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  • Writer's pictureMeg Donnelly

E26 - The Road To Augusta with Triathlete, Designer & Entrepreneur Anna Gibson

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Anna Gibson found a passion for Triathlons in her 30s and this year completed the Iron Man 70.3 Augusta. Learn about her training and how that has shaped her as a business woman and in her day to day life. We also discuss our takeaways from the "Sports Forward: Women In Sports. Women In Leadership." conference we recently attended and so much more.

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Reston Sprint Triathlon:

AKG Design Studio: -------------

Autotranscription provided by Temi:

Meg Donnelly: 00:01 Hello Northern Virginia. This is NoVA Weekend Warriors focused on those runners, cyclists, athletes, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of fitness in the northern Virginia area. I'm Meg Donnelly a Licensed Massage Therapist here in Herndon, Virginia, focused on those weekend warriors. As with every episode of NoVA Weekend Warriors, this podcast is for entertainment purposes only and should not be taken as advice, medical or otherwise. The views of the guests in each episodes are solely their own and not necessarily the views of the NoVA Weekend Warriors podcast or of Meg Donnelly in her capacity as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Today I am very excited because I am here with business owner and triathlete Ana Gibson. Ana is amazing. She runs AKG Design Studios and she also completed the IRONMAN Augusta 70.3. Anna, welcome.

Anna Gibson: 01:00 Thank you. Thank you for having me this morning.

Meg Donnelly: 01:02 Absolutely. So we want to talk about so much stuff, but first I really want to get into IRONMAN. Do you want to just tell me a little bit first about your experience with that?

Anna Gibson: 01:12 Yeah. So actually I wanted to start with the fact that I've never been an athlete. This is whole new thing for me. So when I was growing up and I was actually an officer in the Israeli Air Force, I managed to get all the doctor notes for avoiding every possible workout. So I'm really a true, weekend warrior that started late in life and I think I did my, my first five k when I turn 32 33. Um, which was yesterday. Just kidding. So really that's been a long road for me to finding the joy of working out, going out, hitting the pavement and enjoying all this working out things that people have been talking about for four years. Finishing that half IRONMAN was really a big accomplishment for me, for myself. And even my family thinks that I'm like insane person but have no idea where is this person that never moved suddenly going out to do half IRONMANs?

Anna Gibson: 02:29 I think I, I fell into, as I said, I've been runner for a long time. Uh, I was getting a little bit bored with that. Uh, and about two years ago we went to a party and about 95% of the people in the room were triathletes and about 90% of them were multiple iron men titles, including people that took part in the world championships as well. So, you know, after a couple of drinks I definitely had that. The uh, the Mofo, the motivation that are like, I'm missing out on something, there is something else out there. So I decided to sign up for the Reston Sprint Triathlon because it was, it's a great starter one. And honestly I have to say I did not train at all for that one. I was.... I did learn a little bit how to swim. I was on a bike twice and the running I was light. But everybody in the tri community, when I said, oh, maybe I just shouldn't do it, they said, oh, don't worry about it. It's pretty easy. If you ran a half marathon, you can do it. So I decided to go out and do it. And I have to tell you, because I was on the bike only twice, my bike malfunctioned and I pretty much had to walk most of the running and most of the biking part, yes. Which if you know Reston, going up there on Cameron [Cameron Baron Road] and three times with your bike in June in the heat was not the most pleasant thing. Anytime I was trying t... my gear Is just, was not working up to hill like as long as downhill, I was cruising so I had the pleasure of arriving dead last, absolutely dead last. So I originally thought that I did not finish, but there were super nice, there were waiting for me at the finish line. So of course that ignited the competitor in me. There's no way that I'm going to be dead last again ever in any race. You know, it happens. So after that I signed up and did couple of more sprint Tris last year. Local ones that I really, really enjoyed. And the more I did it, I enjoyed more and more of that and because [of that] me and my training partner, Mark decided that our goal is to do a full IRONMAN. We decided that this year we're going to do, we're going to start preparing and do the half IRONMAN. So we were looking around to see what is the possibilities, we were willing to travel. We have a lot of friends from this area that involved heavily with the Augusta community and they highly recommend us doing the Augusta Half IRONMAN. So that's how it came to be that we signed up for the Augusta Half.

