Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I ran 8 miles last night with 3 cruise intervals; 3 x 1 mile with 1:00 rest. Not sure if I’m just not used to going fast or if my fixed treadmill isn’t calibrated correctly, but 6:30 pace seemed really fast. I followed that run up with an easy 6 miles this morning.

Today’s bumper sticker sighting;

Powered by carbon offset credits.
Anyone else already tired of hearing; “It is what it is.”? I seem to hear this all the time now and can’t help but shake my head at the depth of that statement.

I finally got around to conducting another interview.

The women’s trials are still 2.5 weeks away. Since Running Times and have their previews published, I thought I’d better go ahead and post mine. The problem with this article is that due to publication timelines and due dates, it had to be written 3 months before the trials.

Olympic Trials – Women’s Marathon Preview
By Chad Austin 1/18/08

Wide open. That’s how I view the Women’s Olympic Trials Marathon which will be held in Boston on April 20th. The reigning silver medalist, Deena Kastor, is heavily favored to win the race. But two of the top five qualifiers, Jen Rhines and Team Minnesota’s Katie McGregor, have chosen to focus on the track in 2008. That makes the battle for the three coveted spots on the Olympic Team wide open. That being the case, the chances are that even the most die-hard fans of the sport may not be familiar with some of the names near the top of the final results. This article looks to shed some light on the matter by looking at the favorites, the contenders, the dark horses, and the locals.

The Favorites:

Deena Kastor. Age: 35, PR: 2:19:36, Qualifier: 2:19:36, London (’06).
It’s hard not to single out the 2004 bronze medalist as the race favorite. In addition to being the American Record holder, Kastor is the only American to ever run sub-2:20. At 35-years old, her reign as the queen of U.S. distance running may be coming to an end soon. However, her speed and experience make her as much of a lock as anyone in the field.

Kate O’Neill. Age: 27, PR: 2:36:15, Qualifier: 2:36:15, Chicago (’07).
While O’Neill only has the 12th fastest qualifying time, she has a few things working in her favor. First, that performance was her marathon debut. Second, it was run under the brutal conditions at Chicago last year. Third, and maybe most importantly, she’s running very well right now, having won the 2008 U.S. Half Marathon title in Houston with a time of 1:11:58.

Elva Dryer. Age: 36, PR: 2:31:48, Qualifier: 2:31:48, Chicago (’06).
Dryer is already a two-time Olympian, having qualified for the 5000m in 2000 and the 10,000m in 2004. Now she has her sights set on making the team in the marathon. She made her marathon debut in Chicago in 2006 where she ran 2:31:48. More recently, she ran 2:35:15 at the 2007 New York City Marathon. On the downside, she dropped out of the U.S. Half Marathon Championships at mile nine.

The Contenders:

Colleen DeReuck. Age: 43, PR: 2:26:35, Qualifier: 2:33:18, Chicago (’06).
DeReuck definitely has experience on her side. Prior to winning the 2004 Trials and placing 39th at the Athens Olympics, she represented South Africa in 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games. However, with experience comes age, and DeReuck will turn 44-year old the week before the trials. She recently finished 17th at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in 1:14:58.

Marla Runyan. Age: 39, PR: 2:27:10, Qualifier: 2:32:17, Twin Cities (’06).
Throughout her career, Runyan may have possessed a wider range of speed than anyone else in the field. The former heptathlete, ran the 1500m at the 2000 Olympics and the 5000m at the 2004 Olympics. Like DeReuck, age is not on the 2006 Twin Cities Marathon champion’s side.

Mary Akor. Age: 31, PR: 2:33:50, Qualifier: 2:33:50, Twin Cities (’06).
Minnesotan’s may be familiar with Akor as she placed second behind Runyan at the 2006 TCM and then won the 2007 Grandma’s Marathon. Akor also stands out because she races marathons more frequently than any of the other qualifiers. In the last two years, she’s run at least 15 marathons. The big questions will be whether or not she can recover and peak for just one race.

Blake Russell. Age: 32, PR: 2:29:10, Qualifier: 32:31.90 10,000m.
People may remember Russell from the 2004 Olympic Trials Marathon. After a slow opening mile, she surged to a huge lead which she held until mile 18. She remained in the top-3 until the final 400 meters, when Jen Rhines passed her, pushing Russell to fourth place. As the only qualifier, other than Kastor, with a sub-2:30 since the last trials, Russell should be one of the favorites. However, injuries have kept her from running a marathon in over three years. She took advantage of a new rule that allows runners to qualify for the marathon trials by meeting 5000m or 10,000m standards. Having not run a marathon so long, it’s hard to know what to expect from Russell.

