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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Maura DeMouy (left) and Janet Strudwick review running data, such as stride length or ground contact time, on their Garmin watches. Photo by Skip Brown

Every time a client works out, Dorrer gets a notification. They’re all using Garmin watches, ranging in price from $380 to $660, and TrainingPeaks, a computer program. Some invest in special Garmin bundles that are made for triathlon training—they include heart-rate monitors and straps that can track torso movement and running metrics such as vertical oscillation, left-right balance and ground contact time. TrainingPeaks, a program with a diary feature, lets them record how they’re feeling, both physically and mentally. Dorrer checks their data—distance completed, pacing per mile and other measures—and sends tips and encouragement. 

“You know that she’s going to be looking, so you better go do it,” Kra says. “And when you get that text from [Dorrer], even if it’s just a ‘thumbs up,’ it’s like she slapped me on the back and said ‘good job.’ ”

After a few weeks, Dorrer says, patterns begin to emerge. After Huey-Burns completed his first half Ironman and began training with Dorrer for his first full one, she noticed he had been doing really long rides and running long distances each week. More training isn’t better training, she says. His plan balanced training across all three sports and specified volume and intensity, and also allowed for adequate recovery. He got back on track.

Personal coaching clients, like Huey-Burns, have mileage goals in all three sports, and stretching and strengthening work to do. They can complete those miles on their own, with a running or cycling club, as Huey-Burns sometimes has, or opt in to one or more of Dorrer’s sport specific programs (which are also open to people not on personalized plans). The options include swim practices on Tuesday/Thursday mornings, a four-week running clinic that focuses on form and helps prevent injuries, and a cycling class in which athletes can visualize climbs and conditions while riding their own bikes. A computer hooked up to each person’s own road bike automatically adjusts tension to the exact grade of a course. “The athletes [who went] to Chattanooga got to ride the actual course,” she explains, “including the hills and open flat stretches, without leaving Bethesda.” 

Christina Dorrer shows Paul Huey-Burns a video she took of his run gait to help him make postural adjustments to improve his running form. Photo by Skip Brown