Tuggle travels the world for fun and fitness
South Lake Tahoe’s Lesley Tuggle isn’t paid to compete in triathlons all over the world, but she can afford to do it anyway thanks to a traveler’s dream job.
Tuggle, 57, is a flight attendant with United Airlines, which allows her to compete in triathlons in some of the most exotic locales imaginable. She recently qualified for her 11th Ironman Triathlon World Championship and will compete in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii beginning Oct. 18.
The triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and a 26.2-mile run. About 1,500 competitors between the ages of 18-84 representing all 50 states and approximately 50 countries will attend the event of the nearly 50,000 who enter qualifiers this year.
“You have to earn a slot in Hawaii,” Tuggle said. “That’s what makes it the world championships. I qualified by doing a half-Ironman race in Great Britain, which is where I’m from. You have to come in first … within your age group.”
This will be Tuggle’s seventh trip to Hawaii. The 23-year Tahoe resident has also competed in Brazil, South Korea and Canada, among other places, but she got her start in triathlons right here at home.
“Fifteen years ago there was an ultra-distance triathlon called the World’s Toughest Triathlon and all the locals used to get involved in it,” she said. “There were teams of three people, each one doing a discipline. I did the swim portion for three years and then decided to do the whole thing myself. That got me started in going to triathlons all over the world.
“It becomes part of your life, basically,” she added. “I start in about February training slowly and then build up my distance. When the snow goes, you can start getting on the roads and doing bike miles while the running and swimming you can do all the time.”
There are four main distances to triathlons: sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman and Ironman, meaning that Tuggle is really at the top of her game. She said competing in Hawaii is like nowhere else.
“It’s a race against yourself,” she said. “In Kona it’s so windy and hot, about 100 degrees in the lava fields and it’s just you and the race course. I have been blown off the bike over there. They have a crosswind that can take you right across the road and just flatten you.”
At 57 years old, Tuggle is used to people asking how she does it, how she can maintain the grueling fitness schedule required to excel in triathlons.
“You have to want to do it, to be motivated to do those kinds of miles,” she said. “No one can do it for you or tell you to go out there and train. I like doing it. By doing three sports, you don’t get bored (and) if it’s snowing, you can still run or swim.
“Anybody with a yearning to do it should start out running and join the Tahoe Mountain Milers, Alta Alpina Bike Club and just start doing it,” she added. “Go swim with the Master Swim Club down at the pool.”