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.