Going the Distance
Talent Strategy & Communications specialist is committed to determining just how far she can go.
You won’t find Andi Ramer sitting around the house on weekends. While it’s true she spends much of that time sitting, when she does, it’s on the seat of her bicycle. She’s out training for 10 hours a day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
It can be grueling, but for Ramer, who is a Talent Strategy & Communications specialist within the Strategic Positioning Center Of Excellence with Deloitte Services LP, these rides are journeys of personal discovery in an endless quest to push the limits of her endurance. As an ultra-endurance athlete, she is driven to find her limits.
While Ramer says she was a fairly active child, she never considered herself an athlete. In fact, she didn’t take up running until 1998, and it wasn’t something that came to her naturally. “When I started, I couldn’t even run to the corner and back,” she recalls. “Then one day I heard a woman at the gym say she was going to compete in a half marathon. I went home and told my husband that if she could do it, so could I.”
And indeed, she competed in her first half marathon (13.1 miles) and full marathon (twice that distance) that same year. She was hooked.
Change of venue
Her appetite for athletic competition whetted, Ramer quickly shifted her focus away from marathons and established a goal of competing at the highest levels on the Ironman triathlon circuit. These events require a competitor to complete 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running. The athletes compete against the clock and against one another in various age and gender classifications.
In 2001, she asked the partner who was heading her Deloitte Tax, national learning and development work team what he thought of the idea of her moving to San Diego, a training mecca for triathletes. “He thought it was a great idea,” says Ramer. “We already worked as a virtual team and none of us was on the West Coast. It was a good fit for Deloitte and a huge step in helping me realize a dream.”
Ramer moved west and completed her first Ironman triathlon that same year. While she liked her new home and the training opportunities available there, she came to realize that improving her triathlon competitiveness called for additional training, so she once again looked to Deloitte for part of the solution.
In 2002, Ramer went back to her leadership team and requested the opportunity to work a compressed workweek – freeing up Fridays for an additional training day. The request was granted. “After that, I had three full days in a row to train,” says Ramer. “I also had a new understanding and appreciation for working at Deloitte. I learned you should never be afraid to ask for what you need. You may not get everything, but it’s okay to ask.”
Over a span of eight years, Ramer competed in 18 Ironman competitions. On two occasions she qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where she found herself up against the world’s top triathletes. While she was competing near the top of her game, she felt it wasn’t quite enough; she began feeling restricted and unable to participate in activities that were not tied to her training regimen. Lost in the nitty gritty of keeping track of heart rates, race times, and triathlon-specific training sessions, she was ready for yet another change.
“My results on paper were good,” she says, “but I was putting more and more pressure on myself for my times to come down. It was becoming less fun and I realized I needed to look for another challenge.”
Going farther, not faster
So in 2009 she decided she would no longer devote herself exclusively to triathlons and instead shifted her attention to ultra-endurance events. That year, she competed in her first 100-mile run, a 500-mile bike ride that was completed over a 48-hour time span, and a double triathlon, which meant completing a 4.8 mile swim, a 224-mile bike ride, and a 52.4-mile run.
“I totally fell in love with these events and knew I could never go back to the Ironman,” says Ramer. “I found an endurance sport where I could overtrain and it actually made sense. I learned that my body wasn’t programmed to want to go faster, it wants to go farther.”
She’s now committed to discovering her boundaries. “I remember crying at mile 50 of my first 100-mile run and thinking, ‘If I were in an Ironman, I’d be home eating pizza by now,’” she says. “But I love setting goals and then achieving them. Seeing an event on my calendar motivates me to go out and train. It’s my process for setting even bigger goals for myself.”
While she’s a gifted swimmer and runner, Ramer says that she finds peace, calmness, and happiness while on her bike. “When I’m riding I have no worries, no stress,” she says. “The idea of riding for 1,000 miles scares me and excites me at the same time. It gives me purpose.”
Competing in these ultra-endurance events is far from glamorous. Over the years, Ramer has napped in a restaurant and spent many nights sleeping along a road while in the midst of a multi-day event. There are also occasions when she’s been unable to complete an event. “I’ve probably learned more through the failures than I have through my successes,” says Ramer. “The pain and disappointment of not finishing an event goes far beyond any physical pain you may feel while you’re out there competing. That kind of pain goes away once you sit down.”
But she isn’t planning on sitting down anytime soon. Ramer has her eye on a 135-mile run in Brazil next year, along with some bike rides in excess of 500 miles, and, if you can imagine, a triathlon in which the competitors swim 12 miles, bike 560 miles, and run 131 miles. Called a Quintuple Ironman– the equivalent of five Ironman events—the event is nonstop. The competitors may sleep when needed, but they must complete the event over the course of six days.
“I understand that my body allows me to do some pretty remarkable things,” says Ramer. “And I’m committed to continue to push myself. Sure, in the moment it can be really rough, but the ability to push through it and overcome it is what this is all about. All of these lessons transfer to life and you really discover what you’re made of.”