Posts Tagged ‘desiree davila’

The leaders in the women's race, coming off Mile 5 along Memorial Drive.

For some reason, I didn’t get any photos of the men’s race. My friend @tejasrunnergirl took a fantastic one of their butts, which you can view here (along with her fantastic blog report of being my primary support crew at the Houston Half-Marathon.) Do click through and observe the wondrous spectacle that is the rear view of male marathoners.

The women, turning into their first out and back along Waugh Drive, about a quarter mile short of Mile 7.

The women pulling away from Mile 13 along Memorial Drive, you can pick out Kara and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (5th place finisher)

Desiree Davila, Shalane Flanagan, and Kara Goucher crank into Mile 22 along Memorial Drive

Deena Kastor, heading up Waugh Drive with about 3.5 miles to go. She would finish 6th.

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The speed these women and men throw down is inconceivable to me. Intellectually, I understand the numerics behind a 4:55 or 5:33 pace, but I have absolutely no physical way to ever know what that feels like: how fast my legs would have to switch places, how brief a period my feet would touch the ground, how the wind would ruffle my hair, how hard my heart would beat.

For most of the competitors in the field at the Olympic marathon trials, getting to the trials will be the peak of their running career—no small feat, with “A” qualifying standards at 2:19 for men and 2:39 for women, times most humans take to run half the distance. Consider the fact that probably 95% of the qualifiers hold down full-time jobs while training for the trials, and it’s no wonder I saw so many runners on Memorial Drive (who clearly had no chance of winning) wearing some sort of smile on their faces, even up until Mile 23. Just getting to the game is the fulfillment of the dream. The equivalent for a runner like me is qualifying for the Boston Marathon enough under the required time that I actually came away with a bib during registration.

But there’s that top 5% of runners, the professional elite, who might even take it for granted that they are going to the trials. Men like Ryan, Meb, Dathan, Jason and Brett; women like Kara, Shalane, Desi, Deena, Tera and Magda—the prize in their eyes isn’t a bib for the trials, but a spot on the United States’ Olympic marathon team. That’s not to say the other 95% doesn’t hope for and train for a daring and stunning performance that will earn them a spot on the team as well. No doubt, many of them made tremendous sacrifices on the slight chance that January 14, 2012 would be their miracle day.

When we watch the Olympic trials, we are observing a rarified talent unleashed across a range of ambitions, and that is what makes the race so emotional, so thrilling, and so unforgettable.

The beauty of the circuit course is that as fans, the athletes could pass us as often as eight times. We not only get to monitor the progression of the battle between the elites with enough frequency to really feel the drama, but we also get to know the pack runners. Normally I give chicks who race in skirts a hard time, but at the trials, I gave the woman in the hot pink skirt with ruffles and a matching hair ribbon props—she dressed up for her debut on the national stage, and damn if I didn’t cheer for her each time she zipped by me.  Then there were the Storage twins, and the woman whose last name was Sunshine—you know I cheered my guts out for her, even though I was a little covetous of her name. And the men? Well, I admit that I was admiring their gorgeousness right along with their speed. Fernando Cabada? Hel-lo! And how awesome was it to see my old favorite Andrew Carlson up there in the mix of the top 10? It was very awesome. My heart gave a twinge each time Stephan Shay, who was racing the trials in his brother Ryan’s memory, sped by.

I knew who I wanted to come in first: Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila. Even though they both had the top qualifying times in their divisions, I still felt like they each had something to prove to the world—Ryan because he is self-coached, and Desi because she has toiled away in the shadows of Kara and Shalane for so long. (It was a terrible flashback to the natural laws that goverened my high school when the gorgeous blonde won the day over the girl-next-door brunette in this marathon). Ultimately, the men’s and the women’s races were very similar, in that the runner who led for the majority of the race came in second because they were overtaken in the last mile or so by the eventual champion. Even as I was watching these pros fiercely compete with each other, I knew that they have a deep respect for each other, and that many of them are friends and teammates. This is a beautiful thing, and is a way of relating with other humans that I greatly admire.

