Olympic Marathon Trials Preview

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Racing

This preview, by senior LVL columnist Muddy, first appeared in our Jan/Feb issue.

After reflecting upon the previous Trials (January 2012 in Houston), I’ve been obsessing over the qualified runners, especially the Level Legion representatives who will be competing, and their preparations for the event. Have they had to train differently due to the course layout (double loops)? Will weather be a factor (northeast region vs southern Cal)? What are their goals, hopes, and dreams?

At the suggestion of our fearless editor, we decided to reach out to as many runners in the Trials that have Northeast ties. The ensuing thumbnails are of those who replied (we know there’s more). Who better to fill us in than the champions themselves? I wanted to ask them hundreds of questions that have been, and still are racing through my brain, yet we knew they were entrenched in focused training for the Trials so we posed the single prompt: describe your preparations and expectations for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.

We’ve ordered the athletes who qualified by their times, ladies first of course.

Sarah Crouch
2015 Chicago Marathon
When I was 14 years old, I watched the Olympic Marathon on TV. I had just started running and set a new mile personal best of 5:49, but a spark began in my heart that has grown since. I don’t have a Cinderella story, nothing happened overnight. I took one baby step forward at a time, improving a little year after year. Last fall, at the Chicago Marathon, I qualified for the Trials in a time that placed me 9th in the USA in the marathon that year. My time was 2:32:44. My pace was 5:49 per mile.

Esther (Erb) Atkins
2014 Boston Marathon

Esther Erb Atkins. Photo by Kevin Morris

My Olympic Trials build-up will begin after Thanksgiving week. This fall we’ve kept my mileage a little lower to help me bounce back from Beijing and quite a few other life events: moving, getting married, starting a new job, etc. It’s been helpful because I’m starting to feel pretty fit again and think that after Thanksgiving I’ll be ready to get back into the swing of 100-mile weeks and the “marathon mindset.”

I’m not sure exactly what I have in store for December, but I’m sure I’ll be bumping up the miles and doing some half-marathon specific workouts since I’ll be running the Jacksonville Half on January 3rd. Funny story, I actually called Richard Fannin in September to ask if he could hook me up with a home stay when I came down for the race and it was then that the light went off in his head to promote the race as a last-chance qualifier. I love what he’s done to make this race stacked with qualifiers and OT “cuspers.” He promised me he’d find me somebody to run with, and he has certainly not let me down!

Given that I’ve had enough of cold winters over the past 2 years in New Jersey, and this winter is supposed to be another rough one, Cole and I decided to go down to Tallahassee for the last seven weeks of the build-up. It’s a great place to train, and it looks like Lee Troop’s group is going to come down from Colorado, too, so I’m really excited to be with a bunch of professionals for those final weeks.

In terms of my expectations for the race itself, my hope is always that I run the best possible race for me on that day. I know that’s cliché but especially since becoming a coach, that has become my perspective. I just want to do my best. Terry Shea and I have talked about a more aggressive approach since I have been somewhat timid during my last three marathons and know that I left something out there on the course each time. So I’m hoping that I can find a group to work with on the course that also has that plan. Ultimately, barring all insane luck/disaster I think my best-possible finish would be somewhere in the back of the top ten. And even that is counting on some people to have an off day.

My PR is 2:33:15 and I feel like I’ve backed that up a few times. I’d like to be in the 2:30-2:31 range and feel like that would be the next step for me, especially on a course with so many turns and with the possibility of it being a hot day. If I do that and finish 20th, I’d still be quite happy with myself. Progress is never to be taken for granted.

Katie DiCamillo
2015 LA Marathon
Preparation: Will be racing in club nationals xc in December. Will do about a month of winter training in Phoenix with other runners coached by Ray Treacy. Will focus on getting the mileage up to about 100 a week with long runs reaching about 20 to 22 miles or so. Having run a few marathons so far, I would like to improve on my personal best time. My personal best was last March at the LA Marathon when it was very warm, reaching into the 80°s. With proper training and staying healthy, I would like to improve that time at the Trials. I would just like to see what I can do at the Trials, aiming for a top 10 place.

Erica Jesseman
2013 Hartford Marathon

Erica Jesseman. Photo by Scott Mason.

I am trying to rebuild my mileage after my fall marathon upwards to around 90 to 100 miles a week. Get some faster speed work in with the combination of longer workouts. The key thing for me right now is staying healthy through the winter season. I’m also hoping for moderate weather so I can continue to do my workouts outside on the road versus on the dreaded treadmill or a million miles on the indoor track (haha).

Anna Weber
2015 Twin Cities Marathon
I have taken time off from graduate school to focus full-time on training for the Trials. My training right now is about pushing my body in ways I never have before, since for the very first time I now have the ability to rest and recover without the added pressures of my PhD program. Ideally, my mileage will peak around 105-110 miles per week.

