Thursday, November 15, 2012

Winter/Spring 10K/10-Miler Program Registration Now CLOSED

ENROLLMENT FOR OUR 10K/10-MILER PROGRAM HAS REACHED CAPACITY.  REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.  In order to maintain the personal attention that is so important to our coaching, we cap participation in our group programs.  If you are interested in joining a future program, or in our private "virtual" coaching, please contact us (contact information in right hand sidebar).  We look forward to running with you in 2013!

Although it's not even officially winter yet, we're already looking forward to out next Sunday morning group training program, our annual Winter/Spring 10K/10-Miler Program.  This program begins on Sunday, February 3 and runs for 12 weeks through the popular (and beginner friendly) Pike's Peek 10K on Sunday, April 21. For more experienced runners looking to target a longer distance race, the program will prepare you for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler (entry must be earned by lottery opening December 3), the GW Parkway Classic 10-Miler, or any other spring 10-Miler race.  The program can also accommodate runners training for late spring or early summer half marathons such as the Nike Women's Half Marathon on April 28.

As with all of our group programs, registration includes:

  • A comprehensive 12-week training calendar tailored to your experience and goals;
  • Weekly group runs held on Sunday mornings in the Rockville/Bethesda area;
  • Presentations and guest speakers on running-related topics including injury prevention and nutrition;
  • Personalized coaching and access to experienced, certified coaches for questions and schedule modification;
  • A technical running shirt;
  • Discounts on race entry for Pike's Peek and on gear from  

Runners should be able to complete a long run of about three miles and be running at least eight miles per week  (no pace requirement) at the start of the program.  Those wanting to train for a spring 10-miler race should be able to run at least six miles with a total weekly mileage of approximately 15 miles per week.  If you are interested in participating but are not yet up to running these distances, please contact us and we can provide you with a build-up program that you can use over the next few months to establish a good base before February.

Register early and save- registration is $100 through January 2; after January 2, registration is $120.  Register with a friend and if at least one of you is new to the Run Farther & Faster programs, pay just $190 for both runners ($95 each) through January 2 and $200 ($100 each) after January 2.   To register, select "Spring Sunday 10K/10M" from the drop-down menu to the right (select "buddy program" if signing up with a friend and please note their name/email address).

We look forward to another rewarding season helping our runners Run Farther & Faster!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

True Spirit of the Marathon

Thousands of runners registered for this year's ING NYC Marathon were faced with conflicting emotions when, after Superstorm Sandy ravaged much of the City, the announcement was made early in the week that the Marathon would still go on.  For personal reasons, some decided not to run the race while others decided to move ahead with their plans after months of training.  Most agreed that they felt a sense of relief when the race was cancelled late on Friday.

Run Farther & Faster friend and two-time Boston marathoner, Amanda Kunstmann, of Columbus, Ohio was one of those runners.  Below is her story of the true spirit of the marathon.

My NYC 2012 Marathon experience began in January 2011 when I crossed the finish line of my favorite half marathon, the ING Miami Half, in just enough time to qualify for guaranteed entry to New York.  I was beyond proud and excited and spent the next year and nine months in eager anticipation of the “race like no other.”   There was something magical about the prospect of New York.  Each race I’ve run has a special place in my heart, its own character, challenges, and friends with whom I’ve shared those unique experiences.  New York was going to be special because my husband and I were running it together, and it was my first time doing it.   

Seeds of doubt began to sow themselves the weekend of the Marine Corps Marathon 2012 in Washington DC.  Hurricane Sandy battered the east coast and created daunting weather conditions for runners of that marathon which took place the week before the NYC Marathon.  I had been following that race closely because I had several friends running it and /or pacing it.  Fortunately, the conditions for that marathon ended up being fine, although many people experienced travel difficulties after the race.  My attention turned towards the ominous predictions of the wrath of Sandy on NYC, which was expected to ravage that coast next.

We all have the benefit of hindsight now.  We know that the marathon should have been cancelled immediately following the devastating hurricane.  The fact that so much deliberation took place in spite of the dire circumstances leads me to believe that the mayor and the NYRR really wanted to continue the race, to send a message about resiliency and fortitude.  Of course canceling created its own set of logistical and financial complications that they also wanted to avoid if possible, but I keep in mind that to their credit, these individuals got into their positions of power because of their tenacity.  They don’t give up easily.  It’s harder for some people to let go of their aspirations.  Thankfully, in the end, concern for public safety prevailed, and the right call was made to cancel and divert resources to those in need. 

I spent the entire week before the marathon unable to sleep.  So much was happening; it made my head spin.  Mike and I were planning to go along with whatever the City decided to do, but I was completely conflicted about continuing and unable to enjoy the idea of running the marathon anymore.  It wasn’t going to be the experience I expected.  We received an email from our hotel that essentially read “Dear Guest, We regret to inform you that your reservation is cancelled due to there being a dangerous dangling crane on our block, the result of high winds during hurricane Sandy.  The hotel was indefinitely evacuated. Sorry.”  I will print that and put it with my bib and other race memorabilia.  We rebooked at the race headquarters hotel, and I started to get very concerned about all the hate mail directed toward race organizers and runners.  What started as conflicted emotion about participating turned into outright fear as I read FB messages on my flight to LGA.  By the time we checked into our hotel on Friday night, it was a bit of a relief that the race had been cancelled.    

My first reaction to the news was to send a message to my run club back home:  marathon cancelled, this marathoner is still running 26.2 at some point this week, join me for all or part and please donate to the relief effort.  Then my husband and I donned our party clothes, as planned, and headed to the New York Athletic Club for a dinner with friends and keynote speaker, Joan Benoit Samuelson.  It was an inspirational evening.  By the end of it, Joanie managed to turn what could have been a very disappointing night into an uplifting and hopeful one.  Her spirit of determination and genuine love for the sport left us all excited about running and racing again in NYC 2013.  A better way to ease the tension there could not have been. 

