Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nine with Nine Volte: Anita Werner

We led in on the first Nine with Nine Volte on Curtis with the following message:

"I am very blessed to have everyone that we have in our group," says Dwyer.  "One isn’t any more important than another. Everyone brings a personal strength to the table. We compliment each other very well.  And it isn't about running speed, but rather the positive encouragement to reach personal goals."

To be honest, I really feel this way about anyone in the group.  Everyone is a blessing in my life.

Anita is an accomplished athlete who has some new goals on the horizon.  She, like everyone else in our group, is totally self-less:  she cares about everyone.  It doesn't matter if they are running for time, running to finish, or just running for fitness.

She is very motivating and understanding of the training process, both physical and mental.

-- Bill Dwyer, Volte Founder, on Anita Werner

Anita is for "A" - Always with a smile.
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
Nine Volte:  We started Curtis off by asking him what his "A" race was.  But right now, you're just looking for "a" run.  Tell us a little bit more about what is sidelining you from running?"

Anita Werner:  Oh my goodness!  I have to follow the fun and beloved Curtis?  Oh, the pressure!

As far as being sidelined, I had a small meniscus tear that I tried to recover from first with rest and anti-inflammatories, but it didn't work.  I had meniscus repair surgery almost three weeks ago.

I am supposed to try to run a little this coming Thursday, November 7, which will be exactly three weeks after surgery.

I am recovering very well, even better than I expected, so I am hoping that I won't be sidelined much longer.

NV:  You've been an active - and competitive - endurance athlete, with a run start and focus - for at least the last ten years.  How hard has this setback been for you, especially as you looked to maybe tilt your activity more in a run-focus as opposed to a tri-focus?  And what have you learned from it to share with fellow adult athletes?

AW:  While my setback was disappointing, especially at first, this time around, it really hasn’t been that difficult.  My Volte teammates have provided such support and compassion for what I was going through, and that has kept me positive.   It also helped I was still able to cycle, swim and strength train.   And my new awesome friend, Allison Urvan, who has been sidelined at the same time, has also helped me get through, as we were able to call and cheer each other up if one of us got down.

Although I was trying to re-focus more on running, I believe this has made me realize I have some unfinished business with endurance triathlon.

What I have learned that I would share with any interested adult athletes, aside from the obvious of trying to find out what caused your sideline and figure out how to remedy it, is to try to take the time to see if God has another door waiting for you to open and check out for a while, take the extra time you now have to enjoy friends and family, support your teammates and volunteer and give back to the running community.

Giving back:  Getting ready to cheer runners on at Rocky Raccoon earlier this month
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
I also find that when I return healthy, I can use the fact I am healthy and nothing hurts as motivation and to help me mentally focus and push through the discomfort of a tough long run or speed workout.

Ok.  That wasn’t brief, but it was the best I could do.  You should see how much I erased!

NV:  Wow.  What an answer.  With that kind of energy, one day I could put off as much energy as a D battery!  Erase?  I think the new programmers of know all about that word.

We'll come back to triathlons.  Talk about your start as an athlete.  Did you compete in high school or college or were you an adult onset athlete?  The first result that pops up out there on the Internet is the 2003 Houston Marathon.

AW:  Ha!  No one told you I was an endurance talker too, did they?  Volte athletes have so much energy, that if you combined it all, you could light up the state of Texas!

As for being an athlete, it depends if you mean running or other sports.  I did the cheerleading stint from sixth through eighth grade and gymnastics in seventh and eighth.  I had my first track season in seventh grade, in which I ran the 440 (yep, back when it was 440, not 400).  For some reason, the school didn't have a track team in eighth grade, but I joined the track team once I entered high school.

I ran the 440 again freshman and sophomore year.  I didn't like the coach, so I decided to take up dance and joined a dance club in high school.  Dancing to this day is still one of my favorite things to do.

As far as the running goes, I didn't like the track coach so much, I decided I didn't like to run and didn't run for almost 20 years, which is when I trained for the 2003 Houston Marathon.  I did a Susan G Komen 5K and a duathlon - which was called a biathlon at the time - completely untrained that I just thought looked like fun a few years before that marathon, but I could never find those results.

NV:  Alright, now the song, "Dancing Queen", is ringing between my snaps!

That initial Houston Marathon finish was in 4:20:31 and then there was a marathon finish in San Diego in early 2005 that was 4:32-even and then that fall is when things - perhaps looking from the outside -- started to change and you really invested a lot in your running -- and it paid off, leading to a Boston Qualifier (BQ) in Houston followed by a trip to Boston later that April.

AW:  Great!  Now that song will be stuck in my head all day!  I'm going to have to make my son do dishes tonight so he puts his iPod on his country music so we can sing and two-step between the pots and pans to get that out of my head!  One of our favorite mother/son things to do.

Anita at the track with her son
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
So there's a question in there somewhere, huh?  Yes, my first two marathons, I trained to finish, and I had a great time doing it that way.  Although, being true to the majority of marathoners, even if it's only to correct a time about seconds (in my case two minutes or less), I don't know why that marathon in San Diego reports the gun time and not the chip time.  It was 4:30, but I do not recall the seconds.

