Athlete-Mom Interview: Sara Gross

Many thanks to Sara Gross for being my first athlete-mom interview of 2012! I caught up with her for the first time this past year at the Calgary 70.3 in July where she finished 2nd just 7 months after giving birth to her daughter, Rosalee. After competing in Ironman Canada at the end of August and finishing 4th in a time of 9:46, Sara took the racing challenge up another notch a few months later when she went on to do two back to back Ironmans (yes that’s one week apart)!! In November Sara competed in Ironman Arizona and finished 8th in the Pro Division while running to a marathon PB (3:07) in a total time of 9:18. A week later, she competed in Ironman Cozumel and did not slow down much at all, while finishing 6th place in an impressive overall time of 9:56!

Sara also has a PhD in Ancient History and Religion from the University of Edinburgh. She works as a coach while living in Victoria, B.C. with her daughter, Rosalee and husband and personal coach, Clint. For more info on her coaching click here. You can also follow her on her personal website: In the meantime read on about Sara’s transition into motherhood racing….

Top of the podium post-partum at Subaru Victoria Half-Ironman!

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

Before my daughter was born, I had been a professional triathlete for 6 years. In that time I had collected 13 top 5 Ironman finishes and was ITU European Long Course Champion in 2005

2. What has motivated you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-children?

The thing that motivates me most is that I have not reached my potential in the sport. Finishing in the top 5 all those times and not winning an Ironman is frustrating and keeps me pushing forward. Though many things have changed since Rosalee was born, this central motivation has remained the same.

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family (and work?)?

The main thing that keeps me balanced is the amount of support I have. My husband (and coach) Clint understands that if I am going to compete against the best in the world we have to prioritize my training. My mental coach Bob (from Sportexcel) taught me how important it is to move easily from one role to another on a daily basis. So when I get home from training I quickly shift from athlete-mode to mom-mode, likewise when I am coaching I shift to coach-mode. Its amazing how much easier my life is if I don’t carry the baggage of a bad training session into the rest of my day. I also don’t have much time to stop and think about how I am feeling. If I am tired, I often don’t notice until I hit the pillow at night.

4. Did you train during your pregnancy? What was your approach?

I would not consider what I did during my pregnancy “training”, but I did exercise. I averaged about 1-1.5h/ day for most of the pregnancy, just easy swimming, biking and running. I ran up to an hour until week 32 and stopped because I could feel my baby’s head pushing down on my pelvis and it was just weird. I biked (mostly on the trainer) until week 37 and swam up until the day before she was born. I was anaemic during the middle part of my pregnancy, so I felt too fatigued to do any more than this. My main goal was just to keep myself sane. I had no illusions about maintaining my fitness. When I started training again after birth, I really was starting from scratch.

5. What were the biggest challenges getting back into shape after your daughter was born?

One of the biggest challenges for me was not being able to plan my days, weeks and months the way I had previously. My time was no longer my own. I had to get used to training on a whim. For example, if Rosalee fell asleep, I would get changed and jump on the trainer. Or if she had a bad night, I might need a nap instead. I found that if I kept my priorities straight in those first few months I could get in a decent amount of training, even if I couldn’t plan out the details like I used to.

Running to second place in the Calgary 70.3

6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing life as a mom?

My best advice for new moms is to let go of any guilt associated with spending time away from your child. Finding people to take care of Rosalee who love her as much as I do was good for me and for her. I think that all women should get in the habit of taking care of themselves for at least an hour or two a day. Its good for our sense of well-being and is also a good example for our kids as they get older.

7. What are some of your race goals for 2012?

I have always wanted to have a great race in Hawaii (Ironman World Championships). In 2008 I finished 20th there having cramped up on the bike. The new qualifying system for pros means I have to race to earn points to get on the startlist, so that’s what I am doing this year. And of course, I am always looking for that elusive Ironman win!