The next morning, I woke up to an email message from my friend Aaron, asking “who’s in for a marathon today?”  I had planned to meet with the group in front of the NYAC to do the scheduled run with Joanie, but I had gone to bed on Friday night at midnight, after several glasses of wine, not planning to get up and run 26.2.  However, it was the opportunity of a lifetime:  it was a beautiful, perfect day, I was trained to run a marathon, and Aaron would be an excellent guide, as this would have been his 15th consecutive NYC marathon.  He knew the course.  I decided to go for it.  It would be an adventure!  We ran the course backwards, starting with Joanie in Central Park for the first few miles, then setting out on our own, weaving through traffic and pedestrians, stopping to buy water and Gatorade at convenience stores, and waiting in line for restrooms at McDonalds.  New Yorkers were out enjoying the sunshine; however, remnants of Sandy were apparent.  There were long lines of people and cars at every gas station, and areas of parks, roads, and sidewalks were still blocked by downed branches and debris.  Some places lacked electricity and safe drinking water.   Running the course that day made me even more thankful that the race was cancelled and resources from it were given to people in need.  We finished our makeshift marathon at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. My finisher photo:

That night Mike and I ventured out to a small drug store in midtown to purchase the recommended relief supplies for our morning mission on Staten Island.  We were checking out when in walked 2012 Olympian, Kara Goucher.  At the risk of seeming like a stalker, I politely introduced myself and told her I was a big fan. She was as friendly as can be, talked to me for several minutes about the marathon, and agreed to pose for a picture. 

I will never forget that events of that marathon day.  It began with a leisurely run with Joanie in Central Park, continued with a makeshift NYC marathon accompanied by my talented and knowledgeable friend Aaron (two weeks prior to this run of ours Aaron ran a 2:48 in Columbus),  and ended with the most amazing chance encounter with Kara Goucher.  I have a lot of great race memories…I’ve run five marathons, two of which were Boston, but I can honestly say that THAT marathon day was one of the most unexpected and memorable days of my life. 

The next morning, my husband, two of our friends and I took a cab to the Staten Island Ferry where we joined hundreds of eager runners with backpacks full of rescue supplies.  It was a sight to behold.  There would be no marathon, yet this many enthusiastic runners showed up anyway, to make the voyage on behalf of runners for relief. 

It was a loosely organized effort, but that didn’t stop us from taking to the streets and running and walking with our heavy loads, in search of people and places that needed assistance.  We ended up walking about ten miles that day. My group dropped our supplies at a high school that had been converted into a shelter by the National Guard.  Victims and their families were living there.  Preschool children were being led through a series of games and activities while their parents searched for food, clothing, and supplies.  It was heartbreaking.  As runners, we choose to challenge ourselves and push through pain to achieve our goals…we experience heartbreak and sadness when we get hurt or fall short of our expectations.  There is a lot of emotion and passion involved with running, but I think we know the difference between sport and life.  The unasked for battles facing these poor victims needed to be fought and won before the city could turn its attention to a marathon.  That will happen, and the NYC marathon will be back and better than ever next year.     

Even though we all saw it coming, hearing the official news of the cancellation caused feelings of disappointment, then relief, then activism.  Ultimately it created an intense desire among many runners to preserve the legacy of the NYC marathon as an event that unites people, rather than divides them.  That amazing power of united NYC marathoners was tangible on what would have been marathon day, among thousands of athletes running their own marathons in Central Park, flags proudly displayed on their shirts and smiles defying the circumstances on their faces, and it was tangible among runners for relief aboard the Staten Island ferry that morning, gathered not for the race but to distribute needed supplies to one of the hardest hit areas of the hurricane.  I was never more proud to be a runner than I was on that morning.  The NYC Marathon 2012 was not at all the experience I expected, but it ended up being one of the most memorable weekends of my life.  I can’t wait to go back next year.   In the meantime, PLEASE consider making a donation to the relief effort at

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall 5K/10K Sunday morning program off to a strong start!

We had a perfect morning to kick off our Fall 5K/10K Sunday morning group training program, waking up to a cool, dry autumn morning- a welcome change from the hot, humid weather we had this summer.  This is our largest program to date with 50 runners, including many returning RFF alumni, friends and family inspired by runners from our past programs as well as new faces!  Erin Linton, another RRCA certified coach, joined us to lead the runners along the Millennium Trail from Wootton High School.

Following the run, Rachel Miller of ProAction Physical Therapy and an expert in treating runners demonstrated some effective stretches, strength exercises and answer questions about avoiding injury as runners ramp up their mileage towards their goal races later this season.  As always, Rachel was a popular speaker and even the veteran runners in the group took away helpful information.

Side planks are an easy and effective way to build core strength

We love the energy and enthusiasm of this new group of runners and look forward to helping everyone reach their goals over the next several months and beyond!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Coach Lisa's Long Course Duathlon World Championships Race Report

“The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavour is taking the first step, making the first decision.” –Robyn Davidson

Following is my race report from the Long Course Duathlon World Championships at Powerman Zofingen in Zofingen, Switzerland earlier this month where I placed 15th woman overall and 2nd in my age group.  The race report is long but so was the race: 8 hours 22 minutes.  For those wanting a quick recap: Powerman Zofingen consists of 40K (24 miles) of running interrupted by a 150K (93-mile) bike ride with 1600 meters (5249 feet) of climbing and a maximum grade of 16%. This would be my longest and most difficult race to date and I felt out-trained, out-geared and out of my league.  If I had been given the chance to withdraw from the race before it started, I probably would have.  I’m glad I did not- finishing among the top elite athletes, I finally learned that we only accomplish the unimaginable when we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone.   --Coach Lisa

Just ten days ago I found myself as part of Team USA at the start line for the Long Course Duathlon World Championships at Powerman Zofingen in Zofingen, Switzerland. I ended up there almost by accident, having qualified at the Blackwater Duathlon in Cambridge, Maryland, a 10K run/70K bike/10K run race on a pancake flat course I was familiar with after doing several other races there in the past. When I qualified for a spot on Team USA at Blackwater I didn't even know that what I "earned" was a chance to race a 10K run/150K bike/30K run duathlon on what has been described as one of the toughest duathlon courses in the world (, as evidenced by the bike course elevation profile- THREE loops of the following:

I spent countless hours in the months leading up to the race Googling past race reports and trolling the testosterone heavy Slow Twitch discussion forums for any information I could get about the race. The more I read the more I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Not only had I never ridden a course as long or difficult as that at Powerman Zofingen, I had never done a race lasting more than about 5 hours. Powerman Zofingen would take me at least 8 hours and as many as 10 or 11 hours.  In our excitement to travel to Switzerland and participate again as a member of Team USA (I was on Team USA for the short course duathlon championships in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2010) I hadn't really stopped to think about the fact that it would mean I would have to train for- and race- this apparently epic duathlon.  For the first time in my racing history, I doubted my ability to even finish this race. I trained to the best of my ability but within the constraints of my life as a full-time mom with limited time and resources.  I was completely intimidated by the course and apparent experience of the other athletes I knew who were doing, or had done, this race.  I kept my plans to do the race very quiet because I wanted to spare myself the embarrassment if I tried, but failed, to finish.

