Bethesda Magazine | November-December 2017

Training Days

A group of older athletes in Montgomery County are pushing their limits with a coach and teammates who live for triathlons

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Coach Christina Dorrer gives lap instructions to her clients at Old Farm Swim & Paddle Tennis Club in Rockville. The swimming portion of a half Ironman is 1.2 miles, or about 40 laps in the pool. Photo by Skip Brown

Dorrer’s most challenging race was in November 2010 in Panama City, Florida. It was her first Ironman. A year earlier, shortly after she registered for the event, her husband, Marc, who is in the Army, was deployed to Afghanistan. He had returned home safely and attended the race, along with her best friend. “I literally cried in her arms because crossing the finish line was not just about becoming an Ironman,” she says. “It was also the end of the hardest seven months of my life. I think many athletes use training and racing as an outlet for dealing with hard times.” 

Dorrer had always been a runner, and had even prepared for a marathon with a training program she downloaded online. But running took a toll on her body, leading to Iliotibial band syndrome, a common overuse injury in which the ligament that runs along the outer thigh to the shin becomes tight and causes pain. Dorrer had to cancel her marathon plans and attend physical therapy for a couple of months. That’s when, at age 32, she began swimming and biking. She also began studying to become a certified trainer.

While her husband was away, she worried about his safety, managed their house in Orlando, Florida, and their kids (ages 11 and 9 at the time), and worked at the YMCA, where she served as the acting executive director. She was also teaching cycling and strength training. “I remember waking up around 4 a.m. and putting a baby monitor out on my driveway so I could run around the block to get in a run before they woke up for school,” says Dorrer, who eventually reached 18 to 20 miles in the mornings. “I felt a bit like a hamster running on a wheel.” 

The Dorrers moved to Rockville five years ago. She wanted to pursue a career related to her interest in training and competing in triathlons, so she founded Fit 2 B Kids, a swimming, biking and running training club that held sessions at different locations across Montgomery County. Parents soon began asking if she trained adults. Today, Dorrer works with clients ages 7 to 73, regularly monitoring 15 to 20 of them on personalized plans—which begin at $540 for 12 weeks—and training 40 to 50 clients who participate in her swimming, biking or running programs. Her job includes everything from physical and mental coaching to fixing bikes. Once, she even signed up for a race just to swim next to a client.