Triathletes turn to community and camaraderie and their own commitment
Triathlete Patrick Louchouarn, 56, credits his athletic success to Galveston’s inclusive and encouraging multi-sport environment.
“I learned early on that everyone has a place in the Galveston racing community, no matter what their level of ability is,” Louchouarn said.
Years of “reckless participation” in martial arts and soccer highly limited Louchouarn’s ability to perform athletically, he said.
“I was physically incapacitated,” he said. “I could barely walk and couldn’t sleep due to ankle and neck pain.”
Louchouarn was convinced he would need multiple surgeries to function in everyday life; he didn’t think multi-sport competition was possible, he said.
But he was determined to put his best, if not injured, foot forward. After successful treatment from a chiropractor, Louchouarn began with 5-minute intervals on the treadmill and two months later ran his first 5K, followed by his first half marathon. He competed in a sprint triathlon the following spring, where he placed second in his age group. He was hooked, he said. He has competed in dozens of multi-race athletic competitions in recent years and was looking forward to competing in Galveston’s Ironman in November, before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Louchouarn credits coaching for his racing successes and gives high praise to locals Kim Bachmeier, Trisha Wooten and Heidi Walker.
“Many communities are competitive,” he said. “Galveston is a different and unique environment that pushes everyone to succeed in their goals. People here take every opportunity to encourage.”
He continues the encouraging environment as an Ironman certified coach at Johnny Z’s Powerhouse Racing in Webster.
“We coach inclusion for all athletes, no matter your gender, generation or affiliation,” Louchouarn said. “Johnny Z changes lives. He doesn’t teach ‘I will get fit,’ he teaches ‘we will get fit together,’” he said.
Powerhouse owner Johnny Zepeda, 51, said Louchouarn is a committed coach and athlete.
“Patrick is very diligent,” Zepeda said. “He gives 100 percent in all three disciplines — swimming, cycling and running. He practices what he teaches about nutrition and life-balancing situations.”
“When a person has a lot of leadership and administrative responsibility at work, like Patrick does, and lives under such pressure, you need a healthy counterbalance to that,” said his wife, Amie, 41. “People with that kind of responsibility have a hard time rounding out their work life with other interests. Endurance racing, and the community of camaraderie he works and coaches in, has done that for Patrick,” she said.
Both Louchouarns are faculty members at Texas A&M University at Galveston. He is executive associate vice president of academic affairs, associate provost and chief academic officer. Amie is an instructional associate professor.
These saltwater soulmates grew up with beaches for backyards. He was born in France, raised in Mexico, moved to the United States in 1998 and to Texas in 2006 — hailing from a family of sailors, he said. She has dual citizenship in the United States and Australia, from where her father emigrated, but is a Texas native. Patrick and Amie were married aboard the 1877 tall ship Elissa in 2015, in the Port of Galveston and live on island.
– Esther Davis McKenna
Mike Alvarado began training for Ironman triathlons in 2016 and now he just can’t stop, he said.
In November, Alvarado completed his eighth full Ironman and by the end of the month, he had signed up for three more.
The triathlon is considered one of the most extreme fitness challenges in racing: a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run.
For Galveston resident Alvarado, 51, training is a time for himself, he said.
“It’s my time to kind of reflect,” Alvarado said. “I tell my wife I’m going to go visit with God.”
Alvarado finished eighth in his age category at the November Florida Ironman in 11 hours and 22 minutes.
He finished his first Ironman in 2016 in The Woodlands. He’d gotten into shape while taking Island Bootcamp classes in Galveston. Alvarado always has been interested in Ironman and decided to try it, he said.
Since then, he has competed in Galveston, Florida and Kentucky.
Training is an eight-month process starting with a solid base of fitness, he said.
“You build up to it,” Alvarado said. “You add more volume into it. I’ll peak at 24 hours a week of training.”
Alvarado works with a coach. To keep from thinking too hard about his tough workouts, he’ll typically avoid looking more than a few days ahead, he said.
“There have been times where I’m like ‘man, this workout sucks,’” Alvarado said.
But he takes it one step at a time and he’s done before he knows it, he said.
Swimming is Alvarado’s weakest sport, so he puts a lot of time into perfecting his form, he said.
“It’s a lot of technique and it really takes someone watching you,” Alvarado said.
He usually cycles inside on a stationary trainer, which makes the workout logistically easier and safer than biking in the dark, he said.
Alvarado typically trains early in the morning so he won’t lose any time with his family. Besides, he enjoys the early morning exercise, while getting to watch people clean beaches or deliver newspapers, he said.
“There’s a whole subculture out there at 5 in the morning and you do meet people,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado also has learned the importance of proper fuel during a race, he said.
“One of the easiest ways to have a bad race is to misjudge your nutrition,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado typically sticks to liquid nutrition, because it’s easier, and he’ll consume about 300 calories an hour while racing.
Although the race takes hours to complete, Alvarado enjoys pushing himself, he said.
When he reaches a tough spot, he thinks about his daughter, he said.
“I didn’t want to let my daughter think her Dad quit,” Alvarado said.
One of the greatest feelings is crossing the finish line and hearing people cheer, Alvarado said. Runners who finished earlier often come back and cheer on people still completing the race.
– Keri Heath