TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I have known Anne Quadrini Rogers for a few years, but got to know her much better from our trip this summer to USA Triathlon Nationals in Omaha. Anne is one of my favorite people in TCSD and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her, too.
Craig: What was your athletic background when you were younger?
Anne: I’m the oldest of four kids and was 4-1/2 when the youngest was born. I think for my mom’s sanity, she always had us outside running around. I was also a tomboy, so I’d rather be outside throwing the football or riding a bike than be inside playing with dolls.
When I was swimming at a community pool while in 4th grade, someone mentioned to me that if I swam a certain number of laps, I could swim a mile. I was so intrigued, I did it that day. An endurance athlete was born!
I played soccer, softball, and even a little bit of basketball growing up. Soccer was so competitive in high school that I opted for drill team. Friday night football was life in Texas, even in Dallas. Drill team was the squad that did dance routines with high kicks and splits during halftime and cheered during the game. Practices were 2 to 2-1/2 hours a day during football season, requiring dedication and efficiency to keep up with our studies at my challenging college prep school.
Craig: The military has been a constant theme in your life. Your grandpa, dad, and husband Charlie have all been in the military. How has that shaped you?
Anne: My Daddy was in the Marines before he married my Mom. Even though he was no longer active when we were born, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” We made our beds with “Marine corners”, woke up early every day, even during vacation (lots to do everyday!) and stayed active in sports and life. Discipline was expected.
In addition, my Mom’s dad was a Marine during WW II, and my wonderful husband Charlie was in the Army when we met. My first job after getting married was as a civilian in the Army Corps of Engineers in West Germany, where Charlie was stationed at the end of the Cold War. I also was active with the officers’ wives group. So yes, the discipline, dedication, and efficiency of military life has rubbed off on me.
Craig: In getting to know you, I have detected a lot of Texas A&M pride. What is so special about the Aggies?
Anne: In 8th grade, I decided I wanted to be an engineer (just like my Daddy!), and since “my blood runs maroon”, Texas A&M was the obvious choice. The traditions, discipline, and loyalty of A&M drew me there, and it was the only place I applied to (much to my Mom’s concern.) Going from an all-girls high school to a male-dominated major was quite a change…which I certainly enjoyed. Texas A&M started the 12th Man tradition of standing during the game, ready to help our team (with player E. King Gill in the Dixie Classic in 1922), and no matter how the game goes, the Fighting Texas Aggie Band ALWAYS wins halftime!
I participate with the San Diego Aggie Club, so that I can be with others who understand what it means to be an Aggie. The most important tradition is Aggie Muster, celebrated by Aggies all around the world on 21 April, San Jacinto Day (commemorating the day of the final battle in the war for Texas Independence.) Any Aggie who has died over the past year will be remembered in a solemn ceremony on that day. Celebrations off campus often also include a social and BBQ, of course.
Craig: What was the inspiration that led to your first triathlon?
Anne: After graduating from Texas A&M, I moved back to Dallas. In my spare time, I became very involved in cycling. My favorite race was the “Hotter than Hell Hundred”, in Wichita Falls…in August. Once again, it was me and the guys. But my competitiveness and determination came out, and I loved passing the guys, especially going uphill. Fast forward several years, and I had twins. No more cycling for me.
When my twins were getting older, I started running. Again, being the competitive person I am, I joined a few friends in a challenge of five marathons in five months…and ended up with a stress fracture in my foot. No running for 8 weeks. Back to cycling and swimming! I decided I couldn’t let all that cross-training go to waste, and I convinced my good friend Janet to do a triathlon with me. On 10-10-10, we did “The Day at the Beach” at Hermosa Beach.
As Janet and I stood on the shore, looking at the angry, choppy ocean, we both realized we hadn’t done any open water swimming! Although I could swim all day long in a pool, I couldn’t do freestyle in that choppy water. I briefly panicked, thinking I can’t DNF in my 1st Tri. I finished that whole swim doing the backstroke! Janet and I somehow finished the swim together, so we jumped on our mountain bikes and started the 3-lap bike portion. Each lap, we passed these teens volunteering on the course. Every time we cycled past them, they’d yell out, “And that’s the way we roll!” That has since become a mantra for Janet and me. As I crossed that finish line, I knew I had found my sport. It was hard, but I felt like a kid, going from one sport to the next. I had become a Triathlete!
Craig: In 2017 you raced Olympic Distance Nationals in Omaha for the first time. What was that experience like?
Anne: I had the opportunity to race USA Tri Nationals in Omaha. What a fantastic experience! One that I hope I can do again. Even though I knew I wouldn’t finish anywhere near the top, I was still happy to be there. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting Sister Madonna Buder, the Iron Nun. At 87 years old, she is still a ball of energy!
I enjoyed volunteering with Craig Zelent and Holly Stroschine at packet pickup-the energy from everyone was high. People were excited to be at Nationals!
The swim for me didn’t go as planned (I had a fight with my goggles, and lost), but the bike went well. I had fun cycling past all those cornfields, as well as up the one hill in Omaha.
