I really don’t know how to begin to explain all that my race at the Olympic Trials Marathon meant to me. How do you express an experience that saved your soul?
I arrived in Los Angeles nervous but full of hope. I felt so much gratitude to be there, to be given the chance I had been dreaming of. I had gotten really sick the week before and I was excited to find my sinuses clearing out and my cough subsiding. All of the talk seemed to be about the weather, but I kept reminding myself that everyone was going to have to run in the heat. The days leading up to the race went smoothly. I felt very supported by fans, family, and friends who were in town for the race. The night before the race, Heather (my coach Heather Burroughs) and I made my final race plan. We decided that the heat was going to play a big factor and that we should play it safe. We thought 2:29 would make the team (it did) and to not get caught up in early moves which might backfire in the heat.
Race morning I felt very nervous. I went down to the lobby to walk over to the start and I saw my family gathered. I walked over to pick up Colt and give him a hug. I buried my face in his stomach as I started crying. They weren’t tears of fear, rather just nervous joy that I was about to start the race I had been dreaming of for so long. As I began my warmup I felt very calm. I knew that I had done all I could to be as prepared as possible. There was comfort in that. I was as ready as I could be and now I just had to execute.
After the gun went off my main goal was to stay cool and calm. I was hoping to be about 74:30 through the half and to just stay as hydrated as possible. The first half of the race was a blur. I was grabbing sponges, pouring water all over myself, and trying to maintain a pace that was strong but not too aggressive. I dropped my second water bottle and remembered after I had run away from it that my coach Mark Wetmore told me to stop and get my bottle if I dropped it. Oh well! I tried to put it out of my mind and looked for more water up ahead. I later joked with my family and friends that this race was the most athletic endeavor of my life. I was grabbing sponges, putting them around my neck, dumping water, etc. (Those who know me know I have trouble catching a ball, so I was pretty proud of my skill level!)
There was a big move around the 8 mile mark, but I stayed calm and let it go. I thought it was too early to be running so hard in the heat and that the women would come back to me. With 8 miles to go I was in 4th place, feeling pretty strong, and about 8 seconds back of 3rd. Heather and Adam yelled at me to go for it at the 20 mile mark. But when I got to the 20 mile mark I was sort of stuck in my pace. I kept asking myself if I was doing all that I could and I was, yet 3rd was slowly getting farther and farther ahead. Around the 22 mile marker I realized it wasn’t going to happen. Without a miracle and someone dropping off the course, I was going to be 4th. The last two miles were the longest two miles of my racing career. I started to slow down, not entirely because I was physically struggling, more because I was simply sad. My dream was dead and the minute I finished that race it would be gone forever. I forced myself to finish, carried by the cheers and energy from the crowd. But it was difficult to keep going.
After I finished Amy and Desi both came over to comfort me. We have all been through so much in the sport and so I sincerely appreciated their kind words. I went to the media area where I was asked about the race. Amy, Desi, and Shalane were better athletes than me and they deserve to be our Olympic team. Amy was fourth four years ago and has stayed motivated and unbroken to return to be the trials champion. In 2012 Desi had to drop out of the Olympic marathon and has had a long and patient journey back to the top of the world scene. Shalane has carried the US distance running torch for years and toughed it out on a difficult day to make the team. Bottom line is, they are all incredible athletes and I take no shame in losing to them. But it still hurts and I wish that I was on the team with them.
After being interviewed for over 20 minutes I was asked about my resurgence and that lead to questions about my former coach and teammate. It was the first time they had entered my mind all day. I gave honest answers and I’ve taken a lot of heat for that, but it is a part of my story – as flawed as it might be. Later that evening I got to have dinner with my sponsors, family and friends. After that, Oiselle had a party and we celebrated the 18 women we had running in the marathon. It was during this time that I was filled with so much love and gratitude. The last 6 months have been the happiest time of my life. I have felt so alive and so free. I have felt so much hope and love. I could never thank everyone enough for being there for me throughout all of this. I could never do what I do without the support of people around me. My husband, family, friends, coaches, teammates, sponsors, support team, fans… the list could go on forever. My life has changed because there are so many people who believe in me. I am a different, stronger, and happier person because of those around me. I don’t know how to properly say thank you, but if you are taking the time to read this, I am thanking you as well.
The hope of making my third Olympic team has carried me through so much despair and frustration. It has given me purpose and a reason to fight. It has turned my life around. And even though my dream did not come true, I would do it again. Even if I knew I was going to have the same result I would take this journey again. It has been the thrill of a lifetime. It has been everything. Thank you.