After Anne Usher’s second child was born, she realized that her professional cycling career wasn't compatible with motherhood.
“I was away on a six-day stage race, and I realized I just couldn’t do it anymore,” said Usher. “I missed my family. So I told myself that my racing days were over and I just had to suck it up.”
A few months later, Usher’s husband told her that they had to find something for her to do. “He knew that I wasn’t happy,” she said.
On a whim, Usher entered XTERRA PDX in her hometown of Portland in 2014 and surprised herself by finishing first overall in the women’s division.
“Winning was kind of a shock,” said Usher. “I entered randomly and I had a blast. I just remember smiling during the entire mountain bike."
Usher says that the transition from mountain biking to road biking was easy because she had been mountain biking since she met her husband.
“For our wedding present, he got me a mountain bike,” she said.
But then again, Usher tends to make difficult things look easy. Currently, she balances her job as an architect, her workouts as an XTERRA pro athlete, and her family. For most of us, two out of three of those would be more than enough.
“I dictate my own hours in my job,” said Usher. “But I’m also a night owl so a lot of my work gets done from eight pm until midnight.”
Usher usually gets up at early to workout and then spends the day with her children, who are now five and three. It’s not an easy day – and she admits she could do with a bit more sleep – but it’s a happy life.
“XTERRA and running and biking are things that make me happy,” said Usher. “If I don’t have a race on the calendar, I feel a bit lost. But when I can get up at six and do my workout, I can be back at nine and know I’m going to be a great mom the rest of the day. When I don’t do that for myself, I’m just not as engaged with my kids.”
Usher also believes that it’s important for children to see that women can compete with the men. “I don’t want my kids to think that girls and moms don't compete.”
Usher’s children often come to races with her and enter the kids’ events, such as the Kapalua Keiki Run at the XTERRA World Championships. “They love those races,” she said. “My five-year old son has gone on eight-mile bike rides with me, and my three-year old has been in some local kids’ races.”
This is a natural progression for Usher, who grew up in an avid running family. Her parents were big runners and Usher ran track for University of Oregon – one of the greatest track and field programs of all time.
Even Usher’s work revolves around running. She was one of the architects who designed and built the track for the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, which was held in Portland in the Oregon Convention Center.
“We built the track in a warehouse in Portland, and before we took it to the Convention Center, I could run on the World Indoor Track whenever I wanted,” said Usher. “We also had youth and community races at the warehouse so it was a lot of fun.”
Fun is Usher’s number one goal – even now that she has her pro card for XTERRA races.
“I hated starting the swim so far back,” she said of her decision to turn pro. “I had to spend most of the mountain bike begging the men to let me pass.”
XTERRA Oak Mountain was her first race as a pro. She finished 12th overall in the women’s division. “For the first time, I felt like I could actually ride my bike,” she said.
Now, Usher is gearing up for the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in Utah in September.
“I want to keep challenging myself and keep improving,” she said. “But I also don’t want to get too wrapped up in it. If my kids come to a race to cheer for me, I want to smile at them as I’m going by.”