At only 16, Dana and Nena Fritz – American twin sisters – have already made strides as long distance athletes in Singapore. Believe it or not, they’ve consistently secured top 10 finishes in races such as the Nike WE RUN SG 10K, Great Eastern Women 10K, HomeTeamNS-New Balance REAL Run, Mizuno Mt. Faber Run, Mizuno Wave Run and the list goes on. The girls are originally from Lexington, Kentucky, in the US, and moved to Singapore in 2007, having returned after a prior stay from 2000 to 2003.
If you recall, RunSociety did a short profile of them some weeks back at the HomeTeamNS-New Balance REAL Run. Today, we’ve dedicated an entire page, delving into the lives of these two remarkable young ladies. And at the rate they are progressing, who knows what they’d be capable of when they’re in their prime? The following are excerpts of RunSociety’s interview with Dana and Nena Fritz:
When did the both of you start going serious into long distance running? How did it come about?
Dana: We actually first started running in 2009. Since then, we’ve been gradually increasing the distance and the speed. We started out with about 4K and increased from there. For our school cross country, the annual cross country race, the first time we tried running it, we actually got second and third in that so we realised we had the talent in that so our Dad helped us build it up by coaching us.
We understand your Dad was active in the athletics scene as well during his younger days. How big an influence has he been?
Dana: He was a scholarship athletic. Yes, he’s actually been our coach for the entire four years since we started till now.
What’s that training regime like?
Dana: We usually come to the track about twice a week and do speed training or distance training. So usually we do repeats or we do a ladder which is increasing distance and then go back down and usually on the weekends, we do a long run, about 7 to 10K.
Nena: On the normal days, we just do a shorter run like 4 or 5K.
Dana: Yes we run 6 times, 6 days a week.
Nena: Once a day.
Both of you were the ones who pulled together a non-existent Track & Field team at Chestnut Drive Secondary School. Tell us more about it. What challenges did you face?
Dana: Okay ermm… the bureaucracy of the Singapore school system made it kind of hard for us to start the team but it took about 6 months for us to get everything registered to MOE. But once we started a team, we started out with about 5 people and within 6 months, it grew to about 20 and it just increased from there every year. Some of them were sprinters, some were long distance, so basically anybody that could run could join the athletics team. We would go for track and cross country with the main focus on cross country. For National Inter-schools, she (Nena) got 7th. We usually get top 20 in all of those.
Training, pre-race and post-race diet?
Dana: I think it’s good to eat more carbohydrates because that’s what you burn off the most in running.
Nena: Pasta and stuff the night before.
Dana: And in the morning, we have to eat breakfast so…
Nena: A small light Granola Bar.
Dana: We usually don’t eat more than an hour before the race to let it digest. After a race, we usually take about an hour before eating something and we’ll drink a lot of water. We usually don’t drink sports drinks.
Nena: Just water.
Dana: They tend to make us thirsty, more thirsty than we already are. We take iron tablets once everyday because of an iron deficiency – that would be me. And we take multi-vitamins everyday.
At the recent MR25 Elite 10K Race, Nena finished third in the Ladies’ Open while Dana kind of fell back. Did it have to do with recovery issues from a race the day before?
Dana: Yes probably because on Saturday it was in the evening so we just went home, went to sleep. Then wake up in the morning and do another race so…
Dana: Yes I think she takes a shorter time to recover.
You are both members of MR25. How has the running club helped you as athletes?
Dana: We joined in January of this year actually. It helps us a lot. Since we’ve joined the club, we’ve actually decreased our 5K time by 3 minutes in just 9 months. The club actually has a track session every Tuesday evening at 6.30 and usually it’s always on at the CCAB track at Bukit Timah. And most of them are elite runners so we get faster just trying to keep up with them. Yes it’s really good. They’re really encouraging too. On Thursdays, there’s a graveyard run. A 3K… two 3K loops to make a total of 6K at Bukit Brown cemetery. We do go for it. Weekends usually, if we don’t have a race, we do our long run at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. We have a 10K loop.
How different are your running styles?
Dana: I tend to go out faster and then decrease as I go along and then maintain a constant pace. She (Nena) tends to go out slower and increase.
Nena: And I always catch her about halfway.
Dana: Yes and she usually catches up and we run together until near the end, then one of us will usually pull away. I find it easier to go out faster ‘cos if I have to slow down, it’s easier than to pick it up.
We’re sure this has been asked a thousand times. Who’s the faster twin?
Nena: It depends.
Dana: It depends on distance and also who’s feeling better on a certain day.
Nena: Generally, she’s (Dana) faster for 5K.
Dana: Her (Nena) endurance is stronger and my speed is faster.
Personal best for 5km and 10km?
Dana: For 5K, my personal best is 22min flat.
Nena: 21min 23sec.
Dana: 10K, my personal best is 46min 30sec.
Nena: 46min 05sec.
Most memorable race ever?
Nena: Mine was the Sundown 10K race this year ‘cos I’ve never run a night race before so it’s very interesting. It’s a lot cooler than running in the morning.
Dana: Yes I think it’s the same for me. That race was the most organised race I’ve run in Singapore. They had distance markers at the proper places on the course. Most races here, the distance markers aren’t exactly on the right distance. They’re kind of here and there, like estimated.
Any future aspirations in the sporting arena?
Nena: We’ll probably run in cross country when we go to university.
Dana: Yes and represent our university in the intercollegiate. In the US, it’s a lot more competitive because there’s a lot more people interested in running.
Nena: There’s one big meet. The NCAA. It’s basically in between the colleges.
Dana: Yes so it’s inter-university.
Nena: Yes it’s country-wide.
Dana: And the universities are classified into Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3, according to the abilities of the students in the universities. So for example, if you’re in a Division 1 school, which are usually the faster runners, you compete only with Division 1 schools so it’s about people of about the same level who will be competing against each other instead of one that isn’t so fast competing with one that’s extremely fast. It’s a bit more fair.
What are your current plans?
Dana: We’re applying to the US Air Force Academy in Colorado and we’re also applying to two schools in Hawaii. For me, I prefer the Air Force Academy because it suits my interests the best.
Nena: I’m trying to get into the University of Hawaii because the focus is more on what I want to study than the Air Force Academy. Food science. It’s new product development.
Dana: I’m planning to study biology or bio-chemistry and become a medical officer so if I don’t get into the academy I’ll probably study pre-medicine in Hawaii.
Will we be seeing the both of you around for long? Or is it back to the US soon?
Nena: Until April.
Dana: We’ll probably be around until late March or early April before we’ll have to move back for university. Now until then since we’re graduated, we’ll probably just be running, going out, just enjoying.
Nena: And for the track and cross country season in spring…
Dana: Yes the SAA and Swift.
Nena: They usually have their meets around March.
Dana: Yes February, March. So we’ll probably be doing those.