Thirty-five years ago, at 16 years old, Todd, “aka AirLytle, aka TLyt, aka T to the L” did his very first triathlon in Huntington Beach, California. As a strong cross-country runner, his coach, Bob Augello encouraged the kids to mix it up by cross-training, and triathlon became an excellent way to do it. For the race itself, he borrowed a Speedo swimsuit from his coach (which he wore inside out, of course), slicked back his mullet, and headed to the start line. He swam as fast as possible to get out of the mid-50-degree ocean then rode his bike that he just bought through classified ads in the newspaper, and the run was the run like it has always been for him and, as Todd was a fast runner, clocking his 5Ks out at around 17-minute pace, finished the race in 2nd in his 15-19 age group.
Todd, to this day, has fond memories of those days. “Mid-80’s was old school triathlon, i.e., no wetsuits, basic bike, duct tape on the pedals, New Balance 475’s, no headphones, no cell phones, no internet, no watches, no bike computers, and registration was by mail after you found a flyer at a local running store if you were lucky.” And today, although the bike has been upgraded and he has since used bike shoes with cleats rather than duct tape, still likes to train and race that way. Notably, although the mullet is gone, the Speedo is still around… :)
Through high school and college, Todd was a multi-sport athlete, i.e., cross-country, basketball, track – steeple chase, who was facing adversities and life’s challenges through working and training at a young age. He shared that “I like to pay tribute to my basketball roots at the finish of most triathlons where I dunk the finishing clock. In fact, at IronMan Arizona, in 2015, I actually tore it down a bit (videos don’t lie) en route to my fastest iron distance finish of 10:45”.
Through the years swimming, biking, and running were never far away because of his fond remembrances as a teenager of watching the first IronMan races on ABC Wide World of Sports and thinking “that is nuts – but maybe someday I will…nahhh” ☺ . Triathlon was always something he enjoyed and, between his college sports, it became something else to do whenever a race was available as he loved the cross-training. Over time, he found triathlon to be the one constant in life as it provided a mental (and physical) outlet to help balance out all the ups and downs of life. Todd raced for the love of the sport and continued to race whenever the opportunity presented. He wasn’t concerned with times or overall placement and took solace in racing without a watch for the sake of simply getting out to swim, bike, and run.
After a stint in the Air Force in ‘89, a summer working in a fish cannery in Alaska in ‘90, a year abroad studying Spanish in Mexico City in ‘95 (where he was on 3 basketball teams at once ) while earning a BA from Chico State in ‘96 ( 9 year program), and finally an MBA from Regis here in Denver in ‘02 the year his son Drew was born (Todd’s self-admitted greatest achievement), in ‘97, Todd moved to Colorado. Then, 10 years after moving to Colorado, he came across the Rocky Mountain Tri Club (RMTC) website and started going to swim and track practices. His son Drew was known for blowing the whistle at RMTC swim practices when Todd joined the club back in 2008 and Drew will be attending CU Boulder as a Freshman here in 2021. Todd said, “with the RMTC tri peeps, and especially, el comandante, Senor Carlito (Coach Charley), I found a welcoming, inviting, kindred spirit that led me to further embrace the ‘triathlon way’ and was honored to have held RMTC board positions twice so far, with the last as President in the most unprecedented times of all our lives, the lovely year of 2020.” He relishes giving back to the club and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Dude is not stopping.
Up until he joined RMTC, his longest triathlon was an Olympic distance, but, as he worked out with RMTC, discussions about racing IronMan circulated and in 2010, his fellow RMTC folks decided to get a group together to race St George. St George is a hard, hard course and Todd, admittedly, had no idea what he was getting into with that distance. After a freezing cold swim and a merciless, hilly bike course, he “died a slow death on the run” and took solace in learning that St George was one of the hardest iron distance courses ever put together (evidenced by the fact that St George IronMan no longer exists as no one would sign up for it!) Afterwards he came to the realization that if he can do that he can keep going and do more which led him to do the complete opposite of what he did and raced in Cozumel. Cozumel is crystal clear open water swim in the ocean over the reefs, flat bike course around the island a couple of times passing all the little tiki bars along the way, and a pleasant run around the city and northern part of the island. Despite great weather and a beautiful course, he decided to make it harder by mixing his milk-based drink the night before and consuming it after it sat in the hot sun while he swam and did the bike… :)
After Cozumel, he stayed with the iron distance and raced Pendicton (Canada) and Boulder. He enjoyed the training he did on his own to solve for how to prepare for and attack the distance. IronMan World Championships in Kona has always been in the back of his mind as every time he discussed triathlon with a non-racer who really doesn’t appreciate how difficult it is to get a slot to race there, would say “Oh. You do triathlons. Did you race in Hawaii?” There were moments when he felt if he had Kona under his belt, he could finally say when the question was asked, “You bet I did!”. Then, in 2012, they announced the IronMan Legacy program that allows for automatic entry into Kona after one completes 12 IronMan races and, in that, he saw the opportunity to finally race in Hawaii. So, 9 races later, he was able to get his Legacy slot and will be lining up on Digme beach on the second Saturday in October, 2021 (crossing fingers). Interestingly enough, as per timing of the race, he shared that, “I will be returning to Hawaii 35 years after my very first triathlon which was also the last time I was in Hawaii as I raised the money to go by myself via the largest house party of the school year in 1987 – Lytle’s Luau – by charging $3 per person for the 400 people that came. I would have made more, but decided that girls in bikinis were free.”
In closing, Todd shared that his motto for racing IronMan and life is the idea that you don’t have to “outfast, you simply need to outlast”. And, like the characters in his favorite movie, Breaking Away, he has always kept a positive attitude throughout the challenges life throws at you and kept moving forward. Kona will be, not just a victory lap for the time and effort he put in to get there but a victory lap for a successful achievement in life. After 35 years, arriving in Kona will definitely be a “blast to the past” initially, but then he is looking forward to finally completing the Kona race and moving into the future, for the next non-IronMan branded adventure, whatever that turns out to be. In his realist way, he is keenly aware that getting to Kona, through Legacy, has been much easier with the coaches and teammates that he has met on this club and all of our days of training together. As Todd put it, “I am forever grateful and look forward to continuing the fun with all of you for many years to come!”