Athlete-Mom Interview: Carrie Atwood

Carrie and I met through the LUNA team. As well as the Pro team, there are 26 Local Luna teams (run, cycling, mountain bike or triathlon focused) all over the United States (and yes, I’m hoping we can get some in Canada soon). You can read more about each local team on the Luna Chix website. Carrie is a member of the Team LUNA Chix Triathlon team in Seattle (which you can read more about below). She lives just outside of Seattle in Sammamish with her husband Eric, her 7 year old daughter Seamus, and 6 year old son, Sirus. I think I’ll need to go visit this area as it sounds like an Xterra triathlete’s dream training place – Carrie can run to work, there are 4 lakes within a few minutes drive, and 5hrs of mountain biking right out their doorstep, which are well maintained trails that have had over 100hrs of volunteer work done on them each year! Read on to hear about how Carrie’s modern family balances work, family, and play…

Carrie and son, Sirus

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?
I did my first road century when I was 15 but never raced or road bikes competitively. I was on the crew team my freshman year in college but was always sick and full of injuries, so I didn’t continue. After that I didn’t do much except the occasional rec league softball or soccer team. After some encouragement from an old boss, I decided to try mountain bike racing and was hooked. It’s how I met my husband! I raced a few years at the sport level, but when work became unbearable and racing was no longer fun, I stopped. It wasn’t until after I had my kids that I switched to triathlons and got my athletic groove back!

2. What has motivated you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?
Pre-kids it was about trying to get in shape, having fun, hanging out with friends and meeting new people. I didn’t care about goals or winning or any of that. It really was just a way to pass the time and stay out of trouble. Since having kids, I am actually competitive for the first time in my life! I set goals and I want to exceed those goals. I am more focused all around and while I still do it to stay in shape, I hope I am also setting good examples for my kids.

Out for a beautiful NW training ride!

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family?
I try to get my workouts done in the morning so that when I come home in the evening I can concentrate on my family. If I do my work out in the evening, I spend that morning time with them, eating breakfast together and planning for the day. I also try to make sure I spend some one-on-one time with each of them every day, even if it is only a few minutes at bed time. There have been times when I have left the house before the kids wake up and gotten home after they are asleep. Sometimes I feel sad about not seeing them, and wonder if I am being selfish, especially when they hang on me asking me to please not go out for another bike ride. But I know I am a better mom because of my training and racing. I’m calmer, more patient and more confident. If the sadness gets too bad, which sometimes it does, I’ll skip a workout and spend extra time with them. I am also very lucky because I have a great husband who is also athletic so he understands. As a bonus, he is a stay at home dad and manages everything at home. It really allows me to spend my at home time with the family.

Racing as a LUNA Chix

4. Can you tell me more about how you made the decision to have Eric stay home and how that has worked for your family?
We joke that being a stay at home dad was one of the negotiating tactics I used in order to have a baby- I told him he’d have all kinds of time to train, etc. Ha! He was his fastest the year Seamus was born, but only this year with Seamus in 2nd grade and Sirus in Kindergarten does he consistently have a regular schedule. I want him to stay home at least another year, so Sirus will be in full day 1st grade, but really, I wouldn’t mind him staying home for much much longer. I like things the way they are. One of the other girls on our Seattle team has a stay at home dad, too. I swim with one and work with one, too. I don’t think it is for everyone, but it works for us. It was hard at first, I really had to let go, but he does a great job. Since the kids started going to school, I have learned to not mess with the morning routine at all, and its a bit weird at school functions because all the moms crowd around Eric and hardly acknowledge me, but whatever! He has also said it has been hard to crack the mom cliques too. Sometimes it’s sad because when the kids are sick or hurt, they tend to go to him first, and I get called Daddy a lot, but I think what they get from him is way worth it.

Eric and Seamus

5. Did you train during pregnancy?No. What was your approach? Lots of rest. 🙂 My first pregnancy I tried to stay sort of active but by the 5th month all I wanted to do was lay around and get huge. The 2nd pregnancy I didn’t even try to do anything because I got huge almost instantly.

6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing kids?
For new moms, I’d suggest putting that baby in a BabyBjorn or some sort of carrier and walk all over the place. Hills and more hills! There is nothing wrong with sweating a little even, just don’t run. Babies love being in those carriers, they are content and will nap, and you’ll be able to ease into getting back in shape. We have a Chariot so to make family runs or bike rides more fun for the kids, we would stop at a park or two along the way. Now that my kids are older, I can go out to the garage on the weekends and spend a few hours on the trainer while they play in the house. And again I am lucky because I actually like the trainer and treadmill, so my advice would be to learn to love them. My husband and I have gym dates, where we swim or lift weights together while the kids are in the gym’s kids club (which luckily they love!), and most of my social activities with my friends are spent running or biking. This serves double duty: I’m getting in my girl time, I am getting in a workout, and an added bonus of that I’m not out spending my kid’s future college tuition on drinks or restaurant food. There is of course a time and a place for all of that, but if I can kill a few of those birds with one workout, then that leaves more time to be with my kids.

