Lyman tackles Ironman No. 5 | SummitDaily.com

Lyman tackles Ironman No. 5

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

When Breckenridge resident Michelle Lyman left for Wisconsin Aug. 6, she had “Ironman” running through her mind.

She was on her way to Madison for her fifth Ironman competition, where she’d tackle 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and a marathon run.

Though Lyman has been a snowshoe racer (retired now, but has placed in top 10 in nationals) and an adventure racer (on hold), she won’t move out of the Ironman triathlon circuit until she qualifies for the world event in Hawaii. Even though she says herself she’s better at adventure racing – and enjoys it more.

It’s a small percent of people – roughly 100 slots per age group – who are selected to compete among the top racers in the world, Lyman said. She’s in the most competitive age range: the 30s.

“Every year, I’ve gotten faster, barring a race I did in 2010 because of the heat,” she said. She finished the race, but it wasn’t easy in Chicago’s 102 degrees with humidity. She signed up again in 2011 and finished strong. “Every year, I’m stronger, fitter, faster.”

She said she’s still gaining speed, which is unusual because she’s getting into her upper 30s. She’s hoping 40 is the new 30.

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Lyman started racing about 12 years ago, when she watched her boyfriend at the time complete a marathon in Chicago. She figured she’d give it a try, and was hooked. Later, she started into snowshoe racing, and a friend convinced her to move to Colorado to get serious about it. When she relocated to Summit County, she found herself surrounded by fit, motivated people.

“You learn so much from the people around you,” she said. “It forces you not to be a couch potato.”

Lyman takes fitness to the other extreme, though – and she admits it. Not long ago, she was a fixture at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, knocking on the glass doors before 6 a.m. and not leaving the facility until closing time. She’d bring a feed bag with her nutrition and pastime materials, set up camp and hang out on the spin bike for five or six hours on a day off. Sometimes, she’d fit in two or three practices outlined by her Colorado Springs coach in a day.

“Everything is relative,” she said. “We do it because we have fun. Somehow, suffering in an Ironman is kind of fun.”

She also speculates she does it for bragging rights – she now has the Ironman tattoo – and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Without a goal, Lyman speculates she’d sit on the couch and eat Ruffles with ridges and French onion dip – a treat she only allows herself on Super Bowl Sunday. She also likes the signs, which make her laugh. Like the one that read, “This is the strangest parade I’ve ever seen.”

This year, Lyman is training without a coach. She looks forward to seeing how she fares.

“I’ve done it enough to know there are no surprises,” she said. “I know how my body reacts to humidity, for example.”

Lyman is thankful for her boyfriend, Breckenridge recreation director Mike Barney, who encourages her to get outside to train, and can push her on the bike. He traveled with her to Wisconsin for the race and will support her even with a rolled ankle from a recent Summit Trail Running Series race.

Racing so much, “your legs get tired when you do that amount of racing,” she said. “You drag your feet, then trip.”

Lyman loves the biking and swimming parts of the Ironman, when she gets in the groove and comes as close to the legendary runner’s high as she thinks she can get. Her least favorite and weakest point is the running. She hates the running, and claims she’s never achieved the high, no matter how far she goes.

“Every step is a step closer to the finish,” she said about how she finishes the running portion. “I got the fastest when I know I’m close.”