Winning triathlons is not important in the big picture for Ann Seifert.
For now, however, the 40-year-old Helena native will strive to be the best possible triathlete while searching for her true purpose in life.
“I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” she said recently. “I’m enjoying immensely what I’m doing right now. I’m using what talent I have.”
Seifert, a fitness instructor, will return to Coeur d’Alene for one of her favorite races Aug. 10 to defend her title as Best Overall Woman.
She owns two Coeur d’Alene Triathlon women’s age group records and three additional victories as overall amateur woman in her seven appearances in the Lake City.
In 1990 she finished in 2:16.39 in the 30-34 age group, while in 1994 her time of 2:14:36 set a record for the 35-39 age group. She’s hoping to break Jo Garuccio’s 40-44 age-group record.
Winning triathlons around the Northwest has become common for the competitor, who downplays her life as “fairly uneventful.”
Besides competing in Coeur d’Alene, she was first overall amateur woman last year in four other races, including Spokane’s Troika, Lewiston’s X-Treme Sprint, Kalispell’s Summer Solstice and Missoula’s Grizzly Triathlon.
Seifert also won the Post Falls Biathlon in 1996. In 1994 she set the 35-39 age-group record and finished eighth overall at the Canadian Ironman. She has competed three times in Hawaii’s Ironman Triathlon, winning a second and a fourth in her age group.
She hopes to return and set a record in the women’s master’s division this October. All this and more from a somewhat mediocre high school athlete who suffered from asthma and excess pounds. Seifert, an admirer of Olympic legend Wilma Rudolph, always wanted to be “the best” at some sport.
“I was always seventh on the cross country team at State or an alternate at the divisional track meet,” she recalled. “What was frustrating and disappointing was that I would start out each season in pretty good shape and place well…As the season progressed, everyone else improved and I never did.”
Seifert’s work ethic did not allow her to get discouraged. “I never missed a practice, a perfectionist trait I also brought to college when I sat on the bench on the volleyball team,” she recalled.
Seifert participated on the Carroll College volleyball squad while earning a degree in sociology/ criminal justice and eventually marrying her high school sweetheart, Joe Seifert.
It was and still is Joe, the lawyer, who saw the athletic potential in his wife. “I was doing some running at a neighborhood track. Ann came over and ran a few laps after I finished,” Joe recalled. “It occurred to me that, while running, she looked exactly like the elite runners we’d see on TV.”
The couple lived in Great Falls at the time. Ann began a training program, which included running and swimming. When they moved back to Helena, she added biking to the picture. After training and running in a Helena marathon, she eventually competed in a triathlon at a lake.
“I finished fourth and quickly realized I enjoyed the combination of sports much more than just running,” Ann recalled. In 1984, she competed in two triathlons. Since then, her horizons have expanded and her name among female triathletes has become synonymous with the success that eluded her as a teenager. These days, her husband and 6-year-old daughter, Hannah, follow her every move as family cheerleaders.
In some ways, Joe sees his role as her advocate as more intimidating and emotional than his criminal court cases. “I can say without reservation that there is no anxiety so oppressive as standing on the seawall on Alii Drive, waiting for your spouse to finish the Ironman,” he said. “In 1993 (her third Ironman) … Ann took second in her age group. On that trip, Ann and Hannah took the stage and for me it was, again, the tears.”
As she breaks into the 40-44 age group, Ann faces continued physical challenges.
Although her asthma is under control, thanks to a long-term inhaler, the maxim “no pain, no gain” guides her training and competing regimen.
“My knees have been on shaky ground since the early 1980s, when I continually popped them out playing volleyball,” Seifert said. She has continued to train on what her physical therapist calls “the tightest kneecaps” he’s ever seen.
Ann Seifert does not know how much longer she’ll compete in the “addictive” sport that has allowed her to be one of the best.
“I said this was going to be my last year,” she said, “but next year is the 20th anniversary of the Ironman. If you win your age group at Ironman, you’re automatically qualified. I’d like to compete in that race.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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