7. And of course can you tell me about the local Luna Triathlon team you’re are a member of? What are you favourite group workouts to do in and around Seattle? 
I am headed into my 5th season with Team LUNA Chix in Seattle and for 2012, I am going to be one of the team co-leaders! I love being part of Team LUNA Chix and meeting women who are interested in triathlon. One of my favorite things is hearing the stories from the newer ladies who are just beginning to realize what they can actually accomplish. Some of our most inspiring workouts are the mini-tris that we have a few times each summer. It gives the ladies a chance to swim, bike and run, practice transition and test their race strategy in a super short distance, low key, low pressure environment before their big day! I love the LUNA Chix and encourage all women interested in triathlons to check us out at our website and come to one of our workouts.

Team Luna Chix Tri Team in Seattle

Athlete-Mom Interview: Madelaine Bate

Madelaine or “Maz” and I met while racing the Canada Cup mountain bike races about 10 years ago! Since then she has become the mother of 5 year old Eva and 2 year old Liam. While living in Calgary with her husband Lonn, who has also remained very active and competitive on his bike as well, Madelaine has continued to stay fit and set challenging and compeitive goals mountain biking and running! She recently went on a solo adventure to compete in the Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships in Wales! After running a blazing 3:10 at the Boston marathon in April she will soon be off to conquer the marathon distance again in New York City on November 5th! Here is what she had to say about how her athletic journey has progressed and evolved into motherhood….

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

Starting in Grade 3 I became a competitive runner and cross country skier.  I competed in biathlon through my late teens. I was a member of the Junior National Biathlon team and competed at the World Junior Biathlon Championships in 1992.  I enjoyed adventure racing in my mid to late twenties before discovering a love for mountain bike racing. I raced my mountain bike at the elite level for about 5 years before I had my daughter.  I continued to race some enduro mountain bike races post partum and still do when I feel like it.  Presently I’m running road marathons and I am planning to run some off-road ultra marathons in 2012!

2. What motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?

It’s fun!  I love it!  I feel inspired! I’ve been competing for about 30 years- it’s something that I’ve always done and enjoy.  I have a passion for competition and I love to push my body.

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family?

I go out for early morning runs (morning is a good time for me) before my husband goes to work.  We own a chariot!  It’s amazing how active you can be with one.  My family (especially my husband) and friends are very supportive.  I’m also active as part of the work I do, I teach cross country skiing & a spin class.

4. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?

I wasn’t on an official ‘training program’.  But I did keep very active throughout.  I did what felt good.  I cross country skied, roller bladed, mountain biked (at Nose Hill Park close where I live in Calgary), hiked, and walked a lot.  I continued to teach skiing & spin classes until about 6 months. My approach was to do what feels good and listen to my body.

5. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing kids?

Take care of yourself, get enough rest (easier said than done), eat good quality food and do something that you’re passionate about.  Don’t rush into ‘training’ post partum because your body will take a while to fully recover. It’s also such a short time that your kids are young so be sure to savour it!  Enjoy those precious moments, as there will always be another race : )

Maz at the end of a grueling 25km trail running race in Canmore!

Athlete-Mom Interview: Elinor Fish

Elinor and I met while at the University of Victoria and we were on the cross-country running team togther for a year before I transferred to the the University of Washington. We met up randomly about 10 years later at a trail running race in Canmore, Alberta. She has continued to push the distance and is now running ultras and encouraging other women and moms to stay active through her company, Run Wild Retreats, which organizes trail running and yoga adventures for women. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, and two year old son, Reed.

1. Tell me about your athletic background prior to becoming a mom.

I began running competitively in high school and ran middle-distance track and cross country at the University of Victoria. Our team won the Canadian inter-university cross-country championships in 1998 which was a great way to end my college racing career. After graduation, I moved to the Canadian Rockies and discovered trail running. I ran my first ultramarathon, Alberta’s Lost Soul Ultra 50K in 2003, and decided that I preferred going long and steady than short and fast. During that time I was freelance writing, and in 2006, moved from Canada to Colorado to join the team at Trail Runner magazine as managing editor.