My expectations for the Trials are to arrive healthy and with a fresh mind. I expect to compete as though I have been working towards this day for over 10 years, because, well, I have!

Kaitlin Gregg Goodman
2014 California International Marathon
My preparation for the Marathon Trials began in November. I’ve been lucky to have fellow qualifier Katie DiCamillo to train with, as well as seasoned marathoner Kim Smith. I’ve been logging miles in and around Providence, my new home, and have enjoyed some long runs in Lincoln Woods, along the Blackstone River bike path, and in Narragansett. However, after last winter’s brutal blizzards, I’m planning to escape the snow and do a majority of my marathon prep from my hometown of Davis, CA. The Trials will be my 2nd marathon and I’m looking forward to chasing a big PR.

Laura Hagley
2014 California International Marathon
Preparations: Do what I did to qualify – run, rest, recover. Train with a goal for each run. Eat like I’m choosing fuel for a car I cannot afford. Sleep like society expects kids to sleep.

Expectations: People say, “So you’re trying to qualify for the Olympics?” I respond, “I get to run with some other people who are trying to make it to the Olympics…” I expect to race hard, meet cool people, have fun.

Laura Paulsen. Photo by Scott Mason.

Laura Paulsen
2014 California International Marathon
I’m so excited for the Trials! I’ve been running 80 miles per week for the past few months and plan to stay at this until a taper in late January/early February. I typically do one long run of 2+ hours and one workout with 8-10 miles of solid work per week. This will be my 2nd marathon and 1st Olympic Marathon Trials, so expectations aren’t too high besides just going out there to race as best I can and have some fun!

Amanda Nurse
2015 California International Marathon
When I say qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials is a dream come true, it’s not an exaggeration! Up until September 2015, my fastest marathon had been a 2:53 at Twin Cities in 2014. I ran the Berlin Marathon just 9 weeks ago, hoping to run sub-2:50. Finishing in 2:46:20, I was pleasantly surprised. My husband, Ian Nurse said that night, “You might have a shot at an OTQ. You should just go for it!” The next day, I enlisted the help of running coach and friend, Terrance Shea, and got to work. He transformed my somewhat relaxed marathon training into a manageable but more advanced plan in preparation for Cal International. I thought if I can run a 2:42:59, it’ll be a huge stretch, but I’ve got to TRY! So, for 9 weeks, I really dedicated myself to my training, giving it all I had. On race day, I went out fast—too fast, really, but I ran the first 5 with Madeline Duhon, a new BAA teammate. I managed to stay ahead of the 2:43 pacer for the duration, and just kept saying to myself “get to mile 14, and it’s downhill from there!” Seeing my husband seven times along the course really helped me and gave me the motivation to hold on. I ran through the half in a whole two minutes faster than my fastest half marathon PR and ended up gritting it out finishing in 2:40:47… I still can’t believe it.

Meagan Nedlo
2014 Richmond Marathon
When I competed in the Trials in 2012, I had a few very simple, concrete baseline goals: Finish. Don’t get last. Don’t embarrass my family. These were distantly followed by loftier ambitions such as: Place top 50. Run a PR. Fortunately everything aligned and I was able to achieve all of the above. This time around, a bit wiser and certainly older, I would like to take these goals a step further (no pun intended) and really compete aggressively. Unfortunately I’ve been hampered by some nagging pseudo-injuries and less than stellar base training over the past few months, but I’m hopeful for the 12 weeks ahead and optimistic that everything I’ve done in the years since 2012 will coalesce and allow me to execute a successful Trials for the second time in a row.

Lauren Philbrook
2015 Boston Marathon

Lauren Philbrook.

In terms of preparation, I’ll be trying to do some good quality workouts and increase mileage while staying healthy. Unfortunately I had a small foot injury this fall and have taken a little time off from running, but I’m feeling better and hoping having a physical and mental break will be helpful before starting up Trials training.

I am excited for everything about the whole race experience: seeing old runner friends, making new ones, getting a chance to meet the pros and being there to witness the creation of a brand-new Olympic marathon team. And then of course I am thrilled to have a rare opportunity to race with the best marathoners in the country! I am looking forward to pushing myself and trying to stick with some of these speedy women.  

Brett Ely
2014 California International Marathon
The 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials is likely to be my last competitive marathon. This is the 4th consecutive time I have qualified for the Trials, but I’ve had some bad luck in the race itself (DNF due to injury in 2004 and 2012; 34th in 2008). I would love to go out on a high note, so I’m putting in some altitude training in Mammoth Lakes over winter break and attacking workouts with my Team Run Eugene teammates with the goal of running a lifetime best in the Trials race (current best is 2:38:53). At the very least, I need to bring my batting (finishing) average up from .333 to at least .500!

