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An Overview of the Washington, D.C., Triathlon By Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner

Held annually each June, the Washington, D.C., Triathlon gives athletes the opportunity to compete against each other against a backdrop of national monuments in the nation’s capital. The race incorporates swimming, biking, and running. Swimming takes place in the Potomac River, which runs through the city. As the city features many scenic parks, competitors enjoy beautiful scenery during the biking portion of the race. Finally, the athletes complete the run along the monument corridor and end up at the base of the U.S. Capitol.

The upcoming triathlon features two courses: the Sprint Distance course and the International course. The Sprint course incorporates a 0.8-kilometers swim, a 20-kilometer bike route, and a 5-kilometer run. The International course is a USA Triathlon-approved race, requiring competitors to swim 1.5K, bike 40K, and run 10K.

About Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner: Dr. Mountvarner participated in the first Washington, D.C., Triathlon. He is the author of the book What Matters Most Is What You Do Next: Dealing with Adversity.



The recent acclaimed movie The King’s Speech brought the subject of stuttering to the forefront of our collective consciousness. A communication disorder exhibiting repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal stoppages in speech, stuttering also may provoke unusual body or facial movements as the stutterer struggles to speak. There is no correlation between emotional trauma and stuttering, also called stammering, or between intelligence and stuttering. Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner, a congenital stutterer, serves as the Chief of Emergency Medicine and Interim Chairman of Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Dr. Mountvarner finally mastered the disorder in his mid-30s.

Globally, more than 68 million people stutter, including in excess of 3 million Americans. The condition affects males four times as often as it impedes the speech of females. According to the Stuttering Foundation of America, four factors likely affect stuttering: genetics, developmental delays, neurophysiology, and family dynamics. The latter situation might involve fast-paced lifestyles or high expectations. Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, author John Updike, and the subject of the movie, King George VI, all stuttered.

While a cure has not surfaced for stuttering, the speech impediment is unlike other disorders in its variability. This means stuttering may increase or decrease in certain situations, such as speaking on the telephone. Notably, country music star Mel Tillis stutters while speaking, but not while singing. Through speech therapy, children, teenagers, young adults, and even senior citizens can become more fluent. For children who begin stuttering, experts recommend consulting a speech-language pathologist specializing in the disorder.

Aside from their difficulty in speaking, stutterers are clinically normal, as the disorder does not stem from a difficulty in producing speech sounds or in translating thoughts into words. Often, however, stutterers experience anxiety, nervousness, stress, and low self-esteem because of their disability. The disorder may have disparate causes in different individuals, and the original cause may differ from the circumstances that foment its continuation or increase. King George VI, Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner, and millions of others faced their stuttering head-on, setting an example that a speech impediment does not define a person, but facing it and overcoming it does.

The Inaugural District of Columbia Triathlon 2010

The first Washington, D.C., Triathlon took place on June 20, 2010. The well-organized event drew experienced triathletes such as Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., “newbies,” and numerous other participants. The Sprint included an 800-meter swim, 20k of biking, and a 6.7k run. The Olympic event entailed a swim of 1,500 meters, a 40k bike ride, and a 10k run. Dr. Mountvarner, representative of many participants, also has competed in the Nations, Dextrose, and Chicago Triathlons, as well as in a number of marathons.

The first Washington, D.C. Triathlon, like most such events, relied on hundreds of volunteers. The race’s official volunteer organization, the DC Triathlon Club, consists of more than 2,000 triathletes in the District of Columbia, southern Maryland, and northern Virginia. The organization provided volunteers, coordinators, and support in the months approaching the race and on race weekend, as did many other volunteers. Such positions included volunteer kayakers, canoeists, course marshals, transition-area and race-start monitors, and water-station volunteers. In addition, aides at the finish line gathered timing chips; distributed food, water, and medals to athletes; and assisted with crowd control.

A USA Triathlon- (USAT-) sanctioned event, the D.C. Triathlon followed all USAT rules and regulations. The swimmers, released in waves, began at 6:00 a.m. Biking rules included not littering and moving a bike off the course to fix a flat tire. Only those wearing helmets could mount their bikes, and not until crossing the mount/dismount line. Runners could not use cell phones, headphones, or any music devices. The course included several aid stations, approximately one mile apart, with water, electrolyte fluids, and other products.

For those new to triathlons or for individuals seeking to improve their skills, the National Capital YMCA Triathlon Club coordinates an 18-week training program annually from February through June. New York City’s largest team of female triathletes, Team Lipstick, recently launched a 12-week beginner program in Washington, D.C., for women wanting to get fit for triathlon competition, and OnPoint Fitness holds a 15-week program that is also for beginners. The adult-focused Team Z provides training for athletes of all abilities. It appears the successful D.C. Triathlon will continue for years to come.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

As part of his extensive medical training, Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), education he has utilized throughout his career and in his current position. As the Chief of Emergency Medicine and Interim Chairman of Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., Dr. Mountvarner oversees numerous cases related to bone, muscle, and skin biology.

Part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIAMS supports research in its areas of interest and trains scientists to engage in investigator-initiated research to determine causes of and effective treatments for arthritis, musculoskeletal diseases, and skin maladies. Prevention and the improvement of public health remain the ultimate goals of the organization. Long-range goals include ensuring that research propels the institute’s progress and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape in biomedical research. Meanwhile, as the studies continue, NIAMS disseminates the findings to the research community and public.

[At 25th Anniversary of NIAMS, Progress Celebrated, but Still a Long Way to Go]
[Uploaded by ElsGlobalMedicalNews on Jun 30, 2011]

NIAMS partnered with the NIH Office of Science Education to create Looking Good, Feeling Good: From the Inside Out (Exploring Bone, Muscle, and Skin), a supplemental curriculum for 6th through 8th grade students. In addition to enlightening students on how the bone, muscle, and skin systems relate to health, the lessons highlight the scientific research of NIAMS. The institute also has adopted Woodrow Wilson High School and joins the Academy of Biosciences and Medicine at Wheaton High School in Maryland in outreach activities. NIAMS participates in events at the two schools, such as career days and science fairs, and provides speakers for seminars at lunchtime.

Along with NIH researchers from other institutes, NIAMS scientists serve on focused committees that coordinate efforts across NIH and other organizations, providing a forum for exchanging information. Such groups include the Muscular Dystrophy Coordinating Committee, the Federal Working Group on Bone Diseases, and the Lupus Federal Working Group. The arrangement allows NIAMS and other government agencies to learn of the latest scientific developments and opportunities in a particular field of research. Just as NIAMS educated Dr. Geoffrey Mountvarner 15 years ago, the institute continues to delve into the mysteries of the human body and share that information for the advancement of public health.