It was truly a dream job in that it afforded me opportunities to travel and run trails in places like Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile, and compete in races like the week-long GORE-TEX TransRockies Run. I loved that my job involved gleaning wisdom from some of running’s biggest names, though I confess to getting rather star-struck when meeting famous runners like Kara Goucher, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Scott Jurek.

After almost five years there, I left Trail Runner in January to pursue PR and marketing at Backbone Media, and expand Run Wild Retreats, a company I founded to organize trail running and yoga adventures for women.

2. What motivates you to continue setting athletic goals since becoming a mom?

Last summer, when my son was just one and a half, I ran the Leadville Trail 100-miler, my first single-day century race. My only goal was to finish–and I did–but barely. It was the toughest race of my life, but I wanted to do it because, after taking on a new role as mom, I had to prove to myself that I was also still a runner. I had feared losing that part of myself because I was struggling with being a mom and managing a full-time career.

Through the process of training for a 100-miler, I realized that running played a very different role in my life now than it had before I became a mom. Slipping out for a one or two-hour trail run or grounding yoga class was a necessity–not just a treat–that I needed in order to be effective in my other life roles as wife, mom and employee.

Knowing I wasn’t the only hard-working, frazzled, wanna-be runner mom on the planet, I decided to take my ideal recipe for rejuvenation (nature, trail running and yoga) and package it into the Run Wild Trail Running and Wellness Retreat for Women. The two retreats we’ve held so far have drawn diverse women from across the country together for four days in the wilderness running trails, doing yoga, talking about our bodies, our goals and our challenges.

As soon as one retreat ends, I can’t wait to begin planning the next, and right now that’s what motivates me to run. Running improves my quality of life and my goal is to share that experience with other women. In order to preach it, I must first live it.

3. How do you balance training with family?

My husband, Rob is incredibly supportive. He’s active as well and understands how important running is to me (and is quick to point out when a run would improve my mood). On weekends, we negotiate time for our respective sports and time as a family. When Reed was little, I often pushed him in the Chariot or carried him in the backpack during brisk hikes. Now at 2 1/2, he prefers to be independently mobile, so we do short family hikes or ride bikes together. When I want to go for a longer trail run of 4 or 6 hours, it’s all about trades–trading time with my husband or trading babysitting with friends who have kids.

And I’ve embraced the value of short runs, especially during the week. I may run for 15 minutes between day-care drop off and the start of my work day, then run for 45 minutes at lunch. And if I only have time for 30 minutes at lunch, then I’ll make sure it’s a quality 30 minutes. All those shorts runs count as training if you make them count.

Even though it can feel crazy hectic sometimes, one of motherhood’s best gifts is having no time to procrastinate. Training happens because I either plan ahead or snatch the opportunity (I always have running shoes and clothes with me in case I get a chance to slip out).

Elinor and son, Reed

4. What was your approach to training during pregnancy?

I was lucky that my running partner and close friend Joy was pregnant at the same me! We kept one another motivated, even as our bodies changed and running with a passenger became more difficult. We’d plod along together and laugh at our pokey pace.

I listened to my body’s signals and gradually slowed my pace and reduced my mileage as it felt necessary. I was lucky to have a very healthy pregnancy and was able to run through the 8th month, changing to power walking and hiking during the last month. I have friends–who happen to be pro athletes–who did a lot more training while pregnant than I did, but I took the excuse to be little lazy, sleep more, hang out on the couch and watch movies.

5. What advice do you have for other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing life with kids?

Be honest with yourself about what role your sport plays in your life right now. How important is being your fittest relative to being the kind of mom you want to be? Knowing where your priorities truly lie will help you make time for what’s most important. Your daily priorities should reflect what you value most, and if they don’t, stress will result because you’ll never have enough time for everything you want to do.

6. Which was tougher, the Leadville Trail 100 or childbirth?

Both events were much tougher than I had anticipated. We’d planned a home birth for Reed, complete with birthing pool and a midwife. But after more than 27 hours of labor, it was clear I had to go to the hospital, where I eventually had an emergency C-section.

At Leadville, my electrolytes were off balance and I began to retain water. By the 75-mile mark, I had gained about 5 pounds and my feet were so swollen I could barely walk. Those final 25 miles was the longest walk of my life. To reach the finish, I had to draw from mental and physical reserves that I didn’t know I had.