Even though I hadn’t placed in the race (no surprise there) I went to the awards ceremony. Awards were given out to the top 10 in each age group (Congratulations, Craig!), starting with the 85+ age group. What an inspiration to see the athletes in those older age groups. They all looked so great! I want to be like them when I “grow up”!
If I am ever lucky enough to qualify for Nationals again, I plan to go.
Craig: You completed the HITS Ironman in Palm Springs in 2015. What was that experience like for you?
Anne: When Janet and I did our first Sprint Tri together, we marveled at those athletes doing Olympic distance. We eventually did our first Olympic together (LA Tri Events), as well as our first Half Ironman together (Vineman). Our plan was to do IMAZ together, but I ended up not being able to volunteer the year before. So, she did IMAZ, and two weeks later, I did the full distance at HITS Palm Springs. I had done several 70.3s by then, but I knew the training would be more. Boy, that was an understatement! That month of peak volume was definitely a challenge. Since I knew the course would be flat and windy, I trained mostly on Fiesta Island. 25 laps around is not only physical training, but also mental training!!! My schedule had 4 weekends over 100 miles. On the third one, I struggled just to get to 76 miles. My body needed a break. I broke down crying, and called Charlie. I asked him if I came home, could we go walk on the beach together. He was so understanding and supportive of me. I had my little breakdown, but the following weekend, I was strong and ready to go again.
For the race, we stayed with some good friends who have a desert home in Indio. My cheering crew was ready with signs and cowbells. Since the race had many laps for each leg, I was able to see my cheering squad several times throughout the day; they worked hard, too!
Although my favorite sport is cycling, I was so ready to get off my bike. I saw Charlie at T2 and happily exclaimed, “All I have left is a Marathon!” That statement made perfect sense to me at the time!
One of the best things was, on the first lap of the run, I saw Janet. What a wonderful surprise! She was holding a “140.6” sticker in her hand and said, “All you have to do is run a marathon, and this is yours!”
I did the Ironman Shuffle and made my way across that finish line. Years of leading up to the point, all the training, the dedication, the sacrifices, and I crossed that line. Wow!!! I did it!!! What an amazing feeling. I’m actually getting teary-eyed just thinking about it now.
Craig: What athletic performances are you most proud of?
Anne: I remember sitting in a Tri club meeting when I was still living in the Pasadena area. Our own Bob Babbitt was the speaker at the meeting. He asked for those in the room who had completed a full distance triathlon to raise their hand. The lady next to me raised her hand. She looked like a “normal” person, not a super athlete. It was at that moment I decided to one day do an Ironman. So, many years later, after much training and sacrifice, when I crossed that line in Palm Springs, I felt so proud of myself. I had done it!!!
A non-triathlon athletic endeavor of which I am very proud was hiking up and back Mt. Whitney in one day. I was part of a group of 11 women, and we called ourselves the “Badass Mother Hikers.” The day before we summited, many hikers had to turn back because of bad weather. Our group started at 3:00 am, since we wanted to make it to the top well before noon, when the storms typically roll in. The hike started great, and the sunrise was beautiful. We were doing it!. But the closer we got to the top, the heavier the clouds became. At one point, due to the ice on the trail (in July!), we all had to put crampons onto our hiking boots. I normally like to do things myself (I get that from my grandmother Antoinette, after whom I am named). But at over 14,000′ elevation, I just couldn’t function well enough to get the left one on. A passing hiker asked if I would like him to help; my first thought was No! But, I relented and let him help. We finally made it to the top! (All 11 of us made it, but not all together.) By then, the storm had rolled in. Here I was at the highest peak in the continental US, and I could see maybe 50′ away. After the requisite photos, we “hurried” down the mountain. That was almost harder than going up, especially because of the hail and rain; the trail had become a river. It was dark again by the time we reached the bottom, but we had done it. What an amazing feeling!
Craig: What is the dumbest or funniest thing you have done in your sporting life?
Anne: Well, the dumbest was not doing an open water swim before my first Tri. One of the funniest and also dumbest isn’t Tri-related but does involve my first time wearing a wetsuit. My company was doing a team building day, which included surfing lessons. I was having the hardest time putting on my wetsuit. Turns out, I was trying to put my legs into the arms! Oops!
Craig: You have identical twin boys at Purdue now. How did having an athletic mom impact their lives?
Anne: God blessed me with twin boys…and not girls. Being a tomboy growing up, I wouldn’t have known what to do with a girly-girl! My sons played every sport out there while growing up; they had endless bounds of energy. Where did they get that from? While still in elementary school they started water polo, which became their sport, even playing for Purdue.
Thomas and Brian were on the Rose Bowl Water Polo team. For those who don’t know the area, The Rose Bowl Aquatics Center was built for the ’84 Olympics, with two full sized Olympic pools. In addition, the road around the Rose Bowl Stadium is,very conveniently, 5km around. There are also about 10 roads leading down (read, hills!) into the Rose Bowl area. In other words, a great place to train while your sons spend hours at water polo practice!
I was that crazy Mom who, during the weekend-long tournaments, would have to run or cycle between games. One of the parents once asked my sons what it was like to have such an athletic Mom. They looked at her quizzically and responded, “It’s normal.”
