Athlete of the Week: Anna Huisman - A Pharmacist's Journey to Triumph

In our Athlete of the Week spotlight, we're excited to introduce you to Anna Huisman, a remarkable individual who wears many hats, both professionally and personally. Anna is not just a dedicated pharmacist but also the Director of Pharmacy at a small community hospital. It's a role that often surprises people because not everyone realizes that pharmacists play an essential role in hospitals. Her job is a fascinating blend of clinical responsibilities, including adult acute care and outpatient chemotherapy, and administration, where she manages accreditation, quality improvement, and more. To get a glimpse of her daily work life, you can check out these enlightening videos.


Now, let's dive into Anna's personal life. Beyond her professional pursuits, she's also a loving mother and aunt, making her the heart of a family of six. Anna, her husband, their 9-year-old daughter, 7-year-old son, 15-year-old nephew, and 14-year-old niece make up this dynamic group. This summer, her two youngsters took on the Surf N Turf at the Somersault Canadian, and next year, they're gearing up for the youth triathlon. Perhaps, with a little persuasion, the teenagers might even consider tackling the sprint or try-a-tri.


So, what inspired Anna to venture into the world of triathlons? Well, she's always been a swimmer, can hold her own on a bike, and has a love-hate relationship with running. But she set herself a lofty goal: to complete a triathlon by the time she turned 40. During the first pandemic summer, she reignited her passion for running. The following summer, she conquered two virtual triathlon events, boosting her confidence and proving to herself that she had what it takes. And guess what? She achieved her "tri by 40" goal!


This summer, Anna set her sights on the Olympic distance triathlon at the Somersault Canadian. However, she made the decision to switch to the Sprint distance to race alongside her sister, who was embarking on her first-ever triathlon journey. Her ultimate goal? To conquer the Olympic distance next year!


But Anna's journey hasn't been without its challenges, most of which were mental. She grappled with self-image issues as an Athena athlete, often comparing herself to others. As a slower runner, she wondered if she'd be the only Athena athlete at events, whether there were others who looked like her, and why tri suits or wetsuits weren't readily available in her size (seriously, why not?). The fear of being DFL (Dead Last) or DNF (Did Not Finish) nagged at her. These challenges were compounded by the struggle to find time for workouts, which forced her to get creative – running or biking during her kids' extracurricular activities, open water swims with her family, or late-night workouts when her husband left for work at the crack of dawn (4:30 am was just too early).


So, how did Anna overcome these hurdles? While the anxieties never completely disappeared, she learned to manage them. She stayed laser-focused on her goal, recognizing that triathlon was about her personal growth, self-challenge, and setting an example for her kids. She refused to train or race for weight loss or buy into toxic diet/exercise culture. Talking about her fears and struggles with others was incredibly helpful, and her support network was vital. Through the Team Triumph Olympic Distance Course (which she has completed twice!), she met amazing people who listened, supported, and offered non-judgmental help. Anna also trained with body-positive and inclusive groups like the Badass Lady Gang and followed these athletes and coaches on social media.


Now, let's talk race day challenges. This year, her race experience was nothing short of amazing! She achieved her main time goal, had a blast, and had her family there to cheer her on. The photos from that race tell the story of her incredible day. However, last year's "real-life" race was a different story. Her trusty old mountain bike, which she'd trained on, had other plans. At just 4 kilometers into the race, her seat came undone, making her bike virtually unrideable. She struggled to adjust it to the proper height and couldn't pick up speed, even on downhill stretches. At the 5-kilometer mark, frustration and tears threatened to end her race prematurely. She considered throwing in the towel, calling her husband, and accepting a DNF. Everyone seemed to pass her on the bike course.


But somehow, Anna found the inner strength to soldier on. She counted down the kilometers, gritted her teeth, and repeated mantras like "forward is a pace" and "I can finish." The volunteers and fellow athletes on the course provided invaluable encouragement, spurring her onward. For the run, she pumped up her mood with some Lizzo tunes and completed the race. She might have finished last (DFL), but she finished! Post-race, she discovered that her brake had been stuck on. So, a week later, she treated herself to a new-to-her road bike!


What's Anna most proud of achieving? Being a role model for her kids and showing them that they can accomplish anything, regardless of imperfections. She's also incredibly proud of finishing that challenging race last year. Although she can laugh about it now, it was a significant mental trial that took her some time to recover from.


And finally, a few words about Anna's experience with Team Triumph. The team, and especially the Olympic distance coaches she's had over the last two summers – Gabi, Julia, and Brenda – have been instrumental in her journey. The program pushed her to realize not only that she could do this but also that she had the potential to exceed her own expectations. She wholeheartedly recommends the virtual training program to everyone, whether you're a beginner or not. Anna plans to return next year to train and, hopefully, complete her first-ever Olympic distance race.


Anna Huisman's story is one of determination, resilience, and personal growth, and we're honored to have her as our Athlete of the Week. Her journey inspires us all to pursue our goals and never let challenges hold us back. Cheers to Anna and her continued triumphs on and off the triathlon course! 


Julia Aimers
CSEP Clinical Exercise Physiologist
CSEP High-Performance Specialist

Certified Triathlon, Cycling, Yoga and Swimming Coach
USA Cycling Level 2 Coach
Training Peaks Accredited Coach

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