Later, after @tejasrunnergirl and I had cheered and tweeted from just past Miles 5/13/21 and Miles 7/15/23, we watched the televised coverage of the race. Even though I knew the outcome, I could not help myself from shouting out loud for Dathan to reel in Abdi and earn back the third place on the team, and for Desi to crank it up and overtake Shalane in the final half mile to win instead of place. I got all choked up when I saw the men’s leaders begin to overtake the trailing women racers, because these women were cheering Ryan, Meb, Abdi and Dathan. And also: imagine what a twisted pleasure it would be to say, afterwards, “Oh yeah, I was totally lapped by Ryan Hall!” Watching Ritz, the fourth men’s finisher, collapse into tears once he crossed the finish line was nearly too much to bear; I felt squirmy and bereft, his private grief was painfully honest. How does Amy Hastings reconcile the bitter disappointment of fourth place after leading several miles—will she be able to ever stop replaying the vision of Shalane, Desi and Kara hugging triumphantly, draped in American flags right in front of her eyes, as she trundled across the finish line in fourth place?

I’ve explained the Olympic marathon trials to my non-running-fan friends as “the SuperBowl of running.” But I’m not sure that’s adequate. The SuperBowl is every year. Football fans get to see their teams play a gameon TV every week throughout the entire 17-week long season. There are bragging rights, money, and Hall of Fame potential at stake—but nothing as theatrical and grand as representing your country in a field of competition that convenes once every four years.

As fans of the marathon, and as fans of individual distance racers, we get to see our favorite athletes unleash their training at most twice a year in the marathon, more only if they also compete in cross country, track, or shorter distances on the roads. More often than not, those races are not on TV. And the opportunities we have to see the best our nation has to offer compete directly against each other? Rarer still. I’m not complaining, I’m trying to explain to you just how unique, dramatic and inspiring the Olympic marathon trials are. I fear my words are not adequate.

My imagination is sparked by these men and women. I am grateful for the way they so thoroughly exploit their God-given talents. Being a fan of the sport has done nothing but enhance both my enjoyment of and my performances within it.

To Meb, Ryan, Abdi, Shalane, Desi and Kara: congratulations! I cannot wait to watch you take on the best of what the rest of the world has to offer in London this August. I’ve already raced those streets—now it’s your turn!

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This is the fourth or fifth year I’ve come to Boston on Marathon Weekend to cheer on friends and elites. Here’s a lovely ratio: the fewer minutes that stand between my marathon PR and a Boston Qualifying Time, the more friends I have competing on race day. Here’s another sweet ratio: as proud as I am of my talented running friends is as proud I am to be a fan of the professional side of the sport.

Random thought: is the degree of incline on Heartbreak Hill subject to the same debate as the height of the pitcher’s mound in baseball? For example, let’s say a major repaving of the road resulted in Heartbreak Hill being flattened by a few feet. Would that give runners the same advantage over the course that a few extra inches off the mound give batters over a thrown ball?

At the Expo, in the John Hancock booth they were showing a short movie that had past champions of the Boston Marathon course describing each mile, and what runners needed to know about what the physical and mental challenges were at any given mile. I stood there for 15 minutes watching with a lump in my throat, as I imagined the day I would get my chance to experience the long run from Hopkinton.

My friend JG’s dad is a superstar hero to this nerdy fan of pro marathoning: he worked his connections and got us VIP passes to the bleachers on the right side of the finish line. Wow I am so grateful, we had a fabulous view and there was none of the frustrated, territorial shoving that goes on when you spectate from the curb. Also, we didn’t have to get there at daybreak to secure a good viewing spot, so we had time to go for our own run this morning. Another reason to be grateful: 5 glorious miles along the Charles with my friend. It was absolutely gorgeous—apart from yesterday’s 5k race, I had never run in Boston before, so I really enjoyed this tour of a popular, local running route. Trees were starting to flower, the Charles had a flirty sparkle to its surface, and the wind was enthusiastic. Oh those lucky marathoners, what a blessing of a tailwind they would have!

