SOLANA BEACH — Few people wake up one day and decide to compete in an ironman triathlon, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run that can take 18 hours to complete.
But that comes fairly close to explaining how Solana Beach resident and business owner Leslie Myers took up the sport.
“I heard about an ironman that was across the big lake from me and I said, ‘I want to do that next year,’” said Myers, who was living in Vermont at the time. “It sounded kind of interesting so I signed up for it.
“I’ve never been on a bike but I was doing a little recreational running,” she said. “I had a swimming background as a kid but didn’t do it for a while. It just sounded like fun.”
Living in the northeast didn’t make preparing for the race easy. In Southern California, triathlons and training opportunities are more frequent. “But in Vermont there are two seasons — winter and Fourth of July,” she said. “I kind of taught myself and then I started doing the shorter races.”
And in 2002, on her 35th birthday, Myers competed in the Lake Placid Ironman, finishing her first full event in 12 hours and four minutes. The following year she qualified for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
“That was pretty special,” she said.
Next month she will return to The Big Island for her fourth appearance in that premier event and her 11th full ironman in 10 years. She qualified on Sept. 9 by finishing seventh in her division — women aged 45 to 49 — in the Las Vegas Ironman World Championship 70.3 on a 110-degree course.
“I was pretty surprised with that,” she said. “I just happened to fare better than most people in the heat.”
Born in Monterey, Calif., Myers grew up partially in San Diego because her father was in the Navy. She swam for Coronado High School and played water polo with the boys junior varsity team because it wasn’t yet an established sport for girls.
Her aquatics activities ended for about 20 years after her family moved to Rhode Island following her sophomore year.
Myers is a 1989 graduate of James Madison University and 1991 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. She lived in Napa Valley for five years, working as a pastry chef and restaurant manager, then opened two restaurants in Northern California.
In 1996 Myers relocated to Burlington, Vt. She taught at the New England Culinary Institute for one year before opening another restaurant. About five years later, she competed in the Lake Placid Ironman.
In 2009 she returned to San Diego and settled in Solana Beach, where she started Foodsense, Now!, a business she describes as “devoted to the education and production of healthy whole-foods eating.”
Myers is also an instructor at Sur La Table in Carlsbad and teaches culinary classes privately and at the Center for a Healthy Lifestyle in Solana Beach.
She recently taught about 400 corporate employees how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet during a one-hour hands-on class.
The move and opening her businesses forced Myers to put her triathlon career on hold for about five years.
“Fortunately, or unfortunately, there’s a time commitment associated with being able to execute an ironman the way that I’d want to execute one,” she said. “The training hours can be lengthy and I didn’t have the time for that. But I’m back. It’s so great.”
Living in San Diego has made training a bit easier, although Myers said she generally doesn’t swim, bike and run every day.
She trains about 12 to 18 hours a week. “On average I swim four days a week, bike five days a week and run six days a week when I’m having a perfect week,” she said. “I’m a type A- personality so not all of that comes into play every week.
“I like to run. I like to swim,” she said. “The bike has always been my Achilles’ heel because I don’t spend enough time on it. It’s the part I need to work the most on.”
In addition to solid training and a healthy diet, Myers said a good mental attitude is essential to success as an ironman triathlete.
“Take good care of yourself,” she said. “Be mindful but don’t be militant. If you want to go to a party, go to a party. If you want to have some wine, have some wine.
“I’ve seen people fall apart because they do all the training, all the preparation, but they just get too obsessed with it” Myers said. “I think you have to have a slight degree of relaxation about the whole thing and remember that we’re all in this for fun.”