"Best way to carry bear spray 30 miles through the foothills of Denali? @senita obviously." (Taken from Anne's instagram: @anneimal)
When sisters Jenna and Maddie founded Senita Athletics, they were building not just a business, but a family. Here at Senita Athletics, we are continually inspired by our customers and the many incredible women we are privileged to collaborate with. We want to share their stories so we can all benefit from one another’s successes. Look for Senita Sister Spotlights here on our blog and be part of our family!
We all have that adventurous friend who we watch from afar, you know the one who seems to be effortlessly connecting with the great outdoors in ways we can only imagine. The one whose pictures of sweet snow-capped mountains and towering green trees make us close our eyes and sigh for a moment. The one who makes dirt and sweat into priceless souvenirs of their expeditions into what is the unknown to us.
Former track teammate Anne Heiner is just such a one, and with her second full Ironman Triathlon fast approaching, we thought it only fitting to pick her brain. Anne’s many tales of adventure, told from the saddle of long bike rides to the coast or the peaks of towering mountains, stir our souls almost to the point of digging out our dusty camping gear and old 10 speed. But for now, we bask in her poetry through both word and picture, we breathe in her social media posts like crisp morning air, begging us to put down laptops and phones and escape; to go north to her world of green, where the currency is pumping lungs and straining muscles, where the employment is in courage to push boundaries both within and without. We’re just lucky that she takes Senita along for the ride.
Take us higher, IronAnne.
Tell us about your evolution from runner, swimmer and cyclist to triathlete and Ironwoman. How is it different?
Well, I actually grew up on two wheels because I spent a ton of time mountain biking with my dad starting around the 3rd grade. I ran track and cross country in high school, as well as playing soccer. I also started swimming in high school, though at first I was particularly bad at it. So by the time I did my first triathlon right after my freshman year of college in the summer of 2003, I already had some familiarity with the three components of a triathlon. It suits me because I really do love having 3 different ways to explore the world. Switching it up also splits the workload between different parts of my body, and I think that’s been a big help in keeping injuries at bay.
How many Ironmans have you done?
Just one (2011 in St George, UT), but soon to be two! My next race is Ironman Canada, July 30, in Whistler, British Columbia. But I have done oodles and oodles of sprint, Olympic, and half iron distance triathlons.
Tell me a little more about your latest post on Facebook about how your training has been different this time around physically/mentally
I mentioned that while for much of my life training and racing have seemed the obvious best use of my time, this time around that paradigm has been in a vulnerable spot.
I guess I would expand on that by first recognizing that we all have limited time in a week, and the way we use it says a lot about who we want to be. I want to be my best, and that is what the decision to train for this race has been about. But in the process I have come head to head with the question of whether being the fastest triathlete I can be is the same thing as being my best.
There is freedom and discovery on a bike, in the water, and on paths that fills me with clarity, joy, and gratitude, and without a doubt these things make me better as a person. But commitment to the pursuit a specific end, especially when that commitment requires so many hours, can begin to take away freedom from other pursuits. In my own personal economy, it’s the ideas of opportunity cost and diminishing returns.
I’m grateful for the process of making this commitment and keeping it, because sometimes you can’t discover these questions about balance until you have some skin in the game. And I think it’s so important to remember that the answers aren’t the same for everyone, or even the same for one person in different seasons of their life. Regardless of how I decide to align my priorities in coming months and years, one thing is for sure: I have put in the work for this race, and it’s time for some sweaty hours of celebration out on that course!
Favorite race/type of race course?
2015 Ironman 70.3 (aka half Ironman) World Championship in Austria. Gorgeous scenery, with swim in alpine lake, bike course through the Austrian Alps, and run on the banks of the lake. It was my first time competing in a world championship event, so I went in with zero expectation. I totally savored the ecstatic European fans lining the course, and took every opportunity for high-fives from kids with outstretched hands. I could not wipe the smile off my face for the whole 5 hours and 2 minutes I was out there.