On top of the concerns about training and racing, I was also worried about leaving our three young kids the first week of school even though I knew that they would be in great hands and have a very special time with their Miri and Opa, who are more than capable of taking over parenting duties (and spoiling the kids) while we were away.   The race fell after a whirlwind of back to back end of summer travel, leaving just two days after returning from vacation to pack my bike, our bags and get the kids started with school before leaving for Switzerland.  Luckily, a hectic schedule meant little time for worrying about the race.

Once we boarded the flight to Switzerland, I had plenty of time for the worries and self-doubt to creep in. I worried about everything and anything: Were the kids OK?  Would my bike make it safely? What if it was cold and rainy on race day (steep descents in rain scare me and I have almost no experience riding in the rain)? What if I experienced a flat or other mechanical problem on the bike (I am incredibly technically incompetent when it comes to the bike)?  What if I couldn't make it up the 15% grade climb and fell off my bike trying? What if I couldn't finish the race?  Or worse, what if I got hurt on the bike?  In the overnight hours on the flight to Switzerland, while others slept I cried silently just praying I could make it home safely to our kids and families.

We arrived in Zurich on Wednesday to sun and 80 degrees (and my bike, safely off the plane) but a weather forecast of cold rain for the days following.  While we toured Zurich, I obsessed over the weather. I quickly learned how to find the forecast for the weather (ironically, "wetter" in German) in the papers since we had limited access to the internet. I ducked into the Apple store regularly to search Accuweather, Intellicast, Weather Channel, Yahoo Weather and any other source of weather information I could get my hands on. My biggest nightmare was rain.  I imagined myself skidding off the mountainside on the steep switchback descents. On Wednesday and Thursday the forecast was for rain on Friday and Saturday but ending Sunday with sun and a high of 68. I could live with that but the rain leading up to Sunday worried me- what if that rain stuck around just a little longer into Sunday?  Sure enough, when I checked the forecast on a rainy, cold Thursday afternoon it had changed to rain through the race on Sunday.

I tried to enjoy Switzerland through my worry and the rain. We walked around Zurich, discovering the chocolatier Sprungli and its specialty, Luxemburgli. We took the (timely, clean) train to Bern and walked with umbrellas to see the city's rose garden and bear park (complete with cold, wet bears). We experienced sticker shock at the prices (easily 4 times the prices in the US) but admired the health-conscious lifestyle of the Swiss. The country has strict requirements for its food- there is an emphasis on local sourcing and all food must comply with the Swiss Food Law which restricts additives, particularly genetically modified organisms (GMO). Most commercial US food cannot be sold in Switzerland because of the additives. Even McDonalds food is considered healthy by US standards because of the requirements (making a Big Mac almost worth the $12 price tag). The number of people- adults and kids- riding bikes was impressive, encouraged in no small part by bike lanes and laws requiring motorists to yield to cyclists and pedestrians.

Friday we took the train to Zofingen. Arriving to cold rain and a forecast still showing rain through the weekend, we dropped off my bike to the local bike shop to be reassembled and met up with my teammate Shannon and her husband who were kind enough to offer us a driving tour of the bike course in their rental car. As we drove the course in the rain I tried to joke away my worries and gather as much confidence as possible from Shannon and her husband, both experienced and accomplished cyclists, but ascending each of the three major climbs, including the infamous Bodenberg (with a maximum grade of 15%) and coming down the steep, winding descents, my stomach sunk. If it looked this bad by car, how would it look for three laps on bike?

We enjoyed dinner with friends and old neighbors who now live in Switzerland on Friday night but after we got back to the hotel room the panic started to set in full force. I spent a sleepless night worrying about the rain, the course, the kids back at home, and anything else I could think to worry about. At that point I wasn't even concerned with finishing; I was only concerned about making it back home in one piece. 

Saturday I ventured out in a cold rain on parts of each run course, which consisted of a hilly route through the forest on gravel-packed trails, more akin to cross country than the road racing I am so used to. Many times I heard that the race didn't truly start until the last run, and I figured if I made it to that run (a big “if” in my head) I would have it made with my strength and background as a runner. The parts of the course I saw on Saturday made me realize the run was no joke, but I at least had the confidence of being on my own two feet instead of at the mercy of my bike.

After a pre-race pasta party and Opening Ceremonies on Saturday night, I tried to get some sleep before the race. The forecast was almost impossible to decipher- 40% chance of rain on Sunday with little grey cloud/rain icons all day. As I fell asleep to the sound of continuing rain outside our window, I had crazy nightmares and a night of on again/off again sleep until I finally got up at 4:45. I checked the weather on my phone and saw 47 degrees and 40% chance of rain. Listening outside, I was sure I heard rain but when I finally got outside I realized it was just remaining water from the night before coursing through the city's drainage system and the road were, miraculously, almost dry and the temperatures felt closer to 50s than high 40s.

We racked our bikes as daylight broke and for the first time since we arrived had dry, albeit overcast, skies. The forecast showed the highest chance of rain for 12-1 pm.  I just prayed the rain would hold off until after my first lap on the bike course, so I could at least see what the descents were like before having to attempt them in the rain. Lining up at the start, it actually felt warm but I kept on my arm warmers and gloves (a last minute expo purchase) knowing that the descents on the bike would likely be cold and wanting to err on the side of being too warm instead of too cold.

