Sara Gross- Running and Post Baby Triathlon

I asked Sara Gross to do a little piece for us. Her and I have been racing and training together since 04. She has many podiums, two ironman titles to her name and is known for her fast running. She took a break to have a baby, then came back to a race very well. So I asked her to write for us her thoughts on being a professional triathlete and a mom, as well as her thoughts on running fast off the bike in an IM.

On being a pro triathlete and a mother:

Most of the changes in my life as a pro athlete since my daughter was born have been positive. Overall, being a mom has made me mentally tougher, more appreciative of my time and a more balanced person.
The day-to-day of training and motherhood change as my daughter gets older. When Rosalee was a very young baby, I would squish training in between breast feeding sessions and during nap time. There was not a lot of time to think about anything. When she fell asleep, I would have my run gear on and be out the door in minutes, or on the trainer etc…
As time goes on and Rosie’s needs change, so does the way my husband and I organize my training. She is now 2 years old and goes to daycare full time. This is good for her since she loves to play with other kids and also allows for me to have the whole day to train and recover. I plan my sessions, but I can also plan naps, cook and do some coaching work during the day. Weekends are a bigger challenge. We try to plan things that work for our family, like a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s where Mommy bikes there.
These days the biggest challenge has been coming up with a race schedule that works for the whole family. Rosalee is now at an age where she doesn’t do well being away from me for too long. I spend part of the year in Victoria, Canada and also part of the year in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve just planned a trip to Tucson, and I had to find daycare for Rosie and someone who can help out on weekends and also plan things so I am not away from my husband for weeks on end! If I go to a race, we need to think about whether the whole family is going or if I am going alone. I like to think of it as a puzzle. I can see all the pieces and I just need to figure out a way to fit them together. It’s a challenge for sure, but a fun challenge.
I would say the hardest thing about being an athlete mom is when I have to be away (usually for a race) longer than I would like to be. There has been the odd occasion when Rosie has been sick and I have to leave her with her Dad or Grandma in order to get my session in. These are the toughest moments. But my husband and I decided when she was born that if I am going to keep racing as a pro we need to be all in. Doing things by half compromises not only my race results but also my income. We definitely work together as a family now and my results are shared with them. It’s a nice way to race.

Thoughts on running a good marathon off the bike:

Besides sporting background and genetics, I would say there are 2 key factors to running a successful marathon off the bike. Many athletes run either too fast or too slow in training. Too fast meaning too many 400s on the track or mile repeats and too slow meaning long runs that are WAY below Ironman goal pace. Training for a marathon off the bike is quite different to training for a straight marathon. Teach your body the pace you want to run by running at that pace. A lot.
The second factor is stability and core strength. By stability I mean in your hips, knees, ankles and feet. And by core, I mean abs, but also glutes! To run well in the second half of an ironman marathon you need to maintain your form. And in order to maintain form, you need all your muscles, big and small to be working properly when fatigued. Training for the ironman marathon should include running lots of hills and trails and uneven surfaces for glute recruitment and proprioception. It should also include drills and a good functional strength program.