In First Person
By Robin Lyon
Ironman Robin Lyon qualified for Kona and hasn’t looked back. Now in her 40’s, she feels she’s at her prime.
I swam in college at the University of San Diego, and have always been a runner. I had a mountain bike for transportation to and from classes, so my senior year, my best friend and I decided to enter the local Bud Light Series Olympic Distance triathlon right there in La Jolla. I did sprint and Olympic distances religiously for about 8 years until I moved to Arizona…then I met my now-husband, Jim, at Phoenix Swim Club. He also did triathlons, but was more into the Ironman distance. After watching him do his third one in Canada, I signed myself up the next day to do Ironman Canada the following year in 1998. So that year, we flew to Canada and he watched me do it; and then we got married a few weeks later!
Jim retired from triathlons a few years into our marriage, but my passion for it never died…I just stuck with shorter distances. Over the next 10 years I did take time off racing to have our two boys, Ben and Jon. I still did some running races, but my promise to myself was that I wouldn’t race triathlons until my youngest went to kindergarten. So once that time came, I bought a new bike and started training. I had bigger goals for myself and wanted to be competitive again. I started doing a lot of the 70.3 or half-Ironman distance in Arizona, and one in Idaho, Victoria BC, etc. I loved traveling to places and racing at the same time. My husband and I moved to Flagstaff and lived there for 8 years while expanding our business and raising our boys.
My parents had and still have a home in Hawaii, so I raced the 70.3 Ironman Honolulu three times and made it to the podium every year, but wasn’t satisfied with third and fourth. The third and final year I went back (in 2014), I finally won first place and punched my ticket to Kona Ironman World Championship (I was 42). Qualifying for Kona was just as gratifying as crossing the finish line in Kona.
Ironically, it wasn’t until my 40’s that I would say I hit my “prime” – maybe it was the experience, wisdom, training smarts, quality of training I did or changes in my diet, etc.; but so far, years 40-44 have been for sure my best, and I have been the most competitive. I race faster now than I did when I was in my 20’s.
I train primarily by myself. I swim masters at Phoenix Swim Club (the same one where I met my husband 18 years ago!) and I am a sponsored athlete on the Elite Team for TriScottsdale here in Scottsdale, Ariz. They have group rides on Saturdays that are a big part of my training, and also Wednesday track workouts at a local high school. As for clothing, products, and gear I use…I have my favorites! I love Betty Designs for my swimsuits and bike kits, Louis Garneau for my racing kits, my bike is a Cervelo P3, and my favorite running shoes are Saucony Kinvara T2. I usually cook all my own food – even training food – mainly from The Feed Zone Portables book. I believe in real food when fueling and recovering. I love OSMO for women for my electrolyte replacement and SKRATCH hydration mixes.
I have always been a working mom and triathlete up until a few years ago. I have done everything from being the CFO for our
company to teaching spinning for 10 years. I currently am a USAT Level 1 coach, working part time with people who are new to the sport and want to train for any kind of fitness event or triathlon. I also am deeply involved in volunteering at both my kids’ schools, and I do charity work at numerous organizations throughout the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas. I really try to do most of my training early in the morning so that I don’t interfere with my kids’ activities, but sometimes it’s really hard! I have an amazing husband who is very supportive of my training and race goals, so he hangs out with the kids a lot on the weekends while I am training.
Mental training is one thing I have never struggled with; I have always been determined, driven and motivated. If I want something, I am not afraid to work hard to go get it. I am driven simply by the idea of pushing my body to new limits, and using my body to its best ability. I feel alive when I’m out swimming, biking, and running and putting it all together in race form. I am very competitive – or else I wouldn’t enter races! I am motivated by setting my sights on short-term and long-term goals, by surrounding myself with people who have like-minded goals, and having fun with the sport by racing with my best friends and my dad. My dad is 74 and a very talented triathlete who didn’t really start racing until 68 years old – he figured he could do this sport, too, after spectating at so many of mine! He and my stepmom Lynn are my biggest cheerleaders. I am continually inspired by the clients I coach; seeing them reach their goals is so rewarding and renews my love for the sport.
I have experienced burnout more than once, but it’s normal for any endurance athlete who has been racing and training for years. When I feel that coming on, I simply take time off. I guess you could say I’m wiser now. If I’m not loving the training and smiling when I’m racing, then I’m not doing it for the right reasons.
I am fortunate enough to have the financial means to support my addiction of triathlons nowadays. Ten years ago it was different, and I didn’t travel to faraway locations due to costs…I just stayed local in Arizona and neighboring states. I always stayed within my means and just gradually upgraded gear as I was able. I used to budget for competitions, but I don’t now.
My kids and Jim come to watch only BIG races nowadays. Many I do with friends. As a family we travel ALOT, and our vacations are not about racing; they are simply about being together. We are fly fisherman, we are all PADI-certified divers, we love all outdoor activities and we love traveling the world. This November, my husband and I are flying to St. Croix for a 5-mile ocean swim race!
Read more about Dessert Mountain.
Read more about the September/October 2015 Issue of Endurance Racing Magazine: http://enduranceracingmagazine.com/are-triathlons-the-new-golf/
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