While I had achieved my goal in both–to birth a healthy baby and finish my first 100-miler, neither event had happened the way I had expected. It was hard not to feel disappointed, but after some time, I’ve learned to be less concerned with controlling situations and more concerned with accepting change and adapting to it on the fly. The most successful parents and ultrarunners I know seem to be masters at this.

7. Are you training for any races in the near future?

I am going to Boise, Idaho in October for the Foothills Frenzy 50K, a race organized by some women who had attended a Run Wild retreat last year. We had so much fun together during the retreat and I expect it will be just as much when we reunite in Boise for the race. I look forward to running hard and having fun, but I am equally looking forward to maintaining these friendships forged from a shared love of trail running.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Brandi Heisterman-Houlding

Brandi and I go way back, we met running track against each other at the club level in junior high. After many years, I saw Brandi again for the first time racing mountain bike nationals last summer in Canmore, where she rocked to a 7th place finish in the elite women’s race. Brandi lives with her family in Whistler, B.C., works as a high school teacher and has developed some mad technical skills on the bike in her spare time! After a solid mountain season in which she entered her first World Cup races, came second at the famous Test of Metal, and 7th at Nationals, she recently decided to dabble in Xterra and placed second in the Pro division at the Xterra Canada Championship. In another refreshing athlete-mom’s perspective, Brandi talks about balancing her life on the bike and life with her family which includes husband, Jay, 5 year old daughter Kianna, and 3 year old son, Hunter.

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

I started running cross country and track at age 7 for the Nanaimo Track and Field Club.  I was a competitive runner until I was 14, then I realized that I wanted to play metro soccer, ski, and play highschool basketball.  I am 3rd born in a family of 4 competitive  siblings.  I never wanted to be left behind, or complain. It made me tough for sure.  I played Varsity soccer and ran track at UVIC (University of Victoria), so have always been involved in sports at a high level.  I love competing; whether it be paddle board races with friends and family at the cottage, loonie races against the local men in Squamish, or the beep test with my grade 10 PE boys class. Win or lose, I love it.

2. What motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?

I didn’t think I would want to race anymore after kids, so I bought a non- race bike, a Julianna Santa Cruz, and I really started to enjoy descending.  I started going out with friends and riding tough trails. I still trained tons with my kids in the chariot, so I got fit again.  I went into a loonie race after my second was born and won, and realized that my race days weren’t over, yet!  Since then, I found that setting competitive goals has allowed me the balance I need in my life.  Racing and riding bikes is my personal time.  I don’t need the spa, I don’t go shopping, or on girl’s party weekends.  I just like to ride, with friends, or solo.  Mountain biking to me is like the thrill of skiing with the exercise component.  And, my toes don’t freeze!

3. How did you get into mountain biking and mountain bike racing?

I moved to Whistler in 2004 and got a Rocky Mountain Oxygen, 3 inch hardtail.  I hadn’t done much time on the mountain bike, but I had spent a few years riding a road bike in Victoria.  My sister and boyfriend (now husband) are rad mountain bikers, so I was determined to learn.  I was a spazz for sure, but could climb.  I went in my first loonie race and was 4th, the second loonie race I won, and I got 50 bucks.  I was hooked.  I realized that my overall fitness from road cycling and running allowed me to go fast, I just have to work on my technical skills.  Not hard to do in Whistler, where there are technical trails everywhere.  I love riding with my girlfriends, as we encourage and empower each other to try new stunts.  I did only local races before I had kids, and now with two little ones, have started to race nationally and internationally.  We get faster after kids, right?!?!

4. How do you balance training and racing with your family?

This year has been a learning year of balancing racing and family.  In previous years, I did a lot of my fitness training with the chariot.  But this year, I had a coach, and needed to ride and race without the kids.  I try to schedule rides when the family is sleeping (early am), or when the kids are at Montessori, and I go to the gym in the evenings when kids go to sleep.  I think it is a difficult balance for sure… I try to keep my husband happy and not overwhelmed.  I often hire my students (I am a highschool teacher), to watch the kids, as this is easier and less stressful than waiting for my husband to get home from work and say, “Here you go, I’m off for 3 hours”.

5. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?