On our ten-minute walk to the bleachers from JG’s house in Back Bay, Ryan Hall had dropped from the lead and was now shuffling with the pack, and Kim Smith had fallen off completely, leaving Desiree Davila and two Kenyans to battle it out the last six miles. Desi, Desi, Desi! No one in the bleachers around us knew who she was, they didn’t even know she was an American. I remember watching her race for the first time here, in Boston, when she tried to gain a spot on the Olympic Marathon team in 2008. Even though I was disappointed that Kara was not in podium position, I was supremely pleased for Desi, a real talent who would finally have her moment in the spotlight. Also, she races in shorts. NO bumhuggers for her.

The noise coming from the bleachers was deafening—when they turned the corner from Hereford Street, and Desi lost then gained then lost the lead to Caroline Kilel, we cheered as if our shouts of “USA! USA! USA!” would propel her once again past Kilel. It was a thrilling moment, to be one voice among many all screaming for the same thing, all taking on Desiree’s greatest wish as ours (if only for a minute), too.

We barely had a chance to catch our breath before we realized the men were caught in a world record paced race to the finish! As Mutai streamed past, my spirits were lifted again—I had just witnessed history being made! A world record—he beat Emperor Haile’s PR!! On the Boston course!!—it was all too much and I grabbed JG’s shoulders. Oh my God do you know what we just saw?! Okay so maybe I haven’t yet run the Boston Marathon but I’ll forever be able to say I was there when Mutai broke the world record. Now I understand there are IAAF rules that prevents him from actually taking the world record on the Boston course? Even if the BAA cannot get the iAAF to change its rules, Mutai’s feat cannot be diminished. What an achievement, averaging a 4:42 pace for 26.2 miles on the most difficult World Marathon Majors course. Oh and here comes Ryan Hall, in fourth place again. Why must he insist on being a front runner? When will he learn to use the pack?

We stayed and cheered until 2 PM. I searched the crowds for my friends but only managed to spot three of them. First I saw @runnermatt, host of the Dump Runners Club podcast and my Green Mountain Relay Teammate. Then came @SpeedySasquatch, much later than I’d expected him, helping a cramping and limping runner to get to the finish line. And then I caught @tartar_runner, Matt’s twin and another GMR teammate. I missed @tobadwater (who came in at sub-3), @NYCe (who BQed), @luau, and @willrunforbeer, (who set a big PR and also BQed). Wow, my friends are such talented runners, I am so proud and excited for them. They are all stars in my book and inspire me to live up to their example in dedication and speed.

As JG and I walked away from the bleachers, we heard race officials in the finishers’ area saying “Welcome back to Boston!” through their bullhorns. We were both moved by these runners’ accomplishments. JG seemed to swim in her vicarious joy for them, while I was struck with a fierce longing. I wanted to be on the other side of the fence with them, sweaty and spent, elated and exhausted. This is why I make the trip to Boston every year: it has all the ingredients–the Expo, the meet-ups with friends, the elite race and then finally the masses—for a potent brew of reminder and motivation. I leave Boston holding truths in my heart. I know why I train. I know why I run. I know who they are, on the other side of the fence—because I am one of them, too. I’m just in the middle of climbing over the fence.


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First thing this morning I spent four excellent hours immersed in the Chicago Marathon’s live stream of the elite race and tracking my friends’ splits via the marathon’s superior tracking program. For a fan like myself, the next-best-thing to cheering on the sidelines at a World Marathon Majors race is watching it on my computer while tweeting back and forth with similar fans. It might even be better, in a certain respect: from the curb I see a snippet of the race, but from my desk I see the whole thing. In any case, the dramatic finishes by Sammy Wanjiru and Liliyana Shobukhova had me shouting out cheers at my monitor.* They are both pretty wealthy now, thanks to the champion purse of $500,000 they will each take home from the World Marathon Majors. Also happy news: the strong performances by top American female finishers Desiree Davila and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. Also inspiring: how my friends who were out there on the course persevered through the blistering heat that took over the course starting around 10 AM.  A few even PRed, high five kids! Other good stuff: a whole bunch of New York runner friends who raced the Staten Island Half-Marathon today either nailed their marathon pace or PRed. And, my coach from Nike Speed won the whole darn thing! I think that makes her famous. Ah, I really do love the fall marathon season. By 11 AM I had decided that the organizers of the Get to the ‘Point! 5k Run were brilliant to have scheduled their race for 1 PM, since I could spectate from my desk and then turn around and invest that inspiration right away in my own performance.

