As Liza Rachetto approached the finish line at Ironman Louisville in October, she was overcome by the feeling of success. The Los Altos resident had just won the women’s race by more than 8 minutes.
“It was one of the best feelings to know I could cross the finish line and lift the banner,” she said.
Rachetto, 45, added that this was her first Ironman win. She finished in a time of 8 hours, 48 minutes and 6 seconds (the race only included the 112-mile bike ride and 26.22-mile run; the 2.4-mile swim was canceled due to unsafe water conditions).
Rachetto is not new to Ironman competitions, considered among the most grueling sporting events in the world. Louisville was the 17th Ironman she has completed. Rachetto’s resume includes participating in eight world championships – six in Kona, Hawaii.
Rachetto’s come a long way since her first Ironman in 1997 in British Columbia.
“I had no idea what to eat or drink, and I actually thought about carrying a phone in my pocket,” she said.
Rachetto was ready for Louisville. She arrived in Kentucky nine days before the event to practice on the course, get over jet lag and adjust to the temperature.
Yet there were still last-minute surprises. The swimming portion was canceled two days before the race because of toxic algae in the Ohio River. The temperature, approximately 70 degrees her first eight days there, plummeted to nearly 40 degrees on race day.
Despite such challenges, Rachetto finished ahead of the more than 700 women participating.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Rachetto attributed her success to “listening to my body, fueling properly and I probably had the best nutrition plan, which is very difficult to nail down,” she said.
Rachetto is somewhat of an expert when it comes to preparing for these kind of events; she runs Liza Coaching, training athletes for ultramarathons, mountain bike races and sprint triathlons.
“(As a woman) it was difficult getting the knowledge of how to train properly and get proper equipment,” said Rachetto, who moved to Los Altos from Boise, Idaho, 12 years ago. “There wasn’t even much access to triathlon coaches, so you really have to put yourself out there as a woman and be very confident and brave.”
She added that the Bay Area provides the ideal climate and training conditions for triathletes.
“I could teach boot camp outside all year long,” she said. “I couldn’t do that in Idaho.”
Along with training others and competing in triathlons, Rachetto is a professional cyclist. She began cycling in 1987 after graduating from Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., and buying her first road bike.
“I pretty quickly rode it to the coffee shop, tried to be clipped in and fell right over,” she said. “And my friend said, ‘Good luck with that.’”
Rachetto has been competing at the pro level for 13 years and is part of the Salt Lake City-based Supermint UCI Women’s Team.
Rachetto had to take a break from competing in both sports in 2007 after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. After nearly two years of learning how to manage the autoimmune degenerative disease, she returned to cycling. In 2012, she rejoined the triathlon scene and qualified for her first World Championship in Kona.
Rachetto plans to return to Hawaii next year to compete in another world championship. She has several other races on her schedule, including a world championship in Taupo, New Zealand.