My Favorite Things: Calah Schlabach

Former collegiate runner Calah Schlabach has found success in triathlon. Photo: Daniel Cernero

This Virginia runner-turned-triathlete is tearing up the amateur circuit.

After graduating from college in 2009, Calah Schlabach spent a year as an editor in a publishing house in Hanoi, Vietnam. Riding a rickety one-speed bike to and from work was her only form of exercise. Recently removed from an accomplished, yet anticlimactic running career at Calvin College in Michigan, Schlabach, now 26, needed to step away from the sport that she says “made me bitter.” Navigating both a new job and the harrowing Hanoi traffic by bike were enough to keep her occupied and out of her running shoes.

Her year off was just the break she needed. After returning to the states, Schlabach’s mom encouraged her to enter a sprint triathlon. Despite not running in months and lacking both cycling and swimming skills, she placed second overall. “Ten-plus years of running don’t just disappear from your lungs,” says Schlabach, who recently moved to Arlington, Va., from McGregor, Texas. The experience reignited her desire to compete. Today, Schlabach is one of the fastest amateur triathletes in the area. In fact, she topped all other age-group athletes at the Columbia Triathlon in May, beating many professionals with her sizzling 37:46 10K split on a hilly course.

She’s also adopting a running career: Last fall, Schlabach signed on as the assistant cross country and track and field coach at Marymount University in Arlington, where she works with her own coach, Zane Castro.

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Aside from coaching, Schlabach finished third overall at the ITU Age-Group World Championships in London on Sept. 15. She’s hoping the added strength she’s gained from swimming and cycling will boost her running.

“Because of running, I am a stronger triathlete — not so much physically as mentally. I know how to race. And I know how to train,” she says. “When I first started triathlon, I actually dreaded the run. Now that I’ve gotten my fitness back, triathlon is pretty freaking fun.”

Some Of Her Favorite Things

Favorite restaurant: Lost Dog Café
5876 Washington Blvd., Arlington, Va.

“They offer gluten-free pizza crust and soy cheese and they have killer salads that actually fill me up.”

Favorite place to get gear: Tri360
2121 N. Westmoreland St., Arlington, Va.

“It’s about two miles from my house. I buy pretty much everything I need there.”

Favorite running shoe: Adidas Adios

“I started wearing this shoe when it was the Mana and was amazed that it had taken me over 10 years of running to find a shoe I liked so much! I also love my Adidas Hagio racing flats.”

Favorite local run route: Rock Creek Park
Washington, D.C.

“The trails out there are great because they are soft, and mountain bikers aren’t allowed to come in and mess them up!”

Favorite place to relax: Northside Social
3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.

“They have some truly spectacular baked goods, and even some gluten-free cookies to appease me.”

Favorite post-race treat: Dark chocolate at Trader Joe’s

“Last time I went I bought seven bars at once. It’s so good and cheap.”

Favorite psych-up song: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”
“I can’t help but get pumped up when I hear it, regardless of what I’m doing at the moment.”

Favorite words to run by: “‘Don’t be nervous; be a little excited to see what you can do out there!’ My college coach, Brian Diemer, used to tell us this in his pre-race talks. It’s hopeful, without adding too much pressure.”

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