The Dark Horses:

Turena Johnson-Lane. Age: 32, PR: 2:34:43, Qualifier: 2:36:15, Twin Cities (’06).
While she currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA, Johnson-Lane is originally from Brainerd, MN. Her 2:36:15 is currently the 13th fastest qualifier. She’ll be running her second trials and looking to improve on her 19th place finish in 2004. Recently she ran 1:14:36 at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships.

Michelle Lilienthal. Age: 25, PR: 2:35:51, Qualifier: 2:35:51, Twin Cities (’06).
All Lilienthal has done since moving up the marathon is drop her time from 2:49 to 2:40 to 2:35. If she can continue to improve at such a rate, she could be in the mix. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much about Lilienthal since she joined Team USA Minnesota last August.

Nicole Aish. Age: 31, PR: 2:40:21, Qualifier: 2:40:21, Twin Cities (’05).
Although her PR is slower than some of the other dark horses, Aish recently placed fourth at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships with a 1:12:32 PR. And if how well her coach/husband, Michael Aish, has been running lately – winning the Phoenix Marathon in 2:13:20 – is any indication of her chances, Nicole could be a factor.

Desiree Davila. Age: 24, PR: 2:44:56, Qualifier: 2:44:56, Boston (’07).
Davila is in a similar situation as Kate O’Neill. She ran her qualifier under less than ideal conditions at last year’s Boston Marathon and she’s currently running very well, finishing only 14 seconds behind O’Neill at the half marathon championships. Plus, she has the advantage of being a member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, which experienced tremendous success at the men’s trials.

The Locals:

Nicole Cueno. Age: 28, PR: 2:42:03, Qualifier: 2:42:03, California International (’07).
Cueno enjoyed a decorated track and field career while at Grinnell College. She was the Division III 1500m champion as a junior and both the 5000m and 10,000m runner-up as a senior. After a handful of 2:55 – 3:10 performances, Cueno got serious in 2007 when she ran 2:52:42 at Grandma’s Marathon. Still nearly six minutes from qualifying for the Trials, she simply followed that up by running nearly 11 minutes faster at the California International Marathon in December.

Jenna Boren. Age: 31, PR: 2:42:39, Qualifier: 2:42:39, Houston (’07).
The St. Olaf College graduate has enjoyed success on the roads, earning Minnesota Runner of the Year honors each of the past two years. After gaining her initial qualifying performance (2:45:54) at the 2006 Grandma’s Marathon, Boren improved over three more minutes at the 2007 Houston Marathon.

Melissa Gacek. Age: 31, PR: 2:45:06, Qualifier: 2:45:06, Toronto (’07).
While Gacek qualified for the 2004 trials, she was unable to finish that race. She started 2007 by running 2:52:45 at Houston. At Grandma’s Marathon she missed qualifying by a mere 59 seconds. Three months later she qualified for her second trials by running 2:45:06 at Toronto.

Erin Ward. Age: 34, PR: 2:45:58, Qualifier: 2:45:58, St. George (’07).
Ward’s marathon progression looks like a staircase. After running a bunch of 3:05 marathons she broke through with a 2:53 in 2004. She ran that time two more times before running 2:48 in 2008. Last fall Ward made a wise choice of heading to the St. George Marathon, rather than face difficult conditions at TCM or Chicago. She was rewarded with ideal conditions, and more importantly, a 2:45:58 qualifing performance.

Marie Sample. Age: 31, PR: 2:46:00, Qualifier: 2:46:00, California International (’07).
Sample could have been considered one of the heartbreak stories leading up to the 2004 Trials. Twice she missed qualifying for that race by less than 30 seconds. She spent the next few years focusing on raising her family. With the 2008 Trials on the horizon, she refocused her energies towards running by cutting back on her work schedule and increasing her mileage. It all paid off with a 2:46:00 performance in December.

Alright, there you have it. I could go on and on by including former Team USA Minnesota runner Dana Coons, more Hansons-Brooks athletes, the handful of gals that ran 1:13 at the half marathon championships, or triathlete turned marathoner, Desiree Ficker. Hopefully you got the sense of just how wide open this race will be.

Whose day will it be on April 20th? There’s only one way to find out.


Anonymous said...

Desiree Ficker was second in the world ironman championships which includes a 2.5 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and then a marathon. The trials will be a cool down for her.

Anonymous said...

The first few speedwork sessions always seem hard, especially coming off a lot of treadmill running.

Good news: 50's today, 57 predicted for tomorrow!

I can easily see Jenna (Boren) going under 2:40. Whether it will be fast enough for a qualifier is a different story. I would love to see a darkhorse come and take one of the top 3 spots.

Love running in the Spring! Keep up the good work.

Chad said...

I agree that Ficker brings an intersting element to the Trials. Are you stating that she'll make the team because it'll only be a "cooldown"? By that logic these marathoners could drop down to the 1500 and make the team because that would only be a "cooldown" for them.

Chad said...

I think the chances of a darkhorse claiming the third spot is very likely this year.