Interview With Ironman Anna
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
One of my favorite perks of running with local run groups is meeting people like Anna along the way. Anna is the mother of 2 cute kids, a cellular biology Ph.D., marathoner, and as of July, an Ironman triathlete.
I have always had admiration for what triathletes conquer in their training and racing. After months of following Anna's training journey to the Muncie Ironman 70.3 I was excited to track her progress as she raced. And, sure enough, she crushed her goal.
She was also gracious enough to let me send her some interview questions later on so that I could bestow some of the wisdom she gained here with you all. So read on if you are looking to get inspired or considering an Ironman for yourself.
Q: WHAT LED YOU TO SIGN UP FOR THE IRONMAN 70.3 MUNCIE RACE?
A: A running buddy talked me into it. My husband and I decided that Muncie 70.3 Ironman fit into the training schedule, was close enough to drive to, and a good beginner race. This race is known for a good beginner course, amazing volunteer support, and it has been around for 40 years (albeit not all 40 as Ironman brand).
Q: HAS COMPLETING AN IRONMAN ALWAYS BEEN ON YOUR RADAR?
A: No, not at all. I was never a swimmer, a biker, or a runner. My husband was all three of those. He did triathlons. He encouraged me to start running and biking. I hadn’t even heard of an Ironman race. We did a lot of Trailnet rides. Also, when I started running, I couldn’t run more than a quarter-mile. I started with a Couch to 5K training plan, ran my first 5K, and I was hooked.
Not long afterward, I signed up for my first half marathon and then surprised my husband with a full marathon by signing both of us for the race. I don’t even remember when I heard of the Ironman brand, but I do remember watching the Kona Ironman race on T.V. with admiration for the athletes and I guess after the full marathon, a triathlon was the next challenge. I started with local sprint distances.
Q: HOW DID THE TRAINING GO?
A: I thought the training went well. It had its ups and downs. I did not have a coach, and I worked with a plan from Matt Fitzgerald’s Essential Week-By-Week Training Guide. I tried to be very consistent and stick to the plan as much as possible. There was lots of time on the bike trainer, the treadmill, and the juggling of the schedule.
I had to make adaptations too. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which affects the metabolism. The training made me overmedicated, and I had to have my medicine adjusted at one point. Training with Hashimoto’s is different than without. A lot of time the body needs longer recovery time, especially after a longer or harder workout. I’m also more injury-prone so I have to train smarter and listen to the body well.
I had to catch up on the swimming. I just learned how to swim the crawl stroke properly the year before and had lots of improving to do. I bought bike Aero Bars and had an adjustment period, which surprisingly went fast. I love them.
Nutrition had to be worked out too: lots of trial and error.
Q: WERE YOU FEELING CONFIDENT ABOUT THE UPCOMING RACE WHEN IT CAME TIME TO TAPER?
A: Actually sometime in the middle of the taper I started to have doubts like, “Can I do the distance?”. However, I told myself repeatedly that I did the training and to believe in all the time I put into it.
Q: CAN YOU TALK SOME ABOUT HOW YOU BALANCED PARENTING AND TRAINING?
A: Yes. Parenting and training were a schedule and juggling act. Training took place primarily in the early mornings, when kids were in school, or when the YMCA had childcare open. Long swims, runs, bikes or brick workouts were on weekends when my husband could watch the kiddos.
Many times bike rides were on the bike trainer while I watched the kids play or with the kids in a bike trailer. Many times the runs were with kids in the stroller or on their bikes.
I tried to do most of my training early in the mornings and not take over my time with the family. That was important. And hopefully, a seed will be planted in our kids from seeing their parents train and run races. After all, we are their role models.
Q: HOW DID THE RACE GO? the open water SWIM? BIKE? run and transitions?
A: The race went well, better than expected. My goal was to just finish in the allotted time, which was 8 hours and 30 minutes and not get hurt.
open water SWIM:
A: My goal was to swim under an hour, which I did, but not as fast as I wanted. I had fears with the swim: Would I hyperventilate? Would I be kicked in the face? Because of my fears, I seeded myself into a slower swim group. And the last three groups, which included mine, turned into a massive wave start vs 2 at a time. There was a lot of hitting and jostling and running over. My goggles fogged and I had trouble sighting. I breast stroked at times to get my bearings or when someone hit me. At the end of the swim I just wanted to be finished and I pushed the pace a bit. Lots of lessons learned during this swim.
