Army Major driven to succeed
2017 XTERRA Texas Trail Run Regional Champ Trisha Stavinoha has maxed out just about all of her PT tests while serving in the Army, which is no easy feat.
“Maxing” refers to getting the maximum amount of points for two minutes of sit ups, two minutes of push-ups, and a two-mile run. In her first ever PT test, she ran 13:23 for two miles.
This wasn’t a huge surprise for Stavinoha, 41, who ran cross-country for Long Island University for a year while in grad school. She kept up her speed and fitness and was on the All-Army Cross Country Team from 2005-2010. This is a highly selective team of only seven men and six women. To even be considered, women have to demonstrate that they have run a 5K faster than 19:00 or 10,000 meters faster than 40:00. Participation and success in the Army Ten Miler weighs heavily in the team selection as well.
Currently, Stavinoha is a Major in the United States Army. She is retiring this year after 20 years of service as a Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics (CSSD) and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
“In order to be a dietitian, you have to do an internship after college,” said Stavinoha. “You can do an internship in the civilian sector that doesn’t pay or you can do the army internship and get paid. I chose the latter.”
Initially, Stavinoha only owed four years of time to the Army, but she loved it and decided to stay. While many find the physical demands of military service taxing, Stavinoha pretty much crushed every challenge that came her way.
Stavinoha is humble about her running success. “I was a late bloomer with running and didn’t even start until I was in my twenties. But I’ve lost count of how many Army Ten Milers I’ve done now.”
She has competed in 16 of them.
Stavinoha danced growing up and tried everything from tap to jazz to ballet. Early in her military career, she was stationed in Colorado Springs for a year.
“It was so beautiful there, that’s when I started trail running.”
It wasn’t long before she bought her first official pair of trail shoes and started racing. She took a break during a stint in Korea and deployments to Egypt and Kuwait but picked up trail running again when she was stationed in San Antonio, where she currently lives.
“I grew up here,” she said, “But I never realized how many great trails there were.”
While in San Antonio, she participated in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series races, including XTERRA Cameron Park, XTERRA ATX, and XTERRA Pedernales where she entered into the longest distance possible at each race. Having also discovered mountain biking while living in Colorado, Stavinoha has also competed in duathlons and triathlons both on and off road.
While Stavinoha loves the community aspect of races and being part of the team, she also loves that long-distance running is primarily about testing the individual self.
“I take pride in the fact that in all the sports and races I do, I do them by myself, which is very empowering. At first, I wanted to mountain bike with other people but they were either too slow or too fast. Plus, I prefer to fall in private.”
This winter, Stavinoha has been training for the Bataan Memorial Death March. In addition to running the marathon-distance memorial race in March, she is also leading two active duty military teams. The “military light” team will be wearing their camouflage uniforms and a hydration pack while the “military heavy” team will be in full gear with a 35-pound rucksack.
The memorial race, held in New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range, recreates the march that 60,000 American and Filipino POWs were forced to make from Bataan to a concentration camp in April 1942 during World War II.
“Only a small number of those soldiers survived, and a very small number are still alive today. The team of five has to start and finish the race together,” explained Stavinoha, who has been coaching her teams for months. “It’s really challenging because you have to train together to know each other’s pace, strengths, and weaknesses.”
She has also been coaching them on how to fuel their bodies for the 26-mile slog in the sand. Before a big effort, it’s important to consume at least three liters of fluids the day before and to not skip meals, but only eat what you know you are comfortable digesting. The morning of the race, she advises her athletes to consume one to two grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. During the race, she recommends consuming about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour plus half a liter to a liter per hour.
“You aren’t going to be perfect at your first race,” she says. “But my goal is always to make sure my athletes finish healthy.”
Last year, Stavinoha coached XTERRA Texas Trail Run Regional Champ Autumn Augustine, a nurse in the Army. “I’ve trained with Trisha since I’ve been in San Antonio,” said Augustine, who is in the 20-24 age group. “I went to the Army 10-Miler with her last October and she is a great coach!”
This race will be one of the last times Stavinoha will work with active duty military before she retires this spring. After her military service, she will consult, and she is thinking of going back to school to become certified to teach physical education in schools and becoming a lifeguard so she can promote water safety.
“Getting kids more fit is something that needs to be addressed immediately. And I get as much satisfaction out of working with beginners and new athletes as I get from working with Olympic and elite athletes.”
Also on her to-do list for after military service is to run in more XTERRA trail runs.
“One thing I like about XTERRA is not only are the trails amazing, but the athletes are in it for the love of the sport. They don’t need medals and hoopla. They are just there to run.”
Learn more about the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.