Tyler Stewart jumped into the triathlon scene in 2003, competing her first event on a dare. By 2007, not only had Stewart turned pro, she was named Rookie of the Year and biked a 4:47 during Ironman Florida—the fastest Ironman bike split ever recorded by a woman.
These days, the Novato, CA based athlete continues her forward momentum as a member of the LUNA Chix Pro Team (the only all women’s team in the world), owner of WAGS (a dog boarding business she runs with her husband Johnny), a cycling class instructor, and a professional triathlete.
Since you already qualified for Ironman Hawaii this year, (Stewart placed 10th at last year’s Ironman World Championship) you turned your attention to bike competitions. What has the change been like?
By the time this article comes out I’ll be back into my normal swim-bike-run routine but I always wanted to try bike racing. Since I had the luxury of having already qualified for Kona, I figured it was the perfect time to give it a shot. The training has not been all that different except for the limited time running. I am still swimming quite a bit and continue to teach my indoor cycling classes. To supplement my training, I joined a weekly ride dominated by male roadies who like to take me out and make me suffer. What has been different has been adjusting to the tactics of bike racing and the fact that it’s not always about who has the strongest engine. I always want to Go! Go! Go! and as a result have paid the price for leading charges only to get swallowed up in the end. Rookie mistakes! It’s been a really fun learning experience and I’m happy that I allowed myself the time to do something I always wanted to try because for me life is about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things.
When will you focus on triathlon training again?
I’ll finish off bike racing at the end of June and immediately start upping my run training to complement what I’m already doing on the bike and in the pool. It will be a quick transition since I’ll be racing Vineman 70.3 in July. My preparations will be a bit rushed but at about an hour away Vineman feels like my hometown race and I wouldn’t miss it.
What’s on your schedule this season?
I’m looking forward to a fun triathlon season and plan to race Vineman 70.3, Lake Stevens 70.3, and of course Kona.
Do you hate swimming as much as people think?
Ha! I probably hate it more! Ironically since I’ve stepped back from triathlon a bit I’ve actually started to like swimming—go figure. I joined a masters team for the first time ever—please don’t ask to see my butterfly!—and am actually enjoying it without the pressure of racing on my mind. Swimming with the North Bay Aquatics team has been a blast and a welcome break in what has been my well-documented love/hate relationship with swimming.
What’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a pro?
Well, my most memorable triathlon would be as an amateur racing my very first Ironman, which was Kona 2004. While I can never recreate that feeling—the unknown, the doubt, the nerves, the smiles, and that feeling of satisfaction when I finished—I continue my journey as an athlete with respect and memories of my first steps towards this upgraded more self-confident person and accomplished athlete that I am today. Starting in triathlon without really knowing how to swim was a bit crazy but that first Kona represents the leap of faith I consciously or subconsciously chose to take and will always be special. Long after I stop racing triathlon, I hope I’m always taking those kinds of leaps. As a pro, winning Coeur d’Alene is also of course a great highlight. It wasn’t the perfect day by any stretch but I went through a lot medically leading up to that race and to come back so strong with my family there to watch was really special to me.
How do you balance training and working full time at WAGS?
It’s tricky! I am not superhuman and I struggle to fit everything in just like everyone else which I think is an important message. Life is a juggling act and no matter what job you’re doing most everyone has multiple balls in the air at the same time … It sometimes can sound (and feel!) like a lot but we all figure out a way to adjust and get through. I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband and although I know I sometimes drive him crazy, over the years we’ve figured out a way to stay smiling through all the insanity!
What’s something people might be surprised to find out about you?
That’s hard because my life is pretty much an open book! People are always surprised when they find out I didn’t play sports in high school or college—couldn’t face the fear of failure so I decided just not to compete which considering the level of competition I face today that now seems a bit crazy.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I guess the one thing I’d like to add is a shout-out to all the age-groupers who really make our sport unique. I am truly motivated by this group of people who challenge themselves day in and day out to achieve their goals—whether it’s to be a top elite amateur and qualify for Kona or to make it across the line before midnight—these athletes provide our sport with its most inspirational moments. At the end of the day I feel very lucky to have found this sport and to get to do what I do for a living.