Triathlete still going strong
Lesley Tuggle admits she has lost a step with age.
Even so, the 70-years-young athlete from Gardnerville showed that she can still go the distance last Sunday when she literally ran to first-place in her women’s 70-74 age group at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship Triathlon in Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.
Tuggle completed the 70.3-mile endurance event in a time of 7 hours, 24 minutes, 37 seconds over 70.3 miles during competition that featured competitors from 43 U.S. states and more than 80 countries.
She clocked times of 51:47 for the 1.2-mile ocean swim off of Mooloolaba Beach and 3:48:31 over the 56-mile bicycle route. In the end, her 2:25:29 effort on the 13.1-mile half-marathon run is what put her over the top.
“My swim and bike were so-so, but my run was excellent,” Tuggle said. “I ran a really good pace … the best pace I’ve run in I don’t know how long. I was doing 11-minute miles, which for someone aged 70, and after a 56-mile bike ride, that’s not bad.”
Tuggle was fourth at the start of her run, but in the end, she crossed the finish 40 seconds ahead of the runner-up, New York City’s Sibyl Jacobson.
The cycling leg, which included a 2,000-foot climb inside the final 10 miles, left Tuggle somewhat disappointed. At the outset of the half-marathon run, however, she quickly re-discovered some old stamina.
“I came in off the bike and kind of stretched my back and my quads,” Tuggle said. “I started walking for the first 10 yards of the run, there was a guy in front of me and I thought, ‘You know, my legs feel quite good, I’ll go catch him.’ So I went, then I caught the next person and then the next person after that.”
Tuggle credited interval training on the track — repeat 400-meter runs with a rest period in between — with helping her run.
“I just read this book by Joe Friel called ‘Fast After 50,’ and he says you have to keep after the speed work; you have to do at least 20 minutes of speed work every week to keep the muscles firing,” Tuggle said. “I think made a difference. I was shocked with my run. I haven’t done that in a long, long time.”
Tuggle also managed to stay injury-free and had the advantage of a background that includes 10 appearances at the Ironman World Championships (140.6 miles) in Hawaii.
So, is this age group world champion slowing down?
“You can still do the distance, but it is slower,” she said. “I have to stretch every days in order to retain the elasticity. The speed simply isn’t what it used to be. I sometimes watch people in front of me as they run and I think, ‘OK, my left leg goes down the same time as their left leg,’ and I try to do that, but I can’t. I used to be able to do it, but now I can’t. It just comes around more slowly. But I’m still going and I’m still going strong.”