Yes, I decided I could improve my time, since I hadn't been training for time up to that point.  I had never truly done any consistent and real speed work before then, including high school track, and didn't realize the impact it had.  I moved back to Houston from San Diego at the end of July 2005 and started speed work the beginning of August with Katy Fit's ATP group and had dramatic results.

At the beginning of the season, my goal was four (4) hours and then try to qualify for Boston the following year.  Within a few months, I was extremely surprised at the Warm-up Series results and had been encouraged by more experienced runners to adjust my goal for a Boston BQ for Houston's 2006 marathon in January.

NV:  Take us through the next stages of your running.  Was Chicago - with an impressive 3:16:35 -- later that fall your PR race?  You came home, you ran 1:51:31 in the 25K and 2:14:43 in the 30K (just seven minutes shy of your 25K the year before), but Boston and New York the following year were in the mid 3:40s (still very impressive, but not this new level that you had recently achieved).

AW:  Yes.  My 2006 Chicago Marathon was my PR.

Multiple things took place to hinder my race times and training within the same time frame.  First, I did have a minor injury a few weeks after the 30K.  I took a risk running so many long distance races so close together, and I fared well until I failed to take recovery time and continued with speed work and high mileage.  This also caused me to DNF in the 2007 Houston Marathon, which was a race I wanted to do well.

After Houston 2007, I finally took some time to recover and fell behind for Boston training.  I decided to enjoy it, not worry about time and high five every kid with a hand out.  For New York, I felt recovered and felt I was trained for about 3:30, but I made the mistake of wearing not well-tested new shoes that didn’t work well with the concrete hilly bridges of New York.  My tailbone was in severe pain by mile 15.

For my 2005 and 2006 seasons, my husband had a rare period of not traveling.  Being the great, supportive husband and father that he is, he afforded me the luxury to focus on my running those years, as we have two kids and they were pretty young at the time.

When he began to travel again towards the end 2006, I wanted to spend more time at home and tone down my running efforts.  During training for New York 2007, we also started making plans to move to Cairo, Egypt, which added to a change in priorities.

I train hard when life permits, but when it comes to my family, they will always come first.

NV:  Egypt.  Wow.  I don't think Athlinks was able to crack the Sphinx for your results there!

Seriously, discuss your opportunities to stay physically fit while in Egypt.  And when you came home, the shift was on to multisports.  What - or possibly who - was the motivation for that athletic transition?

AW:  No, Athlinks is neither all inclusive nor 100% accurate, but they do a pretty good job.  And my son says the Sphinx is smaller than you would think.  I personally thought it was the size I expected.

I want so much to try to give a short, concise answer, but to explain my fitness opportunities overseas and introduction to multi-sport isn't a simple answer for me.  So here goes…

The Wadi
(Photo courtesy of Anita Werner)
Some of my most fun running memories were in Egypt.  There was this place called The Wadi.  It was a small canyon with a dried up riverbed that people used as a trail, and it was located very close to where most expats lived. Being a canyon and away from the general public, it provided me a little security, and I felt free to actually wear shorts and bare my shoulders in a running tank.   Many of the expat women would also walk their dogs there every morning.

Hill running in the Wadi
(Photo courtesy of Anita Werner)
I would usually get up early and run with my Lab and time it so I would meet the other women with their dogs back at the entrance.  I would have someone bring my little dog, who couldn't run with my Lab and me, and I would go back out with my dogs and walk with the other expat women.  I also had access to the American school track, which I used a few times, but I was really focusing on the enjoyment of running in The Wadi with my dog as the sun rose.  It was spectacular!  So I actually kept up my fitness pretty well there.

There was also a group of very strong cyclists that rode early morning Fridays, which was "Prayer Day" in Egypt and not much traffic on the roads.  Drivers in Cairo seemed to view the dividing lines in the road that divide traffic (if there were any lines) as optional.  Even with little traffic, I found it not worth the danger after riding twice.

As far as swimming, there were options, but I found the restrictions of making sure there were no men around before or after you get out of the pool, as you shouldn't be seen in a swimsuit, a bit overwhelming.

Although I did meet one incredible American woman in Cairo, who trained there and has qualified for Kona several times.   She was able to push through those training barriers that I found difficult.  So it is possible to train for triathlon in Egypt.

Before moving to Egypt, I already had it in my mind to try triathlon.  I was in the Cinco Ranch Triathlon in the relay as the runner two years in a row, and it piqued my interest.  I also did a duathlon in Webster in 2007.  I had been cycling once in a while as cross training for about a year before my move and even did the Katy Flatlands Century in 2006 or 2007, I don't recall for sure which year.  My interest piqued even more when I moved to Singapore the year after moving to Egypt.

Singapore is an excellent place to run, but I unfortunately got a bad case of plantar fasciitis and was only able to run a couple months until it got so bad I was completely sidelined from running.  I again found an amazing cycling group that had many triathletes and began cycling more seriously there.  Some reading this may even know one of the people I met in my cycling group in Singapore, as he moved to The Woodlands a year after I moved back to the Houston area.  I met and rode with Winston Cervantes in my cycling group in Singapore (along with Todd Whittemore, now from Katy), who have both done many triathlons in the Houston area.  We even had a little Singapore reunion at the inaugural Ironman Texas, as we all three did the race.

