We first met Dominique Lopez-Stickney three years ago at a meet-and-greet for new members of the Portland Running Company Race Team. Since then, she has become a valued teammate, on the roads, on the trails, and even in the store, where she works part-time on top of her full-time job as a health coach. She’s a fantastic resource for all of her friends and running partners who have questions about the nexus of health, diet, and exercise. We love her for her boundless curiousity, her empathetic, listening nature, and her goofy sense of humor. But make no mistake. This former Cincinnati Bearcat is a ferocious competitor as well, and she has unfinished business with the marathon. Read on to learn more about this familiar face from the front of the pack.
Where are you from?
Delaware, OH, home of the Little Brown Jug [harness race] and Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th president.
When did you move to Portland?
I moved to Portland in 2009 by way of Texas, by way of Minnesota, by way of Ohio.
I grew up in central Ohio, which is known for its flat cornfields, humidity, and mosquitoes. The mountains and ocean of the Pacific Northwest seemed as different from that as I could think. I wavered between Seattle and Portland, without ever visiting either. I’m so glad I moved to Portland. It’s a village. And Seattle traffic scares me.
Tell us a little about your running history? How’d you get started?
I was pressured to run by my friends in high school—that, and I was so bad at other sports where you actually needed skills. We used to run laps around the goal posts in soccer practice, and I was one of the fastest runners. Running makes me feel so energized, I definitely feel the endorphins when I run. After high school, I went to college near home and worked. I decided to run a marathon because I had nothing else going on. I told myself if I could do a marathon, which at that time I thought was probably the hardest thing out there, then I could run in college. So I did. I walked on to the University of Cincinnati’s team, and I had a great experience that changed my life. I had one of the best coaches out there.
Who was that?
Bill Schnier. He has these classic sound bites. We even had a shirt made with the Top 10 Schnier-isms. He also holds multiple masters degrees and believes there’s more to life than running, so he was really supportive of scheduling conflicts with classes.
Why are you still competitive?
I feel like I haven’t reached my potential. I don’t have a lot of raw talent, but in running, or work, school, etc., I have a pretty good work ethic. I’ve gotten this far in life through hard work, and accomplished everything I’ve set out to do. Why should running be any different?
What’s the focus of your running, now? Goals?
My focus since that first marathon has always been the marathon. I’ve PR’d every time I’ve run one. Maybe that’s why I’ve had a hard time this past year; I haven’t PR’d. I’m not giving up, though. I don’t think it matters what your time goal is, whether it’s 5 hours or 2 1/2 hours; from talking with other runners, we think the same about doing our best and feeling proud from a good time as a product of hard work. I have lots of goals! My “A” goal is to go under 3 hours…then I’ll think about “B” through “F.” I’ve been working on the sub-3 goal for over a year. I feel like once I get below that, I’ll pick up some momentum again.
[Editor’s Note: Dominique ran a sub-3:00 marathon at CIM in Sacramento in December!]
What do you think your strengths are as a runner?
Well, I love running. I don’t get the “running sucks” T-shirts. Running is the best thing since sliced bread! And you don’t have to worry about getting a flat tire or equipment malfunction with running. It’s simple. I guess specific personal strengths as a runner…maybe it’s that I don’t really consider myself a runner. I constantly feel like I’m one off day from not being a runner. I just run, I’ll probably always do it. I’ve been running and racing for 15 years now, but I could fall off the wagon any day.
What are your favorite types of workouts? Favorite races or race distances?
Until recently I had a lot of anxiety about track workouts, and I realize that they’re some of the best things that I can do for my running and my health. I love 800s, 1200s, 400s, especially in that order. We’ve been trying to end workouts with 200s or 400s for some speed. For racing, the half-marathon is kinda fun. I can still run the week after, unlike a marathon.
Favorite place to run around here?
Last year after getting totally burned out on the downtown Portland Waterfront loop I discovered Alameda. I’ll run there and over to Mt. Tabor then to Laurelhurst for a longer run. For trails Crown Zellerbach is unbeatable.
How did you come across PRC?
I found out about PRC through the Race Team in 2012. I started running with the team, and then started working weekends at the store as a second job. I think I started March 2012, and it’s been on again/off again since. I worked a summer sale a few weekends ago.
What’s the best part of working here?
One of the best things about PRC is the co-workers. They’re now my running partners, which was something I was looking for at the time. I like to stay in the loop on who is working there, because they are always the most awesome people. I tell my current co-workers [at my full-time job] to go there and get fitted or go for running advice. I also love talking to people about their running and health goals. People come to the store for shoes, etc., when they are motivated and ready to take action on a health change. It’s gratifying to be a part of that!
Do you still fill-in for Shasta when she can’t lead PRC’s weekly core class? What is your favorite kind of cross-training or ancillary training?
I do when I can. My work schedule is pretty flexible, but some weeks are kind of busy. An hour of core is a lot, so I’m always sore for a couple of days after. I love yoga! I’m not trying to be competitive, but I’m pretty good at the poses. I’ll do yoga at 24 Hour Fitness in the Pearl or Yoga on Yamhill on my lunch hour sometimes. I’ll do yoga in the kitchen at home to reach for something.
What keeps you involved with the PRC Race Team? Is “team” important to you?