Right before the start gun went off I thought about the long day I had ahead and how much work I would have to do before it was over and I could just get home to the kids.  I didn't know if I would be going home a Poweman Zofingen finisher, but if I could just make it through the race safely I knew I could go home.  Mentally I broke the race up into pieces- the first 5K run lap, second 5K run lap, three 50K bike laps, then two 15K run laps. One lap at a time, and I took comfort in the fact that I would run first before I had to tackle the bike.

The first run started up a steep 2K (1.2 mile) hill up into the forest and onto a trail that continued up for another .5K before heading back down to the start area, where we would do it all over again before heading into transition and onto the bike course. I reminded myself over and over not to get carried away on the first run. Even if I ran a minute per mile slower than my normal race pace I would lose just 6 minutes in an 8+ hour race. I had to remember I had over 90 miles of biking and another 18 miles of running ahead of me.  I started up the first hill steady but strong, and found myself half way through the first 10K towards the front of the pack, ahead of even most of the elite (pro) athletes. As Dan cautioned me to watch my speed after the first lap, I double checked my effort but felt comfortable and kept a steady pace through the second lap and into transition.  Total time: 38:51.

I had a bit of a sinking feeling in my stomach as I finished the run, realizing I was leaving my comfort zone and setting off on the bike for three loops of the 50K course.  I didn’t give myself time to dwell on it- I got on the bike as fast as possible and focused on the relatively flat first portion of the course, reminding myself to take it easy and use the first lap as a reconnaissance lap to get the lay of the land and save my energy for the climbs.  I ate some of my nutrition and drank water as I prepared myself to start getting passed by other racers.  To my surprised, I was only passed by a few elite women on the first part of the course.  I kept waiting to get passed by more age groupers (non-elites) but found myself out on the course relatively alone during the first lap.  I wasn’t too surprised by how spread out the course was on the bike, as the men had a start time one hour later than the women so the rest of the field hadn’t even started before the women were out on the bike course.  I knew, though, that I should at least see my teammate and friend Shannon on the bike.  An impressive cyclist, she would certainly make up the time I gained on the run to pass me on the bike. 

The first climb was long but nothing too terrible and seemed to be over relatively quickly, thanks in part to the spectators at key portions along the ascent cheering on the riders with shouts of “hopp hopp!”  A quick steep descent on the other side allowed for some welcome recovery, but I knew the Bodenberg was coming up quickly.  My approach to the Bodenberg, and the other two major climbs on the bike course, was to take it slow and steady.  I kept repeating to myself “just get it done”- it didn’t have to be pretty or fast.    The first part of the Bodenberg climb has a short break in the middle before heading up again at the steepest grade.  Again, enthusiastic spectators with words of encouragement greeted us at the critical points, giving me the motivation to keep pushing even when my legs felt like they wanted to give out.   Just before we reached the steepest part of the climb, I heard an approaching racer encourage me, in a German accent, to “ride fast, lady!”  I turned around to thank her for the words of encouragement when I realized it was my jokester of a friend and teammate, and cyclist extraordinaire Shannon.  Seeing her buoyed my energy as she cheered me to follow her up the steepest part of the climb.  For weeks before the race, I wondered what exactly 15% grade looks and feels like to ascend.  The first lap of the course I had a chance to experience 15% grade on the Bodenberg climb- brutal! I was glad to have Shannon to follow on that first attempt as I attempted to emulate her strong riding.  As we ascended, I remembered what I had heard about the bike course- “the first lap is hard, the second lap is harder, and the third lap is balls.”  I imagined that the third time up the Bodenberg I’d be in full agreement with that sentiment.   

Once at the top of the Bodenberg, we came upon the first feed station on the course (there were two, one at 25K and one as we went back through town at the 50K mark) which was well-stocked and staffed by great volunteers who handed us “vasser” (water) and “banane” (banana) as we rode by.  I had nutrition with me on the bike (Honey Stinger waffles) so passed on the food the first lap but did take an extra water bottle after tossing my own in the designated discard area immediately before the feed station.  As the saying goes, what goes up must come down and the Bodenberg was no exception.  The descents were long, steep and winding along switch-backs and a sharp 90 degree right hand turn at the bottom; one wrong turn and I’d end up tumbling down the steep mountainside.  Shannon, much braver than I, descended with abandon and I lost sight of her as I took it a bit more conservatively, imagining how much trickier- and dangerous- it would have been in the rain.  Many racing told me they hit 50-55 mph on the descents.  Even though I tried not to hit the brakes on the descents, my maximum speed was about 40 mph.  Again I said a little prayer that any rain would hold off until after the bike, or at least after my third and final descent down the Bodenberg. 

After the descent we enjoyed some fast sections (and recovery) before one last gradual, but long, climb before reaching town again and starting the second, and eventually third, laps.  We passed the transition area each time, which included a “coaching zone” where coaches (or friends/family) could hand off extra nutrition, drink, or give other assistance.  I passed Dan’s offer of extra Honey Stinger waffles on the first pass but grabbed the bag from him on the second pass before the third and final bike lap.

On each of the bike laps I managed to take in the beautiful Swiss countryside, including plenty of spectators, both human and bovine.  I often heard cow bells and looked around for cheering spectators (in the US spectators often use cowbells to cheer on racers) only to find that it wasn’t spectators but actual cow bells- on cows!  I was especially boosted by the kids along the route who put out their hands for high fives (and squealed with joy when they slapped hands with one of the cyclists) and who, upon seeing USA on my jersey, seemed to enjoy trying out their English with shouts of “awesome!” and “good going!”    

Three laps and 150K later (and the rains still holding off despite some passing dark clouds) I was overjoyed.  Total time: 5:09:12.  As this picture illustrates, I was literally shouting for joy at being safely off the bike:

Little did I know what was to come.  I had been warned many times that the race didn’t start until the second 30K run, but I was confident in my running abilities and sure that if I could make it safely through the bike, I’d have a competitive advantage on the run.  The day before the race I previewed just a small part of the 15K (two loop) course, which began with two miles of uphill climbing into the woods.   I didn’t venture much into the woods along the crushed gravel path, but Dan did and reported back that it was brutally hard with steep ascents and descents.  I discovered his description was spot-on when I entered the woods on the first loop of the second run.  There was no flat along the course, and the crushed gravel only made it harder as I felt like I was expending a lot of energy just keeping my balance.  The course did flatten out, and go back onto paved path, at the turnaround point at 7.5K, but then I knew I was only headed back to climb the descents I had just traveled. 

