Multisport Athlete Sari Anderson on Staying Active While Raising a Family

Sitting down with an Outside in Aspen athlete

Jun 5, 2012
Outside Magazine

Multisport athlete Sari Anderson has managed to find a pursuit for every season. When we caught up with the 33-year-old endurance racer, she'd just returned from her final ski mountaineering competition of the season, Patrol des Glaciers, in Zermatt, Switzerland. At Sunday's Teva Mountain Games, she ran, biked, and kayaked her way to winning the Ultimate Mountain Challenge multisport contest. When she isn't training for or competing in back-to-back endurance races, Anderson is taking care of her kids, Axel and Juniper, ages two and five, at their home in Carbondale, Colorado. Anderson will be leading the advanced mountain bike sessions at Outside in Aspen this year.

You're perpetually in between endurance races. Did we catch you in the middle of a training session?
Today is a rest day, so I just did a short, seven-mile run. My next competition is a 70-mile mountain bike race in Colorado, so I did mountain bike intervals yesterday.

Between ski mountaineering, adventure racing, mountain biking—how do you decide where to train?
I try to spend my time close to home, near Aspen, because I have two kids. There’s great mountain biking in Aspen and throughout the valley, great singletrack that’s absolutely gorgeous. All summer long, I can usually get out on a different big three- or four-hour mountain bike ride each weekend. And the skiing's great—excuse me, my son’s trying to mow down the flowers. Mow on the lawn, please, not in the garden? Sorry about that.

How do you balance raising two young kids and maintaining a very active lifestyle?
I don’t have a lot of downtime. I usually get up and train at five in the morning, or, on a day like today, I’ll take the kids with me. My husband is super supportive. Last night, he put the kids to bed so I could get in a mountain bike ride.

Beyond that, all of my training has a purpose. I make a point of getting in quality workouts, versus trying to get in as many miles as I can. I probably train almost half as much as the people I compete against: 10 or 12 hours each week, as opposed to 20 hours a week. It’s not just being out there for the sake of being out there.

What makes a quality workout?
Before I had kids, I would just go out and ride for as long as I wanted. I had never done an interval before two years ago, when I started working with my coach. Now I do intervals a few days each week, and I weight train. It’s really pushing myself harder.

There have been various studies recently that support that style of training.
I do it because I really don’t have much of a choice, but I do think there’s a reason—knock on wood—that I haven’t been injured. The shorter training periods really help that. I don’t get overtrained, and I’m super motivated all the time because I don’t feel like I have to go out for a long time.

What is your favorite discipline?
Right now I think it’s ski mountaineering. It used to be that I trained in ski mountaineering in the winter to stay in shape for the summer, for adventure racing, and now I feel like it’s almost switched. With the kids, I’m not able to adventure race and travel like I used to.

I read that six months after you had your son Axel you were winning national championships.
Yeah, that was the 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race. I was part of a two-person mountain bike team, and it was hard. I was pumping and nursing in between laps. Five months after having my daughter, Juniper, I went to Abu Dhabi for a six-day adventure race. Now that was seriously exhausting: Racing with a team of three other guys and having to pump milk, in a country where we weren’t even sure if the women were going to be allowed to race in shorts.

So your kids come along?
Not always. They often stay with my husband or my parents. They do come for the shorter, closer events, like the mountain bike national championships in Moab, and events in Colorado.

What are you excited to do at Outside in Aspen this weekend?
I’m excited to see Brad Ludden, who started the First Descents kayaking camp for kids with cancer when he was 19. That’s just an amazing cause. It’ll be nice to see him and catch up.

I’m alo excited to participate. It’s a great way to get out there and meet new people and show people what Aspen has to offer. I’ve always enjoyed making sure that women stay active, especially after they have children. Their lives just get busier and busier. I like to promote that and get out there with some other women.

You'll be leading the advanced mountain biking groups, but you could just as easily head up the skiing or hiking activities. How did you get into ski mountaineering?
I had a couple friends whom I’d raced with who started ski mountaineering. In the United States, the sport is just 20 years old. The racers are largely a group of mountain bikers, adventure racers, and runners that are looking for another sort of competition in the winter. I really do race with a lot of the same people year-round in all sports.

Do you do all of these things because you can’t decide on just one?
I really enjoy it. My husband keeps saying, you should really concentrate on something and make that your forte. But I think I would burn out if I only mountain biked in the summer, or only did trail running. It’s one of the reasons that I fell in love with adventure racing, because everything I did was training. And I continue to enjoy all of it.

Outside in Aspen, June 8-10, is a weekend filled with outfitter-led adventure, including mountain and road biking, kayaking, rafting, trail running, fly-fishing, hiking, stand-up river paddling, and rock climbing for all skill levels. The weekend also includes parties, a base camp featuring Outside's Gear of the Year, a symposium with professional adventure athletes and Outside personalities.

Filed To: Multisport

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

What You Missed

Our most important headlines, sent to you every weekday.

Thank you!