Christine Shaw
2015 California International Marathon
I ran my qualifier on December 6, just 10 weeks prior to the Trials. My recovery has gone well so far but will continue to be a priority over the coming weeks. In terms of specific preparation, I’m putting my trust in the coaches who guided me to my OTQ. Unlike past marathons, I do not have a strict time goal heading in to the Trials. My main goal is to arrive at the starting line feeling healthy, strong and ready. A PR would be nice too.

And now the men…

Tim Ritchie
Twin Cities Marathon 2013
My preparation for the race will be controlled, simplified and centered around staying healthy while building fitness to be ready for any type of race. My expectation is that the race will HURT!!!

Pelletier (left) and Hampton. Photo by Scott Mason.

Jonas Hampton
2015 Hartford Marathon
Preparations will be relatively the same as I’ve done for the past year with a longer base pending on the weather in NE. Will throw in a few extra sharp turns into some workouts just to simulate the LA course a bit more. I’m not really sure what to expect come February but I know it’ll be a hard race and I’m looking forward to having people to race in the later sections of the marathon. Since this is only my second marathon, I’m just looking to mix it up and get a better feel for how to actually race it and compete well.

Tyler C. Andrews
2014 California International Marathon
I began a long build-up towards the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials at the end of August. During the first half of this build-up, I’ve been preparing for the 50K World Championships (Dec. 4 in Doha, Qatar), where I’ll be representing the USA for the first time. In this prep, I did a lot of longer runs at slightly slower than my goal marathon pace, so this was not only good rep for the 50K, but good prep for the second half of this season where I’ll focus on the marathon.

After the 50K, I’ll turn my sights entirely towards the marathon. Training will focus on running a lot at goal marathon pace and extending the ability to run that pace.

Matt Pelletier
2014 Hartford Marathon
I’m preparing for my final Olympic Trials race as I don’t expect to be able to qualify in 2020. My expectations are to run a PR which is how I train for every marathon. This should be the fastest Olympic Marathon Trials field ever, so I’m hoping to not finish last.

Eric Ashe

Ashe (left), Sanca, and fellow qualifier Serafini. Photo by Scott Mason.

2015 Grandma’s Marathon
This fall, I’ve been averaging a little over 90mi/week and doing 10K-type training and racing with road races, and xc. I plan to do a track 10K in Sacramento in early December, as well as XC Club Nationals. I hope this ‘faster’ training and racing will help bring my previous average marathon pace of around 5:15 to 5:10 or better for LA! After that, training will be focusing more on preparing for the duration of the marathon race.

Based on my previous full and half marathons, I see myself as around the 50th best runner heading into the Trials. Training has been going well so the expectation is to finish higher than that in the race!

Dan Vassallo
2014 Philadelphia Marathon
My expectations are to not finish last. While I’ve given up clarifying to people who aren’t in the game that I have a 0.0% chance of making the team, I have realistic expectations. I’m going into the race similar to a 15 seed in the college basketball tournament: I know I’m not going to win, but if I can make things interesting and pull off an upset or two, I’ll be satisfied. There are bound to be a lot of overly-ambitious (or delusional, depending on your opinion) racers out there, and I look forward to cleaning up the carnage after they realize that this race is 26 miles, not ten.

I realize that this is better than a once-in-a-lifetime experience: it’s a once-in-MY-lifetime experience that very few people will be able to have in the first place. It’s my first time qualifying and I know the odds are against me that I’ll ever make it to the Trials again. Therefore, I’m going to make sure I make the most of it.

My training this summer and fall has been focused on preparing my body to “actually train.” Being able to compete against the best in the country will require training harder than I’ve ever trained before, and I think what I did this summer has prepared my body to go through that grind.

In terms of my expectations, my number one goal is to get to the starting line healthy. After this, I want to get myself in the best shape of my life. If that plays out as a personal best in the race, that’d be great, but marathons can play out in a lot of different ways depending on the field, the weather, etc. Mostly, I see this as the first of hopefully many seasons where I’m competing in some of the most competitive races in the country. I’ve already gained a great deal of experience from my first few races and I’m excited to continue learning and growing and improving.

Tyler Mueller
2015 USATF Half Marathon Championships
It will be my first marathon so it will be my first stab at training for one. I plan on racing XC in December then plan on increasing the mileage a bit and focusing on the long run and some marathon pace. Nothing too special here!

So there you have it—our field is set. We are a short time away from living vicariously through the real athletes that inspire us and make the Level Legion. Tune in Saturday, February 13, and watch our New England athletes push themselves to the edge of their physical abilities for the noblest of pursuits. Best of luck, ladies and gentlemen! Ω

Muddy will be watching on February 13. Only question is will he run before or after.


To read more from our current issue, click here.


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