Monday, December 21, 2015

Triple Threat Profile: Michelle Andres - Minnesota

I affectionately refer to Michelle Andres as "Andres the Triathlon Giant." She may be a few feet shorter and a few hundred lbs. lighter than the legendary WWF wrestler, but she is every bit as dominant. Michelle won Ironman Wisconsin in September... as in, first overall, with a time of 10:08. In 2013, she placed 3rd in the world in her AG at Kona. All this while balancing her teaching job and being a devoted mother of five teenage boys. In fact, virtually every time I've talked with her she's been at a son's hockey game. We're not quite sure how she does it, but we're thrilled to have her as a new member of the Triple Threat Triathlon team, repping the cold but great state of Minnesota!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I was a runner all through high school. After my first son was born I thought running a marathon would be fun. After a few years of having minor injuries I thought cross training would be a good idea and started adding some swimming and biking into my marathon training.

In HS one of the gym class options was a triathlon where you passed the class by completing a triathlon at the end of the semester. I signed up for the class without knowing how to swim. I was actually terrified of the water. I learned to swim that semester and finished my first triathlon my senior year in high school.

The next triathlon I did was on a rented bike, borrowed swim suit, and I actually sat down to tie my shoes. Thinking back…being so naive was actually a blessing. That was 2003 and from there I kind of fell in love with the sport. One of the things I love about triathlon is there is no right way to train or race…just the right way for ourselves. I think about triathlon training and racing as a puzzle….there are so many pieces that need to fall into place for everything to go according to plan. The sport is a lifelong sport full of learning and helps to keep all of us very humble.

How would you sum up your 2015 season, and what was the highlight & lowlight (if any)?

Ha! That’s a funny question. I had big intentions for 2015 back at the end of 2014. My plan was to race IM Canada and qualify for Kona. Race IM Wisconsin and set a new CR and then race Worlds in Chicago the following weekend. I had some other smaller races planned, but Canada, Wisconsin, Chicago and Kona were my big races for the season.

Life happened and by May I was ready to walk away from triathlon. My husband and I were in the process of buying a business and raising 5 teenage boys (17, 15, 15, 15, 14). I’m also a full time teacher and was wrapping up my master’s degree so my plate was a little full. I walked away from all the races and then the business deal fell through. I finished my master’s program and was on summer break from teaching so…. with 9 weeks until IM Wisconsin I thought…why not?!?!

I did a lot of unconventional training and race prep….some thought I was a little crazy. I did drop 20 pounds in 9 weeks to get to my racing weight and got myself into bike and run shape pretty quickly. I didn’t spend much time on the swim cause I knew I would gain about 10 minutes max with a ton of training.

My proudest moment (high) was winning IM Wisconsin….coming in first was great, but what makes me the most proud of myself from that race is where I came from in 9 weeks and how deep I had to dig on race day to pull that off. I have never had a coach and had to believe in my own training principles and plan to get me to the start line healthy both mentally and physically.

I really didn’t have a low moment. There were times I was down, for example when my 17 year old broke his leg and then got mono and my 14 year old broke his toe (all in the same week)….I had zero training that week….but I really think if we can rise above all the “stuff” and forge on it makes us stronger mentally and IM racing (in my opinion) is more about what is going on in our heads than anything else. Isn’t it the low moments where we really learn about ourselves and what is important to us? Sport is learning and through sport we can all become the best versions of ourselves.

Did you go into IMWI expecting to win?? How did Ironman treat you as the champion, and how did race day play out for you?

I don’t think expecting is the right word. That sounds like something has already been earned and should be given. I went to Wisconsin fully wanting to give 100% and dig deeper than I ever had…if I finished having done all that I knew I would be proud. On my bike I have a big sticker which says "NO REGRETS”. I even have a ring I wear which says it too. I want to live my life spending the time I get on this earth happy and giving it my all. No matter how hard something gets I don’t want to look back and regret not giving just a little bit more or taking the chance. It would have been easy for me when I canceled out of Wisconsin in early spring to not come back and race…but then I thought "why not??"

I’m so glad I put myself out there and risked so much on that day. I have a full race report on my blog ( I started the blog back when I qualified for Kona and started to train for that race in 2012. The blog has a lot of my philosophies on training, racing, life, parenting, etc.

How would you compare/contrast the experience of winning IMWI vs. your 3rd in AG at Kona 2013?