Meg Donnelly: 05:57 Nice. Nice. I think there's a couple of things that I want to touch on that you had talked about and like the first thing is, is that there's so many people I meet, especially in our area that everyone kind of assumes, Oh, if you're an athlete, like you've always had that fire in you and it's been in you since you were young. And there's more and more people that I meet that start in their 30s or even in their 40s in getting like more serious about it. I know I've come to more of a realization that it's maybe who you become is an athlete, but it's not who you are innately, you know from the time you're born for most people. But I think it's really important for when people are starting out because you kind of, when you're starting out, I think you kind of put yourself in a different bubble than other athletes or other weekend warriors.

Anna Gibson: 06:51 Right? Because you think that like, well, you know, I don't look like why I don't feel like one, I don't have the body that is like, you know, I have a friend that her husband with no training at all once a year would go out and do the rest of the Olympics. Like I'm not one of these persons. I was not born like that. You know? There are people, I just actually read an article yesterday about some crazy guy that decided to do a full IRONMAN on his own.

Meg Donnelly: 07:26 Read that yet, but I know it just came out. It was like in runner's world, right?

Anna Gibson: 07:29 Yeah. I think there's a little bit of fudging there as far as how much time he took in between the sections and the fact he was running into his house. But still the fact that he did that, it doesn't matter how many hours he did that the fact that he did do it, there are people that are born like that. They are, you know, they have these athletic buddies, they have these inclinations, they have families that were encouraging them to do that. I come from a family that nobody ever worked out. Um, my mom, now she's an avid walker and she probably walks sometime faster than I can run, but again, this is something that she took on later in life. So if I look around literally anyone in my family, I was the only one that works out. My sister now started to work out as well. She actually has a personal coach. I'm really excited for her. And then I dragged my cousin to go do my half marathon that we did in Jerusalem a couple of years ago. So that was pretty cool. So, but really I definitely something that I took later on in life and really discovered the, the love for it. And especially triathlon, I find it to be easier on your body just because you're not pounding the pavement every day really hard on your knees and your joints. So some days you swim, some days you bike. So having that whole combination, it's really totally different sensations of the body and of your muscles. So I always, I was laughing, I'm like, man, like every time people told me, well you did all these half marathons so you're going to do a full marathon. And I'm like, no, I'm just half crazy. But then you know, we're talking about five hours and effort, but at the same time I jumped into the half Ironman, which is seven hours of effort, not even thinking twice about it. And now I'm thinking about the next step of doing a full IRONMAN, not thinking twice about it, but I'm still dreading to do a full marathon, so.

Meg Donnelly: 09:51 But I love, I love what you said too, with triathlon, you are training different areas of the body every day, right? And if you're doing it right, right. If you're, if you're really putting the time and investment into focusing on all three, the cycling, the running and the swimming. And that's like what our bodies are meant to do, move in multiple different ways. It's the repetition of the same thing every day is where you get yourself into trouble. So you want to move in different ways and I think tri [traiathlon] is a great way to do that. So, you had also talked about, I think that we find a lot of our successes in the failures along the way and so I loved what you, what you just talked about, about coming in last, in your first sprint triathlon. I think it's important to understand that you're not just going to, it may be not even be in the middle, but it's getting out there and then taking that and learning from that and then creating a drive from that to move forward. Right. Instead of just, somebody else might've just said, well, I came in last, I can't do this.

Anna Gibson: 10:53 And I think this is true for anything in life. It's... Whether it's working out, whether it's, you know, helping your kids with their homework or school or getting them prepared for life or being a business owner, we really need to embrace, embrace our failure, learn from that and move on. So we look at that and say, okay, what went wrong? And I could see that. I'm like, okay, I wasn't trained. I kind of checked my bike. Um, but really if you look into overall I was not prepared. Whether it was physically with my equipment or physically with myself. But then the year later when I came back and did it again, I managed to shave 45 minutes off my time, I was prepared.

Meg Donnelly: 11:00 We talked about business really quickly and you, I, and our friend Tracy had all just recently attended The Sports Forward conference that was put on by the US Chamber of Commerce, which was so empowering. And I just, I feel like I got so much out of it. And it was all focused around women in sports and how that can relate to our businesses and kind of the greater world altogether. So do you want to talk a little bit about your experience with that?

