As part of the GORE-TEX® TransRockies preview, Team EverymanTri caught up with Anita Ortiz for an exclusive chat. Anita was the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Open Women champion in 2008 with partner Katie Mazzia. She will be returning for the 2011 race with a new partner, Angela Mudge.
Team EveryManTri: Why come back to the GORE-TEX® TransRockies Run event?
Anita: Basically because it’s like a running camp for grown-ups. If you love to run, what more could you want? It’s beautiful, the food is awesome, you’re catered to in every possible way, your stuff is transported for you, your tent is set up for you, they thought of everything. So it’s like easy camping, and the atmosphere and people – oh my gosh, it is so much fun.
Team EveryManTri: What is the hardest part of the race for you?
Anita: Being away from my family. I love it while I’m there – I love the running, sleeping in the tent, and I love just every part. But I get homesick for my kids. My kids are older and they can take care of themselves so I don’t worry about them, but they grow so fast I just hate missing even a single day. Most of the places we camp don’t have cell service, so it’s like cold turkey. No kids.
Team EveryManTri: Tell me how you and your 2011 teammate came together.
Anita: My partner this year is Angela Mudge, she’s from Scotland, and she is totally a badass. I hope I can hang with her. We are running as a Solomon team, and we used to actually compete against one another in Mountain Trophy races – well I never competed with her very well because I was always way behind her! So we both race for Solomon and we wanted to just put together a fun team and make a podium spot. Even though we’ve been rivals we are friends. Rivals on the course, friends everywhere else.
Team EveryManTri: How would you summarize your training for TransRockies, and do you do any cross-training?
Anita: I don’t necessarily have to train specifically for TransRockies because I live in the environment [Eagle, Colorado]. So where I normally train, IS TransRockies training. I don’t have to do anything different than I already do. As for cross-training, I’m on a stair machine a lot, because that’s good for hill training. I do some weights too. Right now my average mileage is anywhere between 90 and 110 miles per week. It’s a lot, but it’s only because I love to run, not really because I need it for training.
Team EveryMan Tri: Do you have any training tips for people doing TransRockies for the first time?
Anita: Definitely spend some time at altitude. If you don’t live at altitude, it’s good to get up there some and hang out. Go to Leadville and have lunch and hang out there for a few hours. Go again a few days later or the next week. That’s the thing that gets people the most. The other thing that gets people is the strain of back-to-back hard running. So train with some back-to-back hard days. You don’t get the ‘easy’ day in TransRockies. But honestly, they make it doable for anybody. It’s really an event that’s made for advanced people, mid-packers, and just-go-have-fun people.
Team EveryManTri: The race-issued duffle bag has limited space in it. What gets priority – what can’t you live without?
Anita: My blow-up mattress, my Incredible Hulk sheets, and my pillow with the Care Bear pillowcase. Those go. Those go to every race. I have a battery-operated blow-up mattress, luxurious, you’ll hear me in my tent blowing that thing up.
Team EveryManTri: Is there anyone you’re looking forward to visiting with at the campfire?
Anita: Everybody! I can’t wait! After doing it for several years, I just can’t wait to see all my friends. It’s just so social and fun.
Team EveryManTri: As an endurance athlete, when things really start to hurt, where does your head go? How do you mentally push past pain?
Anita: I just don’t let myself even entertain it. I mean obviously if I’m really in pain it can take control of my body, but I don’ t allow it to win. The race I just ran, Western States, is a great example. I had a really tough go of it this year, and I was in pain in every spot you could imagine, and I just kept going. I didn’t have a great performance, but I didn’t let the pain win.
Team EveryManTri: How would your friends describe you?
Anita: I think they would say I’m determined, stubborn, but also very real. Like, a lot of people in the town where I live don’t even know I run. A lot of people I work with in my job don’t even know I run. I’m pretty down to earth.
Team EveryManTri: Who inspires you in running and in life?
Anita: My parents inspire me in life. My parents are awesome. They are wonderful, supportive people who back me in everything I do. I talk to my mom every day. In running, there are so many people I look up to it’s hard to pick just one. Kami Semick is inspirational. But even more than people you want to beat, the people who I find inspirational are the people who are out there and not winning. We have a guy that races in our local series, and I think he’s 74 years old, and he goes to every single race. And he just gets it done. I find inspiration in the people who are out there doing it and it takes them twice as long as it takes me.
Team EveryManTri: You’re from the Denver area, so you’re a Rockies girl at your core!
Anita: Yea! The funny thing is that I went to graduate school at Florida State because I wanted to get away from the mountains. And the cold and the snow. And I just laugh because that’s what I ended up coming back to. I mean, you realize what you like when you leave it. I loved my time in Florida and I look back on that time with fondness, but I was ready to leave.
Team EveryManTri: What is a little-known fact about you? Besides the Incredible Hulk sheets….
Anita: [laughs] I can ballroom dance on roller skates. Is that awesome or what. I took a class. Sometimes I like to do just off the wall, whacky things. Because what the heck, you only live once. Seriously, you’re missing out if you haven’t tried ballroom dancing on roller skates.
