More than climbing? Chicks alumna takes on Ironman

Persistence, determination, dedication, drive, commitment, adventurous….it takes a unique person to be a climber, right?  It’s no secret that we’re more than climbers, and these characteristics blend into our professions, personal lives, and other activities.   Chicks co-owner and guide, Dawn Glanc, catches up with one of Chicks most popular alumna, Anne Hughes to learn more about her recent Ironman adventure.

Anne stoked at the finish line!

Anne stoked at the finish line!

First year with Chicks?
1st year at Chicks with Picks: 2002

How many clinics have you participated in as a client? As a volunteer?
16 Chicks clinics as a client, 8 sessions volunteering

Why did you choose to compete in the Ironman?
I wanted to see what it would be like to take up a brand new sport, apply total dedication and see what would result. I love cycling, but didn’t know how to swim and didn’t care for running. I liked the challenge of seeing what I was made of on the long haul. It would be cool to qualify for worlds and I thought I had a good chance at that.

What was the thing that helped you get through the training process?
To be first at my first Ironman wasn’t going to be easy; I would have to work hard every day. Races are won on the days others skip a training, shorten a set, cheat a little, let themselves off the hook, hold back when it gets painful, settle for good enough. My first place goal kept me out of that camp. When I really felt burdened and down, my long time trainer, Pat Gilles, was there for me. A qualified, compassionate coach with very high standards is invaluable. My triathlon plan was written by pro triathlete and coach Patrick Brady who also talked me through the lows from his perspective with years of experience in the sport.

Was there a time during the race where where you felt the euphoria of the moment?
I felt euphoric in the last minute of the 14 1/2 hour race. I felt a rare kind of joy that only delayed gratification from dedication to a really long, hard challenge can deliver. The best high ever!

Anne enjoying the Wisconsin hills during her 100 miles on the bike.

Anne enjoying the Wisconsin hills during her 100 miles on the bike.

Did you ever want to quit?
Long endurance races are about keeping to your plan for many hours. Quitting never crossed my mind, but during the marathon it was painful enough to want really badly to just be done. The more it hurt, the more I was not going to quit, not after 50 weeks of training! This was what it was all for so quitting wasn’t an option. Patrick Brady was there for me, supporting and keeping track of the women I was still chasing. I wanted to catch them. At about mile fifteen of the marathon Pat Gilles, an Ironman finisher himself, assured me it would not hurt any more to run faster, it would just hurt for less time…. hmmm…could this be true? I sped up from an 11 min/mile pace to a 9 min./mile pace and he was right! Not long after I moved into second place. I’m so glad my coaches and friends were there as I ran, keeping me focused.

What was the finish line like?
You turn a corner and enter a block long chute with the finish arch big and bright just ahead. The backdrop is the gleaming white Wisconsin capitol building. In the chute I realized, “I did it! I did all that work! I gave everything I’ve got! I did it!” I slapped the outstretched hands of my screaming, smiling son and husband and a posse of friends (half of whom were Chicks, by the way). I heard the announcer bellow — “Anne! — Hughes! — YOU! — ARE! — an IROOOONmaaaan!!! I was thrilled beyond words! To have been moving nonstop for fourteen and a half hours and finally stop amidst the finish line bedlam of loud music, bright lights, big screens, friends waving and cheering! Chicks with Picks alumna Amy Hite appeared as soon as I came to a stop, held me up when my legs wanted to buckle and brought me food. She was so kind and excited for me even though she had just finished her own Ironman race hours before me. Amy is my role model for completing two or three Ironmans a year for years! After Amy’s care those first few minutes, I was able to leave the athlete area into the hugs of my friends and family!

Anne's support group.

Anne’s support group.

Did you reach your goals/expectations?
My finish time was an hour longer than planned. My slower than expected swim and bike legs allowed me energy for a strong run. The marathon turned out to be my proudest part of the day! I had to gear up for pain and tiredness for the entire 26 miles, and yet still speed up during the last six miles to be sure I’d given my all. Never settle, that was my plan. Don’t walk. I didn’t. Reflecting since the race I know I will never forget the thrill of completing fifty weeks of daily training, racing well, and finishing strong in a long, hard, beautiful race! I reached this goal:

I took a risk to devote a whole year to something I didn’t even know if I’d like, something totally new, I remained dedicated like a professional, and I discovered strength, toughness and perseverance I didn’t know I had.

Surely these qualities will be useful in areas of life more important than racing.

Now to Kona? When is that event? How will you race differently this time around?
I will race at the Ironman World Championships, Kona Hawaii on October 8, 2016, along side 2300 Ironman qualifiers from around the globe. This will be my final Ironman. I expect a slower time due to swimming in ocean swells without the flotation of a wet suit, bracing myself on my bike against the cross and head winds of 30 to 60 MPH, and racing all day in 90-100 degree sunny humid weather. There will be at least twenty five females age 60-64 instead of the usual six or so, and all of them will be fast, tough, and fit. Each will have more experience as triathletes than me — this was only my first season as a triathlete. So, how will I race differently? With nothing further to qualify for, I plan to be the one having the most fun!

Kona = Focus + (FUN x infinity)