The cruelest part of the second run course was that we ran out and back on the first 15K loop, entered the arena and ran straight to the finish line- only to turn around a cone about 3 feet from the finish line and do the course all over again after receiving a wrist band that indicated you had already finished one lap.  Knowing that I was headed back UP two miles only to face the steep ascents and descents of the run course, on legs already exhausted from 7+ hours of hard running and cycling, I conceded to the fact that I would likely have to walk part of the second loop.  I have never walked in a race- in fact, I can only remember having to walk in a training run once over more than 15 years.  Regardless, I had seen the majority of racers walking parts of the course and allowed myself permission to walk if necessary. 

On the initial ascent of the second loop I found myself running at a speed close to walking speed.  I knew my form was starting to deteriorate and that I was wasting energy trying to “run” up the hill so I gave in and power walked up the hill.  At this point, one of the Elite members of Team USA (elites are similar to professional athletes; the rest of us are referred to as “age groupers”) came up behind me- remember men started one hour after the women so essentially he was one hour ahead of me but also on his second lap of the run course- and encouraged me to run with him for a bit.  It worked for a few hundred feet but I then slowed to a walk again, apologizing for my inability to follow him up the hill.  “It’s OK, we’re all in the same boat,” he said, making me feel a little less guilty about walking.  This is how I felt about that second run:

I made myself run for short intervals before taking short walk breaks for the remainder of the 2-mile hill.  After that I ran on flats and downhill sections and power walked the uphill sections.  Part way through the second loop I could feel myself hitting “the wall,” another unfamiliar sensation.  I immediately started getting any nutrition I could from the well-stocked nutrition stations every 2K, even trying the bars they offered along the course and Coca Cola.  Typically I won’t try anything new during a race, but I was desperate for a boost and figured that any gastrointestinal distress would be better than the sharp drop in energy I was starting to feel.  Luckily the bars and coke agreed with me and within about 15 minutes I felt a boost in energy.  Somehow I made it back through all of the ups and downs of the gravel-packed trail and back onto the paved path for the final descent into the arena.  Looping through the arena for what I knew would be the final time, I was overcome with emotion as I realized that I was actually going to finish this epic race.  Total time for second run: 2:30:28.  Eight hours and 22 minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line.

Post race I found my teammate Shannon and congratulated her for her 1st place age group finish.  When the results were posted, we were both shocked and excited to find out that we were the first two non-elite finishers.  It took a while for me to realize what that meant- not only had I finished the race, but I had finished strong and placed 15th overall, 2nd in my age group.  In the world. 

With an early Monday flight back to the US, we had just enough time to attend the awards ceremony, say goodbye to our new friends, disassemble and pack my bike (this time without the assistance of the bike shop) and get a few hours of sleep before heading back to the train station and airport.  By Monday dinner time we were back home- kids happy and safe, spoiled by a week with their doting grandparents and full of stories from the first week of school and all of their adventures.

In the week and a half I’ve been back, I have had time to reflect on this whole adventure.  I realized so many of my fears were unfounded.  As someone who was not athletic growing up, I think I still have trouble seeing myself as a “real” athlete.  I am often intimidated by the fancy bikes and experience of other multisport athletes.  I’m a mom first- I train mostly by myself around my kids’ busy schedules and can’t afford the time or money for a lot of the fancy equipment and coaching that competitive athletes often enjoy. 

I went to Switzerland hoping to just finish a race that was longer in distance, duration and harder than any other race I had ever attempted.  I left having made new friends, experienced a new and beautiful country and learning the important lesson that we never know what we are capable of until we try.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Food for Fuel: Energize your Run

As we often remind our runners, running isn't just about hitting the pavement and getting in the miles.  Strong, healthy running requires a holistic approach to health, including strength, flexibility, cross-training, sleep and good nutrition.  We have been lucky to have Christine Turpin, RD, LDN, CSCS serve as a resource for our runners.  Chrissy is a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition, and the founder of Nourish2Perform.  We thank Chrissy for guest blogging for us and offering our runners these important words of advice when it comes to fueling your runs:   

Think about why you run!  Do you run to advance your fitness, increase self-esteem, improve your health, relieve stress or to lose weight?  I am a Registered Dietitian, specializing in sports nutrition, who has a passion for running like most of you who are reading this post. 

I also work with triathletes, marathoners, ballet dancers, law enforcement agents, recreational exercisers, and middle/high school athletes.  I am consistently amazed by the number of people who don’t fuel their bodies properly.  So many people short change themselves, especially those who run to lose weight.  Each athlete is different, and eating plans must be individualized, but one thing for sure is that running on an empty stomach is setting yourself up for failure.  An athlete’s body is like a car and you need to fuel your body (food) as you fuel a car (gas) to perform at your best. When your primary source of gas (carbohydrates) is not available, your body may dip into protein stores and break down muscle for fuel as well. 

A low carbohydrate intake causes fatigue and decreases performance.  A simple way to fuel the muscles before you hit the pavement is to eat a carbohydrate mini-meal or snack 45-minutes before your workout!   Try a piece of fruit + yogurt or a granola bar for immediate carbohydrates to provide your muscles with energy and a little protein to power through the run.   If you run in the wee hours of the morning and your stomach cannot tolerate food, a snack before bedtime will help fuel that workout!  This snack can include a bowl of whole grain cereal + low-fat milk + fruit!

On the other hand, running does not give you a free pass to eat anything and everything.  So before you indulge in that second piece of cake or that extra piece of pizza, remember your goal is to “fuel the engine” by increasing those carbohydrate stores for the next workout – not “load the trunk” by stuffing it full!  The basic rule is calories in should equal calories out.  Anything above and beyond your energy needs is stored as fat.  You can count on burning 100 kcal / mile of running.  So for a three mile run, that is 300 kcal (about a tall white chocolate mocha with 2% milk).  And that is without the whipped cream!  Better yet fill your belly with a nutrient dense snack like an 8-ounce low-fat chocolate milk (143 kcal) + Kashi Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bar (140 kcal). 