Team EveryManTri: TransRockies vs. Western States. What are the similarities and differences between doing 120 miles in six days and 100 miles in one day?
Anita: TransRockies is much easier. You’re longest day is like 22 miles, and you’re going faster, but still it makes a huge difference. And then when you’re finished, you do nothing but pamper yourself the rest of the day! Western States is just all around grueling. If I had to pick one over the other it would be hard because they are just so radically different – like apples and oranges – they don’t even belong in the same basket. Western States has probably a bigger sense of accomplishment at the end, but TransRockies you get a bigger sense of satisfaction because it was so much fun, and you leave there with hundreds of new friends. I’m still in close contact with people I met four years ago.
Team EveryManTri: You have a big family – four kids, right? How do you do it all?
Anita: Yea, four kids, husband, three cats, three dogs, a bird…
I’m a really good time manager. I think people waste a lot of time that they don’t realize they’re wasting. One CSI: Miami is the same as a six mile run. So it comes down to which is more important. I don’t waste a lot of time and I multi-task a lot.
Team EveryManTri: So what do you consider ‘downtime’?
Anita: Running! Running IS my downtime! I like my naps, and I teach school, so I take a nap every day in the summer. Oh if babies only knew how great it is.
Team EveryManTri: Is it true that you only need four hours sleep and you go for runs at 3:30am?
Anita: Yea, well that’s the other thing. You have to be willing to get up really early so you’re not taking time away from your family or your husband, or your work. And I’m one of the fortunate ones who doesn’t need a lot of sleep. My husband says I’m a hummingbird. Constantly in motion.
Team EveryManTri: Do you work out more than once per day?
Anita: Yes, usually three times. I’ll do a morning, a lunchtime or right after school, and then an evening something.
Team EveryManTri: So you do this early morning run in the dark with a headlamp? On the mountain trails? Aren’t you scared?
Anita: Well you kind of learn not to look around. Sometimes I sing really loud because I hear noises that are probably mountain lions and bears. We see them, we see tracks everywhere, I know they’re there. But what are you going to do, stay home? No. Just gotta sing.
Team EveryManTri: With your intense training regime, what’s your secret for injury avoidance?
Anita: When I find it I’ll let you know. I’m injured all the time. There’s always something that’s wrong. But usually it’s minor and I just suck it up and deal with it. I’m injured because I love to work so hard. It would be better if I would do a little less. But pretty much something is always hurting on me. But that’s life, man, I’m 47 years old, something would always be hurting on me anyways even if I didn’t run.
Team EveryManTri: Runners are notoriously bad stretchers, do you stretch? Do yoga? Anything?
Anita: No, I don’t stretch. I feel like if I stretched I would probably hurt myself! I grew up with a father, who is a doctor, always telling me “you don’t need to stretch, you just need to start slow enough that your muscles get warmed up”. With ultras it’s easy because you start off slow anyways. Then you pick up the pace later.
Team EveryManTri: Did you race much in 2010?
Anita: I did two races, and blew out my knee in the second one. I had microfracture surgery. So, no, didn’t race the whole year after that. I was non-weight-bearing for eight weeks. They told me I was not going to run ultras ever again. So I had to show them they were wrong.
Team EveryManTri: Is there a race that you have your eye on, that you would love to win?
Anita: Hardrock. I was on the waitlist last year, and when my name got to the top of the waitlist it was the day after I had had my knee surgery. So I had to pass up Hardrock. And then this year I didn’t get in. So I’ll try again next year.
Team EveryManTri: What is your favorite pre-race meal and post-race treat?
Anita: I like having cinnamon toast and coffee pre-race, and post-race I love Enchiritos from Taco Bell. I have a very good Taco Bell radar, so I can find them wherever I am.
Team EveryManTri: You seem like a very family-oriented person. What’s your favorite family activity?
Anita: Dinner! We have family dinner every night. Command performance. You don’t often miss a family dinner because I think it’s really important for us to come together, talk, we work out what the next day looks like, who needs rides where, and there’s just something about sharing food together. I was raised that way, and it’s what I do with my kids.
Team EveryManTri: Are your kids runners? Your husband?
Anita: I have two really good runners – one is going to leave and run in college next year, and the other is still in high school running great. And then I have two soccer players. The girls that run never indicated that they wanted to become runners, it just happened. The other two are very married to soccer. As long as they’re having fun I don’t care what they do. My husband is not a runner – he was a basketball player – he doesn’t get the whole running thing. But he is very supportive. He is the Director of the Vail Rec District, so he oversees the races in the area. Kind of ‘all in the family’.
Anita Ortiz won the 2009 Western States 100, over an hour ahead of second place. She is a former National Mountain Running Champion, World Mountain Trophy Race Masters Champion, US National Snowshoe and North American Snowshoe Champion.
Story by Paul Shippy. Click HERE to visit Lori and Paul's TransRockies Run race blog.