Emma Garrard is proof that motherhood makes you tougher.
At the 2015 XTERRA National Championship, Garrard claimed the number one spot on the podium after eight straight second-place finishes in the XTERRA regional races in the pro division.
And in a sport that favors single people with loads of free time, she crossed the finish line carrying her two-year old son Torin. A month later, she finished third at XTERRA Worlds to secure her status as the fastest American woman in the sport for the third straight year.
“I could talk a lot about returning to training after a baby,” says Garrard, who is just getting back into the swing of things after her second baby, Nigel, who was born in January. “It’s really hard. But it’s also so good to be outside. I’m trying to be patient and ease back into training between feedings and when I have help.”
Less than a year after having Torin, Garrard finished 5th at XTERRA Worlds. The question now is, can she do it again?
“Being patient with yourself and taking time for yourself can help in so many ways,” continues Garrard, who explains that just getting out of the house and into nature can help new moms find a sense of balance. “But you want to make sure you aren’t putting too much pressure on yourself too soon. It’s good to sign up for a race and have a goal to reach for. It’s good to do something you did before to prevent an identity crisis. It’s OK to take a break from your baby and remember who you were before.”
Before children, Garrard was a world-class triathlete. With children, she is world-class triathlete who also knows how to change diapers, wipe away tears, and tell a great bedtime story.
“I plan to start back at XTERRA Oak Mountain next week and just see where I am,” says Garrard. “Having a goal like that motivates me to get out there and do things. Then I’ll keep it rolling with XTERRA Beaver Creek, XTERRA Nationals in Ogden, and then the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.”
If this plan sounds easy, she is quick to correct that. “I hardly ever felt good when I was pregnant,” the Park City resident admits. “Being pregnant at 7,000 feet is always a struggle. I still did all the things I did before but it was so much harder. I did a lot of cross-country skiing because it was easier than running. Sometimes the water felt good. And going downhill on the bike was tons better than going uphill.”
Seven months after the birth of her first son, Torin, Garrard found her coach, XTERRA 2015 World Champion, Josiah Middaugh. “I was looking for an XTERRA-specific coach,” says Garrard. “And he even lives at a similar altitude.”
Garrard explains that living at altitude means she has more red blood cells, but that it’s also more difficult to recover, and she can’t train as much as she could if she lived at sea level. As a result, all of Garrard’s miles are quality miles, which fits in well if you are the mom of two little ones.
Garrard is honest about the realities of the sport and the demands parenting places on athletes. “Physically, I could do this for a long time,” says 35-year old Garrard. “But finding the support to be able to do triathlon training can be stressful.”
Garrard is balancing racing with coaching cross-country skiing, which she learned while living in Anchorage as a child. “Cross-country ski season is opposite of my race season,” says Garrard, “So it works out well. And it’s nice to have something else I love as my backup plan.”
Given what she did after the birth of her first child, Garrard can’t be counted out this season. She’s tough, consistent, and injury free. “I’ve been knock-on-wood healthy,” she says, while crossing her fingers. “I’ve been smart about backing off when something hurts and I’ve been lucky to have consistent results.”
And Torin and Nigel are lucky to have a Mom that lives the healthy, active, outdoors, lifestyle, and has some very athletic genes.