another 1st class event. This year you brought a first class field!
Now that I am back at home, I am resting and plotting my next race which I believe will be Portland. I have been racing every 6 weeks since January and I need a little refresher and a nice training block so that I can had more consistent races throughout the end of the year.
Thank you to all of my awesome sponsors for helping me achieve my goals and dreams: Kestrel, ISM, Vision, Yurbuds, Boulder Running Company, Brooks Shoes, First Endurance, TYR, Splish, ZIPP, Oakely, Jack and Adams, Louis Garneau, Recovery Pump, Betty Designs, and REV3! Love you guys!!!
~ Amanda Lovato
Follow her on her blog @ amandalovato.com