Since water polo was so demanding, Brian and Thomas had to be very efficient and finish most of their homework before practice. Sometimes, I would catch them drifting off task or starting to bicker with each other. That’s when I would shout out, “Drop and give me 20!” Pumping out 20 push-ups would get their blood moving and change the dynamic to help them refocus. Charlie, who had been in the Army, thought it was funny that I was the one playing drill sergeant. Maybe it came from the Marines in my family (Daddy, Grandpa, cousins), from A&M, or from Charlie, but push-ups seemed like the most logical (and effective) thing to redirect them. And it worked!
During Thomas and Brian’s senior year, they did a sprint triathlon (LA Tri Series) with me. Due to their water polo background, they were 1st and 3rd out of the water! Then they jumped onto their heavy mountain bikes and sped along. Although they did well in the race, despite their lack of experience and proper equipment, they decided they much preferred water polo. But now that they have a Tri under their belt, when they get older, they can jump into the sport more easily, knowing they have already completed one.
I always went to cheer on my boys in their games, so when I asked them and Charlie to cheer me on for my first marathon (Pasadena), they happily obliged. My sons surprised me and made the most amazing signs. As I was hitting the wall at mile 23, wondering why I was doing this to myself, I turned the corner (literally) and there they were, waving their wonderful homemade signs. Oh, that was the best thing! It gave me the boost I needed to finish that race. I still have those signs!
Craig: What have you done as a volunteer for TCSD?
Anne: Although I haven’t held an official position at TCSD, I volunteer as often as I can. I enjoy helping with set up at our awesome club races and events, especially at check-in: what a great way to meet the other members! I also like helping at the expos so I can tell other people about our amazing club.
Craig: What other volunteer roles in the community have you found to be particularly rewarding?
Anne: Volunteering has always been an important part of my life, with my parents setting the example. My high school’s motto was “Serviam”, Latin for “I will serve.”
Teaching Sunday School at church, volunteering with Junior League of Pasadena (Junior League is an international women’s volunteer group), and being president of my running club were all great. But my favorite positions involved volunteering with and for my sons, including reading to their class in the library, helping out in the classroom, and of course, being the official “Water Polo Mom”. I didn’t realize how much I had been volunteering until my sons’ senior year. I was invited to the “Terrific Titan” luncheon (their high school’s mascot was the Titans) under the guise that my friend was receiving the coveted “Terrific Titan” award, for exceptional volunteer service. As they started reading about the background of the person receiving the award, I soon realized, I was the recipient! What an amazing honor!
I am proud to say, the tradition of “Serviam” has been carried on by my sons, who volunteer at their church and with their fraternities.
Craig: What is the best thing you get from volunteering?
Anne: I think volunteering is such an important part of our society, from schools, to our awesome TriClub, to the amazing acts of volunteering during the recent hurricanes in our country. And although volunteering is mainly to help the recipient, it also helps the volunteer. One of my favorite volunteer memories was years ago, when I was working in the Junior League Thrift Store during Christmas time. A man came into the store with a handful of crumpled bills and some change, looking for a gift for his wife. We looked together searching around the store and found the perfect gift. He was so excited. But I think I got more out of it than he did. It felt so good to see the smile on his face!
Craig: What role does God play in your life?
Anne: God has always played an important part in my life. Again, my parents were great role models for my siblings and me. My Mom was the Director of Religious Ed at my church for 15 years. Everyone knew the Quadrini family, which meant we had to behave at church! No easy task for siblings about the same age, who might have to preferred to chat and giggle during Mass.
I am so grateful to God for all the opportunities I have had, and for being able to make it through the challenging times in my life as well. I was very ill many years ago and ended up in the hospital. I consider the day I entered the hospital as my “Living Day”, and I want to live each day to the fullest to show my thankfulness.
One of my mantras while I race is the verse from Philippians 4:13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” During the run, I pray for people, especially those who cannot do what I am doing. My strong, powerful Daddy had a stroke last year, and I often pray for him and dedicate my run to him.
Craig: What do you do for a living?
Anne: I was educated as an engineer, and truly enjoyed all the technical work I did. When I got my MBA, I learned that those crazy people in Marketing actually had a reason for having us Engineers do (or not do) certain things. But then I started working with my husband Charlie, who is a financial advisor and wealth manager. We have our own firm, Azimuth Wealth Advisors. “Azimuth” is a quantitative measure of direction. The term is used both in Field artillery (Charlie’s job in the Army) for finding the direction to safely fire weapons and hit the distant target, and in the cellular industry (I was an engineer at Verizon) for designing the cell sites.
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Anne: I would love to make it to USA Nationals again. And, as an even higher goal, I would love to represent the USA in Worlds.
Craig: Anne, thank you so much for telling us your story. Your family and friends have been very blessed to have you in their lives. TCSD is part of that fortunate group of people. I am sure I will see you again at Nationals and probably Worlds. That is assuming you can break yourself of the habit of putting your legs in the arm holes of your wetsuit.
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.