By Scott Prater
When Capt. Caroline White last visited Colorado Springs, she was participating in the World Class Athlete Program, which allowed her to train for an Olypmic qualifying event and assist Air Force members with their training and fitness goals.
That was two years ago.
Since then, she graduated from pilot training, flew F-15s in Oregon, qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials to be held this coming January and earned fifth place among American finishers to cross in last April’s Boston Marathon (2 hours, 37 minutes).
The good news for Schriever athletes, runners and those who just need a little help reaching their fitness goals is: White will reside in Colorado Springs until she leaves for the 2012 Olympic trials. And, she’s available to provide advice and assistance.
During her marathon training back in 2009, White proved to be invaluable to a wide variety of Schriever members and their families.
“I wasn’t interested in running marathons or anything like that; my goal was to improve my run time and technique,” said 2nd Lt. Melissa Kromer, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“Caroline began by meeting me to discuss my goals and expectations. Next, we met on the track to assess my running form and some small things I could do to improve. She had me focus on swinging my arms in the direction I was running, not swinging them across my chest. That definitely helped my form, and as a side effect, I stopped focusing on my hatred of running and began focusing on form.”
White’s varied athletic background allows her to understand a beginner’s perspective to long-distance running. She grew up a well-rounded athlete and was an accomplished pole vaulter when she attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, but she didn’t realize her talent for running until she attended graduate school in Maryland. As a result of a bet, she ran a local marathon, surprising everyone, including herself when she finished her first race in 3 hours, 9 minutes. Since then, she’s amassed a great deal of training knowledge during her effort to improve and compete at the world’s highest level.
It wasn’t long before she was running so fast that an Olympic-trial bid seemed within reach. She reached that goal late in 2009 by running a 2:45 at the Twin Cities Marathon.
Schriever runners only have a limited time to take advantage of White’s knowledge. She’ll train here at the Olympic Training Center until the Olympic trials in January, then she’ll be off to Alaska to fly C-17s.
No matter the goal, White believes she can help most people. Judging on past clients, her experience runs the gamut.
“The help people desire is really all over the place,” she said. “Some don’t want to know much of anything about running, they just want to know where to start. Others are seasoned marathoners and want to improve. And many have general questions, from nutrition to cross training or general motivation.”
Tech. Sgt. Dave Gapper, 19th Space Operations Squadron, wanted advice on swimming.
“I used her training plan and shaved five minutes off my triathlon swim times,” Gapper said. “Her tips also helped me improve my overall sprint triathlon times too.”
For now, as the clock ticks down to Olympic Trial time, White is running 90 to 100 miles a week while mixing in swimming, yoga, ice baths and physical therapy treatments. She indicated that having a good recovery strategy was key in keeping her body able to endure the miles and pounding.
“Diet is important as well, of course,” she said. “I need to get the right nutrients to make sure my muscles recover and build. Getting enough calcium is also super important for bone health. Stress fractures could be a big problem if I’m not careful.”
She’s often asked, how many miles she runs in a week, and responds by stressing that mileage needs to be added slowly.
“Whether it’s running a marathon or just getting started and trying to improve on a PT test, mileage and training is something people need to build into,” she said. “Otherwise, they will likely get injured.”
To contact White for fitness or training tips and advice send an e-mail to USAFrunner@gmail.com.