Liz Lyles, Reno, Nevada resident and mom of 2, quickly made a name for herself back in 2012 when she won Ironman Wisconsin in just her second professional race. In four short years Lyles has been crowned champion at four Ironmans, finished 7th and first American at the Ironman World Championships in 2014 and has broke the tape for the last two years in a row at Tri-California’s Wildflower Triathlon.
Lyles returns to the Big Island with a recent win in Madison under her belt and an early season victory and course record at Ironman Brazil. Keep your eyes on Lyles during the marathon and don’t be surprised if she has one of the top runs of the day.
You had a phenomenal and dominating race win at Ironman Brazil this year. Tell us a little more about how you have used that performance to gain even more confidence and experience towards Kona this year.
2015 was a challenging year for me. I really wanted to win in Brazil, and ended up getting second. It was a close race, and my time was good, but the race left me with a somewhat empty and unsatisfied feeling. Then Whistler happened, another race I wanted to win, but the weather and hypothermia had their way, and I didn’t even make it to mike 15 on the bike. I never got back on track after that. Tremblant and Kona were both disappointing. The goal in 2016 was to get back on track by defending at Wildflower and picking up the win in Brazil. I was able to do both, and top things off with another win at Ironman Wisconsin. Collectively, these were a huge boost to my confidence. I’m having fun again, and I feel good going into Kona.
You just recently won Ironman Wisconsin- where you won your first Ironman as a pro. What do you do to be able to bounce back so quickly to be able to compete in Kona a month later? Most pros are in full training and hold off racing before Kona. How are you able to be successful in both?
Only time will tell. Wisconsin was a hard training day for Kona. Right now I am fully recovered. With a little money in the bank, and some points on the board, I feel less pressure going into Kona. I’m training hard because I want to, not because I have to. There are no guarantees for anyone in Kona. I feel pretty good about my approach. We’ll see how things come together on race day.
What was one of the key things you learned from last year’s performance? What went well and what did you focus on improving from last year?
Last year was tough. Things didn’t go my way right off the bat, and I think I let it get to me. I wasn’t as confident in myself after the way the season unfolded. I guess if there is one point I will keep in mind this year it will be to stay focused, roll with punches, and find a way to stay in the fight even if my plan disintegrates early on.
What do you feel is your biggest strength heading into this year’s race?
I feel pretty good about my swim, bike and run. I think if there is a strength that differentiates me this year compared to previous years it is my experience. This will be my fourth year in a row racing in the World Championship. I’ve have good performances, and performances to learn from. I think this year I will know how to respond to different situations, should things unfold unfavorably at any point. In terms of swim, bike, or run, I know I am capable of a sub 3 hour marathon, so that will be a huge focus for me this year.
Besides being the Ironman World Championships, what/ how do you prepare differently for this Ironman compared to others? Are there more race tactics, etc…? Or do you prepare for this race the same as other Ironmans?
My preparation for Kona has been similar somewhat to how I prepared for Brazil. Obviously training in the heat is a welcomed challenge this time of year, and that is different than training in the spring. Mentally I’m very focused. I’m familiar with the course, and when training for Kona, I target rides and runs with similar characteristics. I have had a few indoor sessions that were quite warm, also its always windy in Reno, so that helps a lot! I always try to do my key runs at the time I’ll be running in the race, also when its nice and hot outside to get used to that.
Do you have any race day superstitions or special things you do before an Ironman or before Kona?
My morning routine, food, hydration etc, is the same for all races. I try the hibernate as much as I can in the days leading up to any race too. I try to be flexible and go with the flow as much as possible. I do like to take naps in the days leading up to an Ironman, and I am always in bed reading, feet up at 4 o’clock the day before and Ironman. If I am away from the Chip and the kids, we always plan a time to facetime so they can give me their loving messages for race day. Luckily they will be in Kona this year, so some good night hugs and kisses will be in order! Plus my parents are coming to help out, so the night before the race the kids will sleep in their room.
What do you feel like defines you as a strong professional female athlete? Are their specific thoughts or mantras that make you feel stronger on race day?
The harder the challenge, the greater the reward is a cliche that runs through my mind often. No ironman has ever been easy. I hope what defines me is a good nature, a professional demeanor, good sportsmanship, and setting an example for my kids. At the end of the day, my number one priority is being a good mom.
We wish you the best from start to finish on Saturday!
Follow Liz Lyles on Instagram: @lizlylestri
Interview by Mackenzie Madison
Race photo by Ironman/FinisherPix
Reno photo by Sean Dulany.
Read all of our Kona Countdown Q&As here.
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