I sat down recently and talked triathlon with Tri Club member Andi Ramer. Andi had just returned from an excellent race at Ironman Hawaii where she finished in 11:55:36. Please feel welcome to eavesdrop on our conversation.
CZ: What Ironman races have you done prior to Hawaii?
AR: Hawaii was Ironman #9. With zero athletic background in high school or college, I got into running and fitness in 1996 to drop the college weight and look good in my wedding dress. I quickly fell in love with endurance training, and tackled my first marathon in 1998. After several marathons, I did my first sprint tri in 1999, first Half Ironman in 2000, and my first Ironman in 2001. Well, that zero athletic background came back to haunt me during Ironman Lake Placid in 2001, and what I dreamed would be a decently competitive day based on previous tri results turned into a pseudo adventure race! Finish time was 16:30!! The really awesome part was that my husband Don spotted me in trouble during the swim start, and we completed the race together. Since that day in Lake Placid, I’ve completed Vineman in 2002 in 13:18; IM Brazil in 2003 in 11:37; Vineman in 2003 in 11:35; IM Coeur D’Alene in 2004 in 11:48; IM Wisconsin in 2004 in 11:25; IM Arizona in 2005 in 11:30; and IM Switzerland in 2005 in 11:30.
CZ: You qualified for Kona at IM Wisconsin. What do you think about racing in Madison and would you recommend it to fellow club members?
AR: I LOVED IM Wisconsin! What a great race. Nice wide swim start with great water temp; challenging, but beautiful bike course; and a good run course to get a good pace going. I would definitely recommend it – the race is organized, and the city supports the race like crazy. It would be a great first Ironman.
CZ: What was your qualifying race like at Wisconsin?
AR: My race in Wisconsin was awesome – I still feel like it’s my strongest race yet. Good, strong swim, and I started really wide on this one, so didn’t have any bumping! Out on the bike, I did a good job of pacing the two laps. The one tough part of the day was I started having stomach problems early on the bike, and they stayed with me all day! Lots of stops in the port-o-johns on the run, and even had to take a small break in a corn field on the bike! Finished the bike strong, and headed out on the run. Like I said, lots of bathroom stops, but I just stopped when I absolutely had to, otherwise, pushed hard. My husband was there supporting me and tracking the girls in my age group. After lap one of the run, he said “I don’t know, but I think you’re top ten (in AG)”. At that point, I knew Kona was within reach. I pushed that out of my mind, and simply raced for a PR – reminding myself to just do MY best and see what happens. I ended up 7th in my age group, and was super proud of my race. I really did not believe that I would get a slot at roll down.
CZ: So you had done a few qualifying races. Was qualifying your mission? (What was it like to finally secure your slot to Kona?)
Definitely! During the first couple of Ironmans, qualifying was not a goal. I was still learning, and way off pace with the top girls in my age group. Really 2004 was my first year that I made qualifying a goal. I hoped for a spot at Coeur D’Alene, but a slow bike time put me way out of contention. IM Wisconsin was a late decision, and I decided after Coeur D’Alene that qualifying would be a 2005 or 2006 goal. I was just going to Wisconsin to have fun, and do my best. I guess taking the pressure off myself helped me! To get that spot at rolldown was like a dream. I still can hardly remember what REALLY happened, but my husband helped me pull myself together long enough to write the check
CZ: Both you and I raced the Superfrog Triathlon in September as a tune up for Hawaii. That was my first time doing that event and I loved it. What did you think about that race?
AR: I’m with you. I loved it. The atmosphere was low stress, but good competitors out there. The course is great. Don and I actually did the relay. I did the swim and bike which was great Kona prep, and Don got the tough part, running through the sand!
CZ: What was your race like at Kona?
AR: Wow! Arriving for the first time on the Big Island was pretty overwhelming. Seeing everything for the first time – the lava fields, Alii Drive, the swim start. One thing that surprised me was all the positive energy from the athletes during race week. Everyone was very celebratory, and that took some stress off. Race day was tough. I started out great with an awesome swim. I started more aggressively than usual, so was able to get fast feet throughout the swim. That was a good improvement. It was so crowded out there. And I thought the ocean got pretty rough after the turn around. I was surprised to see 1:06 on the clock when I got out, but later realized that was a good time. The bike was good. My biggest goal on the bike and run was to pace correctly and stay within my heart rate goal. I did a great job of that on the bike. I was surprised but happy by the lack of strong winds, but just kept rolling along and tried not to overthink it. That climb to Hawi is hard! You keep wondering “Where is Hawi”? Once you finally get there, you are SO relieved. So coming back and feeling really strong, nutrition is great…..then FLAT at mile 107. Bummer. It was my first time to change a tubular in a race, so I lost 18 minutes. But I stayed positive throughout the problem and did what I could. The good news is that I did fix it and made it to T2. Once out on the run, I was feeling good. Unfortunately that didn’t last long. Stomach problems at mile 2 of the run. Welcome to Ironman. So, I slowed my pace to try to work through the discomfort. I was hurting bad until about mile 11. I saw Don then, and he told me to start taking Coke. I did, and started feeling better as I headed out on the Queen K. I looked at my watch then and figured if I kept a good pace, I could still break 12 hours, and I did. With all that said, I’m happy and proud with a strong race and finish. It’s always a learning experience during Ironman, and I really wanted to keep my expectations low for my first time in Kona.
CZ: Who joined you on the trip to Kona?
AR: My husband, Don, supported me in Kona. He is so awesome! He’s completed 7 Ironman races, so he totally understands what I’m going through, and when and how I need support both race week and race day. And beyond that, he supports me 24/7. It’s a full time job! I was so happy that he was able to enjoy a vacation in Hawaii, and more than ever while in Kona, I realized how none of the results or accomplishments mean anything without him by my side.
CZ: What are your triathlon goals for 2006 and beyond?
AR: Ironman is my passion. So I’ll keep fighting to get back to Kona each year with the hopes of improving and competing at a higher level. The plan for 2006 is IM Arizona and IM Coeur D’Alene. I’m looking forward to competing on two courses that I know already.
CZ: Your husband Don is also a TCSD member. How do you balance marriage and triathlon?
AR: Don and I have been together since high school, so we know each other well and have a strong relationship. We both got into running and triathlon together. We enjoy being together as much as possible, and we really value our Saturday and Sunday rides together. It does help that we do not have any kids (just a cat), so we can train and travel together.
CZ: What are your favorite things about being a TCSD member?
AR: I love the club races. I think that is an awesome member benefit. I also really enjoy the monthly speakers at the meetings. It’s great to take advantage of the triathlon mecca and learn from the pros and leaders in the sport.
CZ: Andi, thank you for sharing your stories with us. We wish you the best and know you will continue to achieve your goals!