If there’s one interview people have asked for the most, this is it. In high school Amy Lyons only ran to get in shape for cross country skiing. Due to lack of snow, the All-State skier began to focus on running more and more. At Bethel College, Amy flourished under the guidance of Suzanne Ray and earned All-American honors in cross country as a sophomore. After a coaching change, Amy joined the Run N Fun race team and has concentrated on road racing for the last two years. In this interview, the 21-year-old Mounds View resident sheds some light on her college career, her atypical training routine and her plans for the future. (Photo courtesy of Curt Lyons)
When did you start running? How’d you get involved?
I started out as a sprinter in 9th grade, after a friend talked me into joining the track team. Then my coaches encouraged me to run middle distance events and cross country. I also enjoyed being the anchor leg on many relay teams.
Do you cross country ski anymore?
It’s been harder to train for ski races the past few years due to lack of snow. I’ve skied the Vasaloppet four times and the City of Lakes Loppet twice. Nordic skiing was my favorite sport in high school, even though I didn’t join the team until 10th grade. I had excellent coaches that taught me how to ski and race, which led to me becoming a Conference Champ and All-State Nordic skier. Back then I was always better at skiing than running, but now I much prefer to run. There’s no waxing required!
You ran for Bethel College and went from 168th at the National D3 Cross Country meet as a freshman to 18th as a sophomore. What/who do you attribute your quick improvement to?
I think I had the potential to be All-American as a freshman, but conditions were not ideal. It was hot and humid, and there was something like an air inversion. Many runners didn’t feel well. When I went to nationals as a sophomore, I was able to sleep well the night before, and the weather was cold, which helped me run to All-American status the second time around.
After your sophomore year it appears you stopped running for Bethel. What happened?
During my first two years at Bethel, I had an exceptional coach, Suzanne Ray, who was supportive and cared about each runner’s mental and physical well being. Then there was a coaching change that resulted in 180 degree changes in coaching philosophy and the team environment. Most of the runners did not return. The past two years, I’ve enjoyed racing on the Run N Fun team. The owners, Perry and Kari Bach, and team have been extremely supportive and generous.
There was a time when you were running lots of 5K races. Now you are mixing in some 8K and 10K races. What do you consider your best distance? Any thoughts of racing longer distances?
I consider the 10K my best distance, but I plan to try some longer distances in the future. I was advised not to run a marathon until I’m closer to 30 years old. The reason I enjoy 5K’s is because there are so many good ones to pick from in Minnesota.
What are your PRs?
These times are all from road races.
Do you tend to follow the a more “traditional” approach to training where you build a base and then add speed-work on top of that or do you try and touch upon your speed throughout the year?
I don’t really follow a traditional approach at all. I usually train on a treadmill at a decent pace, and the only speed work I do is the race itself. I run what I feel like doing for that week. If I am feeling good, I run a little more than if I’m feeling sore. I also mix in a bit of biking. Some may think it sounds like a weird way to train, but it keeps running enjoyable.
What kind of mileage do you run in and out of season?
In season I run about 45 miles per week. Off season, I ride a Schwinn Airdyne and walk on a treadmill. I’ve never run more than 50 miles a week and don’t think that doing so would help me in what I’m trying to accomplish for now.
Is there anyone you like to train with?
I’m a solitary runner, mainly because I get up in the morning and run on the treadmill, but after a race I love to do cool downs with other runners.
Are you currently being coached?
No, but I’m always open to suggestions.
Annie Bersagel just left Team USA Minnesota, has there been any talk about joining them or another training group like Brooks-Hansons, ZAP Fitness, etc.?
Last fall, Team USA Minnesota Coach Dennis Barker asked me if I wanted to run on a 4x10K team going to Japan. I was honored but did not go due to having a lot of irons in the fire at the time. I really respect Coach Barker and Team USA Minnesota, so that would probably be my first choice, if I join another team.
What are your racing plans and goals for 2007?
My goal is to improve my PRs. At the time of this interview, I am recovering from a low back injury, so I’m riding the Airdyne until I can run again.
What do you consider your strengths? Weaknesses?
My strengths are that I train and run hard, and those are my weaknesses also. One of the reasons I train on a treadmill is to pace myself from going too fast during workouts. Sometimes I work too hard, when I should listen to my body and cut back a bit.
What is your fondest running memory?
One of them would be of our high school track and field team winning the conference title. It was a great team effort. Another would be finishing the Get in Gear 10K last year, my first 10K ever, and thinking it was easy. It was pouring out, and we got soaked, but it really felt good to accomplish my longest race yet and do well.
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
The Victory 10K is my favorite race so far. I have done the 5K twice before, but the 10K course is very fast.
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
It would definitely be Suzanne Ray. She is a wonderful coach and friend, and I got into road racing because of her encouragement. We’ve had a lot of great conversations during cool downs after races.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I wish I knew to eat more protein. Runners tend to favor carbs for energy, but protein helps rebuild muscle better. This is especially important for me, since I’m a vegetarian.