Hands up, or better yet sling a diaper and raise a glass (of milk) to Colorado resident Sari Anderson. This HoneyStinger/Trek rider recently raced the 24 hrs of Moab National Championship with Max Taam. The pair bagged the win for co-ed duo; my partner Mario Correa and I took second. I spoke with the mom of 6-month old Axel and 3-year old Juniper about family, racing and what it's like to be a nursing athlete.
What is the single most challenging thing about juggling motherhood, training and racing?
Making sure everyone gets ‘their time’. It is very important for me to spend as much time as possible with my husband and children but it is also very important for my sanity for me to have ‘me’ time and get out to train and race. Sometimes it is a difficult decision to decide which should come first but each situation/ race must be looked at closely to make the best decision for everyone.
If one thing had to slip which one would it be?
If something had to slip it would most likely be the training. I feel like I could possibly train less and still have fun racing. In addition, allowing my training to slip would allow for the most time for other things. As I go back and forth in my head between racing and training being the first to slip, one thing is for sure – being a mother will hopefully be the last to slip.
Describe the emotional mix of "roles" pumping breast milk every night in Bedouin tent in Abu Dhabi during an adventure race, 6 months after your daughter was born.
Racing in Abu Dhabi I was away from my daughter for the first time since she was born. I was very excited to be back at it and racing but often while I was suffering I was questioning myself for choosing to go through that. Pumping in the tent each morning and night reminded me that I can be a racer and a mother. I found I looked at racing differently and that I was much more motivated to race more strongly in order to make sure it worth my time to be away from my daughter.
How much of that was hard mentally and physically?
The hardest part of having to pump each morning and night throughout the race was missing out on sleep time. My three male teammates would be able to get at least an hour of extra sleep each night while I pumped but I knew every second of it was worth it in the long run. Before the race, I was slightly concerned about having enough energy to race and produce milk but I was able to get through it by staying hydrated and eating everything in sight.
What was the best advice that the nursing specialist gave you to make you more confident to do race, perform and pump?
Before I raced in Abu Dhabi, I knew that the only way I could go was if I was pretty much guaranteed to be able to nurse when I returned home. I spoke with a professor in North Carolina that specialized in exercising while nursing that made me confident that if I stayed very hydrated and pumped at least twice a day I would be able to keep up enough milk production in order to nurse upon my return. She explained my production would be less than my daughter needed but that I should be able to catch back up once I was home and nursing full time. One concern for many women while racing and nursing is lactic acid in the breast milk which was something I did not have to worry about since I was pumping solely to continue production and my daughter would not be ingesting that milk. Through our correspondence and talking with other mother athletes, I was assured I was making an educated decision to race and that my body would be up to the task of racing and nursing.
Did you have to to increase you fat intake in order to produce milk while racing at that level? I really didn’t pay attention to fat intake before the race or during. I have always tried to eat fairly healthily but often that gets thrown out the door at any adventure race. I ate what I my body told me I needed which was more than my male teammates were eating.
Most say that post pregnancy testorterone levels are high. Did you notice a difference in your pre and post pregnancy training?
It is so hard for me to compare pre and post pregnancy training as there is the period of pregnancy in between in which I’m slower than normal. I have felt very fast post pregnancy but I think that’s because I’m allowed to push myself again and do some more speedwork. Post pregnancy this time I began working with a coach (for the first time in my career) from Carmichael Training Systems which has gotten back into shape much faster than after the first pregnancy. I’m not sure if it’s testosterone or if it’s just that I’ve had a nine month off season but I do feel like I have more motivation to push harder while training after delivering my kids.
Do you plan on anymore adventure racing? or mostly shorter single event racing.
I would love to do some more adventure racing if the right opportunity presented itself. Unfortunately, adventure racing is not as popular as it used to be so there are much fewer opportunities and much less money now. I’m embarrassed to say it however there needs to be good probability of making some money for me to be away from my family for so long for an adventure race.
You sit on the board of the Polartec Athlete Advisory Board. What are the greatest strides you've seen in their products recently?
Polartec is very focused on making functional fabrics for aerobic activities. I’ve had the opportunity to test some really cool prototypes that offer terrific weather protection but have much better breathability than anything else I tried and used for years.
You said you didn't use any caffiene for the race, was that because you were breast feeding?
Would you normally have used some sort of stimulant?
In previous 24 hour mountain bike races and adventure races caffeine has very much played an important role. Lindsay Hyman at Carmichael Training Systems provided me with nutrition guidelines for eating and hydrating throughout the race. I followed these guidelines fairly strictly and think I felt so great from eating and hydrating well that I never needed the caffeine. It had nothing to do with nursing as I have my cup of Chai every morning and feel like I am addicted to caffeine on a normal basis.
Did you pump before the race?
I had pumped during the week leading up to 24 Hours of Moab so I had some milk stored up for Ian to feed Axel while I was racing. I did not pump the morning of the race however I nursed Axel as normal until the start and before and after my first few laps. After that, the family went to town to enjoy a good night’s rest and I pumped between laps throughout the night.
What was your spectacular fueling plan?
Lindsay made sure that I stayed very well hydrated in order to be able to continue to feed Axel throughout the race. She also advised me away from eating too much protein during the race which is something that I normally overdo.
Which products do you use?