I would not consider running on an empty stomach and neither should you!  Use food for fuel to energize your run!   I challenge you to fuel your body before your next run and let me know how you feel. 

Healthy Running,
Christine Turpin, RD, LDN, CSCS

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Coach Julie's Top 40 Running Tips

Since the hill I am supposedly heading over is expected to arrive in just a few days, it's time to list my top 40 running tips before my impending senility takes over and prevents me from remembering said 40 tips.  So, in no particular order, here are the 40 running-related nuggets I've accumulated while running (and not running) during the last decade:

1.   Running should not be your life, but your life will improve from running;
2.   Running gives you the courage to take risks in other facets of your life;
3.   Although running alone is peaceful and thought-provoking, running with others is much more fun;
4.   While running with others, your runners' high may cause you to reveal private thoughts;
5.   Make sure the person(s) with whom you choose to run can keep those private thoughts (see #4);
6.   Running often dissipates anger, minimizes personal conflicts, and erases negative thoughts;
7.   Running makes you a better parent and spouse (see #6);
8.   Running while parenting young children requires time management and self-discipline;
9.   Regardless of the distance and your stage in life, if you run, you are a runner;
10  Moms should never feel guilty for taking time to run;
11. Personal records can be obtained after pregnancy and childbirth (see #8);
12. Too much running will cause injury;
13. Cross training is an essential component to injury prevention (see #12);
14. Core work is not just for a bikini body;
15. Running helps you appreciate your body, regardless of your bathing suit preference (see #14)
16. Marathons are like childbirth--as soon as you forget the hell, you want to do it again;
17. Personal bests are not just about your time, but also about your willingness to try and fail;
18. Helping others achieve their goals is sweeter than achieving your own goals;
19. Always run at your own pace and not the pace of others--this applies in life, too;
20. A new running outfit helps you run faster;
21. Running brings people together, regardless of their interests outside of running;
22. Runners are typically the nicest and most supportive group of Type A people out there;
23. Although racing is an individual sport, training is an underrated a team sport;
24. Eat to run; don't run to eat;
25. Foam rollers are essential for any over-30 runner who wants to keep running;
26. One cannot tell a book by its cover--runners come in all shapes and sizes;
27. Kids watch what we do.  Runners' kids tend to run and be active;
28. Kids don't do what we say.  Runners' kids do not respond well to parental pressure;
29. Weather can derail the best-laid plans;
30. It's never a great idea to attempt a PR marathon in temperatures above 70 (see #29);
31. It's not a great idea to run two marathons in one month (see #30);
32. 5Ks are a great measure of one's fitness and are underrated;
33. You don't realize how much you need a coach until you no longer have one;
34. One day, we will no longer be able to run, so appreciate the bad running days;
35. Never start out a race too fast, regardless of the distance--you'll crash and burn;
36. Stop avoiding hills; they make you a stronger runner;
37. Befriend the track and make it a habit--you'll get faster;
38. Running is unpredictable, just like life...cherish the gift you have and those who tolerate it;
39. Thank your spouse and children regularly for tolerating your gift;
40. Look back on your mistakes and use them as a means to life and running.

Here's to a new age group!

Coach Julie

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fall Friday Morning 5K Program- Registration Open!

Take some time out of your busy life and focus on accomplishing a goal of your own!  Whether you want to complete a race, improve your fitness or just get some exercise with friends, join experienced, supportive coaches and new friends for a 6-week program designed to help you learn to love running.   

ALL levels welcome!  New runners will work on building their endurance, starting with run/walk intervals.  More advanced runners can work on improving their 5K race times or working up to the 10K distance.

We are certified coaches and accomplished, ranked runners, but more importantly we are busy moms of young children who understand the challenges of fitting fitness into daily life.  We’ve guided hundreds of runners of all ages to accomplish what they once thought impossible.  We work with all runners to make sure that you are progressing at YOUR pace.  You’ll get the benefits of individual coaching with the support and encouragement of the group setting!

Program details:

•             Weekly coached group runs on Friday mornings at 9:45 from B’nai Israel, 6301 Montrose Road, Rockville.  Group runs begin Friday, 9/14 and continue through Friday, 10/19
•             Comprehensive 6-week training calendar
•             Information on running-related topics such as stretching, strength and injury prevention
•             Discounts on local races and on gear from
•             Guidance and encouragement from certified, accomplished coaches

Cost for the 6-session program is $60/person (does not include race registration). Register with a friend and if at least one of you is new to the Run Farther & Faster programs, you can save $10 each and register for $100 for both of you ($50/each). 

Register by selecting “Fall Friday 5K” or "Buddy Option- Fall Friday 5K" from the drop-down menu in the right hand sidebar.  Contact us for more information!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fall 5K/10K Program Registration OPEN!

Join Run Farther & Faster for our next session of our popular Fall 5K/10K Group Training Program!  Beginning on Sunday, September 23, this program is for aspiring runners as well as experienced runners.  Our personalized coaching in a group setting allows you to get the benefits of one-on-one coaching, tailored to your experience and goals, with the camaraderie of group runs.  Whether you are just getting off the couch or aiming for a personal record at the 10K distance, our priority is making sure that you progress at your own pace towards your own goals. 

Under the direction of top locally ranked runners and Road Runner Clubs of America (RRCA) certified coaches, runners will work on building their endurance to complete the 5K or 10K distance.   Experienced runners can also work on improving their race times through targeted speed work.  The program targets the Veteran’s Day 10K (Sunday, November 11 in Washington) and the TLC King of the Road 5K (Sunday, November 18 in Rockville).  The popular Rockville 5K/10K will also be an option available on the training schedule.  Weekly group runs take place on Sunday mornings in the Rockville/Bethesda area and participants in this 8-week program will also receive a detailed training calendar, comprehensive coaching, information and guest speakers on running-related topics, discounts on running gear from, a technical running shirt and more!

