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Are you from this area? If not, how did you wind up living here?

No, I am from Girard, PA – just outside of Erie. I went to college at St. Bonaventure University in NY. While there, I attended teacher recruitment days and got a teaching position at James Wood Middle School.

How did you get started in running?

I have always been athletic and at Thanksgiving 2002, I told my sister that someday I would like to run a marathon. That Christmas I received, “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” by David Whitsett. That book started it all. I had to run 3 miles and in 16 weeks I could run a marathon. Those were the hardest 3 miles I have ever completed.

How did you get involved with Shenandoah Runners and why do you stay involved?

I got involved with SVR by wanting to do local races. When I realized that there was an organized group, I knew that there were lots of runners in the area. Just being around and noticing that the same people came out to race, I knew who I could run with and who I still needed to beat! I stay involved because I love it. The way that the club is growing is great. I love seeing new people getting out and running and seeing some of the “regulars” is a great feeling. The young and young at heart taking care of themselves makes me very happy.

What are your best achievements in running?

When I started running, my ultimate goal was to qualify for Boston. I did that on January 17th in Phoenix and will run The Boston Marathon on April 18, 2011. I have also been selected by Brooks Running to be part of their ID program. This is an Inspire Daily program where runners are rewarded for making a difference in their community through running.

What have you learned from running? Other that the physical benefits, what do you get out of running?

Freedom. My legs and mind can take me anywhere. When I run, I am in control of my body and where it will go. I have not learned where my ceiling is, because my times keep improving. I have learned that I am not allowed to go to bus duty in my running clothes – parents may see me!

What is your favorite distance, races, or places to run?

My favorite distance is the half marathon – long enough that you need to train, but not too long that your training has to revolve around that race. I enjoy the 3rd Battle Trail behind Millbrook High School. I am able to walk out the door after school and get in a good run. My favorite race is the Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon and Apple Blossom 10K. How can a runner in Winchester not love that race?

How did you get involved with triathlons?

I had foot surgery in 2006 and was told that I could not run until after my surgery. I had to release this energy somehow, so I turned to swimming. I then remembered I had a bicycle in my basement, so I started riding. I did my first tri in 2007 and have been hooked ever since.

How does being a physical education instructor affect your running/triathlons?

I practice what I preach. When I ask the kids to do something in class, they know that I am not just telling them what to do, but that I am also able to do it. My students also see me out running and riding my bike and make sure to let me know that they saw me. I strive to be a positive role model for my students. I may be the only one that they have.

How did you decide how to train and what exactly do you do?

When I was training for my Ironman, I followed a training plan by Matt Fitzgerald. Each day was two different workouts with different types of workouts. They were either for speed, tempo, or distance. With my swims, I followed the Masters Swim workouts until I was over 3200 M, then I would go back to my other swim workouts. In my off season, I lift, but not during the summer when I am in full tri season.

In my longest week in training for my Ironman, I did the following: *not every week is like this!
M – Off
T – Swim 2.5 miles, bike 40 miles
W – Swim 2.5 miles, run 7 miles
Th – Bike 29.5 miles/bike 5.35 miles (BRICK – no rest in between the workouts)
F – Swim 2.56, bike 40 miles
S – Bike 114, run 5.2 miles
Su – Swim 2 miles, run 20 miles
Total – 279.4 miles – 24 h, 10 m, 40 sec

Do you have a coach?

Yes. When I was trying to qualify for Boston, I had a coach out of Boston and he is coaching me again as I train to run Boston 2011. I do not have an official coach for triathlons.

How do you figure out how to coach yourself?

I used Matt Fitzgerald’s “Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide.” I set up a plan combining different levels from this book. If I was getting run down, or things did not seem right, I would tweak the plan.

How did you avoid getting injured?

I would listen to my body. I did not wake up and decide next week I would do a full Ironman. I knew that there was a lot of training and I was willing to put in the time. In the off season, I would rest and lift to get stronger, but not get worn out on the bike or through running. Knowing when to rotate my shoes and get new ones truly saves the knees. Also, rest is important. At least one day a week I do not work out and my body thanks me! Nutrition is very important. Junk food = junk miles. I can look at something and say to myself, “those nachos are not going to make me a better runner” and I can walk away.

Any favorite places to train or favorite races? Any running disasters?

I have loved each triathlon I have been in for different reasons. I love to go back to a race to see how I have improved from the previous year on the same course. I just raced in Myrtle Beach and the road that we rode on was amazing. No pot holes and completely flat, nothing like Winchester!

My biggest disaster happened just after I started running. I was heading up Stewart St. and it was early and dark. A branch was hanging down and I could not see it. It poked me about ¼ inch from my eye. I made it back to the gym with a scratch next to my eye, on my forehead and in my ear. There was also blood running down my face, but I thought it was sweat until I got back to the gym and saw the look on the girls’ faces!

How do you stay motivated?

I mix it up. If all I did was swim, or bike, or run, then I may get bored. I am constantly cross training which allows each day to be different. I also have different types of workouts for each discipline. There are intervals, and tempos and thresholds and endurance for each discipline. Sometimes I cannot keep it straight! I also almost always have a race on the calendar, so I am always looking forward to something.

How do you balance your work/family obligations with your running?

Because I do not have family here, my friends are my family and that is who I train with. When I need a mental break, but still need to train, I head to Erie PA with my parents. They are my biggest fans and love when I come home to train. I have a sister in Richmond and a sister in Boston, both great places to train/race. I try to plan visits around races or events and everyone is happy. The Boston Marathon 2011 will be a great family event! With the 3rd Battle Trail starting on the grounds of Millbrook High School, I have no excuse that I don’t have a place to run. I have heard people say that if you want to truly reach your goal, let people know what it is. Everyone at school knows that I race, so they are always asking “what’s next?” The support I receive at MHS is outstanding! Everyone at school was tracking my Ironman and they are going to start at 26.2 club after Christmas that will peak on April 18th, Boston Marathon Day!

What advice would you give a runner who wants to get better at running or a beginning runner?

You can do it. Ask lots of questions. Believe in yourself and others will follow – surround yourself with positive people. Run. You will not get better sitting on your couch. I did not start where I am today. Through dedication and hard work, I have achieved many goals, and you can too. Don’t say you can’t do it until you meet a man with no legs. Oh wait, I saw him at my Ironman. You can do it. Believe in yourself.

Note: Katie posted her Ironman Louisville 2010 and Halfmax National Championships race reports on the SVR listserv. If you would like to get future postings, contact Don Specht at donspecht@comcast.net to be added to the list.