Anna Gibson: 12:22 First of all, the conference was phenomenal. I think we got way more than I expected it to be and I really truly believe, and I tried to work with my daughter on all the things that they were talking about. As much as, you know, she's a teenager, she's not quite receptive and not really always understanding. And she's like, I don't want to, I don't want to do that and this is not for me and I hate running, but we drag her out whether she wants it or not? And so I really think that it's super important to get the girls and you know, kids involved in sports. There's so many things that they can learn. So whenever you are doing it alone, even at Triatholon, even if you think that you are doing it a lot alone and you're by yourself, it actually is at the end of the day there is teamwork. Because you find somebody you train with, you find a group to train with and you are going to train with somebody. So you're not alone. At the end of the day it's you also competing against yourself. So when you're outgoing on a business, yes there was a lot of competition around you, but it end of the day it's your business and you're the one competing against yourself. You're the one setting your business goals moving forward and finishing and, and achieving these goals. So one of the reasons that I actually started, and I think there was couples movies come around this subject in sports is that I feel good. Like I always start a project and I don't finish it. And then I started to run and I'm like, you know what? I have to finish it. Like you can't just like stop in the middle of the run, right?

Anna Gibson: 14:18 So say thing is when you're running your business. So you have to commit to a project, you have to commit to a customer or you would have to commit to your goals and finish them up. So you can just like, unless you really decide that the goal is not really fed, but uh, but you really just want to commit to it and see it, see it through because otherwise you're not getting resolved. And then even if the results that you got like me arriving dead last in my first is learning from that. So you know, you're doing something, whether it's your life, your business, and you're not getting the results that you want, you really need to evaluate what went wrong. And I think a lot of that, you know, younger people now they listen to Gary Vee, which is a, he's a big marketing and social media guru. And the one thing that he always talks is like, there's nobody to blame but yourself. So you need to look back at what happened and why you didn't get the results that you wanted. Evaluate and move on. And the same thing is when whenever you're training or not training, wherever you are running a business or not running business. And one of the interesting things that we learned in the conference was that most of the ladies that are in the high level management in their companies were athletes in their youth and probably 90% of them are still working out because I really, I am a true believer that we can fix a lot of our mental issues.

Meg Donnelly: 16:09 I totally agree with you. I'm not sure if the percentage was 92 or 94% of women in c level positions that uh, had done sports in their youth. And so my big takeaway was, wow, we've really... You know, and I think a lot of us that started later in life, our constant thing is "well I wish we had, I wish we had started earlier". Right. Getting the youth and the children and the next generation motivated about sports because it does really relate to the rest of our lives. Like you said, we don't build businesses overnight and you don't, you know, you don't go from, you know, sitting on the couch to running a triathlon overnight and you've got to listen to your failures, learn from them and move on to succeed. So I, I was, it was just such a wonderful conference. It really had me pumped up and we all need to watch more women's sports. That's what that my other takeaway was.

Anna Gibson: 17:03 Yeah. And I think we're learning now that everybody's living, you know, we live a little bit older, a little bit longer, that age is really, nothing is nothing. I'm like one of my biggest inspiration and triathlon is actually a Catholic nun, a well known as the Tri Nun. It's a sister. Madonna. I forgot her last name. She started at the age of 48 when her, I dunno what you call it, the uh, the head of her church told her that she needs to find ways to chill out and, and get all of her energy out. And she actually started, she actually wasn't planning to, to be a triathlete. She wanted to qualify for the Boston marathon and then decided and just kind of start to work on it. And of course this being a Nun, people looked at her like she's crazy. And now at 40 years later, she's 88, she just finished another one of her triathlons. And she is at number 325.

Meg Donnelly: 18:19 Wow.

Anna Gibson: 18:19 She made iron men create new age categories because of her.

Meg Donnelly: 18:23 That's awesome. That's so amazing. I'm going to look... I didn't know about the Tri Nun so I'm going to have to look her up.

Anna Gibson: 18:30 Yes. So yeah. So you know, she started at age of, excuse me, 48, and she's 88 now and she's still going strong. So whatever you starting a business or you're starting your workout, it's never too late. And I know it's cliche, but if you're out on the road, whatever you are doing, you're still faster than anyone sitting on the couch.

