Thursday, March 5, 2020

2020 Olympic Marathon Team Trials in Atlanta, GA

We had a fantastic weekend at the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta.  No description of the course can do justice to just how hilly it was, so much so that many athletes literally walked up the monstrous hill on the final loop.  These are not scrubs we're talking about, but rather the best marathoners in the country.  If many athletes of that caliber were reduced to walking, you know this course was really, really hard.  And it was quite windy out there, which didn't help matters.  Despite the robust conditions, our crew ran to the absolute best of their ability, and represented GRC with great distinction. 

Kieran was an outstanding 86th in 2:23:50.  Kieran's race plan, which worked to perfection in Los Angeles in 2016, was to stay within himself for the first half of the race, and then begin a relentless march forward picking off runners who got out too aggressively.  The hills got to Kieran earlier than he had expected, however, which precluded him executing the plan quite the way he intended, but he moved up 20 places on the final loop, which is all the proof we need that he ran hard all the way to the tape.  Kieran holds himself to a very high standard, and even though he was shooting for a better placing based on his incredibly high fitness level and his amazing success in 2016, he was thoroughly satisfied with his race because he knew that he gave it everything he had.  From my perspective, 86th place in the Trials is an objectively excellent result, and I am extremely proud of Kieran's accomplishment.  Kieran is going to take up tennis for the next few months (and use his free AlphaFlys as his tennis kicks), but he will be back better than ever once the qualifying window opens for 2024.

Dan was 96th in 2:24:45, and he was justifiably thrilled to be in the top 100.  To my way of thinking, Dan's top 100 placing was nothing short of miraculous given that less than a year ago he had never run a race longer than 10k.  After his meteoric rise on the roads in 2019, Dan was confident that he could compete on the national level, and while the hilly course did not suit him, and he didn't feel great after mile 10, Dan was able to hold his position throughout the long and arduous journey to the finish.  Dan is a tremendous talent, and he is planning to take a shot at the venerable club record of 2:15:13 in the late spring.  Given his remarkable progress in the last few months, I would not bet against him.

Zach was dinged up from his epic PR at CIM, and despite his best efforts to resolve his nagging injury he was unable to get healthy soon enough to reach race fitness.  This was Zach's third Trials, and he was determined to be part of the event even if it would be to a limited extent.  When his injury started to flare up on the first loop, Zach wisely called it a day.  Zach will surely be back for his fourth Trials in 2024.

For the women, Maura was an outstanding 108th in 2:44:13.  Maura's tactics were perfect, and she steadily moved up through the field over the last 15 miles.  Maura's time was a PR, and as difficult as it was to PR on that course, Maura's performance is all the more impressive given that this was only her second serious attempt at the marathon, and her training cycle was exceedingly short because of a nagging injury that prevented her from working out or doing real long runs until the middle of January.  To run what surely would have been worth sub 2:39 (or faster) on a reasonable course, off of a six week training cycle, is incredible, and demonstrates Maura's immense potential in the marathon.  Maura is only starting to scratch the surface of her ability at the longer road distances, and she will be a real threat to place in the top 25 in 2024.

Kerry was in the best shape of her life, and she looked great at the half way point.  Unfortunately she was afflicted by a crippling cramp around mile 16, and despite her best efforts to run through it, the pain was so severe that she had no choice but to abandon the race at mile 21.  The marathon is a cruel event, and despite her outstanding preparation it was just not Kerry's day.  Kerry will be back better than ever, and she'll continue her development into a national caliber marathoner going forward.

We also had a large crew of former GRC superstars in Atlanta.  Teal was a strong 130th in 2:45:27.  I had the pleasure of watching the race with Rusty, young Maya, and Teal's parents, and with the help of her incredible support team, Teal will surely be back for her third Trials in 2024.  Kelly was 264th in 2:52:17.  After experiencing stomach trouble throughout the race Kelly was happy to finish, and she came across the line with a smile on her face.  Catherine was 315th in 2:55:32.  This was Catherine's third marathon in three months, as she was able to rebound from her failed attempt to qualify at CIM with an outstanding run in Houston.  Her extremely short buildup for Atlanta went very well, and we were cautiously optimistic that she was ready to go.  It all caught up to her after halfway, however, and she was glad to finish in one piece.  I'm happy to report that Catherine will be returning to the area over the summer, so she is not only a former GRC superstar, she is also a future GRC superstar.  Hannah was 350th in 3:00:01.  Hannah looked very good for about 12 miles, at which point her achilles tightened up so badly that she had to stop to stretch it.  She was able to continue, but from there she was forced to stop and stretch every 2 miles.  Despite that ordeal, Hannah finished with her head held high.  Kristin was unable to start due to injury, but she was happy to be in Atlanta to cheer on her peeps.  For the men, Matt was a strong 108th in 2:25:42, and Patrick was 140th in 2:30:25.

In non-Trials action, Margaret was seventh in the half in Atlanta in 1:22:03.  That was an excellent performance on the now infamous Atlanta hills, and it is yet more evidence that Margaret is ready for a huge spring.  Finally, Brian Rich made an outstanding GRC debut, running 14:43.8 in the 5000 at BU Last Chance.  That was a 12 second PR, and we're going to see many more big PRs from Brian in the months ahead.

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