How do you balance sport and adventuring with career?
Did someone say I am balanced? Haha. But no, really. (See response to question numero uno).
I am a physician assistant, and I love it. Currently I work in Urgent Care in a small town on the Oregon coast. I work three 12-hour shifts per week, from 8 am to 8 pm. Those can be long days, but the variety of patients I see and the great people I work with usually help it to fly by. On about half of the days I work I will fit in an hour swim or run before clinic, and the other half I’ll just be glad to get enough sleep. And then I have four days off! So that’s when I get to adventure to my heart’s content.
We hear triathlon is a sport with a big learning curve. What important lessons have you learned out on the road?
So many! For me a big one, especially for the longer distances, is how to pace myself on the bike so I can finish the race running like the runner I am. Paying attention to heart rate has helped with this. Another big one is figuring out how to fuel my body during the race. I can eat just about anything during training, but on race day, whether due to nerves or higher intensity, my mouth is sooo picky!
You've been known to carry your wetsuit around in the trunk of your car and go for an impromptu swim if you happen to drive by the perfect body of water. Can you share a favorite unplanned swim story?
There are several, but the one that comes to mind first has more to do with unplanned conditions. I carried my wetsuit on a backpacking trip to an alpine lake with a college class. The forecast was for sun and warm temps, but we woke up with 6 inches of snow on our tents. For a while I thought that necessarily meant I wouldn’t get to swim, but then I just decided to do it anyways. I didn’t swim for long on that day, but the experience was both physically and mentally invigorating! Of course, I planned ahead with warm, dry clothes, and a Nalgene bottle filled with hot water waiting for me in my tent when I got out.
"Laundry drips dry on the banks of the lake, soft as glass, where loons add their melody to the rhythm of my freestyle stroke." - @annemial21
Any funny or embarrassing stories?
Wellllllll, I made quite the spectacle of myself at my first ever swim meet in high school. Somebody in my heat false started, but I didn’t hear the buzzer used to indicate this, so I kept on swimming until I hit the second indicator of a false start: a rope they had lowered onto the surface of the water across the middle of the pool. Unfortunately with my combination of enthusiasm and naivety in not knowing that’s what it was for, I treated the rope like an obstacle course and with just a bit of struggle made it over the darn thing. Meanwhile, a good samaritan boy from another team figured he’d save the day by jumping in to tell me to chill the heck out, but with my spastic swim stroke I accidentally decked him in the eye. Once I realized what had happened and saw everyone in the natatorium laughing, I made the doggy paddle of shame back to the diving blocks. We restarted the race, and I came in dead last. It’d be convenient to explain that result away by all that energy I’d expended, though I’m honestly not too sure I would have placed much higher with fresh lungs.
Wake up to the sun after a good night’s rest. Half-ish hour of self-guided yoga. Make and a scramble with veggies and eggs, and go eat it down on the beach. Go play outside with a couple good friends: bike ride, surf, swim, trail run, you name it! Picnic. Come home and relax with a book, my journal, or a friend.
Anne and her sisters in matching throwback Senita Rosa Capris.
Advice for someone looking to try a triathlon or add more outdoor activity to their life?
Celebrate small victories. Find what works for you, but be curious and open to learning from others. Most importantly, let the joy of it lead you. Notice how the landscape and your own passage through it changes you for the better.
You can follow Anne’s race progress live in the Whistler, BC Ironman this Sunday, July 30 by going to ironman.com and searching her bib number 162. Also be sure to follow her Instagram account @anneimal21 and here’s:
What you’ll get: beautiful pictures of outdoor excursions
What you’ll love: Anne’s captions run the gamut from poetry, to wisdom, to excellent stories that will make you wish you were her BFF; or they’ll just make you cry-laugh (see swim meet story above).
What’ll make you jelly: Just that fact that literally every picture will make you question why in the world you are inside sitting on a couch and not blazing across mountain trails with Anne.