It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I cabbed it from Sunnyside, Queens since the race was literally just 2 miles away up Greenpoint Avenue but there were no direct buses or subways, and I wanted to save my legs for the race so jogging over wasn’t on the table. I got there with plenty of time. I ran some warm-ups and then leaned against a fence, observing the crowd and basking in the sun. It was an interesting mixture of off the boat/first generation Polish people, and Brooklyn hipsters. There were the guys from the Polish Running Club (I need a punchline here), and there were the North Brooklyn Runners (who showed up to run wearing their team singlets, tattoos and aviator shades. NB most of them beat me).

I was really impressed with the way this race was organized. It was a great size — just a few hundred runners, and the mix of community members and visitors made for a laid back crowd. Lined up at the start were runners from St. Stan’s School, members of the parish (including 2 nuns in wimples), members of the community, and the random runner like myself from another borough. The volunteers were helpful and cheerful, race-day registration took me 5 minutes, and bag check was done with a deck of playing cards (I was 7 of hearts). We even got D-tags for our sneakers, though they did not have timing mats at the start, just the finish. I have to admit, I was a little tense waiting for the race to start. I was wondering how well I’d PR, how much speed I could maintain and how much pain my body could withstand. But finally we were off, and I consulted Little G frequently to see where my pace was. I knew I didn’t want to go any slower than 7:50’s, but how much faster than that I could sustain I wasn’t quite sure. Finally, we were allowed to run.

After 2 minutes on the course I realized that the lead runners had broken away but that I was hanging tough with a group of guys. No women passed me during the first three miles, and one tall, older man from Jamaica, Queens ran next to me and every now and then we’d have short, gaspy conversations. We were nearly even the entire race, and it was nice to have the push-pull going with him. I kept monitoring my comfort level (lungs, legs, shoulders) everything stayed pretty much relaxed (though not easy) until I had about half a mile left. The course was really charming, with leafy trees and cute buildings to look at. Because the day was so gorgeous, a lot of Greenpointers were out on the sidewalks either cheering or sitting in sidewalk cafes, keeping us company. There were enough turns to keep the mostly flat course challenging. I was surprised by my first mile split: 7:28. Since I didn’t feel like I was going to puke or bonk (which is worse? The jury’s out) I cut myself a little slack but not too much, just tried to lock in to the pace. Second mile: 7:36. Okay, still breathing. Legs still lifting. Shoulders still low. Just one mile left! I started slowly passing a guy here, another guy there. I passed this one woman, but I had a feeling she wasn’t going to stay passed since she tried to respond to my move. No biggie, I was running for a PR, not to beat her. With about half a mile to go, I was starting to feel the burn of the effort. My legs were a little heavier, I was seriously panting, and my mantra had become “Shoulders Down Dammit!” since they kept hunching up. As I always do at this point in the race, I thought of Matt’s sage advice that the best way to keep speed is to keep form, so I focused on my form and trusted that would maintain pace for me.  Third mile: 7:25.

At last we rounded the corner for the last tenth of a mile, and I could see the finish line. I locked my gaze on the banner and dug in for a little extra speed. Breathing had become optional since it was kinda ragged. My arms did a lot of work. That one woman passed me, but I knew I was running as hard as I could so all I could do was congratulate her at the finish. Final time, according to Little G: 23:11, which gives me a 7:29 pace. (As I tweeted to AG afterwards, I guess I can drop down to the 7:30 pace group at Nike Speed now.) I was really excited by my performance, since it’s an improvement of 1:23 over my Eisenhower Park race. Gave handshakes to Older Chatty Man and Younger Speedy Woman; they had been my competition and they pulled me forward.

Afterwards, I caught up with SL from NYCRuns, and tried to hang around for the party and awards ceremony but couldn’t wait any longer; it grew into nearly an hour of standing around and I needed to go home and get on with the rest of my day. SL was teasing me because I wanted to know if I placed in my age group or not but they didn’t post the results anywhere. To be honest, I am still wondering if I placed (the chick who passed me at the finish was 27, I asked her how old she was. Hilarious, right?). I jogged home, tucking my Blackberry and iPod into my shorts’ hip pockets and slipping my key pouch onto my shoe. I wore the free tee-shirt we got over my singlet, and took it nice and easy at 10 minutes per mile up Greenpoint Avenue, a grin on my face as I thought with every step, I am making progress, and I am happy right now. That’s more than I was hoping for so I felt lucky!