Most people can probably identify with this, and for me having someone to do a track workout with at 5:30 a.m. is the difference between doing it, and maybe not. I also love going to local races and seeing teammates with the PRC jersey at a turnaround, and we wave or say “good job,” even if we don’t really know each other. I also think it makes races less intimidating, and can help calm nerves if we are joking around before the start.
What is your current career? Are you a dietitian, a nutritionist, or both? What’s the difference?
I am a registered dietitian (RD) and licensed in the state of Oregon to practice. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)…well, I’m that, too. You think I would know, but it’s a new credential. Maybe we shouldn’t get too caught up in labels. Right now I work for Moda Health in downtown Portland as a health coach. I have a masters of public health in nutrition, but I’ve carved out a niche for myself as a health coach, which isn’t really public health focused, but I think I like it. I’ve been doing that for a total of five or six years now. A registered dietitian is really the expert in nutrition. We have to attend at least a 4-year accredited university, internship, pass an exam, and keep the credential valid through continuing education. Soon we will be required to also have a related graduate degree.
There’s a lot of people out there giving nutrition advice. Most fad diets were not created by dietitians, because we would probably just tell people to eat more vegetables. I’ve had so many jobs related to nutrition and research. One job was at the University of Minnesota, where I went to grad school. I called research study participants whose dietary intake we needed for all sorts of nutrition related studies. I’ve collected dietary recalls from so many people, from city bus drivers for a health intervention, to mom’s of newborns for a Gerber study.
Let’s talk a little about nutrition. Are the runners you know good eaters—by that I mean, do they eat a healthy diet in your estimation? What are the mistakes we make?
Wow, this has gotten really deep. It depends on the runner. We as runners can probably get away with a little more discretionary calories than the average American. In general, we tend to overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories consumed. We’ve all heard of runners who train for marathons and gain weight, proof that it’s a lot easier to consume it than to burn it off. Evidence from research studies we hear in the news may be taken out of context or be flawed. We also may just want validation that the coffee and beer we drink are good for us.
Do you feel that diet affects your performance as a runner? What’s the biggest change you think someone can make in diet to improve their running?
Personally, I do. There are professional runners who eat a diet of McDonald’s and who knows what other processed foods. Just because we exercise, doesn’t mean we can fuel with garbage. For me, a change that has been huge was to drink more water. Every morning, before the coffee, I chug at least a pint of water. Gravitating towards more real, whole foods prepared at home from in-season choices is not only a healthy change nutritionally, but on so many other levels for the environment and local economy.
Is it easier to eat well in Portland than elsewhere? Why or why not?
We’re all kind of foodies in some way, right? Maybe Portland just brings out the inner nerdy dietitian in all of us. It’s part of the culture, it’s socially accepted and admired. There’s a TV show about it…”Is It Local?” From what I hear, other parts of the country are also catching on to it, and I feel in Portland it’s all so geographically close to us that it’s natural that we want to eat local, fresh foods and support our farmers. I mean, we grow the hops that is in the IPA we drink. Tell me what’s more local than that?
What’s going on in your backyard these days?
Oh, well, I’m glad that you asked. We just finished up grape season with three different varieties of grape jam. The basil is out of control, we are on pesto overload. We have enough frozen basil to last until next summer. [Editor’s note: Dibs!] We’re really enjoying squashes and green beans. We keep some beans on the stalk through winter and harvest to cook the bean as a legume for soups. As always the chickens and bees are doing their job by producing.
Any other hobbies or pursuits of yours we don’t know about?
I’m studying for a personal trainer certification. That’s been valuable to help with my knowledge of strength training to have a more balanced body. I also just commissioned as an officer in the Army Medical Corps as a dietitian. I’m looking forward to what that may bring.
Everything Paleo is super popular right now. Do you embrace that diet? Can it work for endurance athletes?
Oooh…Paleo. I’m not going to offend any paleo followers here. Fad diets are like fashion, they come and they go. But there are staples of a healthy diet that never go out of style. Like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. I don’t go on diets. I tried once and it was too hard. Eating intuitively has been my best bet personally. I’m sure there are some endurance athletes who have embraced the paleo diet, and it may be healthier than what they were eating before. Paleo may just be the 2014 version of Atkins, with a twist to fit the whole food, local movement.
If you were something from the backyard, what would you be and why?
I would have to be one that is really organized and productive. Maybe I’d be a bee colony.
Naked Bike Ride: How many years have you done it? Any tips for beginners?
Twice. Each year has been different so far, but still very naked. It’s a protest. This year we were protesting in support of body acceptance, your right to bike on the road, and enviornmental conservation. All things I absolutely support. Tips would be to wear warm clothes there, stash them in a pannier or bike bucket for the ride, and get 100% naked. Also, beer doesn’t hurt. So wear a helmet.
Is Minneapolis or Portland a better running city? Why?
I am very certain Portland is a superior running city due to the mild climate, abundance of trails, sporting goods companies based here, and elite and locally competitive athletes that live here. On the other hand, I am also certain that Minneapolis is a better biking city due to the off-street bike highways and the fact that they don’t flaunt the bike scene—very unassuming, non horn-tooting. Portland has a great bike infrastructure for street biking, but who wants to bike on crowded streets with cars?