Meg Donnelly: 18:55 True. Very, very true. All right Anna. So what else do we want to talk about that you'd like to touch on today?

Anna Gibson: 19:03 Do you want to talk more? A little bit more about Augusta? Yeah, that would be great.

Meg Donnelly: 19:07 Yeah, let's get, so let's, let's, let's backtrack a little bit and let's talk a little bit more about Augusta. Um, so tell, tell me about that.

Anna Gibson: 19:14 So as I said, Augusta has, it's a really awesome community. Uh, unfortunately there's not a lot going on in Augusta. So really the golf tournament and the triathlon are really the two biggest events through the year. It brings a lot of people in there. So it's very important to their economy. They have a very active triathlon group in there and they actually have one of the active Facebook groups from all the triathlons that IRONMAN run. And so it was such an amazing experience to get to know people, meet people. Do you know, throughout this whole year of training, before we even got there. So there was such a camaraderie and such a celebration before we even got there. So when you, when we got there, it was already like, oh my God, we're so excited to see each other and get this going. So there's alligators and all kind of stuff in this river. So the volunteers there are very kind of not only making sure that you have the regular buoys that sit there to help the swimmers, but they actually have divers to make sure that the alligator stays away.

Meg Donnelly: 20:30 Oh Wow.

Anna Gibson: 20:31 And yes, there was alligators in the water on Friday and Saturdays. So, but you know, like hopefully we're skinny triathlons triathletes and they don't like us or you know, you just need to swim fast enough. So, and so when we got there on Friday, we signed up and then we went to do the testing, test for swim. So that's again, this is something that the locals arrange that's not part of the IRONMAN. It was very nice, uh, for them to accommodate us, to have people all on the river to make sure if somebody is not feeling right or needs to get out in the middle. And I actually managed to swim the whole distance even though I was not planning on it to do it two days before, but it was a quite a good swim. So I was really excited.

Meg Donnelly: 21:29 And it's fast too, right?

Anna Gibson: 21:31 Yes. Yeah, because you're, you're swimming with the current, it didn't feel that it was that fast. But just for example, I did the same distance in the Potomac in August and it took me about an hour, like an hour, two minutes and I did it in Augusta for 39 minutes. So, and I wasn't even trying that hard. I was like, I'm saving my energy for everything else. Like two minutes on the swim going to leave me out of breath. I'm not going to, you know, it's not going to help me. So my plan was to take it easy on the swim and then kind of go out on all the bike and then do a run walk when I get to do the run. And the day of the event, we had beautiful weather. It was super hot. It was 95 degrees. We have like 65% humidity and not a lot of shade. So luckily because of my swim time, we started on the earlier side to the swim and it was, I said it was beautiful. I got hit in the head once or twice. Not too bad. So luckily it is a wide river. So there's plenty, there was plenty of room for everybody too. But still like you swim, somebody's about to like smack [you with their feet].

Meg Donnelly: 22:53 It's part of the, it's part of the process, right?

