Meet Romanian born triathlete Ana Maria Cretu.
The 33 year old, now based in Italy, has already made a real name for herself in the sport – competing in World Championships across the globe. But believe us, she’s just getting started!
Here we talk to Ana about her lifelong love for running, dealing with first race nerves and the unique training schedule that’s allowed her to compete at the highest level.
Tell us a bit about your early days in sport. Where did it all begin?
It all began in my native country Romania, where as a child I always enjoyed running. But my passion for running never went further than school competitions at the weekends.
Over the following years I continued to run for my own pleasure until six years later after moving to Italy, I discovered the world of duathlon (run-bike-run) and in 2010, thanks to some friends of mine I had my first opportunity to compete.
I had not trained for the race and had never ridden a road bike.
The idea of racing a duathlon sprint (5km run, 20km bike and 2.5km run) for the first time appealed to me and I was very much looking forward to it. However the first race was cut short, with a nasty fall in the bike section leading to the frame being broken in half.
Nevertheless, the seed was sown!
I joined a club where I received a structured programme and coaching which would enable me to compete in a more convincing manner. I am still an active member there now.
What got you interested in triathlon competitions?
My interest in triathlon probably came about when travelling to triathlon races with my fellow team members. Even though I had no background of swimming, I still believed that I could give it a try.
With the right approach to triathlon races and keeping in mind the perspective of enjoyment rather than results, in 2011 I decided to take on a swim preparation both pool and open water which gave me a huge amount of satisfaction.
How did your first race go?
My first ever race was in May 2012 near my home in Italy.
I remember that I was very nervous and couldn’t sleep the night before. But once at the race venue, the atmosphere, the music and all the other athletes gave me a great sense of courage.
I couldn’t have imagined coming in ninth out of seventy women. Whilst I managed to make up time on the run section, I needed to improve my swim in order to be more competitive.
How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for a race?
I try to keep a good balance between my effective physical preparation and the goals I would like to achieve. I think it’s important to be relaxed the night before the race.
Once racing, I always think positive and do my best to get to the finish line as far up front as possible.
What is your favourite of the three disciplines and why? Is it your strongest discipline as well?
My favourite of the three disciplines is undoubtedly running.
As a child I dreamed of becoming an athlete. The sensation of freedom of movement coupled with the results that I have achieved in running have certainly inspired me. I enjoy cycling too and Duathlon races have given me immense joy.
Tell us about your training routine – what does your average day involve?
My training programme is very individual and is based on my race calendar.
I am a member of a triathlon club, I train on a daily basis where a typical weekly cycle would be 3 swim sessions, 4 bike sessions, 5 run session and 3 gym session for strength and conditioning.
Weekends are often busy with athletic races, road or track, from local to national level.
I have an English coach, Genevieve Church, who has been in Italy for 30 more years and is part of our triathlon club.
How do you manage pain and fatigue out on the course?
Pain and fatigue are part of racing. I try not to let myself focus on these during racing, instead I concentrate on getting to the finish line and giving my best. I’ve finished every race I’ve entered.
My hardest race physically was a bike race in the Dolomites of 105km, but even in those conditions I had to get to the finish line. And I can still say it was all worth it!
Where has been your favourite place to compete and why?
I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity of racing in some beautiful places in Italy.
I also raced in Canada in 2014 and that was spectacular. It was the first time I had been in Canada and during my two weeks of travelling from Vancouver to Edmonton for the World Championships, I managed to train every day.
The World Championships in Chicago were special, in the center of the windy city, and Kitzbuhel in Austria in the heart of the Austrian countryside.
Another race that will always mean a lot to me was in Brasov Transylvania, where I achieved a marvellous victory.
I have had the great honour of representing my country of origin Romania, something I could never have imagined to achieve in such a relatively short space of time.
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What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievements are the two World Championships, the first being in Edmonton 2014, where I finished 13th in my category after losing a lot of time in the swim. It was an incredible experience for me. Also in 2015 Chicago World Championships where I came in 33rd.
17th place at the European Triathlon Championships in Kitzbuhel 2014 and an 8th place in the Powerman Sprint Duathlon European Championships in Holland, will always stay with me.
But without a doubt my fondest memory was in the Balkan Duathlon Championships where I won gold on home turf.
I have also won other athletic and duathlon races here in Italy.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the immediate future are the World Championships in Rotterdam in September this year. I had a break from training at the start of 2017, but since then I have been riding and running wherever I go.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve even been given?
To never give up on turning your dreams into reality, no matter what other people may say to you. You have to enjoy what you do in life.
What do you get up to in your spare time when you’re not competing/training?
In my spare time, I work part-time. I travel a lot but nevertheless have a very active lifestyle. Italy is a beautiful country with so much to discover and it’s where I got married!
Wherever I go, I have my bike and my running shoes. I also like to watch others race and not just triathlon. I collaborate with various brands such as Mizuno and Cinelli, which takes me to exciting race venues and events. I also like to spend time on myself with friends and family.
You can follow Ana Maria on Instagram at @ana_funactive