Saturday, February 19, 2011

The worlds, Boston and the Olympic trials (oh my)

It’s shaping up to be a busy spring for me. In March I’ll be running in the World Cross Country Championship in Spain.

And then in April, I’m going to run in the Boston Marathon. It will be my first marathon since the Beijing Olympics and my only marathon before January’s Olympic Trials in Houston.

At the USA Cross Country Nationals in San Diego two weeks ago my goal was to finish in the top six and qualify for the national team. I finished fifth. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go on the trip, but it is nice to have the option to turn it down if it did not fit my schedule. Last year, I would not have gone if I had qualified (and I didn’t). I had too much work to do to get back in shape after giving birth to Quin.

This year it was a tough decision, and one I left up to my coach, Bob Sevene. Don’t get me wrong, I got in my two-cents, and he knew I wanted to go despite a few obstacles — I have never traveled overseas while in marathon training. Sev took a few days to mull the decision.

Cross country and marathon training really go hand in hand. You have to be strong as a bull, yet still have some speed. An 8-kilometer cross country race isn’t too taxing.

I’m excited about cross country team. It has three Olympians including me, two American-record holders, a NCAA record-holder and a young rising star. Our credentials are some of the best I have ever seen and who knows? Maybe we can take down Kenya or Ethiopia. In any case, it was a trip too good to pass up. With the course and hotel located along the resort town of Punta Umbria, we are bound to have a good time before the race.

Racing cross country at the world level is actually a bit scary. Imagine teams from about 30 countries charging from the starting line to an area that will eventually narrow to about 10 feet across. The first time I ever went to the World Championships I was terrified of being trampled. One of my teammates fell hard a few hundred meters into the race and could not get up. Runners were diving over her, dodging her, stepping on her with spikes. It’s a full contact sport and you better be quick on your feet and be ready to throw some elbows. Danger aside, it’s so fun. The organizers usually add mud, giant logs, and steep moguls to the courses just to make it interesting.

But back to logistics, I have never left Quin for more than three days for a race and that was my main reason for wavering. If I didn’t feel he would be in great hands while I was gone, I wouldn’t go.

Luckily, my mom and her husband are doing everything they can to get me to the starting line of the Olympic Trials. They will be working overtime on Quin duty which is saying a lot since Jon is at work each day by 7 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 6:30 p.m., if we are lucky. Thank goodness for grandparents!

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