A: The bike was great! My time goal was somewhere around 3 hours and 45 minutes at best and 4 at worst, but I beat my own expectations and came in at 3:16. The course was mostly flat, on the highway, and closed. My legs felt great. I have always heard to save your legs on the swim and the bike for the run, so I tried not to push myself on the bike. I did take full advantage of all the downhills, I did not stop at the aid stations, and my nutrition worked out great.
A: My plan was to walk each aid station, so every mile, and run in between. I didn’t know what to expect out of my legs during my run, so I tried to pace myself.
It was very hot, full sun, and asphalt was giving off lots of heat.
At mile 3, I saw a lot of runners on the way back, walking, one being carted off by an ambulance. I felt good but I started packing ice down my tri tank, front and back, a precaution to keep my core cool. At mile 6, I was still feeling good.
I sipped on my nutrition, took water and ice at each aid station, and the orange slices were a lifesaver. I looked forward to each slice at every station. Mile 8, and I kept trucking on, passing a lot of walkers. I think it was around mile 11 and 12 when I started to walk the hills because of the heat. But my thoughts were on counting down the miles. Legs and heart were surprisingly good but the heat was just getting to me.
My goal was 3 hours and 2:32 was a happy surprise, especially with walking the aid station, walking some hills and several potty stops.
A: I thought they went well, at about 8 and 5 minutes for T1 and T2. I even had time to potty before heading off on the bike.
Q: WHAT ASPECTS OF THE RACE WERE MOST CHALLENGING?
A: The swim was the most challenging for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I seeded myself further back because of fear, and I shouldn’t have. I swam only once in open water one week before the race and I hyperventilated. I prayed there would be no repeat of the hyperventilation.
By the way, big thanks to my hubby who told me repeatedly to get an open water swim under my belt before the race and to my friend "Brad" who watched my kids while I swam an open water swim at Simpson lake. I am so glad I did this open water swim, otherwise, my race may have ended rather quickly.
Anyhow, I implemented what I learned at the OWS during my race swim and I had no hyperventilation, however swimming with fogged goggles and lots of swimmers jostling for position was a challenge.
Q: WHICH PARTS OF THE RACE DO YOU THINK YOU EXCELLED AT?
A: I think I excelled at bike and nutrition. My nutrition was on point and the 56-mile bike seemed effortless. I could have pushed myself harder on the bike.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FINAL TIME RESULT?
A: I finished under 7 hours, which for me was an achievement for my first 70.3 race. My goal was to finish in 8 hours.
Q: TELL US ABOUT THE POSTRACE FESTIVITIES. DID YOU CELEBRATE?
A: Postrace was amazing. There was lots of support, amazingly delicious food and healthy too. My tri buddies and I took lots of photos with our finisher medal. We didn’t stick around for too long. My celebration was heading back to the hotel for a cold shower to wash off the lake, salt, and sweat... and rest in bed.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PRIMARY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EVENT?
A: Do an open water swim if you are going to have a lake swim. It’s a totally different experience than a pool swim.
Warm-up in the water before your swim, if available and seed yourself to your swim ability.
Always double-check your equipment and do not start with anything new on race day.
Have some positive mantras for when it gets tough. Singing helps. Have a good support group... family and friends.
And most of all, believe in yourself!
Q: WILL YOU DO ANOTHER IRONMAN RACE?
A: Would love to, money and time permitting.
Q: ANY RACES PLANNED FOR THE REST OF 2019?
A: Yes. Two 1⁄2 marathons, and hopefully I will sign up for a winter run series.
Q: OTHER THOUGHTS?
A: A good nutrition plan is a must. I planned mine based on what other athletes used for their Ironman 70.3, what the Ironman website suggested, and from my own research. Pre-race nutrition and hydration are just as important. My plan accounted for the week before the race and for every hour of the race. I think the right nutrition made my body handle the endurance well and recover well.
Research the race. Muncie 70.3 was around for 40 years. I found lots of race reports with photos, and even podcasts. This prepared me for what to expect on race day and calmed my nerves, although not make them entirely disappear.
Women For Tri is an amazing facebook group that has fantastic support and advice for triathlon newbies, as well as veterans. It helped with my training, planning and had awesome inspirational stories of achievement and overcoming of challenges.