Lives in: South Portland
If you follow or participate in triathlons in Maine and New England, chances are you have bumped into Tracey Lydon. The 38-year-old compensation analyst from South Portland has been competing in events such as the Tri for a Cure, Kennebunk’s Fireman’s Tri, and New Hampshire’s King Pines Tri for several years now, and has become a familiar face on the bike paths, swimming lanes and running trails of the state.
Not one to shirk her passion in the face of adversity, Lydon has also become a beacon of hope for many. Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, Lydon underwent surgery in February to remove a foot of intestine. It is a process that many of those afflicted with Crohn’s are faced with. Yet, Lydon bounced back immediately, and by late April she was training again for this summer’s round of races.
Lydon is also a cancer survivor. In 1999, she discovered a lump in her throat, and after testing, it was discovered that she had cancer. Lydon’s entire thyroid was removed the following year, but because the disease was caught early, she did not have to go through either chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Since that time, Lydon has had yearly blood work and ultrasounds done.
Training for triathlons is a year-round activity. Lydon practices alongside her husband Chris in all seasons. Although biking outdoors is essentially off-limits during the winter, Tracey practices on her stationary bike in the basement, hits the South Portland Community Center to swim laps, and even goes out running in temperatures approaching zero.
When Lydon isn’t competing, she spends her free time volunteering at cause-associated races. She is on the board of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Portland, serving as the volunteer chairwoman. Although Lydon says she is still not quite at 100 percent form after her surgery, she’s working hard toward that objective.
How did you get involved and how long have you been involved with your sport?
Well, after (my husband and I) lost a bunch of weight, I had a good friend who suggested that maybe a good way to keep it off would be to go out running. So we started running, and then not even a year later she says, “Why don’t you try doing a tri?” So we thought, why not? It sounds like fun. (My husband and I) had seen her do one, and we thought it was kind of neat to watch. So we bought bikes and started training on the bikes, and then we bought wet suits and started working in the pool and took a class to learn the proper techniques. Growing up in Maine, you do get out to the beach from time to time, but we grew up in Windham, and it’s not like we had a swim team there or anything like that. Anyway, we got out there to do the first tri, and I won’t say that I had fabulous times, but I got through it and when I finished, I felt good. I felt like it was something unique that I wanted to keep on trying, and it’s always nice to see an improvement in time against what you’ve done before. (My husband and I) also have a friendly competition to see who can one-up the other throughout most of our races.
What fuels your passion?
The rest of the people competing. It’s one of those things where it seems like no matter what, the people who are (in the race) are wishing you well and saying “good job” even as they pass you. It is a very close-knit group, and you come to know the people very well. These events are built out of common bonds, and you share something with the type of people you meet there. It’s something you can do together, and know we are keeping ourselves healthy and having fun doing it.
What female athletes have inspired you?
For triathletes, I would I would say Miranda Cafrae. She is amazing. She is on the elite Ironman level. Then there is (British triathlete) Chrissie Wellington – she came to New Hampshire and did the Timberman. It was neat to watch her – she has always got a smile on her face, and is always doing her thing. For running, Joan Benoit is a legend. It is neat to be able to watch her and what she has done as well. For some of lesser knowns, there is someone like Sherri Piers (who won the women’s division of the Beach to Beacon). She is great.
What are your goals?
My first goal is to get back to what I was running before (the surgery) – both in terms of the mileage and the pace. As of late, I am barely hitting the 91?2 or even 10-minute mile mark, and in some cases I am going over the 10-minute mile. Before I got sick this last time, I was getting down to the low 9s and, depending on the distance, the high 8s for a few of my miles. The other goal for early next year is that my husband and I want to go to Disney and do the Goofy Challenge, which is a half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday.
What advice do you have for a woman taking up the sport?
Just do it. It is an amazing feeling of accomplishment. You don’t have to plan on doing things so quickly – just to go through it slowly. Especially for beginners, I encourage them to find maybe a local race like the Tri for a Cure, which is geared for fundraising rather than for the elite. Then just go out and have fun with it. That’s all I would say. It is really a sense of accomplishment to get through a triathlon. Just to do it and know that you have done three disciplines in one race makes for a great sense of accomplishment. Don’t try to go out and be the best right off – you don’t have to be. Just go out and have fun.