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Liz Lewis {March 2008}

Two years ago, Liz started with a sprint triathlon, and now in 2008 she's graduating to full Ironman. Although not over, the journey to Ironman has not been the easiest. Faced with a tough medical problem, Liz chose the high road and hasn't looked back. She attributes a lot of her success to other inspiring athletes in the club and to the support of family and loved ones. Now as a new member of the DC Tri board of directors, Liz is looking forward to another exciting season!

How long have you been doing triathlons?
I did my first triathlon when I was 24 – Virginia Run Sprint. This season will be my third season of tri-ing, and I’ve got a HIM, two marathons, and one ultra marathon under my belt, and will be attempting IMAZ this fall.

Any personal obstacles that you have overcome?

I came down with heart condition (ventricular tachycardia) when I was 21. My heart would get stuck in a rhythm where it would beat much too quickly – there were occasions where I would have a resting heart rate of 180. Things like walking up stairs, bending over to pick something up, or even just being dehydrated could bring on the rapid heartbeat, which could often lead to passing out and other fun side effects. From 21 to 25 I was on a series of medications to try to manage the condition, and was told to limit exercise to no longer than an hour a day, and always had the possibility of a pace maker looming over my head. When I was 25 I had a procedure done that effectively fixed the problem, and since then I have been adjusting to being ‘normal’. My heart can still skip around a bit if I do too much interval work (short bursts of energy seem to screw with the rhythm), which seems like just as good an excuse as any to not do that! Two months after my heart procedure, I ran a half marathon, which was something I never, ever thought I’d do. That was probably one of the coolest moments of my life.

How has DC Tri played a role in helping you achieve your goals?
I’d always run for exercise, but I reached a point where it was getting harder and harder to keep my HR down while running. I bought a bike to try to find an alternate method of keeping in shape while not stressing out my heart. Of course, I hadn’t been on a bike in over 10 years, and it ISN’T ‘just like riding a bike’! Learning to ride a bike again was hard! My bike handling skills were pathetic and I was having a hard time figuring it out. The Tri Club became an enormous source of assistance – the women’s rides group, the people who were willing to ride with me to teach me how to shift gears correctly, ride in traffic, ride in groups, clip in, grab water bottles – without the club I never would have spent more than a week on the bike before giving up in frustration. Outside of providing me with legions of talented training partners to train with, the Tri Club has helped me reach my goals by being a constant source of inspiration. I used to be limited to an hour a day of exercise – running for 4+ hours was never something seemed realistic. The more time I spend around my friends and clubmates the more I realize that people can really do whatever they are willing to train for. There’s no special trick or birthright to achieve these triathlon goals – you just to show up and do the work. I’ve been fortunate to have a first-hand viewing of some amazing club athletes doing some amazing events, and they always inspire me to find my next goal, and assist me in working to reach that, be it by being a training partner, competitor, or trash talker.

How has triathlon helped to define who you are today?
I go back and forth on wanting triathlon to define me completely and wanting to keep it at arms length as a ‘hobby’. For so long I let myself be defined by my heart condition, and now that it is no longer a factor for me, I think I struggled to find a definition that fit. “Triathlete”? “Runner”? (Although at my pace I think it’s a bit self indulgent to call it ‘running!”) Certainly my non-triathlon friends would list me as a ‘triathlete’ first, and that makes me happy – I’m proud that I’m no longer an invalid, but rather an athlete. Being healthy (and remaining healthy) has become so, so important to me, and to lose that side of myself again would be devastating. Participating in triathlons gives me the motivation to maintain this level of fitness, and I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t changed my life. So in that sense, triathlon defines this phase of my life –the phase where I took back control of my health and body. It’s been awesome.

Are there any special training groups, relationships, or events that have arisen through the Club for you?
Oh, totally! It’s almost embarrassing how much time I spend with tri-club friends. In fact, I think at this point, I can call them just ‘friends’. I was talking with a group of girls from the Club, and we were remarking at how our non-triathlon friends always complain that it’s so hard to meet people as you get older, get out of school, etc. We couldn’t relate! The Tri Club has really fostered a community of great people, and my relationships with them extend beyond training events, which is great.

You were recently elected to the DC Tri Club Board of Directors.. what contribution would you like to most make to the DC Tri Club?
I’d like to make membership sign up automatic. :P Just kidding. Well, actually, not at all, but more importantly, I’d like to encourage people who aren’t naturally gifted, or are new to the sport, to join up and feel welcomed. As I said above, triathlon as a sport has changed my life, but it was the club itself that made it possible. I’d like to give back, and be a part of that from the other side.

What do you do when you’re not training?
Sleep. Drink wine. Marvel at the wonder of TiVO. Hang out with my 39 cousins. Long for a dog. Work. Work some more. Come up with excuses to not clean my house.

Word is you run because you eat… after a long workout, what is your favorite recovery food?
Vanilla milkshake. OR cookie dough. OR bread dipped in olive oil. OR pizza. OR pancakes. OR bacon. OR cheeseburger. Or…. Wait, you just wanted one?

Thanks, Liz!