Cost for the 8-week program is $60 until Labor Day; $70 after September 3 (registration fee does not include entry into the 5K or 10K race).  Recruit a friend and save with our buddy rate- if at least one runner has not participated in a Run Farther & Faster training program before, two people can sign up together for $100, saving $10 each off the early registration rate!  Register at by selecting the individual or buddy registration option from the pull-down menu on the right sidebar.

Please contact coaches Lisa Reichmann ( and Julie Sapper ( for more information.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Helping Suburban Hospital Employees head in a Healthy Direction

Today we had the opportunity to speak to employees at Suburban Hospital as part of the Hospital's Healthy Destinations program, presenting a seminar on how to get off on the "right foot" with a beginner running or triathlon training program. In its fifth year,the Healthy Destinations program won a “Worksite Innovation Award” from the American Heart Association three years in a row. The AHA’s “Fit-Friendly Companies” program and the “Worksite Innovation Award” recognize companies that inspire change by finding innovative ways to promote physical health in the workplace.  As part of the program, employees can earn prizes and recognition by exercising, attending presentations and setting and achieving fitness-related goals.  We love seeing employers put resources into helping support their employees to get, and stay, active and healthy and look forward to helping Suburban expand the program offerings.  Contact us if you'd like us to visit your company to help leadership and employees understand how easy and fun (and beneficial to health insurance costs) it is to get active in the workplace!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Half Marathon Program Starts Off Strong!

This morning we welcomed returning and new runners to our popular Half Marathon Training Program.  We are excited to help 30 runners, including several from Girls on the Run's SoleMates Program, achieve their mutual goal of finishing a half marathon this fall.

After a program introduction and 7-mile run along the Millennium Trail (including the love-it-but-hate-it "Tower Oaks Hill"), we were joined by Rachel Miller of ProAction Physical Therapy for a primer on the importance of core and hip strength to healthy, injury-free running.  We consider Rachel to be a top expert in running biomechanics and were honored to have her work with our runners for a hands-on demonstration of the proper way to engage key muscles while performing strengthening exercises.   

We are looking forward to getting to know all of our runners over the coming months and to working with them one-on-one in addition to within the group runs to help them Run Farther & Faster (and stronger)!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Inspiration- Coach Lisa's Blackwater Duathlon Race Report

After running for over 10 years, I decided to mix up my training and transition to multisport (triathlon, duathlon) events in 2008 even though I had never swam competitively and had a 20-year old road bike that weighed more than a small child.   While I’m a strong runner, cycling and particularly swimming do not come as easily for me so I never take for granted when I place in my age group in a multisport event as I did yesterday at the Blackwater Duathlon, qualifying for Team USA at the ITU Long Course Duathlon World Championships later this year.  It was a great day for me, not because I achieved my goal on a challenging course, but because I witnessed my friend and our client, Yaniv, achieve his own goals of finishing a long distance multisport event, something he could not even have imagined doing a year and a half ago when he weighed 368 pounds and decided to change his life through exercise. 

“I'm still overwhelmed with emotion after yesterday's race. Not only was it the most challenging race I've done taking 6:17 nonstop to complete but it was so amazing. The support I got from so many people was wonderful. People calling out my number and telling me I'm doing great, hang in there, one guy called me a hero, I got high-fives by many.  Even though I was in last place from the start, I felt like a winner. It was so nice of the support crew to stay in the heat until I reached them to give me water and to cheer me on. And then when I got the police escort with the lights on and him driving beside me was very cool. As I approached the finish line, everyone that was around came in to greet and congratulate me with hugs and handshakes. It was so moving. I must've cried for about an hour afterwards. Of course, I want to thank you again for always being there for me with support and encouragement. I may not be the typical racer but I will continue to give 100% and never give up.”

As an athlete who has accumulated many awards and rankings throughout my running and multisport careers, I often hear people say I am “inspiring.”  I am always a little uncomfortable with that word, because medals and trophies don't make someone inspiring and for me, most days training is enjoyable.  I don’t have to force myself out the door.  While I wouldn’t say it always comes easy, running is natural for me.   I find inspiration from the runners and athletes who keep on pushing when the going gets tough.  Yaniv is one of those athletes. 

After setting and achieving a goal of running a half marathon in 2011, Yaniv set his sights on completing a half iron distance triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 54-mile bike, 13.1 mile run) in 2012.  Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Yaniv had signed up for the DC Triathlon as a warm-up for the new National Harbor 70.3 Ironman triathlon and began training in earnest in early 2012 before finding out that not one, but both of these races were cancelled for various reasons.  Not to be deterred, and already well into his training, Yaniv decided to substitute the Blackwater Duathlon for these longer distance races.

The Blackwater Duathlon was designated the USAT National Championship and was thus the qualifier for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Long Course World Duathlon Championships.  This means that anyone who wanted to qualify for Team USA and the opportunity to compete at the World Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland needed to come complete the 10K run/70K bike/10K run course in Cambridge, Maryland- the same location for Eagleman 70.3, where “the conditions are both demanding and challenging; heat, winds…and no shade.” 

Because it is a national qualifier, the majority of athletes racing at Blackwater are serious competitors: they come to Cambridge with high tech gear, time goals and their game faces.  These focused competitors can often be overheard worrying about finishing high enough in their age group and under an ambitious goal time.  It’s easy to forget that we’re all so lucky to be out there able to race.

Yaniv’s only worry was finishing before the time cut-off for the course.  Because of the design of the course (out and back on the runs and a double out and back on the bike), I was able to see Yaniv at several points along the course.  From the first time I saw him, he wasn’t just at the back of the pack, he WAS the back of the pack.  I shouted encouragement each time I saw him, hoping that he would keep his goal- finishing within the time limits- in sight and not get frustrated as he fell behind the other racers.  I kept thinking of a saying I had seen on a friend’s Facebook page: DLF>DNF>DNS.  Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish is greater than Did Not Start.  I hoped Yaniv would realize that just by being out on that course, he had already won.