I was fortunate to have awesome pregnancies.  Aside from some sickness from months 3-5, I was able to stay lean and fit during both pregnancies.  My first child is a girl, and I was unable to ride with her in my tummy, as I carried her so high, like right under my ribs, ouch.  I hiked under the gondola in Whistler with my dog, and swam everyday from 5months-birth. I swam the day she was born!  I loved the pool, as you can push a bit harder as the cool water keeps your heartrate so low.  I also found it was a relief on my back from the baby bump.  When I was pregnant with my 2nd, I carried him very low, and was able to ride my mountain bike on roads with my daughter in the bike seat or chariot.  I rode until 35 weeks.  I swam as well with my son inside, but only a few days a week, as I had my daughter with me most of the time!

6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing a family?

I try to communicate to my husband and kids that the training and racing is not the most important thing in my life, they are.  I try not to talk “shop”, too much to my husband, I save the bike talk for my friends on long road rides.  I find this difficult, as sometimes I am bursting with enthusiasm about a particular workout or race, but I have to remember that my husband has just been playing with the kids for hours and hours, and there are plenty of other things in life to talk about.  I try to take the focus off me and cycling.  When I am with my kids, I take time to focus on them, I don’t clean my bike, do emails about racing, talk on the phone; I try and give them my undivided attention.  These are things that have been working for me!  You have to be very organized with meals and activities.  I often have art projects ready for the babysitters so the kids will have fun while I’m gone, rather than miss me.  One great piece of advice that my coach gave me is: “It is cheaper to get a babysitter than couples counselling!”

7. Any upcoming events you are training for? Next season?

I have just finished my first full season as an elite xc mountain bike racer.  I went in an Xterra  race for fun, and had a blast.  This fall, I am trying to squeeze in some swims and runs, while teaching at the highschool, and will hopefully be ready for Xterra World Championships in Maui this October.  I will race at least one more mountain bike season in 2012, hitting two North American World Cups, and Canadian Nationals in July.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Tanis Banks-Tomlin

I first met Tanis while racing the Canada Cup circuit on the mountain bike about 8-9 years ago. She is a rocket descender on the mountain bike. Two kids later she has still found time to compete and has caught the Xterra racing bug as well. She was recently the 2nd female at Xterra Alberta. Tanis lives in Cranbrook, B.C. with her husband Shawn, 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Here is what she shared about balancing her “racing bug” with a family….
1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?
I think I was around 23 when I bought my first mountain bike, I remember feeling great out there biking, and from my first ride, I knew I wanted to race, and even though I wasn’t very good at first, it was fun, and I felt fast, and it gave me this confidence in myself that I had never felt before! Riding changed my life, the confidence I felt out riding carried over to every other aspect of the my life. It gave me confidence to try other things and get my life back on track :o)
I started mountain bike racing the following year, and loved it!! I was racing in the Pro-elite cateogory a short 2 years later! I would follow the BC Cup and Canada Cup series and placed within the top 10 at Nationals each year I competed (I think my placing was 7th at Nationals for 2 years)
2. What motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?
No matter what life brings, and what changes….I just can’t shake this racing bug!! After having my daughter Avery, now 5 years ago. I felt like myself again immediately! I was out racing (myself) 3 weeks later. I love the feeling of going hard, of going fast. I still wanted to be fast! Three years ago our son was born, life got busier, crazier, and I also owned a successful children’s store….and I still wanted to race!! I love the changes having children brought to my life, but I wanted to still race, to not have that part change. Looking back pre-kids, riding and racing was easy, now I go for a ride, and I just feel the need to be home….there always seems to be a rush to just get it done… kids still tend to have a hard time letting me go for a ride…more often than not, I leave crying children behind, and it breaks my heart.
My goals were a little bit vague during this time as well, but I knew there was something out there to train for. As there were not too many mtb races in the area during this time, I started some triathlon training. I was the cycling coach for the local tri-club and I loved the training groups and the added challenge of the swimming and running!
3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family?
For me, it’s all about the early mornings (except during the summer). I get all my workouts done before my husband goes to work. This assures that my workouts won’t get missed. I have to be organized and creative…running with babies, I used to sit Avery in her car seat while I did spin classes and ran on the treadmill at the gym! I don’t travel very far for races anymore. I stay close to home and bring the family along, camping and exposing them to beautiful areas and fun places! The family comes first…even though I am doing this for myself.
4. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?
I thought I would have the pregnancy thing nailed, figured I would breeze through it, feeling awesome and still being active, but it was the opposite. I felt terrible during both my pregnancies, and didn’t exercise at all!!! I ate terribly and just wanted to sleep!! I had tons of work to do after…but I enjoyed the challenge of getting it back!
5. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing kids?
I think we have to be creative, use the small bits of time we have to get what we need done! Try to enjoy getting yourself back, and enjoy your “you” time!  Be easy on yourself sometimes too, often we are left feeling pulled and torn between two worlds.
Next up, Tanis will be racing at the Xterra Canada Championship in Whistler on September 4th….

