Meet Challenge Taiwan champ Lisa Roberts

She just outran all the men by three minutes to take Challenge Taiwan. Lisa Roberts is a multiple full-distance champion, coach and much more.

| May 2, 2019 | PERSONALITY

Lisa Roberts on the run at Challenge Taiwan.

Lisa Roberts on the run at Challenge Taiwan.

Photo >Jon Roberts

After finishing third in the Challenge Bonus Pool standings last year, Lisa Roberts has moved to the top of the 2019 standings thanks to a huge win at Challenge Taiwan. A pro triathlete since 2009 who also manages to balance that pro career with a landscaping business in Tuscon, while also coaching, Roberts is a multiple long-distance champion who has gone under nine hours for the full distance and often clocks sub three-hour marathons at full-distance races. We caught up with the American champ just hours after her long trip from Taiwan back home to Tucson. Your run in Taitung was incredible - you were faster than all the men. Were you surprised at how fast you went? 

Lisa Roberts: What a surprise! I had no idea what my run time was at the finish .. until a few of the pro men approached, giving me a hard time (in a friendly way, of course) for running faster than them. Sorry, not sorry guys! 

I didn’t feel good at all on the run, but I’ve been a runner for so long my legs just know what to do despite the circumstances. I just focus on my rhythm & cadence to get it done.

How were you able to handle the heat and humidity in Taiwan - any tricks or tips you can pass on?

Heat and humidity is a beast; even living in Arizona I still respect the fact that high humidity affects differently than the “dry heat” of Tucson. You feel like you’re being cooked via "sous vide" in that humidity! So, I went to Taiwan several weeks in advance to not only acclimate, but to learn how to adjust my hydration and fueling plan. I planned to take on board about 30 percent more fluid and electrolyte to get through race day. Missing the last aid station on the bike put me behind, so I did full stops at the first few run aid stations, grabbing multiple cups at a time to try to get back on track. And we all know it’s near impossible to catch up once you’re behind, so that’s why I felt very off for the whole run. 

Obviously spending extra weeks at a hot/humid race location isn’t possible for everyone, so I’d recommend heated indoor training sessions and/or a sauna protocol to help adjust to what that feels like and to practice tweaking your fueling plan. And, for goodness sake, do not miss aid stations on course like I did. Make a full stop if needed so you stay on track with hydration. Seventeen years in this sport and I’m still making rookie mistakes.

You are now sitting at the top of the Challenge Bonus standings - will this result change your plans for the rest of your season? What other events do you have planned?

Yes, very exciting to sit at the top of the Challenge standings so far. I will continue to do more Challenge races this year as part of their world series to better my third place overall from last year. I also plan to mix in some Ironman events, possibly heading to Finland and see where my new team partner Suunto creates their watches.

And never count me out for a good sufferfest at the iconic Alpe d’Huez Tri or Embrunman.

You also coach with TriSutto - is it difficult to balance coaching and racing at such a high level?

I am a recent addition to the TriSutto coaching squad after being solo for a few years. Having trained under Mary Beth Ellis and Brett for the past three years, it’s a philosophy and approach that comes naturally to me, so it’s been an easy transition. While I’m racing I keep my squad very small, but I am slowly building and planning bigger things for my current roster and plan to expand it in the upcoming years as my professional racing comes to a close.

That said, balancing work/family/training and racing is not new to me; while racing professionally I have also owned and managed a small landscape design company in Tucson. I had to get very good at setting and keeping to a schedule, but also level-headed and flexible enough to adjust when needed. I work with my athletes in exactly the same way as they juggle all of life’s commitments so they can continue to grow, succeed and be happy and healthy in the process.

You've attributed your positive attitude to your father and the way he handled his accident when you were a child. Can you tell us a bit about that and how it has shaped your approach to racing, training and life?

The older I get, the more I’m starting to understand how my father’s swimming accident (diving into a pool, hitting his head on the bottom which broke his neck and left him quadriplegic) has shaped my entire life.

Absolutely his attitude toward such a life changing event shaped how I perceive adversity and respond to it. As a family we accepted what happened, worked hard, got creative with ways for my dad to do things he used to do and developed a positive attitude around him, often times trying to find the humor in it. This is essentially how I move through my life now, including training and racing.

My father passed away shortly after I moved to Tucson from complications of being quadriplegic. I found triathlon at that same time and I think I took to the sport because it gave me a positive outlet to deal with my grief, anger and loneliness that came with his passing. I remember many long training rides where I would think of him and cry for the whole ride, yet I also felt this was my way of connecting with him ... by doing the things he couldn’t do while he was here.