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Training Wheels: The Sari Anderson Interview

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |April 9, 2013 1:08 AM
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Training Wheels by Jenny Smith


The athlete we are highlighting this month is Sari Anderson. Sari is a decorated endurance and multisport athlete who is a mother of two children Juniper and Axel. She is one of my favorite people to race against as I respect and enjoy her grit, abilities and her sportsmanship.

While researching Sari I came across this piece posted on Nicole Deboomís skirt sports blog

In the interview Nicole and Sari discussed the importance of listening to your body during pregnancy. Nicole commented how it can be difficult to listen to your body when you are in a new situation and donít know what to listen for. I strongly identified with Nicoleís statement. Each day of my pregnancy is a different day with dramatic changes. Mostly new and unfamiliar and it has been difficult at times to know the right things to do.

In response I have been seeking out some new tools, strategies and activities.

Yoga practice is a part of my regular routine; I have kept the practice up during my pregnancy. It has been a physical challenge learning to move with a bigger and heavier belly. It is worth it, the classes are invaluable to explore and remedy the discomfort in my changing body, mellow my emotions and all around feel better.

When you are pregnant your body produces the hormone relaxin. An effect of this is looser joints and ligaments, which means you want to be careful in regard to certain movements, in particular with your sacroiliac joints and lower back. My physiotherapist and I are using this time to continue to treat my tight feet and calves. I was born with clubfeet and have real issues because of their rigidity with my achilles tendons. We have been using Graston technique to loosen my calf and soleus muscles and have a great simple functional movement program going for hip stability.

More recently Brian and I have been going to a 6-week Hypno Babies class. This class educates about childbirth and teaches the practice of medical grade self-hypnosis. It is amazing. We are basically learning to get into a relaxed and focused state. Iím super excited about these new skills and their continued application in our lives.

I am taking away from this experience a newfound appreciation of focusing on the things we can do.

This idea leads into Sariís interview this month. Sari came off an exceptional season in 2012 realizing she needed a significant ankle operation. In the following interview we check in with her progress.

Jenny: 2012 was a very successful racing season for you are there any specific things you attribute your form and results to? 

Sari: 2012 was a great season between mountain biking, ski mountaineering and trail running. I was able to train hard for four seasons of racing with the coaching help (from Lindsay Hyman of Carmichael Training Systems) and kept things fresh with training on and off the bike. Both Ian and the kids were super supportive throughout the entire year and that motivates me to make them proud. Of course they donít really care if I win or lose, but the kids have come to expect me to have a podium shot or medal to pass on to them. Also, I really enjoy the kids to grow up learning the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle and so far they have really embraced our racing.

Jenny: Tell us about your injury and recent operation? 

Sari: All last summer, I noticed my ankle getting stiffer when I woke up. There wasn't really much pain while I was training, but it was taking it longer to loosen up each day. Finally after mountain bike marathon nationals in Bend last September, I realized how swollen and irritated my ankle truly was. I suppose I knew something was definitely wrong but I was still hopeful the MRI would show just a minor tear. But that was just wishful thinking.

Dr. Clanton, the foot and ankle specialist at Steadman Hawkins in Vail, informed me that I would not be running the 50 miler I had planned for December, nor would I be competing in ski mountaineering for the winter. My posterior tibialis tendon was completely ruptured and needed to be replaced, multiple ligaments needed to be repaired, and my calcaneus needed to be cut off and moved over a centimeter to realign my foot. I was in shock. I had no idea my injury was so serious. After a trip to California for a second opinion, which confirmed Dr. Clanton's recommendation, I went under the knife in mid-December. The actual surgery was a relief. As soon as I got home I set my mind to recovering and getting back to 100 percent. 

Jenny:   What has the rehab and recovery been like? 

Sari: When discussing my impending surgery with friends, family and strangers, everyone convinced me it would be very similar to being pregnant. OK, I thought, pregnancy was fineówith both kids I was able to run, ride and ski until the day I went into labor, so this wonít be that bad. What I never thought about, or was just in denial about, was that I would be on crutches for nine weeks and wouldnít even be able to get myself a glass of water let alone go for an easy ride or run.

After a week on the couch, I needed to get out so I ventured to the gym for some weight training. It may not have been an endorphin releasing interval session but it got my heart rate up and allowed me to feel like I was living my Ďnormalí life.

Iím now about three months out from surgery, and Iím out of the cast and only on crutches about half of the day. I can ride the trainer, swim and weight train and I'm starting to be able to get a training schedule going again. I spend much of the time I normally would be training doing physical therapy and working on recovery. Iím thankful to be getting back at it but I know I still have months of recovery before Iíll be able to go 100%.

There have been some tough days for the entire family, but there have also been some really good things that have come from me not being able to fulfill my normal duties; my 5 year old has learned to make breakfast for herself and her brother, and Ian has stepped up and proven he can make a great meal for the whole family. 

Jenny:  How has being a mother and having two children helped you in your recent recovery process? 

Sari: Being a mother to a five and a two-year-old has given me something to focus my energy on throughout the recovery process. I miss racing and training terribly, but the kids donít think any differently of me. Iím still their mother and now I have a little more time to practice reading and counting with them. Axel, our two-year-old, takes a lot of pride in the fact that he can legitimately beat me down the hallway in a race. Juniper thinks itís great to take my crutches to force me to stay put and read or play with her. Being a mother has kept my priorities straight and my self-pity minimal.

Jenny:  What are you focusing on now? 

Sari:At this point in my healing process, Iím focused on a smart recovery and listening to my body. My ankle is healing well but I know the risks of pushing it too soon. One year of recovery is a long road, but worth it when I consider the alternative Ė a fused ankle and no more mountain biking, running or skiing. Iím back to training six days a week but everything is scaled back a little and modified to be safe for my ankle.

Jenny: What are the good things that you can see coming out of this injury and rehab process?

 Sari: Throughout the rehab process, I have taken the opportunity to focus on more nutritional eating and strength training. I have always been a healthy eater but after I was diagnosed with Celiacís disease last summer, I have learned so much more regarding nutrition. Itís very intriguing to me and I have enjoyed experimenting with what my body responds to best.

Iíve also taken the rehab process to gain all the strength that Iíd been ignoring since having kids. I'm doing a lot of weight training in the gym. Despite a lack of aerobic training for the last three months, Iím leaner and stronger than I was in the height of the season last summer. Seeing these results has given me the motivation to keep this going when Iím 100 percent and racing again.

Jenny: What are your goals for 2013. 

Sari: My most important goal for 2013 is to get my ankle 100 percent. At this point Iím unsure if Iíll be able to race my mountain bike this summer. Iím hoping for some late season races and am aware they wonít be my best performances but theyíll be similar to my first races back after kids. In the meantime, it would be fun to do some road racing especially in events like the Mt. Washington Auto Road Hill Climb in New Hampshire. Iíd love to finish up 2013 with some ski mountaineering races, which will get me back into bike racing shape for 2014.

Jenny Smith is a pro cyclist for Stanís No Tubes womenís elite team. She has spent the past 13 years racing cross country, Xterra triathlon and endurance mountain bike events. She and husband Brian are expecting their first child in May of 2013. They fully expect it to be the ride of their lives as they have a child and learn to adapt to living, working and racing with a newbie. Tune in to Jennyís monthly column Training Wheels for their experiences and tips, insights and stories from other elite athletes with children.

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