[UPDATE 10/11/10: official results are now posted. D-tag time = 23:15, 7:30 pace. Overall: 108th. 7th out of 39 in my division (women 30-39).]

*Do you think my shouts of “Sammy! Come on baby!” alarmed my neighbors? How about “My God Lil you are amazing!”

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More positive reviews for A Race Like No Other, including the New York Post, Penthouse (Penthouse?!), Gelf, and the Roanoke Times….. My financial planner was profiled on the front page of the New York Times today… Top-notch dinner companion Mike has posted a new column on his blog Mikeroscopic, proving that it’s never too late to say something profound and literary about the Sex Pistols… JM sucessfully ran the Chicago marathon (yes I just stalked her results online) Yay Murph, could you feel me shooting you good running vibes from Mile 11 of my half today?!.. Among the elites, Lydia Grigoryeva won it, and Constantina came in fourth (Hansons-Brooks Distance Project star Desiree Davila came in right behind her!)…  Stay tuned on how this will affect the standings of the World Marathon Majors, if at all… and just a quick tease for you all, EN ran with me to another PR in the half-marathon distance this morning in Staten Island, with a chip time of 1:48:50 (that’s an 8:18 pace!). I’d like to thank my Adidas racing flats, little G, LM’s white lasagna from Friday evening, and EN (even though I had to urge you on this time through the final miles). Full report to come once I’ve stretched, rehydrated and napped.

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DISCLAIMER: These photos are blurry.  An unfortunate series of events led to these blurry mementos of a historic day of racing. First, the battery died on my digital camers (my fault). Second, I bought a disposable camera to use in its place. And third, the female athletes in the race ran so fast that they ended up as slightly streaky representations of themselves.

Magdalena Lewy Boulet already in the lead as she passes spectators on Boylston Street for the second time.

Deena Kastor, Blake Russell and Mary Akor in the front of the pack, trailing Magda.

Deena around Mile 21, after she broke away from the pack and begins to close the gap between her and Magda.

Magda running her last pass on Comm Ave.  Does she know Deena is catching up?

Deena ran so close to the crowd we all could have touched her without stretching.  She’d cut about ten seconds off Magda’s lead just in the U-turn from Boylston onto Comm Ave.

Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Desiree Davila.

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Tomorrow I will have a moment to take my disposable camera (the one I had to buy when my own camera’s battery died after the first lap of the Trials) in for digital developing.  Tomorrow night I’ll post many more photos (hopefully close-ups); but for now, hopefully these three will suffice.

Passing Exeter Street in the first lap.  Left to right, the soon-to-be named Women’s Olympic Marathon Team: nn the white tee-shirt and sunglasses, #43 Magdalena Lewy Boulet; to her right, #17 Blake Russell in black; and to her right, #1 Deena Kastor in her white cap and blue top.  See dark-haired Desiree Davila in her Hansons-Brooks Distance Project singlet?  She ran in fourth place for much of the latter part of the race until she fell back to finish 13th somewhere within the last four miles. No doubt we’ll see her back here in 2012.

Same lap, different view of the pack. These were the women who inspired me, as I imagined what a complete thrill, and fulfillment of a dream, to have a chance to try out for the Olympics. See that woman in the black singlet, black shorts, and bib number on her butt? Everytime she ran past us, she had a smile on her face, even though she was always one of the last few runners.  When we cheered for her, she’d break out in an even bigger grin.  I think it’s Kim Pawelek (who’s been here before), but I can’t remember exactly which place she finished (third-to-last or second-to-last). See, this is where my romanticizing of the sport comes in, who knows what these women were really thinking or feeling that day. Maybe they were like, Oy, enough already. When is this thing gonna be over? Deena Schmeena!

Hydration Station. Nutrition Junction.  Call it what you will, each lady had their own fuel set up by number on Comm Ave.


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