Just before moving back from Singapore to the Houston area again, literally days before, I tore my meniscus lifting weights and then proceeded to do hill repeats on my bike the next day.  This again affected my running, and I again joined a group of triathletes that rode their bikes near my home in Fulshear, and the triathlon influence took hold once I had my meniscus repaired and finally got rid of that plantar fasciitis.

NV:  Three questions left.  So you really hadn't done anything more than a sprint triathlon when Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas was announced (which, of course, you signed up for and completed).  If Ironman Texas wasn't immediately on the horizon, would you have waited a little longer to bite off that challenge?  Did you sign up day one?  Obviously the pinnacle for a triathlete is to compete in Kona as Boston is for a runner; however, describe the emotions of finishing Ironman Texas versus running at Boston twice.

AW:  Yes, my intention was to wait a little bit longer to do the Ironman distance.  The plan was a few of us from our riding group were all going to sign up and train together, and I thought that sounded like fun.  So yes, I signed up the first day.  Then I ended up moving to Pennsylvania January of that year.

The move caused me to not be able to get consistent with my training until the beginning of February, so I was a bit worried about being ready.  I had done a total of three sprint triathlons before moving, but two were pool swims.  The one triathlon with an open water swim was only 300 meters (which I panicked and doggie paddled across the lake), so that was a great concern since there were not going to be any triathlons up north before Ironman Texas because of the time of year.

I ended up coming back for Kemah Olympic and Galveston 70.3 to get a little open water experience. I also had to do the training by myself with all my rides on the trainer because of the cold winters in Pennsylvania. It was not what I had planned.  If I had known I was moving, I would not have signed up.  So I'm happy I didn't know I was moving, because I am glad I did it.  It was a really fun race.

I know it may sound kind of odd, but I have never really been one to be super emotional at the finish line.

There is no doubt there is always the feeling of accomplishment, and I am always very happy after a major accomplishment, like a PR, Boston qualifying or completing Boston, and Ironman Texas was no exception.

For me, it is the experience of the race and reflecting on what got me there.

I am extremely happy my first Ironman was Ironman Texas. I had forgotten just how many people I know in the running and triathlon community in Houston.  Not only was my family there to cheer me on, but I saw someone at every turn in Ironman Village and on and along the course. I had so much joy having so many people all over the event that I knew, because I have been a part of the truly special and amazing running and triathlon communities in Houston.  I felt like I was with friends and family the entire event, and I never went long before a friendly face I knew was cheering me on.  It is a day that I will never forget.

NV:  Fantastic.  We're in the last two innings of the baseball game, so to speak.  You've accomplished much.  You've seen a good bit of the world.  Great family.  Great friends.  Any unfinished business athletically?

AW:  I feel like I have yet to do "my best" at the Ironman distance.  I am signed up for Ironman Wisconsin next year, and will perhaps do one more after that, but I am not sure yet.  After that, I will probably keep running, perhaps add some trail running, possibly an ultra.  I plan to focus on the fun of the run.

Fun, yet focused
(Photo courtesy of Bill Dwyer)
If the competitive side of me gets ignited again, then I may train for time again on the run, but unless that happens, I will just enjoy my running and my fellow runners.  Bill has done a great job of keeping the run fun for me, so I am just happy to be with Bill and Volte.

NV:  You've shared so much with us and we're very appreciative of you and your time. Final question is:  "You're asked to speak to newer athletes, regardless of discipline. What three things would you tell them to keep in the forefront of their mind about life and sport."  Thank you again for participating in Nine with Nine Volte!

AW:  It was my pleasure.  I am honored to be asked about my athletic history.

Three things I would tell new athletes if asked, in no particular order, are:

Never let others define you or tell you what you should or cannot do because of your background, age, body type or anything else.  Others can only stand in the way of your dreams if you allow them.  You are good enough and you can do what you set your mind to if you have the desire and mental focus.  It really is true that the mental aspect is 90% of your game.  But don't forget, you need to train for the 90% mental focus as well.  It doesn't just show up and take over on game day.

Once you have some experience in your sport or any aspect of life and maybe even become accomplished, don't forget to get inspiration from beginners.  Sometimes starting is the hardest part. Acknowledge that bravery and drive.  Never forget how much courage it took just to start and how much work it took to get to your level, because they are now pushing through all those barriers.  By the same token, while you are beginning and working hard and perhaps suffering through the awkwardness of beginning stages, do not diminish others' success, who are perhaps more accomplished.  Remember, even the most talented have to work hard to be at the top of their game.  Don't tell them that "It just comes easy for you."  It doesn't.

Have fun!  We already have too many things in life to make us anxious or try to bring us down.  You can be competitive, but keep it friendly competition.  Only make competitive friendly wagers if you know it won't bother you if you lose and really just serves to motivate.  For example:   Derek Bailey won't mind when I beat him in Ironman Wisconsin.  The beer he will buy me will be the best tasting beer ever.  Although, the best competition is to compete against yourself.  The only one you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.

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