Based on when I had seen Yaniv along the race course, I calculated he’d be off the bike, into transition and off on the second run 30 minutes before the 12:00 cut-off for the second run.  Like clockwork, Yaniv rounded the corner and pulled into transition right at 11:30.  Plenty of time to spare, but as we watched the race officials calculating how long it would take him to return from the second 10K run, and it became clear he’d be out on the run course by himself for at least part of the time, I worried that they’d dismantle the finish and “close up shop” before he returned.   

I should have known better than to worry- the Blackwater Duathlon was put on by TriColumbia, an organization founded and headed by Robert Vigorito who embodies the spirit of multisport.  “Vigo,” as he’s known, can be found connecting with every athlete on race day, congratulating as many racers as he can in person, and taking a special interest in personal stories.   Throughout the day, he reminded all finishers that “finishing is winning.”  The race crew left up the water stops, finish line, and timing mats and race volunteers stayed out on the course and at the finish to make sure Yaniv had a proper welcome when he finished.

Yaniv sent a message to the race director thanking the organization for supporting even the last finisher, and this was the response:

As the race director, you are the reason we do races. There is nothing more satisfying then for our team to help people accomplish a goal. I read your email to the team and there was not a dry eye. Congratulations on a fabulous race--you are a winner!!! I took this picture with my phone--but thought you would enjoy it. Keep training safe and best of luck in your future races!

For me, THIS is what inspiration is made of.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Importance of Vitamin D

Most runners spend a good amount of time and effort focusing on our nutrition. We make sure that we consume protein and complex carbohydrates to rebuild muscle after a hard workout and we try to stay away from artificial ingredients and eat whole, natural foods to best fuel our runs. We hear a lot about Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and the dangers of trans fats. Women, in particular, are often focused on getting enough calcium, either through diet or supplements, to promote bone health.

One key nutrient that often gets overlooked is Vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and a deficiency can result in lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of bone loss or fracture. Vitamin D has even been linked to increased VO2Max, reduced inflammation (which means faster recovery) and improved immunity. Surprisingly, Vitamin D deficiency has become a worldwide epidemic but many go undiagnosed.

For runners, especially women, Vitamin D is especially important to preventing stress fractures. Many may remember when US marathon great Deena Kastor fractured her foot about 5K into the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing. The cause? A Vitamin D deficiency. Recently, several of our runners have mentioned that their doctors discovered a Vitamin D deficiency after they experienced stress fractures or just general lack of normal energy.

So how do you make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D? Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for children and adults ages 1-70 is 600 IU. Exposure to the sun stimulates the body to produce Vitamin D, but using sunscreen and even aging can hinder the body's ability to absorb the sun and produce the nutrient. Vitamin D is not found widely in foods, with the exception of fortified grains and fatty fish like salmon, tuna and fish oils:

Table 3: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin D [11]
FoodIUs per serving*Percent DV**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon1,360340
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces566142
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces447112
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces15439
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies)13734
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup115-12429-31
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV)8020
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon6015
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines4612
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces4211
Egg, 1 large (vitamin D is found in yolk)4110
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV)4010
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce62

Make sure your multivitamin has sufficient Vitamin D (in addition to calcium), optimally, D3 (cholcalciferol), the most potent form of the vitamin. At your next physical, ask your primary care physician to check your Vitamin D levels- a simple blood test will indicate whether you are getting enough of this important piece of your training and overall health.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Corporate Wellness and Team Building through Running--Jeremy's Run Race Report

"I can’t tell you how much I appreciate both of you…I NEVER thought I’d be able to do it. I am really very excited and you have inspired me to do more!" 

This is just one of the many emails we received from from the fantastic MedImmune and Montgomery College employees we coached, many of whom ran their very first 5K on Memorial Day at Jeremy's Run and had never run consistently for more than a short distance. 

The employees at MedImmune and Montgomery College started their journey with us when we began our training program in March, consisting of weekly workplace group runs, coaching support, regular follow up with the individual participants and customized comprehensive training calendars to meet each participant's running level.  On day one, many of the beginner runner participants showed up with old sneakers and trepidation, as the thought of running a 5K race by May seemed impossible.  After a quick pep talk and a push, the runners were off.  The beginner runners alternated running and walking for 30 minutes, and as we expected, finished the initial workout with smiles and a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  They realized that showing up is half the battle, and running is not so bad in good company.  We concluded that first session by assigning the participants running homework: simply follow the training calendar we provided, including some cross- and strength training, and, of course, to purchase new running shoes.  

Week after week, rain (even a little snow!) or shine, our runners took time out of their hectic workdays to meet us for a lunchtime run and those who committed to the schedule saw their running improve rapidly.  Even those who didn't commit to the schedule regularly were encouraged and inspired by their co-workers to keep moving at their own pace, and we assisted them with modified schedules.  The employees bonded, the running improved, and within a few short weeks, the participants were logging miles instead of run/walk intervals, and suddenly, the completion of a 5K in May did not seem as daunting to our beginner runners.  

Race day for Jeremy's Run in Olney was much hotter than the conditions under which our runners trained, but they were not discouraged, as we had gone over race day preparation with them and they had all run the distance before race day.  They were ready and eager, if not a bit nervous, to strut their stuff!  The gun went off, and our runners began the culmination of their 10-week journey.   As we traversed the course in an effort to run with all of our runners, we couldn't help but notice lots of smiles, coupled with satisfied exhaustion as each runner worked to push up the last hill toward the finish.  

As each runner crossed the finish line on Monday, they were greeted by the deafening cheers and hugs of their colleagues as well as families and friends who came out to support the group's runners, and we were greeted with expressions of disbelief as they recognized that they had just sported a race bib and crossed a finish line.  Even better, we overheard a few excited discussions about setting new running goals and participating in future races.  Many runners will continue to run together at work, maintaining the habits and schedule they became accustom to over the past several months.  The day after Jeremy's Run, several signed up for our 5-miler program so that they can continue the progress they've made.  We love hearing how so many have caught the "running bug" and how it's helped their health, both physical and mental, as well as created lasting camaraderie in the workplace.  

Thank you, MedImmune and Montgomery College, for spending your lunchtime hour with us over the past few months.  We've enjoyed every moment, and we are so proud of all of you!  Keep on running!