Throughout the 24 Hours of Moab I used the new Honey Stinger Waffles as well as the Honey Stinger Chews between laps mixed in with lots of real food. I tried to eat enough calories between laps so that I did not have to eat while on the bike however I drank 1 full bottle of Nuun electrolyte replacement on every lap.
Has being a mother made you think twice about taking more risks athletically? Are you just a little more cautious?
I find that I am more cautious on an day to day basis but when I’m racing I think I race just as hard as I used to.
Did your children cross your mind while you were racing in Moab?
My kids were in my mind throughout the entire Moab race. I am always thinking about them whether it is worrying they are behaving for my husband or if I’m hoping my active lifestyle will lead them to live active lives as well.
You said intervals compromised the bulk of your training. Was that because of your limited time or because you believe that is the best way to get sharp for this type of race?
After both my children were born, I had managed to maintain good endurance throughout the pregnancies but my power had dropped significantly. The intervals were to get the power back and fit in well with my limited training time. As I look back, the intervals were also perfect for the 24 Hours of Moab on a duo team as I felt like I had both the power for a fast lap and the endurance to race nine laps.
How many additional calories did you have to take in due to breast feeding?
On a daily basis, I eat approximately 500 to 800 additional calories depending on training. Throughout the 24 Hours of Moab, I took in almost 8,000 calories which was about an additional 2,000. I don’t think I would have been as strong without that many especially had I started to allow my weight to drop.
Did you go into this slightly sleep deprived or are your kids good sleepers?
Unfortunately my 6 month old still gets up at least twice a night so I definitely came in to the race sleep deprived but it’s all good training.
How was racing made you a better mother?
Racing has made me a better mother by getting me to appreciate my time with my family even more. I enjoy my time away but can’t wait to get back to them as soon as the race is over. I’m so thankful that Ian is so supportive of my racing and makes such an effort to be at my races with the kids. It allows me to have the best of both worlds.
What did you learn about yourself during this race?
Something that I tend to forget is that my mind is extremely powerful. As I came into the race, I was feeling like maybe I had taken on too much and was dreading the event. Once I got out there for my first few laps, I decided it wasn’t too bad and made myself turn my attitude around. I truly enjoyed the remainder of the race and reminded myself that I just have to have the right attitude which is exactly what I have to remind myself daily when the kids try my patience.
Which lap was the hardest mentally and physcially?
My first lap was the hardest both mentally and physically. It was hard to get going knowing I had 23 more hours ahead of me as well as the pressure I had put on myself to race well for our team. Thankfully, when I returned after that first lap, I realized I was riding faster than I could have hoped and it took a little pressure off mentally. Physically, laps continued to be hard but I knew better what to expect.
Did you research any teams before hand to see who you'd be racing? Did you and Max have a strategy?
My husband is great about researching racers so he had done my homework for me before the race. Of course, it just made me more nervous and put more pressure on myself. Max and I had decided to race together just a week before the race so we briefly discussed a strategy on the way to the race. Our only strategy was to continue racing every other lap unless of course one of us needed a break and the other would double up.
See Juniper rippin it here
From your family shots it looks like you are raising some little rippers. Do you hope you kids are as athletic as you and Ian?
They are certainly showing promise. Obviously athletics are very important to both Ian and I and we hope our kids enjoy the same activities that we do. That being said, of course we will support our kids in whatever they enjoy as long as it’s not sitting around being unhealthy. So far, Juniper absolutely loves to ski and ride her bike so I think she has inherited our love for the outdoors.
Who is stronger, you or Ian? Who gets to train more?
It has been a little hard on my competitive ego that Ian has gotten faster than me on the bike in the past few years. This has been due to me going through two pregnancies as well as Ian really starting to train and get much faster. Ian and I have mastered what we call the ‘hand-off’. We are very understandable of each other's desire to train so we take turns getting out and make sure we each get about the same amount of time. Some weeks Ian gets more training and the next I’ll get more.
How much does your personal life transcends into your business life?
I always say that Ian who works for Backbone Media has the dream job. It is pretty much company policy that he gets out every day to do something outside for his ‘lunch break’. He needs to live the lifestyle that he is promoting. Yep, I’m pretty jealous of that one. I work part-time as a business manager for a plumbing contractor and we don’t have the same company policy. I can’t complain though as I still get out to train on my lunch breaks with the boss’s dog and they allow me to take the time off to race.
Were you insecure about your volume rides coming into this race?
I was very concerned about the volume of riding I had completed before the 24 Hours of Moab as I had done just a small handful of longer rides. I knew I had some endurance in the bank but I had no idea how much. It was a little scary to test that endurance in a race situation but I didn’t have a choice and thankfully I had more base than I thought.
What is your off-bike training, if any. Strength work or anything like Pilates?
The majority of my off-bike training is running both on the road with the kids in the Chariot as well as on the trail. I run about 3 – 5 times per week. I also try to get in a few core training sessions per week but I have not lifted anything besides the kids for four or five years.
Do any other sports just for the fun of it? And if you weren't an endurance pro, what kind of athlete would you be?
The only sport I have time for fun is playing on the playground. I love being an endurance athlete however if I had to be another pro athlete then it would probably be an ice hockey player. I had played hockey all through my school years, playing on the guys team in high school, but chose to ignore the recruitments to play in college.