Athlete-Mom Interview: Amy Golumbia

Amy grew up in Canmore, Alberta and now lives in Calgary, Alberta. She has a private nutritional consulting business called Jump Start Nutrition, and is raising 6 year old twin girls, Jasmine and Natlie (pictured here at their first triathlon!). She is a superstar trail runner and also rips it up on the road from time to time. The rare time our schedules fit, she makes a great training partner. Here’s what she had to say about balancing family, work, and her passion for running….

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

I started running in high school for the cross country team.  That took me through to running for U of A and Mount Royal while I was there, which was a great experience all round.  It was hard to balance full time school with working and training though and I remember being pretty tired. Plus eating on a university budget and trying to compete at that level is always less than optimal but that’s the way it is!

2. What has motivated or motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother?

I’m not sure that it’s a choice anymore.  It’s just a part of who I am.  I like to change it up and I race so that I have goals in mind when I’m training otherwise I don’t know that I would get out of bed on those early morning runs in -20!  I guess to some extent it’s become part of who I am and I love the running community and the people I’ve come to know through it.

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with raising twins?

I think I’ve had to learn to let go.  To accept that sometimes my house isn’t as clean as I want, that the grass didn’t get cut when it should have.  Plus you have to learn to multi task, as so many women do.  I usually remember to do my makeup as I’m pulling into the office.  A lot of my social time has become time with friends who run.  It was funny the other day I had breakfast with a running friend and I got really annoyed that I had to go for my run first and then meet up with him and that we couldn’t just do our visiting while running.  Yikes!  🙂  He had just done a 55k run the day before and needed a day off.
Now that the girls are in school it makes training a little easier but honestly I’ve used the chariot with them for most of their lives.  I just had to get more and more creative with the things I gave them to keep them busy once they wouldn’t nap in the chariot any more!  Now that they are a combined weight of 90lbs it’s a little less realistic to run with them but it still happens when I’m desperate!

4. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?

I ran up until about 5 months and then when I popped I had to stop.  Shortly after that I was put on bed rest for 2 months and that’s when I took up swimming as I could do it as long as I was horizontal!  My approach was that I had always run and so why would I stop doing something that my body was already used to?  I figured if I could conceive twins then I could continue to exercise moderately as it made me feel good about myself.  I just had to slow down a bit.  I was hungry ALL the time though!

5. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing life with kids?

I guess if you’re competitive I would suggest that you treat it like a job, because it is.  It takes a lot of time and effort and planning and eating properly.  If I wanted to give other moms advice it would be that you deserve at least 1-2 hours to yourself a day and if running is the thing that makes you feel good, then do it.  And find other moms who understand you and that you can run with.  It has been really important for my kids to see that I have a passion that I am willing to dedicate my time to.  I always thank them for letting me go for a run and giving up mommy time.  It’s pretty hard some days but I always come back feeling better and that makes me a better mom!

6. You work as a holistic nutritionist, what does that mean?

A holistic nutritionist is trained in various holistic modalities.  Essentially it means that you treat the person as a whole package vs just analyzing their diet.  Food is never just about the food, especially for women.  There is always a story and because food is so integral to our lives, a choice we make every day at least three times a day, it carries a lot of meaning.  I work mainly with whole foods whenever possible, some supplements but I absolutely LOVE my job and in the past few years have really learned a lot more about auto-immune and chronic conditions and how to address them and alleviate some of the symptoms through balanced nutrition.  Nutrition is so foundational to health, even the docs tell me that.  But they figure everyone is too busy and just wants a pill.  Having been in nursing before, I would way rather empower individuals to take their health into their own hands than give their healing power away to a pill or a doctor.