Anna Gibson: 22:56 Yup, absolutely. So, uh, then from there we jumped on the bikes and headed out and whoever said that Augusta is the flat fast course is, is just a liar. So yeah. So the beginning, the first couple of miles, about the first five miles, we're flat. There was a lot of railroad crossings that you have to be very careful. Most of them were covered, but even so you can see a graveyard of water bottles because people bounced off those railroads and the water bottles just bounced off. So every railroad crossing was literally a graveyard of water bottles that just went flying off your bikes. They were definitely a few different difficult climbs and I think when I got to my 40 or so 45 I kind of like hit my wall and so luckily my water was still up so I stepped off my bike, stretch myself, had a lot of liquids, as much as possible. Really from there I was like, okay, one more mile, one more mile, like it's 10 miles. So like nine miles, 8 miles. Like I couldn't be happier getting into the transition and just be done with the bike. And honestly when I got off the bike and went into my run, I wasn't sure if I'm going to finish it. I was so beat up, it was so hot. I think I was somehow somewhat dehydrated. I was like, I dunno. I'm like the good thing that again my, my biking was within the time frame that I want it to be. So I said, okay, even if I have to walk, I'm still going to finish with the total of eight and a half hours. But when I got to the first water station, I got a lot of ice, a lot of water and some nutrition and I managed to get into my rhythm of run and walk that I planned for myself. You know, you keep going, you're running, there's this crazy loops. The community was all there. So it was really, really nice. Everybody was, they were standing there with water hoses and buckets of ice and everything possible to cheer us on. So there was really very few spots that there were not people that were cheering for us. And my next wall was at mile two when I thought that I missed the turn to the shoot. And I find that I'm running the second loop the second time. So after a few minutes of running, I looked around, I realized that I'm still running the same people that were around me the last couple of minutes. So I figured out, oh, like, okay, maybe they can't be that we're all lost. Right? So I kept running and yeah, finally got to that turn and I'm like, okay, let's do it. So I definitely gotten my, my last bit of energy and ran it and of course I had to slow down to, you know, get the nice pictures at the end of the run and the finish line. Cause usually I just like want to get these last few seconds. So I have the most awful face at the finish line photos because I just sprang. So like from the moment I see usually the first 50 a hundred yard, I sprint like crazy. So when I get to the finish line, I have these such awful finish line photos because it's like all these effort and energy in my head and my face that my friend get reminded me to slow down. You know, like this fake jog, kind of slow motion, make sure you get all the photos. There is a lot of things involved in triathlon, not just working out. Your outfit needs to match, to match your bike, you have to get good photos in the end, you know, important things.

Anna Gibson: 27:27 So yeah. So overall I was phenomenal experience. Um, I think it was, for me at least, it was super, super important to get the massage from you before I left. Ah, as you know, my bike was not up set up correctly a couple of weeks before that and my neck was absolutely killing me. Knowing that I'm gonna now have to sit in the van for over nine hours. I needed to do something and it was absolutely crucial to arrive, really relaxed, you know, feeling great to the race. So I really, really, really thank you. That was phenomenal and I think that also helped with the fact that already Wednesday I wasn't even feeling like anything happened on the weekend. So I was fully recovered and didn't feel like anything extreme happened to my body. But that's because all the preparation that I did before going: working out, the eating, the hydration, the massage, pretty much everything that really contributed to a fantastic recovery at the end. Because this is also important thing you don't want to be done, and then now for a whole week you can't function.

Meg Donnelly: 28:42 Right, exactly. Because you have to, like we talked about before, you're not just a triathlete. You are a triathlete, you're a mother, you're a business owner, so you've gotta be able to get back into functioning. You want to do this so that it is a benefit to your life, not so that it's a detriment to your life.

Anna Gibson: 29:03 Right. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely.

Meg Donnelly: 29:05 All right, well that's about all the time we have today, but I want to thank you so much for taking the time. When we don't see you out on the trails or out swimming, training, we can also find you at your business, AKG Design Studio. Where can people go to find out more about you, more about what you're doing and more about AKG Design Studio?

Anna Gibson: 29:30 Sure, so I'm a certified kitchen and bathroom designer, so it's kind of a niche of interior design. You can go to our Facebook page @AKGDesignStudio. You can follow us there. You can follow us on Instagram if you want to see a little bit more of the personal stuff and, more of the my triathlon and working out our Instagram is @AKGDesignQueen and I post a lot about my workout, but also about my business as well. So if you're looking to remodel your kitchen or your bathroom or your whole house, we are happy to help you get it done.

Meg Donnelly: 30:14 Awesome. So I'll have all of the links in the show notes so that everyone can easily click on those to come with you. So whether you want to remodel your life through kitchens and bathrooms or through triathlon, you're the go to person.

Anna Gibson: 30:28 Yeah, absolutely.

Meg Donnelly: 30:30 I love it. All right, perfect. Well, again, I want to thank Anna Gibson with AKG Design Studio, business owner, end triathlete for being with us today. That's all we have for today. So of course, I'd like to also thank you, our NoVA Weekend Warriors listeners. You can rate, find and subscribe to NoVA Weekend Warriors most places you find your podcast and at or Catch NoVA Weekend Warriors each Wednesday featuring conversations with the people like Anna who make northern Virginia run, cycle, climb, lift and swim. Until my next episode, have a great week. Have fun with your fitness goals. Enjoy each and every new challenge you set for yourself or that comes your way.


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