Monday, December 5, 2011

CIM - Olympic Trials Qualifying


The day before the California International Marathon I was confronted with two very tough decisions, both involved water bottles.

Many marathons offer the elite runners tables at the aid stations to place special fluids. This is an incredible perk, one I did not have available at the LA marathon in March (I actually used a fluid belt and carried a bottle with me). The athletes go to all kinds of trouble to decorate their bottles in an effort to make them stand out. When I got to the hospitality suite with my strikingly unadorned bottles, I realized I would need to remedy the situation.

This was my first dilemma. What could I use that was available in the room to beautify my water bottles so I could easily detect them on the fly? I got creative and used some pink and silver packing tape and ripped up some note paper to make my name and number visible.

I was quite proud of my artistry, but it seriously paled in comparison to the bling that some of the other athletes placed on their bottles.

This particular bottle, though, wins the contest for best dressed.

The second quandary was choosing which 5 aid stations to place my special needs bottles out of the 17 total aid stations on the course. This may seem like a trivial issue, but I assure you this is a very strategic problem. Should I evenly space the bottles? Should I front load the bottles? What happens if I miss a bottle? In the end I chose to place them at miles 5, 10.3 15.5, 19.3 and 22. I successfully retrieved the first 4 bottles and somehow missed my last one. Luckily I had an extra and Power Gel and SaltStick tablets to keep me going.

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Tell someone you are running the California International Marathon and they will reply “Wow, that is a really fast course.” What a ridiculous comment. The course is only as fast as the runner who runs it; it is like saying a high tech bike is fast, which it isn’t if the rider can only manage 10 mph. Anyway. Here is the course profile.

The eye immediately notices the marked downhill nature of the course. What the eye does not immediately notice is all of the bumps that comprise this net downhill. Take a closer look. The starting elevation is 366 feet and the finish line is at 26 feet. Yes, that is a quite a large drop. But. It really isn’t. You see, if the course dropped from, say, 10,000 feet to 2,000 feet, then it would be almost entirely downhill. This course is made up of lots and lots and lots and lots of rollers. It is up and down the entire way until the end where it flattens out. It is a grind and a killer on the legs.

My race strategy was to run behind the designated pacer, a fellow brought in to help the hopefuls acquire the Olympic trials standard of 2:46.00. A gaggle of women followed behind what one racer declared was “the luckiest man in the race”.  After a mile or so of tripping over the people around me and altering my gait to stay in the pack I made a decision to move ahead and run my own race.

Luckily, I found another pack of 4 men and women to run with and through 24 miles I sailed across the course easily running up the hills and floating down the hills. For the first time ever, I felt like a runner. I was smooth, in control, charging forward with purpose. It was amazing; until it wasn’t.

The last 2 miles I started losing control of my limbs. I stumbled over my own feet. My form deteriorated making me feel like a marionette. I stopped checking my pace. I started calculating in my head how many more minutes I had left to run. They ticked by ever so slowly. I was relieved, elated, emotional, when I crossed the finish line in 2:43.48 a PR by 3.5 minutes. I was 6th overall and 4th masters. Those old ladies are fast.

Qualifying for the Olympic trials in the marathon was a goal set almost on a whim earlier this year. It took three tries with a series of ups and downs that tested me physically and emotionally. Was it worth it, you ask. Unquestionably!

I cannot say enough thank you's to my friends, family, supporters, therapists and well wishers. All of you make all of this possible.

15 comments:

  1. Awesome!

    I have been rooting for you at this quest. I am coming up on 40 this year and am the fastest I have ever been (about half as fast as you - HA!). Thanks for your blog. It is a really good read. : )

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  2. "A series of ups and downs...." Now that is the understatement of the year! WELL DONE!

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  3. Wonderful! I too have been rooting for you to pull it off, it was a great goal and I am so delighted that you are able to enjoy the satisfaction of having completed it!

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  4. Congratulations! Way to stick with it--third time is a charm. I'll cheer for you in Houston--I'm in the citizens' marathon the next day.

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  5. What an achievement...the latest of many goals reached in an accomplished athletic career! You continue to amaze. So proud of you. :~)

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  6. Congratulations on the OTQ! I was out there, too. It was a wonderful course and an awesome day for a race

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  7. Joanna--A BIG congrats! That's fantastic. I love that you are killing it out there after all these years (no, that doesn't mean you're old!).

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  8. Wow! Congratulations Joanna! You continue to be an inspiration!

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  9. I'm SO happy for you Joanna! Way to stick with it and all the pain you went through this year trying to qualify!

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  10. Thanks guys, for the wonderful encouragement this year and the continued support.

    JZ

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  11. The eye also notices the huge "The Fastest Course in the West!", which kind of implies that the course is fast ;)

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