7. Do you have any tricks to encourage your daughters to eat healthy?

I don’t know that there are tricks.  We talk about where food comes from.  We go to the store together and talk about what foods are on their level vs on mommy’s level.  It’s really about balance.  The Weston A Price foundation is a great resource for parents.  Kids actually need a lot of good fats and proteins to grow and develop properly so “healthy” is very different for kids than it is for adults.  If there is one “trick”… it would be that when kids prepare the food with you they just love to eat it.  Because they own it a little more.
But essentially, kids are attracted to foods with lots of flavor and nutritional value.  They tend to gravitate towards those foods.  So if you’re feeding them fruit and veg that has traveled thousands of miles, was grown in depleted soil, it won’t taste good.  To anyone.  It’s worth the investment to go organic and as local as possible.  And plant a garden.  I know we have a short growing season but it really connects kids to where food comes from!

8. What is the next big event you are training for?

I leave for Trans Rockies in just over a week.  That has been my goal race for the year.

(Note: The Trans Rockies Run is a six-day stage race taking place Aug 21-26 in Colorado. Runners race in teams of two and cover 119.5 miles (192.3km) with 20 800 feet of elevation gain! Find out more and follow the race at www.

Athlete-Mom Interview: Sari Anderson

One of my goals in writing this blog is to share some inspiration from other active moms. This is my first interview with Sari Anderson. Sari and I met while racing Xterra. Now a mom of two, 4 year old Juniper and 1 year old Axel, Sari hasn’t slowed down much and has inspired me to keep making training and racing goals. You can learn more about Sari and follow her adventures on her blog. Sari lives with her husband Ian and two children in Colorado and is currently preparing for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race!

Here is what she had to share….

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?

Before becoming a mother, I raced as an adventure racer with Team Nike winning a world championship title as well as many other elite events. I also raced mountain bikes as a pro as well as ran trail races and kayaked. There was no training schedule or coaches or structure. I worked full time as a business manager for a plumbing contractor so I trained in the evening and pretty much all weekend.

2. What motivates you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?

Since becoming a mother I have become more motivated and goal oriented as far as my athletic career goes. Before kids, I could race and train when I wanted to. I could travel for long periods of time with only a lot of work to come back to. With kids, I now have to choose my races based on our family schedule and what makes the most sense for my career. This means less worldwide travel and shorter races that the family can usually attend. However, the big difference is that if I am going to take the time away from my family and my work in order to train and compete, then I had better make it worthwhile. I’m usually there to win or prove something to myself. There is no longer racing just to race.

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family?

From the first week we arrived home from the hospital with our first child, my husband Ian and I figured out balance and ‘the handoff’. This means that on the weekends we usually either split days or the weekend in order for both of us to get good training sessions in as well as quality time with the kids. Now with two kids and still working part-time, I often train early in the morning while everyone else is asleep. The remainder of my training is done with the kids in the Chariot while running, cycling and skiing. Training with the kids is one of my favorite things as the kids love to be outside and it makes me much stronger. I also added a coach after having our second child in order to maximize my training time giving me quality over quantity. Despite getting in only about 10 hours per week of training, which is significantly less than my competitors, I feel that I am much stronger now than before having children. Without the amazing support of my husband, I would have a difficult time fitting it all in.

4. Did you train during pregnancy? What was your approach?

Although I ‘trained’ throughout both pregnancies, it was solely for my mental stability and to keep some endurance. I know myself well enough to know that I never could race while pregnant. I am not capable of holding myself back. I had a wonderful doctor that understood what my fitness level was coming into the pregnancies and gave me cart blanche to do what I felt comfortable with. My big guideline was to make sure I could talk somewhat comfortably while exercising. Everyone’s heart rate is different so I never wore a heart rate monitor. Some days I could run sub-8 minute miles for 8 miles while pushing the first kid and the next I may only be able to run a 10 minute mile alone. Although it was hard at times, I listened to my body and only did what felt good and comfortable which allowed me to run and cycle until the day I had both kids.

5. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing kids?

My advice to moms trying to stay active and/or competitive is to do what you can and not to worry if you miss a training session. A few missed sessions are not going to make or break your overall fitness and readiness for a competition. Also, learning to get out with the kids is so great for everyone involved. You are teaching your kids that exercise and well-being are important as well as giving them a chance to relax and recuperate. When arriving home from a training session with the kids, mom and kids are rejuvenated and everyone feels better ready to face the rest of the day.