Winning at IM Wisconsin was pretty sweet….I had a bike escort and she was fantastic! She would have the whole crowd cheering when I came through. The town of Madison was unbelievably kind to me on the course. I took the lead on the run by mile 5 and slowly built my lead to 13 minutes by the finish line.

In Kona, there are so many FAST people…I felt just like one of many. Kona is special and there is no place or race which can compare. The two races are ones I will never forget and very special to me.

The million dollar question... what are the keys to your success??

So much is mental…in training and all the other times outside of the swim, bike, run sessions. I don’t think I have any magical formula. I have never been coached and I’m pretty much self-taught in everything I do. Racing an Ironman takes believing in yourself deep down inside. It takes believing in what you are doing or eating is the formula for success. I honestly believe it is how we talk to ourselves which makes the difference.

I do consider myself to be a very hard worker, but I consider myself to be a very smart worker. All my training sessions have a plan and a goal. The majority of my training is solo. The majority of my biking is on my trainer…even in the summer. I only ride outside once or twice a week. A majority of my running is on my treadmill…all of my key sessions are for sure.

Also, I spend a lot of time of the “other” stuff – sleep especially and I do a lot of yoga and foam rolling. I’m very specific about my nutrition when it’s race season. Otherwise I’m a cookie loving pizza eating mom of 5 boys!

For the most part …. For all of us…this is our hobby and we need to find balance. My husband and I are best friends and our family of 7 has a great time together. There are some things which I will never put before my training, like family dinners. I think it’s important for people who have a family to put their training around their family rather than trying to fit their family around their training. There is a very short window where my husband and boys know that Mom has her game face on and it’s go time…but in reality that is maybe 5% of the year.

Do you have plans &/or goals looking ahead to 2016?

Of course! I’m definitely a type A triathlete who has a hard time not trying to keep being a better version of myself. However, this coming year my goal is to be present and stop trying to plan my future away. I’m letting the races come to me. I’m currently spending a lot of time in the weight room and doing other fun types of activities.

I may jump into a 50 mile trail run and do some half marathons…as for triathlons…we’ll see. We, my husband and I, only have 4 years with our boys until they are all off to college so I really want to soak up every moment I can with them. Triathlon and Ironman will always be there!

hoping this style makes a comeback in triathlon
What do your boys think of the tri life you lead and what's the secret to balancing family, work, training, etc?

I feel my training has taught my boys a lot about having dreams, setting goals, and then working hard and making sacrifices for it all to come together on race day. We are a team (Team Andres). We support each other and each other’s’ dreams and goals. They have only known me as a mom who is active. We all hunt and fish together along with being each others’ biggest fans. They have some pretty big goals for themselves with sport and I hope I have helped inspire them to set high goals for themselves.

The balance part…my blog has an article called “Getting the laundry done” I wrote back in 2013 where I explain how we get it done at the Andres house. My boys all know how to cook a full dinner, do their own laundry, and take care of themselves.

You reside in a small town of ~1,000 people, correct? Are you famous within the entire region for being the crazy triathlon chick?

Ha! No…I’m probably more known for the mom of the 5 hockey boys. The community has been great and very supportive. Our town is right next to another town which is much bigger. We have a pretty big and active triathlon club and community in our area. We had almost 20 people sign up for IM Wisconsin last year. When I was racing at IM Wisconsin I felt it was a hometown race because so many people from our area were there racing and supporting.

When you're not swimming, biking, or running, how do you enjoy spending your time?

I love hunting and fishing with my husband and boys. Also, I love my kitchen and baking. Of course, whenever I get the opportunity to travel I can’t pass that up!

From my time living in Wisconsin, I know WI and MN triathletes are pretty die-hard & committed. What’s the tri scene like in Minnesota as a whole, and what are the pros and cons of being a triathlete in your state?

You are right…the MN tri crew is pretty amazing. I may be a bit biased though. When I first started back in 2003 all the races were pretty low key…very old school. The sport has changed a lot over the last 10 years and has become much more commercialized. MN hasn’t been hidden from that or left in the dark.

There are many benefits from training and racing in MN. First, everyone is really quite nice and friendly. We all race hard, but after crossing the finish line we are all still friends. Also, we are known as the land of 10,000 lakes so there is no shortage of places to swim. The drawback is you may only have 3 months to swim in them. I love my home and being from MN. The terrain is beautiful and there is always a friendly person to share the same triathlon passion with and join in on a swim, bike, and run.

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